I’ve never been more invested in a babyface chasing a title more than Hangman Adam Page’s two year long trek to being the world champion in AEW. The anxious millennial cowboy represented so much of my own insecurities and struggles as he faced imposter syndrome, as he lost friends, but then gained and trusted new ones. And after two years of ups and downs, of trials and tribulations, Hangman finally unseated Kenny Omega and became the world champion.
But there’s been been some dissent already in his first few months as champion, among certain fans.
They think that Hangman was better chasing the title.
That his reign is kind of boring.
That his feuds haven’t had enough heat.
That Bryan Danielson should be champ. Or CM Punk. Or Adam Cole.
They say, sure, all of his defenses have been good so far. Even great. But the MJF/Punk feud is overshadowing it. Hangman hasn’t had the hottest match on any card he’s been on. The champion should be carrying the company, both with their matches and their story.
First, I don’t think the title and title feuds need to always be the hottest drawing angle. It is and should be a pivot point for any wrestling company, but it will always be a part of a greater whole.
Second, I think Hangman is going to have a long title reign, and it is really only beginning. He’s put on great matches every time, each one challenging him in different ways in the ring. And I suspect Hangman is going to go through some rough times as champion soon enough.
Those are rational reasons he should remain champion (rational as defending any artistic choices can be).
But honestly, when I hear someone say it’s time for Hangman to lose his title, my gut reaction isn’t any of those reasons.
My reaction is that I need Hangman to be the World Champion.
Every day, we are all bombarded with bad news. War. Climate change catastrophe. Political horror. Every day the news spigot pours out poison and we all get a taste.
It’s nearly impossible to stay connected and not feel downtrodden and beat up.
And as much as I love Kenny Omega, and loved his championship run, he was a heel. A maniacal heel, a belt collector, power obsessed and willing to do anything to keep his titles.
Hangman dethroning him, and becoming the champion, a babyface fighting champion, who so concisely represents me and my beliefs, feels so right.
It gives me hope.
It makes me believe that good can win.
That if someone does their best, and improves themselves, and becomes a better person, that they can achieve their goals.
That somehow, someway, a good guy can lariat his way to a better world.
And I know, rationally, that whoever the champion of a wrestling company is at any given time doesn’t really matter, and doesn’t really affect the greater world. It won’t reverse climate change, and it won’t end war.
But that’s the beauty of pro wrestling. It’s about the power of illusion. And as long as a babyface is champion, maybe we can find a way to a better world.