To celebrate the upcoming WrestleMania Weekend, Voices of Wrestling contributors were encouraged to write about a past WrestleMania Weekend match.
The goal of the project was to find, discover and write about matches that resonated with our contributors for whatever reason, whether it be a great match, a memorable live experience, a personal connection or, even frustration.
Please enjoy this series and all of Voices of Wrestling’s WrestleMania Weekend coverage.
Adam Page is one of my favorite wrestlers.
He has kickass matches, a tremendous theme song, a sharp sense of humor, and as a fellow anxious millennial trying to find his way in the world, I find him to be quite relatable. I’m invested in Adam Page’s story and look forward to watching him every time he’s on my screen.
But that wasn’t always the case.
For a long time, I was not an Adam Page fan. That’s not to say I hated him, or even disliked him; I just didn’t care about him. I didn’t pay particular attention to his lengthy storyline involving The Decade in ROH, and when he joined BULLET CLUB in 2016, adopted the “Hangman” moniker, and started appearing semi-regularly in New Japan, he didn’t exactly light my world on fire either. I thought he was a decent little wrestler who was clearly overshadowed by his superior stablemates in Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks. (How prophetic those thoughts would be given Page’s overarching story in AEW.)
2018 was the year that turned me around on Adam Page.
Being the Elite was a big help. Whether you like BTE or not, you cannot deny the importance of that show in getting Adam Page over with The Elite’s fanbase. It allowed him to show off his natural likability and humor, and as his role on the show grew, so did my fondness for him.
What also helped tremendously was Page being featured much more prominently over the course of 2018, especially in New Japan. Thanks to the Kenny Omega vs. Cody feud that year, Page’s role in BULLET CLUB went from being Yujiro Takahashi’s World Tag League partner to Cody’s Virginian capo; as a result, he headlined night one of Wrestling Dontaku 2018 against Omega in his first NJPW singles main event. Page also wrestled his first singles championship match in New Japan that year against IWGP U.S. Heavyweight Champion Jay White, and was part of the 2018 G1 Climax, where he scored wins over NJPW veterans like Minoru Suzuki and Togi Makabe.
It wasn’t just the fact that Page was given more to do that made me take notice, it was his effort as well. Whenever he was put in a high profile situation, Page didn’t let it go to waste; he busted his ass to put on the best performance that he could, and more often than not he succeeded. Instead of shrugging my shoulders at an Adam Page match announcement, I was rubbing my hands together in anticipation. Seeing the greater reactions he was getting from fans on both sides of the Pacific at the time, I knew I wasn’t alone.
Which brings me to his match against Kota Ibushi at ROH Supercard of Honor XII on April 7, 2018.
The growing tensions between Omega and Cody had not only caused a fissure within The Elite, but it had also reunited the Golden Lovers, Omega and Ibushi’s celebrated tag team, after over three years apart. With Omega and Cody set to collide at Supercard of Honor, it only made sense for Ibushi and Page to wrestle each other on the show as well.
Page comes out first to the BULLET CLUB theme. We’re still a few months away from him getting the incredible “Ghost Town Triumph” by Vincent Pedulla as his entrance music. He gets a decent amount of cheers despite being the heel, which isn’t shocking given the amount of BULLET CLUB and Elite shirts that are in the crowd. Whatever pop he gets though is eclipsed by Ibushi’s, as he gets a really loud reaction from the 6,100 fans at the UNO Lakefront Arena in New Orleans.
The first few minutes are Ibushi using his speed and sharp kicks to get the better of Page. Even when Hangman tries to show off with a front handspring kip up or a running Shooting Star Press, Ibushi is quick to put him in his place.
Page takes the advantage with a hangman’s (no pun intended) neckbreaker on the middle rope. He starts targeting Ibushi’s neck with forearm shots as the crowd boos. “It’s so rare that Page gets booed these days,” notes Ian Riccaboni on commentary, a nod to Page’s growing popularity. Hangman continues to go after Ibushi’s neck, while also showcasing his farm strength with various slams and suplexes.
