Hangman Adam Page: Outta Time
“Gone off with the sunrise
Reno never felt so slow
A Wednesday child with a rented ride
And a head that’s full of woe
And I’m outta time
Oh, I’m outta time
Headed down the PCH to that Malibu line
Baby, I’m outta time”
– Orville Peck, “Outta Time”
On Monday morning, technically Sunday night, All Elite Wrestling presented Double or Nothing 2022 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. In the main event, CM Punk defeated AEW World Heavyweight champion Hangman Adam Page.
At the inaugural AEW Double or Nothing in 2019, Hangman Page wasn’t on the main card but he was winning a 21-man Casino Battle Royale by eliminating MJF to earn a title shot at the AEW World Heavyweight Championship on the Buy In. Three years later he was walking into the event as the World champion.
Bullet Club Job Guy to AEW World Heavyweight champ
There was a fear back in September that his story of finally defeating Kenny Omega wouldn’t happen the way we thought it would. That fear would subside at Full Gear when Hangman Page defeated Kenny Omega for the AEW World Heavyweight championship. It didn’t matter if AEW President and booker Tony Khan found his new toys in CM Punk and Bryan Danielson and Adam Cole in the fall when Hangman was off to see the birth of his child. As Tony said, “He’s a big part of AEW, he’s one of our really important stars.”
For a lot of AEW fans (including myself) Hangman Page is the protagonist of All Elite Wrestling. We honestly live vicariously through his victories and defeats. And over the past three years, there’s nothing we look forward to less than the summer. We should have seen this coming. In 2019 he was the blue chipper lacking confidence and lost to Chris Jericho in his bid to become the first AEW World heavyweight champion. In 2020 he was locked in a weird angle where he was back with the Elite but wasn’t and got played by FTR before dropping the AEW World Tag Team Championship to them. And in 2021, he was losing his title shot in a 10 man elimination tag match with the Dark Order against The Elite. It’s often a cruel summer for Hangman Page, and we were a bit blinded by the gold to see this was inevitable.
For me personally, I expected him to hold the AEW World Heavyweight championship until All Out, where he could face MJF and drop the title to the biggest rising heel of the company. It would be the two men who were in the final of the 21-man Casino Battle Royale back in 2019 facing off to decide who controls the company going forward. Instead, MJF seems to be embroiled in a personal conflict over his contract with Tony Khan and might end up out of action due to it.
The Good Guy fighting the Less Good Guys
Even so, the story seemed clear to me at first. Those new toys Tony brought in with CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, and Adam Cole? It was up to Hangman Page to defeat them and carry the integrity of AEW for the original generation. Hangman Page was going to prove that you didn’t have to be in WWE or NXT to be a top star in pro wrestling in 2021/2022. And with wins against Danielson and two against Cole that felt like the case. But looking back, it looks like something else was going on we didn’t realize until now.
Back in the fall of 2021, AEW had built up several strong heels on the roster. You had Miro coming off an AEW TNT championship reign and finishing in the finals for the Eliminator. There is Malakai Black, who was generally successful against Cody Rhodes and built a quick following for himself. Then Andrade El Idolo, who was just as good of a pro wrestler as anyone else on the roster and just needed some big wins to get some momentum for a title match.
Did Hangman Page face these men? No. Instead he faced a Bryan Danielson who just made his debut a few months prior and was now going to turn heel for a program against Page. The crowd did boo him but it was in reluctance. Page and Danielson went to a time limit draw in their first match, with Hangman finally defeating Danielson in the new year. He then faced Lance Archer in a Texas Death match. Archer had been playing a tweener at the time but they randomly hooked him up with Dan Lambert to make sure Archer was the heel.
Hangman’s next program would be against Adam Cole, who despite being a heel gets one of the biggest face pops on his entrance. He also faced him in Orlando, which was his NXT stomping ground. Hangman ended up getting boos in the main event from people who supported Cole at Revolution. This would be followed up with a random World Title match against babyface blue chipper Dante Martin. Page had his rematch against Cole a month later.
