SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.
Edge on Christian’s return: “We didn’t know for sure that he was going to be in the Rumble until the Friday before”
For the first time since 2008, Edge is going to main-event WrestleMania.
His journey back to pro wrestling has been nothing short of remarkable. Edge (48-year-old Adam Copeland) was forced to retire in 2011 due to severe cervical spinal stenosis. Though he came to terms with never wrestling again, Copeland’s mindset about retirement changed after a fall off his mountain bike. His neck was not in writhing pain; instead, he dusted himself off and continued his ride. This led to checking with some of the top spinal specialists in the world, who ultimately cleared Copeland to return to wrestling, which he did at the Royal Rumble match in 2020.
A year later, Copeland entered the Rumble first. He lasted an impressive 58 and a half minutes in the ring, eliminating longtime rival Randy Orton to emerge victorious and claim an elusive main event spot at WrestleMania 37.
“I’ve been pinching myself for the past year,” Copeland says. “Wrestling was taken away from me nine years ago. I think I transitioned away in a healthy manner. I fell in love with acting, and I’ve had a lot of fun doing that. But to get my first love back? And once again craft stories within the confines of the wrestling world? I am savoring every moment of it.”
Copeland shared that he could feel the presence of his late mother during the Rumble match, though he noted that is not too uncommon for him since he carries her memory with every step he takes.
“Beth thinks this whole thing is being puppeteered by my mother,” Copeland says, referring to his wife Beth Phoenix, who is a commentator for NXT and a fellow WWE Hall of Famer. “And she’s right—it feels like I have a guardian angel looking out for me.”
This year’s Rumble also featured the return of Christian. Whether it is tag title runs, co-hosting a show together on the WWE Network, or five-second poses for the (old-school) flash photography, Edge and Christian are synonymous with one another. They shared a hug in the ring during the Rumble, and Copeland was among the few to know that Christian (his childhood friend Jay Reso) had been cleared to return.
“He got cleared a couple of months ago, and I was among only a few people who were privy to that,” Copeland says. “We didn’t know for sure that he was going to be in the Rumble until the Friday before. I was driving to his place to stay with him for the weekend, and that’s when we found out this was going to happen.
“We looked at each other and I said, ‘We’re both going to do this together again.’ We’ve had this fairytale friendship. I remember talking with Chavo [Guerrero], and he mentioned thinking that I’d met Christian and become friends with him while in wrestling. No, we met in the sixth grade. We grew up together saying we were going to do this. And no matter what we’ve done separately, it’s always circled back to the two of us together, just like it did at the Rumble.”
Along with legends like Bret Hart, Mick Foley and Chris Jericho, Copeland operates in a rare echelon of pro wrestlers that put incredible, precise detail into their storytelling. He plans to apply that signature trademark to the build of his WrestleMania 37 story, where it has yet to be announced whether he will challenge WWE champion Drew McIntyre, universal champion Roman Reigns, or NXT champion Finn Balor.
“You need to start with Finn Bálor,” Copeland says. “He’s operating on an entirely different level in the ring right now than I’ve ever seen him perform. I love what he’s doing. With Finn, the story would be two guys who have wrestled all over the world, but never been in the same place at the same time. That’s very appealing to me.
“And Drew, he’s taken such a rocky road to get where he is, but he fought through everything to get here. A character like Edge would really respect Drew, so that type of match would be a different story and emotion, one based on mutual respect and who is the better man.”
Copeland also believes Roman Reigns would be a compelling opponent for WrestleMania.
“Roman has really found his groove,” Copeland says. “This is the guy I always knew he was. The handcuffs have been taken off, he’s being allowed to let this side out. Now you can see it and you can feel it. Knowing the kind of story we could create, I salivate over that. So look all those three options. I’m in a position where I feel like I can’t go wrong.”
After prematurely having his career ripped away, Copeland is cherishing his second chance for a final act.
“I want to craft the kind of story that everyone will understand and relate to,” Copeland says. “That’s what I want to be involved in. When there is truth involved, the people can sense it. I never thought I’d have this opportunity again. That is true. I fought back to be able to do it, which is a struggle at my age—and that’s all true, too.
“I’m not trying to hide anything. I’m not trying to act like I am better than I was when I was 35. I do know that mentally I am better than I was at 35. That will allow me to tell the type of story I’m looking to tell. And when I get dance partners like Finn, Drew, or Roman, I’m just chomping at the bit to get started.”
Keiji Mutoh wins Pro Wrestling NOAH’s GHC Heavyweight Championship
Keiji Mutoh defeated Go Shiozaki on Friday at Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Destination 2021: Back to Budokan show, winning the coveted GHC heavyweight championship.
With the victory, Mutoh now becomes only the third pro wrestler to hold all three major heavyweight championships in Japan. He has already had reigns as IWGP Heavyweight Champion in New Japan Pro Wrestling and as All Japan Pro Wrestling’s Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion, and he now holds the crown in NOAH as the reigning GHC heavyweight champion.
At 58, Mutoh became the oldest challenger in GHC heavyweight title history, but this was a far different performance than what we saw from 54-year-old Bill Goldberg against Drew McIntyre at WWE’s Royal Rumble in January. This bout lasted for over 29 minutes, with Shiozaki working extremely hard to ensure that Mutoh shined. And after a 405-day reign as champion, Shiozaki did the honors in this match, dropping the title after Mutoh wrapped him up after hitting a Hurricanrana.
“I will do my best and beat the champion, and hopefully even return to the United States with the championship gold,” Mutoh told Sports Illustrated through a translator prior to the match. “Though it may be difficult at the moment due to COVID-19, I wish to have a title defense in the U.S.”
Mutoh just signed a two-year contract with NOAH, and this was a massive moment for the company in its return to the Nippon Budokan venue. Although Mutoh is nowhere near the same performer he once was, his presence as champion places a new spotlight on NOAH—and opens possibilities for a rematch with the talented Shiozaki, as well as 24-year-old emerging star Kaito Kiyomiya, who will be Mutoh’s first title defense on March 14.
Though there will naturally be some criticism of the decision to place the title around Mutoh’s waist, his match against Shiozaki told a compelling story. The spot where Mutoh chose not to attempt his signature Moonsault symbolized limitations due to the sacrifices he has made throughout his pro wrestling journey, and Shiozaki immediately regained the upper hand. It cannot be stressed enough how special Shiozaki was in this encounter. Before Mutoh finishes with NOAH, the sincere hope here is that Shiozaki is given the chance to further his legacy with a win against the legend.
The (online) week in wrestling
- Kota Ibushi defeated SANADA in his latest defense of both the IWGP heavyweight and intercontinental championships. Tetsuya Naito has emerged as the next contender, but interestingly, is choosing to pursue the Intercontinental title, which would ruin Ibushi’s plan to unify New Japan’s top two belts.
- Paul Heyman had the line of the night last week on SmackDown, noting that without Reigns, WrestleMania 36 was the lowest attended show in the history of WrestleMania. Reigns, Heyman and Adam Pearce also added meaning to this Sunday’s Elimination Chamber, where Reigns will defend the universal championship against SmackDown’s Elimination Chamber winner.
- Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair are on a direct collision course at WrestleMania 37, and there are subtle signs that this will also lead to a return of a more villainous “Boss” character for Banks.
KENTA was spectacular on last week’s Dynamite main event, proving he is still the type of star capable of headlining. And if you haven’t already read it, Fightful’s Joe Hulbert wrote an outstanding piece on KENTA and what he is accomplishing in 2021.
- There is so much promise with the AEW Women’s World Championship Eliminator Tournament, especially with half of the tourney taking place in Japan. Maki Itoh was especially impressive, and it is always meaningful when a wrestler can steal headlines despite a loss.
- The AEW-New Japan-Impact crossover continued on Tuesday night, as FinJuice (David Finlay and Juice Robinson) made their debuts in Impact.
- Pro wrestling used to always capture and reflect what was happening in society. That happens far less often in WWE, so it was refreshing to see Cameron Grimes cut an outrageously good promo about making money on GameStop stock.
- Seth Rollins is back on SmackDown, and his first program will be with Cesaro. Rollins is already established as one of WWE’s top stars, and this is a perfect opportunity to further elevate Cesaro into a main eventer.
- Lio Rush defeated Laredo Kid last week on MLW Fusion to capture the AAA cruiserweight championship. Rush has another must-see match this Friday, meeting El Phantasmo in the main event of NJPW Strong.
- I was grateful to be a guest earlier this week on the Unsanctioned podcast, discussing the pro wrestling industry with three friends who are exceptionally knowledgeable and passionate.
‘WrestleRoasts’ podcast bringing standalone commodity to the genre
The wrestling podcast world continues to expand and evolve, particularly with the intersection of pro wrestling and comedy.
The talented crew at Total F’N Marks is also shifting their content, redeveloping the show as WrestleRoasts. All the major players are a part of the new venture. Robert Karpeles, Dan St. Germain, Scott Chaplain and Mike Lawrence remain the foundation of the show, with a unique caveat to the new format—a weekly wrestling roast, performed by professional comedians.
“We’re building on our strengths,” said Karpeles, who is a former writer for WWE and the force behind the WWE Creative Humor account on Twitter. “Dan St. Germain has worked on a number of Comedy Central roasts and he’s also written for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Mike Lawrence won the first season of Roast Battle on Comedy Central, Scott has participated in a number of comedy roasts in clubs throughout the northeast, and my Twitter account is a weekly roast of what’s happening in pro wrestling.
“We had the idea to roast a different wrestling personality every week, which stems from Starrcast’s Roast of Bruce Prichard, which Mike, Dan and Scott were all part of. We did a test run with a roast of Baron Corbin, and believe me, it was the most interesting content about Baron Corbin anyone has heard over the past five years.”
The first honorary subject for a roast will be Shane McMahon this Friday, which will be appointment listening to longtime fans of the apparent heir to the McMahon throne.
“Shane is a great guy, and he’s also a great target for one of these roasts,” said Karpeles. “He’s been a referee, wrestler, authority figure, and he’s a McMahon, which gives us a lot of material. And looking ahead, there is a lot of potential for the show. Eventually, we’d love to do these roasts with an actual live roast victim in-person."
In addition to bringing roasts to pro wrestling, WrestleRoasts will continue to feature all the key parts from Total F’N Marks.
“The rest of the format, with the 10-count, diving into the top wrestling stories of the week, and a mark-out moment, those will all be key parts of the show,” said Karpeles. “Scott will always do his recap of New Japan, where I will always try my best not to fall asleep. And I break down different PTSD stories of my time working for WWE, and we’ll unearth some weird content from the Internet.
“And the format of how people access the show is not going to change. We are still part of the All Things Comedy podcast network and now we’re partnering in conjunction with AdFreeShows and Conrad Thompson’s podcast empire, which is the mecca for pro wrestling podcasts. We’re remaining free and accessible, and it’s a natural evolution of the podcast itself.”
Karpeles is one of the funniest personalities in all of pro wrestling, and he looks forward to sharing some laughter every week, making a light of an industry he loves, on WrestleRoasts.
“Dan first started Total F’N Marks a few years ago, and the show evolved and shifted over time,” said Karpeles. “We’re a unique blend. I worked for WWE and they’re all professional comedians.
“There isn’t a show quite like this, discussing the current news of wrestling and the lineage of the business through the prism we’re able to bring. We all genuinely love pro wrestling, and this all comes together into a unique and really easy to listen to show.”
GoFundMe helping Jimmy Rave with costs for prosthetic arm
For nearly 20 years, Jimmy Rave took pride in being one of wrestling’s most authentic heels.
He relished staying in character and upholding old wrestling traditions, remaining a villain whenever in front of a crowd.
“I wouldn’t get gas in a city, I wouldn’t talk to fans, I wouldn’t sell merchandise,” says Rave, who is 38-year-old James Guffey. “At the time, I was so focused on being a heel and I really valued that mentality.”
Rave is no longer in character, and he is also no longer wrestling. An [MOU1] forced him to have part of his left arm amputated, which has completely altered his life. There is a GoFundMe raising money to help Rave with medical costs as well as acquire a prosthetic arm, and he is extremely grateful for people’s generosity.
“I am so thankful for people willing to help,” Rave says. “This whole experience has been so difficult. Even carrying food to the kitchen table is difficult. It’s hard and it gets in your head. I’ve been trying to keep my head up, but it’s difficult, and it’s super heartbreaking that I’ll never be able to wrestle again. So I’m very appreciative to anyone that’s donated and wants to help.”
Rave explained that the amputation started with a bruise while he was doing yard work, which escalated further than he ever could have imagined.
“I was doing yard work and I got a cut,” Rave says. “I didn’t think anything of it. Over time, it got too painful and I needed to go to the hospital. After consulting with a few doctors, we learned that the tissue underneath it had deteriorated, and they recommended amputation.”
Rave grew up in the wrestling industry, wrestling his first match in October 1999 at the age of 16. It remains his passion and livelihood, as he helps run the CZW Dojo in Blackwood, N.J.
“I still love wrestling; I still watch it every day,” Rave says. “I’ve been running the CZW Dojo for the last couple years. One of our students, Leyla Hirsch, just signed with AEW, and Jordan Oliver just did a two-hour match for GCW. We have so many talented kids, and one of them, Griffin McCoy, is going to do really big things this year.”
Kind words on social media have also buoyed Rave’s spirits, and he noted that he is especially grateful for all his fiancé has done for him during such trying times.
“I really can’t say thank you enough to people,” Rave says. “I’m also so thankful for my fiancé. She keeps me focused and positive, and the support she’s given me has helped me get through each day.”
Tweet of the Week
CM Punk and Steve Austin had some fun booking their match on social media.
[MOU1]Disregard if the incident was intentional somehow