Speculation around whether or not the debut of one of WWE’s most recognisable superstars of the past 20+ years inside of an All Elite Wrestling ring would actually take place had been building up for months prior to announcement at All In 2023 that AEW WrestleDream, an event CEO Tony Khan would go on record the week prior saying that “a new era in AEW will begin at WrestleDream”.
Rumblings would begin within the professional wrestling world as to what that statement would be in reference to. With Khan explicitly stating that WrestleDream was being held in honor of legendary Japanese promotor & founder of New Japan Pro-Wrestling Antonio Inoki, the dominating theory was that the Jacksonville-based company could potentially have been purchasing the internationally acclaimed promotion, further expanding the growing portfolio of the Khan Family.
Even with this rumour dispersed by Tony Khan himself, as well as the announcement that Christian Cage would be defending his now-legitimately won TNT Championship against Darby Allin in the main event of the broadcast, the potential of AEW pulling off another worst-kept-secret scenario akin to that of their CM Punk hiring was still seen as next-to impossible, especially when you consider that Edge hadn’t competed for a company outside of the World Wrestling Entertainment since 1997, prior to initial developmental contract he signed onto the company with.
When the all too familiar, albeit understandably re-recorded lines of “You Think You Know Me?” radiated across the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle Washington, the reveal that the era that Khan would speak of was that of the ‘Rated R Era’ still seemed too good to be true. From the visual of Copeland sprinting across the AEW stage, with his signature fireworks blasting into the sky, it’s time to turn our attention of moments passed and instead ahead to what moment, or more specifically matches, are to come in what could truly be the final chapter of Adam Copeland’s storied in-ring career.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better reason for Edge jumping ship outside of the desire to face up and coming, hungry and fresh competition. When you take into consideration that Edge has faced less than 10% of the contracted AEW talent, without even considering the extended and uncontacted list that help round off the rest of AEW’s parallel programming, it’s easy to see that there are a lot of opportunities for exciting, never-before-seen match-ups to fill the void of any Edgehead. With that being said though, not every first-time match will go down in history as a ‘must-see’ moment in time, and with Copeland’s in-ring days assumingly numbered, it’s important that out of the matches that are left ahead of Edge, the ones that are truly classed as ‘dream matches’ need to be prioritised above the rest.
In reality, with over 100+ talent under the contract of All Elite Wrestling, there are an abundance of matches that could be categorised as dream matches, so allow me to do my best in whittling the number of never-before-seen dream matches for Adam Copeland in AEW down to the Top 10, and with this being a matter of opinion, please make sure to let me know your 10!
#10 – JON MOXLEY
I’ve decided to take the approach of considering a range of different factors when it comes to determining what constitutes a ‘Dream Match’ for Edge. Whilst it’s easy to say that Dream Matches are technically proficient and exemplary bouts that will life through the annals of professional wrestling history for their dramatic moves, near falls and back and forth action, it’s important to remember that professional wrestling hasn’t been as focused on ‘best bout machines’ and ‘star rating systems’ in the sport’s history as it is now. It’s with this in mind that I argue that Jon Moxley, a competitor still regarded highly for his performances in the ring, even if his actual prowess inside the square circle is questioned when compared to his fondness of blood-loss, is to be considered a dream match for Edge.
Whether it be the parallels of the characters’ love for putting their own bodies through torture simultaneous to the body of their opponent, or the sheer desire to watch two physical and violent wrestlers battle it out, one of the biggest factors that makes this match intriguing is that Moxley is the only member of the now-iconic WWE stable, The Shield, that Edge hasn’t faced inside a professional wrestling ring. The former ‘Lunatic Fringe’ Dean Ambrose had left the WWE in April of 2019, 9 months prior to Edge’s in-ring return from career-ending injury in January of 2020.
#9 – RICKY STARKS
‘Absolute’ Ricky Starks has recently been on a bit of a warpath as it pertains to competing against, or at the very light fighting, some of professional wrestling’s legends of the past or present. Whether it was against CM Punk for the Real World’s Championship, Ricky Steamboat or Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger over their legacy within the business or Bryan Danielson over respecting the path that aforementioned legends had paved, Starks’ brash, cocky and confident persona is one that Copeland is all-too-familiar with and one that makes for the perfect foil against an icon looking to test his mettle against.
As Edge knows all too well, being confident at times to a fault is what can be considered necessary to make it within professional wrestling, with Edge’s character shift in the mid-2000s to become the ‘Rated R Superstar’ that would inevitably see him enter the WWE Hall of Fame was one that was publicly despised and later lauded by the faithful audience, and a story of an experienced veteran in Copeland warning ‘Absolute’ of the road that may await him should he follow that same route is one that has all the makings of exceeding any other “Spear vs Spear” match within the company.
