AEW Full Gear Preview
The first pay per view since All Elite Wrestling launched their weekly television show on TNT, we head tonight to Baltimore, Maryland for AEW Full Gear, a pay per view name only a Khan could love.
I could go on a rant alone on how AEW has been pretty lame when it comes to the names of their programs. I know Dynamite was the name of Tony Khan’s fantasy wrestling booking when he was young but as a wrestling writer I can tell you that Dynamite is annoying and difficult to shorten. Maybe this doesn’t matter to others but for me it’s a pain. They would have done better just calling it AEW on TNT like they were heading towards a week prior to launch. All Out and Double or Nothing are fine, but Full Gear? That belongs with TNA Sacrifice and Hard Justice. Or WWE’s Capitol Punishment and Stomping Grounds. Just a pointless name that some speculate is them taking a Being The Elite joke with Adam Page. Wait I said I could go on a rant. Guess I did.
Regardless of the name, AEW Full Gear is an intriguing show being the first pay per view since Dynamite launched in October. It is my feeling that the company squandered months of potential development time by doing next to no video work building up their roster in preparation for Dynamite. Now it’s launched to build up to a pay per view, and the build up leaves a lot to desire once you start running down the card.
I want to make a note on someone missing on this card in Darby Allin. On October 16th, Allin had an AEW World Title shot against Chris Jericho. Since then he’s had one match on AEW Dark and hasn’t been seen on AEW Dynamite for almost a month. Allin skateboard attacking Jericho and earning a title shot felt rushed and against what AEW was trying to build, but it was extremely exciting. He made a great impression in the match. He’s been the most interesting person in interviews for media with AEW. And yet he has nothing to do for the pay per view? And they couldn’t even have him show up on Dynamite to cut a promo? Such a disappointment. Smaller disappointment: what is MJF doing other than running in for Cody Rhodes? Why doesn’t he have anything going on other than being the best bud that might turn on Cody?
AEW Full Gear Buy In: Bea Priestley vs. Britt Baker
When I say that it has left a lot to desire, a good example is this match. This is an undercard match for the AEW Women’s Divison and it has had better build up than the actual AEW Women’s Championship on the main card. Britt Baker and Bea Priestley have been attacking each other and been at each other’s throats since Fight For the Fallen, when Priestley gave Baker a concussion. This would have made sense as a title program feud but instead it’s the pre show match. A big part of that is Britt Baker being the focal point of the division despite not being champion, nor being the most interesting wrestler in the division. Baker is a project still learning in the ring, but the company adores her backstory as a dentist. My hope is that Jamie Hayter gets involved and we see the beginning of the AEW Women’s Tag Team Division. The company is already obsessed with tag team matches and a lot of their division would be better handled as duos so nobody has to do heavy lifting in a singles match. Hayter and Priestley have history as a tag team and I’m sure Baker could find a partner. I just hope to see progress for both.
AEW Full Gear: Joey Janela vs. Shawn Spears
Here is a perfectly acceptable feud between two midcard wrestlers which has mostly been built up on AEW Dark instead of AEW Dynamite. If you didn’t watch Dark or the Countdown on YouTube, or Janela and Spears on Twitter, you wouldn’t know about Janela taking shots at Spears manager Tully Blanchard, or the fact that Shawn Spears tried to pull out Joey Janela’s tongue on Dark (which was briefly shown on Dynamite.) Janela has grown on me. Shawn Spears has been in a holding pattern since being convincingly dispatched by Cody Rhodes. I know the idea is that Spears hates garbage wrestling and Janela (along with Jimmy Havoc) represent it, but why haven’t we had a single promo on Dynamite with Tully Blanchard talking about why Spears will win and why garbage wrestling sucks? And then have Janela respond about how “hardcore” Tully got against Magnum T.A.? I’m hoping for Spears to win here because AEW could use him as a strong midcard heel and Blanchard needs credibility as a manager.
AEW Full Gear: Adam Page vs. PAC
This is another perfectly acceptable feud and was also the first feud created by All Elite Wrestling almost a year ago at their first press conference. While PAC’s run as Dragon Gate champion put the feud on ice, this feels like it should be the finality of that program. PAC has been used relatively well and is a strong heel, but they need Adam Page to shine here. He’s looked much stronger in recent weeks than he did in the build up to the first AEW championship match, and a win here could keep him credible as AEW heads into 2020. Losing to PAC again wouldn’t mean as much as Page dispatching him and looking forward to someone in the Inner Circle.
AEW Full Gear: Proud and Powerful vs. The Young Bucks
The moment Ortiz and Santana came to AEW, even though they attacked the Young Bucks and Lucha Bros., it was clear who their real target was. I knew the Bucks weren’t winning the AEW Tag Team tournament until they feuded with PnP, and would be better utilized in a feud against them. Aligning Ortiz and Santana with Jericho eventually in the Inner Circle was smart as well, as this program can carry onto more than just tag matches and keeps both fresh and outside the title picture. Once this feud ends, you can enter one of them into the tag team picture. I don’t see the Young Bucks being tag team champions any time soon, so this is good for them. I also see them losing since Ortiz and Santana need the win more.
