I went into AEW Full Gear honestly being a bit unsure about the results of most of the matches. I had no idea how some would go and others I had a small lingering doubt — but to me, that’s the sign to a great card. So were the matches able to live up to these expectations or did they fall flat? Let’s start with the Buy In.
Serena Deeb (c) vs. Allysin Kay (NWA World Women’s Championship): As usual, pre-show matches are sort of low-key. This match was one of holds and submission attempts. Even though I am not a fan of this sort of submission-heavy, match there are times that a match can surpass that with emotion and amazing in-ring character work. However, this wasn’t one of those times.
Kenny Omega vs. “Hangman” Adam Page: I wanted this match to be so much longer. And I don’t mean that in a good way, I mean that it absolutely should have been longer. It didn’t do credit to the story so far with Hangman and Kenny. It ran about sixteen minutes but it honestly needed another five — or at least needed an ending that felt less sudden.
If you look past how short the match was, however, this was an absolute banger. The tension between the two was palpable, and once or twice you could sense a certain hesitation between the two. But by the end the two were just going at it again and again and again. The in-ring character work was great and I loved Kenny muttering to himself.
I hope we don’t see Hangman interact with The Elite anymore for a while after this. They need to have Hangman just completely break all ties with them — we need to put this plot on the back burner as Hangman tries to find his own way in AEW without them.
Orange Cassidy vs. John Silver: This is how you pace a PPV. After a hugely important match like Omega vs. Page, you need a match that is different and unique, but not anything heavy or emotionally draining. A comedy match fills the slot perfectly. The match was of little consequence but there were some hilarious spots and some extremely impressive moments.
These two have great energy together when it comes to their in-ring ability as well as the character work. I am extremely excited to see these two work together more since they are so good at embracing the fun, silly side of wrestling.
Also, as someone who is always on the lookout for good matches to show people who may not be into wrestling, this is absolutely one of them. It can pull people in with the comedy but it had enough impressive spots and tension to really make them get into the fighting and invested in the outcome. If you have friends you want to get into wrestling, show them this!
Cody Rhodes (c) vs. Darby Allin (TNT Championship): This match was also a complete banger. What can I say? Darby and Cody have put on excellent matches in the past and this continued the trend. Cody’s Cross Rhodes off the turnbuckle was absolutely incredible. I thoroughly enjoyed this match.
Say what you will about roll-up finishes, but I think that AEW has been pretty good about not abusing them, using them when it merits. The fact Cody instantly recognized Darby as the winner also helps to solidify Darby as worthy of the title and not as a one-off fluke.
Obviously, someone from Team Taz is going to be the first one to challenge Darby, but I am extremely excited at the idea of Jungle Boy challenging. They have similar(ish) styles and the contrast between characters would be so much fun to see in the ring.
Hikaru Shida (c) vs. Nyla Rose (AEW Women’s World Championship): I wanted to like this match, but it was hard going into it with the lack of build and that complete lack of development. It felt like this match was thrown together because they had to have a women’s match.
That being said, Nyla is great and Shida is amazing in the ring and so the match itself was solid. I want to make clear that my dislike of the build to this match has nothing to do with the women themselves nor with the match itself because it was good. Not amazing, but enjoyable.
The start of the match was a bit slow, but was offset by some of the character work. Aubrey fighting with Nyla was gold (I always want more Aubrey). The best moment was Shida pulling Nyla up when she could have gotten the pin, in a reversal of Nyla Rose’s bravado — such a good way to add some character to Shida as a face who is willing to give a heel a taste of her own medicine. Just excellent.
Overall, though the build to this match was terrible and the match itself was good but not great. It was entertaining but I wasn’t glued to the TV like I have been with Nyla’s matches against Riho.
FTR (c) vs. The Young Bucks (AEW World Tag Team Championship): I appreciated the pacing of the match. It seems like both teams agreed with each other that they would let each team get a good amount of their own styles in. Bucks got some flashy stuff in at the beginning and FTR got their ground and pound style in after. This went on to have both teams go back and forth more rapidly with who was in control of the match leading to some really well done sequences that switched between fast paced flips and a slow paced beatdown. We’ve seen high flying vs. slower guys before, but this match just did it extremely well.
It was overall a really good match, but Kenny/Hangman vs The Bucks still has holds “best match of the year” for me.
Plot-wise, I’m at a bit of a loss here just because I don’t know where the Bucks go from here. Are they going to stop being heels and superkicking people? Was that supposed to be a bit of a hiccup? Is that just foreshadowing for their heel turn that is much later down the road than we thought? I’m confused, but I’ll go along with it for now.
Matt Hardy vs. Sammy Guevara (Elite Deletion Match): All around, this was a great match. If you like cinematic matches there’s no way you’ll dislike this one. We had Matt Hardy’s hologram, Sammy almost being run over by a monster truck, Roman candles, and an absolutely brutal final five minutes that I’m extremely glad was pre-taped to avoid injury. Hurricane Helms and Gangrel were a fun addition to the match and a treat for everyone who has been following Hardy for a while. I really enjoy that AEW is willing to bring in other people outside of their promotion and this was perfect.
My one complaint was I was expecting a little bit more of a buildup to the actual fighting like we had in The Final Deletion, but this was a minor complaint. Once again, just like OC vs. John Silver, this was a perfect way to help pace the show. It was fun and lighthearted, nothing serious so if you wanted to you could hang out, get more snacks, go to the bathroom, etc. you could, but if you did watch it you wouldn’t be stuck watching a boring random filler match.
MJF vs. Chris Jericho: I was looking forward to this match, but honestly the PPV was starting to feel long by the time it started. It wasn’t exactly the best match, either — Jericho felt a bit slow and there were one or two moments I wouldn’t call botches but definitely were sloppy. I did like the ending, however — MJF’s version of “doing literally anything to win” was him just taking the coward’s way out, which certainly tracks.
I was disappointed with the match overall, but it had a great ending. And I am excited to see more segments with MJF trying to get along with the Inner Circle.
Jon Moxley (c) vs. Eddie Kingston (I Quit Match – AEW World Championship): I was almost positive that Eddie was going to lose this match, but as the day of the PPV got closer and closer I began to doubt that. That is the sign of a good build. The build may have been somewhat short, but the emotion going into this match was surprisingly high thanks to how gifted Moxley and Kingston are on the mic.
An I Quit match was also a really good pick for Eddie. Moxley is so much more built and just exudes this aura of being able to destroy someone with his pinky. Eddie on the other hand is threatening, no doubt about that, but is more of a “he’s going to take out a baseball bat” threatening. So a match where weapons are allowed is perfect for Eddie to seem on par with Moxley.
The match itself was as it should be: extremely grueling. I wouldn’t say it was quite as brutal as the Omega/Moxley match from last year’s Full Gear, but it was still brutal. Which for me is good; too much violence and I suddenly don’t want to watch, and this match struck the right balance.
The Verdict: This PPV was a return to form for AEW after the letdown of All Out. I enjoyed most of the matches on this card. I wouldn’t say any of them hit my top five of the year, but they were fun and enjoyable. Nothing groundbreaking, nothing earth-shattering; just a solid, enjoyable PPV.
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