top of page

BLOOD FEUD: Swerve X Hangman, Act II

Updated: 6 hours ago

The first part of this series was published on Sunday afternoon in the hopes of scooping and riding the coattails of Hangman's return in case it happened to occur at Forbidden Door that night. As we know, he did not return Sunday night, but—with the Wild Card entry in the Owen Hart tournament happening—tonight on Dynamite seems like a good bet. So: welcome to the second installment of my comprehensive review of the literary symbolism in the story of Adam Page and Swerve Strickland.

 

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

The Hangman ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ... Adam Page

"Swerve"  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... Scott Strickland

The Prince  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... . Nana Bandoh

SCENES

ACT I  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...   AEW wrestling shows in arenas in Indianapolis, Denver, Seattle, and Independence

 ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... . from mid-September to mid-October 2023

ACT II  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ... ...  ... ...Houston's Graffiti Park, Page's home in Aaron's Creek, a wrestling show in LA

 ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... . from mid-October to mid-November 2023

ACT III  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ...  ... ... ... ... ... One horrific night in LA (or Hell) Nov 18 2023 at the Forum

ACT IV  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ...  ... ... ... ???????


Our Story so far...

In Act I, we saw Hangman describe depression in figurative language as a rain sent by an evil God to rain only on him and wash away his vital fluid leaving him a pale copy of his former self. Later, Hangman would sign a contract with Swerve in his enemy's own blood, before falling in defeat to him in enemy territory. We stopped at the point where Hangman took up resorting to vigilante justice to prevent Swerve from gathering any gold by corrupt means. We pick up our story with Swerve's reaction to Hangman costing him TNT gold.


Crossing a Threshold

"Whose house...?" (...Adam Page's house?!)

The following week, cameras caught up with Strickland and Nana in Houston's legendary Graffiti Park, ostensibly to talk about a music-video debut. But Swerve's mind wasn't on hip-hop that night, and instead he had some ominous words for the man who had cost him a shot (ill-gotten or not) at the TNT gold:


I should be excited, right? Why am I not? You know why? Because right now I should be celebrating my music video along with being the TNT Champion. And there’s one reason why I’m not. It’s because of you, Hangman Page. Like I said, it wasn’t a personal thing, it wasn't a thing about Hangman Page, it was Swerve versus the opportunity, it was Swerve versus the SPOT! But now it's Swerve versus Hangman Page and it’s personal and you couldn’t leave well enough alone after I beat you at WrestleDream, huh? You don't want to go to war with someone who gives less of a damn than you do, and nobody cares less about life than me! Just remember this. It’s not always you that pays for your actions.

—Swerve Strickland

It would be only one week later when Swerve would reveal the sinister meaning behind what he had said. Hangman and the Young Bucks would be celebrating in the ring after a successful defense of the ROH six-man belts, when a mysterious and unexpected video begins to play on the big screen:


The video starts out showing us the front door of a typical family home. We see a hand reach out tentatively to test the doorknob. When it turns and the door opens, a masked figure comes into the frame, saying: “We’re in the money, my friends,” while pulling down his mask to reveal himself as Swerve’s chancellor Nana. Nana goes on to chuckle: “Welcome to the Hangman residence” as he leads us inside. Commentary seem confused, wondering if it could really be true, while a close-up of the blank horror and incipient rage on the face of Adam Page in the ring confirms it. Then the focus returns to the big screen as Swerve casually ambles across the threshold of the Page home.

This is a moment that Swerve treats casually—in his mind this is a perfectly reasonable escalation: a demonstration of how far he is willing to go if anyone messes with him, intended to cut off further escalation through fear, not to cause the opposite. The folly of expecting deterrence through disproportionate response is a fundamental and powerful theme of this storyline as a whole. Swerve's casual swagger belies the fact that invading Adam Page's home is effectively a declaration of mutual all-out war. Oblivious, Swerve does not treat the moment as momentous—rather than “the die is cast,” Strickland merely says derisively: “Oh, y'all tacky!”

As he strolls further into the house, it becomes clear that—while Strickland has arrived with an intent—that intent had not quite germinated into a plan, saying: “This family owes me something… for taking my opportunity away. And I’m gonna find out what it is.” At the same time, back in the arena, Adam Page is sprinting towards the back. I remember thinking: unless he’s got the Hangman Helicopter back there, I’m not clear what he expects to accomplish from Philadelphia that could possibly affect the outcome of something going on (maybe) live, all the way in Virginia…


But in retrospect, I realize that the first thing someone would go for in that situation is their mobile phone, and that the Hangman’s tight wrestling gear is decidedly lacking in pockets! While Page is presumably digging in his gear bag to make frantic calls to loved ones, Swerve and Nana aimlessly wander his kitchen. Nana, bumbling comic relief that he is, is delighted to snag snacks to pop into his mouth. While Swerve pulls a toddler’s finger painting off the fridge—saying “yeah, you really ain’t got no taste here,” as if he’s critiquing an exhibition—rips it in half and tosses it over his shoulder. (This specific affront would win Swerve a very pointed payback later.) 

Then, as Swerve flops on the couch and flips through a See N’ Say board book, something very strange happens, that I’m still not sure the explanation of. Swerve suddenly reacts as if he’s heard a sound from elsewhere in the house, while Nana says “What was that?” Then, Swerve grabs the camera and races down a hallway, as Nana does a cowardly henchman's one job by saying: “boss, I don’t like this idea”... Then, we arrive in a room where Swerve sets up the camera angled such that we can see him leaning over the rails of a crib, but we can't see what’s inside.

"Boss, I don't like this idea, EITHER!"

I think that it’s worth noting that, later on, when Hangman would refer back to this incident, he never says anything like, “you threatened my son,” but instead makes accusations like, “you went into my son’s room.” Point being, I don’t believe that—even within kayfabe—Adam Page’s toddler son is actually in the crib; Swerve simply implies that he is, as part of implying a threat to Page’s family. The baby is never shown, and if he is there… Well, who was watching him? Did his Mom or a babysitter just abandon their charge in the face of a home invasion? Far more likely Swerve specifically chose the moment to film this when the house was empty. So, in that case, what sound were they reacting to that prompted Swerve to run into the nursery? Possibly the two of them planned from the start to pretend to react to a sound? In order to—in the moment at least—worry Page into thinking that Swerve is literally, (rather than just figuratively,) menacing his infant child? It's a theory, but I'm still not positive just what the narrative intent was here.

So: here is Swerve Strickland—broadcasting himself to the big screen on Dynamite as he invades his enemy’s home—standing over a crib glowering, and then he cuts a promo on… well—in my reading—on an empty crib, but more to the point... he cuts a promo on what he has implied to be Hangman Adam Page’s one-year-old son:

When I said that, last week, it's not you that pays for your actions, I meant to say: it's your loved ones that do. You cost me a title opportunity; you took something from me, so now you owe me a debt, Hangman. So, since you're not here, it's gonna be Hangman, Jr. that does. Huh? Are you going to give me my opportunities? Are you going to owe me something? No. As a matter of fact, you will—just not today. As a matter of fact, I'm going to leave this [it is a Swerve merch T-shirt] here as a reminder—that YOU are forever indebted to me, and it's your father's fault. I'm never gonna forget that. Neither are you. 

This has got to be one of the most unhinged promos of all time, in an entertainment form FILLED with weird-ass shit. Here,  Swerve is talking about a generational debt of a child for gold as if he were Rumpelstiltskin, menacing a baby in their crib like Maleficent, but—if he were one of the Fair Folk, he wouldn’t have been able to cross that threshold without an invitation. But—being that he is in fact flesh and blood—Swerve feeling aggrieved at Page’s continued interference after having been defeated and failing to understand the depths of his affront, were all the invitation he felt he needed. In the weeks and months to come the consequences of this trespass would spiral unimaginably into madness and horror for both men.

[Check out what Saul had to say about the home invasion segment at the time in #AEWeekly #91]


Death Gauntlet thrown

The following Wednesday, the Elite have a trio’s match against Swerve’s Mogul Embassy muscle over the six-man championships again. Swerve and Nana appear on the ramp at an opportune moment—Strickland taunting Page by saying “Whose house? Matter of fact, last week I was at YOUR house!” The Hangman sees red and chases them to the back even though he’s in the middle of a match, leaving his Young Buck allies high and dry—suggesting the possibility that the home invasion may have been as much about making Hangman too angry to think strategically, as being about deterring further interference. Due to Hangman deserting his post, Swerve’s allies regain their gold—and the Hungbucks haven’t competed as a trio since.

Hangman wasn’t the only performer depicted as being disgusted by Swerve’s actions. Lucha Brother Penta (who notably had never been a Hangman ally in the past) expressed his anger at the home invasion and challenged Swerve to  match for the following Wednesday. During the match, Hangman was banned from the ringside area, but as soon as Swerve pinned the luchador, Page charged the ring and wailed on Strickland’s back with a steel chair as he fled.

If the invasion of Page's home had been intended as deterrence, it had clearly had the opposite effect, and if it had been intended to enrage Hangman, Swerve was now seeing the downside to that. Swerve had warned Hangman about starting a war with someone who has nothing to lose—who "gives less of a damn than you"—but was now learning that having something to lose can sometimes make an enemy all the more dangerous.

Three nights later on Collision, we see Page pacing around the interview area to finally verbally respond to Strickland’s violation of his home and threats toward his family:


Hangman speaks of Swerve crossing the threshold of his home with all of the momentousness that Strickland seemed to have purposely eschewed, comparing it to stepping intentionally through the gates of Hell. Page's threats to end Swerve's life and to make an annual Page family tradition of bringing Hangman, Jr around to piss on Swerve's grave simultaneously sound like unhinged hyperbole, but at the same time perfectly warranted by the provocation. (The man threatened his BABY, what’s he supposed to do, invite him to dinner?) If one were unfamiliar, one might guess that the Texas Death match that Hangman had just challenged Swerve to was literally that: some old-school gladiatorial contest where the winner is the survivor. (Actually, the stipulation primarily defines winning by knockout: in other words, if your opponent fails to return to their feet by the referee's count of ten. Or you can also simply surrender!)

[Check out what Peter had to say about the Texas Death challenge at the time in #AEWeekly #93]

A few nights before Texas-flavored Death was to take place, a face-off was planned, with each man to be asked questions by legendary commentator Tony Schiavone, but—to ensure that all violence would be delayed until viewers were paying for it—if either man were to attack the other, they would be suspended for the rest of the year, on top of the match being called off!


As Hangman stalks to the ring, Swerve looks insufferably smug, and seems like he would be quite pleased to take a punch now to get out of the war on Saturday. Meanwhile Hangman, glaring daggers, is determined to wipe that shit-eating grin off Swerve’s face with words alone. Schiavone begins to ask Swerve a question: “How can you justify going into a man’s…” but Swerve grabs the mic from him in mid-sentence. But then, Page grabs the microphone back from Strickland before he can get a word out. Page then says a number of things calculated to piss Strickland off but with a theme eventually emerging—reminiscent of the promo Swerve cut on Page to start all of this. That theme is: that the evidence that Swerve is NOT the man he thinks he is—the man to fill Hangman’s cowboy boots, and be the champion and leader that AEW needs—is in his very lack of those family ties that Strickland had so callously targeted as if they were a weakness in Adam Page: having been dumped by his fiancée, and being estranged from his kids... It is at this point in Page’s litany of verbal abuse, when he brings up Swerve's own children, that Swerve goes from merely glaring, to weaving and bobbing as if on the ragged edge of holding himself back, and not just because of the threat of suspension—Swerve now wants Texas Death as badly as his enemy does. Page calls Strickland not a man, but a child, comparing him to the children he taught when he was still a high school teacher, except that this lesson in “what not to do” would be final. When he closes on a zinger and throws the mic to the mat, the crowd begins a “Cowboy Shit” chant, in spite of having leaned more towards cheering Swerve lately.

But then Page realizes he had more to say and picks the microphone BACK UP! ...to point out that while the stipulation tonight meant that he and Swerve couldn’t do anything to each other, it didn’t say shit about Nana. Hangman leaps at Nana taking him to the mat and peppering him with punches, while Swerve is forced to stand by helplessly. Not that Swerve has any emotional tie to Nana, but he understands that choosing his own interests ahead of defending him could begin to undermine the loyalty Nana has to him that Swerve relies on. Swerve doesn’t have to dither long, as an army of security quickly comes to Nana’s rescue. But Hangman has already set himself up to go into Full Gear with the mental edge, while Swerve ends up not having had the opportunity to say a word.

 [Check out what Grayson had to say about the pre-Texas-Death face-off at the time in #AEWeekly #94]

 

I definitely picked a cliffhanger to stop at this time!

Tune into AEW Dynamite tonight, and, hopefully, we'll find out together if Hangman is finally back. Then check back here before next week's show, for my obsessive analysis of: Texas Death!





Comments


bottom of page