The results are in…for AEW Full Gear.
I penned an article just hours before the live broadcast to discuss some of the key points and potential booking decisions of this pay-per-view. More specifically, how the outcome of certain bouts could be a sign of the direction of the promotion ahead of 2021. While the pandemic more or less eliminated live attendance to any measurable level, the quality of not just the actual event, but the storylines that follow are still key to the company continuing to expand in a myriad of ways.
Kenny Omega vs. Adam Page to determine the number one contender for the world title opened the show, and it was a very wise decision to put them on first because it was a way to pace the card so that they could have the chance to work a longer match without burning out the viewers mid-way through the show. It also helped reduce other key bouts with the task to have to follow a match that was designed to build to high spots. These two delivered big time, and this was the type of contest that you want to be able to showcase the pure talent on the roster. Yes, you absolutely need the well-known names and familiar faces for the star power when the organization airs on TNT, but the bottom line is, especially in the modern era, you must have the in-ring substance to go along with the sizzle for these pay-per-views. Obviously, fans will compare this to the arrival of the “New Japan Omega,” but all things considered, and as I’ve written before, Omega has always still had the talent that generated him such a following in Japan. He was cast for a role in the tag division that wasn’t a place for him to have 45-minute contests every time he appeared on screen.
Speaking of which, now that Omega is clearly on a path to the world title picture with the victory here, I have to say, I still find the entire Omega/Page tag run odd. Perhaps some of the restrictions of the pandemic limited who AEW had available at certain times for tapings, but for a company that wanted to emphasize tag team wrestling, it just didn’t seem like a natural fit to have two wrestlers that were more or less just thrown together have the longest run with the belts so far in the history of the promotion. More than anything, and I could be wrong about this, the Omega/Page pairing appeared to be more of a way to keep them busy while other angles were used for the title picture.
That being said, this type of match is exactly the performance that Omega needed to put him on track for a title shot and the top notch quality of the contest rejuvenates his status as “the best bout machine” from a few years ago. At 37, Omega should have the title reign while he’s still in the prime of his career, not to say that he will be hanging up the boots anytime particularly soon, but he works a very physical style so if AEW is going to capture the aura he had in New Japan, it makes sense to do it sooner rather than later. The other aspect of this is that since Moxley retained, will there eventually Moxley-Omega title bout be a draw? I’m not trying to take anything away from either one of them, as their talent speaks for itself, but Omega’s work is based on in-ring theatrics, while Moxley’s career is based on the drama of storyline telling, similar to the angle of the Kingston match so there’s somewhat of a clash of styles. Plus, they already had a hardcore match last year so it’s difficult to top that type of match. But, the bigger point is that the Omega/Page bout accomplished its goal of getting Omega ready for an eventual title shot so it was mission accomplished.
Orange Cassidy/John Silver was a decent match and was used more to pace the crowd than anything, which is fine, especially because it was originally penciled-in for the buy-in preview show.
Darby Allin vs. Cody Rhodes was a really solid match, and again, as far as accomplishing a projected goal, this did the job because Darby’s status is elevated with this title victory. All things considered, Cody had the run with the TNT title and that story worked well because he technically can’t challenge for the world championship again, but at this point, he doesn’t really need the belt. As far as the psychology of the contest, it made sense for Rhodes to be more aggressive because of Darby’s natural role as the underdog in this scenario. The more important aspect was to make Darby here, but another element is that with it being well-known that Cody is one of the vice presidents, the company doesn’t want the narrative that would essentially portray him as the New York Yankees of AEW. It’s a thin line because if Cody is too giving in putting others over, it doesn’t fully utilize his popularity, one of the reasons the company was launched in the first place, but if he wins too often, it could create some hostility from the fan base. The Team Taz attack after the match suggest that their might be some type of tag team feud going forward, which can work for now until Darby and Cody are ready for their next respective feuds.
The Women’s title match was okay, but I think it went too long and instead of being something to pace the card, it somewhat dragged the event. Obviously, the pandemic affected the depth of the women’s division, but the potential addition of Thunder Rosa and Allysin Kay are helpful.
The Young Bucks vs. FTR was the match fans had been waiting to see for four years, and while Meltzer already proclaimed it, “one of the best tag matches ever” I’m not going to go that far. Still, it was a stellar match that built well and there was an atmosphere of importance around it, which is rare for matches in the modern era. Too often, matches are presented as just gears of the wheel of a machine and can sometimes be interchangeable on the card. This had the environment a “special event” and the psychology and the pacing added to it. I’d expect rematches in the next few months, which is fine because this is quality wrestling. I hope The Bucks/FTR becomes a series of great tag matches, similar to some of the peak eras of tag team wrestling of the past. The Bucks winning made sense since some of their tenure in AEW so far was slightly underwhelming before this pay-per-view.
I’ve said several times before that I understand that the cinematic type of wrestling has a cult following, but it just isn’t my cup of tea. (Well, an energy drink as I’m enjoying an Amp to power me through this review) However, outside of that, I thought the Elite Deletion was too long and ultimately wasn’t really anything other than what was seen on Impact 3-4 years ago. In short, the Hardy compound has run its course and regardless of being a different organization, this came across as a retread. Hardy still has gas in the tank, though so it will be interesting to see his next storyline in AEW.
Chris Jericho vs. MJF was better than I thought it was going to be, and I’m still guessing this will ultimately lead to the Inner Circle turning on Jericho to make MJF the new leader. Jericho is already cheered and that scenario gives MJF a boost so it would be a logical path for the storyline.
The main event was a brutal fight that resembled something from more of an old school period of the business. As I mentioned in the previous article, Kingston hasn’t been on the roster long enough for the company to book him as the first non-WWE performer to win the AEW championship, but I think this entire storyline proves that he undoubtedly has the ability to be the world champion at some point in the future. It can’t be understated how important it is that Kingston has the ability to emotionally connect with the audience because that is what draws money. The fans can identify with him and he has a sense of authenticity that very few in the business can bring to that table. This isn’t meant as a jab, but who on the WWE roster has the believably of Eddie Kingston? The corporate machine is so well-produced and packaged that they don’t have a performer as gritty or as authentic in their system. WWE markets itself more as the athletics that portray superstars in sports entertainment. Kingston doesn’t have to play a role, he takes his persona and amplifies it for pro wrestling. WWE is absolutely successful with that they do and their financial reports prove it. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, success for AEW is profitability, not necessarily competition with WWE. The TNT extension allowed them to be a profitable venture, and part of the reason is that they aren’t trying to present the company as another WWE type of project. Performers like Eddie Kingston, Omega, Pentagon, Rey Fenix etc. are why AEW is an alternative in the industry.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
E mail firstname.lastname@example.org | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta