Week in Wrestling: Charlotte on the future of women’s wrestling; Five questions with Edge
SI.com’s Wrestling Week in Review is published every Wednesday and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
This week, an interview with WWE women’s champion Charlotte, perspective from The Young Bucks on their Ring of Honor tag team title victory at All Star Extravaganza, The Nitro Files with Eric Bischoff, Five Questions with Edge, the Wrestlers’ Tribune with Lance Storm and the Top Ten with SoCal Val.
The Face of Women’s Wrestling: Charlotte
SI.com spoke with former WWE women’s champion Charlotte and discussed WrestleMania 32, her friendship with Becky Lynch, and her aspirations in the business.
Charlotte is ready to reveal the truth: although she was a wrestling fan as a child, she wasn’t watching WWE.
“I was a WCW fan growing up,” said Charlotte. “My favorites were Dusty [Rhodes], Arn Anderson, Ricky Steamboat, and Sting.”
The former two-time WWE women’s champion, who set another standard of excellence this week on Raw with her corkscrew moonsault onto Sasha Banks, is the daughter of the legendary “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, who was a reviled heel and longtime rival of crowd favorite Sting. Charlotte believes she has found her own version of Sting with Smackdown women’s champion Becky Lynch.
“Becky is my Sting,” said Charlotte. “She is a white meat, pure babyface. There is no gray area. She’s my size, she’s hard-hitting, and we’re best friends.”
Charlotte, whose real name is Ashley Fliehr, is a native of Charlotte, North Carolina. The 30-year-old is obsessed with wrestling, and unlike some of her peers who reached the pinnacle of success and coast merely on talent, Charlotte has occasionally been criticized for her unremitting focus toward the business.
“I think about this constantly, and sometimes I need to turn it off, but I just want to be the best,” said Charlotte. “I haven’t been wrestling that long, and I always take advice, where some people don’t. I’m always asking, ‘How can I get better?’ I listen. That’s from playing sports.
“I work on understanding what makes people fall in love with a character, whether they love you or hate you, and adding those nuances. It’s those in-between moments, not even the moves or who wins, and I’m still working on that, and controlling being nervous every week. I always want to fix one thing each week.”
Charlotte’s majestic run in WWE began at WrestleMania 30, when she was part of the entrance for Triple H before his match with Daniel Bryan. Less than three years later, she has moved from the shadows to having legitimate—and realistic—aspirations of main-eventing a WWE pay per view.
“I want to headline a pay per view, and I want it to be the fatal four-way with the Four Horsewomen,” said Charlotte, referring to herself, Banks, Lynch, and Bayley. “The last time I cried was watching the Women’s Revolution on WWE Network a couple of weeks ago when they asked Bayley if she felt left out of WrestleMania , and she said, ‘No, I felt a part of it, because even though it was the three of them [Banks, Lynch, and Charlotte] there, it took the four of us to get to where we are.”
If the four women were to, in fact, headline a pay per view, Charlotte has a finish for the match in mind.
“I’m the dirtiest player in the game,” said Charlotte. “I’ll have a trick up my shoulder.”
When Charlotte is in need of inspiration, she watches her father’s retirement match with the “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels from WrestleMania 24. That match was in the back of her mind as she prepared for her triple threat match at WrestleMania 32 against Banks and Lynch.
“At WrestleMania, I knew I needed to do something special,” explained Charlotte. “I asked myself, ‘Should I wear a robe? Can I take myself seriously as an athlete in a robe?’
“So Terry [Anderson], who designs my robes and did my dad’s WrestleMania robe against Shawn, made my blue robe, which had pieces from my dad’s robe in it. My dad’s robe is in the Smithsonian in the pop culture section, and that robe was such a hit, so she said, ‘Let’s do another one.’ My dad’s were kind of bulky, but mine are a little more feminine. I wore my dad’s robes all the time as a kid. When I was in the second grade, it was ‘bring your shoe in to decorate’ – I don’t know why that was even an arts and crafts project – but I brought in my dad’s wrestling boot and I decorated that.”
Charlotte has out-grown the moniker of “Ric Flair’s daughter.” In fact, in some circles, the 16-time world champion is now simply known as “Charlotte’s father.”
“It hasn’t hit yet,” said Charlotte. “Someone asked how I stay grounded, but I don’t even think about it. I go to each town and I want to wrestle, and that’s all I want to do. Maybe one day it will hit, but I’m just enjoying what I do.”
