AEW Full Gear 2023 Predictions
AEW Full Gear 2023 comes tonight from Los Angeles, California in the KIA Forum on pay per view.
Dark clouds and devils still haunt the roster of All Elite Wrestling as they enter what is sometimes their weakest entry of the pay per view schedule. 2023 will be the first year it isn’t the final entry as World’s End in December will bookend the year. This allows the show to no longer have to hold up the expectation of being the final statement of the year but instead a culmination of everything that’s happened throughout the year.
With WrestleDream prior, another new pay per view entry, this allows Full Gear to run rematches from that show, including two of the most anticipated matches on the card. Unfortunately it won’t have Bryan Danielson wrestling a classic on the card, but I’m sure World’s End and the recently announced Continental Classic will make up for that.
What I think Full Gear brings that some shows in 2023 ends up missing is actual feuds that have had time to breathe. Even if you don’t like the story of Statlander against two former friends who just discovered Hot Topic, you can’t deny that they’ve had some television time to tell the story. Every statement that has been needed to be said on Jay White and MJF has been said. We can get this match and move on from it to the next story. Hangman Page and Swerve Strickland have had their speed bumps but ultimately they still hit an emotional high at the right time.
While it may feel like a cop out or a way to avoid criticism of the product, All Elite Wrestling is the greatest pro wrestling pay per view machine ever created, and we are guaranteed at least three matches we will consider great matches in the year. Full Gear is no different, and depending on how game people are, and how many injuries are avoided? This should be an amazing pay per view once again.
Am I already being too nice? Okay, let me whine about this. I think Penta El Zero Miedo has been doing some of his best work in AEW in the past few months and they should have found a spot for him. I miss the Lucha Bros. Okay I’m done. At least whining. Let’s get to the card!
AEW Full Gear Zero Hour
Buddy Matthews vs. Claudio Castagnoli
This was thrown together last night, and is likely a broken piece of what was a rumoured program between Blackpool Combat Club and the House of Black. I don’t know how much is true, but I’ve heard that Buddy Matthews and Brody King was supposed to be in a tag team match against Blackpool Combat Club while Malakai Black faced Bryan Danielson. With Danielson hurt again, they went with Kings of the Black Throne in the tag match which left Buddy Matthews and Claudio with nothing to do.
I personally have the theory that FTR tried to swipe their personal friend Adam Copeland from his current angle against Christian Cage to work as “Rated FTR” against House of Black (based on how AEW Collision was running last month) but it got shut down in favour of what we got. Can I prove this? Of course not. Just a theory.
Buddy Matthews had a good match with Wheeler Yuta last night, who I thought might have been facing Hook on this show. It’s good to get Claudio in a match, who has really impressed me and fit AEW better than I feared he would. He’s truly a wrestling machine and I hope him and Buddy make a statement in the preshow. I’m giving Claudio the win, and hope he announces himself for the Continental Classic in victory.
Winner: Claudio Castagnoli
ROH World Championship
Jay Lethal vs. Eddie Kingston (c)
Eddie Kingston has been a great fighting champion, holding both the NJPW Strong Championship and the ROH World Championship. With ROH Final Battle coming in December, it’s good to get him on Full Gear, even if it’s during Zero Hour. The pro wrestling is better with Eddie Kingston on your boob tube.
Jay Lethal was once the stalwart of Ring of Honor, and his place in All Elite Wrestling has been a bit mixed. He came in working a lot of television matches without much purpose, and eventually turned heel to join up with Sonjay Dutt and Jeff Jarrett and Satnam Singh in some weird TNA tribute band. It has led to some funny promos but it’s ultimately a group that Tony Khan just loves to have. He loves having a midcard heel group of jokesters to clown about and humour him. Whether it was Dark Order, Trustbusters, Hardy Family Office, QTV, there’s just so many of these groups in the history of AEW that are not taken serious and are hardly liked.
This program has been about Eddie Kingston trying to talk some sense into Jay Lethal into being a serious wrestler again and stop hanging around a bunch of clowns. I think we still see some clowning about, which hopefully Ortiz comes out to help Eddie Kingston and not turn on him. Maybe in the end, as Eddie Kingston wins, maybe Jay Lethal sees just how far his career has gone in the wrong direction in AEW and the new ROH. Then again, he does have Ric Flair to clown around again. Maybe the Black Machismo comes out and this has all been a lost cause. Either way, I look forward to Eddie Kingston reminding us he’s The Man once again.
