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As good a writer as he is a wrestler...but...
on 8 October 2009
I bought this because it was by Adam "Edge" Copeland, which sounds like `news from the file marked "duh"' but bear with me. When Edge suffered his neck injury in 2003 he wrote a blog for WWE during his recovery, which was hilarious. Even the more `serious' excerpts were witty and clear without being patronising; so when I learned he'd written a "full" book last year (better late than never!) I got this paperback edition.
First what's good: well, see above. He's a very talented wrestler, and an equally talented writer, especially in the humour dept; (some people try to write "comically" and it comes across as funny as dropping a dumbbell on your foot). I would suggest reading Chapter 22, about the epic quest of "Edge", "Christian", "Rhyno" and assorted others to drive across a frozen Canadian lake in the middle of night to reach Winnipeg: laugh out loud funny! Once "Edge" leaves the squared circle for good, a career as a commentator (a la, Jerry "the King" Lawler or the late great "Gorilla" Monsoon) or as a columnist/writer beckons, a la a certain Mr M Foley.
The other "positive" is that we get a genuine insight into Edge's childhood without any of that misery-lit navel-gazing. There is no self-pity over the fact that his father disgracefully abandoned his pregnant mother, because he eventually got a proper Dad in the form of Mr Reso, the father of Jason "Christian" Reso, Adam's brother in all the ways that really matter. He also doesn't use the book as an excuse to bad mouth others or complain how he was hard-done-by or for (too much) self-aggrandizement
Also like Foley's books it shows the nonsense of the "sports snobbery" that wrestling isn't a "proper" sport and that wrestlers are Neolithic musclemen with the only thing between their ears being their skull. I suspect the spate of wrestling biographies over the past few years has been fuelled at least partly by wrestlers justifiably sick of being portrayed as so dense light would bend around them. "Kane" has a BA Degree in English, for instance and proved his IQ on a "Weakest Link" charity episode for example; Jeff Hardy is a musician and sculptor. Question: which takes more talent, skill and brainpower - to sculpt a large statue or to not bother making up your bed in the morning? I ask because one Tracy Emin got a Turner Prize for Modern Art (= $80,000 USD) by submitting as her entry her unmade bed(!). Yet these are the same pretentious buffoons who depict wrestlers as idiots?!
So what's not so good? For a start, there's the repetition (a good chunk of those wrestling blogs are also in the book). Also, the book isn't reflective but reflecting. Aside from the initial few chapters about Adam's childhood, Jason Reso moving into their town, etc, there is a definite sense the book is being written by "Edge" not Adam Copeland. It is clear that Copeland was reflecting back to the reader what he wanted them to see, rather than actually taking the time to reflect on (what was then) his current situation (in 04) and do a bit of self-examination to think about where he wanted to be - and what kind of person he wanted to be - a few years down the line (which would lead to a terrible lapse in judgement and integrity on his part a few months after the book was originally published (see below).
"Edge" glosses over a lot of the realities of wrestling life - by which I mean the heavy drinking, abuse of prescription medications and `man-slut' goings-on of many of the wrestlers (blading had to be stopped due to the dangers of contracting STIs like HIV via cross-contamination). However, this is only to be expected. Adam Copeland loves being a wreslter. He loves being a WWE wrestler; he has great friends in the business and an eye on the WWE Hall of Fame. No wrestler with any sense, who wants to keep both his job and his friends is going to shine a light into the dark, violent corners of wrestling or set out to hurt friends who confided in him and trusted him to keep a confidence.
The other issue with this is that it is the paperback version, released on 03.01.2006, but there was no update, not even one page, in the paperback version despite the colossal upheaval that occurred in 2005 (see below). It therefore has the same flaw as the hardback original when it was released in Nov 04, almost immediately after the book was written in 2003-2004.
