ROH's Adam Page no ordinary weekend warrior

Adam Page is one of the brightest prospects on the wrestling scene.

During the week, Stevie Woltz is a high school teacher in Virgilina, Va., a blue-collar spec on the map located on the Virginia-North Carolina border. But on weekends, the soft-spoken educator seamlessly morphs into his alter ego of Adam Page, one of the top young performers on the Ring of Honor roster.

Only 24 years old, Page already has eight years experience and has emerged as one of the brightest prospects on the pro wrestling scene. But he's no ordinary weekend warrior.

Page graduated from high school with an associate degree, and two years later received his bachelor's degree from Virginia Tech. He started his pro wrestling training during high school, and while in college received advanced instruction from mat legend Jimmy Valiant at Boogie's Wrestling Camp in Shawsville, Va.

His experience with Valiant came about more by happenstance than design.

“I knew he had a wrestling school but didn't really know where,” says Page. “But at some point when I moved up there, I saw the exit and thought that might be where he had the school.”

Page wasn't totally unfamiliar with the training facility, since he had been working CWF Mid-Atlantic shows in Burlington, N.C., where he had run into some performers who had come from Valiant's school. “I kind of knew everyone who was running things when I got there,” says Page.

While Valiant was a major star from an earlier generation, Page had heard stories about his illustrious career.

“I knew him more from history,” says Page. “He's an awesome guy, I love Jimmy. The Jimmy that I know is the Jimmy running his school now. He had all kinds of characters in his school, and he didn't turn anyone down. He had a very colorful cast of people there. It was a good learning opportunity to be up there with him.”

Page, who earned his college degree at the age of 19, majored in communications with an emphasis on film. A year earlier, though, he had already made up his mind what he wanted to do.

“I liked what I was doing. I had an interest in film, but I didn't want to go to Hollywood and make movies. I only had a year left in college, so I figured I might as well finish what I had started.”

What Page loved was professional wrestling, and he made it clear to his college counselor. “It was like I had said the dumbest thing in the world. She was totally not condescending about it at all. But I could tell she didn't believe a word I had said.”

Page, who had breezed through Boogie's wrestling school as an “honorary graduate,” had no doubt that he had a future in wrestling. But he also was smart enough to know that he needed a full-time job to support him through the early years, and one to fall back on in case the wrestling gig didn't pan out.

“I used both,” he says of his two vocations. “I've been a high school teacher for the past five years. I moved back home after graduating from Virginia Tech. And that's when reality hit. I knew I had to do something. I guess it doesn't click when you're that young. I was 19 and had finished college. I got home and had to figure out what I was going to do.” Two days before classes started, a teacher quit her job and Page got a call from the school. “They asked me if I could teach this.” The answer came quicker than the question.

Page has been teaching — and wrestling — ever since. He teaches graphic design, multimedia and journalism at a high school near his old hometown. If you've never heard of it, Page jokes, not many have. “If I run into somebody who has, it's really something. It's a stop sign. That's it.”

While the teaching position has been steady and rewarding, Page's real passion, more than ever, lies in the wrestling business. And for the past couple of years, he has been one of the most promising young prospects in the game. With Ring of Honor gaining a nationwide TV platform in recent years, the promotion's weekly show is now available in homes across America. Even in Page's hometown, where everyone in the town of 200 knows each other's name.

“It's a real rural area, and not much happens here. So inevitably, everyone knows what I do. Everybody knows I'm a wrestler. It's not something I can hide.”

Especially Mr. Woltz's students.

“They definitely know. It's always the ones who don't talk to me about it. The wrestling fans will always wait until right at the end of the school year, and then they'll talk to me about my wrestling career.” Page usually broaches the subject during the first few days of class “just to get it out the way.”

“I don't bring it back up anymore,” he says, preferring to downplay it and concentrate on the books instead for the rest of the school term.

Due to Page's rising popularity on the wrestling scene, the weekend mat gig sometimes interferes with the teaching job.

“I've been taking all these weekends. Sometimes on a Friday, Mr. Woltz will be sick,” he jokes. “I have to use up those sick days and those personal days.”

That's the price one has to pay for being in demand in the wrestling business. As Page's wrestling career opens up, he will find himself in even greater demand. He is already under contract to ROH, and at some point WWE may come calling, demanding his full-time attention.

“That's the hope,” says Page, who says he's completely comfortable working for ROH while continuing to gain experience at a high level. But he's wise enough to know that anything can happen. For that reason, he advises aspiring young wrestlers to be realistic while pursuing their careers.

“All of these kids today are taught to chase their dreams and be what they want to be. That's fantastic, and I'm glad people gave me that confidence. But I don't think people get enough of while you're chasing your dreams, you're going to have to be able to do something else too. You're going to have to be able to eat, to pay your electric bills, and stuff like that. That's what I've been trying to do for the past few years ... pay the bills but still get out there and make something of myself. I'm finally getting to that point where I think wrestling can now start paying those bills instead.”

“I feel really lucky,” says Page. “I feel like everything in my life has somehow just fallen into perfect place at the perfect time. I don't know how it happened. It's always like right at the point of my life about to fall apart, and then something amazing happens. I don't know how, but it happens.”

Standing six feet tall “with shoes on” and tipping the scales at 214 pounds, Page made his ROH debut in a dark match in 2011 and was signed to a contract three years ago.

“Since I was a kid, this has been all I ever really wanted to do. From the time I was 14, I set out to do whatever I had to do to make this happen. A lot of people don't pursue it until later, but I just decided to do it as soon as I could.”

Page started his career doing small indy shows in the Carolinas, working mostly for CWF-Mid Atlantic in Burlington.

“That place was excellent because they had shows in the same building every two weeks. It was very consistent and helped me develop the storytelling portion of wrestling. Later I started working for PWX in Charlotte. That has been fantastic and probably has been the one that's gotten me the most exposure to get to Ring of Honor.”

It also was where he would work with future ROH talents such as Roderick Strong and Eddie Edwards, and formed an impressive combo with Corey Hollis as Country Jacked. “I think I did my most learning there,” he says.

In between, Page attended a few ROH camps, where the youngster was told “to put on more size and wear trunks.”

“I had dark matches here and there, and finally they gave me a call and said they wanted to sign me.”

It was a major turn in Page's career. Regarded as one of the best pure promotions in the world, ROH has served as a training ground for some of the top competitors in the business.

“All of it's been fun. As far as matches, the No Holds Barred match with Jay Briscoe from a few months ago has probably been my highlight there. We did the whole thing (program) over two or three months.”

In 2014, Page enjoyed a high-profile feud with The Decade, a stable formed by ROH veterans. At ROH's 12th anniversary show, The Decade (B.J. Whitmer, Jimmy Jacobs and Strong) defeated Page, Cedric Alexander and Mark Briscoe. Page would later join The Decade, as the first of the group's recruits, or “young boys.” In October 2014, Page became a full-fledged member.

It was Whitmer, says Page, who influenced him the most.

“He's kind of hard-wired me,” Page says of the storyline. “He stripped me down to nothing, as a young boy, and built me back up to be the most evil thing he could make me be. But now I've been able to turn in the sense that I don't need him anymore. So if everyone hates him, does that make me the good guy? Maybe. Kind of. But am I still the same evil, maniacal character I was before?”

It also was Whitmer who noticed Page had something special. Whitmer pointed out Page's intensity and desire to learn as reasons he stood out.

Before long, the fans knew as well.

Page is under contract with ROH through the end of the year. While WWE is the ultimate destination of most performers in the business today, it's not necessarily an “end game” for Page. While there have been no direct talks with WWE, his name undoubtedly would be on a list of potential prospects.

“At this point in my career, I'm just taking things as they come. I'm not over-eager to do any one thing in particular. I really don't feel like just going to WWE is the absolute end-all, be-all in wrestling. I think these past five or 10 years in wrestling have been crazy and has proven that you don't have to do this or be this to be successful necessarily.”

Former ROH champion Christopher Daniel thinks Page can be one the top stars in the business.

“Adam Page is incredibly talented, but more important than that, he's smart enough to know that the only way to properly realize the potential his talent affords is to challenge himself. He recognized that the only way to get better as a wrestler was to compete against wrestlers better than him at this point in his life, and so he came to Ring of Honor.

“He found guidance with B.J. Whitmer and Jimmy Jacobs, and then understood when he had gained all the positive experience he could from them and separated from them accordingly. All of these decisions he has made have set the table for him to succeed at the top level in Ring of Honor, and I think it's a matter of time before that happens.”

Page also loves working for the Sinclair Broadcasting-owned promotion and has seen major culture changes over the past few years. The company has been instrumental in producing some of WWE's greatest stars of the past decade, including former ROH stalwarts CM Punk, Brian Danielson (aka Daniel Bryan), Tyler Black (aka Seth Rollins), Cesaro (aka Claudio Castagnoli), Kevin Steen (aka Kevin Owens) and Sami Zayn (aka El Generico).

In many cases ROH has been competitive with WWE in contract deals, and in some cases performers have remained in ROH because of the freedom and flexibility the promotion offers. It's now a place where not only talent can express themselves, but they can support themselves as well.

Page maintains he didn't get into wrestling for the money or the attention. He got into wrestling to perform.

“It's been great. Everyone who works there is awesome. I've had a great time, and I've really seen it grow.”

That's not to say Page would turn down a potential WWE offer if conditions were right. He had a tryout with the company several years ago and prior to signing with NXT. Trainer William Regal gave him some words of encouragement, but he was direct and straight to the point, says Page.

“He pretty much let it out to me, and it was kind of what I already knew. I was 21, I was probably a buck-ninety, and in the grand scheme of things I was no one. So his advice was to go be someone, and maybe one day come back.”

Fast-forward three years, and Page is a rising star in the wrestling industry, a 24-year-old blue-chipper who is well-grounded with a college background, has strong ring ability and a commanding presence on promos. In the wrestling business, that usually means money.

Page, however, insists that it's the journey that drives him. Whether he makes that next step or not, he loves what he's doing. Like any other weekend warrior, he craves the adrenaline rush he gets performing inside a ring.

“I'm doing this because it's all I wanted to do,” he says. “I love it.”

Next month Page will be part of Global Wars, an annual supershow with New Japan Pro Wrestling that features the top performers from each promotion. He willl be part of a four-way match with ACH, Roderick Strong and Dalton Castle at the May 8 pay-per-view in Chicago Ridge, Ill. The “War of the Worlds” tour also includes dates in Dearborn, Mich.; Toronto Canada; and New York City.

“We've got a weeklong run of shows and a full week of stuff. That's looking to be really good.”

And Page wouldn't miss it for the world.

“Mr. Woltz will also be sick that week,” he says with a grin.

Reach Mike Mooneyham at bymikemooneyham@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMike Mooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham.