As I sit here typing this just outside of Boston, a major nor-easter has dumped about a foot and a half of snow on the region and wiped out my DirecTV feed. So I guess now is as good a time as any to get to the next book.
To be truthful, when Edge released his first set of memoirs in 2004, I balked. My prevailing thoughts were “What has this guy done to earn a book already” and “He wrote it himself? Its probably god-awful.” So while I was at the height of my wrestling book mania, I purposely avoided this one until early last year. And boy oh boy was this guy shocked. Its actually pretty damn good.
First off, let me state this about the book: The grammar is not the most pristine thing in the world. And secondly, those looking for a tell all on the great career Edge had, well, that is not this book. As I stated, it was written while Edge was recovering from spinal fusion surgery in 2003-2004. What you get instead is Edge’s life up until that point, a wrestler on the cusp of greatness only to have a major injury sideline him right as he was peaking as a singles star and very much putting his 29 year old future in doubt.
Adam Copeland’s story is very much a rags to riches tale, something I greatly discounted before picking up this book. I was of the impression that he was just some young developmental dork they signed in 1997, pushed before he was ready. While some of that certainly rings true, Copeland had a unique climb to the top tiers of wrestling’s big leagues. Born in Orangville Ontatio in 1973, Copeland never met his father, and was raised by his young mother, who worked two jobs as a waitress and secretary to support her new son. While Copeland did not have his father around, that is not to say he did not have a rich family life, as while mom was working, he was raised by his grandparents, cousins, and Uncles. One of his uncles, only nine years his senior, was tragically killed in an auto wreck when the young Edgester was only 8. He was depressed and forlorn, but he soon found an outlet for his grief, and that outlet begat the young man’s greatest passion. That outlet was Hulk Hogan.
From the first time Adam Copeland laid his eyes on the Hulkster, he was hooked. He watched any and all available wrestling programs that he could sink his teeth into, and became quite the hardcore fan. Around the time he started getting into wrestling, a new kid moved to Copeland’s town: Jason Reso, better known to today’s wrestling fans as Christian. The wrestling gods (not JBL) were smiling the day these two became friends, as their shared passion for the mat wars lead them to numerous shows at Maple Leaf Gardens, The Copps Coliseum, and two fairly large shows. The first was WWF’s “The Big Event” held on August 28, 1986, headlined by Hulk Hogan defending his WWF title against former friend and now archrival Paul Orndorff. That event set an attendance record for a wrestling event that held for a few months, when WrestleMania III drew over 78,000 fans to the Pontiac Silverdome.
The second big event Copeland attended was slightly more influential: He scored 14th row floor seats to WrestleMania VI. The Ultimate Challenge. Now, I don’t know about any readers out there, but to nine year old me, this match was a seminal event of my wrestling viewership. Like 15 year old Adam Copeland, I was a huge, card carrying Hulkamaniac at the time, and the match was an epic. Unfortunately, Warrior won, but that didn’t deter me from watching (here I am some 22 years later) and it certainly did not deter Copeland. From that moment on, he had only one goal: become a professional wrestler.
The primrose path to Adam Copeland’s dream is a thoroughly unique one. The Toronto Star ran a weekly wrestling column that the young Edge read religiously every week. One week, the column advertised a contest in which the young man who could write the best and convincing essay on why he should become a pro wrestler would be offered free training by wrestling legend Sweet Daddy Siki. Copeland ended up winning that contest, and it was a good thing he did because his mother, on their meager budget, could never have afforded to send her son to wrestling school. The wrestling gods (still not JBL) were smiling on Copeland, and he embarked on his wrestling dreams.
The camp, like all wrestling camps, was no joyride, but Adam Copeland lapped it all up. Eventually, his childhood chum Jay Reso joined him there, and the two set out to embark on their nascent wrestling careers. And believe me kids, it wasn’t easy. Indeed Edge has many of the same horror stories you used to hear from all wrestlers trying to break into the business, in this day and age before WWE’s current developmental system. They traveled through the back woods of Canada, across treacherous terrain, just to get to Indian Reservations where the would wrestle in front of dozens of fans. They braved negative 30 degree Celsius weather, only to have to drive over frozen lakes. That is actually one of the better excerpts from the book, in which Copeland tells of the time they were driving on one of these lakes when suddenly a giant hole appeared. I won’t ruin the story for those who haven’t read it, but it involves a very young and very scared Rhino having to help bail a truck out of the water, and Christian falling waist deep through the ice.
So as you can see, this was not an easy journey for Edge. He continued wrestling spot shows while working various jobs in various factories, until one day some of his friends decided to rent a house on Wasaga Beach Ontario for the summer, and asked Adam if he wanted to join in. The only catch? They had to work in a bikini shop. Young Edge made the difficult decision to say yes to this proposition, and it lead to a summer of debauchery, and a fun character named Burt The Hurt.
In the meanwhile Edge actually worked a couple of matches as a job guy for WCW but did not like the experience and the politics in Atlanta. (Seems like a recurring theme in most of these biographies.) However, the young Edge lucked into a meeting with then WWF Champion Bret Hart on the Dini Petty Show, one where “The Hitman” gave some sound advice to Copeland: Get Experience. And he did, wrestling from Northern Canada to Japan to Tennessee (which he calls the low point of his career.) Eventually he got a tryout match from the WWF in May of 1996, wrestling Bob Holly. He showed some spark there, impressing some WWF officials. Later that year came his biggest opportunity: Bret Hart was having some young wrestlers train at his house in Calgary, and Copeland was invited. After having a quick go around with a young Andrew “Test” Martin, Bret offered his appraisal of young Adam Copeland: He was ready. Within weeks, the WWF’s Carl DeMarco and Jim Ross had signed the young man to a developmental deal. The world seemed to be young Adam Copeland’s oyster. Not so fast.
