As announced on the April 27, 2022 episode of Dynamite, the Double or Nothing 2022 main event will see World Champion, “Hangman” Adam Page, defend against challenger, CM Punk. For many, this is a match with lots of promise and contrast between two of the most intriguing crowd-favorites on the roster: the first-time World Champion against the multi-time World Champion; the anxious, beer-drinking millennial against the straight-edge veteran. But for as much ready contrast as there is between Page and Punk, this is also a match between two of AEW’s biggest faces of self-doubt.
For Punk—in better spirits as he might be since coming back to pro wrestling in 2021—the approach to overcoming self-doubt is the same as it’s always been: by being loud about it.
With the match graphic flashed onstage, Punk makes his way down the aisle from the commentary desk, not shy to put over FTR’s spirited technical singles bout minutes prior. Punk, in fact, is complimentary of the AEW roster as a whole, proclaiming to the Philadelphia crowd that he has never been in a locker room with more talent than at present with AEW. Then, he sings to the crowd an old, familiar tune:
“Before I walked through the curtain for the first time in 7 years, I asked myself a question; and that question was, ’Can I still do this?’”; to which he answers, “Hell yeah, I can still do this!”
This rejuvenated, “for the younger talent” CM Punk is definitely a welcome and preferred sight. However, within seconds, Punk extinguishes self-doubt the best way he knows how: by tossing it into a fire. Punk’s attention turns toward the world title match, saying, “this is not to disparage anybody I’ve shared a ring with here in AEW, except for maybe Eddie Kingston, but […] everything until this point has been warming up.” This is the same CM Punk who, on media scrums, wished to help the younger talent, only to de-fang them all with casual aloofness; the same CM Punk who constantly wondered aloud whether or not he could still go in the ring, only not to miss a beat putting others down if it means lifting himself up and minimizing self-doubt; and the same CM Punk who knew he had old scores to settle in the locker room, only to deflect blame when Eddie Kingston aired out his grievances and hurt from Punk’s backstage judgment towards him over a decade ago.
In contrast, Adam Page’s struggles with self-doubt have been well-documented but largely contained within his friends in The Elite. Whereas CM Punk would doubt if he could still wrestle on a main event level after being gone for 7 years; Page would doubt whether he belonged in The Elite or not, whether his own friends saw him as an equal or not. And for this to be addressed, Page needed to address his friends directly when he was ready.
When the Young Bucks repeatedly blew off Page’s requests and invalidated his frustrations and insecurities with the group, Page was angry at them, and he let them know how betrayed he felt. When World Champion Kenny Omega started talking down to Page as a world title contender; Page, after months of refusing to challenge for the title (despite being ranked consistently in the Top 5), refused to hold himself back any longer, even calling his former tag partner out on his own insecurities and manipulative behavior.
And when the time came for Page to fight them, he fought.
And when all parties were ready to let things go, they did.
When Page finally won the World Championship from Omega, the first thing he did was to hug the friends he had made throughout this rough patch, members of Dark Order, who had come down to the ring to celebrate with Page. He knew a tremendous weight had been lifted from his shoulders, a weight that far exceeds any pressure a pro wrestling championship can bestow upon its holder.
One man is loud, brash, and approval-seeking, at one point, asking one city after another if they’re tired of the “lovefest” yet; the other much quieter, more emotionally upfront, and turbulent. One man conquers self-doubt by addressing doubters; the other content with addressing those closest to him. Both approaches are valid, necessary, and part of the ever-changing, ever-evolving face of self-doubt: ultimately, the self.
As Punk circles around ringside, still on a high following the FTR singles match, and still hyping the crowd up for the Double or Nothing main event, he drops direct praise at the champion, saying, “I’m a fan of Adam Page,” before promising not a win, but a fight to the end—a more reserved pronouncement of confidence from Punk—in a fight that will speak volumes.