Super Wrestling: AEW – Full Gear

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Full Gear and all the images you see I this recap are owned by All Elite Wrestling and Shahid Khan

While technically being the fifth AEW PPV (sixth if you count All In which was basically AEW Zero), this is the first one since they’ve gotten the TV series and have started to focus more on long term storylines.  Not only that, but it’s coming off of a MASSIVE amount of success from Dynamite which has consistently beaten NXT in the ratings, so there’s a lot of hype and high expectations surrounding this PPV which is always a double edged sword as it means more people are interested in seeing it but that they’re also much more easy to disappoint.  Can AEW continue their streak of high quality wrestling action with their latest PPV?  Let’s find out!!

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Britt Baker Vs. Bea Priestly

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The only match they had on the pre-show for Full Gear was this match against Britt Baker and Bea Priestly which I GUESS is supposed to be the blow off to a feud, but they never HAD a feud to begin with.  They had one match all the way back before they got on TV and I think they were on a tag team match a few weeks ago, but at no point did they interact in any meaningful way to sell this supposed rivalry between them.  There’s a video package before the fight where Britt talks smack about Priestly and I just don’t think it works because Britt brings up stuff we’d NEVER heard of until now about her being possibly injured in the Fight for the Fallen match and it’s also completely one sided as Priestly doesn’t even show up in the video, so for all we know she’s just out there doing her thing and being respectful towards everyone while Britt is off to the side seething for no good reason!  Now all that having been said, when the two of them actually DO get in the ring they are fighting like this match means something.  Britt is definitely all scowls and fury which is a far cry from the babyface she often portrays, and Priestly is definitely relishing just how much she’s gotten under her skin.  The moves as well are less coordinated and flashy as they are just slugfests and pain clinics which is how you definitely want to pay off a feud even if this particular one still didn’t feel properly set up.

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“How many fingers am I holding up?  HOW MANY!?”

The match ends as ridiculously as you’d expect now that Britt Baker’s got her mouth grabbing move which she locks in on Priestly who taps out immediately.  I’m still not the biggest fan of that move (kudos to these wrestlers for letting someone stick their hand in their mouth) but the match was a very good showcase of both these women; especially Baker who still stumbles quite a bit for me but seems to be getting better and better as time goes on.

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After the match we get this bizarre segment where Awesome Kong and Brandi Rhodes come down to the ring and cut a piece of Bea Priestly’s hair off like they’re collecting a trophy… except they didn’t do anything.  Yeah, put either one of these two in a match and MAYBE I’ll have more to say about them.  And with that we end the pre-show and get to the PPV proper!

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Proud N’ Powerful (Santana & Ortiz) Vs. The Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson)

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So the former LAX have finally settled on a new name (unfortunately abbreviated to PP) and have been beating the crap out of The Young Bucks for weeks now; showing up during or at the end of matches to sucker punch them and they even beat the crap out of The Rock N Roll Express two weeks ago just to assert their dominance in this division.  It’s been a solid set up for a non-main even PPV match and both teams are very impressive in the ring, but the problem that The Bucks have always had for me was that their matches felt more like move exhibitions than an actual contest of strength.  Has that changed here?  I would say yes!  Maybe putting them up against The Lucha Bros is just too much as both teams have that high flying spectacle instinct, but Proud N’ Powerful are much more about striking and hurting than showing off.  Heck, they even make a much more concerted effort to follow tag team rules in this so while there are a FEW moments where both teams are brawling in the ring and doing tandem moves, it doesn’t overtake the match.

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I’m pretty sure this is illegal in at least seven states.