In the Fall of 2004 Copeland's life was in a state of flux - he had been out for months with a serious injury and his marriage of only 2.5 years duration had failed. It thus reads as not an autobiography but as "thinking out loud", it's a collection of tweets before Twitter was invented. It definitely comes across as "incomplete", like it's a novel that ends halfway through. You find yourself waiting for the "second half" to come out to read the whole story, particularly as Adam Copeland was only 30 years old when he wrote it. At the end of the book - which finishes when he's returning from injury and about to marry his second wife Lisa Ortiz in October 04 less than 6 months following his first divorce - you get the distinct impression of over-eagerness, of a defiant rashness to become "king of the hill" again immediately come what - or who - may, which would lead him to betray both his 2nd wife Lisa and his intimate friend Matt Hardy in a profound lapse of good sense a couple of months after the hardback version of the book had been published.
Basically, for those who know no further than this book and the Hardy Boyz book "Exist 2 Inspire" (published 03-04) at the turn of 2005, Adam Copeland was travelling to WWE events with WWE wrestler Amy "Lita" Dumas, long-term partner of Adam's close friend, Matt Hardy (who had a genuine injury). They had a fling, Matt found out, understandably went ballistic - and the WWE fired Hardy, the betrayed victim of the two people, outside of his brother & sister in law Jeff & Beth Hardy, he trusted most in all the world. That encapsulates the biggest problem with this paperback 2006 version because you can't help but know that, so just as when you (re)read Exist 2 Inspire, every mention of the "great" friendship between Adam and Matt is very jarring.
Ironically, the fling rapidly fizzled out, and in 2005, after fan fury forced WWE to rehire Hardy, Matt swallowed his pride and showed he could be a 'team player' by reaching detente with Adam and Amy and allowing the situation to be turned into a WWE storyline (which the WWE outdid itself with in terms of being puerile, distasteful and sleazy). This led to one of Matt and Edge's best one-on-one matches with each other, the Steel Cage at Unforgiven 2005 (at which point Adam & Amy's affair was over, and existed as a WWE work only) - which happened 6 months before this paperback edition was published. Even a minor 'extra' postscript page addressing Unforgiven 2005 would have made the paperback much better - bringing out the p/b version unaltered in 06 was like the Flat Earth Society touting for members the day after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
If all this is ending on a downer, don't let it put you off buying the book - it's worth it for hilarious chapter 22 alone, and if you are trying to engage boys with reading, buying them something like this will help a lot. And quite frankly, Adam paid his debt in full, for his lapse cost him far more than he gained - being the slave not the master of his hormones for a few short weeks lost him his marriage, the regard of WWE fans, the respect of his brother "Christian" and the affection and friendship of a loyal and generous friend in Matt Hardy who would have had his back come hell or high water. I strongly suspect that Adam Copeland would give a great deal to be able to restore that friendship and trust with Matt Hardy. Nor was Matt Hardy himself entirely blameless; back in 1999 Matt's own conscience didn't bother him when he was Amy's "Adam" then, being the guy with whom she betrayed her then partner, leaving him for Matt as she would leave Matt for Adam in 2005. The leopardess didn't change her spots, for she left Edge and WWE by the end of 2005 - to return to the music scene she left for Matt Hardy and a wrestling career 6 years before! Ironically, Amy Dumas is now dating CM Punk, who has had incredible WWE matches over the past couple of years with both "Edge", and Jeff Hardy, Matt's brother. For CM Punk's sake, one can only hope Miss Dumas has finally grown up enough emotionally to have an adult relationship. I know I've struggled to articulate what I mean, but I think the issues I've described above summarise the real problem with this book in that it's too well-written for what it is. You are left feeling like you've been given a salt beef sandwich by a guy you know is capable of serving you a full-on steak dinner with whisky sauce. You are itching to chain Copeland to a chair (down girls) in front of a PC and tell him to get on with the proper autobio you know is swirling around inside that lantern-jawed blond head, a book that, written by an older, wiser, humbler Adam Copeland and not the superficial, egomaniacal, Rated-R superstar "Edge", you just know is going to be one of the greatest wrestling autobiographies ever - sadly, I suspect that just as with other wrestlers, we will have to wait until Adam retires from WWE for that to happen. But I'll be first in the queue when it does.