On the evening of April 11th, 2011, I sat down on the couch in my basement to watch Monday Night Raw, totally unaware of what was going to happen that night. I expected build-up for the Rock vs. Cena match at Wrestlemania 28, John Cena vs the Miz to be added to the Extreme Rules card, the continuation of the Lawler-Cole feud, etc. What I wasn't expecting was a graphic to pop up on my television screen saying the following: "Edge, Career Over?"
I didn't think much of it at first, simply a worked storyline to build up for the Edge-Alberto Del Rio Ladder match at Extreme Rules, but as I heard the announcer's voices as they talked about it, I started to fear the worst. I, like every other wrestling fan, knew of Edge's past injuries to his neck, foot, wrist, shoulder, pectoral, and achilles tendon, but I was under the impression that Edge was going to retire when his contract expired, if not then, than at least in his hometown of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It was these excuses that kept me from worrying about it so I could enjoy Raw, more specifically Sin Cara's debut match.
But then, the magical moment arrived, the cameras paned to Edge and John Cena talking, laughing, shaking hands, two main eventers who had one of the greatest rivalries of the post-Attitude Era, and my heart started beating fast. What was going on? What's this big announcement? Then Edge was in the ring without his World Heavyweight Championship and he told the world exactly what was going on, that he had to retire due to all of the injuries that he had suffered in his career. Honestly from the beginning, I thought it was nothing but a work. I thought that the whole "problems with my arms" could be associated with being stuck in Alberto Del Rio's Cross Armbreaker submission so much and I expected Del Rio himself to interrupt Edge to further their feud going into Extreme Rules.
But as Edge's speech continued, I started to get more furious and fall even more into denial. Where are they going with this? Edge left the ring, tears falling down his face with the crowd chanting, "Thank you Edge!" over and over. He gave his signature pose the the top of the ramp and walked through the curtain for what appeared to be the last time ever. Behind the curtain, dozens of WWE Superstars and Divas were applauding Edge and giving him the respect he's earned, and that's where I realized that this wasn't a work. Edge was actually retiring and he wouldn't be wrestling another match again.
This was the first time ever, in all my years of being a wrestling fan, that I was genuinely upset about something (not counting deaths) and I'm sure every other wrestling fan, old or young, boy or girl, would agree. Edge was the kind of superstar that you cheered for because he was that likeable, and booed because you were supposed to, not because you actually hated him. Looking back at the events of last night, I remembered the send off WWE gave to Ric Flair when he retired and I realized something, Edge's should have been bigger.
This was a man who dreamed of being a WWF/E superstar when he was a kid and nothing else. This was a man who suffered through all of the trials and tribulations of the road and the independents to get to where he was today. This was a man who signed his first wrestling contract with the WWE at the age of 24 and never looked back. This was a man who lived and breathed the WWE, was completely a homegrown talent, and deserves to be treated with the recognition he deserves.
Edge has done it all in this business, completely changing his outlook from beginning to end. Edge was a tortured soul, he was a goth vampire before vampires were ever cool (you hear me Rob Pattinson?), he was a cool guy who "reaked of awesomeness", he was a psychotic madman, he did it all. And through it all, he remained Rated R, he remained Rated-R in a PG Land and I think that's what most members of the IWC will miss the most.
As far as accolades go, Edge again has done it all. Through his 14-year WWE career, Edge is a five-time WWE Intercontinental Champion, a 12 time World Tag team Champion (seven with Christian, two with Chris Benoit, and one each with Randy Orton, Hulk Hogan, and Chris Jericho), a twp time WWE Tag team Champion (one each with Rey Mysterio and Chris Jericho), a former WCW United States Champion, a four time WWE Champion, and a seven time World Heavyweight Champion. He was the 2001 King of the Ring winner, he was the first ever Money in the Bank winner (in 2005, he would also win the briefcase from Mr. Kennedy in 2007), a two time Slammy Award winner, he was the 2010 Royal Rumble winner, and Edge was the 14th Triple Crown Champion in WWE History. Edge didn't win all of these only because the creative team had faith in him, Edge was actually a really good wrestler.
Edge was the complete package, he was everything you wanted in a wrestler. His in-ring skills were off the charts, he had great charisma, his mic skills were superb, and he had "it," whatever "it" is. He connected with the fans really well, like I said, he's one of the most popular superstars in WWE history while at the same time, one of the most hated superstars in WWE history. His matches with Kurt Angle, Christian, Chris Jericho, Undertaker, censored (yes, that's the Rabid Wolverine), Matt Hardy, and Randy Orton are some of the best matches that I've ever seen in the post-Attitude Era. Edge was one of the greats, a solid main eventer for that last six to seven years. But as much as we must celebrate the career of this man, I feel that it's our fault that we're all taking it so hard.
Did the WWE fans, the WWE creative team, and the IWC take Edge for granted?
Edge came back from a torn pectoral muscle, a broken "freakin'" neck (a la Kurt Angle), a torn Achilles tendon, and much more. I feel that it's because he kept coming back, that the fans placed too much pressure on Edge. They thought that since he's come back from so much, he will always be back to entertain us, no matter what happens to him. The WWE fans, the WWE creative team, hell even the IWC, all took Edge for granted. In between the huge pops for Cena and Orton (from the fans), the pushing of new stars like Del Rio and Nexus (creative team), and the pleading for the pushes of Christian and John Morrison (IWC), Edge was left in the shadows of everyones mind as someone who would be there until the end. To quote a song, "you don't know what you got, till it's gone."
Now, Edge is gone from wrestling, for good. Life must go on, but the WWE has been totally classy with Edge's retirement, despite the lack of knowing about his injuries. I think that Edge bowing out in this way, it will cause for the fans to be more appreciative of his work in the last couple of years and more appreciative of his career as a whole. The man has been in the wrestling industry for 20 years and he has earned a well-deserved break from it all. It will be this new-found appreciation for Edge that will make it all the more special in 2013, when Wrestlemania XXIX is in Toronto, when Christian steps up to the podium, and inducts Edge into the WWE Hall of Fame.
This is not the first Edge appreciation article on this site and it will be far from the last. This was just a sign of respect directed to a man who has been the better part of half of his adult life running around in tights, entertaining people like us around the world. Edge's retirement has inspired us all to reminisce about the career he's had and how much he meant to the WWE in the last 10 to 15 years. There will never be another Ultimate Opportunist, another Master Manipulator, another Rated-R Superstar. Edge was one-of-a-kind and has speared his way into all of are minds and hearts. There's just no other way to say it, but Edge is without a doubt one of the greatest WWE Superstars of all time. Nothing more can be said by anyone, there's no other way to say it: thank you Edge. Thank you for the memories.
Long live the Rated-R Superstar.