One of the pleasures of watching Ring of Honor over its 16 year history has been watching wrestlers early in their career develop into the best young stars of the day. The group has been a major pipeline for some of the best talent in the business this century, from Daniel Bryan and Samoa Joe to Seth Rollins and Adam Cole. We watched their progress in Ring of Honor both inside and outside the ring, and it’s that kind of connection that makes watching smaller and independent promotions so powerful for some wrestling fans.
If you’ve been watching Ring of Honor this decade, you’ve witnessed the steady growth of Adam Page. From a first round loss in the 2013 Top Prospect Tournament, to a role as a “young boy” in the heel stable the Decade, to his eventual rise as one of the core members of the massively popular Bullet Club and regular appearances with the red hot New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Page has seen the kind of personal development and journey that isn’t often seen on TV anymore in wrestling. He’s grown from prelim underdog to title contender before our eyes over the last five years, and he’s worked hard every step of the way.
This weekend, at New Japan’s Strong Style Evolved (airing live on AXS TV at 8 PM ET on Sunday, March 25), Page will face off in what’s probably the biggest match of his career so far. He’ll be challenging New Japan regular Jay White for that company’s US Heavyweight Championship in the semi-main event of New Japan’s second American show. It’s a huge showcase for a great young wrestler who, at 26, still has the prime of his career to look forward to.
Paste recently talked to Page about Strong Style Evolved, the popularity of Bullet Club, his relationships with his fellow Club members, and his upcoming match with Kota Ibushi at Ring of Honor’s Supercard of Honor show on April 7. We also talk about All In, the indie megashow that his Bullet Club colleagues Cody Rhodes and Nick and Matt Jackson of the Young Bucks are throwing in Chicago in September.
Paste: So this is your first time wrestling Jay White in a singles match. It’s a high profile match for both of you. What sort of planning or prep work do you put into a match like this in hopes of making it stand out?
Hangman Page: It’s hard to say because I’m not there yet but building up to it, man, I’ve been spending way more time in the gym, way more attention to my diet, trying to be the best shape I can be in. I’ve been doing at least three hours in the gym. This is a big match for me. It’s a big match for Jay. It’s certainly one of the biggest of my career, and I know it’s one of the biggest of his too, and it’s on a platform like no other, live on television. So we’re putting all we have into this.
Paste: When you’re training for wrestling, what’s the right balance between strength training and cardio?
Page: It’s hard to say. You’ve got to do both. Cardio is key in wrestling and it’s weird because it’s very difficult to train cardio for wrestling. You can run non-stop on a treadmill for an hour, that’s great, but when you get punched in the face and thrown from ten feet in the air onto your back, it’s very hard to prepare for that. Certainly I want to keep my size and keep my strength but you’ve got to pay a lot of attention and put a lot of work into it. Switching up your cardio, doing some high intensity stuff as well. I’m a big burpee guy.
Paste: Do you think guys like Jay White, who come up through that vaunted New Japan dojo system, do you think they have an advantage when it comes to cardio over some of the American guys?
Page: I don’t necessarily think he has an advantage. I know he’s been training hard and I know he’s been taught a certain way. Maybe some of htose ways that New Japan teaches things, maybe they’re the top of the game, but maybe they’re a little old school. Maybe it’s something that’s been ingrained in the system for a long time and maybe I’m doing things that are different than that that gives me a little bit of an edge.
Paste: You’re in Bullet Club, and it’s been a huge boost to your career. It was already big when you joined, at least within the world of wrestling, but now it’s hit this whole other level over the last year. What’s it like to be caught in the middle of something so popular?
Page: It’s wild. It’s transcended wrestling, it’s become part of pop cuture. Christmas time this past year, I was in the mall and walked by Hot Topic, and you know they had all those advertisements on the wall for Christmas. It was Star Wars and Harry Potter and Bullet Club. That’s wild! That’s me, you know what I mean? It’s been great. It’s not something I’m surprised by, because I know the quality of the guys in Bullet Club. I know how hard all of us work, how creative we are. We put everything we have into what we do. So it doesn’t surprise me at all. But still sometimes it can take you back a little bit.
Paste: Fans who watch Being the Elite can tell that y’all seem like pretty good friends in real life. How about the Japanese members of Bullet Club that you don’t get to see all that much, like what’s it like when you go over there and you’re with Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa and all those guys?
Page: Those guys, it’s like you’re family that you don’t get to see but so often. You’re still tight, you’re still friends, all that stuff. There’s a geographical element to it that we just can’t help. We don’t see them that often. Us American Bullet Club guys, we get the perception that we’re in Japan all the time, but it’s not necessarily the case the past year or two. I maybe made six visits last year? So we just don’t see them as much, but it’s not like we’re any less friends with them.
Paste: I’d say, within the Club, you’re most closely associated with Cody Rhodes. You seem to team with him more than you do other guys from the Club. What have you learned working with Cody over the last year?