Hangman Adam Page vs. CM Punk
It would soon be announced that his next opponent would be CM Punk. While CM Punk was booed when feuding against Eddie Kingston, he was certainly a babyface in presentation (everywhere except Long Island, home of MJF) and is one of the biggest stars in all of pro wrestling. Putting Punk against Hangman would be another babyface for the champion to face instead of the plethora of heels. Oh, Hangman also wrestled Konosuke Takeshita, a superstar from DDT Wrestling in Japan, on a random Dynamite prior to Double or Nothing. Even in non title matches, Page has to work against babyfaces. What’s going on here?
The program between Punk and Hangman started with Punk cutting an innocent enough promo about respecting Hangman and saying this was just business and not personal (not something a good person says but it went over the heads of most people.) Hangman responded back by cutting an obvious heel promo about wanting to embarrass Punk and pointing out a Punk fan in the crowd. The commentary played it up as the champion just being confident. When Hangman and Punk had their confrontation before the pay per view (which wasn’t the main event of Dynamite for some reason despite being to build the main event of Double or Nothing), Punk kept playing the guy who just wants to be champion and has nothing personal against Hangman. Hangman expressed essentially that CM Punk is a snake and that he was defending AEW against CM Punk. “I know what kind of place this would become with him at the top,” said Hangman in the Road To Double or Nothing video.
In their match, it honestly felt like Hangman Page was proving he was the better man. The finish came when the referee went down in inadvertently when Hangman had the match won. He then thought about hitting CM Punk with the AEW World Heavyweight championship which the referee for some inexplicable reason put in the ring. On Twitter in early March I said that Hangman vs. Punk would be a lot like Bret Hart vs. Roddy Piper except it would be the old man Punk having to put the belt on Hangman Page. I guess I didn’t see that instead Tony Khan would do the opposite and put Hangman Page in the role of the old man trying to hold back his darkest nature and CM Punk as the one who outsmarts him. Hangman dropped the title, prepared for another Buckshot, got caught, and Punk won clean.
Hitman Adam Page
While the title reign ended earlier than I thought it would (previously I thought Hangman would have an even shorter reign to drop to a heel but for some reason Tony kept putting babyfaces and heels who got cheered against him instead so I thought it would go longer to prepare for that one heel to beat him but hey) I’m in no way sad to see it end.
This championship reign is going to age very well. When people go back to see how someone was as a champion they don’t look up when their TV segments were. They don’t look up how many times they opened the flagship show. All they look at are the matches. And from Omega to Danielson twice to Cole twice to Archer to Dante and Konosuke and finally against Punk? Hangman Page has a title reign he will be proud of and will stay golden for a long time.
What’s also funny is that Hangman at one point said the match against Punk wouldn’t be another, “masturbatory Bret Hart tribute match“ but his first reign in AEW sure felt a lot like the first reign of Bret “The Hitman” Hart in the World Wrestling Federation in 1993. After defeating who everyone considered the best wrestler in the world in Ric Flair, Bret would take on all comers from Shawn Michaels to Razor Ramon to The Mountie to even The Berzerker, Kamala, and Papa Shango. When Bret finally dropped the title to Yokozuna at Wrestlemania IX, it felt like things were just getting started for the Hitman. Bret would see his title get passed from Yokozuna to Hulk Hogan in a flash and it felt like everything Bret worked for was forgotten under the shadow of Hulkamania. The older superstar returning to take his place at the top of the throne. Sound familiar? Punk still Rules brother!
The Fight for AEW
I’m kidding. Punk ain’t Hulk. But Punk could certainly play Hulk in 2022, the veteran babyface leader of men who eventually twists and turns until the mask comes off and the real CM Punk emerges. The man who signed his WWE contract on the ROH World championship. The Cult of Personality who started a revolution in the WWE just to get to the main event. The man who WWE fans for some reason have built in their head he in some way held back Roman Reigns when he definitely did not. Who cares it works for this. Hangman didn’t put these seeds into the ground. Eddie Kingston did. But Hangman Adam Page can now water them and make them grow to what will eventually be the people versus CM Punk. If MJF is unable to be the top heel in AEW? Let CM Punk do what he claimed to do. Take All Elite Wrestling “to the promised land.” That promised land isn’t going to be pretty, and it’s going to be up to the likes of Hangman Adam Page to take back what’s his. Not just the AEW World Heavyweight championship but All Elite Wrestling entirely. His title reign might be outta time but that doesn’t mean Hangman Page is.
This fight for the soul in AEW isn’t over. It’s just beginning.