Grading 'Hangman' Adam Page's Run as AEW World Champion

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistMay 17, 2022

Grading 'Hangman' Adam Page's Run as AEW World Champion

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    Credit: All Elite Wrestling

    "Hangman" Adam Page has been one of the key figures in All Elite Wrestling since its inception.

    High-profile matches, strong storytelling and an emotional connection with fans, he delivered some extraordinary performances on the road to his first world championship at Full Gear last November. 

    After scratching and clawing his way to the top, he raised the world title in an unforgettable moment that both paid off an extensive storyline and crowned him as the breakout star of AEW.

    A single, world championship-winning moment does not a title reign make, though.

    Ahead of a blockbuster main event against CM Punk at Double or Nothing, how has his run with the top prize in the company graded out? 

In-Ring Content

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    If there is one element of Page's AEW world title reign that has lived up to expectations, it's his in-ring performance.

    Hangman started his run as champion with a pair of matches against Bryan Danielson that became instant classics.

    One went to an hour-long time-limit draw that tested Page's toughness and resiliency against the best wrestler in the world. The second was not nearly as long but did see the 30-year-old prove himself as a deserving champion by putting The American Dragon down with the Buckshot Lariat to retain the gold.

    A brutal Texas Deathmatch against Lance Archer and two gritty victories over Adam Cole in strong main events continued his run of high-quality performances.

    Page has stood the test of a champion between the ropes. He has recognized the immense pressure that comes with carrying the world title and the lofty expectations fans have for that person to perform up to the responsibility. He has been one of the most consistently great wrestlers in AEW since defeating Kenny Omega for the AEW World Championship six months ago. 

    Most impressively, those defining defenses came against competitors of different styles and backgrounds, in totally different matches, proving he is adaptable, too. He can work a traditional wrestling match against Danielson, go finisher-for-finisher against Cole and throw fists with Archer in a violent, bloody brawl. He can absorb big bumps and dish out an ass-whupping when the time calls for it.

    Page is a well-rounded in-ring worker and has, arguably, delivered the best collection of matches of any AEW world champion to this point and grades out highly because of it.

    Grade: A


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    Hangman's victory over Omega at Full Gear was the culmination of a years-long journey; the fulfillment of a prophecy he set from day one in AEW. Way back at the New Year's Day 2019 press conference officially launching the company, he promised he would be its first world champion.

    He wasn't, but he scratched, clawed and overcame self-doubt to achieve his goal in a triumphant fashion by defeating the measuring stick of AEW.

    Unfortunately, the creative that followed did not follow up on the momentum he had coming out of the November 2021 pay-per-view.

    Too often over the course of his reign, Page has felt like an afterthought. Sure, he has had extraordinary matches against whomever he was booked against, but other stories, stars and feuds often took precedence over the world title program. 

    Look no further than CM Punk vs. MJF, a feud that engulfed AEW television over the winter months and overshadowed Page's feud with Cole, which felt like an upper-midcard program rather than a world title rivalry.

    Page may have competed against Cole in the final match at Revolution in February but make no mistake about it: Punk vs. MJF in the dog collar bout was that show's real main event. That has been the case far too often since November. Page may be the champion but others are emphasized over him, reducing the world champion to a bit part in the grand scheme of things.

    It is almost apropos that Hangman is gearing up to lose his title to Punk at Double or Nothing on May 29, then.

    Inconsistent booking and a failure to present Page as the guy in AEW through meaningful angles and storylines have hurt his legitimacy as champion. What was a moment built over two years of television was diminished shortly after by the creative forces' inability to adequately followup up with a plan for him.

    None of that is any fault of Page. He has held up his end of the bargain, always displaying the right amount of intensity, aggression, humor and physicality when called for. He has repeatedly delivered between the ropes. Unfortunately for him, the creative support has not been there, hurting his overall presentation and dooming him to a just slightly above-average grade in this category. 

    Attribute the plus portion of the grade to his great story with Punk ahead of their date over Memorial Day weekend. More of that and this would have been an entirely different grade.

    Grade: C+

Overall Grade

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    Assuming Page does lose the AEW world title to Punk, his reign will be defined by what should have been.

    AEW set the table for itself with two years of masterful storytelling. Page was the most well-rounded character on its show. He began as a young, over member of The Elite with an abundance of potential and evolved into one of the most emotionally complex, intriguing and popular characters in the company. 

    He captured the world title in one of the truly great moments in AEW's short history and had momentum on his side coming out of Full Gear in November.

    Unfortunately for him and his fans, that payoff and the series with Danielson that followed shortly after were the pinnacles of his run. A failure to properly position him as the undisputed top star, giving priority to others and stories hurt his legitimacy and credibility in that role.

    No number of banger matches could take away from the fact that he was deemphasized, rather than being positioned as the centerpiece of the show.

    That could all change if he continues to embrace the edginess he displayed a few weeks back when he cut down Punk on the mic and insulted the Chicago native's fans. It changes if Page beats The Best in the World and retains his title in Las Vegas.

    Unfortunately, there is no real reason to believe that will happen.

    Momentum is on Punk's side, as are the same fans who rode the emotional roller coaster with Page, only to watch it lose steam as it headed uphill.

    The Anxious Millennial Cowboy has done everything in his power to make the most of his first opportunity to hold a world title, but this reign has been doomed by middling booking and a failure on AEW's part to properly present and embrace Hangman as its top competitor.

    For that, Page grades disappointingly.

    Grade: B-