Jon Moxley vs. Hangman Page (AEW Dynamite 2/1/23)

Match Reviews

First reviewed here.

In which Hangman Page learns a lesson about spite.

The entire Jon Moxley/Hangman Page feud sort of acts as the platonic ideal of the things AEW promised it could be. It’s a long running feud between a well-established star of a previous generation in Jon Moxley, against a younger talent who’s AEW through and through in Hangman Page. At the same time, the entire program delivers on the kind of complicated, shades of gray storytelling that the promotion always seemed to strive for, but only ever really nailed on a few key occasions. It’s also a story that spun off something painfully real, giving us something rooted in reality, elevated through the medium of pro wrestling itself. Moxley vs. Page is what should constantly be striving for, and what they’ve been consistently falling short of later in the year.

In January, they had a really great, if rather straightforward, slugfest that gave Hangman a measure of revenge from the concussion he received at Mox’s hands at the end of 2022. In the process of doing so, Hangman delivered the first real dent to Moxley’s confidence since his tenure in the company began–he knocked the lights out of Moxley. Now on a path of vengeance, Moxley came into this match promising to use any of a thousand different methods to put away Hangman.

That’s what ends up defining the dynamic of the match here. Hangman’s pissed that Moxley continues to hound him and is acting out emotionally to the situation. Even if Moxley jumps Hangman at the ramp, it reads in hindsight far more like strategy than loss of temper. Moxley’s taking the fight to where he’s comfortable–brawling out among the people, and picking Hangman apart bit by bit. There’s thought here too, Moxley works to wear out Hangman’s leg with a figure four on the floor. Meanwhile, the attack pisses of Hangman, who’s already acting out thanks to the pro-Moxley hometown crowd. There’s an especially rude moment on Hangman’s part tossing a stray beer at recovering addict Moxley to break up a figure four on the floor (commentary never really nails the gravity of this, but @no_more_mutants caught it).

When Moxley attempts to Pillmanize Hangman on the floor, it doesn’t read as desperation, but much colder. As Moxley promised, he has more ways to hurt Hangman than vice versa, and he’s merely demonstrating the breadth of his capabilities. Accordingly, the leg work doesn’t last for Moxley here–it doesn’t have to. Much as his stablemate and friend Bryan Danielson has proven so capable of, Moxley’s attack may not be laser targeted, but it is no less systematic. He’s picking Hangman apart bit by bit.

It’s worth noting at this point too, that Hangman’s no slouch in this match. If anything, time has been especially kind to his performance here as it’s the first of two extremely strong “away game” performances from him. He never degenerates into a full heel at any point in this match, but there’s a much more spiteful edge to his performance and physicality. He’s so clearly attuned to his reception from the audience that he knows to do small things like savor wiping Moxley’s blood off against his chest. It’s the kind of nuanced performance in a hostile environment that characterizes some of the best ace figures in wrestling, and it makes me wistful about the idea of a year Hangman could have spent on top of the company instead of what we got.

Notably though, Hangman’s hatred and emotional response does tend to blind him. Much as it did in his match against CM Punk the year before, Hangman gets caught up in playing games with his opponent instead of wrestling them. Notably, Hangman plays at move stealing in this bout. Early on he attempts the trademark BCC head stomps, something Mox sees coming a mile away and is able to counter. Later in the match, when he’s got the better of a strike exchange, he hits a thrust kick and God’s Last Gift combo, calling back to Mox’s former stablemate. It’s a problem of intent here. Most importantly, fatally, Hangman attempts Mox’s own bulldog choke on him in the match’s closing moments, only for Mox to roll him up no problem for the victory.

It’s a problem of intent here. Hangman found himself caught up in trying to embarrass Mox in his hometown, but Mox wanted something simpler: to win.

It’s one of AEW’s finest in-ring accomplishments of the year, a perfect middle chapter for a rivalry that feels just as layered and narratively rich as the climax to follow. It establishes the strengths and weaknesses of the wrestlers involved, shines a spotlight on how emotion fuels their actions in the ring, but leaves them just enough space to grow and learn yet. At the same time, it’s a mechanical marvel from both men. We know Mox loves to hit, but those kicks of his were Dragon-esque at points (a comparison that feels more and more apt since they’ve began teaming), and his staggered selling walks the fine line that Terry Funk often did. Meanwhile, Hangman’s meeting Moxley blow for blow here, hitting some of the best elbows of his career, all the while combining that with enough subtle antagonism to suit the moment.

Beyond that, I just love the moral it forces Hangman to learn here. He so often gets overwhelmed by his own anger, and in the process, loses himself. To thine own self, be true, Hanger. Or just stop trying other people’s moves, at least.

Rating: ****1/4

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