There was this one silly spot where Ortiz started acting like a cat and scratching people, and what really sold it was the ref who started climbing the ropes to get away.  See, this is why you need Aubrey Edwards in EVERY match because she doesn’t mess that crap!  Ortiz’s mighty cat claws were not enough to chase away the Young Bucks however and the two teams just continue to destroy each other; including this one super kick that Ortiz takes where he sells it like a cartoon character.  He literally starts bobbing back and forth in the ring before falling over dead and it’s the point where The Young Bucks build up a bit of momentum.  However, Matt Jackson (either through pride or foolishness) ends up squandering this opportunity by trying to pin BOTH Santana and Ortiz in the middle of the ring instead of the legal man.  Free tip Mr. Buck; you don’t get to DOUBLE win if you pin both of them.  The one thing about this match (which is often the case with Young Bucks matches) is that it does go on too long and I frankly would have probably had this be the turning point but the match goes on for quite a bit after that.  Eventually though, Santana and Ortiz get the pin after they do a Street Sweeper (a power bomb but the other guy slams their opponent into the mat harder I guess?) on the injured Nick Jackson.  It doesn’t quite end there however as Sammy Guevara comes out to celebrate with Proud N’ Powerful by beating up the helpless Young Bucks with weapons!  Is all hope lost for The Young Bucks!?  NO!!  The Rock N’ Roll Express were in the crowd and saw this travesty of good sportsmanship unfold, so they did the only logical thing and got in there to bust some heads as well!  It was a decent moment that saved a bit of face with the faces, and it turns out that the Rock N’ Roll Express can still go a bit!  Maybe not enough for a full match, but Rick doing a Suicide Dive at the age of sixty-three was pretty impressive to watch!  The crowd was certainly into it for the long haul so maybe I’m just impatient, but MAYBE shaving a few minutes off the opening match wouldn’t be such a bad idea considering how much more of the show we have left to go.  Then again the happy ending with The Rock N’ Roll Express certainly seemed to reenergize the crowd and hopefully they can keep this momentum up for the rest of the show!

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Hangman Adam Page Vs. Pac

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Adam Page really needed a match like this where he can shine like a true main event star, and if there’s anyone who could have given that to him… well Jon Moxley would have been perfect, but Pac is right up there!  Good GOSH the amount of abuse they put each other through in this match!  I’m not one to glorify pain (and there was a rope spot that I was genuinely worried got Page in the eye), but this is a fantastic display of both men’s physical capabilities as well as their immense endurance.  I tend to be more of a high flyer guy, but the power behind these moves is a thing to behold.  There’s a Suicide Dive that looks like it hit Pac harder than a freight train, a whole lot of devastating kicks to Page’s face, and this top rope blockbuster that should have left Pac flatter than a pancake!

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“Looks like you’re gonna have… an im-PAC-ted spine!”     “It hurts to breath…”     “I took your breath away?  I must have left quite… an im-PAC-t!”     “I hate you…”

The story of the match is basically both competitors trying to soften their opponents up so they can do their super moves, and they pace it beautifully where the two are getting tired and more methodical in their movements as time goes on until by the end with both guys are just barely able to stand up; let alone stop their opponent from destroying them with their finishers.  At one point Pac puts him in the brutalizer submission hold which is what he used to knock out Omega, but Page gets out just in time, puts on a bit of offense, and finishes him off with a DeadEye which looks kind of like a pile driver, but you have the guy on your back when you go to your knees instead of in front of you.  Sadly no Buckshot Lariat which is easily the best thing going for Page right now (I would be happy if he just showed up every episode to squash someone with that move in three minutes), but it was a great showcase for both these guys whose hard work in the ring is really starting to pay off for them!

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Shawn Spears Vs. Joey Janela

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Spears is accompanied to the ring by Tully Blanchard

