This weekend is not only the official three-year anniversary of All Elite Wrestling, but also the Memorial Day tradition of the Double or Nothing pay-per-view. With ten matches on the main card, it’s almost unavoidable that this will be somewhat overbooked, but as we’ve said since AEW’s inception, it’s very difficult to sell a $50 broadcast in the modern era, especially when there’s another card next month with the Forbidden Door PPV.
Parsing how well this card was built is mostly a discussion for a review of the actual show, based on if the event lived up to the hype. However, among numerous contests that will take place, the main event of Adam Page defending the world championship against CM Punk is at the top of the card.
If this is Punk’s All Elite coronation and what it could mean for the company creates an intrigue that translates into a selling point, but where would that leave Adam Page? Furthermore, what does Page’s title reign say about Tony Khan’s ability to make homegrown stars?
Ironically, Page was in the main event of the first Double or Nothing show in 2019, losing a match to Chris Jericho that determined the first AEW champion. At the time, it was considered the right move, and it definitely was because Jericho’s name value gave the organization some steady ground to built off of before they debuted on national television that October. Still, the general consensus was that the very talented Page was one of the key talents for the future of the company. His tag title reign alongside Kenny Omega was fine since it gave them both something to do in the early stages of the company, particularly before the pieces of the puzzle were put in place for the Omega heel run, and it provided some quality tag bouts, but even that stint in the tag division was almost cannon fodder in the grand scheme of things. The goal was for Omega to have a big run as champion in an American promotion for the first time in his career, which worked very well with the crossover with Impact, and it arguably made him a bigger star than even his peak in New Japan. For Page, it continued to build him as a future top guy in the organization.
So, what happened?
In early-August of last year, Page took time off for his wife to give birth to their first child, which is completely understandable. He returned a few months later in October to win a ladder match to earn a title shot. In retrospect, I think it’s fair to say that Page didn’t quite recapture the momentum that he had prior to his hiatus after he returned. It was a coincidence, but the bottom line is, while Page was at home, CM Punk and Bryan Danielson, two of the biggest stars of the modern era, debuted for the organization so they somewhat eclipsed his status within the company. That’s not meant as a knock against Page, either, as Jericho is probably the only other performer on the All Elite roster that has that level of star power. Understandably, the focus shifted to Punk’s return to the sport for the first time in seven years, as well as the possibilities several match-ups for The American Dragon without the WWE restrictions. This was a scenario where, just because Page winning the title might’ve been the long-term plan, it probably would’ve been better for Tony Khan to pivot to either a Punk or Danielson title win to allow for Omega to take time off to heal from various injuries.
That being said, how Page was booked as champion did him no favors either.
I understand that Khan wanted to save the Page-Danielson bout for the Winter is Coming special, but it was a month between the time that The Hangman won the title until he had another match. More importantly, Page’s first title defense was a draw, which didn’t exactly solidify him as the world champion. Again, I understand the logic to want to book the rematch for the first Dynamite of the year, but it was another three weeks before the rematch, and that made it nearly two months from the time that Page won the belt until he won another match. Prior to the Texas Deathmatch against Lance Archer, Hangman did a promo where he specifically mentioned the lack of title defenses, and it just didn’t present him in a favorable light. Sure, the Texas Deathmatch was great, but then there was diminishing returns with the same stipulation against Adam Cole not too long after that. It seemed like an attempt to use gimmick matches as a substitute for a compelling storyline for the belt.
Along with that Adam Page wrestled only nine matches so far this year. The reason he originally got over with the cowboy gimmick is that he could be the blue collar champion, but his presentation doesn’t gel with the narrative of a fighting champion. I understand some might say that the champion doesn’t have to wrestle on TV as often, but I disagree with that because establishing Hangman as a top guy requires the exposure to portray him in that fashion. In fact, some of his appearances on Dynamite didn’t help enhance the perception since on an episode of Dynamite last month, he only did a face off with Punk without anything being said or done to progress the angle.
Finally, his recent promos have been somewhat conflicting since he sounded like a heel last week, but then tried to sound like a baby face standing up for the rest of the roster. The implication was that Punk isn’t genuine in his comments about his passion for wrestling in AEW. If that’s the case in reality, it’s still irrelevant in the context of the storyline. Punk has a specific level of good will among the AEW fan base since he chose to return to the sport under the AEW banner so there’s no reason to dilute that, at least until Punk gets the major baby face run as champion. The promos almost made Page sound like a complaining champion that a bigger star showed up to take his spot, which is something else that doesn’t fit with the narrative of the blue collar champion. All things considered, the way that Adam Page was booked with the comedy stuff with the Dark Order before the title win, his first defense as a draw, the lack of TV exposure as champion, and the recent promos, from a booking perspective, the argument could be made that his title reign was a flop. Don’t get me wrong, Adam Page is absolutely talented enough to be a top guy in the promotion, but how his title run was scripted minimized his chances to solidify himself as the champion.
It might sound harsh, but Adam Page was the first homegrown AEW world champion and ultimately, Tony Khan couldn’t book him to be a bigger star in the process. Jericho, Jon Moxley, and Kenny Omega were all stars elsewhere before they had a run with the AEW championship so a lot of that star power is why they were successful draws for AEW.
As far as what happens at Double or Nothing, anything is possible and it could be a situation where beating Punk is used to attempt to elevate Page, but at this point, I think CM Punk winning the title is the wise decision. Page as a heel could be a fresh coat of paint at some point in the future, but right now, it makes sense to attempt to get the biggest exposure for the brand as possible with CM Punk as the face of the company. Remember, Dynamite garners around a million viewers each week, but the ratings have been more or less the same since Punk arrived so at some point, his involvement with the company must generate a measurable return for it to be a successful investment for the organization.
What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and Facebook.com/PWMania.
Until next week
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