By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
In the months since then, however, something happened. Mr. Brodie Lee appeared as The Exalted One, Being The Elite allowed the group to showcase its lighter side, and instead of being a directionless, watered down evil faction, the Dark Order became entertaining, having fans who once dismissed them as an annoying, tiresome gimmick un-ironically buying “Join The Dark Order” t-shirts.
Still, real-life tragedy wasn’t far away as Mr. Brodie Lee, the faction’s leader, mysteriously disappeared from television for a couple months before it was announced that he unexpectedly passed away in late December. The news left the wrestling world shocked and it wouldn’t have been unfair to wonder where the meat of the group would go after they conducted a clean sweep during AEW’s excellent tribute show to Mr. Brodie Lee only a handful of weeks ago.
Yet if Twitter is any indication …
… Those questions may just be answered this week.
“This Wednesday is going to be a very important #AEWDynamite. We celebrate -1’s birthday, and “Hangman” Adam Page will tell us if he’s going to #JoinDarkOrder.”
That came from Alex Reynolds on Sunday, and while the faction has been overshadowed recently by the passing of Mr. Brodie Lee, there hasn’t been much talk regarding what happens to the group now that the Exalted One is gone. Who will be their leader? Will they split up? Does everything revert back to when any Dark Order segment on television made us wonder what was happening on NXT as we reached for the remote?
Those answers can only come with the passing of time, but while we’re waiting, here’s an idea worth pondering: What if Hangman Page becomes the group’s leader?
For nearly the entire first year of AEW’s existence, Page was cast as an outcast, the member of The Elite that either didn’t care enough about his friends or drank so much that he couldn’t remember their names. He was then saddled with Kenny Omega as a tag team that provided consistently great matches against whomever stood across from them all the while playing off the “bickering partners” trope.
His work in the Stadium Stampede match was a low-key highlight of the whole thing and even though he left his friends in The Elite behind, he continued to flirt with the idea of being a better storyline friend to them both on Dynamite and then on BTE. Then, of course, there was January 21, 2020, when, on Jericho’s cruise, Page and Omega beat SCU for the AEW Tag Titles and held them for almost nine months before dropping them to FTR in September.
That loss launched a program between Omega and Page as singles wrestlers and at Full Gear in November, Omega got the win in what we all presumed was the feud’s blowoff. From there, we all know what happened with Omega — winning the AEW World Heavyweight Title, aligning with Don Callis and making Impact spots every Tuesday — but while Omega stepped into the success we all knew he was destined to have in AEW …
A STAR AMONG STARS
…. Page sort of faded into the back.
Lost in all of that was the reality that Hangman is one of the best under-30 workers in the business. His matches are smooth, but not too smooth, unpredictable yet logical, and above all else, captivating. He hulks over some of his opponents with strength and height, yet can collaborate with anyone from a Rey Fenix to a Brian Cage to a Darby Allin and get good-to-great matches out of it. Versatility isn’t his only strength, but it’s his most valuable one.
Which is why bringing him in as the new leader of the Dark Order could be a win-win for everybody involved. If he’s asked to be funny, he can be funny. If he’s asked to be a leader, he has no problem holding himself that way. If he’s asked to bring an extra layer to whatever the Dark Order becomes, he can surely bring a shot of adrenaline with him, were he to take over.
Plus, don’t forget: Hangman already knows how to make a name for himself while playing one part in a group that has many. Perhaps his most popular AEW stuff came when he became the odd loose cannon in The Elite. He kept everybody guessing for months when it came to if he would have his tag partner’s back. Then, after the two went their separate ways, he showed remorse and longing for Omega as he stood in the shadows, drink in hand, watching his former partner elevate his single star status.
The majority of all that happened while he was associated with The Young Bucks, Omega, and even Matt Hardy. Through it all, he understood what it took to stand out in a crowd, all the while doing so at or near the top of the card. It’s no small feat, yet it can often be lost in the shuffle and/or taken for granted when everything clicks the way it did between Page and his counterparts.
The only real question that remains: How would he fit in?
SWITCHING THE ORDER
Glad you asked, because there are many answers that lie at the other end of this.
