Full Gear, All Elite Wrestling first pay-per-view since the launch of “AEW Dynamite” on TNT, showed the company’s warts while delivering the action and big moments we’ve come to expect.
There is plenty to learn from and build off of Saturday night’s show as the company gets set to complete its first year in business. Here are five takeaways from Full Gear in Baltimore:
Jon Moxley and Kenny Omega’s unsanctioned match was a master class in violence, that the former WWE star won with a Paradigm Shift on the exposed wood of the ring. The bloody clash included a lists of weapons Bad Santa couldn’t have checked twice. There was a barbed wire bat and broom, broken glass, a board covered in mouse traps, an ice pick and spirals of barbwire the two needed AEW staff to pull them off of after a suplex from the ramp on the covered board.
What made this match standout was that it wasn’t violence for violence sake. Each weapon felt like it was used smartly and had a purpose. At one point, Moxley had to crawl across the broken glass like Bruce Willis in “Die Hard” to break a hold. The match itself felt fitting for two wrestlers who had waited more than four months to get their hands on each other end left Moxley’s wife Renee Young live-tweeting her nervousness.
Omega proved again why he is arguably the best in the world right now. He composed beautiful symphonies in Japan. This was a heavy metal classic. Moxley was the right call to go over because he flipped out when AEW president Tony Khan decided this match wasn’t going to count on his AEW record. That storyline can continue in a big way.
No Friend of Mine
MJF may have cost his former best friend Cody everything with the throw of a towel and a kick in the nuts. His turn, which has been teased, did feel a little too soon. Nevertheless, it does set AEW up long term despite the immediate disappointment of Cody potentially losing any chance of wrestling for the AEW world championship again — a stipulation he put in.
MJF threw in the towel from ringside, with a bleeding Cody locked for the second time in champion Chris Jericho’s Lion Tamer submission. It ended a compelling, well-scripted match that brought alive a Baltimore crowd that felt disinterested at different times during the night.
Cody appeared to forgive him before MJF — who had a fan throw water on him — turned on the son of Dusty Rhodes. The three judges – Arn Anderson, Dean Malenko and The Great Muta — weren’t even needed to decide a potential draw. Heck, it also felt like we were never told how close they came to the 60-minute time limit.
Fans were denied the euphoria of seeing Cody — AEW’s top babyface, win the title and shut up Jericho, who celebrated his 49th birthday. But a feud with MJF — who has nuclear-level heat — will be must watch. There are plenty of loopholes for Cody to still use — put his career on the line, or say MJF didn’t act in good faith — to get a title shot way down the road. Until then, enjoy the fact that AEW may finally be unleashing MJF.
AEW’s tag division continues to be one of its highlights and a well-booked divisions — despite one hiccup.
The tag-team triple threat match got the crowd back into the pay-per-view after a sluggish start. Rey Fenix continues to be a joy to watch, his spinning dive off the top rope into the rest of the field awoke the crowd.
Having Frankie Kazarian pin Isiah Kassidy of Private Party to retain their championships kept the Lucha Brothers inline for a rematch. Fenix and Pentagon,the top-ranked team in AEW’s new weekly rankings , attacked Kazarian after the match. The lights went out and Christopher Daniels, dressed as Pentagon, appeared to save his teammates to a mixed crowd reaction. No need for all the theatrics, just let Daniels, who had been injured by the Lucha Bros show up as himself. The pop likely would have been bigger.
In the other match, the Young Bucks continued to put over the rest of the tag team division while having superb match, losing to Santana and Ortiz when an injured Nick was pinned after a Street Sweeper.
The match was fittingly different than what we have seen from The Young Bucks against the Lucha Brothers and Private Party. It had a slower, gritty and more physically grinding style that made sense against a street-wise team like Santana and Ortiz compared to the fast-paced ballet we have seen so far.
The Rock N’ Roll Express jumping the railing to save Matt and Nick Jackson from an Inner Circle attack, including a Ricky Morton suicide dive, got a big pop from the crowd and is a nice tip of the cap to the history of tag team wrestling.
Ready for their close up
Cody said the media call prior to Full Gear that we are going to see more from AEW’s women’s division after the show. The pay-per-view set it up to do so.
Champion Riho remained undefeated and keeps winning with rollup. She wrestled an excellent teacher vs. student match with mentor Emi Sakura, who threw everything at her. So you have a credible champion. Britt Baker, battling the full-blown flu, beat Brea Priestly on the preshow and could get a title rematch.
After Baker’s match, Brandi Rhodes] creepy vignettes were paid off with her and Awesome Kong coming to the ring to attack Priestly. Kong used a knife to a clump of Priestley’s hair as trophy with a knife supplied by Rhodes. Doing this to a babyface would have been more effective, but the crowd still delivered enough boos.
Something’s a miss
AEW didn’t capitalize fully on Baker, who’s a feud with Priestly blurred the lines of reality. The concussion and black eye Priestly gave Baker made for an easy story, but the only build was an excellent promo on AEW’s “Dark” YouTube show, not TNT. Baker delivered a killer promote, but Priestly never got a chance to respond. It’s highlights the work AEW needs to do on the stories for the lower end of the card/
Another example was Shawn Spears vs. Joey Janela. The match was quickly put together threw very short segments and it showed in the lack of crowd reaching. Tully Blanchard, Spears’ manager who interfered to help him win, feels less like a legendary Four Horsemen and more like a generic heel manager.
One example of bad positioning was “Hangman” Adam Page and PAC.They told a good in-ring story, but the slow-building, plodding match didn’t quite connect with crowd because it followed a similar-style match. Having Hangman go over means he jumps PAC in the rankings and is the No. 1 contender for the AEW championship. That feels too soon after his loss at All Out.
Biggest winner: Jon Moxley
Biggest losers: PAC/Cody
Match of the night: Jon Moxley vs. Kenny Omega