WWE Hall of Famer and “Rated R Superstar” Edge remembers attending his first live wrestling event like it was yesterday.
“My very first show was at (Toronto’s) Maple Leaf Gardens and the main event was Tito Santana and The Junkyard Dog against Jesse “The Body” Ventura and Randy “Macho Man” Savage,” says Edge, whose real name is Adam Copeland, a native of Orangeville, Ontario. “I think I was 12 years old, and I remember Santana made Savage submit that night with the figure-four leg lock, and the Gardens went absolutely nuts. I’ll never forget that.”
Edge has plenty of time to reflect these days, since injuries sustained during his illustrious career forced him to retire from wrestling in 2011. The 11-time World Champion spends much of his time mountain biking and hiking with his dogs high up in the beautiful mountainous seclusion of Asheville, North Carolina.
In an exclusive interview, WrestleNewz.com recently tracked down Edge to chat about life outside the ring, WWE Home Videos, and Toronto’s rich history in pro wrestling.
WNZ: Besides the main event, what else do you remember about that first wrestling show you saw at Maple Leaf Gardens in downtown Toronto?
E: I can remember King Kong Bundy wrestled Hillbilly Jim, and when Bundy came up that big ramp they had at the Gardens that went to the ring, I remember thinking, “Oh man, there’s Bundy!” He was in the midst of doing that angle with Hogan, just before WrestleMania II, and I was thinking, “I just hate him so much.”I remember how Bundy just looked so bowling pin-like up on that ramp that was so big and awesome, and really set Toronto apart from other famous venues like the Boston Garden, Philadelphia Spectrum or Madison Square Garden.
I think The Hart Foundation were also on that card, along with Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Pedro Morales, and a match between Adrian Adonis and George “The Animal” Steele.
WNZ: Did you see any of the Big Bear Wrestling shows that came through Ontario back then, promoted by wrestler Dave “Bearman” McKigney, featuring guys like Angelo Mosca Jr., “Crazy” Chris Colt, and Gentle Ben the Wrestling Bear?
E: Yeah, one of the first wrestling cards I ever saw was a little indy show at the Orangeville Arena, when they came through there. I think The Sheik was on it along with Sweet Daddy Siki, who eventually ended up training me. And that was really my first exposure to seeing guys like that.
WNZ: What other Toronto wrestling events stick out in your mind from the mid-’80s?
E: I went to The Big Event to see Hogan and Orndorff at C.N.E.’s Exhibition Stadium in the summer of ’86, in front of something like 70,000 people. They broke an outdoor attendance record and for some reason, that event doesn’t get nearly as much attention as some of the other big shows in Toronto. But it was a huge wrestling card, as it was the first time Hogan and Orndorff locked up after Orndorff turned on him and gave him the clothesline and piledriver.
So for me, I was really invested in that feud and that was just as huge for me as the Warrior/Hogan thing a few years later. But because it wasn’t WrestleMania, that event doesn’t get asked about much. And what was so great about that card was getting to see guys I hadn’t seen before, like Andre, who wrestled as The Giant Machine. That night was my first exposure to a lot of the guys that didn’t make the normal Maple Leaf Gardens loop because it was such a big show with so many matches that included names like Jimmy Jack Funk, Dick “The Rebel” Slater, and Ted Arcidi. Some really fun stuff.
I’m lucky I got to see that show. Between being at The Big Event, and seeing WrestleMania 6, where you could feel the electricity in the air, and going to the Gardens, you got to see some really, really awesome stuff in Toronto — whether it was the Legion of Doom and Ultimate Warrior against Demolition, or Hogan and Kamala in a steel cage. I remember on those old WWF Coliseum Home Videos, seeing that clip of Andre the Giant slamming Kamala at Maple Leaf Gardens with that one light shining down and I’d go, “Oh man, I want to see that whole match!” And that was a way you could see them when they would come out on those Coliseum Home Video tapes. But with that intro they’d do at the beginning of each video tape, they’d give me a little morsel and I’d want the whole leg of turkey.
WNZ: Did you buy those early WWF Coliseum Home Videos when they were first released in ’85, with titles like Best of the WWF Vol. 1, Hulkamania, and Wrestling’s Bloopers, Bleeps and Bodyslams?
E: I remember that my friend’s parents owned this place called Video Hut, so me and my other buddies would go and check out the VHS and Beta wrestling tapes Coliseum Home Video put out. The one I remember that really sticks out for me was WWF’s Most Unusual Matches, and I’m pretty sure it had a picture of a Battle Royal on the front. And something about that image really stuck out for me.
And what made that video so great was seeing matches like Greg Valentine against Chief Jay Strongbow in an Indian Strap Match, or a Lumberjack Match, or a Texas Tornado Match with Piper and Orton against Snuka and JYD. Because at that point, all you got was Wrestling Superstars or Wrestling Challenge or Wrestling Spotlight from 12 to 1 pm on WUTV Channel 29. On TV, you’d get interviews from the big guys and see them fight A.J. Petruzzi, but you’d never see strap matches or cage matches and things like that. So that was something really special, because that was the only way you were going to see a rare gem like a 10-man tag team match or a Women’s Battle Royal or a match from the ’70s featuring Haystacks Calhoun.
