THE CROWD AT Minute Maid Park in Houston counted along as the clock ticked down to zero. Twenty people had already entered the men’s 2020 Royal Rumble match, and the anticipation of who would step out and enter the bout next was palpable.

Almost no one in attendance could have anticipated the shredding electric guitar riffs of “Metalingus” by Alter Bridge, but as Adam “Edge” Copeland ran out of the dugout, the crowd reached a fever pitch. After almost nine years away from wrestling and triple-fusion neck surgery, Edge made his seemingly impossible return to in-ring action. After a moment of intense emotion during which he stared toward the heavens, he charged toward the ring and reclaimed a dream that had seemingly been snatched away for good.

“Once the music hit, and that reaction … I mean, I truly feel like I could have beat King Kong’s ass,” Edge told ESPN. “It was all surreal, kind of like a dream sequence, but everything’s so focused and hyperfocused that I can’t really explain it. But I think when you look at the video of me walking out, I think you see it in my eyes.”

How did Edge, eight years removed from his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame, make his way back to the ring at the age of 46, looking fitter and leaner than he had at any other point in his career?

Strangely enough, it all began after he crashed his mountain bike.

“IT STARTED DAWNING on me that this could be a possibility when Sheamus came to town, and we were filming an episode of his Celtic Warrior workout show. He wants to do different challenging things that he hasn’t done before, and I love to mountain bike. … In the process of doing that — this stupid competitive thing — I’m flying down a mountain, I hit this one jump, and I wiped out.

“It’s a pretty gnarly wipeout. I was going probably 20, 25 mph, landed on these stones, rolled right up to my feet. But I’m fine. I was all cut up, but my neck was fine. Couple that with doing all of these fight scenes over the years on sets — some pretty physical stuff, especially with ‘Vikings‘ — and I thought, ‘OK, I feel really good.'”

Edge wrestled until he retired suddenly in April 2011. Even though the thought crossed his mind time and time again, no wrestler had ever come back from triple-fusion surgery.

“My family doctor just said, ‘Let’s get some pictures on it, just see where you’re at, and we’ll see a spine specialist here in Asheville.’ [I] did that, met with [the specialist]. He said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing. Obviously, it’s working for you,’ and that’s when I floated out the, ‘But what about wrestling?'”

Edge eventually set up an appointment in Birmingham, Alabama, with Dr. James Andrews’ team and Dr. Andrew Cordover.

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