First, you have the tenor of the current iteration of the Dark Order. Do they take the cult aspect of everything seriously again? Do they poke more fun at it? Does it become less of a cult and more a group of friends? Does its leader have to be maniacal in order for the faction to maintain credibility among fans?
Mr. Brodie Lee did a fantastic job as the overbearing boss. He clearly took aim at Vince McMahon with some of his bits, but even when they weren’t trying to lob cheap shots at WWE, Mr. Brodie Lee felt like he had the respect of his underlings, and those underlings were equally intimidated and in awe of their, for lack of a better term, Exalted One.
But does that mean that’s what the Dark Order needs to be as it moves into a new chapter? Not necessarily. Should the wrestlers be taken more seriously? Yes. Does the Dark Order’s work have to be exclusively funny to maintain a connection with the audience? No. But can we all agree that maybe now’s the time to switch things up a little bit with the faction as a unit?
So, how do you do that? Well, there are a million answers to consider, but one way you can begin to turn heads is by putting Hangman Page at the helm and telling him to do whatever he wants. Or, well, not whatever he wants, but at least have a strong input when it comes to the direction the faction might go. And because he would potentially bring another layer to the story, why not see how far he can take it, from a story standpoint, all the while re-establishing him as a main player at the top of the AEW lexicon, which is something the Dark Order needs?
Or, hear me out …
A TEAM FOR THE AGES
… Allow Page to serve as a mentor to -1 within the Dark Order oeuvre. Maybe -1 becomes the leader, but Page steps in to hold the fort down whenever -1 has things to do — like, say, go to school. Or hang out with his friends. Or live a teenage life.
Either way, we have to remember that the Dark Order lived for months without a leader. The Exalted One was teased to be revealed again and again and again and again. Reports surfaced after the fact that Matt Hardy was once considered to be the chosen one before the AEW decision-makers ultimately went forward with Mr. Brodie Lee as the figure behind all the nonsense.
Why not play off that again? It would be a fun way to honor Jon Huber’s memory, and if I’m not mistaken, Tony Khan did announce that AEW signed -1 to an actual contract of some sort, did he not? Have the kid make a few spots a year and let Hangman Page take care of the rest. Not only would you have a faction that people go to for a humor fix and a cult fix, but now you’d also have a faction that people go to for a sentimental fix as well. Because if you tell me that you wouldn’t have your heart strings pulled upon each time you see -1 appear on your television screen to ostensibly honor his father, then I’m going to tell you that you’re a liar.
Still, even if working a full-time angle with a kid isn’t necessarily practical fantasy booking, Page stepping forward as the guy in charge of everything Dark Order would instantaneously give the faction as a whole a credibility boost all the while shooting Page right back into the conversation for what’s going to happen on Wednesday nights. And at the end of the day …
WANTED: A LEADER
… That’s kind of the point of all this.
Hangman Page is on the list of people you have to see when you find out what the card is for every AEW show or pay-per-view. To be honest, with the way things have been going, my fear is that he gets pushed to the back of the mid-card now that his story with Omega is done. If anything, he’s worth being in the picture for the TNT title, if not the world title at some point down the line.
And while I understand AEW’s fascination with keeping things obtuse — were the Young Bucks heels for a minute? What exactly is going on between Darby and Sting? — it could do the Dark Order some good to have a leadership structure in place, even if half the gag is how they flirt with bringing in new members all the time. Case in point? Mr. Brodie Lee’s arrival. Once he stepped through the curtain as the Exalted One, each member of the Dark Order could finally live down that awful viral video that exposed some auxiliary members not-punching Dustin Rhodes.
Part of that was Mr. Brodie Lee’s charisma, but another part of that was also the reality that the group was finally made whole. Structure is one of the biggest assets to professional wrestling, and the more succinctly it’s utilized, the more everybody wins. Why do you think tournaments work so well on these shows? You can’t get anymore structured than that.
Either way, if Page is going to hashtag-join-the-Dark-Order, here’s hoping he doesn’t become a bit player in a group of people that so obviously need a more established name atop its rankings in order for them to cut through the noise. As of this writing, Page isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire with whatever they have for him at AEW. Joining – and leading – the Dark Order helps everyone involved, including him. For now, we’ll have to wait until Wednesday to see where Page goes next and if that even involves the Dark Order at all.