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The Main Event Vol. 164 - Fanning Flames For Fickle Fans

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  • The Main Event Vol. 164 - Fanning Flames For Fickle Fans

    How the fans and internet wrestling community turned on 'Hangman' Adam Page still irks me. What is it about wrestling fans that causes them to turn on the very thing they clamour for? What can be attributed to those changing feelings? What changes to the wrestling landscape can this be pinpointed to? Well, I don't know for sure, but I certainly feel it's a discussion worth having. It's especially prevalent in these times when the attention spans of the audience is at a minimum and their opinions can change at the drop of a dime.

    Perhaps answering the above-mentioned questions will give reason as to the sudden turn of events that displaced Page's AEW Championship run. So, why did the fans/IWC turn on Page? Firstly, we have to look at what constitutes a failure of a title reign. Poor booking, poor challengers and lack of importance have all impacted title reigns in the past. But surely this cannot be said of Hangman's run. He was booked as THE guy and I've no idea how people can say he failed as champion.

    He came across as a legitimate top guy and the opponents that challenged him for the gold were top notch combatants. There was hardly a challenger that lessened Page's reign. Even Lance Archer who had a short program with the champion, albeit seemingly out of nowhere, served it's purpose. Not only were the opponents worthwhile, but the feud and the matches themselves were memorable. Therefore, if you considered Page's run poor, then I have to ask: What more do you want from a title run?

    He offered so much that it somewhat baffles me that he is seen as having a failed run. He faced the most popular wrestlers. He damn sure won the title by defeating THE most popular guy to the IWC (For some reason or another. I just don't see it). That's what an essential title reign is. What, did you want him to defend the title in Japan against Okada or something? Did you want him to go back in time and face the likes of Austin, Rock and Hogan to validate his title reign? Just remember, Mox really facing the most popular wrestlers during his current run (as good as I think it is). I guess y'all just turned on The Hangman.

    Adam Page's story leading up to his AEW Championship victory was three years in the making. The fans were by his side every step of the way. Until they got what they wanted, then they turned on him. This begs the question: Is it the chase alone that captivates an audience? The story of a rise to power, going up against all odds. This is certainly a story most of us can get behind. But are you aware that a story reaches it's conclusion? That the good guy eventually attains the goal he was fighting for? That's the story and AEW wrote it well. But once Page won the title and the story reached it's conclusion, they just lost interest?

    There has to be more to it than that. We've seen this story played out many times before. The two prime examples would have to be 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin and John Cena. Just like Hangman, both men had the fans in the palm of their hands in the lead up to their title wins. But as we know, once the destination was reached, the two men went on different paths. In comparison and including inflation, Austin and Page both had similar title runs. They both faced the best and most popular and made it entertaining. The only difference in the fans never turned on Austin.

    Now, even including inflation, it's still very hard to compare anything to the popularity of The Attitude Era. But just in terms of the challengers for they had, I think it's what made it great. But still people didn't turn on Austin like they did Hangman. Perhaps the arch revolving around sticking it up to the man have it extra credence, but nothing like that is likely to ever be recreated again. Let's be realistic.

    Then, on the hand, we have John Cena. Once again, there is a comparison to be made between D.M.D. Thuganomics and The Cowboy. Like Page, the fans turned on him almost immediately. But yet, although he was shaky in the beginning, he thrived on it and in the end that's how he earned his respect. Yet fans refuse to put respect on one Adam Page, even though he had a similar thriving experience when he stood up to Punk and cut that cool promo, getting in face; all the while knowing he was the one that would end up looking at the lights.

    And I guess that's where the lights go out on his amazing story to the top, and his underappreciated title reign, seemingly to forgotten. Until time goes by and people actually realise that Page had had a championship reign worthy of respect.

  • #2
    I think there are two possible reasons why people turned on Page, and his reign, with the first being that it happened too late. It seemed clear to everyone, and has since been confirmed, that he was supposed to wrestle and defeat Kenny Omega at last year's All Out but with his wife due to give birth Hangman understandably wanted time off. Unfortunately it was such bad timing as they'd just returned to crowds who were absolutely molten hot for Page and were clamouring for him to beat Omega, and him losing the 5-on-5 and having his title win delayed 3 months seemed to take all the air out of the story.

