What “Hangman” Is
What AEW has created with “Hangman” Page is a souped-up version of an “old reliable” for their promotion. When you get your fans invested in a squeaky-clean good guy, build him up for years, plural, as a future world champion, and threaten to take that away? Fans get very defensive, and rightfully so. But when you simply threaten the heel turn, rather than commit to it, and you rebound him back into being a babyface? You create someone the fans will glom onto even harder. You create a full-time main event player that doesn’t have to have the belt, but will always be around it. You create someone whose wrestling acumen speaks for itself, who can have barn-burner matches with just about anyone, and who can be the face of your company with or without the title. You create Hiroshi Tanahashi.
Tanahashi has been the “ace” of New Japan Pro Wrestling for over a decade now, likely coming up on a decade and a half pretty soon. He is the public face of NJPW. Now, Kazuchika Okada’s likely taken that title from him in recent years just by being the best professional wrestler to ever live, but at the very worst, Tanahashi is a close second. The rule with Tanahashi tends to be this: he doesn’t need a belt, but he will always elevate a champion to a great match, even in defeat. Getting the belt on him is just a bonus. This is what I think AEW is trying to do with Adam Page.
Page is going to become a stable force in AEW’s main event scene because now, he’s proved himself to be just as good as people thought he could be, if not better. He has fulfilled his potential and now people know he’s a killer. You can shove Page in there with anyone and they’ll burn the house down, because he’s gone from being carried in matches, to carrying lesser opponents to great matches. With the weight of being champion off his shoulders, the Hangman is free to be himself again. I can’t wait to see where this character goes from here.