This past Sunday, Edge walked into the men's Royal Rumble match in the No. 1 spot and outlasted 29 other stars to emerge victorious and punch his ticket to a title match in the main event of WrestleMania. The moment came just one year after Edge made his shocking return in the 2020 Royal Rumble after nearly a decade on the shelf due to a neck injury that forced him into a premature retirement.
Edge's return hit a speed bump last June when he suffered a torn triceps that again sidelined the 47-year-old. After all that time spent out of action, Edge, real name Adam Copeland, still managed to compete in the Rumble match for nearly an hour and come back the next night to face Randy Orton in his first match on Raw since March 2011.
"I will not tell a lie, I have felt better," Edge told CBS Sports on Monday. "I feel like I got tossed around in a hurricane a little bit. I feel like I should feel worse, at the same time. If that makes sense. After being off for seven months with a torn triceps and the long break that I had before that, there's no way to fully prepare for this other than to get in and do it. I was in there for a long time and scuffled with a lot of people, so I didn't necessarily know how I was going to feel. Once the adrenaline started to wear off, I was like, 'Oh, ok, I'm feeling this.' I've felt worse though. I'll take it."
Edge credited being able to successfully compete for nearly an hour to his triceps injury still allowing him to train his cardio while going through recovery. Knowing his cardio was where he wanted it took away much of the anxiety of the grind of picking up his second career Royal Rumble victory, he said.
The other standout moment in the Rumble for Edge and his overall story was the return of former tag partner and best friend Christian, real name Jay Reso, during the match. Like Edge, Christian was also forced to retire because of injuries and was forced to take a long road back to try to end his career on his own terms. Edge also gave some indication that Christian's return was not going to be limited to just one spot in the Rumble.
"Even just going back to last year and finding out that I was cleared, to the point where we found out that he was cleared and the Rumble last year and now it's the Rumble this year, the last year and a month at this point has been unexplainable," Edge said. "I've given up trying to because I can't properly articulate it. It just at times doesn't feel real. I still expect to wake up and think, 'That was an amazing dream!' But it is happening, and I'm learning to accept that it is happening and enjoy it and live it it and live in the present of this thing that shouldn't be happening but is. I need to just enjoy it. Hopefully the audience can understand that you've got guys who are just loving what they're doing. Hopefully that translates, and hopefully you can feel how much we love to be able to do this again when we thought it was taken away from us -- whether it's from the look in our eyes, the smiles on our faces or the stories we're trying to craft.
"The Rumble was one of those instances where, when Christian was coming down the ramp, I was so happy for him. I was so proud of him and proud of the work he put in and the grind and struggle to get cleared and be able to do this again. Similar to me, he can end it on his terms and not just have it taken away when you don't expect it. That's a hard thing to swallow, and now we have a chance to have that not be the case, and that's just really special."
While Copeland has only been in the two Royal Rumble matches and three singles matches -- all against Orton -- in the year since returning, he has his sights set on not only getting to WrestleMania, but on being a valuable full-time member of the roster moving forward. That means not falling into the trap that cripples so many WWE storylines involving legends and showing up at the ThunderDome every week to be a part of the show.
"I didn't come back to just do a greatest hits tour," he said. "That's not why I came back. I didn't just want to do regurgitated greatest hits. I wanted to come back because I wanted to tell compelling stories. I wanted to get in with a lot of talent so that ... if I could impart wisdom from 29 years of doing this, in terms of trying to tell a story, that's really exciting for me. I love so much of this talent, and it's exciting to be able to get in with them. Did I necessarily know that I was going to try to work toward WrestleMania? No. A lot of those things are out of your hands. I did know I was going to put the work in to be able to do it if called upon. That's part of my responsibility in coming back, as well.
"I don't just want to be another body. I want to be able to help, and to help the totality of the industry if I can. If that means that this year Edge main events WrestleMania? Ok. I will do my part to make that happen and make it as compelling as I possibly can. But I also want to get in there with loads of talent. My goal is to come back and tell great stories in the main event of WrestleMania or on Raw, whatever it is. I came back committed to this. After my family, this is my top priority. If I'm asked to be in a title program heading into WrestleMania? I'm here every week. That's the way I operate. I'm not going to be a guy who comes in for one week and floats off for eight weeks. If I'm involved and I'm in the mix, I'm going to be here every week because that's how I operate."
A recurring theme in the conversation with Edge was the idea of the variety of talented wrestlers on the WWE roster with whom he had never been able to wrestle. Asked about his commitment to staying active and having regular matches if he was "going to be here every week," Edge began to rattle off names and big ideas that would make any wrestling purist salivate.
"I've never laid hands on so many of these guys," Edge said. "I scratched the surface with AJ Styles and Seth Rollins just because of Rumbles. To me, both of those matches have to happen. They just have to. Last night, for the first time, I felt what Cesaro brings, and Matt Riddle. You go up and down the roster and think, 'Oh man, what I could do with that guy.' Ricochet and [Mustafa] Ali and Sami [Zayn] and all of these guys I've never had a chance to get in there with. That's really exciting for me. That almost makes me feel young -- maybe not after the match, but before and during. It's just super exciting. It really is, and it's all stuff that isn't supposed to be happening. I am going to enjoy all of this.
"In a perfect world, I can get in with every single one of them. It's a little out of my control. But if I can get in with at least some of them and try to have some amazing stories in there, that's part of why I came back, to just get in there and try to tell stories with new talent. Let me get in there with some people. Let me get in with Cesaro. I'd love to do an Ironman with Daniel Bryan. There's just so much talent I would love to get in with. I got a sample of Damien Priest, and that was exciting. It's just really fun for me because I see them get wide-eyed because we're having this cool, special moment, and I want more of those."
While the idea of an Ironman match with Bryan is certainly enough to get anyone excited, everything with the WWE is locked in on the Road to WrestleMania, with the iconic event taking place on April 10 and 11 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
Edge and WWE have yet to reveal which world title he will be gunning for at the biggest event of the year, but he was quick to remind that the NXT championship -- currently held by Finn Balor -- is on the table as are Roman Reigns' universal championship and Drew McIntyre's WWE title. And, Edge said, there's plenty to be excited about no matter which of the three titles he pursues.
"To me, I can't go wrong," he said. "They each bring something different to the table and just as appealing in terms of the kind of story they can tell. They'd all be different stories and I don't think you can go wrong with any of them. It's just what's going to be best for business. I don't know what that is, honestly. With Drew, you can follow his road to get back here and my road to get back here. You have two guys who didn't know they'd ever get back and who are now here and possibly main eventing WrestleMania for the WWE championship. That's compelling.
"Equally compelling is a guy like Roman Reigns, who I feel has been unleashed and been allowed to get the guy out that I always knew was in there. It's really exciting to see a performer clicking on so many levels and telling amazing stories. I look at that and I think, 'Whoa, man, that would be fun.' It's an entirely different dynamic than Drew, and I would be and an entirely different story. Maybe it's not based on respect -- it's Rocky and Apollo Creed. Then I see a guy like Balor who has never been better, and that's exciting too. It's an embarrassment of riches, is what it is."