By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
AEW Full Gear Hits
Swerve Strickland vs. Hangman Page in a Texas Death Match: An over the top spectacle of gore. As questionable as it was to have Strickland break into Page’s home, it set a tone for the feud that the wrestlers played into right from the start when Page ran out minus entrance music and went right after Swerve. Even as someone who feels blood can enhance a match and grew up on bloodbaths from the territory days, the shot of Page drinking the blood of Swerve was stomach turning. But the real flaw of the match was the needless interference from Brian Cage. I would have been fine with Prince Nana playing some part in helping Swerve win, but Cage interfering just because there were no rules to prevent it felt lazy. But this was a truly memorable war that stole the show. My only concern is that with Swerve winning, there’s eventually going to be a third match and I can’t even imagine what these two will do in an attempt to top themselves.
MJF vs. Jay White for the AEW World Championship: Let’s get the negatives out of the way. The idea that AEW would allow Adam Cole to replace MJF in the match was absurd. MJF stealing an ambulance to drive back to the building was straight out of the Sone Cold playbook. And AEW security attempting to stop MJF from wrestling due to injury while Cole was going to replace him despite being on crutches and using a walking boot was just too much. In fact, I totally understand if all of this was too much for some viewers. It wasn’t just ridiculously overbooked, it was poorly booked. But the actual match got over with the live crowd and worked for me. MJF came out of the match looking resilient, while also vulnerable heading into his next title defense. Unfortunately, MJF’s heroic performance came at the expense of White, who looked bad for not being able to beat a man fighting on one leg. I don’t think White is damaged beyond repair, but they really need to come up with a big bounce back moment for the entire Bullet Club Gold coming out of this weekend. I believe the average AEW fan wants more of a straight forward approach to their pay-per-view main events. So while this isn’t the type of thing that AEW should do often, I think it was passable this time around.
Ricky Starks and Big Bill vs. Rush and Dralistico vs. Malakai Black and Brody King vs. “FTR” Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler in a four-way ladder match for the AEW Tag Team Titles: This match had all of the crazy spots that one expects from a ladder match and then some. I was surprised to see Starks and Bill retain the tag titles. I don’t think they need to have a lengthy title reign, but I’d rather see them drop the titles in a traditional match when the time comes.
Kris Statlander vs. Julia Hart vs. Skye Blue in a three-way for the TBS Championship: A quality match that saw the vastly improved Hart win her first championship. Hart has come a long way in a short amount of time, and it’s good to see her hard work pay off. I was also pleased that the mist didn’t factor into the finish.
Sting, Darby Allin, and Adam Copeland vs. Christian Cage, Luchasaurus, and Nick Wayne: The match was perfectly placed in the opening slot. It got the main card off to a good start, and the veterans in the match didn’t have to follow any of the big spot-fest style matches. Cage running away at the end was perfect, and I like that they made viewers wait to see Copeland get his hands on his longtime partner/rival. It was also nice to see Sting have a moment with his son and then with the crowd in what was billed as his final match in Los Angeles.
AEW Full Gear Misses
Orange Cassidy vs. Jon Moxley for the AEW International Championship: The ring work was strong, but the brief match by AEW pay-per-view standards left me with a “that was it?” feeling. It just didn’t live up to their previous match. I’m all for having a variety of match lengths, but it felt a little early in the show for a television length match. In fact, Jake Barnett made a good point in our Full Gear audio review when he said that swapping this match and Golden Jets vs. Young Bucks match in the lineup order may have left us feeling different about both matches.
Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho vs. “The Young Bucks” Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson: A minor Miss. This is not an indictment of the mach quality. Everyone worked hard and produced a quality match. In fact, I give them a lot of credit for getting the drained live crowd reinvested during the second half of the match, which had the unenviable task of following the Hangman vs. Swerve war. But I found myself rolling my eyes at some of the near falls because I was ready for the match to end. And once the match concluded, I felt happy it was over more than anything. A lot of that was due to the length of the show (including the one-hour pre-show) as well as the match placement. I’m also not all that invested in the Golden Jets as a tag team, but it looks we’ll be seeing a lot more of them together now that they’ve earned a tag team title shot.
Hikaru Shida vs. Toni Storm for the AEW Women’s Championship: The old plate over the butt finish that was first used by George Hackenschmidt back in 1907. No? Anyway, the absurdity of the referee not seeing the plate was too much. As someone who gets a big kick out of “Timeless” act, I don’t think Storm actually needs the championship. I’m open to the idea that they have some fun things planned that will win me over. Either way, the big question is whether Storm’s over the top act has staying power. I hope it does and I’m curious to see what they have in mind for Mariah May.