There are very few feuds in AEW’s brief but eventful history that compare to the war between Hangman Adam Page and Swerve Strickland. At Full Gear, their rivalry produced an instant classic, cementing Strickland as a headline act while rejuvenating Page in defeat. In distinctly un-AEW fashion, they’ve remain linked since then too, seemingly embroiled in a potentially forever feud that could define AEW’s present and future. Certainly, it’s been central to their 2024’s encouraging start.
That was most evident on Wednesday’s Dynamite, as Page and Strickland completed their trilogy. Battling for the Revolution PPV shot at Samoa Joe, this pairing shared a third straight hit, finding a slightly different version of their dynamic along the way. In fact, slightly may seem like an understatement on that front, as this bout and its post-match angle strongly suggest a double turn, embracing the audience’s current investment.
They had some experience strolling down that path however, as this isn’t overly distant from their WrestleDream clash. After all, that match took place in Strickland’s hometown, quite loudly disguising Strickland’s unusual road to that point. It’s easy to forget now but that was actually Strickland’s first AEW PPV singles match, climbing rapidly enough since to virtually erase any prior creative missteps. By contrast, Page has wrestled multiple PPV main events, including the very first AEW World Title tilt.
Just as it was at WrestleDream, the former AEW World Champion’s polish is again on display here too, leaning heel within the match’s rough outline. Granted, that shift feels far less singular than it did in Seattle, but it has the same effect on the match. While he’s been a babyface for the entirety of his run to this point, Page’s work translates to the heel role seamlessly, actively unlocking his usual physicality.
He’s been leaning further and further in that direction as of late also, clobbering opposition and just generally taking an awful lot of his matches. Once again, his aggression draws a similar snap from Strickland, tightening the bout with a visible crunch. The more that Strickland sells, the further that the people sway towards him, and they didn’t have far to travel in that regard anyway. For all those broad similarities to WrestleDream though, this still has a very pronounced personality of its own.
Much of that is simply the setting, opening a television show rather than coming in the midst of an extended PPV. That difference is less glaring in AEW, but it’s still very much present, buying Page and Strickland some time as the audience feels almost grateful for even seeing such a matchup on Dynamite. In fairness though, I don’t think there’s a single AEW environment in which the first bell between these two is greeted by anything but excitement, such is the power of this pairing.
Nonetheless, that extra energy is an important factor over this runtime. Tasked with going the distance over a 30-minute draw, Page and Strickland allow that initial atmosphere to breathe quite a bit, regaining WrestleDream’s striking main event cadence. However, that match reached the finish line at just a smidge over the 20-minute mark, giving this some room to fill. The results are mostly remarkable, combining for gorgeous action throughout as yet again, their extraordinary chemistry takes centre stage.
In fact, I’d argue it’s most apparent here, as this is their closest thing to an “ordinary” match. Not in terms of quality obviously, more in its flavour and framing. This isn’t a hometown coming out party, nor is it a death match masterpiece, it’s far closer to something typical. In bursts, it feels like a glance at the match that in a different place at a different time, they’d have toured the globe with. At other points, it’s outright insane, which is the appeal of such a clean slate.
Then again, it’s not as though this was operating without daunting expectations. Not only was this following the Full Gear epic within their series, it was also headed towards a seemingly inevitable destination. Certainly, there were other results on the table but particularly in the opening slot, this felt destined for a time-limit draw, with the Revolution triple threat direction being signalled for much of the past month. That’s a credit to the build’s steadiness, but quietly increases the match’s hurdles to overcome.
They navigate that fabulously though, finding a rhythm almost immediately and again making magic. There is something unique about the way that their offence combines, gelling for these stunning sequences that lean more on execution than innovation. The latter is there also of course, it’s just secondary to the sheer timing on display, meeting in the middle for this intoxicating offensive balance. It’s slick but spiteful, both fluid and fiery.
Even still, the runtime does challenge them somewhat, particularly by contrast to WrestleDream. The match escalates organically for the first twenty minutes or so, reaching a natural peak as Page lands a DDT on the barricade. He finds that as a counter to Strickland’s piledriver attempt, one of many callbacks to their PPV encounters. The spot arrives after a superb false finish in centre ring, almost forcing them to reset things afterwards, taking a couple steps back before sprinting towards the finish line.
While harmless, a table mishap doesn’t help either, only adding to their slight lull. Even if the bridge to that point is shaky though, their actual finishing stretch still packs a substantial punch, even finding some late drama with a Strickland ankle injury. The finish is fitting too, as Strickland only unofficially proves his point, coming within a second of beating Page clean. That element of mystery is compelling, also providing the fuel for Page’s continued spiral.
It’s a strong piece of business and electric wrestling television, continuing AEW’s promising road to Revolution. Beyond either of those things though, it’s also just a great match, one worthy of following those first two encounters. Better yet, it takes a fresh look at this pairing, seemingly hosting a double turn and playing with ideas over the extended runtime. With that length comes an admitted bump or two, but it’s an undeniably smooth ride otherwise, further cementing this as AEW’s premier programme.