This is not the first time I have written about Adam Page.
A few years ago for WrestleMania weekend, I wrote a piece called “Hangman Rising” about Page’s match with Kota Ibushi at ROH Supercard of Honor XII. Besides talking about the match, I spoke about how Hangman overcame my initial ambivalence towards him to become one of my favorite wrestlers.
That article was published on April 7, 2021 and a lot has happened with Page since then. He became AEW’s first homegrown world champion when he won the AEW World Title at Full Gear 2021. He had two highly acclaimed title matches with Bryan Danielson on Dynamite that finished in the top ten of the 2021 and 2022 Voices of Wrestling Match of the Year polls. And after a feud against Jon Moxley that grew in intensity and culminated in a tremendous (and tremendously violent) Texas Death Match at Revolution this year, Hangman reunited with Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks to the excitement of AEW fans everywhere.
But just as there were highlights, there were lowlights as well. Page’s now infamous “worker’s rights” promo to CM Punk prior to their match at Double or Nothing 2022 set off a chain reaction that led to Punk’s even more infamous “gripebomb” at All Out and the subsequent backstage brawl involving the Bucks afterwards. After he dropped the world title to Punk at DON, Hangman was taken out of the main event scene (he was put in the nascent trios title division with Alex Reynolds and John Silver, then lost to Danielson in the first round of a tournament to determine a new world champion post-All Out). And when he finally did get another AEW World Title match against Moxley in October 2022, it ended abruptly when Page was legitimately knocked out. In a positive turn of events, it became the crux for their incredible feud at the end of 2022 and into 2023, but on a personal level, it’s not fun when a wrestler you like gets hurt.
The most glaring issue for Hangman Page over the past few years though is that despite his championship successes and memorable matches and feuds, it still does not feel like AEW is presenting him as much as they could and should.
This guy’s road to the title story arc began at AEW’s Jacksonville fan rally in January 2019 and concluded nearly three years later. After a cold start, he got organically over with the fans in early 2020 with his beer-drinking gimmick (sound familiar?) and stayed over through a global pandemic that took full crowds away for over a year.
The fans went crazy when he made his return in the Casino Ladder Match in the lead-up to Full Gear, when he won the belt, when he came back from the concussion, and when he reunited with Kenny and the Bucks. The three pay-per-views he headlined as AEW Champion did their record highest buys. When “Ghost Town Triumph” hits, there is always a loud reaction. “Cowboy shit” has become a rallying cry during his matches. People love Hangman Adam Page. A lot of hard work went into that. He should be a consistent focus on AEW programming, right?
Let’s take a look at the numbers.
As of this writing (August 13), Page has wrestled 13 matches this year (12 televised, one house show). That’s not to say he’s only been on 13 shows total; when he’s not wrestling, he’s usually cutting a promo backstage or running in for a post-match brawl with someone. There was also a weeks-long stretch where Hangman was off TV entirely to sell an attack by the Blackpool Combat Club, which contributed to the lack of matches.
Regardless, let’s compare those numbers to some other ones, specifically those of other AEW World Champions.
Jon Moxley has wrestled 28 matches for AEW so far in 2023. Chris Jericho has wrestled 16. Kenny Omega has wrestled 15. MJF, the current AEW Champion, has wrestled 12 matches this year, one fewer than Page, but a big part of his gimmick is that he wrestles as little as he can. CM Punk returned from injury on the first episode of Collision—a little less than two months ago—and he’s already wrestled nine times, more than half the amount of matches Hangman has wrestled in eight months.
All of those other champions that I named are currently involved in a regularly featured storyline. Moxley and the BCC have moved on to a feud with Orange Cassidy and Best Friends with multiple matches so far. Jericho is flirting with joining forces with Don Callis. Omega is also feuding with Callis and his charge Konosuke Takeshita. MJF has the hottest storyline in the company with his friendship with Adam Cole. Punk is wrapped up with seemingly ten different people on Collision. As for Hangman, it’s been nearly a month since Blood & Guts and his only appearance on TV has been giving Jeff Jarrett a Buckshot Lariat. Just a few weeks out from All In at Wembley Stadium and we have no idea what Hangman is going to do on the show.
