It was the return every WWE fan had been waiting for. At the 2020 Royal Rumble, the countdown clock for the 21st entrant had hit zero and for a brief second, Houston’s Minute Maid Park was silent. It took just five words for everyone in attendance and millions of people at home to erupt in cheers: “You think you know me.”

Edge had made his in-ring return 9 years after a severe neck injury forced him to retire. Although he hadn’t wrestled in close to a decade, Edge, real name Adam Copeland, had been keeping himself busy.

Besides featuring in popular documentaries chronicling his career and being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, he’s made an exciting foray into acting, appearing in the hit shows Vikings and Haven.

Behind the scenes, it’s been less glittering. After retiring, his mother and father-in-law passed within a two-month timeframe. Edge found he wasn’t feeling like himself.

“My depression mechanism was to eat sweets and usually at like 10 o’clock at night,” Edge recalls, painting a routine quite different from in-ring showmanship — chasing after his two toddler daughters, for instance. “I went, okay, I gotta get my butt moving here cause this is not good for anybody…it’s not like I was 320 pounds or something, but for me, I was just not in a good physical place.”

Years later, his WWE comeback became a reality. “I wanted to reinvent kind of the appearance of Edge, but what really triggered all of it was just wanting to be healthy for my girls.”

Since his Rumble appearance, he’s gone on to win a Last Man Standing match at WrestleMania against his old friend-turned-rival, Randy Orton, who he will wrestle again at Sunday’s Backlash in a bout that’s being dubbed “The Greatest Wrestling Match Ever.”

Ahead of the match, Edge sat down with M&F‘s Chief Content Officer, Zack Zeigler, to discuss his return to in-ring action.

M&F: How has your training changed from when you were forced to retire to now? 

Edge: If I got to the gym at all, you know, I was dealing with multiple injuries and just sore and tired. I can tell when it was starting to get to me by photos. I’m like, “Oh, that was like the two years where I just didn’t work out.” And that bothered me.

How did you get back into it? 

I just started putting in the work. We built the gym in the, in the house and then it became, “Well there, there’s no excuse.” Now it’s right there, so I have to do it. There was no complacency. Actually the, the mindset and the switch for me went from “I have to go to the gym” to “I want to go to the gym.” That’s when it moved from motivation to discipline. And once that happened, then everything, the muscle memory, the confidence, endorphins, the everything, are now going again.

And also realizing that with nine years off, my body felt pretty great. So the old aches and pains were pretty much gone and I was able to tailor my workout around certain injuries, but other injuries suddenly weren’t bothering me anymore. That was a revelation.

What was your routine? 

I switched things up and I implemented intervals. I have a whole series of work that I do for my neck specifically and just a lot of things like that. I dialed in the diet and I started using a meal company (Nutrition Solutions). And that was a massive game changer for me because that took all the guesswork out, it took the meal prep out, it took out the hours that that would take, that sometimes you just didn’t get to because you’re chasing around two toddlers.

And then just finding little things here and there because I still like to snack. I found this company called The Cereal School and they make a protein cereal and the macros are great. And then I found this salad dressing company that’s yogurt based called Bolthouse Farms. And just little things like that to keep your sanity and make the diet absolutely maintainable without feeling like you’re robbing yourself of anything.

Were you doing your own routines, where you leaning on somebody else to help you make them?

I’m a research monger. You know, once I set my mind to the goal, then I look to any tools that can help me get to that. So, I have a triple fusion on my neck. [I thought], what do I need to do to try and get my neck to a point where this could be feasible again? And initially all of this started just to be healthy. Then as I started feeling healthy and feeling good, then it became “Wait a second. I think I might be able to do this again.” So it was all a domino effect. It all just started with that initial, “Let’s get healthy.”

What did you do at first to get from being healthy to in shape for the big ring?

At first what I did and leading up to the Rumble, I did my own workouts. The way I would start my is I would always do my core and abs first to get it done, get it out of the way. It also warmed me up, especially the plank routine I do. By the end of that I’m already dripping sweat. That gets everything going, it gets my heart rate up. And what I want to try and do is keep my heart rate high. Obviously, you know, I don’t want to take any breaks, so I start off with the core with abs, with hanging leg raises, with scissor kicks, with ab curl ups. You know, rotation stuff.

But then immediately after that, I go straight into some muscle stuff, but I implement treadmill or rower or assault bike in between each set. So generally what I’ll do is — let’s say it’s chest day — I’ll do a set of chest straight to the treadmill, usually set it anywhere from 10 to 12, slam out, 30 seconds back, another set. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. So it ends up taking about an hour, but it’s an hour of constant movement.

How has everything felt since you got back into the ring? 

All things considered, after nine years off and coming back, so far I’ve felt great and I haven’t had to back off of anything. The only thing I may do is, you know, if I’m doing some landmine exercises, I might be careful with my back land mine exercises the week before a match. Or you know, just certain back exercises are like, “Okay, can’t throw the back out.”

When you get in the ring on Sunday against Randy Orton, you’re going to have your homework done. Are you going to know what you want to get out there and do, and then it’s just about executing?

I’ll have a plan, but again, I have to be in there and in that moment and feel it. And things will happen that I didn’t expect. And then you can use those things. If you’re worried about what you’re going to do next, then you can miss those things and then it becomes just this choreographed matrix fight. And I don’t like that. That’s not going to be my style coming back; I really want it to be physical and muddy and ugly and gritty like sandpaper. I just want it to be rough and to look like two guys trying to beat each other instead of two guys working together to make this fluid dance.