By former Lords of Pain 205 Live reviewer, “205 Clive”.
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For years, it’s been easy for me to hold a particular wrestler above all others. My current favourites can change, sometimes on a whim. My “Mount Rushmore”? Moulded from clay, rather than set in stone. Yet, one man has been the defacto number one for several years. Kurt Angle’s WWF/E career was relatively short in the grand scheme of things. However, his growth into the all rounder he became was fast and exponential. His embodiment of intensity, integrity, and intelligence was more than just a catchphrase. His is a body of work that stands the test of time, and I don’t even feel the need to include his longer TNA tenure. Of course, that has nothing to do with my not really seeing much, if any, of his TNA work….
Nevertheless, the Olympic Gold Medalist isn’t the reason why I’m putting the proverbial pen to paper this week. Rather, it is to flesh out some ponderings about whether or not he should be replaced by another individual. My wrestling tastes have changed over the past few years. Story now plays a major part in what grabs my attention, over and above a wrestler’s “mad workrate skills”. Admittedly, though, Kurt Angle had them all. If you were to use Bret Hart’s formula for rating a wrestler, Angle would be in the high twenties, without question. But someone else ticks all those boxes, too. What the other person holds above Angle, personally, is the ability to spin a bloody good yarn. Whether in just one match, or over the span of several months.
Edge, the Rated R Superstar, has grabbed the wrestling headlines recently since his shock return to active competition at this year’s Royal Rumble. It was a moment I should have savoured, for he has been in my aforementioned Mount Rushmore for some time. Sadly, it was a moment in which I couldn’t share the elation felt by him, his family, and millions of wrestling fans.
There’s no doubting Edge’s star power. The Ultimate Opportunist tagline encapsulated him perfectly, having several meanings. The moniker symbolises several accolades Edge gained throughout his career. The Hall of Famer benefited hugely from the early noughties draft split when his full time tag team run was all but exhausted. He won several ladder matches before and after that pivotal time. Matches where strategy all but goes out the window, and only the luckiest and most dastardly prevail. Arguably the original architect, he delivered memorable Money In The Bank cash ins, the first setting a shock factor not topped until, aptly, Seth Rollins at Wrestlemania 31. These singular instances were fantastic moments in and of themselves. But it was his ability to thrive in these conditions, under pressure, that saw management rely on him so frequently.
It came to the point where he was entrusted with the responsibilities normally held for top tier main eventers. The leader of a stable that garnered impressive heat, thanks to the addition of Vicky Guerrero. Several marquee matches and programs with Mr WWE himself, John Cena. Being injected straight back into title contention after lengthy injuries. A Wrestlemania main event (proper) against The Dead Man, appreciation nights, Network shows…. Until now, I haven’t even mentioned his abundant riches in the form of countless championship reigns. Need I go on? Vince McMahon clearly had a great deal of respect for Edge, as is evidenced here.
As far as achievements go, not many can hold a candle to Edge’s. I’d like to admit that I was there for them all. However, now is the time to divulge a couple of lesser known facts about myself. The first: I had a hiatus from watching WWE from around 2009 to 2014. Evidently, I would have missed the sad news Edge had to deliver regarding his forced medical retirement. The other fact? The first time I actually dared to sit through his emotional farewell in 2011 was shortly after he speared Elias on Summerslam 2019’s kick-off show. Until then, without outright admitting it to myself, Edge was too personal a connection to wrestling for me to be able to watch that speech.
To see him bear his soul over something entirely out with his control would have hammered home just how much he had sacrificed throughout his career. One whose slow but sure trajectory I had followed with joy since the Brood days. A career with so many successful character evolutions that it reads like the blueprint of what a wrestler should aspire to. No doubt that tragic week or so wasn’t in Edge’s plans, and I just couldn’t bring myself to experience the darkest hour of his career. Possibly, his life.
For his life could have been significantly impacted, had he continued wrestling. Widespread paralysis, or worse, were the only other two options available to him, alongside the one he was basically forced to choose. As a firm supporter of Edge’s career, it was a prognosis I considered set in stone. Personally, it was something not worth even contemplating teasing with a chisel.
It was why I was so torn to see the IWC wet its collective lips at the prospect of the Rated R Superstar’s return. Couple that with my disdain for Vince McMahon’s desire to wheel in yesteryear’s stars for them to still hold sway in current canon, and it was a doubly sore sticking point. What kind of hypocrite would I be to immediately dismiss my concern for Edge’s welfare, as well as that of the current talent? A crop who will struggle to manifest a career even closely resembling Edge’s?
