The sudden and unexpected retirement of Edge last week dealt a major blow to the WWE roster.

Not only was the 37-year-old performer one of the most well-liked among the crew, he was a member of that rarefied air at the top of the WWE food chain, a true superstar who paid his dues to become one of the company’s most successful talents.

Edge, whose real name is Adam Copeland, privately had considered retiring in the near future, but a recent diagnosis of an increasingly serious neck condition sealed his fate. To continue to wrestle, doctors warned, would be risking paralysis.

While he may not have gone out on his own terms, there isn’t a much better way to fade into the sunset than retiring as a world champion and successfully defending your title at Wrestlemania.

And it’s more than a little fortuitous that doctors detected the problem before Edge’s next big scheduled bout — a ladder match with Alberto Del Rio at the Extreme Rules pay-per-view.

Edge had said prior to Wrestlemania that 19 ladder matches had taken a toll and that he was relieved he didn’t have to do those types of matches as much.

It recently was determined that Edge, who had been suffering “numbness and uncontrollable trembling” in his arms and hands, was suffering from neuropraxia, a common condition for pro athletes who suffer a severe injury affecting their nervous system.

An MRI taken in Atlanta on April 4, the day after his final match with Del Rio, prompted Dr. Joseph Maroon, WWE’s chief medical director, to deliver the news that Edge “would never be cleared to compete again.”

Too bad also for his lifelong best friend, Christian (Jay Reso), whose long-awaited program with his buddy will now never happen. Christian will be given a chance at the vacant title, though, by virtue of winning a 20-man battle royal last week on Smackdown. He will face Del Rio in the ladder match at Extreme Rules.

Edge, with an incredible 30 championships under his belt during his 13 years with the company, retires as one of the most decorated performers in WWE history.

His spot on the roster will not be easily filled.

He fortunately had been looking toward the future — and life after wrestling — in recent months.

Edge bought a home in the mountains of Asheville, N.C., last year, moving there with his girlfriend and their four dogs.

“I’ve always liked this town,” he said last year. “We walked around the downtown and really got a feel for what it’s like — an old-fashioned downtown, not a super-duper Walmart kind of downtown. We liked the art, and it seemed like it was pretty cool culturally — and we love the mountains and the seasons.”

The Toronto, Canada, native has been living in Tampa in recent years, but said he had grown tired of the heat and the big-city life.

He admitted last year that injuries had taken a toll after 20 years in the business.

“I’ve definitely had some injuries that have shortened my career. That’s part of the reason I bought up here — we want to retire and listen to the wind in the trees, and we want to do it fairly soon. I may have two more years. With each injury, it’s harder and harder to come back.”

He reportedly had saved wisely and invested well.

Even Jim Ross, who initially signed Edge to a WWE contract, suggested then that he consider an early retirement.

“Edge has had significant injuries in his illustrious career, specifically his neck surgery, and if asked, and I haven’t, I would advise him to call it a career sooner than later if he can financially afford it. Too many wrestlers have to stay longer than they need or should because of financial issues, but I would be shocked if Edge even remotely comes close to that syndrome.”

Edge recently told The Charlotte Observer that his wrestling longevity depended on his body and the kinds of matches he took part in, and that he wanted to be able “to function and hike these hills.”

“I might do a sports talk show up in Canada. Maybe working behind the scenes of WWE. Beyond that, writing and illustrating children’s books would be fun.”

Edge’s next big WWE appearance could be in 2013 when Wrestlemania — and the WWE Hall of Fame — is expected to be in Toronto.

-- It’s not often when independent wrestling promotions band together for a common cause. In fact, it may have marked a first last weekend in Orangeburg, when the state’s four biggest groups came together for the induction of the inaugural class of the S.C. Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Joining forces to work together for a common goal of honoring the past is an admirable endeavor, and these groups are to be commended for their efforts.

CWA of Orangeburg, APW of Spartanburg, NCW of Greenville and OSCW of Charleston combined to put on a super event, with David Garrick, a longtime fixture on the South Carolina independent wrestling scene, doing a stellar job in organizing the Hall of Fame ceremony. Champions from all the promotions took part in the event, and the quality of wrestling — and production values — was top-notch.

These hard-working souls put on a great show and deserve your support, so next time they’re in your town, do yourself a favor and catch the action.

-- Not everyone was pleased with The Rock’s performance at Wrestlemania 27.

Bret Hart told The UK Sun that he had hoped The Rock would have been “a little more interesting than he was.”

“I’m sure he could have wrestled at Wrestlemania and he should have done so. The excitement going in to Wrestlemania this year was all tied in with Rock, and when he didn’t actually do anything but stand around and be a mouthpiece all night, that didn’t really work. To me as a fan, if I want to see him be a mouthpiece, then I’ll watch one of his movies. I wanted to see him do some wrestling. I guess I just expected a little bit more.”

Hart also criticized the duration of the Jerry Lawler-Michael Cole bout. He questioned pulling the Sheamus-Daniel Bryan match off the pay-per-view while allowing a match between the 61-year-old Lawler and a non-wrestler to go for nearly half an hour.

“I thought Lawler vs. Cole was built up really well, with most fans wanting to get their hands around Cole’s neck by the time Wrestlemania came,” said Hart. “But I don’t know why they went so long. It’s not a match that needs to go very long. Michael Cole clearly can’t actually do anything. That’s the part I don’t get. It should have been about four or five minutes long max. Sadly going so long meant they really took all the light away from the other wrestlers that earned it through the year.”

-- Kurt Angle announced last week that, after considerable deliberation, he was re-signing with TNA.

TNA is the underdog. I feel I can help them go to the next level,” the former Olympic gold medalist tweeted. “WWE is the top company. But being the face of TNA is great. TNA has so much potential. I believe in TNA. I love Dixie Carter and I am staying.”

Angle, 42, recently pleaded guilty to reckless driving in North Dakota. Under the terms of a plea agreement Angle will pay a $475 fine and will not serve jail time.

The charges stemmed from his arrest last month when he was found by police sitting in his car which was parked on a median. He initially told police that he hit an icy patch on the road, but authorities reported the road was dry at the time.

Angle later said that a text message he received distracted him and caused him to go off the road. He failed a field-sobriety test on the scene and was taken to jail where he took a breath test where his BAC registered just slightly above the legal .08 limit at .083.

Angle was charged with actual physical control of the vehicle while intoxicated, and not driving under the influence.

-- Chris Jericho, who has emerged as one of the final eight contestants on “Dancing with the Stars,” hinted last week that he might be returning soon to the WWE fold.

“When I come back to WWE when this show is done, we can continue right where we picked off. You can boo and cheer and yell,” Jericho said during a video message.

-- Some sad news to report from the independent front.

Indy star and wrestling manager Alex Whybrow, better known as Larry “Sweet ‘N’ Sour” Sweeney, was found dead Monday at the age of 30 in Lake Charles, La. It is believed he committed suicide by hanging himself.

Whybrow, who debuted in 2000 on the Chicago indy scene, had earned rave reviews for his work as a heel manager in Ring on Honor, where he had been favorably compared to Bobby “The Brain” Heenan.

He had battled mental illness and been diagnosed as bipolar in recent years.

Brett Keen, who wrestled mostly in Ohio independents for the Heartland Wrestling Association as Chip Fairway, passed away on April 9 at the age of 38. Keen, who reportedly died in his sleep, was originally trained by Les Thatcher.

Frank Morin, who wrestled as Stinky the Homeless Guy in the Montreal area, passed away April 1 due to complications from cancer. He was only 23 years old.