So out of all the matches on this show (at least the ones they bothered to advertise before-hand) this is the one I thought would just be a filler match; the least important one even if it’ll still likely be very good.  I haven’t been the most impressed with Joey Janela especially after that Omega match, and Spears has just kind of been meh for the most part, but they were actually both really good here and I think it’s simply due to better booking; similar to how Page vs Pac was a perfect matchup between talents.  Spears got a HUGE push early on by bashing Cody in the head, but he may be more at home at the quote-unquote MID CARD of heels going against guys like Janela, Darby Allen, and Jungle Boy.  The match is basically one of survival with Janela who comes into this as the underdog and has to take a monumental amount of abuse from Spears; hoping to outlast Spears’s offensive barrage and getting in just enough creative licks to turn the tides.  If nothing else Janela is good at being hurt and I hope he’s doing it right because there was this nasty looking tumble out of the ring that looked a lot like Shawn Michael’s tumble that left him with three herniated discs.  That was probably the scariest spot, but there are a lot more “fun” spots as well; particularly a bit where Spears tied the tag team rope around Janela’s hair.

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“Darn you, Spears!  Using my rocking doo against me!  HAVE YOU NO SHAME!?”

Joey Janela manages to get a bit of momentum on Spears and even scores a near fall, but Spears coordinates a ref distraction which gives him and Tully enough time to land a combo move on Janela.  They drag him back in the ring just as the ref starts to pay attention again and Spears lands something called a C4 and gets the pin on Janela.  Excalibur helpfully calls that maneuver a Death Valley Driver as well so if you know what that is, you know what a C4 is.  For a match I pegged as being on the lower end of interest (the bathroom break match if you well), they actually pulled off quite an excellent performance and my impression of both men has improved because of it.

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After the match we get a promo with Kip Sabian who they’ve been teasing for a bit now that he’s going to go heel, and this promo basically confirms it.  I’m not sure why though as I think he’d do quite well as a baby face (has a bit of a Finn Balor look to him) and he seems a bit too soft spoken to actually intimidate anyone.  This promo also revealed that Kip Sabian is forming an alliance with someone named Penelope Ford who apparently has been with AEW since January but I genuinely do not recall any matches with her up to this point so for all I know this is her debut for the company.  I don’t know, it just felt less like a true promo than a status update on Facebook as there were no bigger angles at play, no feuds being established, and not even anything particularly heelish for this new faction to cement their place with.  It was just a snarky interview and would have been better served either on Dynamite or skipped altogether.

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Private Party (Isiah Kassidy & Marq Quen) Vs. The Lucha Bros (‎Fénix & Pentagón Jr) Vs. SCU (Frankie Kazarian & Scorpio Sky) – Tag Team Championship

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I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but three way tag matches are kind of odd to me.  I never understood why it’s only two people in the ring at a time instead of all three teams that just tag in and out their own members, but that’s the way these things go and I think the match was quite good.  It certainly meant that The Lucha Bros had to follow tag rules for once!  Well… at least for a LITTLE while.  By the halfway point all three teams are in the middle of the ring throwing blows, but it’s something we’re either gonna have to accept or stay mad about because it seems unlikely that AEW is gonna start enforcing the rules now if they haven’t already; not to mention that tag team rules have always been a bit fuzzy and rubbery at any given time in any given promotion.  The match quality is what you should expect from all three teams which is AMAZING as their individual styles meld quite well together; supporting each team’s faults and accentuating everyone’s strengths.  There was one spot with the Lucha Bros though that LOOKED like a botch?  Basically they got Kazarian on the ropes and did this wheel barrel thing into a hurricanrana on Kazarian into the boots of Pentagón Jr which already seems like an unnecessarily complicated way to land one move, but there are like four phases to this and none of them carry the momentum from the last move.  They do their slow wheel barrel turn and then Fénix just has to get up and jump at Kazarian instead of using whatever speed was supposed to be built up from the rolling, and then it’s clear that Kazarian has to bring his own face into Pentagón Jr’s boots because the hurricanrana was taking him slightly off target.  Other than that one bizarre moment, the match was fast, frenetic, and an absolute blast to watch!

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“STAGE DIVE!!”