After attending Dory Funk Jr’s initial “Funkin Dojo” in Connecticut, Copeland (and Sean “Val Venis” Morely) were put on the fast track to WWF television. Copeland was given the character of a tortured soul who would wrestle in rave clothes and green hair. He hated it. Vince Russo though up some names, but it was Don “Jackyl” Callis who christened Copeland Edge. The reason? They were listening to a radio station called “The Edge.” Edge was confused by his character’s intentions (although the rave clothes and green hair were scrapped) and it showed in his first Raw match against a member of Los Boricuas. He was supposed to get the pin, but on a hilo dive he knocked the Boricua out cold, giving him a countout victory in which Jim Ross described on air as an “inauspicious debut.” The fact that Edge was wearing a maxi pad during the match I am sure did not help (read the book junior). Edge languished for a little bit before being inserted as Sable’s mystery partner at SummerSlam 1998. That helped, but it was far from a rocket to superstardom.
Edge was then paired with Gangrel and the newly debuting Christian as the Brood, WWF’s goth warriors. They joined, for a short time, with the Undertakers Ministry of Darkness, leading to Edge’s first ever Wrestle Mania appearance…where he and the Brood helped to hang The Big Boss Man after his Hell in a Cell abortion with the Undertaker. Trust me, the less said about that match and angle, the better. The Brood eventually split from the Ministry and then split up themselves. Eventually, with Gangrel on his way out of the promotion, Edge and Christian were paired off as a tag team. It was here where Edge’s career began to take off.
Edge and Christian were placed into a feud with The Hardy Boyz. In order to win the managerial services of Terri Runnels, they engaged in a best of five series, the imaginatively titled Terri Invitational Tournament (T.I.T.). The final match would be the first ever tag team ladder match, to be held at No Mercy 1999. If you were a viewer of WWF at this point, you know that they were not exactly putting on blow away (not Buddy Rose) matches through most of 1999. It was Crash TV and three minute matches abound. So the ladder match, which was an awesome spectacle, was unanimously praised as the match of the year. A relationship had been born, and Edge and Christian and The Hardyz, along with new imports The Dudleys (In 1999, there were no “S’s” just Z’s.) went on to revolutionize tag team wrestling in the company, engaging in a series of memorable Ladder and TLC Matches, ones remembered with great fondness to this day.
What was of slightly more significance was that the pretty boy babyfaces, Edge and Christian, were turned into heels. And WHAT a run they went on. Acting as valley boy morons, they ushered in such memorable catchphrases as “Reeking of Awesomeness,” “Chumpstain,” and “Now more than ever…SODAS RULE!” In short, they were the aggravating itch you couldn’t scratch but could also not help laughing at. Add into the mix the recently signed Rhino and Kurt Angle, and Team RECK was running wild. The best skits usually involved then commissioner Mick Foley (who writes this books introduction) that upped the hokey comedy quotient to the nth degree.
Over that period, E & C did endless matches with both the Dudleyz and Hardyz, until, mercifully, that ran its course (not before the humorous induction of the Conquistadors into the rivalry). Edge won the 2001 King of the Ring, and promised not to “Billy Gunn” it (one of my all time favorite lines). This led to the inevitable breakup of Edge and Christian. Copeland soon fulfilled a lifetime dream, as he wrestled Booker T at WrestleMania X-8 in the same Skydome in Toronto where as a youngster he had watched Hogan fight Warrior. Edge also got to fulfill another life’s dream by tagging with Hogan himself, winning the World Tag Team Titles.
Edge was eventually sent to Smackdown during the brand split, and it was there that he was a member of the fondly remembered “Smackdown Six, with Eddie and Chavo Guerrero, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit and Rey Mysterio. The combinations of those men put on show stealing performances week after week after week. It culminated with two truly spectacular matches: Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit vs. Rey Mysterio and Edge for the newly minted WWE Tag Team Championship at No Mercy 2002, and a no disqualifications match pitting Edge against Eddie Guerrero on an episode of Smackdown. Both matches helped elevate Edge further, and it looked that, with several house show main events again then WWE Champion Brock Lesnar, that Edge may crash through the glass ceiling to main event status.
That didn’t quite happen.
Thing was, “The Smackdown Six” could have been labeled “The Triage Six.” All of them wrestled an extremely high impact style, which had already resulted in broken necks for Benoit and Angle, and a nearly lethal addiction to painkillers that Eddie had recently kicked. Edge joined the Benoit and Angle club, as he had ruptured discs in his neck. Surgery by Dr. Joel Youngblood in early 2003 put Edge on the shelf for over a year. And that is when this book was authored. It makes for a fantastic read, because Edge was at a turning point of his career. He was on the cusp of something truly special, only to have it yanked away. In many ways, you can feel the man’s anxiety surrounding his spinal fusion surgery and his attempted comeback, a comeback that saw numerous setbacks including a badly sprained ankle and a broken hand.
If anything, this book will make you crave another volume from the recently retired Edge, because he DID go on to a great career after the events of this book and his comeback unfolded. While it was a shame he had to retire so young, the man packed a great deal into the limited years he wrestled. Plus, most of the juicier stuff happened after this book came out (Matt Hardy, anyone). No matter. Adam Copeland on Edge is a underrated book, certainly better than quite a few of WWE’s biographical adventures, and is well worth the few hours it takes to read.