Adam Copeland

Adam Copeland: 25 Years Of Edge, Choosing AEW Over WWE, WrestleMania Moments, Christian Cage

Adam Copeland (@ratedrcope) is a professional wrestler signed with AEW, he is also known for his 25-year career in WWE where he performed under the name “Edge”. He sits down with Chris Van Vliet at his home in Asheville, NC to talk about being in the best shape of his life at age 50, why he designed Pure Plank with Christian Cage to help with core fitness, his decision to leave WWE for AEW, how he almost signed with AEW in 2019 instead of returning at the 2020 Royal Rumble, being forced to retire in 2011, how he met his wife Beth Phoenix, spearing Jeff Hardy off the ladder at WrestleMania 17, being on the receiving end of a leg drop off the cage from Matt Hardy at WWE Unforgiven 2005, his funny moments as a tag team with Christian, wanting to retire in a year and a half, being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and much more!

Quote I’m thinking about: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou

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On being in the best shape of his life:

“Yeah, I mean, I’d like to think I am. But it’s things that I took for granted before I can’t now. And I have to work harder now than I did before which is a good thing. Because by working harder than I really dove in, and I was like, okay, it all started with just being around for my girls. And then it led to this and then it led to that and that and then here we are four and a half years into a comeback that I never thought would happen. But it really just started with wanting to be around for my girls. I’ve already come to grips with the fact that I’m gonna look like Gandalf when I take them to their high school dance or whatever, but at least I’ll be here, knock on wood.” 

On wanting to become a wrestler:

“Maybe stubbornness, I’m pretty stubborn. Once I latch on to an idea, I at least have to see it through. And then if it doesn’t work, okay, it didn’t work, maybe it can work a different way and I’ll try this way and I’ll try it that way and then I’ll try it that way. But it’s all I ever wanted to do. So to me, I would rather try and do everything that I could to make it happen rather than go I wonder. I didn’t want to be that guy, and there’s nothing wrong with this. But I worked on an assembly line building car seats, and I didn’t want to be that guy at 60 getting ready for his gold watch. I wanted to go out and chase it. And if it didn’t pan out, okay, but that just wasn’t an option to me. I just knew, I was like, I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna get this. However long it takes, I’m gonna get it. And I won’t have a family and I won’t really set roots until [I made it]. Everything was geared toward this and doing this to the point where like, I stopped playing hockey, I didn’t ski I didn’t do a lot of the things that other kids did. Because like, I can’t risk a broken [bone], I can’t do this that or the other whatever that is. So yeah, when when the high school yearbook, I think they kind of knew at that point, but I don’t think anyone actually thought, Okay, if we say this will end up happening. But for me, I knew it was going to, it’s just a matter of how long.” 

On being told it is time to retire:

“I mean, I had to pretty quickly wrap my mind around the idea that I was being told I could never do this again. [Do you remember that day?] We had done WrestleMania 27. Me and Del Rio, world champ. So I’m thinking okay, we’ll get to the next pay-per-view, it’s a ladder match, I’ll drop the title there, then I’ll take a little break. Because I was sore, but I’d been sore for a while. And did Charlotte, NC, just did commentary and a quick little Spear and but even that, that single spirits like, Ooh, got a bit of a zinger there. So I drove up here, because I just bought this house drove up here was sitting on my deck and got a call from Vince. And he told me we’re told you gotta retire. And I went oh, right.”

Did you think that was an option?

“I always told myself by 40 I’d be done and I was 37 at that point. So I assumed I had a few more years with a bit of a break.”

On how Adam Copeland felt after the phone call: 

“I’m surrounded by my four dogs and I just kind of sat down and felt sorry for myself for a little bit. Had a cry, because it’s the only thing I ever wanted to do, right? So even though I assumed I was close to retiring, at least initially it wasn’t easy. But fairly quickly, I realised, okay, if I don’t have a choice in this at all, then I have to wrap my mind around this pretty quickly, or this is going to be an unhealthy, emotional climate for me. And then luckily, the executive producer for Haven saw my retirement speech. And they were looking for a tie-in with Haven because SmackDown aired before it. They wanted something to coincide with the lead-in and they they asked for me because I guess they were almost in tears watching the retirement speech and that wasn’t acting ability at all, I was just me retiring from the only thing I ever wanted to do, right? That was my audition [laughs]. And then I flew to Tampa, and then Jey and Del Rio had their ladder match was part of that. And then I took off for Nova Scotia, and 1 episode turned into 41. And then from there, about halfway through the second season, I was like, I really enjoy this. I better start putting some work in instead of just showing up. That’s when I started taking classes and diving into and pulling apart movies, and why certain actors made certain decisions and what were they doing, then going back and studying, okay, like Tom Hardy studied apes for this role. Okay, interesting. And De Niro studied cobras for Cape Fear. Just little things like that. Okay, interesting. And it tapped into the creative vein still. And I realised that was really important to my makeup. If I’m not creating some form of story it just feels, I don’t know, I get antsy. And so that still kept that alive.”

