Bending the Rules, the latest film from the prestigious WWE Studios, is a knowingly silly and slapdash riff on the action/comedies of the late '80s and early '90s. A beautiful classic car gets smashed beyond recognition. A roomful of karate guys become a visual punchline. Cops eat doughnuts. And a truly random cast comes along for the ride: Malibu's Most Wanted madcap mug-machine Jamie Kennedy, Arrested Development queen bitch Jessica Walter, wizened Paul Thomas Anderson repertory player Philip Baker Hall. But the best thing about the movie is its star, Adam Copeland, a sloppy and bemused presence who also has less acting experience than any of his co-stars.|
Or, at least, Copeland has less movie acting experience than his co-stars. Copeland had dabbled in screen acting before: A bit part in Highlander: Endgame, a recurring role on the Syfy supernatural drama Haven. And for 13 years, Copeland was better known as the WWE star Edge, a wrestler who did pretty well as a good guy but excelled at all manner of villainy when villainy was what his role required. He started out as Vince McMahon's idea of a Hot Topic goth before becoming half of the self-impressed, vainglorious tag team Edge and Christian, who stole countless WWE shows by competing in a series of insane ladder-match stunt-shows. After that, he matured into the "ultimate opportunist," as the company's announcers loved to call him: A desperate glory hog who would commit any heinous act to acquire and then to keep a championship belt. His great run ended last year, when a nagging neck injury suddenly forced him to retire. Next month, he's on his way into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Copeland called us from a WWE media event in Miami to talk about his retirement, his looming Hall of Fame induction, and his recent forays into acting.
GQ: Congratulations on your induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. How did you get the call that you were in this year?
Edge: I was coming back from kayaking, and I was at a stoplight coming back from the river. I live down in North Carolina now. I got a phone call from [WWE Vice President] John Laurinaitis, with his weird voice. And he just said, "Would you want to go into the Hall of Fame this year? We wanna put you in." I said, "This year? Really? Wow, that's pretty soon." And they said that they all agreed; they want me in there. I definitely wouldn't turn it down. I wasn't expecting it. It's humbling and strange, but it's awesome.
GQ: Do you know who's going to induct you?
Edge: They already asked me who I wanted, and the no-brainer is Christian. I'm assuming that that's the case, but I've never got a confirmation one way or the other. To me, that's who it's got to be. No one else in the industry knows me as well as he does. We were called brothers for years, but we truly act like brothers. We're both just morons. I know that his speech would be the most from the heart.
GQ: Your retirement last year came really suddenly. When you were announcing it on Monday Night Raw last year, I kept waiting for someone to come out and interrupt you.
Edge: Yeah, for Alberto Del Rio's music to hit, right?
GQ: When did you know that you'd have to retire so quickly?
Edge: That was a week after Wrestlemania. I've had neck issues my entire career, even going back to childhood. I sprained my neck when I was three years old, and I sprained it again in high school, at a cross-country meet. So I think it was just wearing me down. I had neck surgery back in '03, had a fusion done. So I knew that was coming. It started just wearing out. I didn't know what was going on, but I knew something was happening with my neck. We got a conditional MRI back the Monday after Wrestlemania, and they said that I should be good through the year. My contract was up after this year's Mania, and I wanted to see it through. I figured I'd retire after this year's Mania. And then, that Wednesday, I got a call that said, "You're done. You have to retire. We can't clear you to wrestle, the way your neck is."
It was more shocking to other people. I knew stuff was going on. I knew my arms were trembling, and it just didn't feel right when I got into the ring. Something was off. I didn't know if it was the nervous system or what. I didn't know the extent of what was going on I didn't know there was pressure on my spinal cord. I didn't know anything about that stuff.
GQ: Are you happy with the way your wrestling career ended? I don't want to be presumptuous, but it seems like kind of a blessing. So many people do it for so long, and it seems to destroy them.
