Fresh off a red-hot All Out pay-per-view event in September and what has been a very strong 2021 overall from a creative standpoint, All Elite Wrestling finds itself at a bit of a crossroads ahead of this Saturday's Full Gear PPV offering.
With a stacked card that threatens to one-up the critically-acclaimed All Out, Full Gear will almost certainly conclude with the World Championship bout between defending champion Kenny Omega and his challenger, the number one contender Adam 'Hangman' Page.
The collective opinion of fans and insiders alike with regards to which of the two should win the main event of the show has been largely split so far. Though professional wrestling is of course pre-determined, the final decision of head honcho Tony Khan will have a big effect on the company's options for storylines and main event programs for the next six months, perhaps longer. And while it's quite common for fan opinion on an outcome to be divided, it's quite surprising in this instance.
There are many Twitter threads, YouTube videos and more that wonderfully and eloqently detail Page's two-year character development up to now, where he challenges former friend and tag team championship partner Omega, who defeated him one-on-one at last year's Full Gear show on his way to becoming champ and the man to beat. So I'll do my best not to echo those here.
Nor do I intend to get too annoyed at some of more mainstream takes from well-known wrestlers and ex-performers that believe Omega should win what is the final battle of ths two-year storyline, despite decades of evidence suggesting fans want logical and satisfying endings to both wrestling and television/movies in general (not to mention centuries of evidence laid forth by the most famous novels and fairytales).
At the end of the day, said wrestlers will play the 'I am a wrestler so my opinion is superior to that of a fan's' card, but history shows us what has happened to every professional wrestling company that put the desires of the cast ahead of the desires of the audience (unless that company is able to go publicly-traded). And while their 'grass is actually purple' takes are necessary for them to stand out in a crowded podcast market, they carry absolutely zero value when it comes to whether or not AEW stick the landing with Omega-Page.
However one of the main reasons cited by those who believe Omega should defeat Page again on Saturday happens to also serve as an intriguing insight into how we have been trained to interpret professional wrestling storytelling in recent times, and how AEW may well be in a position to change that for the better at Full Gear.
Some believe an Omega win would put extra 'heat' on his rivalry with Page; as in, it would further develop things so that the audience stays tuned for a much bigger and more satisfying payoff down the line, when 'Hangman' does finally conquer his nemesis. This belief seems to be based entirely on the premise that their feud began in July of this year, when they began confronting one another in-ring and talking about doing battle for the belt. It is, in fact, much longer and deeper than that, as the above links and references will explain.
And it's okay that people have made that presumption, overlooking Omega and Page's time as tag team champions, their respective disappointments prior to that in AEW Dynamite's early days, the tension between Page and the rest of The Elite and his subsequent ejection from the group before eventually 'finding himself'. After all, most mainstream wrestling storylines in the 21st century have trained us to expect speedy and rushed arcs, zero subtext and sometimes a conclusion that is 'swerved' from the logical path or even abandoned altogether.
Fans of the very best, award-winning television series, movies and other such forms of entertainment do not settle for such disregard. They are rewarded for investing emotionally and rewarded for paying attention.
Certain aspects of the two-year Hangman/Elite/Omega saga could certainly have been made more available to the non-diehard viewers, but if they conclude this saga the right way at Full Gear on Saturday, it will serve as positive reinforcement to wrestling fans of every variety that there is indeed a good reason to pay attention to the little details once again; to stay the course in the long run once again.
If Adam Page gets his 'big win' on Saturday over his old friend, the man who used him as a crutch to restore his own self-confidence when he should have been teaching Page how to find his own, the man who did everything he could to exploit Page's fluctuating confidence and social anxiety issues, it will serve as a marker for the coming years and even decades that wrestling fans will have any time and effort they devote to their favourite pastime treated with respect, as is the case with the sizeable fanbases of such classics as The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and The Good Place.
If AEW cave in to the attention-seekers on social media and look to put more 'heat' on Omega's title reign, however, we could be set to endure Sting vs. Hollywood Hogan at Starrcade 1997 all over again.