As funny, and as talented as each were, it wasn't until Summerslam 2000's "Tables, Ladders and Chairs" match that the world began to see them as legitimate superstars, and ironically, not until returning from 2003 spinal fusion surgery on his neck, that Edge was given a legitimate chance at breaking through that glass ceiling; the invisible, yet very real barrier that prevented most WWE Superstars from ever taking that final step from Superstar to SUPERSTAR – from valuable role-player to main eventer. The 2003 Edge didn't tap at that ceiling. He didn't ask politely if he might gain entry. He smashed through it, just bleeping shattered it. He didn't take that final step; he pretty much just vaulted over everybody. And he did it with a hybrid of tools – ring experience, psychology, humor, physicality, determination – that allowed him to steal just about every show he appeared on. I got to see a few of those matches live. I watched many more on television. Hell, I even got to be in one of them – Wrestlemania XXII, where the Edgester wove his magic spell on a clearly out of shape, past his prime relic of a by-gone era and allowed him (meaning me) to have that one elusive great Wrestlemania moment.
I had no doubt at the time, 2006, that Edge was the number one wrestler in the business. I think one could put up an argument that he was the number one wrestler for a period of time during any one of a number of years. His matches with the top WWE stars of his era – The Undertaker, Triple H, Rey Mysterio, Randy Orton, John Cena, etc. etc. – are the stuff of legend. If there is any weakness to an argument for Edge, it is that he did amazing matches with such regularity that I'm not sure fans could completely appreciate just how amazing they were. Following my Mania match with Edge, I spent a LONG time in bed, caught a late flight, and made it home just in time to see Edge on Raw, stealing the show again – less than 24 hours after stealing the biggest show of the year.
I don't know if there will ever be a consensus on who the best wrestler or worker of that era (call it 2003-2011, starting and ending with the neck injury) is or was. I once said I could make a good argument for Shawn Michaels - and I can. I think I could make a pretty good argument for Kurt Angle. Based on big money matches, some might say Triple H. For pure wrestling, maybe AJ Styles or Samoa Joe, or any number of Japanese stars who have flown beneath the mainstream radar.
But look at the other attributes that Edge brought to the table. A willingness to fully immerse himself in every storyline – to make people believe, or at least to believe that he believed. He embraced the ridiculous. He loved the emotional. He thrived under pressure. He stood up for what he thought was best for his characters, his matches, his opponents, and the shows. As viewers, we knew that every segment he appeared in was going to be good. But more importantly, we knew that any segment with Edge had the potential be great. In baseball terms, he was a five-tool player; a guy who could do it all. There have been other five-tool players in the wrestling game – guys who could wrestle, draw money, talk, create characters, be dramatic or comedic. But to me, he was the most versatile, and the most entertaining. So while there may be an argument over who the GREATEST WRESTLER was from 2003-2008, to me, there is no real argument over who was the era's GREATEST PERFORMER. Hands down, it goes to Edge. What an incredible person. What an amazing career.
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