Hangman vs. Omega: Straight, No Chaser...
Last Wednesday, fans witnessed the two semi-final matches in the World Title Eliminator Tournament go down. In one bout, it was Hangman Page and Wardlow squaring off, and in the other it was Kenny Omega and, filling in for his injured brother, Penta El Zero Miedo who locked horns. Two hard fought battles, going down in very different fashion, but both resulted in the former World Tag Team Champions advancing to the finals set for FULL GEAR 2020 this Saturday night, November 7th, on BRLive.com and FITETV International (More Info Here).
It's the culmination of innumerable issues that run deeper than just the historic World Tag Team Title reign of Page and Omega, and about more than just the World Title number one contendership that is up for grabs on Saturday night. This is something brewing since the inception of All Elite Wrestling, perhaps before, but since ALL OUT 2019 at least, and just over a year later, the stage is set for these two men who once both carried The Elite banner to square off.
At ALL OUT 2019, the very first All Elite Wrestling World Champion was crowned when Chris Jericho topped Hangman Adam Page to begin a reign that would last until REVOLUTION 2020 the following February. That night also found Kenny Omega on the receiving end of a crushing defeat via referee stoppage at the hands of PAC. Suffice it to say that neither man left the Sears Centre in a fashion they anticipated, and both losses seemed to shake each individual at their core. In hindsight Page certainly took that loss, that failed opportunity to be the first champion, much harder than it appeared at first, and it caused ripples that are still being felt to this day.
And perhaps it was not just that defeat that started the personal spiral of Hangman Page just as AEW was introducing itself to the world, kicking off DYNAMITE on TNT, and asserting its position in the pro wrestling landscape. Page would also lose to PAC on the very first episode of DYNAMITE, and then he would lose again in tag team action against Jericho and Sammy Guevara, with Dustin Rhodes as his partner, on the second episode of DYNAMITE.
Three consecutive losses in such high profile positions can be devastating, especially when so many wrestling pundits had Page tagged as the man who would carry the AEW World Championship onto TNT. His future partner was not faring the best in the early going of AEW either; as mentioned, Omega was beaten by PAC at ALL OUT 2019, brutalized by Jon Moxley on the very first DYNAMITE, and again beat up by PAC on the second TNT outing.
But then something happened on that third edition of DYNAMITE that broadcast from Philadelphia on October 16th, the two men united and their fortunes took a turn:
Clearly the actions of Jon Moxley factored into the victory that night in the City of Brotherly Love, but it gave The Elite brethren a needed shot in the arm and demonstrated their was something there in the unlikely pairing. It was waters Page and Omega had only tread into together one other time back in December 2016, a losing effort mind you, but something felt different here in 2019.
And it would take a few weeks to find their footing as a team, and incessant pushing from Omega onto Page to continue plugging away at this nascent pairing. It was a rough start, inconsistent for sure as they lost to say The Inner Circle one week then would bounce back with a victory the next time, and this process repeated a couple times until January 15th. That night Page and Omega locked up with Proud-N-Powerful, The Best Friends, and The Young Bucks with a shot at the World Tag Team Titles on the line. The SCU pairing of Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky had captured those belts on October 30th, and would now have to defend the winners of this four way a week later when DYNAMITE aired on a boat from The Jericho Cruise.
Hangman and Omega would snag the victory that evening in Miami, with Page quite literally snatching the win away from Matt Jackson and securing the tag team championship match against SCU. It should probably be noted that, later that evening, as SCU was being interviewed about the match, a drunken Page crashed the interview and left Kenny to apologize for his partner's behavior. It was a scene that would become quite familiar over the course of 2020, but so would the events of January 22nd...
A pair of Buckshot lariats later, thanks to Hangman Page having to pull the heavy load in the last few minutes, and AEW had new World Tag Team champions in Hangman Page and Kenny Omega. It was certainly not The Elite pairing anyone expected to capture the tag team titles first, clearly that was The Young Bucks, but that was now the reality of All Elite Wrestling as well as Page and Omega. The question now shifted from IF they could become champions to if they could STAY champions, and also just why Page seemed to take offense to Matt and Nick Jackson coming out to the ring to celebrate with Adam and Kenny.
