Why 'Hangman' Adam Page NEEDS To Win At AEW Full Gear 2021
AEW have crafted a rich, detailed story and they cannot risk overcomplicating things now
As wrestling fans, we tend to look for clues in the big ‘go-home’ show before a pay per view. The traditional theory is that a wrestler who appears to have the upper hand is less likely to win at the weekend.
The end of this week’s AEW Dynamite was not subtle in that regard.
As Kenny Omega signed the contract in Adam Page’s blood, the message was clear. This is a dominant champion and his opponent has no chance, which in wrestling parlance means: the champion is probably going to lose the belt.
Of course, that segment wasn’t the only indicator of a Hangman victory. The challenger’s entire story - arguably stretching all the way back to his loss to Chris Jericho at All Out 2019 - seems geared towards a moment of ultimate triumph on Saturday.
But this is pro wrestling, and we’ve seen plenty of obvious victories denied before. It can happen for a variety of reasons. Some outcomes are warped by backstage politics, others by the industry’s insular obsession with ‘working the marks’.
Sometimes, though, the bookers are simply trying to be too clever.
In fairness to AEW, the promotion has never been afraid of giving us a straightforward result. Tony Khan and co. usually recognise that moments of real joy are a powerful force in wrestling, regardless of how predictable they may be.
My gut feeling is that Page will absolutely win the AEW World Championship at Full Gear. Like most people, I think it’s actually pretty likely. But in wrestling, you never quite know for sure.
In my opinion, it’s very important that Hangman beats Omega, not just for AEW’s sake, but for the wrestling business in general. In recent years, we’ve seen something of a regression in terms of storytelling, especially in major promotions.
WWE are the prime example. Aside from matches involving a select few, such as Roman Reigns or Brock Lesnar, the company’s booking floats casually from one Network Special to the next. Feuding Superstars face one another countless times before their actual pay per view showdown, often avoiding all other roster members for weeks on end. Storylines are dropped and forgotten halfway to completion, or continue for far too long with no drive or direction, seemingly because WWE can’t think of anything else to do with the wrestlers involved.
But this isn’t just a WWE problem; until recently, New Japan was the place for compelling storytelling. For most of the previous decade the promotion was leagues ahead of its competition in terms of complex, slow-burn booking decisions. Disappointingly, they’ve also since suffered a creative downturn, unable to rediscover their mojo post-lockdown.
So in terms of the few companies at the top of the industry pyramid, AEW stands pretty much alone when it comes to consistently great booking. Their creative decisions have largely been very good, although a few missteps have been made along the way. Then again, who doesn’t falter from time to time, especially such a young promotion?
On the other hand, AEW has fallen victim several times to the booking pitfall mentioned earlier: trying to be too clever.
Yes, if there’s one key flaw that continues to rear its head from time to time, it’s AEW’s tendency to overcomplicate things, particularly when the big names are involved.
The Young Bucks’ highly-anticipated feud with FTR was hamstrung by needlessly muddled face/heel dynamics, as well as a stipulation that telegraphed the result of their eventual title match. Likewise, Chris Jericho’s feud with MJF should have surely ended with the latter’s victory at Blood and Guts, rather than the veteran’s needless revenge at Double or Nothing. (And further needless revenge at All Out.)
Prolonging Hangman’s quest for the title would definitely fall into a similar category.
Some might argue the value of having our flawed hero fail at the first attempt, increasing the glory of his eventual triumph. But I think in doing so, AEW would risk adding another layer to a story that doesn’t need any more.
That’s because the tale of ‘Hangman’ Adam Page is already epic enough. He’s lost the most important matches of his career, been spurned by his friends, and has fought back with the help of the Dark Order - all while proudly wearing the label of ‘Anxious Millennial Cowboy.’ In a world of brave superheroes and over-the-top machismo, Page is the perfect self-deprecating modern protagonist.
Hangman’s complicated ascendance isn’t just impressive because of its content, but its quality. Real effort has clearly been invested in making the story a relatable one, and Page himself must be commended for playing the everyman hero to a tee. At times, it’s felt like a throwback to the exploits of Dusty Rhodes and Magnum TA (and was probably engineered with such figures in mind, at least partly.)
But simultaneously, it also feels brand new. I can’t think of a modern storyline in Western wrestling with the same level of detail, patience and vulnerability. Now that it’s reaching its endgame, we’ll likely be left wondering why such booking isn’t more common.
That’s why I believe a Hangman loss would be a huge misstep, even if he goes on to win a tainted rematch down the line. If Page beats Omega on Saturday, once the initial jubilation has died down, an awful lot of us will be reflecting on what we’ve just witnessed - not only the match itself, but the entire journey preceding it. Its success could well spark a new trend of booking, where future storylines are undertaken with a greater sense of care and ambition.
I may be overly-optimistic in thinking so, but it’s certainly a future I’d like to see in wrestling, and one I do believe Hangman’s story could be a catalyst for.
But that’s only a possibility if the tale is brought to a satisfying conclusion, with Page walking out of Full Gear as AEW World Champion. There’s a lot riding on this one.