Page: I’ve never met anyone like Cody. I’ve never met anyone who is so dedicated to what he does. He’s a maniac. He’s a gym freak. When we do these flights to Japan, it ends up being nearly a 24 hour travel day, and then he’s immediately getting ready and going to the gym. He’s a two-a-day gym guy, too. He’s somebody, not just the gym, but what he does in the ring, he puts a ton of thought and a ton of work into, and how he presents himself, and with what we do with Being the Elite. He’s got more passion for wrestling than anyone I’ve ever met before. That’s the kind of company you want to keep.
Paste: What do you hope he’s learned from y ou?
Page: I think working with me a lot of the time… You know, Cody was raised up with his last name, and he was raised up around wrestling. And certainly, not to take anything away from him, because he has earned everything he’s ever had in wrestling, and more, but I think when he left, you know he’s coming in and working for Ring of Honor and New Japan and he’s working with guys like me, he gets to see what it’s like for guys like me—you know, my dad was a tobacco farmer, my mom was a teacher, I’ve clawed just to get on shows in front of ten people, so I think he gets to come back to that. It’s not foreign to him but I think it might be a little eye-opening.
Paste: You’re also now a regular on Being the Elite. How much time goes into a typical episode of that? I assume Matt and Nick Jackson normally do the editing, right?
Page: It’s their show, it’s always been their baby. Nick is our editing team, I’d say more than anybody else, and Matt’s the production team. I think, for a ten or 15 minute episode every week, more work and more thought and more effort goes into that then people maybe realize. When we get into the town we’re at, we’ve already talked about some of the things we want to do, and as soon as we get to town, even if it’s a day early, we immediately start filming stuff and come up with extra little ideas on how to do things. And on show days, we’ve got call time five or six hours before the show, I’d say we spend most, if not all of that, doing stuff for Being the Elite. And it’s great. We’re workaholics, but it certainly takes a toll, doing this Being the Elite stuff. And then we’ve got meet and greets, and those last usually until intermission and then we’re rushing to get our gear on and go wrestle, and when that’s done we usually have some more stuff to film, so these days, our show dates are 24 hour days, and if it’s two or three days it’s still all non-stop. A lot more effort goes into that than people realize, maybe.
Paste: A couple weeks from now you have Supercard of Honor down in New Orleans over WrestleMania weekend, and you’re facing Kota Ibushi, who’s generally (and correctly) regarded as one of the absolute best pro wrestlers in the world today. I know I asked this about Jay White, but are you already thinking about cool things you’d want to do with Kota that you maybe couldn’t do with other opponents? Do you think about matches that way in advance or do you just wait until you’re at the show and put ‘em together in ring?
Page: You’re always thinking. You’re thinking before the matches get announced. I didn’t know that I was going to be wrestling Ibushi at Supercard when I went 20 feet in the air and did a moonsault off the balcony. And that’s something Kota is maybe famous for. He’s gotten himself involved with some of the things going on in Bullet Club. He’s certainly not a member, but he’s gotten himself involved with us, and he’s somebody who irregardless of that I’ve always wanted to wrestle, but now it’s become a little bit personal. So I wanted to spend a bit of a message to him that he might be one of the best in the world, and maybe don’t consider me that, or know who I am, but I can certainly do anything he can do. And I can do it better, to be honest. And I didn’t know that’s what the match was going to be at the time, and that’s probably something that helped make that match.
Paste: Do you pay attention to wrestling critics? Like what people like Dave Meltzer writes about you?
Page: No I don’t, to be honest with you. The only critics that I’m really worried about are the fans who pay to come to the shows or watch us on TV. Those are the people that I’m concerned about, and if I’m getting the reaction that I want or feedback that I want. If people are into what I’m doing there at the show, I’m not worried about the rest.
Paste: Well, I’m sure people have told you, but you’re definitely winning your critics over, over this past year.
Page: I think Bullet Club and Being the Elite have both helped me in that realm. You can be the best wrestler in the world, but until people get to see you to know you it’s hard to make that connection. I think Being the Elite, more than anything, has helped that.
Paste: Also, at the end of summer, there’s the big All In show in Chicago. You’re on the card, right?
Page: Yeah! I’ll be there. I’m on the card. We don’t have any matches announced but I will be wrestling. I’ve got an idea of what I’d like to do but I’ll keep it under wraps for now. We’ve still got a ways to go. But I’m excited about it. It’s something one of a kind. Matt, Nick and Cody are putting money out of their pocket to get this building and do this show, and it’s something unlike anything that’s been done in a long time in wrestling. This will be one of the biggest things in wrestling this decade.
Paste: Where do y’all go from there? If you sell out that 10000 seat building, what’s next for Bullet Club?
Page: We don’t know. We’ll keep you watching. We’re always listening to what people want to see and we’ve got some idea for things we’d like to do. But we’re all eyes and all energy focused on All In. We’re legitimately all in on All In. So we’ll see what happens as soon as that’s over. But we’re the kind of people where, I’m sure before the show is even over, while it’s still going, we’ll be talking about what’s next.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s comedy and games sections. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.