by Jon Lane
One year ago, Edge and Christian, two childhood friends, were an up-and-coming tag team in the World Wrestling Federation. But they had yet to win the Tag Team Championship, and they received little to no time to express themselves on the microphone.
Nearly 12 months later, Edge competed in two matches despite coming off a back injury. Rhyno, a close friend of the flamboyant tag team who a year ago was getting his feet wet in Extreme Championship Wrestling, made his Federation debut. And Edge and Christian became Federation Tag Team Champions for a record sixth time - all in one night.
"That's something I thought would never happen," a candid Edge told WWF.com Tuesday in Providence, R.I., before the SmackDown! tapings regarding the prospects of ever being called Federation Tag Team Champions.
More amazing than Edge and Christian's sixth title reign, and perhaps more surprising than the Federation debut of Rhyno, whose interference helped Edge and Christian win the match, was that it was Edge's third match since returning from a back injury sustained at the No Way Out Pay-Per-View.
The morning of the RAW IS WAR show in Albany, N.Y., Edge's back was sore. He described his appearance as "slumped over walking a little funny" while still dealing with the effects of the injury. After applying heat, stimulation and performing various stretching exercises, Edge felt well enough to give it a go.
"I guess maybe this just shows my age!" said Edge, an old man at 27 who added his back is feeling much better, especially if he follows the proper treatment. "Before I would just throw on my tights and go. Now I have to stretch and take precautionary measures before it gets worse."
In fact, Edge ended up competing twice that night. (They lost the Tag Team Titles to the Dudley Boyz.)
"I was fairly happy with my performance," Edge said. "I was tentative. I was a little slower than usual but it still felt pretty good.
"To win the title for the sixth time was amazing. To hold that distinction was pretty amazing. I'd like to think that the WWF said, 'Hey let's give these guys the ball six times and hopefully they ran with it each time.' It's a tremendous honor. Also to have Rhyno involved because we go way back... when we gave him that hug after winning the belts, it wasn't really a hug, thanks-for-the titles thing. It was an, 'Alright, you're here!' type of thing."
Quick to display a sense of humor, Edge pointed out that he and Christian also hold the dubious distinctions of having the shortest Tag Team Championship reign (roughly an hour), and he reminded WWF.com that he is the shortest reigning Intercontinental Champion in the history of the Federation. (Edge defeated Jeff Jarrett at the Toronto SkyDome on July 24, 1999 and lost it back to Jarrett at Fully Loaded the next night.) "Pretty good, huh?"
If you ask Rhyno, he'd rate his Federation debut as pretty good, though he said it could have been better, only because he admits he's very hard on himself. "The promo could have been better, I think," Rhyno said. "It felt good going to the ring. Maybe I was a little too early, but I'd rather be a little too early that a little too late, especially on a debut.
"I was a little nervous, but once I ran out, everything went away. It was fun, it was exciting - old buddies who are good to work with. I'm sure we'll have fun together."
Edge and Christian agreed that if Rhino was nervous, he did a nice job of hiding it. "He didn't seem jittery," Christian said. "He just seemed pretty focused on what he had to do and he was pretty calm and cool."
This in spite of the presence of 15,000 people in Albany's Pepsi Arena. "It's always exciting," Rhyno said. "This is New York. ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) ran through these towns before. A lot of their fan base is around here. It was fun. It's always great when the people react to something you do."
In ECW he was billed as the "Rookie Monster," yet Rhyno has competed professionally for more than six years and currently holds both the ECW World Heavyweight and Television Championships.
Now a full-time member of the Federation, it's another new chapter in the career of a competitor who invaded and dominated ECW with thunderous impact, and who knows he must stay on top of his game to have as much success -- if not more -- in the Federation. "I have to work harder than ever," Rhyno said. "You get to the game, you have to work harder to stay here."
In fact, Rhyno said he was going home to study tapes of WrestleMania's Tables and Ladders, and SummerSlam's Tables Ladders and Chairs matches, respectively, in an effort to learn new things and watch other performers in case he is called upon to work with them. "That way I'm prepared. I know what they do. It's like doing my homework. Maybe I might see a spot in there that we could throw in a match that they forgot about!"
What fans won't forget anytime soon is the exciting and historic turn of events that took place Monday in Albany. It represented new highs in the careers of Edge, Christian and Rhyno while allowing for a poetic reunion before a worldwide television audience.
"It's a nice feeling and it's something to be proud of," Christian said. "To have Rhyno in that, it's great. We've been on the road together for years. We started together, we broke in together and to have him here with us is pretty cool. In my heart we have accomplished a lot and I have a feeling we can accomplish a lot more."