Phoenix rising: Asheville resident headed for WWE hall

JASON GILMER, The Asheville Citizen-Times

When Beth Copeland became a World Wrestling Entertainment superstar, she looked at baby steps to plot her career path with no thought of lifelong achievement.

Now, though, the Asheville resident who became a multiple-time champion for the sports entertainment company, has received that accolade. It was announced last winter that Copeland, who wrestled as Beth Phoenix, would be one of this year’s inductees into the WWE Hall of Fame.

“With my career I knew I wanted to work for WWE. There was no other company that I wanted to work for. I took my career incrementally,” said Copeland, who was also called The Glamazon during her career. “I wanted to get hired; that’s all I wanted, was to get one paycheck from WWE. Then I wanted to have a TV match, then a match against the champion, then I wanted to be champion.

“When I retired (in October 2012), it was in the back of my mind that maybe I had accomplished enough to be recognized, but I sure wasn’t certain and it didn’t take away from how much I cherished my career.”

Copeland, who moved full time to Asheville with her husband Adam in 2014, won the WWE Women’s Championship three times and was once the WWE Divas’ Champion.

She was inducted into the hall of fame at the official ceremony March 31 in Orlando, Florida, just days before the company’s WrestleMania event, alongside Kurt Angle, The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express, Teddy Long, and Diamond Dallas Page.

She and Adam, who wrestled under the moniker Edge, are the first married couple to be enshrined in WWE’s Hall of Fame. Copeland, who is 36, is one of the youngest performers to be inducted into to the hall of fame.

“I’m obviously extremely proud of her, but not surprised,” Adam texted from Ireland, where he is filming “Vikings” for the History Channel. “Everything she accomplished, she accomplished through her work ethic, stubbornness and sweat equity. She succeeded in a time when it wasn’t in vogue to be a physically strong woman in that industry, when model searches were the flavor of the day, but she busted open those doors anyway.

“I chuckle when I see women’s fitness magazine covers read ‘strong is the new sexy.’ Beth was beating that drum for her entire life. At the end of the day, she was just so talented in the ring. Through the years, the locker room always said you could put her in the ring with anyone, male or female, and she’d have a great match. When your peers in that locker room say that, it’s the ultimate compliment.”

Copeland was born in Elmira, New York, where she was on her high school’s varsity wrestling team. She worked to get into the business and earned a spot on the WWE main roster and hasn’t stopped working. She has received her master of arts in forensic psychology and was accepted in Western Carolina University’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program.

It was no surprise that after the official announcement, wrestlers took to Twitter to congratulate Copeland.

Current WWE superstar Natalya, who was born into the famed Hart wrestling family, was one of many who had nice things to say. Natalya and Copeland were travel companions and became best friends through the business.

“She gave me all the answers to the test, and not very many people do that in our industry because its so competitive,” Natalya said. “What I mean is she helped me in any way, shape or form that she could, even if I were her competition and could take her position. She told me everything she knew — every secret, everything she could give me to help me succeed … There’s no one who deserves the Hall of Fame more than Beth.”

Even though it has only been a little more than four years since she retired from sports entertainment, Copeland doesn’t think much of her past as she’s busy with her two daughters — Lyric and Ruby.

“A few matches stand out to me, but I don’t have the time to sit around reminiscing about matches,” she said. “Fans have been reminding me about matches and sending me photos and it’s been a really nice renaissance for myself and my career. It’s been a nice walk down memory lane on top of being so excited.”

The Hall of Fame couple haven’t had much time to think and talk about the history-making enshrinement. Copeland, then Adam’s girlfriend, was in the crowd for his induction and was mentioned in his speech.

Copeland left wrestling in 2012, opting not to re-sign with WWE so she could move forward with motherhood. Now the couple will share this special moment with their daughters in hopes that it will shape their lives down the road.

“We just feel like, for our girls, we set a good example of what it’s like to go after something you love,” Copeland said. “We came up in humble beginnings and didn’t know anyone in the business and we ended up in the same spot getting this accolade. There’s no dream that is too big if you go after it to get it.”

“She manages our household while I’m playing Viking in Dublin and has set a gleaming example of a woman for our two daughters,” Adam said. “Who cares about WWE Hall of Fame? If there was a hall of fame for life, she’d be in it first ballot.”