News of the Week
The Young Bucks captured the Ring of Honor world tag team titles at Friday night’s All Star Extravaganza in a brutal-yet-spectacular Ladder Wars main event over the Motor City Machine Guns and The Addiction.
While the city of Boston was celebrating the final weekend of the legendary career of David Ortiz just miles away at Fenway Park, the Bucks’ Matt and Nick Jackson were making history of their own in front of a packed crowd at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium.
The Ladder Wars match, which took place in the same building where Shawn Michaels famously lost his smile and The Rock won his first Intercontinental title, featured incredible carnage and psychology built into a compelling story between the three teams. The part that fans did not see, however, occurred the night before the match when the Bucks, The Addiction’s Chris Daniels and Frankie Kazarian, and the Machine Guns’ Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin met to study the revolutionary Tables, Ladders, and Chairs matches between the Hardys, Edge and Christian, and the Dudleys.
“We watched the original TLC matches to get inspiration,” said Nick Jackson. “Watching those matches helped us get a grasp of what we could do, which was thinking outside the realm of what normal ladder matches do. Our goal was to be different.”
Ring of Honor champion Adam Cole was also in the hotel room for the Ladder War brainstorming session.
“Getting to watch those guys creatively get the juices flowing and come up with what they want to do was really cool,” said Cole. “You have to be in a totally different state of mind to put your body through that and have a match like that, and I watched them get really jacked up for this crazy match.”
The first table was split in half just before the ten minute mark, which fired off a rapid succession as four tables were broken in a thirty second span. Eight tables were broken in all, with pieces strewn around the arena for souvenirs, and the match included some ferocious ladder-to-table bumps that caught the attention of Cole, who watched the match live.
“Success in wrestling is not possible without sacrifice,” said Cole. “Every time Matt and Nick step into a wrestling ring, their intention is to leave the fans saying, ‘Wow,’ and talking about how crazy a performance the Young Bucks’ match was. They literally went into ‘Ladder War’ with the intention of making people feel the same way they felt when they watched the original TLC matches. They wanted people to say, ‘I’ve never seen anything like that before, and the Bucks succeeded one-hundred percent in what they set out to accomplish.”
There is no room for error atop a ten, fifteen, or twenty-foot ladder. Despite the confidence they projected, there was a genuine feeling of fear atop the ladder.
“It’s scary up there,” said the Bucks’ Matt Jackson. “Ladders are so unpredictable, especially in a wrestling ring. There’s always a little fear going into any match, but I think that’s healthy. When you feel nothing, that’s when you get hurt.
“Nick and I say a prayer before every single match. That helps calm the nerves a little. We always feel like you’ve gotta swing big for the fences when you’re in a big match. Go for broke. Otherwise, it’s just another ladder match amongst hundreds of others. How can we make ours different? So, thinking like that is motivational. It’s how we’ve always made an impact in our career.”
The Bucks’ highly acclaimed victory confirmed Cole’s that sacrifice is an integral part of success in pro wrestling.
“Wrestling takes so much from you,” said Matt Jackson. “Your time, body, and energy. It’s unfair at times how much it demands out of you. And when you try to shut it off, it’s impossible. Going into a match like Ladder Wars, we basically knew that the following days after would be tough for us physically. I knew playing with my kids would be difficult when I got home. And mentally, we put so much thought into the match, I knew I’d be drained afterward. But if you’re unwilling to sacrifice pretty much everything a normal person has and you’re trying to be a successful professional wrestler, it won’t work out.”
Nick Jackson revealed that he felt no fear atop the ladder, but all of his doubts instead crept into his mind before the match in the locker room.
“You don’t really have time to be scared live during the moment,” said Nick. “Backstage before the match is when you think about that. For some reason, I had so much confidence that night—I knew things would go fine. I said before the match happened at gorilla position, ‘We got this, guys.’ I repeated that many times, and I think your mind controls a lot of those types of things.”
The final sequence of the match included an unforgettable moment never before seen in a ladder match. Frankie Kazarian was held in a tombstone piledriver position on top of a table by Matt Jackson, and Nick Jackson, who had climbed to the top of the ladder and was able to grab the titles and win the match, instead delivered a devastating Indydriver onto Kazarian from the top of the ladder
“That final spot in the match had the most psychological meaning to it,” explained Nick. “It’s kind of the battle we’ve had our whole careers—should we think of ourselves first or the fans? Should I just win the match or sacrifice my body instead? Usually sacrificing your body doesn’t pay off, but this time it did. It was very poetic and just incredible.”
Matt Jackson saw similarities between that sequence and the original encounters between the Dudleys and Hardys.
“I’ve seen some people compare it to the Hardy’s and Dudley’s cage match,” said Matt. “Jeff Hardy could either climb down from the cage and win the match, or do a Swanton Bomb off the top of the cage onto D-Von Dudley, who was lying on a table in the ring,” said Matt. “Jeff famously went for the Swanton instead of winning because of his addiction to being a daredevil.
“Now for us, there are a few ways you can look at our finish: we had the opportunity to either win the match, or do a once in a lifetime, extremely insane GIF-able high spot that our characters simply couldn’t pass on. Or, let’s cause as much physical damage to our opponent before this sure victory because this feud was very personal. It’s like knocking a guy out but continuing to punch him even though he’s already out cold.”
The Addiction’s Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian needed medical attention after the match, and the Bucks stayed with their opponents until 3:45am as Kazarian needed staples in the back of his head and stitches on his forehead, while Daniels needed stitches on the top of his head.
“They’re two of our best friends in the business,” said Matt. “We just wanted to be there for them.”
In addition to the victory, the Bucks were proud to put together such a wrestling masterpiece with four other men who they respect immensely.
“The four of us sat in the emergency room and watched it back on one of our phones,” said Matt. “We watched all of the TLC matches the night before for inspiration, and now here we were watching our very own version of it.
“It’s so rewarding when you and your buddies visualize something together and get to see it all come to life – like we all had our own paintbrushes and got to paint a giant mural together or something, and then stand back from afar and just stare at it once it was done.”
In other news…
• The Royal Rumble returns to San Antonio’s Alamodome this January for the first time in twenty years. The only full-time active wrestler in the WWE from the ’97 Rumble? Goldust, who made his pay per view debut at the 1991 Royal Rumble in a tag match with his father Dusty Rhodes against the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and Virgil.
• Wrestling historian Chris Owens has put together a tremendous tribute page to the late Andre The Giant. Owens just posted fifteen more Andre videos, including Andre visiting Brutus Beefcake in the “Barber Shop” on May 29, 1991. At the time, Vince McMahon clearly envisioned a payoff match between Andre and Earthquake. Although it was not in the WWE, Andre would wrestle again. His final match took place on December 4, 1992 in a six-man tag in Japan.
• Best case scenario for the main event of Sunday’s No Mercy pay per view: AJ Styles knocks out John Cena, then cleanly defeats Dean Ambrose. Styles’ SummerSlam victory over Cena was significantly devalued by Ambrose’s win over Cena on Smackdown, so a clean victory on Sunday would put all the emphasis on Styles as the true face of the company.
• WWE has completely transformed the way women in wrestling are perceived. Yes, there were other promotions placing women in serious, wrestling-oriented storylines well before WWE, but Vince McMahon and Co. are now the standard bearer. Charlotte and Sasha Banks put together a tremendous main event on Raw, and the only next step for the pair—and women’s wrestling—is a Hell in a Cell match between the two in Boston at Hell in a Cell on October 30.
• The Rock introduced his new “Rock Reacts” video series yesterday, and the debut, a review of his 1996 debut at the Survivor Series, was phenomenal. In addition to a great story from The Rock about looking away from the ‘hard cam’ and words of affection for Crush, one glaring aspect of the match was the talent involved. The WWE roster was extremely thin at the time, as well as a bit cartoonish (The Stalker, anyone?), but The Rock helped – with a little help from Steve Austin, DX, and a terrific supporting cast – turn around the WWE’s fortunes.
• Would Tetsuya Naito fit into WWE better than Shinsuke Nakamura? Naito, who is the current IWGP Intercontinental champion in New Japan, is a first-rate heel who plays his character exceptionally well.
• Someone from WWE had to be watching Ring of Honor’s “Ladder Wars,” right? If ever there was a time to sign the Young Bucks, it is before WrestleMania 33. A TLC match with the Hardys, Bucks, and New Day would be a tough act to follow.
• TNA Impact Wrestling does not have many areas where they are significantly stronger than WWE, but the tag team titles are a notable exception. The Hardys defeated the Decay for the tag titles at Bound for Glory on Sunday when Jeff Hardy delivered a Swanton Bomb from atop a 20-foot ladder onto the Decay’s Crazzy Steve for the victory.
• Cody Rhodes also debuted at Bound for Glory to begin a storyline with “The Miracle” Mike Bennett. While the sample size is small, Rhodes has displayed during his time away from WWE that he is, in fact, a star. Will he succeed in TNA? Or Ring of Honor in December? Rhodes is also rumored to work New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom show in January.
• The Week in Wrestling will open next week with a “Getting to Know You” feature on Enzo and Cass.
The Nitro Files with Eric Bischoff
The Nitro Files with Eric Bischoff will delve into a moment from WCW’s Monday Nitro. Bischoff, WCW’s president during the company’s most successful years, hosts his weekly “Bischoff on Wrestling” podcast, as well as delivers a “Controversial Video of the Week” with 120 Sports’ Nick Hausman, and plans on proving every week in the Nitro Files that the “truth is out there.”
“I carried the WCW banner, and I have given my blood, my sweat, and my tears for WCW. So for all of those fans out there and all those wrestlers and people that never doubted the Stinger, I’ll stand by you if you stand by me. But – for all of the people, all of the commentators, all of the wrestlers, and all of the ‘best friends’ who did doubt me, you can stick it. From now on, I consider myself a free agent. But that doesn’t mean you won’t see the Stinger – from time to time, I’m going to pop in when you least expect it.” – Sting on Nitro, September 16, 1996
The September 16, 1996 edition of Nitro began one of the greatest storylines in the history of professional wrestling: Sting vs. the New World Order.
That Nitro marked the night when Sting left WCW, and ultimately built to a perfect crescendo over the next thirteen months with the climax at Starrcade in 1997, which set the biggest buy rate in WCW history.
“I had heard for so long from guys, who had previously worked in the WWF, that one of the WWF’s greatest strengths was how they planned storylines six and twelve months out,” revealed former WCW president Eric Bischoff. “I really wanted to have a storyline evolve over a good length of time – and there was no doubt about it, the goal was to build this story between Sting and the NWO all the way until Starrcade in 1997. The opportunity to recreate Sting’s character and slowly build that anti-NWO nemesis was a perfect storm.”
Bischoff recalls discussing the promo with Sting, whose real name is Steve Borden, before Nitro.
“We didn’t script out promos, but Steve and I outlined what was going to be said and we focused on the impact of the promo,” said Bischoff. “That was something that Steve and I talked about quite a bit, but Steve delivered it—in his own voice, in his own way—and got the message across that we wanted to get across.”
Sting then transformed into a Crow-like character that haunted the NWO every week on Nitro. The decision to remove Sting, who was one of the most well-known talents on the roster, from weekly television during a ratings war with WWE turned out to be one of WCW’s most successful decisions.
“You have to remember that there were a lot of top talent and main event guys at the time in WCW, so there was no hesitation, whatsoever,” explained Bischoff. “WCW was going through such a transition, even in the way we told our stories. We went from the traditional, almost cartoon-esque WWF approach of the time and transitioned into that reality-based storyline arch with a lot of our top talent.
“We knew that was a successful formula, and we knew Sting needed to be refreshed. His character needed to evolve into this new storyline and character development.”
Perception and reality constantly intertwine in professional wrestling. Sting, along with a handful of other top WCW babyfaces, were legitimately frustrated by the New World Order.
“There was a lot of stress that was created by Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Hulk Hogan,” explained Bischoff. “But the stress wasn’t as much competitive as it was we were turning the formula upside down. Before the NWO and the reality-based storylines we were introducing, the formula for storytelling in professional wrestling was pretty standard: the good guy comes in, the bad guy cheats, the good overcomes, the bad guy makes his comeback, and then the babyface ultimately makes his comeback. It was a very simple formula, but we turned it upside down. We made the heels cool.
“We changed the formula in such a way that the heels generally prevailed, and did so in some uncharacteristic ways that the audience felt was cool. And that really made a lot of our babyface talent feel really uncomfortable. It took a long time for babyfaces to get their comeback when we introduced the NWO storyline, and that left a lot of our babyfaces unsure about how they fit into the picture.”
So many other WCW storylines, most notably including Bill Goldberg and Hulk Hogan, were extremely popular and well-executed but never allowed to marinate quite like Sting and Hogan.
“The formula was a great one, but it was a very tough one to repeat,” said Bischoff. “It’s very much like the NWO. The reason that storyline worked had a lot to do with timing, reality, and coincidence. Other people have tried to recreate the NWO storyline, and it’s failed miserably. Timing was such a big part of the success of the NWO, and the timing of Sting’s character and the evolution of his character was very hard to replicate.
“I’m a big fan, to this day, of longtime storyline arches, and it’s actually one of the things that’s missing in the product, but the audience does not have the patience for longtime storylines unless they’re exceptional.”
Exclusive Lucha Underground clip
Lucha Underground continues its third season tonight on El Rey Network at 8pm ET, and is also available through iTunes.
The Wrestlers’ Tribune: Lance Storm
One of the most unheralded stars in the history of professional wrestling, Lance Storm had successful runs with ECW, WCW, and WWE. The product of Calgary, Alberta, Canada now runs the Storm Wrestling Academy and is one of the most insightful wrestling follows on social media. Storm, in his own words, discusses the dichotomy—and magic—of professional wrestling.
A Cautionary Tale: Live Long and Prosper
Professional wrestling has been a part of my life for a very long time. I became a wrestling fan in the early to mid 80’s, started my pro wrestling career in 1990, and then became a full time trainer and coach in 2005. In those thirty plus years I’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry—many good, many bad.
The biggest change in my opinion is the advancement of the physical style of wrestling, often at the expense of story telling and drama. Guys and girls do so much more physically in their matches today than they did in past generations. The frequency of big bumps (falls on the mat) and high-risk stunt bumps has been constantly increasing.
I find this a bit ironic, especially considering when I was first a fan, wrestling was presented as real sport, yet was, in a lot of ways, far more show than sport. It was presented as sport but the physical toll involved in presenting that sport was much lower than today and had a much bigger emphasis on storytelling and emotion. Today, when wrestling is openly promoted as sports entertainment, the emotional storytelling has taken a back seat to physical stunts with a much higher demand on physical athletics in the same fashion as a professional sport.
While many fans may find this style as, or even more, exciting to watch, I believe it comes at a much higher price. I am concerned that, if this trend continues, we may be getting to a point where the price will eventually get too high. Perhaps, in some cases, it already has.
I just found out last Friday that Paige from WWE is in need of neck surgery—she is 24. Emma is just coming back from back surgery, and she is only 27. Daniel Bryan was forced to retire at 34 due to concussion issues. Edge retired at, I believe, 37 from a bad neck. People seem to be in need of major surgery far more frequently and careers are ending sooner and sooner. I don’t think we are in a state of emergency just yet. Chris Jericho is still out there going strong at 45, but I think the days of a 20-plus year WWE run like The Undertaker has had are definitely a thing of the past. Imagine the career highlights we would have lost had Ric Flair had to retire due to injury at 40. He would have retired before ever coming to the WWF for the very first time.
I am not pointing fingers or trying to place blame and I certainly don’t want to sound like an old timer claiming it was better in my day. Truth be told, I was a part of the generation that pushed the envelope as much as probably any other. I was part of the Jr. Heavyweight style in Japan in the early to mid 90s, and part of ECW in the late 90s, both of which pushed the risk bar higher and higher. The attitude era was no different with TLC matches and guys jumping off cages.
My goal is to just draw awareness to the level of danger in this job and plea for everyone to strongly consider the long-term effects of what we are doing. I’m not proposing we go back to working a headlock for 25 minutes or having a bodyslam as a finisher, but perhaps multiple dives, triple suplexes, and multiple power bombs in one match is going too far. Bigger and bigger bump-taking on the apron and the floor, because fans know it is harder and thus more dangerous, is probably a really bad idea. Wrestling has always been a risk versus reward industry but let’s, every once in a while, ask ourselves: are we getting the most reward out of the risks we take? If that answer is no, let’s figure out what can we do to maximize that reward while reducing that risk.
In my opinion, the best way to maximize that reward is by focusing on emotional investment and making people care.
Some people think this is now impossible. Everyone knows wrestling is “fake.” Yes, we all know wrestling isn’t real, but everyone knows movies and television aren’t real either, yet people cry watching movies and television all the time. If movies and television don’t rub it in people’s faces that it is fake, people still suspend their disbelief and really care. I believe the same can still happen for wrestling fans if we just try a little bit harder.
When I first broke into wrestling in 1990 at the Hart Brother’s Pro Wrestling Camp in Calgary, they ran the school as if wrestling was real. I knew this wasn’t the case and found it very odd. After a few weeks of training Keith Hart had a big closed door discussion with us and “smartened” everyone up. He told us that what he was about to tell us was very important and a discussion we should never share with anyone else. He then told us that wrestling was a “work” (fake). I think he could tell by the looks on our faces that most of us were thinking, “Well duh, no kidding,” so he told us something that has stayed with me ever since. He said most people think they know that wrestling is “fake,” but when they ask you about it, they say, “Wrestling’s fake…isn’t it?” People weren’t one-hundred percent sure, and it is that moment of doubt that we need to protect. If we can just give them that one-ounce of doubt, we’ve got them hooked.
While that moment of doubt has not just been removed, but whited out and painted over a dozen times, I think there is still an element to Keith Hart’s story that is true and can still apply to the industry today. I will use a strange analogy to illustrate my point, but hear me out: wrestling is like Christmas. Pretty much everyone knows that Santa isn’t real. There isn’t a magic sleigh that flies to every house Christmas Eve, yet everyone still loves Christmas. There was a point in almost everyone’s lives (at least those who celebrate Christmas) when they truly believed in Santa and when Christmas was a magical time. When you got a little bit older, your brain started seeing the holes in this whole Santa Clause story but your heart loved Christmas so much you didn’t want to ask and you didn’t want anyone to tell you. You didn’t want the magic ruined. This was where the wrestling business was when Keith Hart sat me down in 1990.
There will, of course, come a time when you are the adult who has to go out and buy the presents that come from Santa and you can no longer fully believe, but you play along because Christmas has been a part of your life for as long as you remember and you love it. Even then, for those of you, like me, who have kids, Christmas gets better again when you get to see the joy on the their face, when they truly believe. The magic is there for them and you can once again suspend your disbelief, and enjoy the holiday as you once did.
Pro wrestling is like Christmas. It can be magic if you just let it and play along. If fans allow themselves to believe and the industry doesn’t go out of their way to remind us that it is “fake” the magic can still be there. I honestly believe that a little bit of magic can go a long way, and with some attention to details and focus on story, we can tone down the product a bit to make it safer and still entertain the fans as much as ever. It was only two years ago when 75,000 people sat with mouths agape when Brock Lesnar ended The Undertaker’s streak. It was a year ago in Brooklyn when fans openly cried watching Bayley win the NXT Women’s Championship. There is still magic there when it’s done right.
It’s sports entertainment and there will always be a degree of artistic license allowed on what is believable and what is not. But if we can accept flying reindeer and a fat guy sliding down chimneys distributing presents, is it that hard to accept that The Miz and Dolph Zigger hate each other and becoming a Champion is important?
If fans go in wanting to believe, if only for a couple hours, and promoters and wrestlers make the effort to hook them emotionally and allow them to believe, perhaps the style can be toned down just a touch and the guys and girls out there taking the bumps can have longer, healthier careers.
~ Lance Storm
Top 10 with SoCal Val
This edition of “The Weekly Top Ten” delves into the top ten reasons to order What Culture Pro Wrestling’s “Refuse to Lose” pay per view on Fite TV this Thursday at 2pm ET. The card features commentary from Jim Ross and Jim Cornette, as well as a loaded card featuring Kurt Angle, Cody Rhodes, and Alberto Del Rio. The ring announcer is the talented SoCal Val, who is here to present the Week in Wrestling with the top ten reasons to order “Refuse to Lose.”
Five Questions with… Edge
Adam “Edge” Copeland captured 31 WWE titles during his time in the ring, and he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012. The “Rated R Superstar” won an essay contest at the age of 17 and earned a free wrestling training, and he was also voted “most likely to be WWF champion” by his classmates in his native Canada. Edge is now teaming with Lana in the new action-thriller from Lionsgate and WWE Studios, “Interrogation”, which is available on Blu-ray & Digital HD.
SI.com: Do you have to force yourself to have a different mindset in acting than you did in wrestling? And is there a scene you are particularly proud of in “Interrogation”?
Edge: There is a different mindset in acting. It’s much more nuanced. Wrestling has to be more aggressive, it has to be bigger, it has to translate to the back of a football stadium. With acting, when that camera is up close, they can see your nose hairs twitch, and you have to pull back everything for it not to look clownish. There is that different mindset. However, what wrestling gave me is to be able to reach into that maniac aggressive persona when needed. They are both on the same tree, just different branches.