AEW Full Gear: Private Party vs. Lucha Bros. vs. SCU for the AEW Tag Team Championship
Opportunities need to be given but opportunities need to be executed. When you look at Shawn Spears, you see a guy who had a prime opportunity against Cody Rhodes and ultimately disappointed. When you look at the Private Party, they were given a win over the Young Bucks and used that opportunity to make themselves even better. The loss of Luchasaurus for the Jurassic Express also put them in the front seat of being the top young team in All Elite Wrestling. This isn’t plugging a team in to make sure this isn’t a straight rematch. This is giving a deserving team the spotlight in a three way tag.
That said, this shouldn’t be a three way match. The Lucha Bros. should have won the Tag Team Championship, and this should have been built up for SCU to get a rematch and fall short again, only for Christopher Daniels to make his return to replace a member of SCU as they win one last shot and finally overcome the Lucha Bros. Instead, Daniels injury is largely forgotten. They won without him. No suspense. So in this situation, SCU is simply a veteran tag team holding the titles. I think Scorpio Sky should be working singles in 2020 and not in a tag team. That said, I expect SCU to retain.
AEW Full Gear: Emi Sakura vs. Riho for the AEW Women’s Championship
Words. I have a lot of words here. I have already expressed my disappointment in how the AEW Women’s Division has been handled. And it’s not getting better. After being gone for two weeks with no explanation and no promo videos, Riho returns for a tag match. In the tag match, she loses to Emi Sakura, who Excalibur has told us was her trainer. Emi hasn’t wrestled on Dynamite for three weeks in a losing effort. But she pinned the champion days before AEW Full Gear so now she gets a title shot. Fine. Terrible build up and they should have been creating a new number one contender, but instead they spent their time building up Britt Baker (for a pre-show match.)
Last night, Emi Sakura has been tweeting about her history with Riho. About how four months ago the two of them were wrestling in front of 60 people, and now will be wrestling in front of thousands for Full Gear. In Japanese, Sakura expressed disappointment in the lack of story for their match. How there was so much more to it than just student versus teacher, and how they had their farewell in Japan. These two have wrestled each other in singles matches over 32 times, and to Sakura, she is worried this is just a match and not the start of something bigger.
Since then, wrestlers and fans alike have spilled out their adoration for Emi Sakura, including Mark Henry on Busted Open Radio. Sakura has been played in some ways as a heel, and I thought the idea was she was an older wrestler out of touch (similar to Chris Jericho) thinking she was cool as a Queen impersonator. In reality, she’s a pro wrestling legend lost in translation wanting the opportunity to prove herself in America. Kenny Omega tweeted how in title matches, Riho and Sakura are 3-3.
This entirely story has played out on Twitter. ON TWITTER. Not on a video on Dynamite to hype fans and make them excited to see the two square off at AEW Full Gear. Instead, it’s Emi pouring her heart out in tweets to talk about how much it means to her to face Riho in America in front of thousands with thousands more watching on pay per view. This is a culmination for all the hard work she has put in as a wrestler and trainer, and at 43 years old, she finally has a chance to get the recognition she hoped for.
I’m starting to wonder if the criticism AEW had about their Women’s Division in comparison to NXT led to the company thinking they didn’t have much there, and that’s why it has been treated like a gimmick division, with a bare minimum of one match per Dynamite. But the division is more than that. It’s absolutely more than that. And tonight, Emi Sakura and Riho have a chance to show it in the ring. But they deserved a shot to also tell it outside the ring.
Sakura is no heel. Neither is Riho. AEW could have told this story. Instead, Emi Sakura had to tell it one day before Full Gear, three days after winning a title shot on Dynamite, a show she was missing from for three weeks while the champion was missing for two. This might be one of the most insultingly built up title matches I have watched in years, for any promotion. I hope they tear the house down and All Elite Wrestling spends some time asking themselves why they blew this. Because they blew it. And both women deserve better.
AEW Full Gear: Cody Rhodes vs. Chris Jericho for the AEW Men’s Championship
There isn’t as much to say here as the Women’s match because this has been an extremely well thought out feud that has received significant time on television to build up and make people care for. Cody has become the biggest babyface in pro wrestling while Chris Jericho has shined as a veteran heel. I do however have an issue with Cody Rhodes saying if he doesn’t win he won’t challenge for the AEW World Championship again. Does that mean if he wins 100 matches against the best in AEW, he’s just gonna sit at the top of the ranks but never get a shot? Come on. And if he wins, is he really winning with one match ahead of him? The announcement of a 60 minute time limit and judges also makes me wonder why this title gets it but the womens title and tag team titles do not. It’s confusing, but doesn’t overshadow the fact this has been a phenomenal feud. It would be a disappointing finish, but with all of the extra additives the match didn’t need, I hope it just ends in a 10 man brawl that builds to the eventual, “Match from Beyond” we will see against the Nightmare squad and the Inner Circle.
