Three years ago, 11-time world champion wrestler Adam Copeland wasn’t thinking about slamming an opponent, swinging a chair or jumping off the ropes.
In fact, wrestling in WWE was the last thing on the mind of the man known to millions of fans worldwide as Edge.
But this Sunday, 10 years to the day after the “Rated-R Superstar” tearfully told fans he had no choice but to retire, he will walk to the ring for the main event of WrestleMania 37.
His incredible comeback – which has seen him get into the best shape of his life – started because the grappler simply wanted to climb steps at his North Carolina home with no ill effects.
“At one point, I walked up the stairs and I was out of breath,” says Edge. “I went: ‘That’s no good. I’m not eating healthily. I don’t feel healthy. I don’t feel good.’”
This trigger point led the 47-year-old Canadian to restart his wrestling career – nine years after a severe injury forced him to hang up his tights and undergo surgery to fuse three bones in his neck.
But back at this point, in 2018, Edge and his wife Elizabeth – WWE star Beth Phoenix – were going through a hard time.
“Our family were going through some depression,” Edge recalls. “We’d lost my mum and lost Beth’s dad in a two-month time-frame.
“I have two little girls – we didn’t start to have kids until I was 40. I’m an older father and I want to be around for them. So that was really the catalyst.
“I started focusing on my diet and needing to go to the gym again every day, instead of it feeling like a chore – which is what it had become.
“I was doing just enough to not go into full dad bod.”
During his initial 13-year run with WWE, Edge became the most-decorated champion in the company’s history, winning 31 major titles and gaining a fearsome reputation as someone unafraid to take risks to thrill the audience.
In 2001, Edge stole the show at WrestleMania when he took his trademark “spear” move to the next level – leaping off a ladder to tackle opponent Jeff Hardy down to the mat during a tables, ladders and chairs match.
Five years later, he upped the ante by diving headfirst out of the ring to drive WWE legend Mick Foley through a table that had been set on fire.
Despite the huge impact his in-ring career has had on his body, Edge says: “I don’t really have any regrets.
“If I didn’t do that spear to Jeff Hardy or do that spear to Mick Foley through a flaming table, I don’t know if Edge the character would have got to where I thought he should be.
“I don’t look at it as a mistake, but as a learning process.”
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At first, Beth was worried when Edge started to talk about returning to the wrestling ring. But after doctors cleared him to compete again, she supported her husband to rediscover his confidence.
“Nine years is a long time to not do this – in fact, nine days is a long time to not do this,” says Edge. “I’m very lucky in that when I was getting ready to come back I could ask my wife for help. She can actually pick me up and help me do all these things that I need to do. That’s a game-changer.
“Because this is entertainment, people assume it’s easy. But it’s really not. There’s so much that goes into it. There’s anxiety, and there are doubts and fears.
“I’d never done this as a parent before, so that was huge. These were all things I was trying to navigate, but I had help with that from someone who truly, fully understood.”
Edge has turned these worries into a positive, bringing new depth to his character.
“I didn’t want to come back and just do a greatest hits,” he says. “I wanted to come back and reinvent the character a little bit. I wanted a lot more of Adam involved, bringing the insecurities and the anxieties to the forefront. For me, that’s real – finding that truth.”
Edge returned to the ring in the best shape of his life when he emerged as a surprise entrant at the Royal Rumble in January 2020, thrilling the 42,000 fans in attendance.
But in his third match back, Edge tore his triceps wrestling former tag-team partner Randy Orton. Yet, despite facing more surgery and six months on the sidelines, he never thought about quitting.
He says: “When I learned I’d torn my triceps, as stupid as this may sound, I thought: ‘Eh, I’ve torn my Achilles, I’ve had two neck surgeries… torn triceps? Do you think that’s going to put me off?’”
Now fully healed, Edge returned to the ring in January to win the 2021 Royal Rumble. He’s keen to square off with new opponents, having faced characters like The Rock, The Undertaker, Ric Flair and John Cena in the past.
“I’ve never been in the ring with 98% of the current roster,” he says. “So that’s all fresh, brand new and invigorating at this point in my life and career.”
This Sunday, Edge will face Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan in a Triple Threat match for the WWE title – it’s a chance to add a 12th world championship to his impressive CV.
“I’m excited to get in there with Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan – who I think I wrestled once for four minutes,” he says.
“These are new, fresh, different things I can have fun with. And I hope they will have fun too. If we’re telling compelling stories, then hopefully the audience will feel the same way.”
But given his history, Edge knows he can’t take anything for granted. “I don’t know how long it’s going to last – every match could be the last one,” he says.
“There’s a different set of stakes to each match now. I’m really just trying to ride this bolt of lightning and enjoy every aspect of it.”
WrestleMania 37 takes place this Saturday and Sunday. It will show in the UK from midnight on BT Sport Box Office or on The WWE Network, which costs £9.99 for subscribers.
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