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Last Shot or Buckshot? Bryan Danielson or Hangman Adam Page

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Hangman Adam Page

On AEW Dynamite last night, Hangman Adam Page made his return to All Elite Wrestling by defeating Jeff Jarrett as the Wild Card in the Owen Hart Foundation Cup Tournament which the winner receives a shot for the AEW Men’s World Championship at All-In at Wembley Stadium.

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Earlier that night, Bryan Danielson punched his ticket into the final by defeating PAC in a very good match. Danielson has made it clear that he’s going to be ending his full time career later in the year, likely at WrestleDream in Seattle. Danielson expressed how he constantly loses and can’t make it to the top of the mountain. It was his reason for joining the Owen Hart Foundation Cup Tournament. Danielson said it might be his last shot, but he planned to make it the best shot he’s ever had.

Hangman Page will be facing Jay White on AEW Collision on Saturday and it’s my guess that Jay White won’t be making it to the final. It will be Hangman Page beating an old rival in Jay White (I have wanted Jay and Adam to have a proper feud ever since Hangman left New Japan Pro Wrestling so it disappoints me they are going to do another one off match instead of a long drawn feud but I’ll take what I can get) to go to the final in Calgary, Alberta to face The American Dragon Bryan Danielson.

The Last Shot of Bryan Danielson

While it has been less than 24 hours since AEW Dynamite I can tell you that people are not talking about Danielson and his chance to win the AEW Men’s World Championship. Despite opening the show, nobody is talking about Danielson in the final. They are talking about Hangman Page’s return and MJF turning heel on Daniel Garcia in the main event.

Danielson is one of the best professional wrestlers of all time and undoubtedly deserves the same pomp and circumstance that Sting received earlier at AEW Revolution for his retirement match. It would feel good for Danielson to win the Men’s World Championship and be able to leave full time wrestling as champion, but that’s part of the issue. Danielson doesn’t really plan to go away. He’s just winding down. He’s already wound himself down a bit. He worked 228 matches in 2013 while in the WWE. He worked 90 matches in his final full year in WWE. Since joining AEW in 2021 he’s only worked 101 matches in the company, with two in CMLL and three in NJPW. He’s already only working a third of his previous output, and once he ends “full time status” that probably means he works under 10 matches per year. But he’s still working.

You don’t have to really go “All Out” for Bryan Danielson right now and have him win the top championship in the company. That said, I’m sure Tony Khan who thinks the world of Danielson wants to see him win the Owen, beat Swerve Strickland for the AEW Men’s World Championship, and have a big celebration for his final full time match at WrestleDream in Seattle. Khan called the Sting retirement the greatest moment in AEW history. Certainly he wants to repeat that.

A Buckshot to a Killshot

The problem is Swerve Strickland.

All Elite Wrestling needed a fresh champion. A new story. Someone that organically grew themselves to becoming a star in the company. MJF and Hangman Page were always destined to be the top stars one day and be World Champion. Swerve Strickland came in after an abysmal run in WWE where they took one of their hottest acts in NXT with Hit Row and fumbled it in record time on the main roster. Strickland never belonged in WWE anyway. The Killshot of Lucha Underground belonged in All Elite Wrestling. His rise has been quick, but it has also been earned. Strickland took losses and kept coming. He kept developing himself, from in-ring style, promos, and even physique.

Swerve Strickland wasn’t hand picked. He forced the hand. And even if you force the hand you need someone who helps you get to that next level. Hangman Page had been a bit of a mess booking wise after CM Punk beat him for the AEW Men’s World Championship back at Double or Nothing in 2022. It was tough to see where he fit anymore, and even though he rejoined with The Elite for Blood and Guts it still didn’t feel like he was on his original trajectory as one of the top stars in the company.

Page could have been selfish and run a 50/50 feud with Swerve. Instead he decided to help make him a made man. Hangman lost to Swerve at WrestleDream. He lost to Swerve in the Texas Death at Full Gear. They went to a time limit draw. Page and Swerve both lost in the triple threat match against Samoa Joe at Revolution, but it would be Strickland who got a number one contender shot and beat Joe at AEW Dynasty. Page said he would do everything he could to prevent Swerve Strickland from becoming AEW World Champion. He also said that about CM Punk. Both times Hangman couldn’t keep his promise.

Those losses helped turn Swerve Strickland into a top star in AEW. Swerve is AEW Men’s World Champion and a very good one at that. It’s fresh and organic. It’s the top star AEW needed. By taking those losses, Hangman Page ensured that him and Swerve are connected forever.

Swerve versus Hangman at Wembley

As Page destroyed Jeff Jarrett in the ring, the crowd started chanting for Swerve. Any excitement they had for an AEW Original just turned into them knowing that this is all about Hangman Page and Swerve Strickland. The one money match AEW has in this chamber is Hangman Page winning the Owen and getting his shot against Swerve Strickland in the main event of All In at Wembley Stadium. It doesn’t matter if Page has been unable to beat Swerve. That’s what the fans crave.

So even if there’s a great story to be told about Bryan Danielson getting that one last kick at the can for the World Championship? 2024 is not the time for it. Danielson is not a more interesting opponent than Hangman Page. He isn’t a better selling ticket. He isn’t any guarantee to be the best match either. Feel good stories for veterans are nice, but as anyone who watched Ring of Honor when they made Jerry Lynn the ROH World Champion will tell you, it doesn’t exactly turn your business around.

Hangman Page destroying Jeff Jarrett after Jeff did a heartfelt video about dedicating his run in the Owen Hart Foundation Tournament to Owen Hart, his good friend before Owen passed away, feels like the right way to go with Bryan Danielson. People are mad and disappointed that Page won, wanting Jeff Jarrett to be able to pay tribute and show that the old man can still go. It’s nice, but it isn’t the story everyone truly wants. People want Hangman versus Swerve.

Last Shot or Buckshot?

At AEW Dynamite in Calgary we’re going to find out if Bryan Danielson will be getting his victory lap towards Swerve Strickland (I should also add that Danielson ending Swerve’s fantastic run will feel just like it did when CM Punk beat Hangman Page at Double or Nothing 2022. It will feel like the wrong guy won and the wrong statement was made) or if Adam Page, after defeating Jay White (if Jay ends up winning this all looks even sillier) is going to get that big marquee match against Swerve Strickland in front of the biggest AEW crowd of the year.

If you have Danielson win, he just eventually drops the belt to whomever and nothing of progress is really made. You have Page win, and if he beats Swerve Strickland you’ve created yourself your top heel in the company at the same time as MJF establishes himself as an equal heel force on the roster. With the goal to extend the Swerve and Hangman Adam Page story, this could allow Strickland to get the championship back at WrestleDream, so the show isn’t just about Danielson’s last match. It’s also about Strickland trying to get his championship back.

There’s more story potential, more money potential, and more progression potential in Hangman Page winning this. It’s not just me liking my special guy. Tough to say which way Tony Khan goes. I just know that while we all love and praise the career of Jerry Lynn, that ROH win is more remembered for how it put Tyler Black and Austin Aries on the backburner instead of what a great moment it was.

Bryan Danielson might be departing from full-time competition this year, but that doesn’t mean it’s the last we will ever see of him in-ring. This isn’t the time to give him the gold watch run. It’s the time to build this company around the stars in their prime. It’s time to build around Swerve Strickland and Hangman Page.

Photos by All Elite Wrestling

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