WWE: Adam 'Edge' Copeland on why WrestleMania provides a timely distraction from coronavirus

Adam Copeland thought his days of entertaining millions of sports entertainment fans were over.

At age 37, a neck injury brought a premature end to the career of World Wrestling Entertainment Hall-of-Fame legend 'Edge' - Copeland's in-ring persona.

The young man who had dedicated his life to professional wrestling was forced to walk away from the business, against his will, because one more bad bump or mistimed move would land him in a wheelchair.

The now 46-year-old was diagnosed with cervical spinal stenosis in 2011 and retired the day after WrestleMania 27.

Copeland turned to acting to satisfy his hunger to perform, but his passion for WWE never faded. The Edge character would pop up from time to time, but never in a physical capacity. 

WWE fans thought they had seen the last of 'The Rated-R Superstar' inside the ring, but behind closed doors, Copeland was doing everything he could to get back inside the squared circle.

Two neck surgeries followed and by August 2019, Copeland was cleared for physical contact. The Edge character made his ring return as a surprise entrant in the 2020 Royal Rumble in January, to the absolute rapture of the 50,000 fans in attendance.

For Copeland, that moment was simply "overwhelming". 

"I don't know if I have fully wrapped my mind around this whole journey, to be honest, let alone the moments before the Rumble," Edge told Newshub.

"I've always said that I've never been nervous before a performance, because if there's one place in my life, if there’s one place in the world, where I knew I was fully confident in all of the variables, it was inside a wrestling ring.

"At the Royal Rumble, that was the first time I ever felt nerves.

"Once the music hit, then it was just - you can't explain it. You can't do it justice, you can't put your finger on it. 

"There is no way to explain this melting pot of things that all came together, after nine years being off and being forced to retire. 

"It is a story that has never happened before and to be in the centre of that is just overwhelming, it really is. 

"I don’t know if I have fully wrapped my mind around the whole thing."

Edge returns at the Royal Rumble in January
Edge returns at the Royal Rumble in January Photo credit: WWE
WWE: Adam 'Edge' Copeland on why WrestleMania provides a timely distraction from coronavirus
Photo credit: WWE
WWE: Adam 'Edge' Copeland on why WrestleMania provides a timely distraction from coronavirus
Photo credit: WWE

It was very strange 

Copeland was thrust straight into a major storyline with an old nemesis in front of camera and close friend behind it - Randy Orton.

The two are set for an epic match at WrestleMania in April, although the coronavirus has thrown a major curveball at the WWE.

Tampa Bay's Raymond James Stadium was originally scheduled to host the 'show of shows', but the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 has forced WWE to move the show behind closed doors.

The new venue is WWE's Performance Centre in Orlando, Florida - a small, intimate arena that can house no more than a few hundred people, a stark contrast to the 75,000-seat stadium that the NFL's Buccaneers call home.

WWE's weekly television shows - Monday Night Raw and Friday Night Smackdown - have also moved behind closed doors at the same venue. It's certainly provided an interesting challenge for sports entertainers, who usually perform to large, vocal audiences.

Copeland has had first-hand experience, as part of the Raw show last Tuesday (NZ time).

"It was very strange," Copeland said. "I can't lie about that - it was very, very strange, but almost par for the course with this story and that's kinda how I looked at it. 

"I've come back after nine years off - this is the resurrection of Edge.

"If I look at this whole situation from a selfish perspective, I was never meant to do this again.

The empty arena at WWE's Performance Centre in Orlando
The empty arena at WWE's Performance Centre in Orlando Photo credit: WWE

"I had been told that that's it - I was done. Somehow, I managed to work myself into a condition where I could do this again and as all of this happens with my crazy, miraculous comeback, and then all of this coronavirus stuff happens and we an empty-arena Raw, it all seems apropos. 

"It was weird, it was surreal. What I had to do was fairly quickly adapt to how I was going to do this. 

"I mean, how are you supposed to cut a promo to an empty arena? 

"I treated it like a theatre monologue - I looked down the barrel of the camera and decided to talk directly to Randy.

"I didn't think about doing that beforehand - I used my instincts and adapted. 

"I did nine years of acting after I retired, so all these scenes, working with all those actors are all paying dividends now. 

"That experience has been instrumental in what I bring to the table now."

The world is on its head right now

Entertaining fans has always been the No.1 priority for Copeland and given the current state of the world, as it reacts and looks to combat a global pandemic, he believes WWE has a duty to provide a release from stress and the pressures of everyday life.

"Right now, the world is on its head. In times like this, I truly feel the world needs those things to help cope. 

"It needs entertainment, it needs books... it needs something. 

"My job, my responsibility is to help you forget about your responsibilities for 2-3 hours a week. 

"I don't look past that, because it is a privilege. It's a privilege I didn't have for nine years and now that I am back, the gravity of that privilege is not lost on me. 

"Sure it's entertainment and, yes, we are grown men or women jumping around a ring in tights, but in a time like this, it's very important - I truly believe that.

"I want to give people some kind of break from what they and I are going through. I hope people appreciate what we are trying to do. 

"I think right now, more than any other time, it's important for a company like ours to do what we do, as long as we continue to be as responsible as we can to allow us to do it."

The Edge v Randy Orton showdown will be a match not to miss, when WrestleMania takes place over two days on April 5/6 (NZ time).

Copeland promises something very special from a company and performers that have provided exhilarating entertainment for five decades.

"This year, more than any year, we are all in the midst of something we have never experienced before and the world really needs outlets... whatever it is, just to be able to try and forget, and laugh and have fun, and remember what it is to be human. 

"That's why we’re doing this. There's one reason - that's the reason."

"As long as we can try and be as responsible and as safe as we can, why wouldn't we try and do this for everyone? As a performer, that's what we want to do. 

"If we can do that, and if people watch and can have fun for a few hours, then our mission is accomplished. 

"There's a reason the show is going on - those are the reasons why."

Join us at 11am, April 5/6 for live updates of WrestleMania.

WrestleMania airs live Sunday, April 5 and Monday, April 6 at 11am (NZST) on WWE Network and Sky TV’s Arena.