Edge: Well, I was preparing for it anyway. I really believe that this Wrestlemania would be my last one. So I was already trying to get emotionally prepped to deal with it. I'd already done that work. I won't say it was a relief, but it was like, "That's why I'm feeling this way. That makes sense." It made me feel a little better. From a purely egotistical standpoint, my last match was at Wrestlemania, and I walked out the World Heavyweight Champion. You can't really write it much better than that. That wasn't the plan. I didn't think it was my last match. But if you've got to go out anyway, that's pretty damn cool. Sure, I'd love to wrestle Christian at a Wrestlemania in Toronto, but I know that it's just not a possibility. I don't dwell on what could've been because I'm really happy with how everything turned out.
GQ: Looking back on your career, do you have a single favorite match?
Edge: I don't. Some of my favorite moments were on matches that weren't much. When I cashed in Money in the Bank on John Cena, it was like a two-minute match, but I'll always remember that moment. From an actual match standpoint, winning the Tag Team Championships with Christian for the first time at Wrestlemania, main eventing Wrestlemania against the Undertaker--those stick out the most. But there's been a lot that I'm proud of and enjoy watching back. Winning the Tag belts with Hulk Hogan--if I watched that today, I'd feel like a nine-year-old kid again.
GQ: As a wrestler, you were in the Tables, Ladders and Chairs matches, which were some of the most dangerous and brutal matches ever. They were awesome, but I'm sure they shortened your career. Do you ever regret doing them?
Edge: I don't. It sounds cliché, but why bother with regret? You can't do anything about it. Those matches put us on the map. You had guys like Steve Austin and the Rock and Mick Foley and Undertaker and Kane and Triple H firing on all cylinders. I mean, think about that. Think about how stacked that is. So what are you going to do to get noticed. Well, there's six of us, and we're all pretty nuts. We all had the same mentality: "Let's create something that's never been done before." Did we set the bar too high? Hell yeah, we did. But I can't look back at it with regret. It's what we felt like we had to do to get noticed. And it ended up working. But I do agree that they shortened my career.
GQ: When you would finish up a match like that, would there ever be a feeling that you just took X number of months off of your career?
Edge: No. At that point, we all felt pretty indestructible. You're in your late 20s, and you just shrug it off and go to the next one. It didn't really start to hit until I became the ladder match. My next match after I retired was going to be a ladder match, which would've been my 20th ladder match. I hit 35 years old, and they were putting me in ladder matches with people who had never done them before, whether it be Ric Flair or John Cena. That fell on my shoulders: "We're going to do a ladder match; we gotta get him in there." It's a blessing and a curse, but at a certain point, you have to say, "I can't do a ladder match anymore. Let the young guys do it."
GQ: Are you still tight with everyone who you used to do those matches with, like the Hardys and the Dudley Boyz?
Edge: I haven't talked to them in a while, but we're still on friendly terms. If I saw all of them tomorrow, it would be like the guys you went to college with. You see each other, you pick up where you left off, and you reminisce about the stupid things you did.
GQ: Getting to Bending the Rules, I'm sure you've been asked this a lot, but you're known as the Rated R Superstar. How is it that your first movie is not rated R?
Edge: [Laughs] Well, the whole character was really just rated R in name only by the end. That's the direction of the WWE. When the company first started going PG, I was like, "Oh no! No! What the hell am I going to do? I'm the sleazy guy! That's my deal!" But you figure it out as you go. At the beginning of my career, I was a pseudo-vampire. Then I became half of that tag team with Christian, and then it morphed as it went. So with the movie, in reading the script, I knew it was pretty harmless. And that's fine by me. If it were a juicy script where I really had to sink my teeth into it, that would be cool too. But I didn't really put too much thought into it, honestly. It was just an opportunity. "Hey, you wanna make a movie?" "Heck yeah, I'll give that a shot. Why not?"
GQ: Bear with me while I nerd out here for a minute. Your character in the movie is named Blades, and obviously your wrestling name is Edge. When you first started as kind of a vampire with a trench coat and sunglasses, I always thought it was a play on the movie Blade.
