Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart is about two things: blowing stuff up and overcoming a debilitating sense of self-doubt. Two of its main characters are plagued by fear and a lack of confidence, and it keeps them both from accomplishing their goals. That’s not unusual in stories—characters are stronger and more interesting when they triumph not just over external adversity but their own inner flaws—but it’s also not that common in the power fantasy-driven world of mainstream videogames. It’s even less common in professional wrestling, which has never had much of a need for subtlety or nuance. While playing Rift Apart, though, I realized that it shares a lot of similarities with the best storyline currently running in wrestling. In both cases, unexpected weakness makes us care about the characters more—proving that both big budget action games and pro wrestling have room for more narrative depth than they often get credit for.
In Rift Apart, Ratchet—the last of the Lombax race in his own reality—remains steely and reliable in battle, but loses all confidence in himself and his accomplishments when given an opportunity to meet other Lombaxes for the first time. He consistently puts off this once-impossible dream of his because he fears he won’t meet up to the expectations or accomplishments of his fellow Lombaxes. Similarly, Kit, a robot Ratchet meets during his adventure who joins him in his quest, is limited by a self-doubt rooted in fear. Although her normal form is small and unassuming, Kit was actually built to be a large war machine, and fear of losing control and hurting others has driven her to avoid all relationships. Over the course of Rift Apart, through the help of each other and the game’s two other main characters, Ratchet and Kit both learn how to overcome their fear and doubt. It’s a standard story—friendship conquers all!—but so many videogames still revolve around emotionless killing machines or stalwart, unflappable heroes that it feels fresh for a game of Rift Apart’s size and complexity.
That kind of mental and emotional weakness is even rarer to see in a top wrestling star. Since the company launched in 2019, though, All Elite Wrestling has carefully told a years-long story about Hangman Adam Page losing his confidence and having it rebuilt through friendship. It’s very unusual for professional wrestling, and bears more than a few similarities to the arcs of Ratchet and Kit in Rift Apart.
Page—the youngest of the five wrestlers who left New Japan at the start of 2019 to form AEW, and the only one who doesn’t have an executive backstage role with the company—entered AEW with a tight knit friendship with the other members of the Elite (Kenny Omega, the Young Bucks, and Cody Rhodes) and as a centerpiece talent who was promoted as one of the company’s brightest stars of the future. After losing to Chris Jericho in the very first match for the AEW World championship in 2019, though, and failing to set the crowd on fire, Page started to doubt himself. At the same time, the Young Bucks became too wrapped up in their own issues to have Page’s back as much as he expected them to, and between his in-ring failure and the distance growing between him and his friends, Page started to drink heavily. That just drove a further wedge between him and the Elite. He did win the AEW World tag team championships with Omega, but even that only made Page doubt himself more; the older and more experienced Omega quickly started to overshadow Page in the eyes of AEW’s announcers and, crucially, in Page’s mind.
When heel tag team FTR arrived in AEW in 2020, they quickly struck at Page’s uncertainty, exploiting their common interests and similar upbringing to further strain the friendship between Page and the Elite. Ultimately, as anybody who’s ever watched wrestling before could predict, FTR capitalized on the division they’d sown to win the tag titles from Page and Omega, severing Page’s last strong bond to his former friends. Omega’s insistence on focusing on singles wrestling and his noncommittal support of Page’s own singles career rattled Page even more, culminating in the two squaring off in the finals of a tournament for a World title shot, which Omega won.
Page’s relationship with the friends who cofounded AEW with him was now fatally frayed. Drinking was his main, and constant, comfort. At the same time, he was slowly, unintentionally building a friendship with a different group of AEW wrestlers: the sympathetic former heel stable known as the Dark Order. The Dark Order was originally depicted as a cult who preyed on the weak and unsure, recruiting wrestlers who couldn’t win big matches with the promise of success through numbers, and then using them as goons and muscle for their Supreme Leader, Brodie Lee. With Page’s losses in major singles matches and the shattering of his friendships with Omega and the Young Bucks, the Dark Order started to recruit him on-air. The direction of the story seemed fairly evident: the collection of “losers” and “geeks” who made up the Dark Order, who were regularly abused verbally and emotionally by their leader Lee, would learn how to become confident through the genuine friendship and respect of Page. Page, meanwhile, would find the friends he needed in the Dark Order, using their support to overcome his self-doubt and dependence on alcohol. The two would make each other stronger, just as Ratchet and Kit learn to overcome their own fears through the support of their friends.
Unfortunately Brodie Lee suffered a rare real-life illness late in 2020, and died tragically in December. The Dark Order had already become a sympathetic group of heels who were only bad because their leader drove them to be; now even more sympathetic after real life tragedy, the group immediately became one of the most popular and beloved acts in AEW. It changed the timeline for the story AEW was telling, but they’ve still arrived at the same spot today: The Dark Order are Hangman Page’s closest friends in AEW; Page—still somewhat unsure of himself—is finally in position to challenge his former friend and partner Kenny Omega for the AEW World championship; and Hangman only reluctantly seized that opportunity because of the support and encouragement of his friends in the Dark Order.
Some wrestling message boards or social media posts have complained about the whole Hangman Page saga, saying that he comes off as a lesser star because of his self-doubt or because of his friendship with the intentionally goofy members of the Dark Order. People who value good storytelling, though, and who believe wrestling doesn’t have to be confined to the cartoon morality and might-is-right mentality that long defined it, recognize it for what it is: a good story of redemption that wouldn’t be out of place in an action movie or popular TV series, but stands out as unique in the world of pro wrestling, where almost every top level good guy has been an unflappable superhero or a cartoon badass. Page’s whole story has unfolded gradually since May 2019, and instead of making him look weak or unfit to be a top star, his self-doubt has only made fans relate to, respect, and, yes, love him more than they ever would’ve. If Page defeats Omega for the World title at an upcoming event—many expect the match to happen at the annual All Out show over Labor Day weekend—the time spent breaking him down and building him back up through the friendship of the Dark Order will make it one of the most emotional and powerful moments in pro wrestling.
Again, it’s a basic story, but one not often found in these mediums and on the scale seen with AEW and Ratchet and Clank. It goes to show how important storytelling is, even in worlds that typically prioritize action over emotion. As with any narrative medium, both videogames and pro wrestling can only benefit when they have characters we care about facing problems we can relate to in ways that feel grounded and realistic for the world in which they’re set. Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart and the saga of Hangman Page both accomplish this beautifully. Their colleagues and competitors, videogame developers and wrestling promotions alike, can both learn a lot from them.
Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s also on Twitter @grmartin.