A Sure Fire WWE Hall of Famer
This series is aimed at discussing the impact that wrestlers have left on the business, regardless of their personal achievements. The impact I am aiming to discuss is the way they have improved the product or careers of other superstars.
Due to my age and when I started to follow the WWF/WWE, I am solely focusing this series on individuals whose careers date from around 1997 onwards, and more specifically, on less active or retired wrestlers.
To begin the series, I am focusing on the recently retired Rated R Superstar Edge. I began following the WWE a month before Edge's debut, and he has consistently been amongst my three favourite wrestlers.
Edge had evolved through the various eras of the WWE, from his loner gimmick, through The Brood, E&C, his lengthy mid-card reign (where he unfortunately became severely injured around his first major push, halting his rise to the top for several years), through his return on Raw, to becoming The Rated R Superstar, The Ultimate Opportunist and a dignified retirement in early 2011, he became one of the most beloved superstars of the past decade.
The skill he had when portraying both a face and a heel was that either way, he made the audience care about his actions. A face can be cheered, and a heel can be booed, but Edge was one of those rare characters that incited the extremes of each side of the scale because he engaged the audience. He could wrestle, and he would entertain, thereby making him one of the most complete superstars the industry has seen.
In June 2002, following an absence from an internationally viewed wrestling product like the WWE, Rey Mysterio made his debut. He was an instant hit, partly because the audience were familiar with him from the old ECW and certainly the WCW cruiserweight division, and partly because his image was a breath of fresh air.
Lucha libre wrestling is by nature a highly technical and attractive form of the sport, and Rey Mysterio has been possibly the single most successful crossover in the American and global market. When he came to the WWE, as great as his debut was, he needed to become established (a factor that is currently affecting Sin Cara, I'd like to add).
So WWE creative (who were still fairly creative back then) teamed him up with Edge. They feuded with the more experienced team of Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit in arguably some of the finest tag-team matches of the early 2000's—a significant achievement considering Edge's earlier involvement with the E&C, The Hardy's and The Dudley's feud.
A tag-team championship reign gave Rey the opportunity to partner with a strong face character, and whilst I don't wish to undermine Rey's talents, I believe that partnering with Edge was a big help in establishing himself as a great wrestler.
I would also suggest that as Edge had been a strong face character, the fans instantly recognised Rey as a face, and that has never been doubted to this day. Between the two of them, there was some great tag-team chemistry, and whilst their individual gimmicks contrasted and wouldn't necessarily work together for most superstars, they were over with the fans, and were a credible and believable tag-team.
Towards the latter half of 2006, Randy Orton was floundering in the WWE. After a string of strong feuds during and following from his time with Evolution, Orton got lost in the mix of the high-mid card. This was partially due to controversial behaviour, as well as being suspended for violating the WWE Wellness Policy by being caught smoking marijuana.
Upon his return, there was a lack of feud for him, and his position within the roster was lacklustre to say the least. He was, I guess, the equivalent of John Morrison as he was arguably a contender for the World Title, but it would have been a bad idea putting him in the title scene.
So in October 2006, Edge invited Orton onto his Cutting Edge show. Following a dispute with DX that cost Edge a title shot, he wanted revenge. Orton had been on a downward spiral after being kicked out of Evolution, and Edge wanted Orton to help him gain a measure of revenge against DX. The following year saw the duo feud with DX, as well as attacking legends such as Ric Flair and Rowdy Roddy Piper.
The rub off from having Edge as his partner, other than winning the Tag-Team titles (a record 11th win for Edge), was that Orton was creeping back into the main event scene. However, the breakup of Rated RKO also served its purpose.
Edge was a firm heel at the stage of the breakup, and so the ensuing feud with Orton helped to move Orton away from his previous Legend Killer gimmick, and begin to develop the Viper character that he currently portrays.
The feud with Edge made Orton relevant again. Without Edge's help, I think that Orton may be in a similar situation as Jack Swagger has been for the last 18 months—lost in the mid card mix. However, as we are well aware, Orton is currently the No. 2 member of the WWE roster, and I can't see that changing as long as he behaves himself and avoids any long injuries.
Every great superhero has an archrival—a devious genius that counterbalances their world. Superman had Lex Luthor, Batman had The Joker, and John Cena had Edge. In this series, I will attempt to shed light on how certain rivalries define a superstar's career, and personally I view Edge as the man that truly made John Cena.
As a wrestler, Edge had won everything but the main prize until that fateful night in 2006 at New Year's Revolution. As the inaugural winner of the Money in the Bank, there was a lot riding on when Edge would cash it in.
The manner in which he cashed it in redefined the concept of winning a championship, as it was against a beaten-down John Cena following an Elimination Chamber match, rather than a classic scheduled title match.
I would categorically state that if the Money In The Bank were cashed in for a formal title match as RVD did and Daniel Bryan is likely to do, the prestige of winning would be undermined by the simple fact that it isn't a unique enough way to capture the audience's attention and almost steal the title, the way Edge was initially perceived to do.
Cena and Edge had a lengthy feud that served two purposes. For Edge's tenure within the WWE, it turned him into a main-even-calibre talent, and a very strong contender for the World titles. And Cena had a rival who epitomised an Anti-Cena brand of winning and retaining the championship, acting as the comic foil to the overtly superhero image that Cena portrayed.
Cena was the squeaky-clean champion, whereas Edge was a cunning and devious opponent. Without their rivalry, neither superstar would have amassed the number of title reigns they each respectively have. Their rivalry carried the company through a transitional period when the likes of The Undertaker, Triple H and HBK were beginning to wind down their legendary careers, and both Edge and Cena created an interesting and engaging feud that highlighted that both were ready to carry the company.
I personally can't imagine any other superstar being able to feud with Cena the way Edge did, because like HBK, Y2J and CM Punk, Edge is an all-around incredibly complete wrestler and entertainer who would match and often best Cena in the ring and on the mic.
Now many would argue this slide, because Edge and Christian started with the WWE around the same time, and despite Edge's overall success, many fans would hold Christian in the same regard, no matter their individual achievements.
My point in this slide is simple. Edge's career directly impacted Christian's, and recently that has shown to have helped push and establish Christian in the main event scene. Between them they have held the Tag-Team titles seven times, and they have feuded over the Intercontinental Championship around the Invasion storyline.
When Christian left the WWE to wrestle in TNA, Edge continued to rise through the ranks, and became one of the top-tier stars in the company. Christian, to his credit, helped to add a depth to the early TNA product as a recognisable name, and won a couple of World Titles. But regardless of Christian's TNA success, it was overshadowed by Edge's achievements in the WWE.
Upon his return, Christian established himself as a strong talent within the roster, receiving a favourable push in ECW as the ECW Champion. There were hints towards a storyline with Edge—the occasional backstage meeting or a mention in promos—but nothing solid or substantial.
Then, unfortunately, Edge's immediate retirement was announced, and we were left with no World Champion, and a big 'what if' in regard to future storylines and potential feuds. The benefit for Christian, most likely at Edge's request, was that he would finally, albeit briefly, hold the WWE World Championship.
There was a grace and closure to Edge's career when Christian won the title. To me, it felt like a passing of the torch to his best friend, firmly elevating him into the main event scene.
Please feel free to leave any comments and opinions...