#8 – CLAUDIO CASTAGNOLI
Despite being contracted for the same company for a decade, the paths of the men once known as ‘The Swiss Superman’ and Edge never stood opposite one another within the WWE. With the same logic that was used for his Blackpool Combat Club brethren Jon Moxley reversed, the story of the match is no longer the most important aspect of a professional wrestling match, as the desire for high octane action and performance becoming a key desire for the informed viewer.
That’s why it should come as no surprise to see Claudio Castagnoli, a professional wrestler that has been considered wrestling’s most underrated and underutilised talents up until his signing for All Elite Wrestling, making an appearance on this list. If you want to deliver an audience a match that can deliver on every front imaginable, it’s usually a safe bet when Claudio is involved, let alone when you mix that with the wealth of knowledge and in-ring IQ that Edge himself carries. With the only interaction between Claudio & Edge occurring during their respective feuds against Seth Rollins, the chance to offer a classic between two wrestlers that at one point didn’t seem like a possibility is a decision that makes sense.
#7 – BUDDY MATTHEWS
Don’t get me wrong, a feud between Edge and the entire collective of The House of Black is one that has legs based on the constant comparisons that were made between the latter and the former’s run, though criminally short, leading the now booming Judgement Day faction. The reason that I want to focus away from a rivalry that can be easily formulated and solely upon the individual Buddy Matthews, comes down to both what he can bring to a match-up as well as the history between Matthews and Copeland that hasn’t been explored yet.
Is it easy for me to suggest giving an Australian talent the opportunity to shine against an all-time great? Absolutely, but it’s what Matthews has always brought to the dance that makes the thought of a one-on-one match between the two so enticing. ‘The Best Kept Secret’ has always been known for his beautiful fusion of fast-paced offence combined with his freakish strength, the same combination that can help turn a great match into an epic match, especially when combined with Edge’s ability to control an audience through his own skill and talent inside the ring. Add that to the under developed history that exists due to Matthews’ former association with that previously mentioned rival of Copeland’s by the name of Seth Rollins, an association which was on display during Edge’s historic return in the 2020 Royal Rumble, and you’ve got the makings of a story interwoven throughout Copeland’s career twilight.
#6 – WILL OSPREAY
Will Ospreay’s impact on the world of professional wrestling may be controversial, but it’s impossible to deny that he didn’t have a role to play in the overall style of the art that has since become a mainstay in both AEW as well as the independent circuit below it, and when one of the greatest minds in ‘Good Ol’ Jim Ross vocally fantasy books a feud between Copeland and Ospreay, you should take notice of it’s potential.
With both sides of the coin complimenting one another in the years passed, the mutual respect between the pair is evident, and for most that bond is all that it may take to produce at least one match-up between them. However, when you consider the fact that in a similar vein to Ospreay 20 years earlier Copeland had re-invented the business himself thanks to a love-hate relationship with 20ft ladders and controversially launched himself to superstardom alongside his former best friend in Christian Cage, the story has a natural arch that goes further than a lifelong fan having the opportunity of a lifetime against an inspiration. They could even weave the story into that of the Don Callis Family doing battle against a Canadian Conglomerate starring Edge’s former WWE Unified Tag Team Champion cohort in Chris Jericho and his WrestleDream Partner and potential future opponent…
#5 – KENNY OMEGA
Look, I’m no fan of ‘The Cleaner’, but there’s no denying that outside of his role as a founder and as an Executive Vice President, Kenny Omega is one of the faces recognisable with the brand of action that AEW delivers. Another handpicked fantasy opponent of Edge by Jim Ross, it can be argued that if there’s anyone that can bring a near 30-year veteran to an almost Fountain of Youth-inspired performance, it would be ‘The Best Bout Machine’ in Kenny Omega.
Falling under the same mutual respect umbrella that Will Ospreay does, the biggest difference between the pair is the fact that Omega was partly credited for bringing Edge’s love for professional wrestling back after his sudden retirement in 2011, with Okada vs Omega I helping Edge discover not only Omega as a talent, but to be introduced or reintroduced to promotions and wrestlers such as NJPW, AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura. Arguably the biggest name to have never competed inside of the WWE on the market today, Edge vs Omega has the intergenerational billing that more than likely intrigued Copeland about AEW in the first place.
#4 – THE YOUNG BUCKS
Just like their fellow EVP, The Young Bucks are just as polarising, if not more so than their One-Winged Angel delivering stablemate. Whether or not they have or will continue to ‘Kill The Business’ as they themselves put it (satirical or not), it also can’t be denied that as of right now they are the top tag team to have never competed inside of a WWE ring as a unit.