Again, this is the company’s first homegrown world champion. He was there at the very start of AEW and just signed a contract that will keep him in AEW for more years to come. The Elite-BCC feud was a group war, so it makes sense that Hangman wouldn’t get a singular focus during it, but now that it’s over, it’s the perfect time to elevate Page back into a prominent singles role. Right now though, we’re all just waiting for something, anything, to happen.
Like I said, this is an issue that has plagued Page not just this year, but the past few years. From the time he won the AEW World Title at Full Gear 2021 to when he dropped the belt to Punk at Double or Nothing 2022—a shade over six months—Hangman wrestled 11 times on AEW programming (Dynamite, Rampage, Dark, and PPV). When he wasn’t wrestling, he tended to be in only one segment on the show (a promo, a stand-off, a brawl, a video package, etc.).
Now, isn’t it true that almost every wrestler in AEW tends to be in only one segment on a show, whether they’re a champion or not? Yes. But it still didn’t stop me from seeing the chatter on social media. Hangman isn’t being featured enough. Hangman doesn’t feel important enough. Sure, he’s the champion and he headlined three consecutive pay-per-views that did their record highest buys, but CM Punk is the real hottest star in the company, not Hangman Page. It didn’t matter how great a match Hangman had during his title reign (and he had a bunch of them), it wasn’t enough to shake off the feeling that all of the momentum gained during the chase for the title was not being capitalized on hard enough during the actual reign. It happened then and it’s happening now.
The frustration is two-fold. On the one hand, it’s frustrating because it doesn’t feel like you can point to one specific thing and say, “This is to blame.” You could put some of the blame on Tony Khan because he is the big boss steering the ship, so ultimately, what happens on AEW programming lands at his feet. You could also put some of the blame on Hangman for maybe being too complacent with where he is and not throwing more weight around; politicking is how wrestling stars often stay stars, after all. The still unresolved animosity between Page and CM Punk is a whole other kettle of fish that would warrant its own article. Recently, Dave Meltzer reported in his Daily Update that Hangman was sent to Greensboro, North Carolina, where the most recent AEW Collision was held to do a pre-tape but was not allowed in the building. If Punk has that kind of power, then that is another hurdle, but if the plan is to keep The Elite and Punk sequestered from each other on their respective shows, then why not just use Hangman more on Dynamite and not bother with Collision?
The other frustrating thing about all of this, and I really can’t stress this enough, is just how talented Page is. Of his 13 matches this year, Cagematch users have rated seven of them at an 8.0 or higher, with the Texas Death Match against Moxley currently sitting as the 10th highest-rated match of 2023 (it is #3 on my own MOTY list). He can be terrific in the ring, but he can hold his own on the microphone as well. Go watch his “I am a man” promo in the lead-up to the first Mox match last year, or the promo he cut a few months afterwards about how he couldn’t remember his son’s name after he got knocked out. You can feel the passion and the raw emotion coming through the screen. His “Ghost Riders in the Sky” entrance at Revolution amplified the gravitas of his normal entrance tenfold and felt massive.
Even a blind man can see that Hangman Adam Page has all of the tools to be a Star with a capital S in AEW—the talent, the voice, the look, the presence. It worked in 2021, it worked again with the Moxley feud, and I hate hate HATE that I have to even wonder why AEW is not constantly presenting him this way.
But wondering is all I can do. I can’t barge into Tony Khan’s office or knock on Page’s front door to demand answers (unless I want to get slapped with a restraining order). Writing this column will have to suffice. I just hope that AEW realizes what they have with Adam Page. They have to capitalize on him sooner rather than later. The company will only be better off if they do.
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