“And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people.”Revelation 13:13
Gritty violence. From the battles of neanderthals crowded by more neanderthals to the fighters recorded in octagonal cages, humans crave it. Wherever you can get the taste that fits you, that’s where it lies. The epics in the Roman Coliseum eons ago are testament to that.
For the fighters, it is like a bliss that takes one above the realm. For some, it’s an intoxication that must be satisfied, over and over.
The glory of bruises, cuts, and marks that feeds an adrenaline that feeds a beast. This glory fills a chalice to be drank; the red mixture that tastes salty and metallic. It may make one sick will nauseating others, but the majesty of a fight begets it. Oh, and how the staggering must feel, how mighty the shaking and quaking in the midst of continuing this onslaught. The rise back to your feet when you should stay down is but another hit. It only ends when you are done.
Throughout the war between Swerve Strickland and Adam Page at All Elite Wrestling’s Full Gear 2023, this craving was satisfied, and was done so in glorious exploitation. This was as personal, simple, and effective as two men just not liking one another.
As I watched, five minutes became twenty without my knowing it. The human sacrifice being displayed was a spectacle, leaving nothing out and giving it everything. The worse it got, the more I smiled. I am not a violent man; I do not like fighting others unless I absolutely have to. As pacifistic as I am though, I can appreciate the art and depravity that took place in poetic self-mutilation and carnage. This is a well-crafted story that made one man and rejuvenated another. In simpler terms, this match rocks.
When Swerve Strickland and Christian Cage lost to Sting and Darby Allin at All Out, the Mogul sought to rectify this defeat by being the worst he could be and target a man’s soul deep inside. He could have aimed anywhere else, but he chose the Hangman.
Adam Page, he was but a simple guy again. Teaming with the Elite, kicking ass. It was a simple life, one not needing as much blood since Revolution against Jon Moxley earlier that year.
Strickland had his sights set on the cowboy, and was not going to stop until he poked the beast. Memorable promos laden with personal drama and anguish, that phenomenal match at WrestleDream, and the dissolution of morality and civility, all drawing towards the most human conclusion it could.
While Texas Death Matches are Page’s wheelhouse, Strickland is far from a stranger in death matches as a whole. From Combat Zone Wrestling to Lucha Underground, he took every kill shot to get somewhere, even if he had to leave himself behind.
After being denied a win over Bryan Danielson that would grant him a title shot against Christian Cage at the hands of Adam, Swerve swore vengeance. His hypocrisy and retribution against consequences have been twisting and warping him into something else. But you never attack another man without eating a fist.
Going so far as to break in and enter Page’s home, Strickland knowingly committed a cardinal sin that would make him the red in the eyes of an awakened beast: he threatened the lamb. Draping his shirt over Page’s child, Swerve took this feud to a place there was no escaping.
The Hangman we got from then on was one who is beyond the anxious, goofy, childlike cowboy we’ve come to know and love. Instead, this was a monster nearly unrecognizable.
And boy, what a damn match.
With Prince Nana as the levity to a brutal struggle, almost every moment of the match was gripping. Swerve was bleeding early, and Hangman in turn.
It didn’t stop at just chains, barb-wire, and tables. Swerve was stapled multiple times over, once even with the finger-painting made by Page’s son, a reminder as to how personal this became. To threaten the ones a man loves, to threaten a parent’s role as protector, that’s enough to drive a redness that must be quenched.
This was the beast, but Swerve was not normal, he welcomed pain too. When you shove glass into your own body just to pierce that of another, that’s a level of hatred that is deep-rooted.
How deep? Hangman drank Swerve’s blood, as if to state that he’s going to wring every ounce of being from the Mogul. Going so far as to taste the bitter sodium and breathe iron in his lungs, that’s a bold statement.
At what point would these men stop? There was nothing to indicate such a closure, not until one or the other could no longer move. This match felt like the moments your body wants to give up on you, but you’re too stubborn to let it. This was raw and disgusting and the spirit of what draws fans to AEW.
As I type this, I chuckle at the image of Prince Nana dancing for his life, seemingly almost convincing Hangman to spare him and show mercy, only to throw him out of the equation.
If I had one complaint, it was the unnecessary inclusion of Brian Cage. Great talent, but he was unneeded in this instance. The best part is, however, that doesn’t matter. The match earned itself a spot where something like this could happen and not detract from how epic this crimson painted masterpiece was conceived before our very eyes.
There’s a beauty in the Texas Death Match, especially when conducted by Adam Page. Be it religious symbolism, gritty personal qualms, or layers paved deeper into hell, there is substance to what seems like mindless torture. This is storytelling, poetry, and creativity allowed to exist on a high level without feeling the need to cover your eyes with censors or a gray filter. The brutal honesty of humanity itself is vindicated.
The imagery from this match will last long after these men’s careers settle down. Maybe after they leave their mortal coil. Swerve’s hanging of Adam will be a moment that many will look back on and say “that’s what made him”. Swerve has been a massively impressive talent that needed opportunity and thank goodness AEW has given that to him. It’s crazy to think that, two years prior to this match, Strickland had been released from WWE and now he’s thriving in AEW. The man deserves nothing less than main event status at this point.
All it took was a taste of blood.