WNZ: You included a rare gem on last year’s WWE DVD/Blu-ray release, You Think You Know Me?: The Story of Edge, with that indy match you and Christian had on an Indian Reservation from ’95. How challenging is it to decide which matches to include on a DVD?
E: That was one of the hurdles we had to figure out pretty quickly with the latest DVD, because most of my matches were at least 25 minutes long. Which, I mean is a good thing, because I like to think it’s because your work rate is higher. But when I was sitting down with the producers they were saying to me, “We could get like 50 Hulk Hogan matches on a DVD, but we can only fit like six of yours on one.” So that was a bit of a challenge trying to narrow it down.
And also, going through prior DVD releases, I’d say, “Okay, well most of my ladder matches have been on ladder DVDs. I’ve also had matches on an Eddie Guerrero DVD or a Hardys DVD or a John Cena DVD, so a lot of my matches had already been shown already.”
So with that indy show Christian and I did, that you mention, I was thinking let’s go for some different ones that hadn’t been shown a lot already, or something you wouldn’t expect. And that one from South Indian Lake in Northern Manitoba, no one had seen that one. It’s not the best camera angle and the crowd is sitting there silent, but Matt Striker and I do commentary on it which is far more entertaining than the actual match. And what’s great about Matt Striker is we have a very goofy friendship. I always say that he’s the George Costanza to my Jerry Seinfeld — the neurotic friend — so that plays out on the commentary. But for people who want to see different stuff from my career prior to WWE, with some humour thrown in from me and Matt, then that’s the one to watch.
WNZ: Your tremendous and brutal Tables, Ladders and Chairs match at Unforgiven ’06 against John Cena from Toronto’s Air Canada Centre is included on your latest DVD…
E: Oh yeah, I love that match. It was highly emotional for me, after being booed all that time from the moment I came back, then being cheered in my hometown and being in a TLC match. If you watch that match, I think you can see it in my face at the beginning and after the match I lost my heeldom. Those matches I had with John were some very physical matches.
We also had a lot of fun with that storyline, as Lita and I went over to John’s dad’s house and slapped him around (laughs).
WNZ: What do you remember about your match with Booker T at WrestleMania 18 in Toronto?
E: I remember our time being cut because Undertaker and Flair went like seven minutes over their scheduled time. So we went from 14 minutes to seven, and the entrances took a good four minutes. So it was like, wow, we don’t have much time at all here. So we were thinking, okay, it’s not going to be quite as cool as we thought it was going to be. Then add to that the fact that we were fighting over a shampoo endorsement commercial. I mean, ah really?
But having said that, the experience of going out and wrestling there, 12 years after I was sitting in the crowd at WrestleMania 6 was pretty amazing.
WNZ: How amazing was it to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame last year?
E: It was surreal. I remember thinking how I actually felt younger because my body didn’t hurt anymore. I think I always expected to be going up limping onstage by the time I was going to be inducted, but thankfully that wasn’t the case I guess.
WNZ: You’ve also sat in the audience during several WWE Hall of Fame Ceremonies. Do you have a favorite memory?
E: I guess when you have Ric Flair mention you during his Hall of Fame speech, it’s a pretty cool moment that I never could have imagined as a kid growing up watching wrestling. So having him mention me, in such respectful terms, was one that really sticks out.
WNZ: What has your life been like since you retired from wrestling?
E: It’s very relaxing. I just love being outdoors and being active. It’s just a normal every day kind of life and I find different ways to exercise outside, after all those years working out in gyms. I do a lot of hiking with my dogs. On my last DVD, I think my favourite part was seeing my dogs in high-definition on the Blu-ray.
WNZ: Do you have a decent amount of privacy where you live, away from the spotlight?
E: Where I live now, pretty much everybody kind of knows me, so it’s really no big deal. They’re just like, “Oh yeah, cool, here comes the guy who used to wrestle.” And once you’ve seen somebody once, the novelty wears off pretty fast and they realise you sit on a toilet like everybody else. The novelty wears off, it really does. And it’s not like I walk around with an entourage and make people pour my Evian for me, or whatever. It has to be Evian though! (laughs).
WNZ: Is there anywhere in the world you had hoped to wrestle, but didn’t have the opportunity?
E: In my mind, I was always like, “Gosh, I sure hope I can get to the point where I can work Maple Leaf Gardens,” but it just didn’t work out that way. I think it became a Loblaws (grocery store) by that point in my career, and the WWE had moved on to the SkyDome at that point.
There’s was just something about the Gardens that was so awesome, with Gorilla Monsoon at that table at ringside, calling the matches with Jesse Ventura or Johnny V or Billy Red Lyons. Norm Kimber would announce the wrestlers, and you’d have referees like Terry Yorkston. And there were so many things that just set it apart — little things.
As soon as the matches were over, boom, the house lights came on the second the match was over. I remember that. And I like the fact that there wasn’t much lighting. During a match you’d have just that one light above the ring and that was it, not like the eight million lights they have for television now to light everything up. I can vividly remember that unique vibe you’d get seeing wrestling at the Gardens, with old guys chomping on a cigar in the front row, when you could still smoke in arenas. It just felt so old school, and it really felt so different back then.