I’m proud of the fight scenes. They’re very intricate, and I had three days to learn them. For me, the initial Interrogation scene was an eight-page scene, and that’s a lot of dialogue. I had done a fight scene and then we came to that, and it’s two different mindsets that you have to have within hours of each other, and a lot to have crammed in your brain. For me, I had to get the fight scene done before I could really focus on the “Interrogation” scene. That one was one I’m proud we pulled off.
SI.com: Was headlining WrestleMania 24 at the Florida Citrus Bowl, in front of 74,000 people, the highlight of your career? Were you more stressed than usual before the match with The Undertaker?
Edge: It’s interesting, I never got stressed before wrestling matches. I always felt completely confident that I had done everything I could do, all my mental preparations when I sat down and envisioned the match, so I never felt stressed. But that is the one that if someone said, ‘What is the pinnacle of your career?’, then it would be main-eventing WrestleMania against The Undertaker. That has to be the top, but thankfully there were a lot of moments that were just as rewarding. Teaming with Christian and winning the tag team titles—and doing it at WrestleMania; helping with the introduction of an entire match that is now a themed [TLC] pay per view; getting to wrestle guys like Ric Flair and Terry Funk, and teaming with Hulk Hogan and all of these legendary names in wrestling that I never thought I’d get to rub shoulders with, let alone defend the world title with Flair in Raleigh, North Carolina in a TLC match with his daughter—who is now women’s champion—at ringside. There were a lot of surreal, amazing moments during my career that I’m very lucky to have had.
SI.com: There are no stuntmen and the falls are painful in wrestling, so were there moments when you thought you would be too frightened to continue with the match? Did those matches end up taking time off your career and damaging your neck?
Edge: I’m sure those matches sped up the process, and I’m sure that’s where my neck issues probably stem from. But there is no way to wrestle for twenty years and not have something give out on you. For me, it was the neck. For others, it was the shoulder or the knee, and for me, it was the neck. When you fall off enough ladders, it’s going to happen. The one moment—and thankfully it was the end of the match, otherwise it would have been difficult to continue—was WrestleMania 23 in Detroit when Jeff Hardy put me through a ladder. To this day—whether it’s tearing my Achilles, tearing my pecs, or fracturing my jaw—it’s that spot where he put me through the ladder at WrestleMania 23 that is the most painful thing I’ve ever encountered in the ring. It hurt so bad, but I had to wrestle the next night.
SI.com: “The Edge & Christian Show That Totally Reeked of Awesomeness” on the WWE Network is, by far, the most compelling and genuinely funny content the network has produced. You joked about Hulk Hogan, Rob Van Dam and his extracurricular activities, CM Punk, and even Triple H’s desire to be Vince McMahon’s son. How in the world did you get the green-light for these jokes?
Edge: I still don’t know. I think it’s because they realized we weren’t going to do it unless they did that. They want different content, and they knew we would bring a completely different show to that network—different to the point where a lot of people weren’t going to get it at first—but if they stuck with it, they’d eventually see the vision of what we had in mind, which is a show purely for wrestling fans. If you’re not a wrestling fan, you’re not going to get our show. And honestly, we don’t care. This is for the people who love it, that get the weird Dungeon-of-Doom-Hulk Hogan references. If you sit down to watch with your girlfriend, and she’s never watched wrestling, she’s going to say, ‘This is the stupidest show ever created,’ and maybe it is. But wrestling fans are going to get it, and that’s what we went for. I don’t know how we got away with a lot of it, but we would just write it and do it, and we got away with it. At the end of the day, we make fun of each other more than we do anyone else, so it’s all very tongue-in-cheek. If anyone gets offended, they take themselves too seriously. We jump around in tights for a living, you can only take it so seriously.
SI.com: You worked with Lana in Interrogation. What would surprise readers about your experience working with her? She is an extremely talented manager. Are you impressed with her career? Does her work remind you of anyone from your time in wrestling?
Runnels: She’s got her own thing going on. It’s very Brigitte Nielsen from “Rocky IV,” but that’s not a bad thing. That’s one of my favorite movies of all time. She came in, she was prepared, well-prepped, she had a lot of work in her lap that she had to do. She had five days to film all of her scenes, and her scenes were very action-oriented. She had to do something on the computer, grab the phone and talk to someone, interact with my character who walks in, and then back to the phone, to the cell phone, and the landline. That’s a lot of challenging stuff, all the while being aware of your camera angles, lighting, get all of her scenes done and then go back on the road – and she came in, was a total pro, killed it, and was right back on the road. WWE is great training for stuff like that.
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Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.