The Heart of Virginia

It comes as no surprise that people, from the suits in the office to the fans in the stands, saw him as World Championship material. With his golden locks and facial hair, the country boy had an undeniable connection to the crowd, if not from day one, pretty close. When wrestling was re-established on the Turner Networks, the owners saw him as a perineal top guy. That’s why they brought him in. Teaming with one of the most successful stars in the business, who just so happened to play a major role backstage, told audiences that his push wasn’t only coming but was firmly underway. It was only a matter of time before the heel champion, who just so happens to be one of the most gifted wrestlers of his generation, dropped the championship to the boy from Virginia. Unfortunately, it never happened.

Wait. You thought we were talking about Hangman Page? No, that was about Magnum TA. But it’s easy to see similar career trajectories.

Magnum and Dusty Rhodes Credit: WCW/WWE

Terry Allen was a state championship amateur from Virginia Beach. After spending his early career wrestling for Eddie Graham in Florida, he headed to the other side of the country to start with Don Owen’s Portland promotion. Both promoters saw potential in Allen. Three decades later, the kid from Aaron’s Creek, three hours west of the Chesapeake Bay, Adam Page started his career in the Mid-Atlantic indies before being picked up by Ring of Honor.

A Young Adam Page

Both men’s careers were changed by bookers who were at their creative peak. For Allen, Bill Watts saw the combination of good looks, charisma, and talent. Watts had redefined the old Leroy McGuirk’s Tri-State territory as Mid-South. Watts’s most famous creation as Mid-South promoter was the Junkyard Dog, a transformative star who sold out areas across Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma, including the New Orleans Superdome. In Allen, Watts recognized the more-than-passing resemblance to TV star Tom Selleck and renamed Allen Magnum T.A. (rumored to be a suggestion of Andre the Giant). Billed as America’s Heart Throb, Magnum shot through Mid-South to win the North American title twice in 1984.

Magnum T.A.

For Page, his rise from the ROH mid-card faction called The Decade (with B.J. Whitmer, Jimmy Jacobs, and Roderick Strong) came when he drew attention from New Japan Pro Wrestling. Gedo, the booker who led New Japan from the fallout of Inokiism to prominence, selected Page as the newest member of Bullet Club. When A.J. Styles left New Japan for WWE, taking Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows with him, it left a hole in its top gaijin stable. Many thought the end of Bullet Club was near, but Kenny Omega’s quick ascension to leader changed that. Gedo quickly looked to shake up the group, replacing Gallows and Anderson with the Guerrillas of Destiny and bringing in the young Page. During the 2016 War of the Worlds tour, Page turned on Colt Cabana, The Briscoes, and the Motor City Machine Guns. Page hung Chris Sabin over the top rope with a noose during the match, earning him the nickname “The Hangman.” Gedo added the cowboy elements (always a successful trope in Japan). 

Credit: Ring of Honor

Magnum’s career boomed after leaving Mid-South for Jim Crockett Promotions. Crockett, whose Mid-Atlantic territory looked to be the only promotion strong enough to challenge the WWF, purchased the Saturday Night 6:05 timeslot from Vince McMahon. Under booker Dusty Rhodes, Magnum was programed as the promotions number two babyface, behind Rhodes himself. Crockett television in 1985 clearly tells the story of Magnum’s ascension. His rivalry with legendary veteran Wahoo McDaniel ended with his first US Championship. Later in the fall, he started a feud with Tully Blanchard and, by proxy, the rest of the newly formed Horseman. Him tag team with Rhodes (as both America’s Team and the masked James Gang) put him into a trajectory toward Ric Flair and the World Title.

Magnum and Tully Credit: PWI/WCW

When Tony Khan started All Elite Wrestling in January of 2019, Hangman Page was front and center as the promotion’s top young star. However, during his first big match, Page failed to capture the AEW World title from the legendary Chris Jericho. This failure started Hagman on a different path. Eventually, it led to him teaming with Kenny Omega to win the AEW World Tag Team Championship.

In 1986, following an incredible I Quit match with Blanchard at Starrcade 85, Magnum began a feud with Nikita Koloff. During the feud, Magnum punched NWA President Bob Giegel for reprimanding him for “conduct unbecoming of a champion.” This led to the famed best of seven series with Koloff for the US belt. The act of a babyface striking an authority figure was unheard of in 1986. It separated Magnum as more than a squeaky clean babyface. It made him a badass. In the era of Schwarzenegger and Rambo, action heroes with rough edges, Magnum TA was a character in line with the times.

However, sensibilities are different in 2021. Unlike Magnum, Adam Page isn’t the super-confident self-assured superhero. He’s the anxious millennial cowboy. He doesn’t know how to react in every situation. He rejects help from his friends, even knowing it’s what he needs. In some ways, Page is the most relatable babyface character in wrestling history. He appeals to the side of us that wants to succeed but fears success almost as much as we do failure. Like Magnum T.A. in the mid-80s, Adam Page is a hero of his era. A hero that defeated his mental demons and overcame the performer who many call the greatest of his generation to win the AEW World Title.

Credit: All Elite Wrestling

For Magnum T.A., that grand culmination of a story spread across multiple promotions would never lead to his coronation as champion. A car accident that left Terry Allen with partial paralysis would end the story of Magnum T.A. There would never be that great final match with Ric Flair. In some ways, Crockett as a promotion would never recover. A top young babyface would elude the company until Sting in 1990.

The story of Magnum T.A. and Hangman Page has many parallels as it does turns. Both are tales of country boys from Virginia who came to embody the times their stories were told.