“If I were still pining for that, but I wasn’t cleared to do it? It would be very unhealthy,” Edge explained.

By Justin Barrasso
November 28, 2018

SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.

Edge returns to Vikings discusses SmackDown 1000 appearance

Include Edge among those unprepared for Roman Reigns’ promo on Raw announcing that he has to step away from the ring to battle leukemia.

Edge, better known as Adam Copeland in his acting work for Vikings on the History Channel, was forced to retire in 2011 due to cervical spinal stenosis. Then 37, Copeland felt like he had his career ripped away from him and needed to remain composed in an emotional situation.

Yet he felt an entirely new wave of emotion while watching Reigns reveal his new opponent on the October 22 edition of Raw.

“I had to retire due to injury, but in this case, we’re talking life or death,” said Copeland. “This is leukemia, a thing you don’t expect to hear from a guy who is in the prime of his career and looks like a superhero. The first thing I felt when I heard the news was sad, but I don’t think Roman wants people to feel that way.”

Although their WWE careers did not overlap (Copeland retired in 2011 and Reigns was called up to the main roster in 2012), a unique bond exists among those who have served as WWE’s signature stars.

“I feel for him, but the best thing he can do is surround himself with his family, and that’s what he’s doing,” said Copeland. “As long as he gets healthy, who cares if he ever wrestles again? I watched him on Raw and thought that moment had to be really, really difficult, but he handled it with poise and class.”

Copeland recently returned to WWE programming for SmackDown 1000 in October to play a role in elevating the feud between Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair.

“It’s always great to pop back, but I want to further a storyline,” said Copeland. “I don’t want to just come back and do a comedy backstage skit.

“I can’t physically put someone over, but I can feel very confident in my ability to tell a story through a promo. That’s what Mick Foley does when he comes back, and that’s what I want to do. So when I heard I was with Becky and Charlotte, they have one of the best stories in wrestling, and I knew I could help further their story along.”

Copeland also reprises his role of Kjetill Flatnose on Wednesday night’s mid-season premiere of Vikings, which airs at 10 p.m. ET on the History Channel and captures a captivating portrayal of historical fiction.

“It’s a multi-headed beast,” said Copeland. “If you like anything to do with history, you’re going to be intrigued. You’ll enjoy watching if you’ve ever been fascinated with the history of the Vikings, or their larger-than-life personalities or how they survived. That’s the part that boggles my mind. How did they basically conquer the world? That’s always interested me, so I was an easy convert.”

Similar to the way he once envisioned storylines and mapped out matches, preparing for getting into the character and playing the role are elements that keep Copeland invigorated each day at work.

“Wrestling was great preparation for this,” said Copeland. “I’ve always said this, Edge is purely a character. In any character, there are elements of yourself. And a lot of this has to do with the writing of [show creator] Michael Hirst, but I really found it easy to slip into the skin of Kjetill Flatnose.”

Copeland’s character is a pillar of the community and, unlike his on-screen character in wrestling, is the strongest man who says the least.

The show has added different layers to the character, as Copeland continues to prove he can handle the role.

“I want to prove myself,” said the 45-year-old Copeland. “I still walk into production and think to myself, ‘OK, they think they just hired the ex-wrestler with the great social media following.’ That might not be the right mentality, but even if it is only manufactured in the back of my brain, that really does drive me and give me something to prove, even if maybe I’m just proving it to myself.”

Copeland’s character remains level-headed in the face of challenges, which will become daunting with the return of Duke Rollo, who Copeland said is Vikings’ version of Chris Jericho.

“Jericho pops in and out, so that’s a good connection,” said Copeland. “And he always makes an impact.”

The experience of wrestling remains invaluable for Copeland in his acting career, and he still remains intertwined with WWE, as he and best friend/former tag team partner Jay “Christian” Reso combine for E&C’s Pod of Awesomeness. The pair also returned to the WWE Network this past Monday for a highly anticipated season two of “The Edge and Christian Show”.

But his recent appearance on SmackDown also served as a reminder that Copeland no longer needs pro wrestling like he once did. He no longer thirsts for the chance to come back on television and re-engage in a storyline like he used to.

“It’s still amazing to have that live interaction and hear your theme music, but if it never happened again, I’d be OK with it,” said Copeland. “It was absolutely the best gig I ever had. My entire dream was to do that.

