The clothesline is one of the most elemental and enduring moves in all of wrestling history. With one or both competitors charging the other, one swings their arm or simply holds it out steady and strikes down their opponent. Chances are you’ve watched over 1,000 of them – some called lariats, others with special names like Rainmaker or scary descriptions like “…From Hell”. It takes a lot to transcend such a common act to stand out and create a standout moment in time.
What gives it meaning beyond the seconds it physically occupies? There’s got to be something vital to the context, the obstacles or barriers being overcome, that make us remember it not as a mere “wrestling move,” but an athlete and combatant transcending day to day activity. Someone going above and beyond to explode out of routine to do something that takes our breath away and leaves an imprint on our brain. That is what happened when “Hangman” Adam Page conquered Lance Archer in AEW’s Texas Death Match to remain the company’s World Champion. More important than the fact that he did it, however, is the how. Pull up a seat, kids, and let me tell you why what you saw on February 9, 2022 was the greatest clothesline ever thrown.
I say that not in the sense of debating your buddies over “who did the best one—Stan Hansen or Okada?” I mean, I’ve always been partial to the Road Warriors jacking up dudes’ necks with the Doomsday Device, myself. Rather, with all of the specific circumstances, context, and surrounding facts, there has never been a more important, and more dead-on, single execution of the move than that carried out by Adam Page; Atlantic City, 02/09/22.
Adam Page looking for answers, finding himself, and then hunting down Kenny Omega was some of the best long-term booking AEW has executed in its brief history. As soon as Hangman had his hand raised with the title, though, people were already wondering what was next. “The money is in the chase,” as the saying goes, and Omega had already spent nearly a year cleaning out the division after healthy reigns by Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley. With potential long-term challengers like MJF and Adam Cole initially locked into other feuds, it was a struggle for Hangman to get the people sucked right back in, to keep them as invested in his defenses as they were in his previous challenges. The crowd was still rooting for him, but for that to last they needed to be just as captivated by what was to come.
While two matches with Bryan Danielson were fantastic, neither they nor the quickly made “Texas Death Match” against Archer had the benefit of long buildups to capture people with story. It would take standout efforts to make fans and critics take note in order to give “Adam Page, AEW Champion” true legs. This is what Page was facing when trying to put the nail in the Murderhawk Monster’s coffin; AEW has had bloody no-rules style matches pretty often, so if he didn’t will this one to relevance, force it front-of-mind for everyone following, it would just raise questions about whether he could carry the banner long-term for AEW and elevate others as the champion must do. By absolutely nailing the spectacle of that finish, Page could stamp the early part of his reign with a must-see, water cooler moment that nobody could deny and (unlike some killer spots in past AEW matches) tied directly to a big-time victory.
Adding even more weight to the moment, there was something that hadn’t yet been revealed to the world. Following the end of the Hangman Archer match, Adam Cole would in fact appear and start to tease a new feud with Hangman over the world title. This would be a featured main event rivalry, with years of Bullet Club history in New Japan and Ring Of Honor behind it, and it needed to be able to sell big events and Pay-Per-Views as the lead dog. This means that any botch, slip, or misstep during the finish to the match would have lessened the impact of the Cole reveal, made it seem less important. By nailing it, Hangman would instead kick things up a notch not only for the Texas Death Match, but for his next feud and his image as AEW’s best.
One of the reasons wrestling is so impressive is that the performers are landing and hitting on incredible feats of athleticism – moves that are difficult to do perfectly even under perfect conditions. When it came time to make his move against Archer, Hangman found himself in circumstances that were DAMN FAR from perfect. He found himself at the end of the night, in a ring and ringside area that had been trod by dozens of others first, and had been loaded up with dangerous debris. To top it all off, he was well into a battle that was designed to shock the conscience.
To wit, I thought Hangman’s biggest moment of the night had already happened well before the finish. He took one of the more horrific-looking bumps I can remember watching. Archer flung Page through the air and down, not just crashing on the steps, but bouncing off them in a way I thought could have broken his back, torn his knee, or both.
For god’s sake, he almost cracks his skull on the post on the way back up into the air. Getting up and fighting back from that was itself impressive. On top of all that bruising, pain, and impact, both men ended up bleeding profusely. Whether planned or not, this throws off your stamina, your equilibrium, and hell even your vision. Having endured all of that, while working in a ring covered in sweat, blood, dirt, and more, Page still needed to:
- dodge turnbuckles, loose ropes, chairs, and freaking barbed wire that was strewn around the ring between the combatants
- do a front flip off a human moving target
- clear the bottom two ropes (while going the opposite direction the Buckshot normally takes, towards the outside), and
- measure Archer and the distance so that they both went through a table and onto the floor clear of the first table just out of the ring.
Oh, and it had to look good. Good lord, don’t do yourself any favors or anything, champ.
After the end of the match, I had to go back and watch the move again to really process what I’d seen. In spite of all the pressure, and the literal obstacles, it all felt so perfect. Only on replay could I marvel at the timing and pure athleticism it took from Page (not something we often associate with him, given the likes of Rey Fenix, PAC, or Sammy Guevara on the card). The regular Buckshot takes balance, but he’s usually pulling on a solid rope to launch himself (something wresters practice and do thousands upon thousands of times, not that that means it’s easy) and both starts and lands on solid canvas. Here, his launch pad was, well, less than solid and was below him – LOOK AT THIS!
The strength required from each region of Page’s body to hold, elevate, and then land and brace itself after flipping off another man’s back (shout-out to referee Paul Turner holding both men’s weight up without falling over himself) is absolutely insane and should not be overlooked, even with the splashy table spot at the end. The sumbitch somehow ended up looking smooth as silk and even had the distance spot on. How? Search me, man.
Page then got to Archer and displayed nifty timing and footwork to clear the ropes, propel himself, and not just glance his arm off the Murderhawk but actually hang on to drive through the table. This all took place in the span of about 1.5 seconds, mind you. But that additional effort in the setup, and extra impact on the finish, is what would elevate this particular Buckshot in the minds of anyone who saw it, and it was perfect when it had to be. A champion coming up big in the clutch isn’t a novel idea, but in this case it helped cement just what a reliable champion Hangman was proving to be in the first place.
For someone still making his name as a main event guy to take a move that already requires precise execution, put the pressure of hyping an upcoming feature feud on it, add additional steps, and THEN make sure he does it all after bleeding buckets, is all incredible. That is a hell of a lot riding on one swing of your right arm, which is why such moments usually feature leaps off ladders, monstrously powerful slams, or high-speed displays of skill. But this bit of Buckshot was up to the task, never looking better than when it was challenged the most. Whether that will hold true of Hangman Page’s title reign remains to be seen, but we now know he can at least take his signature blast to heights nobody else has yet reached.