The conclusion of Sunday’s AEW WrestleDream PPV had the wrestling world on the “edge” as it saw the promotional debut of its newest acquisition: Adam Copeland, formerly known as Edge. Following his final contracted appearance with the WWE at Smackdown in Toronto back on August 18, speculation began almost immediately on where the “Rated R Superstar” would end up next. Would he negotiate a new deal to remain with the company he’s called home for 25 years or take the bold opportunity to jump ship to AEW?
Of course, fans and pundits alike had their eager questions answered when Copeland appeared on AEW programming confronting his former “brother” Christian Cage and his band of cronies, Luchasaurus and the newly-turned Nick Wayne.
Despite the news of this monumental departure and subsequent signing, there have been more controversial headlines, especially in the world of pro wrestling social media, as some negative attention has been drawn upon Copeland for a perceived “selling out” to his former company’s competition. Many on Twitter have become detractors of Copeland’s AEW run before it has even had the chance to get the ground running. Look no further than our article by SlamWrestling.net’s John Powell about Copeland defending his jump to AEW; the die-hard WWE-stans made it quite clear they think Copeland is a traitor and betrayed the company’s loyalty.
There’s a lot to take in there. I believe in loyalty wholeheartedly in my own right, especially when it comes down to things like friends, family, and other loved ones. But when you realize what professional wrestling truly is… it is a business at the end of the day, plain and simple. And I believe that in business, especially the sports and entertainment business, there is no such thing as loyalty.
In the world of professional wrestling, especially with a multi-billion entity like the WWE at the forefront, they have a long track record of sometimes valuing monetary concerns over loyalty between their talents. The WWE has parted ways with many stars over the years, either through mutual agreements or outright firings. Take for example, some of the nastier parting of ways between the WWE and Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and CM Punk, just to name a few. It’s not just blaming the company at hand also, the wrestlers have more than their own fair share of say when it comes to contractual or creative disputes. So why are fans coming at the man formerly known as Edge for his rather peaceful departure from the WWE?
You see it’s not just in pro wrestling, but this translates over to many other sports. For example, I am also a die-hard fan of NBA basketball and I’ve seen on more than one occasion that this league is a business at the end of the day and some franchises are ready to throw loyalty out the window if it means elevating their title hopes or giving the team some new identity. For those that have a bit of NBA historical insight, take the examples of Boston’s sudden dismissal of Isaiah Thomas or the Raptors shipping off long-time franchise star DeMar DeRozan; they were guys that gave their hearts and soul to their respective franchises and were shown the door for the sake of business.
It doesn’t have to be the sports business either, how about the businesses or companies we work for from 9-5 on a daily basis? Sure, you’re an asset now while you’re still up and running, but say you get severely injured or worse, you die, the company will definitely mourn you in the early stages but eventually they can find someone to replace you. It hurts to think about it, but when you really take it in, it’s straight facts and you know it.
Going back to the mundane world of professional wrestling, we have to realize that the wrestlers are simply contracted pawns in a business. If their services are no longer needed, no matter how long they’ve been with the company, they can easily be cut as if their years with the company meant nothing. Poor Mickie James learned this the hard way a few years ago when she was fired from the WWE in 2020, as an alleged mishap by a WWE official saw her belongings delivered to her in a trash bag, to add insult to injury. Thankfully, she’s reconciled with the company enough to appear at the Royal Rumble in 2022.
Moreover, a company doesn’t have to be loyal to the talent, and by law no less, as in the case of most wrestling promotions, including the WWE and AEW, they label their talent as “independent contractors” and not “employees”. As a result, issues regarding health care, pensions, the inability to work for other promotions (in the case of WWE especially), and losing the rights to name/likeness, all come about and that’s just scratching the surface of it all. Sure, the WWE has gone ahead in recent years to take care of some of its wrestlers who have struggled with addiction and sign them up for company-sponsored rehab, but kind gestures like this are merely on the company’s call to make them. They can pick and choose who to help and decide who gets screwed over. That’s the wrestling business for you.
Case in point, loyalty is really a non-existent thing in the world of professional wrestling. We may be led to believe that what we witness in certain instances may be loyalty, but when push comes a shove or when it truly comes down to the business/monetary side of things, this thing we call ‘loyalty’ is challenged. Drawing back to the headline at hand, that being Adam Copeland signing with AEW, fans need to realize it’s not that deep and emotional. Copeland himself made it clear in a thread on X/Twitter, as he showed appreciation for his time in WWE, but was quoted as saying “relationships just grow apart and I feel the WWE and I have just outgrown each other. I wanted to do more. They didn’t have much more for me to do. Simple as that. And that’s OK. I’ll still be watching and still be supporting all of my friends there.”
No better way to put it than that, “relationships just grow apart.” It’s not like the guy isn’t acknowledging the company that helped make him the star he is now or finding ways to slander his ex-employer for the benefit of his new one. This might be one of the smoothest transitions from the WWE to a competitor that we have ever seen in wrestling. No bad blood, no bridges burnt, just a handful of hardcore fans out there who are willing to start drama out of nothing.
Instead of believing loyalty is such a big deal in wrestling, let’s just focus on appreciating what comes ahead of Adam Copeland’s new journey in a new home.