Hangman’s Tale

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‘Hangman’ Adam Page is someone people often point to when they talk about success stories in AEW.

Coming into the business, I don’t recall many people who circled him as someone who would be closing PPVs, holding world championships, and helping change the layout of the business as part of one of the fastest rising companies in the modern era. As we’re now five years, a few title reigns, and a new contract into Hangman’s AEW career, it feels like the right time to take a look at his journey, and assess where his character is currently at. 

For the first few years in AEW, we all know what the focus of Page’s character was: trials and tribulations with The Elite, discovering who he was as a champion, and learning to trust again. I don’t feel the need to go over this in too much detail for this character analysis – we’re all familiar with the ins and outs of his ascension in Bullet Club, his part as a core member of the Elite, and how he came to be separated from them before last year’s reunion. 

Something I do want to discuss though, is how Hangman’s choices in 2022 and character portrayal in 2023 has led to where we are now. In 2022, we saw him defend his AEW World Championship against CM Punk at Double or Nothing. Within this match, Page made the decision to not use the belt to cheat, ultimately leading to his fall from grace as the top guy in the company. 

This fateful decision led to a rocky time in AEW for Hangman. At times, he felt directionless, unsure of himself and where he belonged in the company. He was working with the Dark Order periodically, but it seemed to many that he was no longer focusing on holding a singles title – even as he racked up some singles wins, he never addressed being a contender for the top belt. 

In fact, Hangman wouldn’t go after any gold again until forced into a corner and choosing to help the Dark Order in the finals of the Inaugural Trios title tournament against the Elite. A loss here (and unfortunate aftermath) once again saw Hangman floating around. 

That was until the quite incredible, several month long feud with Jon Moxley. Their match in October 2022 saw Hangman suffer a concussion, which incidentally gave the story a new life, and led to some top tier promos and match ups between the two. The Texas Deathmatch at Revolution 2023 is quite the match to circle in their feud – to many, this felt like the closing chapter between these two for the time being. The match was bloody, gruelling, and ended with Page quite literally choking Moxley out over the top rope with a chain. However, when I watched Moxley’s post-match promo, something didn’t feel quite right. It felt like he was far from done with Adam Page, and he was going to be bringing the BCC along for the ride. 

What a ride it ended up being. 

Two weeks post Revolution, The BCC had defeated Hangman and the Dark Order in a trios match opening Dynamite. Many eyes were then on the main event following this, which just so happened to be another trios match featuring The Elite, The Jericho Appreciation Society, and The House of Black. During this main event, there was a cut to backstage where BCC and Hangman and the Dark Order brawled around the arena, and as the match ended, it spilled out to ringside. The brawl was chaos, but the moment of focus here is one of those infamous images of the Elite – Hangman stood on one side of the ring, with Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks on the opposing side. It felt like a flashback to Revolution 2020, where the image was the same after their tag match. The energy felt very different here, though – in 2020, it felt like the real beginning of the end. In 2023? For many of us, it felt like hope. Like a reunion was closer than we could imagine. 

For the weeks following this, there was a lot of chaos centred around Hangman, the Dark Order, and the Elite. Don Callis mercilessly betrayed Kenny Omega during his cagematch against Moxley, touting Konosuke Takeshita as his new golden boy and the ‘Alpha’. The BCC were running rampant in the promotion, targeting the Elite and anyone associated with them. Tensions rose between Hangman and the Dark Order, as he tried to shield them from the chaos BCC was creating. 

Everything changed on May 17th, 2023. On that Dynamite, Kenny Omega came out to confront Don Callis once again. He was attacked by the BCC, led by Moxley, who cut a scathing promo saying they were “who everyone in the company pretended to be”, touting them as the real elite of AEW. 

Kenny Omega was not alone though. 

The Young Bucks (having been attacked in the parking lot earlier in the night) came out to join him, and were followed by none other than Hangman Adam Page. The four of them rushed the ring, and stood together in the ring, Hangman proclaimed “we are the heart, we are the soul, we are the spirit of this place. We are, the ELITE,” to thunderous approval from the crowd. 