The trajectory of Adam Page as a person would seem to run counter to that of Page and Omega as a pairing. No matter the successes, regardless of the pair of title defenses against SCU and Lucha Brothers, Adam seemed to spiral out faster and his drinking only got worse. His in-ring work remained top shelf, he kept himself functional until after the matches, but outside of the ring, Page felt like a man teetering on the edge.
At one point during all of this, he even took what amounted to a leave of absence from The Elite, feeling the need to ride “alone” despite having Kenny consistently there to clean up the mess in Page's wake. No matter what happened, Kenny was there for Adam, to make excuses for his behavior, to constantly try to pull him back from the edge, and to keep him focused on the World Tag Team Titles to the best of Kenny's ability. Yet, despite this leave, Page still was there at times when The Elite needed him to lend a hand, but made sure it was known that he helped them, that they needed him.
And then the wheels nearly came off the Page/Omega pairing within the first two months of holding the titles because it would be The Young Bucks who earned a title opportunity at the REVOLUTION pay-per-view, putting a hard spotlight on the simmering issues between Page and the brothers Jackson, issues that blew up on the eve of the PPV event.
That cold Chicago night, in a match many look to as the greatest tag team match of 2020, the defending champions would once more retain their titles, certainly proving themselves as the dominant duo in All Elite Wrestling, and putting to rest the notion of The Young Bucks as the greatest team on the roster. At least one would think that the case, but regardless of what others thought on the subject, it certainly did not appear Adam Page, the man who scored the deciding pin in the epic match, believed in his own hype despite that PPV victory. As a point of fact, there was a moment after the win, after Page chose to leave the ring without his partner yet again, that it seemed the man questioned his next move.
He turned back towards the ring, looked at his championship partner who had been celebrating the victory with the fallen Young Bucks in a mutual moment of appreciation, and Page grabbed the top rope. But it wasn't just the man resting his hands and waiting for his teammate, not at all, see there is a certain position Page gets his hands into before flipping over the top rope to deliver that devastating Buckshot Lariat. That was how Adam's hands clenched the cable while Omega had his back turned, and Hangman even seemed to crouch a bit, as if prepping to launch himself up and over into the ring. Yet just as Kenny turned around to face his partner, it seemed reason took hold of Page once more, and the champions finally walked out of the ring together, and into their future.
That future would prove chaos, not just because of the injury Omega suffered in that tag match that shelved him for several weeks after the PPV, but mainly because of the COVID pandemic experienced worldwide that left the two partners estranged for several months. Page sat at home, his personal struggles playing out on BEING THE ELITE for the world to see, while Omega first recovered from the injury, and then jumped into the fray between The Elite and Chris Jericho's Inner Circle. It was not until the DYNAMITE prior to DOUBLE OR NOTHING 2020 that Page returned to the fold, helping his Elite brothers in a fight with the IC crew, and then seeming to finally get on the same page, at least with Kenny Omega, during the course of the Stadium Stampede.
Following that insane fight, Omega and Page would rattle off six more successful title defenses like the Jurassic Express victory above. They put down Havoc and Sabian, The Natural Nightmares, Best Friends, Private Party, and The Dark Order before that successful title defense against Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy that would prove to be their final one.
Yet during this impressive run, while Page continued to spend his down time surrounding by empty whiskey bottles and upside down shot glasses, there also marked a decided turn in the nature of Kenny Omega. He no longer seemed content to make excuses for his partner, no longer interested in tacitly co-signing the bad behavior, and instead Kenny began to exhibit some of his own. Marko Stunt was one man who felt the brunt of that on the July 15th DYNAMITE episode, but he would not be the only one. And when called on his behavior by The Young Bucks, Omega simply made apologies and tried to move on as quickly as possible.
Meanwhile, Adam Page seemed to be getting closer to the newest addition to the AEW tag team roster, Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood, collectively known as FTR. They came from similar areas, had cut teeth in some of the same places, and shared a love for the drink that Kenny Omega did not. Page likely felt as if he'd found kindred spirits in FTR, and was even there to help celebrate their official contract signing with AEW.