This is all not to say my blood boils whenever I see Edge, unlike some relics who shall remain nameless for now. With Edge, it’s quite the opposite, in fact. Having read his autobiography, watched his WWE Network show with Christian, and listened to his podcast, I feel like I know him very well. Not just Edge, but Adam Copeland. Perhaps that is why I am so drawn to the performer. Now, and retrospectively, even more so. That the man underneath that long, iconic cloak has divulged so much about his role during a time in which I was thoroughly invested.
Naturally, then, Edge’s recent Network documentary was high on my list of things to watch as Wrestlemania drew near. I’m glad WWE did this. It was more cathartic than I could have thought possible. Not to relive Edge’s career, as such, but to focus on Adam’s years long rehabilitation that saw him reach a stage where he could even take bumps again. Begrudgingly, my excitement for his pending Wrestlemania match with Randy Orton was…edging out ahead of the rest.
Speaking of Wrestlemania, you may have noticed I’d left out Adam’s acting career in the above list of extracurricular Awesomeness. I hold my hands up when I say I’ve only seen a small handful of the television shows and films he’s been involved in. However,, one thing that was clear in his program with Orton was his serious acting chops. His desperate attempts in seeking revenge for his wife Beth’s RKO. The intense promos with a backdrop of an empty room, all focus on his words and their meaning. It was becoming impossible for me not to be invested in this emotional return. To the show where he made a name for himself countless times before.
With this year’s unique Coronavirus affected setting, he only went and did it again. The match itself had its detractors, but it personally spoke to me a lot more than most of the double bill’s offerings. The match leaned heavily on the story told in the weeks leading up to Wrestlemania. That of a man so passionate about wrestling, it was an addiction. Of a wrestler who had fallen so often and hard throughout his career, only to stand on his own two feet at the last moment. The tears that welled up in his eyes towards the end of the match weren’t just for Orton. As well, they were for the trials and tribulations Edge had hitherto faced. Nine long years, etched on his war weathered face. It was a physically grueling battle, but probably more so emotionally. Exhausting, but a satisfying story overall.
Less than a fortnight later, Edge appeared on Corey Graves’ “After The Bell” podcast. As well as discussing ‘Mania itself, Edge spoke fondly and excitedly about what he would like to do now that he is back with WWE. He repeatedly fawned over the fact that he came back to tell stories. To work with tomorrow’s stars and help them reach that next level. Even if only with just a little input from him.
Those stories are what I appreciate the most about Edge. Sure, he was a daredevil. He brought to the microphone….sigh… edgy content, that regularly pushed the boundaries of what was deemed acceptable by sponsors. Underneath all that, however, were the stories that set him apart from everybody else.
The Streak vs Streak program with the Undertaker. Where his bold claims that he would surpass ‘Taker’s record came to life in an enthralling Wrestlemania match of “anything you can do, I can do better”. His message to Mick Foley (playing the role of WWE management), that he will go that extra mile. To prove he has what it takes to steal the show and put his body on the line doing it. A strong metaphor for the rigors of holding the WWE Championship that was so abruptly taken from him months earlier. The classic feud with Matt Hardy that smashed through the fourth wall, giving us one of the more heated and believable mid-card angles in WWE history. Just like his accomplishments above, this list is too exhaustive to detail in full.
It all makes a strong case for Edge surpassing Angle as my ultimate favourite. His achievements. The classic, timeless angles. His love for the business, and how he wants to give back some of what he had. What made him the legend he is today. If and when normal proceedings play out, I admit that I’m excited about that. To consume new programs into which he can instill his knowledge and passion. To start afresh a list of dream programs and matchups he could have with today’s Superstars.
If this is how I feel about my new first choice, then I have to ask myself a revelatory question. Who am I to begrudge other fans for holding their own interpretation of a legend in high esteem to the point that they clamour for their return? Would that not then be a perfect example of bias? Perhaps it is time to soften my stance on those wrestlers and their appeal. Even if they do nothing for me. For if they give others even a fraction of the feel good factor that Edge provides me with, it’s only fair to allow them that, too. Maybe, after years of stubbornness, on this day, I see clearly……Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one.
Let me know your thoughts on the above column in the comments below, or @RickyandClive on Twitter.
Read my previous Brand Extension columns here.
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