wrestling / Columns

Looking Back At Edge’s WWE Return From Retirement

December 4, 2023 | Posted by Jonathan Hunter
Edge WWE Smackdown

In 2011, Edge suddenly retired from pro wrestling due to severe spinal stenosis. It was clear Adam Copeland would never wrestle again lest he risk paralysis or worse.

FUCK YEAH. Edge returned in one of the most emotional “HOLY SHIT” moments in wrestling history. One of the loudest pops I’ve ever heard and I’ve been watching this shit since 1986. It’s combination a “shocking rumble return” reaction, as well as a genuinely joyful response to a miracle.

Regardless of where Edge’s return ultimately ranks, the sheer fact that the Rated “R” Superstar was able to return and close out his career on his own terms is a beautiful story. Wrestling is a funny fuckin’ thing. It’s a spectacle, a show, a baffling fiction; but “the bruises are real.” It’s the Great American Theatre. There really is nothing like it, and the connections fans make with individual performers is intrinsically unique to the art form.

Shockingly, Edge’s WWE contract wrapped up……

And “The Rated-R Superstar” Adam Copeland debuted for All Elite Wrestling.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Ultimately, the simple fact that Edge was able to return after a nine-year layoff is damn special. I can’t help but wish the in-ring portion of Edge’s return was more memorable. I’m not going to sit here and make some kind of judgement about this final (?) run; but for the sake of conversation and comments section hostility (SORRY JEREMY) I felt like doing an autopsy of Edge’s unlikely return.

According to Cagematch, Edge wrestled 26 matches (including Royal Rumble matches). Let’s take a look, then fight in the comments (nicely please SORRY JEREMY).


Edge’s first opponent? His old Rated RKO partner… Randy Orton.

Orton made all the sense in the world for Edge’s first opponent. While Randy has his detractors, his peers hold him in incredibly high esteem. On the sadly short-lived E&C POD OF AWESOMENESS podcast, both Edge and Christian repeatedly went out of their way to point out just how good Randy Orton was in the ring. Orton was the guy to help Edge shake off a decade of ring rust, carry Edge if need be, and a safe worker.

Unfortunately, this was spring 2020, and the Covid-19 pandemic shook the entire world. Edge’s first return match would not be in front of tens of thousands of people; instead, it would be in front of… nobody.

Edge v Orton at Mania was a divisive match; at over 36 minutes, some felt it went far too long. Personally, I found it compelling and was one of my favorite encounters of the strange Thunderdome-based Mania 36. Edge got the win, and went on to rematch Randy in “The Greatest Wrestling Match of All Time.” Another Thunderdome match, with some interesting affectations, it WAS a very good match. In a forty-five minute encounter (!), Orton would get the duke.

Unfortunately, during a RESHOOT, Edge got injured. Two matches back, and Edge was donezo. He wouldn’t return until January at the 2021 Rumble, which he would win.


Edge would set his sights on Roman Reigns; at that time, Roman was coming up on about a year of being Universal/WWE Champion. Edge took on Jey Uso in a good RAW match.

For reasons still not entirely clear, WWE chose to insert Bryan Danielson (Daniel Bryan) into the feud, turning the Mania title match into a triple-threat. Bryan’s addition upped both the intrigue and the match quality. At the time, it was speculated that Danielson was coming to the end of his current WWE contract, so earning a main event slot at WrestleMania was something of a surprise.

It felt like Edge regaining the WWE Championship was a sure-thing.

To the shock of everyone (?), Reigns retained in decisive fashion, stacking up and pinning both of his challengers. It was a clear sign that Roman wasn’t dropping the belts anytime soon. Pinning Danielson, who may have been on his way out, made sense. Pinning the “American Dragon” AND the “Rated-R Superstar” at once? Certainly was a choice.

Several months later at Money in the Bank, Edge had a straight singles title shot at Roman, where he again came up short.


To me, and I think many fans, this is the point where Edge’s return run started to feel perfunctory; or at the least, less exciting or compelling. Edge and his longtime frenemy Orton had had several bouts; Edge had attempted to win the WWE/Universal titles from Roman and twice come up short.

So… now what?

Enter the “Monday Night Messiah.” Seth “Freaking” Rollins (boy do I hate that ‘freaking’ nickname) took exception to Edge’s return. The ensuing feud would lead to a marquee SummerSlam match that saw Edge resurrect one of the coolest entrances of all time, The BROOD elevator of fire. Edge would win the Summerslam bout; lose a rematch on RAW; and then win the feud inside Hell in a Cell.

The matches with Rollins, especially the SummerSlam match, are clearly the best match QUALITY of the return run. Edge winning the feud wasn’t a terrible thing by any means… but Seth Rollins continuing to lose big PPV matches wasn’t great for “The Architect.”

This is where the clearest issue with the return run came into sharp focus:

Edge won everything.


After the Rollins feud, Edge took another hiatus from TV. Recent comments from Copeland, on joining AEW, let we fans in on the thought process: While Edge wanted to wrestle and be on TV more regularly, WWE wanted to preserve Edge’s matches as “special attractions.”

In theory, that makes sense. In practice…

WWE thought anybody gave a shit about Edge vs The Miz.

For the record: I’m a BIG fan of the Miz. Frankly, I wonder if the dude is ever going to “get his flowers.” Tremendous promo. Charismatic. MORE than solid worker. Always delivers. Yet simply because of his reality show beginnings, so many in the fanbase refuse to acknowledge his talent. He MORE than paid his dues those early years in WWE, with stupid horseshit like having to change outside the locker room for damn near a year because he “ate chicken over Benoit’s bag.”

Spoiler: Benoit is an asshole and a murderer.

Buuuuuuuuut… In 2022, Miz had been a non-factor for several years. He could be counted on, but WWE booked him like a geek. Edge vs Miz wasn’t compelling. Adding in both real-life wives, Beth Phoenix and Maryse, made things marginally more interesting. However, Maryse has hardly been known as a strong in-ring competitor; and “Miz & Mrs” were hardly seen as a threat. Edge (and Beth) won both matches handily. Neither was anything spectacular.


After yet ANOTHER months long layoff, Edge would return and turn heel on the “Phenomenal” AJ Styles. Edge aligned himself with Rhea Ripley and Damien Priest in a new stable of “overlooked” wrestlers — Judgement Day.

The purpose and gimmick of the Day seemed off from the word go, however. The group cut promos that were essentially about the IWC and used insider terms; they also did “spooky shit.” Later reports would talk about a difference in creative direction between Edge and WWE. In fairness, working out the kinks is often part of any creative process.

What mattered is that Edge turning heel felt FRESH and exciting. As much as Edge was a good babyface… he has historically been extraordinarily better as a HEEL. Virtually all of Edge’s biggest successes in WWE, be it in his tag team with Christian to main eventing against the Undertaker, were as a HEEL. The “Rated-R Superstar” was a HEEL, playing off of Edge’s real-life affair with Amy “Lita” Dumas — while she was the girlfriend of Matt Hardy. Edge as a singles competitor took as a result of that that unfortunate real-life issue. As well, Edge became the “Ultimate Opportunist” by virtue of being the FIRST “Money in the Bank” winner.

Edge vs AJ Styles at Mania was… fine. Edge won that,and the similarly “fine” rematch at Backlash. I can’t pin all the blame for the disappointing match quality on Edge; by this point, AJ Styles had been under-delivering on a consistent basis. Judgement Day would then beat AJ Styles again in a six-person tag including Finn Balor and Liv Morgan…


And then just months after it began, Judgment Day would add Finn Balor to the group and promptly drum Edge out. Edge’s return heel return didn’t even last six months. In interviews, Edge suggested that Judgment Day actually flourished without him. However, it was also reported that booting Copeland from the group was a “last-minute decision” as a result of Edge not wanting to go in the more “supernatural direction” creative wished.

Regardless of the actual rationale, Edge returned to the side of the angels… after taking another prolonged absence. Edge would return to seek vengeance against Balor, Priest, Ripley, and new addition to Judgement Day, Dominick Mysterio. Edge would team with his long-time friend and Dom’s father, Rey, against the JD.

What did this lead to?

Over the course of 7 months, Edge would wrestle the Judgement Day in varying match types and combinations six times.

Edge won all but one of those contests, an “I Quit” match against Balor at Survivor Series. Edge would quit only when the group threatened bodily harm on Beth Phoenix.

Otherwise, Edge would beat both Dominick and Priest in singles; team with Rey to beat Dom & Balor in a tag; team with Beth to beat Finn & Rhea in a tag; and ultimately beat Balor inside HELL IN A CELL at WrestleMania. In here, he would lose to Austin Theory due to JD interference.

Edge & Phoenix beating Finn & Rhea Ripley in the lead-up to Mania is the most egregious decision. It was the build-up to WrestleMania, where Ripley would challenge for the Women’s title against Charlotte Flair. Why did Edge & Beth win this tag match? Finn lost at Mania; the win here would have helped him seem more credible going into ‘Mania. Ripley pinning Beth to bolster Rhea (and not harm Phoenix, a part-time competitor) heading into the match with Flair.


Edge would then lose a triple-threat for a title shot to AJ Styles; return two months later to beat Grayson Waller; and finally close out his WWE run with a victory against Sheamus in Edge’s home province of Ontario on a Toronto Smackdown episode.

Edge won virtually all of his post-return matches. His biggest losses were to Roman Reigns; Roman’s title reign has gone on to an unprecedented length, justifying Edge staring at the lights in those bouts. But otherwise? Edge clearly bested Miz, Rollins, AJ Styles, and the entire Judgment Day.

Miz is, unfortunately, a lost cause. Styles has visibly lost a step and hasn’t been a priority for WWE in several years; one could argue a big win against Edge could have jumpstarted a renewed push. But Damian Priest and especially Finn Balor? Both men would have seen their stock rise *considerably* with big wins against Edge. Yes, Edge was the “good guy”… but Finn Balor loses every single important match he has. Balor needed that WrestleMania win to ever be taken seriously again.

Finn lost, and is a perennial loser regardless of his quality of work or how well he performs.


Having been a regular listener of Edge & Christian’s Podcast of Awesomeness, I know that Adam Copeland damn well salivated at the possible opponents on the WWE roster if he ever had the chance to come back. I don’t know how much say Edge had in his storylines, opponents, or booking. Based on the way Edge was drummed out of Judgment Day, I would suggest he had much less “stroke” than some fans want to believe.

I’d like to think Edge lobbied to lose more of the matches he ended up winning. Because Edge won 18 of 26 matches. Surely he could have lost ONCE to AJ Styles when they were actually feuding? He could have lost to Finn when it mattered, and not only with an absurd amount of overbooking? Surely he could have lost to Sheamus in what he knew would be his final WWE match?

Edge lost to Austin Theory. WWE then put Theory over Cena at WrestleMania, before promptly forgetting Theory existed. It didn’t matter. Edge lost to Orton and Rollins, but not in ways that mattered. The only person Edge truly “put over” in his return run was Roman Reigns.

The best part of Edge’s return was the actual Rumble return. I’d like to think Edge had some better performances in him had the booking or storytelling been better. In Copeland’s own words, he wanted to work more.

What was the point of booking Edge so sporadically to make it “stay special” when the storylines and angles were anything but? Outside of the Roman and Rollins feuds, was anything compelling or “must see” during the last few years?

I can’t argue that it was. Edge’s return, as amazing and emotional as it was, ended up a letdown.

… but that’s not where the story ends.


article topics :

Adam Copeland, WWE, Jonathan Hunter