Inside The Moment: Adam Copeland Details His Jump Off The Steel Cage

“I didn’t even consider getting injured”

Adam Copeland is well-versed in Greek mythology.

Eight months into a sensational run in AEW, Copeland, 50, seemingly found the fountain of youth. Despite hurdles, he found a way to flourish. Whether it was head scissors with Penta or going to the extremes with Christian, whenever he attempted something different, he thrived.

But, in his match at Double or Nothing–a barbed wire cage match against Malakai Black–as Copeland climbed to the top of the steel cage, he became a first-hand witness to Icarus flying too close to the sun.

Adam Copeland ready to take flight...
Adam Copeland ready to take flight... / AEW
... and Copeland takes flight
... and Copeland takes flight / AEW

“I got cocky,” admitted Copeland. “I can’t remember the last time I felt that good. I mean, I felt so good. Until I didn’t.”

Copeland’s spectacular run is temporarily paused. After putting Malakai Black on a table and then wrapping him in barbed wire, Copeland made the climb to the top of the cage–then dove off to land an elbow drop.

When Copeland landed, he broke the tibia just above the ankle joint. It is an odd injury, one that happens in car accidents–or if a person falls from great heights.

Even as he stares at a lengthy rehabilitation, one that could take four-to-six months, Copeland still found a moment to chide childhood friend Jay Reso, who is now his archrival Christian.

“Maybe this is all somehow Jay’s fault,” said Copeland, who defeated Christian to win the TNT championship. “Always remember I took Jay’s championship to new heights.”

In the moment, Copeland’s confidence grew as he climbed the cage. Once he reached his destination, his sole worry was directed toward his opponent.

“My biggest concern when I got up there was, ‘How do I not crush him?” said Copeland. “I didn’t even consider getting injured. My take was if I jumped to the side, landed on my feet, and hit him with my arm but not my body, then the table would break just because of the sheer height. It happened exactly how I planned it.”

Copeland, of course, did not account for a landing that would effectively break his leg. His commitment to the craft and focus on the beauty of the moment dictated his decision-making process, which led him to that jump.

“The albatross of always feeling like you can pull it off, it’s a blessing and a curse,” said Copeland. “That’s something I could have pulled off when I was 35. My brain is still telling me I’ve got this. ‘Just land and roll backwards,’ I told myself, which I did, but from 15-feet high, my 50-year-old tibia didn’t agree.

“When I landed, I knew it wasn’t the Achilles. So I thought, that’s good. I thought maybe I sprained it or it was a bone bruise. I got up and I ran, and I finished the match. I just didn’t realize I was doing it all on a broken leg.”

The injury has forced Copeland to come to grips with a humbling realization: he is human.

“I can still do what I want, but it’s just being smarter about it,” said Copeland. “I could have got just as much mileage if I did it off the top rope.”

Remarkably, Copeland still completed the match. There was a phenomenal closing sequence, which reintroduced Gangrel back into his story, as he overcame Black.

“House of Black brings so much to the table, their whole presentation is so cool,” said Copeland. “Tommy [Malakai Black] and I have talked about getting in there together for years. He’s one of the guys I really wanted to wrestle.

“The chemistry was there. It was fun. Early on, I could tell it was going to be a great night. I was happy with it. It would have sucked had I not been able to finish the match. I’d have a different view on it if that were the case. I’m proud of our full story.”

Adam Copeland and Malakai Black at Double or Nothing in a barbed wire steel cage match
Adam Copeland and Malakai Black at Double or Nothing in a barbed wire steel cage match / AEW

The most likely timeline for Copeland is a return this fall. That would mean missing All In at Wembley Stadium, which is a show Copeland especially wanted to work. Yet his time away from the ring has allowed a moment to reflect on his impact thus far in AEW, where he has exceeded every expectation.

“I enjoyed everything I’ve done so much, and that bled through on-screen,” said Copeland. “I changed a lot of what I was doing. Change makes a lot of people uncomfortable. It keeps me alive. Change is fun. I got to change and wrestle a whole new roster. In the same week in AEW, I wrestled Brody King in a no-DQ on a Wednesday and then exchanged holds with Kyle O’Reilly in a technical match on a Saturday. That’s a good week.

“I exchanged head scissors with Penta and forearms with Suzuki. I love sinking my teeth into different styles. Coming to AEW, I have that opportunity to show that. It’s not that WWE didn’t, but there becomes a certain formula, especially when you’re only kicking around every few months. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve only worked with a quarter of the roster.”

Now that his surgery is complete, Copeland is slowly moving in the right direction. His injury is non-weight bearing for the next eight-to-ten weeks, but ever the optimist, he is focused on the positives–including even more time with his family and a renewed focus on his Pure Plank workout.

“My Achilles tear a few years ago led to my most difficult rehab, and I’m expecting more of that,” said Copeland. “I’m 50. I know what’s in front of me. But the surgery was successful, and the doctor was optimistic because my bones are healthy.

“It’s my seventh surgery, so I know the drill. We’ll see how my body cooperates.”


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Justin Barrasso

JUSTIN BARRASSO

Justin Barrasso has been writing for Sports Illustrated since 2014. While his primary focus is pro wrestling and MMA, he has also covered MLB, NBA, and the NFL. He can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.