Headbutts and Revenge: “Hangman” Adam Page vs. Bryan Danielson II

First thing’s first, it’s not as good as the first one.

Really, it’s almost unfair to have expected this pair to hit that level again. Outside of doing something radically different or just extending the time limit out further, there’s really no way that Page and Danielson could top the broadway from Winter is Coming. There’s also so many factors that made the first match great that simply aren’t present here. Most notably, the pitch perfect week-to-week build leading up to the first match gets replaced with a single promo segment that explains the stipulation for the rematch. It’s just not the same.

More Professional Wrestling

Another reason this can’t quite reach the heights of the first is that the first match was very much centered around an absolutely monstrous performance from Bryan Danielson. It highlighted Danielson unleashing his fury on the champion, picking Hangman apart piece by piece. This match, however, shifts the focus squarely on Hangman. The champion is given far more room to stretch his legs as an aggressor in this and he feels like the narrative core of the match this time around.

Unfortunately, Hangman Page, is not the greatest wrestler of all time. That’s not a knock on him. By definition, every other wrestler in the world falls short of that incredibly lofty standard. Hangman’s performance in this match is great and there’s a lot to love about it but he’s trying to follow up on a performance from the best to ever do it, and that’s a near impossible mountain to climb.

And really, there’s nothing wrong with that because this match still whips a ton of ass.

The Sequel

It’s not as good as the first one, yes, but it’s also smart enough to understand that it doesn’t have to be. This is a louder, in some ways dumber, sequel to what came before and it was honestly a good choice on the wrestlers’ behalf. This didn’t need to be another classic. The first match already took the careful steps to introduce all the different elements that the viewers needed to understand, the sequel simply gets to play around in that space more freely. All it has to do is wrap up the narrative threads left open by the last match, and I think it did so in incredibly satisfying ways.

The opening moments plays similar beats to the first. It’s built around Danielson evading Hangman’s offense but the champion’s far more aggressive coming after the challenger this time. He’s able to cut off Danielson’s games early by nailing a tope suicida to the floor. The challenger still finds ways to take advantage of Hangman’s full head of steam though. After evading a Buckshot Lariat attempt, Danielson sidesteps a tope suicida to send Hangman shoulder first into the barricade.

Adam Page Bryan Danielson II 02
AEW

Of course, Danielson excels when working over Hangman’s arm. He’s well practiced at picking apart an arm at this point. The champion sells the damage well throughout this segment. He does well to put over the small ways that having the bad arm inconveniences him. Perhaps my favorite example of this comes when Hangman nails Bryan with a fallaway slam but can’t immediately kip back up to his feet as he uses his arms to power himself up.

Unfortunately this leads to one of the bigger flaws of the match. After the initial arm work segment, Hangman’s focus on selling it pretty much goes away entirely. It’s clear to see why. Immediately after the control segment focused on Hangman’s arm, the match transitions its focus to the champion getting busted open on the steel steps. Danielson returned to the arm on occasion later in the match—looking for an armbar as well as his signature LeBell Lock—but both the attack and Hangman’s selling of the arm fades away as the match goes on.

That being said though, all the things they do in place of arm work just rock so damn much.

Danielson yet again zones in on Hangman’s open would like an absolute bastard. His brutal punches keep the blood flowing, and he even adds some gross open palm strikes straight to the cut. There’s less gloating and time wasting on the challenger’s part, having a renewed sense of urgency after losing the last match on time. He even takes a moment to pander to the judges, clawing at Hangman’s wound right in front of the three judges. And then there’s the core of this attack, which sees Bryan throw headbutt after headbutt Hangman’s way.

Hell yes.

In a beautiful reversal from the first match, Hangman drives Danielson face-first into the ringpost Unified-style. It’s in this moment that the match discovers its greatest quality: the simple beauty of revenge. Hangman’s been so wronged and battered by the challenger that seeing him get pure, direct, eye-for-an-eye justice is just so satisfying.

Adam Page Bryan Danielson II 03
AEW

Not only does Hangman break Danielson’s face open on the ringpost, he also gets a jumping jacks taunt in. Seeing a babyface champion return all the indignities done to him with such confidence does so much. It helps you believe in Hangman. Where the first match showed us that the champion could endure and even win in deep waters, this second match shows us that the champion is fully capable of avenging himself and his friends with ferocity.

It is a bloody vengeance. Honestly, the best kind.

This is Dragon’s first bloodbath since leaving the WWE and, boy, does he relish in it. The cut is on the side of his face instead of right at the center, which helps put over the awkward angle that Danielson crashes into the ringpost. It’s such a great, continuous flow too. The blood fully cakes the left side of Dragon’s face and never seems to close and dry during the match. His physicality also does so much to put over the blood loss. He’s staggered on his feet in the last few moments of the match as he tries to draw the strength needed to finish the champion. It’s delightful stuff that just naturally adds drama to a match like this.

Hangman relishes in the bloodshed as well, taking a moment to wipe the challenger’s blood on his chest. On the TBS feed this happens during the commercial break, while on the Fite TV stream, Tony Schiovane helpfully points out that this reminds him of Jerry Lynn, one of the judges at ringside, similarly painting himself with Steve Corino’s blood back in ECW. A small nod to history that helps add a little depth to a stipulation which is really just all for aesthetic in the end.

Adam Page Bryan Danielson II 05
AEW

All in all, it’s a fantastic match. And although we’re barely a week into the new year, it’s one that’ll be hard to top as the year goes on. It does everything it needs to. It fully cements Hangman Page as the better man in this rivalry and puts a neat end on this little rivalry. I’d love to see what these two can do again in the future but for now, everything seems to have been wrapped up decisively.

It’s easy to compare it to the first match given how close in proximity they are. As I said, it’s not quite as impressive and awe-inspiring. But that’s okay, because each match had two totally different tones and goals in mind. The first match was a neatly structured championship struggle that escalated its way beautifully through a full hour. The second match has the guts to ponder, Hey, headbutts rock, don’t they?

Yes, headbutts rock. They really do.

RELATED ARTICLES