Now reunited in full, the feud went through Anarchy in the Arena, where the BCC triumphed over the Elite. It didn’t end until Blood and Guts, where we saw the AEW debut of Kota Ibushi and the Golden Elite, where the team finally bested the BCC and closed the chapter on this gruelling feud. 

For a few months, we saw Hangman with the Young Bucks in various trios action, and a short stint with the ROH six man tag titles. After this, it felt like all the members of the Elite were dealing with their own issues, and though there was no break up after the trio’s match at All In, it was clear they each had different matters to focus on. 

Now looking at Hangman’s character progression since September, 2023, it was clear to me that he was on a course to a new role we haven’t seen him play in AEW – an unhinged, obsessed heel with only one goal in mind. Coming in hot to the feud with Swerve Strickland, it felt like an inevitability that Swerve’s rise to stardom in the company would be the thing to finally tip Page over the edge…

…and over that edge, did he fall. 

Despite all the heinous acts Strickland committed throughout the early days of this feud (that he continuously owns up to!), the crowd had chosen their side. There was love for the cowboy still, of course, but to the AEW audience? Swerve Strickland is their man. The uncrowned champion. Next up, if you will. It drove Hangman mad. Week on week, it became abundantly clear that he could not cope with how forgiving the crowds were of Strickland, how easily they forgot his brutal behaviour. Every “SWERVE’S HOUSE” echoing chant became nails on a chalkboard for the cowboy. 

Losing to Swerve on two PPV’s in a row, in a normal match up and a Texas Deathmatch, was the beginning of the end for the Cowboy’s sanity. Even after being bested at Full Gear, Hangman could not move on from Swerve Strickland. This much was evident in the early months of 2024 – following Strickland’s stand out run in the Continental Classic, he felt primed to come face to face with the new AEW World Champion, Samoa Joe. 

Hangman wouldn’t let this happen without his involvement, though. Swerve had made it a point throughout their feud that he wanted to fully take over Hangman’s place in the company, and honestly to this point, he had been successful in that. He’d beaten him in a straight up wrestling match, he’d beaten him in a Texas Deathmatch, hell, Swerve had even gone through the saga of holding the AEW tag championships with a friend then turned foe. The two really did have somewhat of a similar story. 

At this point, Swerve was taking even more from the Hangman – the crowd’s admiration. As previously mentioned, the AEW audience had chosen Swerve as “the one”, which is a role Hangman had held for a very long time in the company. Coming to their renewed feud in the title scene, vying for a match against Joe, the two wrestled to a time limit draw on Dynamite. When Swerve asked for just five more minutes, to see who truly was the best and deserving of the title match, Hangman refused, and was rained down with boos. 

This led to the final chapter of their story as this time; the two partook in a triple threat match at Revolution against world champion Samoa Joe, and Hangman’s performance in this was really quite special from a character perspective. 

Hangman did quite literally everything in his power to prevent Swerve from winning the title. He used the belt to hit multiple people, he attacked referees, and in the closing stretch, he tapped out to Joe to prevent Swerve from breaking up submission and continuing the match. It felt like a direct opposition to Swerve’s character development, as he actively threw out Prince Nana’s headband and chose not to cheat, a trait we have not seen from the man before. The double turn was in full effect, and they played it perfectly in this match. 

It was really a sight to behold, and felt like a genuine callback to a moment previously discussed – Hangman finally gave into using the belt to cheat in a title match, the previous decision that really is the one that started out this rolling character development. 

Where does that leave us now? Hangman has been taking some personal time off from the company, and we finally seem to be drawing closer to a return. What’s next for Hangman Adam Page? With Swerve Strickland having toppled Samoa Joe at Dynasty and now being the AEW World Champion, will he still be pursuing the man who drove him to madness? Or will the Cowboy have other plans in mind? With Swerve having difficulties with the New Elite, and Blood and Guts looming around the corner, I think it’s unavoidable that these two end up feuding throughout the summer. 

In fact, I believe Page’s return will see him tear through the Owen Hart Cup tournament, stopping at nothing to get to that Wembley Stadium main event. For what could be a sweeter revenge for a madman than tearing your foe’s success away on the biggest stage of them all?

One thing is for sure though. We are in a new era of the Hangman’s tale, and it’s shaping up to be one hell of a journey. I know I’ll be along for the ride.

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