“All the while, that seemingly sympathetic sun was growing a little fiercer, smiling a little broader. Sometimes the land didn’t have to get you. You got yourself.” ~ Dean F. Wilson
For years, the wrestling world has largely been defined by the actions and influence of one company – the decisions of one man. Professional wrestling evolves not through stagnation though, but through and because of those brave enough to buck the system. Men and women who desire more and are willing to risk everything for something, even if that something is the biggest unknown of all. Rebels in the minds of those in power. Fearless vigilantes in the eyes of countless fans across the world yearning for something different. Outlaws in search of their very own modern day wild west.
We could debate the merits of All Elite Wrestling representing the wild west of the professional wrestling world endlessly, of that I’m certain. But hear me out.
The wild west, as we are conditioned to believe today, was a time of lawlessness and drama. Cowboys and cattle. Barfights and bank robbers. Gold and gunfights. In reality, while some of this is very true, what the west largely represented to many was opportunity. It was an untouched bounty of beauty overflowing with infinite possibility. A frontier of chances to do things in ways both new and old – chances to do things better.
The wild west is said to be a time of conquest. I like to think of those who dared to chance the unknown as great purveyors of personal conquest. Survivors. Resilient risk-takers. Visionaries. Men and women who desired the shackles of control be stripped away. They could count on themselves and themselves alone to see the next day. Dark and difficult those days were, sure. But this was a way of life.
When examining All Elite Wrestling, and the central group of those involved in its creation, much of this description applies. The lawlessness certainly doesn’t, unless you ask FTR or JR about the enforcement of rules in tag team matches, but the rest sure does. Created by people who would accept nothing less than a chance to make wrestling what they believed it could be. Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, the Young Bucks – crossing into an unknown frontier – largely unexplored, with repercussions unknown, to pursue a dream. That’s the wild west.
As it exists today, the west is booming. Growing and accepting those of all walks of life. There are men, women, dinosaurs, zombies, murderhawks, snakes, bastards, bunnies, and spooky perverts. There are those who sought opportunity and others who needed a place to call home. Superstars chasing respect and even more desiring just a chance. A melting pot of uniquely talented individuals.
But just one cowboy. Just one true outlaw in wrestling’s unabashed wild west. The Hangman himself. Adam Page.
I don’t know the inner workings of professional titles in All Elite Wrestling. Truth be told, I’d rather not know. Here’s why. We have heard since the beginning from every corner of the wrestling world about the EVPs and their added responsibilities. Everyone had something to say about them it seemed. But the only member of the Elite who wasn’t given a title was Page. Maybe he didn’t want it. Maybe he just wanted to focus on wrestling. Maybe the executive life wasn’t for him. Maybe.
Any or all of that would be valid with no questions asked, but within his character – his extremely layered and adorably flawed character – an executive title would be as foreign as Adam entertaining a partnership with Big Money Matt Hardy (wait…). In the wild west, cowboys (especially our heroes) are incorruptible. They needn’t be bothered by responsibility or nonsense. Whether his responsibilities really do begin and end with those ring ropes, the magic that is “Hangman” Adam Page is only made larger by the extra layer to an already immensely deep character.
He is perhaps the most relatable person who graces our television screens every Wednesday night. Possessing an enviable and beautifully enacted arc since AEW debuted with Double or Nothing in 2019, Adam has become one of the biggest babyfaces in wrestling today. He has such an ability to reach through the screen and impact very real emotion. Whether through personal turmoil, attempts to numb pain not so easily ignored, or battling feelings of inadequacy, we relate to Adam Page. We sympathize because who HASN’T felt inadequate? Who hasn’t let down their friends? Who hasn’t tried anything to hide pain too great to accept as real? Who hasn’t built walls to protect themselves and those they might care about?
He is all of us when he isolates from a chance that he may disappoint someone else. When he sips his whiskey slowly, remembering the good old days, I see myself doing the same once upon a time. The regret in his face as he watches his friends find success without him hits the heart with unbridled reverberation. And his sad puppy dog eyes. Those eyes that speak volumes and pierce the souls of wrestling fans everywhere tell a story that would find itself very much at home in the wild west. Life is not simple. It’s a story everyone knows. Adam tells it beautifully, inside the ring and out.
We’ve seen him on a hot rise, featured as THE guy in the first AEW World Championship feud. Paired with Kenny Omega, he was a tag champ, while battling personal demons and struggling to appreciate his place within a group of friends that were seemingly leaving him behind. I don’t know if anyone has straddled the purgatory that exists between a full heel and babyface as he did in those long months, constantly creating conversation and confusion during a time when the company needed its stars to do just that. His suffering on screen sometimes transcended wrestling and when one is able to accomplish that? Well, it gets no better.
Seemingly lost for much of last year, even during the tag run, Adam still wanders alone. For all rights and purposes, a drifter. Stemming from a loss in the biggest match of his career to Chris Jericho, he hasn’t been the same since. We all face disappointment. But Adam never was able to rationalize his place amongst his highly decorated peers, and it led him into darkness. The arc extends even today, as he seeks forgiveness, though not from his friends. He seeks it from the one person who will not give it. The man in the mirror.
So, he pours another whiskey and loses more of himself in the reflection within the brown liquid in his glass. That place one goes when facing such excruciating personal reflection and regret is a dark one. There is only one exit, and there is a heavy price. To accept what is lost may never be again, is a nearly impossible reality to accept. But to pull himself up, and to face the demons who haunt All Elite Wrestling, that’s exactly what he needs to do.
Without its cowboy – without its outlaw – the wild west isn’t the west any longer. It’s only wild. It’s only madness. To crest his arc, to eventually rid AEW of the chaos that has befallen it, Adam must first face his own reflection. Then he may ride into the duel that will shape the next phase of his career – the duel that may in fact place the final nail into the Elite as we know it.
A reality sometimes more difficult to accept than any when struggling is that we’re not always best equipped to handle adversity alone. Adam’s hesitation to entertain friendships with those who legitimately care about him is understood. We’ve all been there. But until he does, I feel we are in for a long summer with Kenny Omega and his court in control of a town no one should control.
The tales of the lonesome cowboy are everywhere. Strong. Determined. Stubborn. Fearless. All great qualities to possess in a fight. But in a fight against a gang of like-minded villains, the only thing those qualities ensure our cowboy is a place to lay after a short fight under the hot Jacksonville sun. Adam’s biggest fight is the one he cannot afford to saunter into alone. He may not know it yet, but he soon will.
Imagine a day in the not-too-distant future when Adam has made peace with the man in the mirror. A moment when his mind is clear and focused on what matters. A place in time when he sees his chance to redeem himself and free his beloved home from the cancer that has infested it from within. Imagine that day and daydream with me for a moment.
Our hero walks alone through a dark hallway, accepting his fate but enduring because his destiny awaits. The enemy stands tall, strapped and ready for battle, their confidence unwavering and certain of their ultimate victory. Kenny Omega smiles that sneaky cocky grin. Doc Gallows gyrates with excitement while Karl Anderson looks toward the tunnel anticipating a jump at the first chance. Perhaps more have flocked from afar to build something truly legendary, and they fill the ring as well. It’s a moment for the ages.
Turning a corner, Adam is met with a lone man leaning against the hallway wall. He’s focused. He’s jacked. He’s hungie.
“I’m your huckleberry…”
We zoom out to reveal the rest of the Dark Order forming behind our hero, led by their young masked leader, who stands with his hand outreached.
Every cowboy walks alone. Until he doesn’t.