“But I had to go because of my injury. If I were still pining for that, but I wasn’t cleared to do it? It would be very unhealthy, and that’s why I need to have this mentality.”

Copeland hopes that wrestling fans will join him in the next installment of his newest venture in Vikings, and promises that those who immerse themselves in the history and real-life facets of pro wrestling storylines will enjoy the show.

“For anyone who has followed my career in wrestling, this is a very physical, complex role with parts in the script that are taken from fact,” said Copeland. “Beyond that, this is a show that has strong female characters, and characters with really complex and layered personalities. And there are epic battles. It’s a movie every week.”

Becky Lynch—and Not Charlotte Flair—Should Headline WrestleMania

The WrestleMania 35 main event should be clear. 

The people have spoken, and they want Becky Lynch. But WWE wants Charlotte Flair in the lucrative spot against Ronda Rousey.

Flair excelled at the Survivor Series, but her heel turn against Rousey was almost a carbon copy of the formula Lynch has used to catapult her recent surge in popularity.

And the match highlighted a couple of other interesting points. The first is that the fans are perfectly comfortably booing Flair, who is a natural heel. At times, even, there are a considerable number of WWE fans that want to boo Rousey.

But people want to cheer Lynch.

WWE, and Vince McMahon specifically, do not always choose the right talent for its top stars. Steve Austin was far from the original plan to lead the company in 1997, and that same problem surfaced in 2014 when the crowd was openly pining for Daniel Bryan but the company had other plans.

There is a great deal at stake in the Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match between Lynch, Asuka, and Flair at the December pay per view.

How will the crowd respond? And will Lynch be able to stay healthy following her injury? Her face was damaged due to a reckless punch from Nia Jax, who is dealing with no negative consequences from the incident. It is imperative that Lynch proves that she can remain healthy.

Those are integral factors McMahon will have to consider when making WrestleMania plans.

In other news…

• Alexa Bliss remains on the WWE’s injured list as she will face more concussion testing before she is allowed back in the ring and can resume contact.

Until then, WWE fans will be treated to Bliss on Raw in a non-wrestling role. This week on Raw, she assumed the role of leading the brand’s women’s division. The five-time women’s champ also has a myriad of interests outside the ring, including being an immense fan of Disney’s roller coasters.

“I love Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Expedition Everest, and Tower of Terror,” said Bliss, who is 27-year-old Alexa Kaufman. “But overall, it has to be Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. I love Aerosmith and I love Steven Tyler, and I love the whole set up of it. It’s dark, there’s music playing, it’s just awesome.”

Despite its connection to wrestling because of the plethora of Ric Flair promos, Bliss admitted that she is not a fan of the Space Mountain ride.

“The scariest ride to me is Space Mountain,” said Bliss. “It is so old and so rickety-sounding. Every time I go on it, I always say, ‘That’s the last time I’m going on it.’ Then I get there the next time and say, ‘Space Mountain!’”

• Ring of Honor’s Final Battle pay per view is only 16 days away and is headlined by a world title match between champion Jay Lethal and challenger Cody Rhodes.

Rhodes is currently working without a contract for ROH, while Lethal is the face of the promotion. But that is exactly why Rhodes should win the title at Final Battle.

Ring of Honor needs to generate more of a legitimate buzz surrounding their product, and Rhodes winning the title—then threatening to walk out of the company—would accomplish, and possibly even surpass, that goal.

There are few talents operating outside of WWE with the charisma, cachet, and skill of Rhodes. A storyline where he holds the title hostage would also add some much needed drama to ROH programming.

Rhodes is the current IWGP United States champion, and he is on schedule to defend the title at New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 13 show in January at the Tokyo Dome. A chance to also highlight the ROH world title at Wrestle Kingdom will be accomplished if Rhodes is booked to win the world title at Final Battle.

Even if he chooses not to re-sign with ROH, the chance to defend the belt as a headliner at the historic Madison Square Garden show this coming April should be enough to entice Rhodes to stay, even short-term, with the company.

• After recovering from a broken leg, “Cold Steel” Chuck O’Neil is ready to resume his hostile takeover of the pro wrestling world.

The former UFC fighter broke his tibia and fibula in July 2017 while training for a match, snapping his bones in half after someone landed on him in the ring. Even with the excruciating pain, O’Neil set the bones back in place while on his back in the ring.

But the 33-year-old celebrated his finest moment in wrestling last Friday, winning Top Rope Promotion’s 2018 Kowalski Cup tournament, named for the legendary Walter “Killer” Kowalski.

O’Neil forced Garret Holliday, JT Dunn, and Nico Silva all to submit en route to the tourney win. He now has his goal set on TRP heavyweight champ Teddy Goodz, who O’Neil will challenge for the title at the upcoming December 14 show in Brockton, Massachusetts.

“I had 11 years fighting as a professional MMA fighter, and the worst thing that ever happened to me was I popped my meniscus,” said O’Neil. “Here I am in wrestling and I broke my leg. It took some time to get myself back to where I was, but working with Top Rope’s Ryan Waters really helped spark that wrestling interest again for me. Now I’m going to ride the Kowalski Cup win and make Top Rope Promotions legit again.”

O’Neil carries a different element to his matches, bringing the realistic feel of an MMA fight into a pro wrestling ring.

“I have 17 wins in the cage, and fights in the UFC,” said O’Neil. “If anyone really want to step to me and find out what it’s really like, then I’ll give them the address to come to my gym and make it free of charge for that day.”

His MMA background includes a role on the 2011 season of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Lesnar vs. Team dos Santos, where he competed on Brock Lesnar’s team.

“I found out Brock Lesnar is every bit of the non-caring d--- you’d think he is,” said O’Neil. “But in terms of athleticism, he is a freak show. The guy is just enormous, he’s massive. He commands your attention when he walks into a room.”

O’Neil is also quick-witted and loves to fight, which is a dangerous combination in the pro wrestling sector. He plans on making an enormous dent throughout the independents in 2019, beginning with winning Top Rope’s title on December 14.

“Just so everyone knows, after I beat Ted, I plan on wearing the title through my blackbelt, hanging off my side like a satchel,” said O’Neil. “That’s my plan.

“He’s got a lot of character and brings a lot of flair to all his matches, and no matter what match he’s in, he gets the crowd all amped up. We’re two different styles. He wants to get everyone clapping, I want to kick your head in. He’s someone that’s had the title for a very long time, so it’s great opportunity to fight against him in Brockton.”

• Conrad Thompson returns for a new “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” this Friday at noon, discussing the career of Christian.

Best known as Edge’s tag team partner, Christian spent over 12 years in WWE and won a litany of titles, becoming only the eleventh grand slam champion in company history.

“Christian was just as talented, if not more so, than Edge, but it does feel like Edge was the guy who always got the bigger push of the two,” said Thompson. “He’s not exactly Marty Jannetty, but he wasn’t quite Shawn Michaels, either. Some of that is not based on aptitude or skill, but rather luck of the draw, and I really want to hear from Bruce if Christian had any supporters who wanted him to be a top guy.”

Vince McMahon seemingly did not have faith in Christian as his top star. Thompson and Prichard will discuss the infamous ‘blue dot’ story that asserts McMahon felt Christian could be more successful with a blue dot covering his face while in the ring.

“We’ll visit the rumor and innuendo surrounding the ‘blue dot’,” said Thompson. “I want to ask Bruce what happens when all of a guy’s peers think he is great, but Vince McMahon doesn’t see it.

“Christian came through the early developmental camps where they where doing dojos for tryouts, and he became a WWE signee in a much different era. We’ll talk about the way the developmental deals worked back then, and how the decision was made to debut him, what his character was originally supposed to be, and why The Brood was the right fit.”

In addition to delving into the evolution of Edge and Christian as a duo, Thompson will also explore Christian’s run in TNA, as well as why he is not yet a part of WWE’s Hall of Fame.

“I’m excited to hear how he was perceived as a top guy in TNA,” said Thompson. “The opportunities that eluded him in WWE were ones he took advantage of in TNA, but people gloss over his run there.

“His Hall of Fame induction is inevitable, but we’ll discuss why Christian is not in the WWE Hall of Fame. I’m curious to hear how Bruce will categorize his Hall of Fame chances based on what he knows about Vince McMahon’s mindset.”

Tweet of the Week

Conor McGregor serving as the special ring enforcer at WrestleMania 35 during the Becky Lynch-Ronda Rousey main event would take the show to an entirely new level.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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