The only way that this dream match occurs however, is if we ever get an Edge & Christian re-union inside of an Elite ring. Now the argument stands as to whether or not this is a good idea for either Edge or Christian, as both are in opposing sides of the same rivalry at present as confirmed by the last edition of AEW Dynamite, as well as the fact that Christian Cage is on a run like no other, seemingly receiving his due flowers after a similar career renaissance that Copeland himself would experience in his own return from injury. It certainly wouldn’t be a bad decision for a nostalgia run of sorts within the company for the pair, as they narrowly missed the opportunity towards the end of both of their pre-injury stints within the WWE in the early 2010’s, and outside of FTR who would arguably give them a better match-up, the tag team match that would have the longest lasting legacy on the careers of Edge & Christian as a tag team today would be that of Matt & Nick Jackson. Keeping in mind the last major ex-WWE name that came through and the boat that was missed to see a story told between Kenny, The Bucks & ‘One Bill Phil’, you’d assume the collective of EVP’s won’t want to miss a chance like that again.
#3 – DARBY ALLIN
Part of what made Edge & Christian Cage some of the brightest and most exciting up-and-coming stars of the Attitude Era were the series of Tables, Ladders & Chairs matches that would become etched in the mind of many of the talent that share a locker room with the multiple time tag team championship pairing. Outside of the matches themselves was the inherent risk that took place within them, with each participant putting their body on the line in more daring ways than ever before.
While some of the participants of those matches are also contracted to the All Elite Wrestling roster, it’s fair to say that their bodies just wouldn’t be able to hold up to that level of danger and physicality. That can’t be said, however, about Darby Allin, who has already been drawing comparisons to ‘The Charismatic Enigma’ and all-round daredevil Jeff Hardy for his complete lack of self-preservation and his desire to completely disregard his own wellbeing. As shown in the match prior to Copeland’s debut, Allin has been finding new ways of making the viewer cringe at his suffering, and outside of the ongoing story that both Edge and Allin find themselves associated with, if there’s anyone that has the ability to take all the punishment of a high-stakes, no holds barred matchup while disguising the fact that Edge’s body needs to be protected at this stage of his in-ring career, that person would easily be the captivating Allin.
#2 – SWERVE STRICKLAND
Quickly establishing himself as a top level talent in All Elite Wrestling, Swerve has quickly established the Jacksonville promotion as ‘his house’, as well as a believable heel foe for Edge to establish himself against early. Whilst there would certainly be concerns surrounding whether or not Swerve could do with coming out on top of a feud between now and then, the talent that Strickland possesses to remain relevant after a string of important losses shows that he’s a talent that Khan and the rest of the team behind the scenes can bank on and say that they trust in delivering the goods when it comes to a pro wrestling programme. Mix that in with his in-ring ability and the effort that he’s made since his release from the WWE, it’s hard to remember that the man once known as Isaiah Scott of Hit Row was once considered nothing more than a mid-card talent. With a story between Strickland & Copeland able to be built off of the back of Edge’s ongoing tale with Christian thanks to the highly touted Coffin Match at All In and all the wrestlers that were involved within it, Strickland could be another launchpad for viewers of AEW to familiarise themselves with Edge once more as he begins this leg of his career.
#1 – MJF
The easiest story to tell for Adam Copeland is that of achieving something that he hasn’t had the opportunity to achieve to date, and while it’s the simplest of tropes to tell, the similarities as it pertains to the morals of Adam Copeland and MJF prove that sometimes simplicity is key.
Both epitomising a metaphorical embodiment of The Devil (no, vampires are not devils) as well as having the ability to incite pure hatred all while having their work appreciated at the same time. Opportunists in their purest of definition, both have made a career out of capitalising on the misfortune of others all for the sake of championships, money and glory. Though both have turned some kind of new leaf when it comes to how dastardly they will act, neither man is afraid to tap into what they deem necessary to win. Who would be the one to tap into that side first and if so, how far would they be willing to go against someone else who is seemingly just as willing?
For Edge, who was the 7th Grand Slam Champion under revised rules considered the ‘modern WWE Grand Slam’ by January of 2006 and in doing so had ‘achieved it all’ within the WWE when championship glory was concerned and after his entire career was taken away from him, the opportunity to capture an industry recognised World Championship that had not been available previously is certainly a goal that played a role in his move to Florida.
For MJF, who has far exceeded expectations set out by viewers upon first introductions and has backed up his own claim as a ‘generational talent’, Maxwell Jacob Friedman has made a career out of moving rung by rung on his way to the top. With big names under his belt the weight of CM Punk, Chris Jericho and Cody Rhodes coming before he had even won the ‘Triple B’, MJF would benefit immensely from working with a talent the stature of Adam ‘Edge’ Copeland.