AEW Full Gear: Kenny Omega vs. Jon Moxley in a Light’s Out Match
While I am not as disappointed in this as I had been with Riho and Emi Sakura, the feud has made very little sense when it should have been very clear.
Jon Moxley came to AEW and attacked Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega. Omega, upset, attacked Moxley back. They were supposed to have a match but Jon Moxley went to New Japan Pro Wrestling and got injured. Omega mocked him for this, saying Mox was trying to be like him and couldn’t cut it. Moxley got healthy and attacked Kenny Omega again. Omega responded by… coming out with a barbwire bat and barbwire broom to challenge Jon Moxley. So basically, he tried to now be like Moxley? The two saved each other in various situations, before their final confrontation on Dynamite, this time Jon Moxley bringing out the barbwire bat that Kenny Omega gifted him (at least that’s how it has looked) to have a weapon stand off, followed by the two just brawling out of the arena?
Oh, and I forgot! Despite forgetting that Moxley could talk, they finally had him talk by confronting president Tony Khan behind a closed door complaining about how the match will be Light’s Out and won’t count on the record. Moxley was furious wanting him to be able to beat Omega and it counting. Kenny Omega has said nothing about this of consequence. He seems fine with it. Moxley has accused Khan and AEW of favouritism and that he’s being treated unfairly, and understands he’s an outsider in all of this. Why is one of their biggest babyfaces suddenly feuding with the company?
This is such a convoluted mess. Maybe it’s because they were already supposed to wrestle and be over it. Or what I think is that AEW Full Gear was always supposed to be a Lights Out match, but without their original match at All Out, it doesn’t make sense to go straight to it. And Moxley can cut his own promos so he’s made that clear how this doesn’t make sense.
I also feel AEW mixed up the story they were trying to tell of Kenny Omega being unhinged and confused it with what they were trying to tell with his feud against Jon Moxley, as the unhinged, “I’M JUST GETTING STARTED” Omega has been largely dropped so he can take shots at New Japan Pro Wrestling on an (albeit awesome) Undertale inspired video for Halloween.
What this program SHOULD HAVE BEEN was Kenny Omega not liking Jon Moxley as this former WWE guy coming in to take his spot in All Elite Wrestling when in his eyes he’s earned nothing in AEW. Meanwhile, Jon Moxley wants to prove that Kenny Omega isn’t the best wrestler in the world and wants to prove it by beating him. Mox targeted Omega because he is the best. Omega wants to prove that Moxley and all of his contemporaries in the WWE are underneath him and that’s why he went to All Elite Wrestling. Oh, and this should be a singles match before the main event and not after the main event in a gimmick match.
Here’s the problem I have. If Jon Moxley wins, it doesn’t count and he’s going to want another match so it does count. And Omega can claim that the hardcore nature isn’t his strong suit and they likely won’t book him losing two straight matches. If it was a singles match, Moxley could win and Omega being frustrated could challenge Moxley to a Light’s Out match to prove he can beat him at his game, setting up a rubber match that tries to incorporate both straight wrestling and hardcore wrestling to see who is the best on their own terms. But now they have a situation where either Omega has to lose two straight high profile matches, or Omega wins and it turns Jon Moxley into just a guy.
Not to mention, this is the main event. I don’t care how you word it. This is happening after the men and women have their World Title matches? Where we could see a new champion? And then you flick the lights and have another match featuring two of your biggest stars and you’re going to try to claim it isn’t the real main event? Terrible. Absolutely terrible. If Cody Rhodes wins the AEW World Championship in the second to last match, it could kill the oxygen of the crowd for the Lights Out match. They will burn out celebrating the win. And if he doesn’t win, they just made it so one of their biggest stars can win a thousand matches and never challenge for the title. I don’t know what they were thinking but they probably were not.
AEW Full Gear: Final Thoughts
I know I sound low on this card. I know I sound critical. It’s because I think All Elite Wrestling could be much better and they have been missing a lot of opportunities. And those missed opportunities might be leading to people switching off Dynamite for NXT on USA. Or, which could be even worse, the people turning off are the lapsed fans who wanted something new and are getting something sloppy. They came for the first Dynamite, they came for Double or Nothing, but AEW might have already worn out their welcome. That’s what I worry. This should have been a card culminating the year for All Elite Wrestling. Instead it’s a mish mash of matches built up on Twitter and a final match that makes little sense with the company putting themselves in pre-made corners. AEW doesn’t need a creative team of 30 writers, but if this is their best for building up to a pay per view, they absolutely need an editor.
Coming out of this, I’m hoping Wednesday is must see television. Because if this just feels like a transition show, there won’t be a million Americans willing to watch Dynamite for some time.