    Plus when he returned CM Punk, Bryan Danielson & Adam Cole had all appeared with all 3, but especially the former 2 being the most beloved guys in IWC history. And as you mentioned, people's attention spans are shorter than ever and people are more easily distracted by the new shiny thing.

    The other major one I think is that Danielson was his first opponent. Again this was completely out of AEW's hands as again it seemed clear, and has since been confirmed, that Moxley was supposed to win the Title Eliminator and had even started the "destroy The Dark Order" story in the first round. And I think people would've been a lot more willing to get behind Page against a newly heel Moxley, whereas Danielson was still brand new to the company, hadn't been beaten, and wasn't showing any heelish tendencies before the title shot making it seem more artificial in order to get him booed and Hangman cheered.

    In my opinion as soon as the feud with Danielson was done Hangman's days were numbered and he was never going to have a reign as long as Moxley or Omega. However with the recent Punk issue I could see him coming back even stronger as the top guy by being the one to end a heel Punk's title reign, ironically sort of like how it was Bret Hart's 2nd title win that propelled him to stardom more than his first.


    • #3
      I'll question your premise here, have fans really turned on Adam Page? I think it's fair to say they are less excited for him than they were at the same time last year but to my eyes he still seems popular with the fans. At least in my circle criticism has more turned towards AEW for not following up his peak popularity in a more reliable way. But I think it's important to make that distinction, he certainly isn't getting booed by the fans, nor are his heel opponents being cheered over him. I think it's important to differentiate the two.

      As far as why his popularity declined a little, I do think it's fair to lay some blame at the feet of AEW. Page seemed as hot as he could be when he took down Omega, delayed or not, and his work with Danielson and Archer was tremendous. For me the feud with Adam Cole is where things started to go south, but granted I have a significant dislike of Cole. But to me it seemed like a feud that went on and on, even though there was no reason to continue after Cole's first loss, and the segments and promos weren't up to the usual AEW standard so he started fading somewhat into the background, especially as he seemed to be wrestling less. His feud with Punk was... kind of confusing in my view, Page seemed to hate Punk for no reason and we've yet to see a payoff for what that was about.

      After the title loss is where I think things really took a turn. Page got wrapped up in a weird four way feud which seemed booked to leave him as an afterthought to Bullet Club/Elite drama, and after that... well, what did he do after that? Seems like he has been almost absent since Forbidden Door. So yeah, that all together will definitely cool him off some. I think his day will come again but I understand the disappointment, so much work was put into making Page seem like a megastar but then they seemingly let it slip away and now he's back to just fairly popular instead of looking like an unquestionable top guy. Just my two cents.

      As for why fans these days tend to turn on big faces, well, that's the big question isn't it? To me I think it's the cultural move towards people wanting to be the entertainment rather than just a viewer. Many folks want to signal boost their own likes or have the next hot take, so they are very vocal about whatever they're feeling at that moment. It's just the modern way, I do think it can be irritating at times but it's a result of the world we live in I suppose. Look at how many folks proudly "hate" the Marvel movies despite their wide popularity, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Folks don't like to say "I dislike this but I understand why others might", they are inclined to say "the thing I don't like is objectively shit!". So it goes.

      Nice column Donnie, glad to see someone still knocking out the occasional piece in here. And hey Cook!

      The '92 Rumble! The Brain's Finest Hour!


      • #4
        Is it the chase alone that captivates an audience?
        This is probably a question that could be investigated further.

        For years, WCW was built around a heel champ with the story being the hope that the next hero would finally be the one to vanquish him. Whereas WWF was built around the unstoppable hero, thwarting the bad guys at every step along the way. I also recall that in it's first decade or so at least TNA had a phase of turning the new hero champion heel shortly after they won the belt.

        I guess the answer could lie in what keeps a losing challenger strong? The bad guy cheats to win, so the fans can always keep an element of "what if?" in their minds about the good guy. On the other hand, the face champ simply beats the challenger, and once they've been beaten they're no longer a threat. No "what if?" is left.