Edge: Oh, totally. It wasn't full-on; I was doing the trench coat thing before we formed [vampiric wrestling stable] the Brood. The trench coat thing was an accident, really. We decided that I was going to be this mysterious character, and we shot these vignettes of me walking around the streets of New York. It was freezing, and I was wearing this little late '90s mesh shirt. My nipples were cutting glass. So I asked if anyone had a coat. Somebody had a trench coat, I threw it on, and it looked cool. That was really it. From there, what we did take from the movie was the blood-bath thing. I was getting vampire encyclopedias, trying to get some ideas that we could use in the gimmick. And then we saw the blood-bath part of Blade, and we said that we'd have to pitch it to somebody. People never really drew that correlation; it's weird. We got it blatantly from the movie, but nobody ever mentioned it.
GQ: And is your character name in the movie a reference to that?
Edge: No, that's just pure coincidence. Whoever wrote the movie, it was Blades from the get-go. I don't know what the writer was thinking.
GQ: You mentioned that someone brought you the movie and it seemed like a thing to do. So being in movies wasn't a long-term goal of yours?
Edge: No, it was never that I wanted to be an actor one day: "I want to wrestle, and then one day, from there, spin it off into an acting career." That was never my mentality. It was always: "I'm a wrestler. This is what I've always wanted to do. I'm doing my dream job." If other stuff happens, cool, but I was never in search of an acting career. This really did fall into my lap. They came to me with a script and a character that wasn't too much of a stretch for me. This being my first movie, you don't want to go too far, trying to pull off something that's beyond your means. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not an actor. No matter how much acting I do, I'll never consider myself an actor because that's a slap in the face of actual proper actors.
GQ: You seem pretty at home in the movie, though. You're a steady presence throughout.
Edge: That's what I was gunning for: To not embarrass myself, as self-defeating as that sounds. If I can just pull it off enough to where it's not glaring that this is my first movie, I'll be happy with that. Thankfully, it gave me a better foundation. I ended up doing the second season of Haven, and I felt much more comfortable doing that.
GQ: Are there any actors that you looked to as inspirations?
Edge: Not really. The character did remind me of The Big Lebowski, but he's a cop and he can kick ass. That's the difference. But he's like, "Whatever happens, we'll figure it out." He's open to stuff, a nice guy, makes mistakes, finds himself in situations. Instead of white Russians, Blades eats doughnuts. The horrible board shorts and Hawaiian shirts that I wear, that's not too far off. Obviously, Jeff Bridges is a great actor, and I'm not that guy. But that's what I thought of; he's a little Lebowski-like.
GQ: Were any of the other cast members big wrestling fans?
Edge: Jamie Kennedy knew the most about it. Someone like Jessica Walter had no idea what I was going to be like. I think she thought I was going to be a hairy Neanderthal wearing my underwear on the set. But then we met, and she said that I was nothing like what she'd imagined. We started talking, and she really helped. She's a proper actor. She's shared scenes with Eastwood. I'm obviously over my head, but she made me feel comfortable.
GQ: Would you like to keep acting after this?
Edge: So far, I've been charmed because things kept falling into my lap after I retired. I thought that after I retired, I'd go into the mountains and be a recluse for the next two years. I'm glad I didn't. [Stone Cold Steve] Austin called me and said, "This is what I did. Don't do it." That's exactly what he did; he became a recluse on his ranch for three years, and he said he regretted it. And thankfully, Haven came calling so soon. I agreed to do it, and it's the best thing I could've done.
My entire adult life, I've had a good time. I did the job I wanted to do. I'm forced to not do that job anymore, but I'm still a creative person, so what do I do? Well, I don't know. If acting stuff comes up, I'll probably do it. I don't think I'll be the guy who's auditioning for a bunch of parts. I still don't have an agent. I don't have a publicist. I don't have a team mapping out things. I've just had fun with stuff so far. That's really the only criteria right now.
GQ: Off the top of your head, what are your five favorite movies with wrestlers in them?
Edge: Well, the first one would have to be They Live. I'm trying to think of some of Rock's. He's been in a bunch, and I know some of them have been good. I liked Walking Tall. No Holds Barred for the sheer horribleness of it. Big Show was in The Waterboy. And then I'm going to go with the one with Adam Sandler and all those guys, The Longest Yard.
GQ: You're not going to put The Wrestler on there?
Edge: Well, it doesn't have an actual wrestler.
GQ: It had Ernest "The Cat" Miller.
Edge: Yeah, like I said, there's not an actual wrestler.