For “Hangman” Adam Page, Saturday night’s All Elite Wrestling heavyweight championship match against Chris Jericho Saturday night at ALL OUT represents the culmination of a long, hard journey to the top of the wrestling industry that otherwise may not have existed without a dick joke and the creative freedom of Being The Elite.
Before appearing as part of the fan-favorite webshow started by The Young Bucks and enhanced by the appearances of Kenny Omega, Marty Scurll and Cody Rhodes, Page was a bright young star for Ring of Honor. He was double-tough and had steadily evolved into a damn fine wrestler but he lacked that special something necessary to break through the glass ceiling and thrive at the top of the card.
That changed when he joined his Elite brethren on BTE and was allowed to let his personality, including some superb comedic timing, to shine. No longer the shy Virginian whose raw athleticism got him over enough to become a midcard fixture in wrestling’s No. 3 promotion, he showcased a larger-than-life personality during an epic story arc with Joey Ryan over which wrestler’s…junk…was bigger.
Increasingly irritated by Ryan’s immense popularity, for which his dong-centric gimmick was responsible for, Page set out to prove he had the bigger package.
If all of this sound ridiculous and not at all what you would expect to fuel a star to world title recognition, hang around.
Pun most definitely intended.
Page would ultimately sink to such depths as to murder Ryan’s character on the show. The comedy associated with his gradual breakdown and the circumstances surrounding it only helped make him the breakout star of the show.
The King of Dong Style eventually rose from the dead and avenged his homicide at last year’s ALL IN, attacking Page following a hard-fought, show-stealing performance against Joey Janela in a Chicago Street Fight. Ryan may have gotten the last laugh but it was Page who emerged from the ordeal with a brighter future than he had entering it.
Page’s rise had nothing to do with the absurdity of the penis-heavy story or the ridiculousness of the payoff. Sure, Page sold some cool t-shirts (still available at Pro Wrestling Tees) based on the story but he gained recognition for a personality no one knew he had.
Page was never allowed the opportunity to demonstrate the sense of humor or the ability to weave in and out of serious and joking the way he was on the show. It is no coincidence that his popularity among fans skyrocketed when he was given the creative freedom to be himself more than just an ultra-serious or nondescript competitor he was early in his career.
As much as in-ring ability and arsenal is key to a given wrestler’s success in this era of professional wrestling, character development and personality will always be the difference between a “good hand” and a potential breakout star. Page needed to prove he could dig deep within himself and present that personality that allowed him to connect with audiences that just being a really good wrestler never allowed him to.
A fantastic promo on The Road to All Out episode seven with the legendary Jim Ross only further suggested this is a young star for whom the spotlight is not too bright, the moment is not too enormous and the historic consequences fit just right.
Now, he arrives in Chicago with the opportunity to make good on his promise from the AEW launch press conference in Jacksonville last January and become the first world champion in company history.
There will be those who suggest he is not ready, or that he is not a big enough star to reign as the first AEW champion. His work between the ropes and the personality displayed to this point suggest otherwise.