I penned an article yesterday about the prospects of the Full Gear pay-per-view, specifically that the line-up on paper didn’t have a “must see” match, and that the success of the show might’ve depended on the reveal of who was under the devil mask. Unfortunately, there was no reveal, despite the fact that the devil mask was a primary portion of AEW programming so at least the conclusion of the event was very, very underwhelming.
Was there enough on the rest of the card to make this a worthwhile pay-per-view?
The show opened with the six man tag team of Sting, Darby Allin, and Adam Copeland against Christian, Luchasaurus, and Nick Wayne. The segment was decent and achieved its goal of showing Sting, providing good action, and progressing the Copeland/Christian narrative. Again, this was fine and a good piece of the puzzle for Sting’s retirement tour, but at the same time, it seemed like this was more of a placeholder for Copeland than anything else. In truth, being in the opening match of a four-hour event almost minimizes Copeland’s appearance on the PPV. Unless, there are bigger plans with a brighter spotlight, and hopefully there is, it took just a month and a half for Copeland to become just another guy on the AEW roster. Theoretically, Copeland/Christian would be a major match for the All Elite banner, but as I’ve written before, the key to successful booking is based how an angle is presented, and more often than not, especially given the recent track record, Tony Khan misses the opportunity to maximize the payoff for the company.
Orange Cassidy beat Jon Moxley to retain the International title, and while I didn’t expect too much from this, given Moxley’s recent return from injury, this was a really solid bout. Taking into account that the Texas Death Match was the “blood and guts” segment later in the night, this title match was a physical contest with stiff strikes to contrast the other matches on the card. All things considered, the Blackpool Combat Club appears to be rather disjointed, with Bryan Danielson on the sidelines, Claudio on the pre-show, and Moxley working as a heel. Again, this was a solid in-ring bout, but Moxley needs a more firm direction in terms of his character, and some new ground needs to be covered for Cassidy, who already had the storyline where he defended the title every week rather than work an extended feud.
“Timeless” Toni Storm defeated Hikaru Shida to claim the Women’s championship. This went about ten minutes, which gave it enough time to develop, but didn’t let it drag toward the conclusion. The match itself was fine, nothing spectacular, but nothing subpar either. The finish was really flat, as Toni stumbled to hide a metal tray in her gear to deliver the hip attack for the win. Storm has done well with the “Timeless” character as a throwback to an actress of the golden age so it makes sense for her to win the title to establish the new persona as much as possible on television. Plus, the gimmick allowed her to avoid being lost in the shuffle of the division.
I wrote that the tag team title ladder match was going to be the car crash segment and it definitely was. The ladder bumps were risky and everyone in the match deserves credit for the performance. It should be noted that The House of Black have an incredible entrance and they look like larger than life stars. I don’t know if or how Tony Khan can maximize their presence, but they have the talent to be a much bigger deal among the All Elite landscape. Bill Big might have the most generic name in the business, but he deserves a lot of credit for the way he has completely turned his career around. He went from a WWE castaway and then struggled with personal problems. He could’ve easily become another cautionary tale in the business, but he’s on the best run of his career right now. He looked like a monster in this match, and while I was very skeptical when he initially surfaced in AEW, he’s undoubtedly an asset to the company. The gonzo bomb that Brody King did to Dralístico off the apron through the ladder was insane and probably the highlight of the match. Ricky Starks and Big Bill retain in a wild segment.
— Fightful Wrestling (@Fightful) November 19, 2023
The three-way contest for the TBS title match was okay, but it become very clear throughout the bout that Kris Statlander is a level above her opponents in terms of in-ring skills. There was a noticeable dip in quality when Statlander wasn’t involved in the match, but that’s not to say that Julia Hart won’t improve during her reign as champion. Julia is in a rather unique situation, as her character work is very well done and she gets a reaction from the audience, but she doesn’t have nearly enough in-ring experience to compete on national television. Assuming she will get the chance to work with the right opponents, it’s very possible that she can evolve into the role of the champion and become a more well-rounded performer. Given the way that she stole the pin to get the victory, it looks like Julia will work with Statlander, which is a really smart decision.
The Texas Death Match was the “blood and guts” segment on the pay-per-view, and while I get what they were going for in this match, it went too far and could ultimately sour a portion of the audience on the product. Adam Page drinking the blood of Swerve wasn’t hardcore or pushing the envelope, it was just gross. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve watched Japanese death matches for years that involved fire, light tubes, etc. but All Elite Wrestling is supposed to be a national commodity, not a niche underground promotion. Swerve bled buckets and was legitimately stapled when Page used a stable gun in the contest. You could literally see the staples in Swerve’s skin, and it was completely unnecessary. Pro wrestling is a work for a reason, New Jack used a staple gun in ECW and it was a total work. ECW was also more popular in its heyday than AEW is right now so should they use real staples?
Hangman Page staples his sons drawing & then drinks the blood of Swerve.
— Get The Tables (@GetDaTables) November 19, 2023
Furthermore, and this is the biggest problem with this type of segment, it takes matches too far and then it sets a dangerous standard for what they audience expects from these type of matches. They used barbed wire, tables, glass, the staple gun, and chairs, but the audience still chanted “we want fire” toward the end of the match. All Elite already has a noticeable injury rate and these type of bouts won’t help that situation. Swerve Strickland got the win and this was a gory spectacle, but I’m not sure that’s a positive in the grand scheme of things.
Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega vs. The Young Bucks was fine for what it was, but the Texas Death Match more or less ruined the crowd for the rest of the event. It’s an example of a lack of booking skills not to recognize the drop in the pace of the show after a blood bath of that magnitude. If Swerve and Page were going to use more or less every gimmick possible except for fire than put them in the main event spot so the crowd isn’t quiet for everything else that follows it. I understand the argument to put the world title on last, but again, if there’s such a brutal segment planned then it should close the show to avoid the burn out of the crowd. Omega and Jericho got the win, which looked to plant the seeds for a Young Bucks heel turn. Considering what The Bucks have accomplished in the organization, it might be a wise decision for them to take some time off so they could return for a fresh run in a few months.
The table broke when MJF put Jay White on it, and the crowd started giving them shit. MJF said, 'fuck it', and dropped the elbow without the cushy table. pic.twitter.com/V3VN5zXVY6
— Richie Boy (@richdurand77) November 19, 2023
I understand what they were going for in the main event, but I honestly think Tony Khan missed the mark for what he booked in this segment. Jay White and MJF are two great in-ring workers, and AEW’s main selling point as an alternative to the WWE is that it can sell work rate. That wasn’t the narrative that was told in the main event, which is fine, but it seemed like it was a missed opportunity for a quality in-ring main event. Instead, it was almost thirty minutes of MJF selling the leg and after a three and a half hour show, it was a very tedious viewing experience. The match dragged at certain points and that’s not something that should happen in the main event of a pay-per-view. Some might argue this, but since MJF sold the leg so often, it undoubtedly made Jay White looks weak that he couldn’t beat such an injured opponent. After such an extended segment, there was the anticipation of the reveal of who was under the devil mask, but as mentioned before, there wasn’t any reveal and it led to a very underwhelming conclusion to 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
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