Did Dynamite Sell Full Gear?

(Image Credit: AEW)

With just one more Dynamite broadcast before the Full Gear pay-per-view, the first PPV since the infamous All Out media scrum that will probably lead to the departure of CM Punk, the question can be asked, is this build toward Full Gear going to be effective?

As we saw on Dynamite, Samoa Joe turned heel and attacked Wardlow, setting up a title match for the TNT championship or potentially the ROH TV belt. While Samoa Joe is the Ring Of Honor Television champion, as I’ve said before many times in this column, I don’t put any stock into the ROH brand. The reasons for that are numerous, but since that was already covered, I won’t retread all of it again, except to say that being an ROH champion in 2022, at least for Samoa Joe, has not provided him with any progress in his AEW tenure. If anything, Samoa Joe stalled considerably from not only his debut, but also the run that he had in the Owen Hart memorial tournament. His feud against Jay Lethal did him no favors either, and the argument could be made that he has almost no momentum right now. Granted, Joe took time off to do some film work, which is fine, but it still speaks to the fact that he has not built any true momentum since his AEW debut. Again, outside of the Owen Hart tournament, he hasn’t been booked for any marquee matches, especially when you consider that the Lethal feud was secondary. The heel turn was necessary because it’s not only gave Joe a fresh coat of paint, it also gave him a purpose on the show. Even if this TNT title feud is just to give Wardlow a notable opponent, this also gives the Joe character a direction on AEW programming.

Speaking of which, the lack of true direction is apparent when you take into account how many people are on the roster compared to how many are involved in a storyline that is meaningful and progresses on the show. The heel turn for Joe is probably the best use of his character at this point, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Tony Khan has missed the boat to make the most of an establish star on the roster that is theoretically towards the latter stages of his career. That is another problem with the structure of AEW, there are several talented wrestlers with name value that haven’t been fully utilized, which translates to the investment in their contract not being fully utilized either.
For his role, Wardlow must continue to present himself like a star and be able to continue to look like a star while working competitive matches against name talent. That being said, as talented and as much potential as Wardlow has, the way he has been used since thae TNT title win hasn’t really done anything to further establish him. Somehow, Wardlow ended up in a tag team with Samoa Joe because Tony Khan didn’t seem to have anything better for him to do on the show. Sure, some might say that the tag team was booked to set up for the heel turn, but even if that was the case, Wardlow coasted through the shows without a storyline for the TNT title too long and doesn’t have the hype around him that he had when he initially started the power bomb gimmick. This is where the lack of a clear long-term direction with steady progress can affect how a prospect is presented and more specifically, how over a competitor can get with the audience. Don’t give me wrong, I still think Wardlow is money, but his character was more or less booked to coast along in a tag team instead of making progress to further establish himself as the TNT champion. Hopefully, this feud with Samoa Joe can provide the physical matches that can put a spotlight on him and thus reaffirm his potential to the audience.

It was also announced on the show that Jeff Jarrett and Jay Lethal will be in a tag match against Darby Allin and Sting at Full Gear. As I wrote last week, you have to give Jarret credit for landing another job with a national organization at his age. That said, I also mentioned that at this point, there’s really no reason or demand for the 55-year-old grappler to compete in the ring or even necessarily be involved in storylines. This tag match makes sense if Tony Khan wants to use some WCW history, while at the same time giving Sting another legend to work with. Beyond that, this should be a one-off with Jeff Jarrett in the ring. Don’t get me wrong, Jarrett is in great shape for his age, but on a national level there’s a minimal role for any 55-year-old, particularly for someone of Jarrett’s level. But, for a one-off on a pay-per-view, it’s an entertaining concept to see Jarrett and Sting in the same ring again based on their history. However, the most interesting aspect of Jarrett’s AEW deal might be what he can bring to the company as far as the structure of the organization.

Saraya, the former Paige, cut a fiery promo in the ring to reveal that she was medically cleared to wrestle again, concluding speculation about if the 30-year-old star would be physically able to compete again after a serious neck injury put her career in doubt over five years ago. On one hand, the time away from the ring gave her more time to heal so if there was a chance that she could heal enough to wrestle again then this would be the opportunity. On the other hand, as is the nature with any scenario like this, there will always be a level of concern, at least at first, for every bump she takes in the ring. Considering what she endured on a personal level, if she is healthy and there is no direct risk another neck injury then it’s great to see her get the chance to perform again.

While the promo Wednesday had its strong points, it’s still fair to say that Saraya’s promo work thus far in AEW was hit or miss. Along with that, I understand that there’s a pay-per-view on the calendar, but this particular match-up seems somewhat rushed. With as much as Tony Khan enjoys throwing gimmick matches on television, I think he could’ve booked the initial Saraya vs Britt Baker match at Winter is Coming before the rematch was put on pay-per-view. That way the feud has some time to build towards a more natural conclusion on pay-per-view as opposed to booking it for Full Gear with only a few weeks to hype the match.

Finally, based on the MJF promo that aired on the broadcast, it seems like he will eventually complete the baby face turn, but as I wrote previously, I don’t think the MJF persona, specifically how it was portrayed prior to this lends itself to an antihero role. In some ways, Tony might’ve booked himself into a corner because if it was a swerve and MJF was still aligned with The Firm all along then it’s predictable. If MJF actually turns baby face, it might be a rather flat way to win the championship since the presentation of his character in the past few years doesn’t mesh with the previously mentioned antihero role. Unless there’s some type of surprising conclusion, and it’s possible there will be, I’m not sure how this will be booked to elevate MJF with a title victory. It would be great if Regal turns heel to join him because the endorsement from a legend would be a stamp of approval for MJF as champion. But, right now, there isn’t much of a grudge match built for the main event of the pay-per-view.

What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback, and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and Facebook.com/PWMania.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta