By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
AEW Full Gear Hits
“Death Triangle” Pac, Rey Fenix, and Penta El Zero Miedo vs. “The Elite” Kenny Omega, Matt Jackson, and Nick Jackson for the AEW Trios Titles: The big crazy spot fest that both teams are known for. This was the crowd pleasing return that The Elite trio needed. The Newark crowd adored them, but it will be fascinating to see how the Chicago fans react to them on Wednesday night. There seemed to be some miscommunication when it came to the Rey Fenix finally using the ring bell hammer as a weapon. Excalibur told viewers that Fenix appeared to be upset with himself, but he said that just as Fenix was shown smiling. The best of seven series approach is an interesting choice. The Elite had AEW Trios Title tournament matches heading into Full Gear that lost a lot of viewers in the Dynamite main event slot. Of course, the dynamic is different following their layoff and so are their opponents. The ticket sales and television ratings for shows these matches are advertised for should be very telling when it comes to the drawing power of The Elite.
“Jungle Boy” Jack Perry vs. Luchasaurus in a steel cage match: A really good cage match that started the main card off right. Luchasaurus is an effective monster and his power moves look especially good when he’s working with smaller opponents. Perry works well from underneath. His big spot moves are cool, but his selling is what makes him such an effective babyface. With Christian Cage still sidelined, it will be interesting to see what comes next for Perry given that this seemed like a blowoff match to his feud with Luchasaurus.
Chris Jericho vs. Bryan Danielson vs. Claudio Castagnoli vs. Sammy Guevara in a four-way for the ROH Championship: The build to the match got off to a solid start when Jericho offended Guevara by calling him his “little buddy.” It really stalled out there. Some of these wrestlers were featured in television matches and yet those matches failed to tell any stories related to the match. Fortunately, the four-way was a blast. Jericho and Guevara had an entertaining meltdown, and there were good near falls throughout. The finish was off and required a second Judas Effect, but Jericho made enough contact when he broke up the swing that it didn’t take me out of the moment or hurt the overall match.
Jon Moxley vs. MJF for the AEW World Championship: From a match quality standpoint, this was on the low end for AEW pay-per-view events. It also featured two ref bumps and ended when one wrestler hit another wrestler with a pair of brass knuckles. Normally, all of this would add up a match falling into the Miss section. But few fans seemed to mind because the company gave them what they wanted by having MJF win the AEW World Championship. William Regal turning on Moxley was predicted by many and yet still satisfying and intriguing in terms of what it means for the Blackpool Combat Club. I’m totally willing to pretend like The Firm’s involvement in the build was just a fever dream, but I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of that mess. Moxley is always great about rolling with the punches and no trouble shifting into heel mode when the crowd rooted against him. Conversely, it’s going to be really fun to see how MJF attempts to turn the fans against him. I’m confident that it will happen because AEW has a slew of quality babyfaces for him to work with, and he’s such a gifted talker that I have faith that he will be able to work his magic.
Toni Storm vs. Jamie Hayter for the Interim AEW Women’s Championship: This was among the best AEW women’s matches to date. The interference in this match felt less necessary than it did in the main event where more of a story was told. Again, though, AEW gave the vocal fans what they wanted by putting the title on Hayter, and thus the bulk of the audience seemed content with how they got there. Hayter’s connection with the crowd is really impressive considering that she’s a heel and we know so little about her character. Here’s hoping that Hayter and Storm will both get some sorely needed character development and that we get a rematch when the time is right.
“The Acclaimed” Max Caster and Anthony Bowens vs. Swerve Strickland and Keith Lee for the AEW Tag Titles: This was a step down from their two previous matches and yet the right team went over and the storytelling of the Strickland and Lee split was well done. Well, except for the fact that Strickland wanting Lee to use the pliers as a weapon was way too similar to Pac wanting Rey Fenix to use the ring bell hammer as a weapon. Otherwise, the match was entertaining and the outcome left me hopeful that the feud ending means The Acclaimed have a date with FTR.
AEW Full Gear Misses
Saraya vs. Britt Baker: The biggest disappointment of the night. Saraya returning from a serious neck injury after five years should have made her the sympathetic babyface, and Baker is the top heel in the women’s division. Unfortunately, they muddied the waters when Baker seemed slighted by Saraya downplaying her career accomplishments in a promo and then responded with an all out babyface promo. I can live with the match quality being rough given Saraya’s long layoff, but it was a shame to see such an easy story squandered and the negative effect it seemed to have on the live crowd.
Sting and Darby Allin vs. Jeff Jarrett and Jay Lethal: The standard Sting match complete with the big dive. This seemed over with the live crowd and yet it was underwhelming for this viewer. It felt like the heel duo should have gone over if there are plans to move forward with this feud, and I assume there are since Jarrett started appearing on television a few weeks before the show.
Jade Cargill vs. Nyla Rose for the TBS Title: The story going into the match was a hot mess with Rose stealing the title belt and then stealing Jade’s car. Rose should have been presented as the first real threat to Cargill’s streak. And I’m still not sure who the fans were supposed to root for. I assumed it was Cargill because Rose was the thief, but Rose was actually a comical thief and then had a babyface Eddie Guerrero tribute entrance.
Wardlow vs. Samoa Joe vs. Powerhouse Hobbs in a three-way for the TNT Title: A soft Miss. It was disappointing to learn than Hobbs was in the match to take the loss so that Wardlow didn’t have to. Hobbs strikes me as a guy the company should be pushing aggressively, but this felt like more of his one step forward, two steps back booking. I’m not really sure why they felt the need to put a second title on Joe, but I guess we’ll see where it goes. I just hope they stop making Wardlow look like an idiot. It felt like Joe being annoyed by Wardlow’s boasting made his turn justifiable rather than dastardly. Wardlow also made the meathead babyface move of stopping Joe and Hobbs from fighting one another in a television angle for no good reason. And then it came off like he lost the title because he was too busy playing to the crowd with his Powerbomb Symphony on Hobbs, which allowed Joe to steal the win.
This event suffered from having too many matches where the heels were cheered as much as or more than the babyfaces. Certainly the booking (and Tony not reigning in certain wrestlers) is partly to blame, but maybe the smark-heavy crowd should take part of the blame too.
Well Hayter might not need the development because of how much the fans are behind her.
>erry works well from underneath. His big spot moves are cool, but his selling is what makes him such an effective babyface.<<
Agreed, but selling is so rare overall nowadays that when its done it's so appreciated. MJF, for example, in his appearance at the media scrum after the event, made sure he was still limping to carry over the damage done to his leg during his match. Compare that to wrestlers who are on the receiving end of a big move and immediately get up, or even moreso, after a particularly tough match that after the match they act as if they are totally fine.
Selling is a lost art in a lot of cases.