On wondering if there was a chance to come out of retirement:

“Honestly no. I felt good, but I didn’t assume good enough for that, because that’s just a different beast entirely. There’s nothing I found that can prepare you for having a pro wrestling match, except just having one. You can train, you can do all those things. But until you factor in adrenaline, getting the wind knocked out of you, and then having to get up and run, and how do you train for that? Okay, you can get in the ring. But if there’s no audience, it’s not the same. It’s not the same endorphins, it’s not the same, dopamine, it’s not that same adrenaline and the adrenaline dump. You’re probably just working, but going through the motions and training. Getting out there is an entirely different thing. I didn’t know, I didn’t think that was ever possible, because I was told it wasn’t. I started doing stunt scenes and I was doing my own stunts. I thought, I feel okay, I feel good here, but it’s still not that. It really truly wasn’t until I wiped out my mountain bike with Sheamus because that was uncontrolled. And that was the first kind of uncontrolled fall that I had taken. Because on a set, everything’s very controlled. And maybe you have padding this, that and the other. The mountain bike was going downhill, wiping out off a jump, flipping in midair, and essentially taking an arm drag on rocks, and rolling up to my feet and going I’m fine. I’m okay, interesting. And that’s kind of when it all started, the light bulbs [went off].”

On how close he came to signing with AEW instead of making the return at the Royal Rumble:

“Really close, we had great discussions. [Was this late 2019?] Yeah.”

Were you cleared?

“So when I first started talking to AEW, I wasn’t yet cleared. I had made it, we talked about it like the bosses of each video game level. But I still wasn’t cleared by company doctors, right? So once all of those clearances started to come, I was like, Oh, this is real now. Okay. So before I did anything, I had to go kind of get the final clearance needed for either company. But I had negotiated with everybody. I was like, Okay, here’s where I’m at, here’s what I’ve been told I can do and started the process. And then in going to WWE, and sitting down with Vince, he goes well, it’s got to happen here. At that stage, I looked at the equity built and it felt like having to start over, especially having to start over after having been gone for nine years felt really daunting, if that makes sense. It felt like at least with WWE that’s one thing off the table that I don’t have to worry about. I can come back and walk into the history of this character. I do feel like it needed to have happened there initially. I really do, if only for that Royal Rumble moment right before the pandemic hit and just feeling and experiencing that I’m happy the way it turned out.”

On keeping the WWE return a secret:

“Nobody saw me. They took me right to the Astros manager’s office. And that’s where I was all day sequestered in there. Beth was heating up my meals and bringing them to me like, and even she had to be a little bit clandestine, even though she was in the woman’s rumble that night. So it was a weird day because I didn’t come out of that room until about 10 minutes before I was supposed to go out. And that’s when I got up to Gorilla. And I think in the documentary, you start to see people going what the hell. Oh sh*t!”

On why he chose AEW in 2023:

“It felt like I’d done everything that I was going to do with WWE. I’d worked the people I’d wanted to work, 95% anyway. And it really just felt like they were in a direction and I was in a direction and they were kind of going separate ways. I wanted to be with this limited window that I have, I wanted to be involved. I wanted to be there kind of on a weekly basis in order to tell proper stories, and it’s tough to do that popping in and out every three months or so. And I also get the idea of, well, that keeps it special and I understand that. But again, I’m working with such a limited timeframe here that I got to go while I can go. And I looked at the roster and I just thought man, so many people that I’ve never laid hands on and been in the ring with. The one that seems to blow people’s minds is Samoa Joe. In all the years that him and I have both been wrestling we’ve never touched. Then I see Moxley and I see Claudio and Bryan and I have never had a proper singles. Swerve and Hangman. And then if you look at the tag teams, FTR, Young Bucks, Penta and Fenix, man, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, let alone all the young guys that have already wrestled since I’ve been there. It’s just really exciting and almost feels, I don’t want to say I feel like a kid again because I think that saile. But I’m just having fun. With each match I’m going to try something I’ve never tried before. I was against Brody King the other night, I’ve never done a blockbuster, I’m going to try that blockbuster. Never done a Davey Boy powerslam, let me try that. It’s fun to get out there and just try new things, especially at this stage of the career. But I think in working new people, and a whole roster of new people that I don’t know, it’s just opened up my brain to all the different possibilities.”

On having to make a decision when AEW presents him with a new contract:

“I mean, if I can still keep performing at a level, but more importantly a level that I can feel proud of. I just don’t want to get to a point where I’m like really struggling and just it’s like pulling teeth to get it done. I don’t want to do that. And thankfully, because of my career, I’m at a point where I don’t have to do that. I’m doing this because I just love it. I also think, and I’ve talked to the girls about this, I’m hoping they see the work ethic and the work that I still put in to do this thing that I want to do even though I don’t have to do it. I’m hoping that they see that and can rub off and they pick up some lessons from that too. But by the same token, I want to be here for everything for them. And I’ve been able to manage it and be around for the Shakespeare plays and be around to run drama club with Beth and take Lyric to her audition tonight. I’m still able to be there for those things. I haven’t missed a birthday. So it’s just a matter of being able to balance both so far. It’s possible.”

On Christian Cage doing the best work of his career:

“I think so. And that’s only because I do feel like he was limited beforehand. Throughout the years, I think, again, you keep hitting the glass ceiling and some will break through, but I don’t think it was ever meant for him to break through and that has got to be frustrating.”

On mocking dead relatives:

“And I think that was a happy accident. I think like so many things that end up working. It just ended up being a happy accident and then you start to like go oh, well if this person will be that. And I am in virgin territory for that, never met my dad. Are you kidding? Like he’s gonna have a field day with this.”

On tribalism in wrestling: 

“I think silly personally. Only because when I was growing up, I wanted to watch everything I could. If I could get my eyeballs on Continental or Mid-South or NWA or BC All-Star, I wanted to watch it all. Because I wanted to see what was going on you know, at that stage it was you you got what you could get from the after magazines. And that was it. So wait now I can watch Pro Wrestling Plus with Ed Whelan and maybe get my eyeballs on Hennig and Lawler okay, right I want to I want to see what’s going on. So I don’t know, I don’t understand the the allegiance to initials. But then I think about people with their favourite teams or this or that, but I’ve always been the same with like hockey. I love the Maple Leafs but I love hockey. So I’ll watch the Boston Bruins against the Florida Panthers because I know it’s gonna be a great game.”

On trying to get Gangrel for his WrestleMania match:

“I tried and I just got shut down. Every person shut it down. [Why?] So this isn’t a knock on WWE, but I’d always get the well nobody remembers. People remember, wrestling fans remember and I think wrestling fans want to be rewarded for remembering. And that’s a way to reward them. That’s what I’ve always felt. I think you know, you fast forward to me and Matt Cardona doing a Cope Open. And his music hits and he comes out. I mean, they remembered. And so I’ve always been a fan of pulling in things from the past and kind of integrating them into current things. But yeah, that was one I just kept getting shut down. I realised, okay, that was not a hill to die on because it didn’t get to happen. It’s not my sandbox, I got to do with what I’ve been given.”

On the Mania match with Mick Foley:

“The one with Mick I had a giant chip on my shoulder. Because I felt like I was at least in my mind kind of pushed back from the main event scene. And I felt like finally I earned my stripes and my spot there. So that was a chance for me to kind of show everybody that’s where I belong. And I knew Mick was the perfect person to help make that come to fruition. And we both had agendas that night. Mine was I really wanted Mick Foley to get a WrestleMania moment, that was true. I felt like he deserved that and he’d be the first to say that he hadn’t had that. So that was important for me and when I have a mission to accomplish, I work better. His mission was to solidify me as a main event guy and also to solidify me as someone that people might start looking at in a different light like oh he is tough. Even through all those TLCs and ladders it was still like oh he has long blonde hair, you know all of those things and so it felt like we both needed something out of that and when you get two maniacs both working toward goals some brutal things can happen. So the tone the mood was far different than it was with Taker.”

Was the flaming table a part of the plan?

“It was part of my plan. I’ve always said this, if you see something stupid that I do, chances are it was my idea. Whether it’s the AA off of a ladder through two tables, whether it’s the flaming table, chances are it was it was my stupidity. Yeah, I don’t even have like a good answer as to why. I mean, obviously, I’m a masochist on some level. But I think every pro wrestler is.”

On taking the steel cage leg drop from Matt Hardy:

“Even with everything that he and I had been through, that was never a doubt in my mind. We’d all worked each other so much and we all had just natural chemistry with each other. And you’re pros. So you just, you got to have a lot of faith in a person, you got to have a lot of trust in the person. And generally speaking, those moves are usually worse on the person doing them, you just gotta lie there. And just okay.”

On when he reconciled with Matt Hardy:

“I mean, honestly, it wasn’t that long. I think kind of once we went through that and once we both realised, okay, still the same guys, and still have the same chemistry still have the same everything. So, I feel like the fan base took a lot longer to come around to the idea that we were okay than we did. It was pretty quickly, and then you just got to move on.”

On not liking the Rated R Spinner belt:

“I don’t know. Again, I think for me, I come from that timeframe where the designs meant something. I understood the, you know, the commercial appeal, but I feel like that was truly done just to sell titles, and it worked. But I don’t know, I just as a World Heavyweight Champion, you walk out and something spinning on you. It just didn’t, I don’t know, to me, it just didn’t fit.”

What is Adam Copeland grateful for?

“Family, my mom and friendship.”

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