The Hits & Misses Of Full Gear

This past weekend, All Elite Wrestling presented its Full Gear pay-per-view, the company’s return to PPV after the stellar All Out event a few months ago that many consider to be the start of a new chapter in the history of the upstart company. As mentioned before and something that will be a continuous point in the modern era, it’s a tough sell for a $50 broadcast when the WWE Network is either $4.99 or even free for many customers that includes pay-per-views as well as thousands of hours of content on demand.

So, did Full Gear deliver and more specifically did any of the attempts to give the fans their money’s worth actually hinder the overall event?

The show opened with MJF vs. Darby Allin, and the match was a shining example of the bright future the organization has beyond just the stars that were used to launch the group. The match was fast-paced and built well toward the conclusion. It should be noted that among the crazy bumps that Darby took, the tombstone that MJF did on the apron and then sold the knee is a level of psychology that is often not seen in the majority of AEW bouts. The spot fest might get clips posted on social media, but psychology is ultimately what stands out more than repetitive high spots. While I understand putting Sting on the show to establish the endorsement for Darby, the spot where he attacked Shawn Spears and Wardlow with the bat to prevent them from interfering wasn’t needed. It added nothing to the match and appeared to be a way to shoehorn a few more appearances on the show than anything else. MJF getting the cheap win doesn’t really do anything to damage the status of Darby because of the level that he’s over with the crowd, and truthfully, MJF needed the win to be able to generate some heat again. While MJF is undoubtedly one of the most talented on the roster, he hasn’t had many big wins on PPV recently, particularly when he lost to Chris Jericho prior to this. This was a very good match, and most importantly, it’s proof of how well the dynamic of an over baby face and a heel with heat can work in the sport.

I have to be honest, I was somewhat disappointed with the AEW Tag Team title match and expected more from it, specially because of how good the initial match between the two teams was on television several weeks ago. For whatever reason, this contest just didn’t get into second gear and had a rather clunky pace. The fact that all four wrestlers were in the ring at various points throughout the match never allowed it to build to any type of peak, and while it had good action, the contest seemed very disjointed. Along with the rules being ignored with all four competitors in the ring, the fact that Tully got involved in front of the referee kills the credibility of the official of the match. If there aren’t rules in a tag match, it’s rather difficult to build to a hot tag, which might be one of the reasons this match didn’t get to the second gear. That being said, both teams are great athletes, and that’s why I was surprised this bout didn’t deliver to a higher level than something below what was already on free TV. Unfortunately, this was the first of many times on the card where the match was just too long and dragged at certain points. I’ve said it many times and I will say it again, a longer show doesn’t automatically translate to a better show. Too often throughout this card matches were close to or beyond twenty minutes and it just wasn’t needed. The finish itself was goofy and completely flat. Using the mask for a pin fall on the illegal wrestler with the decision allowed to stand makes the baby faces look like unworthy winners and it makes the referee look ridiculous because even the announcers knew that Cash wasn’t the legal man in the match. A side note, the announcers should at least make a note about what the AAA tag titles are as far as mentioning that it’s from a promotion based on Mexico to give some context to the belts.

Another bout that I wouldn’t categorize as disappointing, but slightly underwhelming was Miro vs. Bryan Danielson. Considering the really good match that Miro had against Kingston at the prior PPV, and the classic TV match Danielson had against Omega, I expected more from this contest. Miro had a leg wrap that looked legitimate so prehaps that’s why things never fully clicked in this match. That’s not to say it was a subpar performance, but again, considering the physical nature of their previous bouts respectively, I anticipated that this would be a much more hard-hitting contest. While the two had a very good strike exchange in the latter stages, it only picked up slightly before the finish, which saw Danielson get the submission win. The other downside here was this was another one that went too long. Sometimes, a trimmed down match helps pace the card, but this was the third consecutive match that went nearly twenty minutes. However, the argument could be made that only MJF/Darby actually needed that amount of time for the narrative of the match-up.