SCU keeps their title belts by pinning Private Party which was definitely the best outcome here.  The Lucha Bros still look strong and Private Party can afford the loss more than the other two teams since being the new guys is still part of their gimmick.  After the match The Lucha Bros start beating SCU until the lights go out and Pentagon Jr is in the ring with… another Pentagon Jr!  The Fake Pentagon runs roughshod over The Lucha Bros and eventually removes his mask to reveal… CHRISTOPHER DANIELS!  Yes, the third member of SCU who The Lucha Bros put in the hospital weeks ago has finally come back to get his revenge and it’s the perfect way to cap off this Tag Team Tournament story arc which will hopefully lead to a long and interesting reign for SCU!

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Riho Vs. Ami Sakura – AEW Women’s Championship

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So apparently Riho IS defending her title on this PPV, but in my defense they NEVER mentioned it in the dozen or so promos for Full Gear they showed during the Go Home Show on Wednesday!  I still think they need to do a bit more if they want to keep the women’s division on equal ground with the men’s division, but they at least have the matches themselves down pat as this was absolutely fantastic!  Riho is still fantastic as the babyface champ and Emi Sakura plays such a great heel here; more so than she’s been up to this point as she goes for cheap shots and mocks her opponent throughout the match.

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“IS THIS YOUR ANIME PRINCESS!?”

These two just wrestle the crap out of each other with speed and technique that would put any of the highflying dudes to task; especially a series of near falls at the end that looks more like a choreographed dance than anything.  Riho eventually gets the upper hand however and rolls up Sakura just long enough for a three count; retaining her championship and once again asserting herself as the most electrifying female athlete at AEW.  The women’s division has kind of been bottle necked with just one belt and a dearth of angles, but with the performance that these two gave (and the performances we’ve been getting across the board from so many great competitors), I really hope they branch things out a bit and give them just as much to do as the other side of the company.

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Cody Rhodes Vs. Chris Jericho – AEW Championship

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Cody is accompanied to the ring by MJF while Jericho is accompanied by Jake Hager

So now we come to the big match.  The main event of the night that they have been building up for months now as Cody Rhodes faces Jericho for the AEW World Championship belt in what he claims is his one and only attempt to earn it.  The match is good as you’d expect from two veterans like them, but that’s ultimately immaterial to everything else that happened in it.  Cody and Jericho just seem to have a way of making their matches so much bigger than what’s inside that ring which is both a blessing as a curse; more so a curse on Cody’s side because once again a huge focus of this match is yet another injury he sustained.  During a dive out of the ring he smashes his face into the elevated ramp leading to it and it splits his head clean open right above his right eye.  I don’t THINK this was planned and it certainly didn’t look like he gigged, but it actually managed to play into the dramatic through line of the match where Cody kept getting runs of bad luck and unfair interference that he just had to keep working through in order to not lose this match.  On top of the bleeding, he seemed to have hurt his right wrist as well and even took a few shots from Jake Hager while the ref wasn’t looking.

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“Hey you!  Stop doing that thing you’ve done in every single match you’ve been at ringside for!  Have all these finger waggings been for not!?”

Cody just won’t give up though and him coming back for more and more even after being injured keeps the crowd from growing tired of this match; constantly coming up with new chants, popping for Cody, and booing Jericho with every opportunity.  My favorite moment was actually a ref spot where Jericho tried to get in Aubrey Edwards’s face and she just shoves him over; again confirming that she is THE BEST ref in the game and giving the refs a much needed dose of backbone considering how often the talent walks all over them here.  Eventually though, we have to come to the end of this match so let’s talk about it here.  Jericho ends up putting Cody in a submission hold and has him in there for quite a bit of time.  MJF out on the sidelines is looking at this in despair and decides that he has no other choice but to throw in the towel which gives Jericho the win.

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Hey I don’t blame him!  We’ve all seen Rocky IV, right!?

So yes, Jericho is still your champion and Cody will theoretically never challenge for the AEW title again.  However, the fact that MJF was the one who threw in the towel and not Cody certainly gives this a bit of wiggle room, but you can feel the air being let out of the building as Cody is left in the middle of the ring; slowly coming to terms with what he lost.  It might have been too dour an ending of this PPV if they left it at that, but the give us one last thing to pop over before ending the show and going to the Lights Out match.  MJF tries to plead with Cody about how sorry he is for throwing in the towel and it seems that Cody is ready to forgive him for that… BUT THEN MJF KICKS HIM IN THE BALLS AND WALKS AWAY!  That’s right!  They pulled the trigger on the MJF heel storyline which only gives Cody MORE of an excuse to ignore the stipulation of this match!

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“WHERE’S YOUR DOG NOW!?”     “Hopefully far away from the pyro…”

And look, there are always going to be people who are going to hold this against Cody for all time and say he shouldn’t have made the declaration in the first place.  Some will say that it will inevitably undercut his character if he were to ever go back on his word for this, but I just don’t think that a significant portion of the AEW audience feels that way and will gladly see Cody try again at some point in the future to get his belt back.  Heck, maybe a baby face champ will challenge HIM instead of the other way around, or maybe they’ll just lean into the fact that he DIDN’T lose the match and the MJF was the one to blow it.  I don’t know what the future holds, but I appreciate the way that this match played out even if I think the MJF heel turn was done a BIT too soon, and going forward I’m REALLY interested to see what happens with the title picture as well as what Cody plans to do to MJF for this betrayal!  This is how you build an ongoing storyline; not by letting things drag out indefinitely but by giving the conclusion of one story room to expand into new and varied angles going forward!

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Jon Moxley Vs. Kenny Omega – Lights Out Match

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Sigh… I really wanted this to be THE MATCH for me.  I wanted it to be an Earth shattering display of these two wrestlers who couldn’t be hotter right now and for it to be a hardcore match that I actually liked.  I mean these two know how to wrestle so it’s not just some dudes artlessly beating each other over the heads with trash cans.  Heck, we’ve had a few decent hardcore matches with the likes of Joey Janela, Darby Allin, and Jimmy Havoc, so the two biggest names in the company could pull it off as well, right?  Well for the first half I might have said yes… but there’s a point with matches like these where I just can’t go with it any further, and it’s usually the point where ANY sort of glass is introduced.  I’m getting ahead of myself though; what exactly do we get in this match from start to finish?  Well they hit each other with garbage cans, fight in the crowd, use barb wire weapons on each other, fall into tacks, mouse traps, bleed a lot, hurt a lot, and it’s all WAY too scary to watch considering how unpredictable this kind of weaponry can be even for the most experienced wrestlers.  When these mo-fos take out GLASS?  Yeah, that’s when I just had to tune out because glass is the least fun thing imaginable to hit someone with and could legit kill someone.  What might be the most memorable spot in the match is when we learn that Kenny Omega took the time to make a barb wire bed, and he puts himself and Moxley through it which was… an interesting choice if nothing else.

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“Moxley!”     “What?”     “You ready to give up yet?”     “Screw you.”     “Hey, don’t make me come over there and kick your ass!”

That really SHOULD have been the end of the match, but they end up climbing out of it eventually and just go back in the ring to do some more moves.  Moxley cuts up the ring to expose the wooden planks underneath, but the ring is still springy which means it doesn’t have quite the impact of the barb wire bed.  Still, they sell it like it’s straight up concrete and Moxley ends up pinning Omega with a Paradigm Shift.  The whole thing was just way too long, not in my wheelhouse, and just not the match I wanted to end this show on despite how much I wanted to see these two fight it out.

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So aside from the Lights Out match, I can say that this was a near perfect PPV for AEW to have produced at this time.  It’s not overly long clocking in at just under four hours even WITH the pre-show match, and there really weren’t any low points to speak of in any of the matches.  Sure the Bucks match went a bit long and the Women’s match should have had a bit more pomp and circumstance around it, but everything they promised with this show they managed to deliver!  I can’t wait to see how they build off of all this on Dynamite this week, but hopefully it will involve terrible things happening to MJF’s scarf!

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