After a rocky few months, All Elite Wrestling was back on pay-per-view for their first PPV since the infamous All Out debacle led to a backstage brawl that resulted in the EVP‘s of the company suspended and arguably the biggest star on the roster set into exile. The Full Gear event served as somewhat of a benchmark in terms of being an indication of if the promotion could get back on track as far as making progress toward building the product, as well as elevating the status of key players on its roster. After the broadcast went off the air, the argument could be made that all of the pieces of the puzzle were moved into the right place, but the follow up is just as, if not more important in the grand scheme of things..
Still, considering that AEW follows the traditional pay-per-view model of a $50 premium event, how did the show measure up in terms of quality and presentation?
The show opened with Luchasaurus vs. Jungle Boy in a steel cage match, which I’m guessing had something to do with setting up the cage so it was put on the card first to avoid having to stall at some point to get the cage around the ring. While that’s understandable, the flip side of that is when you start with the cage match, it becomes much more difficult to properly pace the card and thus you could unintentionally have a low point in the action as the night progressed. That said, this match-up was a textbook example of when the narrative of classic professional wrestling is applied correctly. Jungle Boy was the fiery underdog baby face that had to fight from underneath the entire time, and this was one of the rare occasions that Luchasaurus actually looked like a vicious heel. The spot fests usually seen on AEW programming showcase incredible athleticism, but the argument can be made that the visual of Jungle Boy bleeding up against the cage is really where you make progress toward making a star. The match had great action and built to a baby face come back, which are the key elements that can make a match work on multiple levels. The way Jungle Boy hit the cage and sold showed the progress in his overall presentation, which seemed to be lacking at certain points to the past. The choke slam through the chair looked absolutely brutal, and the finish with the elbow drop from the top of the cage through the table looked spectacular. More than anything, this looked like a fight and a true grudge match. The bottom line is, that type of narrative is what draws money. You’re going to see high spots throughout the entire night, but the storyline and the characters are what made this particular belt stand out. Jungle Boy got the victory and appeared to make major progress as an overall performer in this match so it was mission accomplished. I’m not sure what the status of Christian’s injury is, but I’d say there’s still at least one more grudge match for this angle.
After the previously mentioned controversy and the supposed investigation that cleared them of blame for the backstage fight with CM Punk, The Elite made their return to the company after a three-month hiatus. As I’ve written before, I don’t think the company would be in any jeopardy if Kenny Omega or The Young Bucks left, but I also said that it wasn’t meant as a knock against the trio, but rather to point out that the company has enough depth and star power to continue to draw fans. However, despite what any critics might say and even if those critics have valid points, it’s undeniable how over The Elite are with the core AEW audience. Their return received a tremendous reaction and regardless of some of the repetitive spots with trademark offense of their style, the crowd followed the action throughout the contest.
The match itself was what you would expect, it was a dazzling spot fest with incredible action and athleticism. However, maybe I’m too much of a traditionalist, but one of my biggest pet peeves is the lack of tags or following any of the rules. Granted, the trios titles were more or less created in AEW to allow for these type of high spot matches, but I don’t think that justifies ignoring the rules or the blatant lack of logic. With as popular as Death Triangle are, this contest was missing the baby face/heel dynamic because The Elite were tremendously over with the audience, but up until this point Death Triangle weren’t exactly portrayed as heels. I’m guessing that’s why the hammer was finally used, but there needs to be a clear statement made about who the baby faces and heels are across the board in AEW. I know the trope of shades of gray is sometimes used as an excuse, bottom line is, there are heels and baby faces in real life. That dynamic is something the audience can identify with and that’s ultimately what draws money in the wrestling business. After the disputed finish, with Fenix using the hammer to get the win, it was announced that there will be a best-of-seven series for the Trios titles. Again, maybe I’m too much of a traditionalist, but there’s absolutely no reason to have carbon copy matches seven times for these titles. If I had to guess, Tony Khan was a fan of the WCW best-of-seven series in the late-90s and wants to re-create that in AEW. The nature of high spot wrestling can be repetitive and this series can make that aspect exponentially more obvious if fans are see the same spots from the same wrestlers in the same type of match on a weekly basis for an extended period of time.
The TBS title was up next and after following a bloody cage match and the trios bout, this was probably an avoidable low point in terms of action, but the six-minute bout was needed to attempt to pace the card. There wasn’t anything too spectacular, but that’s not a criticism, only to point out that this segment was more to benefit the overall presentation of the card. That’s something Tony Khan should actually try to focus on more often because not every match needs to have half a dozen false finishes and be given twenty minutes. If anything, too many matches are given that type of structure and it actually takes away from specific matches standing out more than they would otherwise. Jade getting the win made sense because it continues to build her title reign as TBS champion.
The action of the Ring Of Honor title contest was fine and there was nothing wrong with it, except that the result didn’t truly have an impact in the company so I would actually consider this match skippable on a four-hour show. At this point, the result of Chris Jericho retaining was obvious because we know that Tony Khan wants to use Jericho‘s name value to attempt to get ROH TV deal. I understand the logic, but as I’ve written many times and will attempt not to retread it, Ring Of Honor is not a brand that can draw on its own in 2022. I will still say that the ROH titles and the attempts to keep the brand relevant dilute the progress of AEW. This match was fine, but I think the card would’ve been better suited for any combination of matches with these performers than the four-way bout for a championship that represents a stagnant brand. Jericho got the win and will continue the title reign, but I think the attempts to get ROH off the ground are moot.
Saraya squared off against Britt Baker for her return to the ring after a five-year hiatus from what was considered a career-ending neck injury. I’m not sure if it was the understandable ring rust or perhaps the segment just didn’t gel, but for some reason this match never got into second gear. It wasn’t a subpar contest, but it wasn’t necessarily the quality you’d expect from these two performers. However, the bigger story is the 30-year-old British grappler is healthy enough to return to the sport, and considering all that she has endured on a personal level over the years, it’s great to see Saraya doing better today. She got the win, but I would guess this rivalry will continue on Dynamite.
The TNT three-way title match was a hard hitting, physical segment that made each athlete look like a star. This was only about 10 minutes and that’s all it needed to be. It was impactful and got the story across to the audience. Depending on what happens next, the decision to put the title on Samoa Joe might be a little puzzling. This could open the door for Wardlow to move up the card to feud with MJF for the world title, which would make sense based on their history previously. The other option would be to continue the Joe/Wardlow feud and that might be able to continue to showcase Wardlow since he will be working with an experienced veteran. Powerhouse Hobbs is a money prospect, but was basically shoehorned into this equation so it would be wise for Tony to give him a clear direction going forward so he doesn’t get lost in the shuffle again. I know it probably won’t happen, but it would be nice if Joe unified the ROH TV title and the TNT title to get rid of some of the extra props on AEW television.
Jeff Jarrett and Jay Lethal vs. Sting and Darby Allin was fine for what it was but, all things considered, it was really unnecessary to put it on this card. Double J is in great shape for his age and he has history with Sting, but I think a slot on Dynamite would be more than fair for this segment. That’s not a knock on any of the participants in this match-up, but this is where that four-hour aspect of the show is a factor. What is this really needed to add anything to the shelf that wouldn’t have been there otherwise? Again, this isn’t meant as a jab, and you have to give Jarrett credit for working on pay-per-view at this point in his career, but was there really a demand to see another chapter of Sting/Jarrett in 2022?
The AEW women’s title match was very solid and one of the better matches on the card. It was almost a 15-minute contest that built toward the conclusion and had a major reaction when Jamie Hayter finally won the title. The only problem and this was mentioned earlier is, it it wasn’t clearly defined who the baby face and heel was throughout the match. Sure, Hayter was portrayed in the heel role, but she received a baby face reaction for several weeks before the pay-per-view. It’s Tony’s responsibility to adjust accordingly to that. it didn’t do anything to diminish this particular segment, but something should be booked to firmly turn Hayter baby face on television. Side note, unless Thunder Rosa is going to return to the ring within the next few weeks, Hayter should be considered the undisputed champion. The interim status dilutes the championships for a promotion that already has too many belts.
The tag team title match was fine and The Acclaimed are of the most over acts on AEW programming, but at this point in the show, the broadcast started to drag. Furthermore the Swerve character has to become a full-fledged heel because the heel turn was somewhat flat previously. The Acclaimed retained the championships.
The main event was very solid and a quality world title match. However, there was a lot of stunts booked throughout the show so it put MJF and Jon Moxley in a tough spot when they had to work a standard match. The audience saw blood, tables, chairs, and high spots for three and a half hours, you just can’t expect to get the same reaction from a head lock or submission reversals. The Regal turn was obvious, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right decision. As I’ve said before, Regal is one of my favorites of all time and I sincerely believe he’s one of the best minds in the history of the industry. The endorsement from the legend puts a stamp of approval on the coronation of the young champion. How they follow up with this will be key, more specifically the next feud for the championship. It should be noted that Jon Moxley might be the MVP of All Elite for 2022 because he provided a level of stability for the company when there was speculation about disarray backstage.
Overall, I think full gear gave the fans their money’s worth and that’s ultimately a critical point of success because it helps make the sell for the next pay-per-view, the company’s biggest revenue stream, easier in the future. That being said, more wrestling does not automatically translate to better wrestling and these four-hour shows are just too long and often become a tedious viewing experience.
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
E mail email@example.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta