Living on the Edge: The career of Adam Copeland

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April 14, 2011

On June 22, 1998, Edge made his WWE debut

Long before he was an 11-time World Champion, before he shocked the world as The Rated-R Superstar, before he pushed the envelope in Tables, Ladders and Chairs Matches, Adam Copeland was just another wide-eyed kid in the Toronto SkyDome, cheering on Hulk Hogan in his battle against The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI.

The year was 1990 and Copeland was only seventeen. A die-hard WWE fan, he grew up reading comic books, listening to KISS and dreaming of one day making it as a Superstar. His classmates had even voted him “Most Likely to be WWE Champion” in the school yearbook. However, it would have been impossible for him to know then that he would be in the main event of The Show of Shows in 18 years. Even further from his mind was the idea that he would eventually win the World Tag Team Championships with his hero, The Hulkster.

On that April day, Copeland was still eight long years away from making his WWE debut. That journey would begin several months later, when the Orangeville-native won an essay contest that earned him free wrestling classes at Sully’s Gym under the tutelage of Canadian competitors Ron Hutchinson and Sweet Daddy Siki. Tough guys who had made their bones in the hardscrabble days of the territory system, they pushed the hopeful to quit, but this was his dream. He would not be deterred.

The early days were rough. It was only Copeland and his mother at home, and he had to work odd jobs at local factories to help keep them going. Still, he found the time to train and perform on local independent shows alongside his childhood friend Christian and his good buddy Rhyno. Competing under the name Sexton Hardcastle, he slowly found his way in the ring and began to overcome the shyness that plagued him as an awkward high schooler.

The more he performed, the better he got. There were shows in gymnasiums in Detroit and tours through frigid armories in Winnipeg. Sometimes he locked up with guys he’d seen on television, like Bad News Brown or Rick Martel. Other times, it was bouts with slobs who never made the big time and never would. There was even a one-night stint in WCW where he appeared under the name Damon Stryker. It was a tumultuous time in his life, yet through it all he stayed focused on one goal — making it to WWE.

Copeland got his first shot at his dream in 1996 when he battled Bob "Spark Plug" Holly in a tryout match. Another two years would pass before anything came of it, however. In the meantime, he pursued a college degree and continued competing on small shows throughout the Great Lakes area. Regularly teaming with Christian as The Suicide Blondes, the two lifelong pals were good together and soon caught the attention of Bret "Hit Man" Hart. The legendary competitor invited them to Calgary, helped them work on their skills (the closest Copeland would ever come to his dream match with Hart) and put in a good word for them with management.

The WWE Hall of Famer’s word caught the right ears, and Copeland was soon signed to a developmental contract. Months later, on June 22, 1998, Edge made his WWE debut. First presented to the WWE Universe through a series of vignettes in which he assaulted strangers on the street, the mysterious Superstar was described as tortured, stoic, an enigma. It was all a far cry from the brash, controversial figure Edge would become, but the young competitor clearly had something that interested the fans.

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