It’s not long before Ibushi fires back with his usual pizazz, sending Page to the outside. He hypes the crowd up to their feet in anticipation of his iconic Golden Triangle Moonsault… until Page hops on the apron and stops Ibushi from hitting the move. The fans do NOT like that, as Hangman basks in the massive jeers. He tries for his running Shooting Star Press off the apron, but Ibushi moves out of the way. After a brief tussle, Page tries to take a, ahem, page out of his opponent’s daredevil playbook and do a moonsault off the barricade…
…and then Ibushi jumps up behind him, launches Hangman off the barricade with a snap German suplex, and Page lands RIGHT ON HIS NECK!!! It’s the spot of the match that elicits a huge roar from the crowd and a very appropriate “Holy shit!” chant.
Ibushi climbs back into the ring as the fans start slapping the barricade with calls of “This is awesome!” and this time he connects with a picture perfect Golden Triangle Moonsault to the outside, rolling through onto his feet. Incredible.
Ibushi and Page get back in the ring, where Ibushi tries to hit the lawn dart into the corner. Page counters and hits Ibushi with a Bastard Driver (one of Ibushi’s own moves) that drills Ibushi’s neck directly into the mat. “OHHH” goes the crowd as referee Paul Turner counts 1… 2… Ibushi kicks out at 2.9!
Hangman sets up the Rite of Passage, but Ibushi fights him off, sends Page to the apron, and hits a sweet overhead kick. He tries to continue the neck-for-neck war by piledriving Hangman on the apron, but Page back body drops him over and hits a BEAUTIFUL Orihara moonsault to the crowd’s delight.
Rolling Ibushi back into the ring, Hangman calls for the Buckshot Lariat and he nails that sucker, flipping Ibushi inside-out. 1… 2… 2.9 again! Remember, this is before the Buckshot replaced the Rite of Passage/Dead Eye as Page’s main finisher.
Page tries once again for the Rite of Passage, but Ibushi rolls through into a series of pinfall attempts that lead to Ibushi hitting what I can only describe as a deadlift single-leg German suplex. I think. You have to see it. Ibushi gets a close two-count as the fans start chanting “Fight forever!”
The two men throw away the grandiosity as the match devolves into an exchange of heavy forearms. As Page starts throwing some serious weight behind them, the blows making a nice loud smack, the valiant Ibushi actually starts calling for more! The encounter devolves even further into a full-blown slap fight as the crowd rabidly cheers them on. Ibushi runs off the ropes and eats a nasty discus forearm from Page, but he is able to shrug it off and clip Hangman in the head with a roundhouse kick.
“Ibushi! Ibushi!” chants the crowd as Ibushi signals for the end. He hits a BIG Last Ride Powerbomb on Page—who kicks out at the last second—then immediately grabs Page’s wrists for the Kamigoye. Hangman barely avoids the knee strike, swings for a lariat, and Ibushi ducks and hits a straightjacket German suplex.
1… 2… Page kicks out at 2.9 again! But the end is nigh, as Ibushi maintains dual wrist control and smashes Hangman in the face with the Kamigoye. 1… 2… 3! Ibushi wins as the crowd erupts.
14-and-a-half minutes of heated action, big spots, and a crowd eating it all up. What a great match.
That’s what WrestleMania Weekend is all about. It’s a place where a wrestler can have a standout match, turn some heads, and make people take notice, even if it takes that wrestler years to finally do so.
I think back to an old episode of Jay Mohr’s podcast Mohr Stories with one of my favorite comedians, Patton Oswalt. A fair amount of their conversation was about Last Comic Standing, a stand up comedy competition show that Mohr used to host and produce. Oswalt was not a fan of the show, and one of his critiques was that LCS, along with similar shows like American Idol or Top Chef, would lean heavily into the notion that “sometimes talent just comes out of nowhere.”
“Well no, that’s not true,” said Oswalt. “Because everyone who has ever won on American Idol has ten years of experience as a professional singer. They’re not stars, but they are session singers, they sing professionally…”
At the time of Supercard of Honor XII, Adam Page was a ten-year veteran who had wrestled on Mania Weekend shows plenty of times before. This was not his first rodeo. But it took a while before he had the right match—this match—that made me pay attention to him. Sure, you’ve got one of the best wrestlers in the world in Kota Ibushi there too, but Page more than held his own when it came to showing fire, fluidity, and a desire to go all out in a big-time spot.
It’s without question that Kenny vs. Cody was the match that helped ROH draw its largest attendance at the time (only bested by the G1 Supercard show with New Japan the next year), but to me, this match has its own historical importance: it put Adam Page on the map as a future star in wrestling.