So as ALL OUT 2020 drew near, a number one contender's match was set-up pitting FTR, The Young Bucks, The Best Friends, and The Natural Nightmares against one another in a Gauntlet Series. Matt and Nick defeated Dustin and QT in the first match, with The Best Friends entering as the third team of the gauntlet, and it appeared as if The Young Bucks would also take the second match, pitting them against FTR for the pay-per-view title opportunity. Well, to the shock of everyone, Adam Page would insure that did not happen as his interference directly led to The Best Friends winning the fall, leaving The Young Bucks out in the cold.
Suffice to say that Page's decision to not come without repercussions; he was summarily tossed out of The Elite by Matt and Nick, losing two of his closest friends in the process, and leaving his championship partner even more distant, and just plain spent, than he was before. And then came the moment of revelation as to why Page did what he did...
“An insecure little boy”, despite the face Cash and Dax had shown Page, that was what they truly thought of Hangman, and they found a way to set the table for Adam to screw it all up, all by himself. The final nail in the coffin came at ALL OUT 2020 when, after a thirty minute struggle, the issues between Page and Omega came to a head, and the resulting miscommunications lent towards FTR shattering the Best Bout Machine and Hangman to claim the World Tag Team Championship. It even seemed, much as it did in the aftermath of REVOLUTION, that one partner was going to lay into the other. The visual of Omega standing over Hangman with a piece of broken table in his hand was indeed a powerful one, but Kenny would toss the weapon aside to leave Page broken and alone, right in the place he had built for himself.
Immediately the questions began as to the future of the pair; would they would go their separate ways or find that same page once more, and reunite to reclaim the belts from FTR? It did not take long to get an answer from where both men stood, and unfortunately (depending on who you are) they were not looking at the same future...
Page had hope, it was all he had left to cling to really, and no matter what Omega said it seemed Adam refused to actually hear the words being spoken. It was not until the World Title Eliminator Tournament was announced, and Kenny Omega was one of the first names set to participate, that reality seemed to sink in for Hangman like a shot served straight with no chaser.
So when Page was set as another entrant into the brackets, on the opposite side of Kenny to boot, the anticipation for the finals going down at FULL GEAR 2020 ramped up even higher. Page, seemingly with a new found focus, knocked off victories over Colt Cabana and Wardlow to make his way to finals on November 7th. And although he did celebrate with a brew after the Wardlow win, fans have not seen the pumpkin tossing, barely coherent, alcoholic hazed over version of Page that had been increasingly rearing its ugly head anytime he was not inside the squared circle.
As for Omega, in a fashion you can say he has looked to his past to help shape his future. Kenny has discarded any notion of being a “tag team wrestler” again while labeling his former partner as such like it was some kind of scarlet letter. He has reached back to Japanese roots, re-embraced the “Cleaner” moniker, and came out in thunderous fashion in the tournament with a twenty-six second victory over Sonny Kiss. Omega then knocked off Penta El Zero Miedo in the semi-finals, rolling with the substitution of Penta for the injured Rey Fenix, and marching onto FULL GEAR this Saturday night.
Now we sit on the precipice of a one-on-one collision between Kenny Omega and Hangman Adam Page this Saturday night, live on pay-per-view, with a future World Title opportunity at stake. On that night, the seventeen matches as a tag team do not mean anything, nor do the 228 days spent together as champions, and the nine successful title defenses will mean as much as the dirt each man will wipe off his boots before entering the ring.
At least that is what both men will have to convince themselves of going into this fight, because unless one, the other, or both, are supreme narcissists, how can either possibly pretend as if the last year of their lives did not happen? For that matter, not just nine months, rather the last several years of their lives as compatriots within The Elite, helping to build that brand to the point it became a foundation for All Elite Wrestling, a brand that helped both men establish their names as individuals, as a team, and gave them a family within professional wrestling. We even got a brief glimpse on Wednesday night, in the aftermath of FTR assaulting The Young Bucks, of what The Elite standing together looks like but that was short-lived as Page, with empty glass of whiskey in hand, got right up in Kenny's face, despite Omega offering a fist bump of solidarity moments prior.
While this is clearly a fight for the right to challenge Eddie Kingston or Jon Moxley for the AEW World Title in the aftermath of FULL GEAR 2020, it is also a fight about the last year of codependency and friendship, about family and brotherhood, and the love and respect wrapped up in it all. This is Hangman versus Omega...