For a young Canadian wrestler-in-training like Sami Zayn, there were few performers as aspirational as Edge, the Orangeville, Ontario, native who came up on the indies before becoming the “Rated-R Superstar” under the watchful eye of Vince McMahon.
Originally debuting in the ring all the way back in 1993 under his real name, Adam Copeland, Edge didn't sign a developmental contract with the company until 1997 after cutting his teeth across North America at any promotion that would have him. With Bret Hart in his corner, Edge landed in WWE and ultimately became the character fans came to love today, both with and without his best friend Christian by his side.
Sound familiar? Well, that's pretty much the story of Zayn too, who built up his value and became a full-time professional wrestler on the indies before signing up with WWE and elevating his status to a degree even he likely couldn't have imagined when he reported to NXT in 2013.
Discussing Edge's career in a special 25-year anniversary video for WWE's website, Zayn noted just how inspirational the “Rated-R Superstar” was on his career.
“When I think about him, I don’t think at all about the career he’s had, I think about the guy, and I don’t know how many people you could really say that about. Edge was the first guy from WWE that I has ever really met as an independent wrestler, and he was so nice. And he had known my work, which was shocking cuz I very much felt like an island and that the people in WWE didn’t know who you were, let alone a major star, a top star like Edge, who was World Champion many times over. You assumed he had no idea who you were, but he was just so down to earth,” Sami Zayn said.
Later in the special, Zayn noted that, even in the face of a career-ending injury, Edge never truly gave up on his passion for the industry, leading to a return that was all the more special at the 2020 Royal Rumble.
“Even in the face of losing something like that, something that would wreck a lot of people, he handled it with unbelievable grace, and obviously, it was something that was always in him, that itch to return. Because nine years went by, and if that passion was gone, it would have just been gone, it would have stayed gone. I don’t know, that obviously says something as well, doesn’t it?”
For a Canadian kid like Zayn, watching Edge become one of the top stars in professional wrestling must have been incredibly inspirational. To then become co-workers with Zayn and even share the ring with him at the 2021 Royal Rumble must have been all the more surreal for “The Underdog from the Underground.”
Edge reflects on his last 25 years in the WWE Universe.
Though he wasn't featured in the WWE 25-year anniversary special for obvious reasons – don't be sad, WWE did a special 25-minute video where Edge breaks down his favorite matches from his career that you can watch here – that didn't stop the “Rated-R Superstar” from taking to Twitter to reflect on his own run in a WWF/WWE ring, and the millions of fans he impacted along the way.
“25 years ago today was my first match as Edge on television. Millions of miles, millions of faces, amazing experiences, lots of injuries, accomplishments that didn’t even exist when I started, but way more laughs than anything else,” Edge wrote. “Having a second chance to do this has filled me with gratitude. I’ve had an opportunity to get in the ring with a whole new generation of amazing talent and introduce Edge to a whole new generation of fans. That alone makes it a win. I’ve been able to make a living doing the only job I ever dreamed of. I know how rare that is. Thanks for watching Edge all these years.”
When Edge had to retire from WWE in 2011 due to a brutal neck injury, it marked a bittersweet end to one of the hottest careers in professional wrestling history. Suddenly, one of the most important performers of the era was gone, and WWE had to find a way to move along without the “Rated-R Superstar.” When he returned in 2020, however, it brought everything full circle and gave a star with plenty left in the tank a chance to write a more appropriate ending to his Hall of Fame professional wrestling career. Fast forward four years into the future, and Edge has created one of the top factions in WWE, had fantastic matches all over the world, and has remained as popular as ever as a result; a perfect start to a once-unimaginable final act.
25 years ago today was my first match as Edge on television. Millions of miles, millions of faces, amazing experiences, lots of injuries, accomplishments that didn’t even exist when I started, but way more laughs than anything else. Having a second chance to do this has filled me… pic.twitter.com/aXqNNK5MoA
— Adam (Edge) Copeland (@EdgeRatedR) June 22, 2023