        I there is no "what if?" to provide an ongoing story, what is left to captivate an audience?
        New Column: Unfinished Business


        • #5
          To me, it seems like the fans are the stars, the promotions are the stars. Everyone but the wrestlers are the stars.

          maybe a promotion should try making the wrestlers seem like a big deal and not themselves.
          See the latest of my Ric Flair saga click here. View my story inspired by colorful wrestlers I've come across in my fandom.


          • #6
            For me him vanishing at the height of his storyline hurt him but it was recoverable but once he was champion he lacked both conviction and appearances. It reminded me of the early 90's when Bret was the champion but there always seemed something more important going on. You can get away with that if you are Bret Hart or an established main eventer, not if you are Page.


            • #7
              Better late than never!. Time for some F2F...

              @Cook - To be honest, I hadn't thought about the waiting too long factor as for me it did feel perfectly timed, although I do get you when saying that the iron should be struck whilst hot and that could definitely have been part of the reason. And you make a fair point about big stars coming to the company, perhaps dampening his fanfare in the process.

              Facts. Pitting him against a fan favourite like Daniel Bryan wasn't perhaps the smartest route to take. I do understand that it's a big match that would add prestige to his title reign, but it may have backfired which shouldn't have been out of the realm of possibility based on Bryan's popularity.

              Great point about the second title reign perhaps being the one to blow him up and they could even use his downfall of his first reign to drive the story of his run to his second reign.

              @Mizzie - I hear you. I will agree that the fans haven't turned on Punk, but I'm questioning the fans for putting a damper on his title reign with mixed reactions, albeit not always from the live crowd and more from the IWC.

              I'm definitely with you for putting some of the balme at the feet of AEW, who should have been more strategic in how his title reign was booked. I quite enjoyed the entire title reign myself, although the Punk feud was weird where he was playing this aggressive character for no real reason and it didn't really seem to fit in the story, just created for heat.

              Yeah, Page has been on the backburner of late but I thought his reactions have been a bit better as of late, especially when he was in title contention, so that should count for something. But for a former World Champion it was weird to see him flounder for so long when you long for the aftermath of the reigns of previous title holders. Quite the contrast (not counting Omega because he went on injury after dropping the belt).

              I also guess you can put it down to the world we live in, especially when fans can change their opinions at the drop of a dime and lack the patience to truly appreciate anything, or refusing to give it a chance even.

              @Dyno - I think this is one of the main points in this debate. I've either written a column about that very question, or planned to, but surely it is an interesting topic. Perhaps you've hit the nail on the head. If it's the chase that captivates the audience, then naturally things will change once the hero eventually conquers. But this does beg the question, why were Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold not impacted? We all know how their popularity continued to soar even after winning the belt.

              @Benny - A valid point indeed. Roman Reigns is like the only wrestler who is treated as bigger than the promotion whereas everything in AEW is about AEW as a whole.

              @Lord - WWE has definitely been guilty of this when there is a champion they don't really, they put focus on the bigger stars. That certainly came across at times during Hangman's run and that did indeed hurt his reign.

              Thank you to all who took the time to read and feed. Much appreciated.


              • #8
                Donny! Glad to see you're still here dropping columns. There's not many of you left haha.

                As for fans turning on Page, everyone above pretty much covered the meat of the questions you posed. I'll sum up my two cents by simply saying we live in the instant gratification era. It makes me miss the pre-social media days where you didn't have to hear every individual wrestling fan's thoughts all the damn time. People geek out over long-term storytelling, but then they're quick to critique and complain that it's grown stale or been dragged out for too long. When you stretch a story like Page's out over 3 years, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep the vast majority of the fanbase content for the duration (everyone's an expert remember). You also run the risk of injuries or other real life obstacles popping up along the journey and taking away from it. I too think it's fair to say that bigger names like Punk and Bryan showing up shortly before Hangman won the gold took additional steam out of Page's sails. You're correct though in that his title reign itself should be viewed as an overall success. Given the lengthyyyy buildup to Page becoming champion, I think it's more a matter of fans expecting a longer and more significant run from him than what they got. And honestly once Punk and Bryan arrived in AEW, you could feel the tone shift overnight. Suddenly it seemed like Hangman was just keeping the World Title warm until one of them came knocking. Good thought provoking piece, homie.