Yet another match that went over that twenty minute mark was the six man tag team street fight, and it was an example of some of the over booking on the PPV that became repetitive before the show went off the air. The action was wild and it was a fun brawl, but by nature, this matches need to be kept on the shorter side or they tend to lose the sizzle of the gimmick. As far as the tacks and the knee pad with tacks being used, it’s a gimmick that is used too often in modern wrestling to have the impact it did in years previously. When Mick Foley sprinkled tacks onto the canvas once every few years, it got a reaction because it was a gimmick that was a rare spot. When Abyss used tacks almost monthly in TNA, it became routine and thus the reaction diminished. I think the same can be said for tacks used in AEW since they were just used on an episode of Rampage a few weeks ago. The bump that Adam Cole took on the ladder was brutal. Speaking of Cole, he bladed during the contest, and based on the fact that CM Punk did the same later in the night, I would say that Cole bleeding wasn’t necessary. Very similar to the tacks, if blood is over used then it doesn’t have the same impact on a show. Jungle Boy got the pin to win the match, which was a wise decision because he has the potential to be a major star in the future. Hopefully, this feud is going in a different direction because I have to say that everyone booked for this match could probably be utilized in better angles than extended brawls outside of the ring.

Cody Rhodes and Pac beat Malakai Black and Andrade in a solid tag team match. There’s not much to discuss about the match itself, but the in-ring action speaks volumes to the depth on the AEW roster. All four of these athletes could be used in the main event scene in some form or fashion, which is one of the reasons that the company appears to have a solid future. As bloated as the roster might be, when you consider these four along with the young talent mentioned prior, and the current main event picture, the company has the talent to continue to build momentum. As far as the narrative of the match, Cody continued to get booed, despite spots that catered to the crowd. As I wrote about a few weeks ago, Rhodes is one of the best talents in the organization and he’s a polished pro, but there’s a fine line between the leader of the pro wrestling revolution, a term he coined after the launch of AEW, and being the New York Yankees. The entire concept of All Elite is to improve the wrestling industry, which it has done, but when Cody is on game shows and has a reality show about himself, it’s easy for the fan base, even if the notion is misguided, to assume that Rhodes wants to be a TV star more than a pro wrestler. I know Cody has said in interviews that he won’t turn heel because of the amount of charity work that he does, which is great and makes sense, but at the same time, the company also has ambassadors that could be used in that role. Some might cite John Cena as an example of someone that didn’t turn heel despite some audience hostility, but quite frankly, Cody doesn’t have the cache of Cena.

It might be the easy answer, but sometimes the simplest answer is the correct decision. Cody Rhodes as a heel would freshen up his character and bring a new dynamic to the product. Cody touting that AEW wouldn’t exist without him would allow for some good angles with some of the baby faces on the roster. That being said, I doubt Cody will actually turn heel, but he probably won’t make any progress from a character prospective either.

The Women’s title match was a good bout that had a “big fight” atmosphere to it. Baker has the presence of a star and knows who to portray it. Tay Conti is a great baby face that has the potential to be a star in her own right. Baker retrained the title, which makes sense because the money match-up is the Thunder Rosa rematch with the title on the line.

Eddie Kingston vs. CM Punk is a prime example of why it’s much more important to be over than a lot of high spots. This was a physical bout that enhanced the narrative of the angle. CM Punk is still probably the most popular star in AEW, but the fact that the crowd was somewhat split during this contest proves just how over Kingston is with the audience. Kingston has a level of authenticity that can’t be scripted and it’s a level of believably that very few have in the modern era, which is why he connects with the audience. Punk got the win, but the argument could be made that Kingston is over even more after this PPV match.

The street fight basically a lesser version of the falls count anywhere match from earlier in the night. The match was fine, but went too long and dragged at certain points. Besides the gimmick, the fact that there were a few inexperienced competitors was even more of a reason to keep this shorter. The Inner Circle got the win and hopefully, there are some new angles planned for those in the stable.

The main event was tremendous and represented top-tier quality for the event. This was an example of giving a match more than twenty minutes helped the narrative and it was very well done. Adam Page is over and should have a great run as champion so it’s a wise decision for him to win the title. As far as Kenny Omega, he did very well, and while the rumors of Okada appearing at AEW, an Omega vs. Okada match on American PPV could be a major selling point next year for the company.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta
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