Winner: Eddie Kingston
ROH World Tag Team Championship
The Gunns vs. Maxwell Jacob Friedman (c) and Samoa Joe
Last night on AEW Rampage (sup to the Pagers) we got a go home angle that should have aired on AEW Dynamite, including an excellent brawl between Jay White and MJF. It culminated in Bullet Club Gold beating down MJF only for Samoa Joe to make the save and shake MJF’s hands. That handshake guaranteed Joe to be Max’s partner against The Gunns.
There’s a lot of ways they can go with this. Joe could just turn on MJF and cost him the match. Maybe Joe doesn’t turn on Max but they still lose due to a miscommunication. After all, it took time for MJF to trust Adam Cole, and Cole he had undeniable chemistry with. Samoa Joe is a different partner with a different agenda. And he isn’t MJF’s friend. He’s doing this for a title shot, presumably at World’s End.
Personally? I want The Gunns to look like the better tag team. We need tag team wrestling to be respected, and show that two singles stars don’t have chemistry like two brothers who live and breathe tag wrestling. I want to see them cut the singles wrestlers off and make them pay for “hero ball in pro wrestling”, doing too much on their own. For me, it’s much more fascinating if the Gunns win because they are the better tag team, but also because MJF couldn’t trust Samoa Joe.
You then get left with new ROH Tag Team Champions, but also Samoa Joe saying to Max, “I did everything to help you keep those titles and it wasn’t my fault we lost. You screwed up. And now I’m coming to take the AEW Men’s World Championship from you.”
Winners and new ROH World Tag Team Champions: The Gunns of Bullet Club Gold
AEW Full Gear 2023
The Blockbuster Signing
There has been a lot of speculation on who the blockbuster signing is. Every name from Bill Goldberg to Dolph Ziggler (who can’t even work there until late December) to Katsuhiko Nakajima, who someone already vandalized Wikipedia to claim he signed with AEW:
With Ronda Rousey showing up on an ROH taping we can cross her out. Fightful claimed it wasn’t Mercedes Mone, which is too bad. The only person I feel that fits this big of an announcement is Will Ospreay.
Ospreay is technically still under contract with New Japan Pro Wrestling, but AEW coming to a deal already to announce it in November I feel is because they’ve already worked it out with NJPW to get it done. Ospreay has been clearly courted by AEW for the past year, and it has felt like an inevitable conclusion he’d come to AEW.
Prior to All Out 2021, there was a big AEW meeting and it was reported that Kenny Omega told the locker room he wouldn’t have hired 80% of them in there. People took this as insulting and not leader like. It turned out it was him doing a joke and he was staring at Will Ospreay the entire time he said it, who didn’t even work for AEW. Just thought to bring that up, because now they can re-create this. If it’s Will.
Signing Will Ospreay is a big deal, and likely guarantees he will main event All In 2024 in Wembley. They could build the show around him going after the AEW Men’s World Championship. What I hope is that Ospreay telling Impact Wrestling fans he wanted to work in a TNA ring, and signing this deal while with NJPW, means Ospreay will still be open to take his talents all over the world. Open borders for William. It’s likely the best weapon AEW has in signing big stars over the WWE.
AEW World Tag Team Championship
Four Way Ladder Match
LFI vs. Kings of the Black Throne vs. FTR vs. Ricky Starks and Big Bill (c)
This match is one of the more thrown together on the show, to the point where they just added the ladder match stipulation last night on AEW Collision. LFI (Rush and Dralistico) haven’t been on television as tag partners for very long to establish themselves. Kings of the Black Throne haven’t had many wins as a tag team either and mostly stuck to the trios division, though Brody King does have a pinfall victory in a Trios Championship match against Dax Harwood. FTR are the former champions, and Ricky Starks with Big Bill was thrown together a few months ago but ended up winning the belts from FTR.
This could be a fun match. It should be with talents like Rush and Malakai Black and Ricky Starks in it. It probably needed the ladder stipulation to add to the excitement, but the reality is that the tag titles are in a less interesting match than the number one contenders later in the night. And who wins that match is really what makes or decides who should be winning this. If Young Bucks win, maybe FTR should win this to drop the tag titles to them. If the Golden Jets win, you can go in a lot of directions, but Golden Jets should probably beat whoever wins this. In a funny way, I think this tag title match is actually the number one contenders match. Because whoever wins it? Loses to whoever wins the tag team match later.
FTR probably get their belts back, but I want BIG BILL to hold the title high on a ladder. I’m a big fan of that guy completely turning his career around and being a solid big man, a role AEW had empty after Brodie Lee passed away.
Winners: Ricky Starks and Big Bill
AEW TBS Championship
Triple Threat Match
Julia Hart vs. Skye Blue vs. Kris Statlander (c)
I am a big fan of Kris Statlander, but I haven’t been much of a fan of this program. I probably might have to do a, “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything” otherwise people will think I’m hating on the young women in this program. I just feel AEW’s divisions should have a certain standard, and if you don’t make that standard? There’s Ring of Honor, and there’s going on excursion (like Megan Bayne presumably did) to improve. I know a lot of people connect to Skye Blue and Julia Hart, but I just don’t think the in ring work is there yet. Both women are very young and absolutely could get there, but until they do? They shouldn’t be in championship matches.
I hope Kris Statlander wins and they find a better opponent for her next month. Julia and Skye have a lot of potential. Their next title shots should come when they actually meet it.
Winner: Kris Statlander
AEW World Tag Team Championship
Number One Contender’s Match
The Golden Jets vs. The Young Bucks
It seems as though Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho ended their program with the Don Callis Family on Dynamite in the SEGA sponsored street fight (which I absolutely loved) but that sadly meant that Konosuke Takeshita, Powerhouse Hobbs, and Kyle Fletcher wouldn’t have anything to do on pay per view. Maybe they pick it back up for World’s End, but I feel like it could be good to move everyone from each other for some time.
The Young Bucks, despite being the number one contenders for an AEW World Tag Championship title shot, have spent more time backing up Hangman Page in trios matches instead of establishing themselves for that title shot. So with them upset that Kenny Omega is hanging out with Chris Jericho instead of being in The Elite, they’ve found themselves wrestling each other at Full Gear.
I’m sure some will have expectations of this hitting the mark that Hangman Page and Kenny Omega hit with the Young Bucks at Revolution 2020, but they shouldn’t. That was an all time great match. This won’t be an all timer, but it absolutely has the potential to be the best match on the show. It’s always magic when Kenny is in the ring with the Young Bucks, and I think Chris Jericho and the Young Bucks are bringing great energy in their backstage segments. As I said on Twitter, this isn’t the program that makes the most sense. But it might be the best program for the men involved just on pure chemistry.
I picked Big Bill and Ricky Starks to retain, so I’m going to say the Golden Jets win the match and become number one contenders. I think that’s the most fun matchup to do. The Young Bucks can continue their heel turn, and either take it out on a different team, or stay a thorn in the side of the Golden Jets.
Winners: The Golden Jets.
The Patriarchy (Christian Cage, Nick Wayne, and Luchasaurus) vs. Darby Allin, Sting, and Adam Copeland
Christian Cage was the hottest wrestler in the world after Wrestle Dream. I don’t know what happened, but AEW definitely cooled him down. Even with Adam Copeland coming in, it didn’t feel like AEW was 100% committed to doing the program over the past two months.
This trios match is the inevitable conclusion of what we saw at Wrestle Dream, with Copeland supporting Darby Allin and Sting against Christian Cage and the Patriarchy. I have to say, I absolutely love the faction name THE PATRIARCHY. Especially with how uncomfortable it is to say I LOVE THE PATRIARCHY.
Darby Allin and Sting are clearly on a collision course with each other as the final match of Sting’s career at Revolution 2024, which means they need to tie the loose ends of this program with Christian Cage and Nick Wayne. I think the Patriarchy win this, but it happens in a way that allows Darby and Sting split and focus more on Adam Copeland and Christian Cage for the TNT Championship at World’s End.
Winners: The Patriarchy
AEW Women’s World Championship
Timeless Toni Storm vs. Hikaru Shida (c)
Timeless Toni Storm has been one of my favourite characters of the past few months, along with Roderick Strong. I know a lot of people who absolutely loathe both gimmicks, but oh well. I don’t think being wacky or gimmicky says a thing about whether or not they can still be great pro wrestlers. I don’t let that stuff bother me. I can still believe someone is a great athlete when they are a bit weird. Does it surprise you I watch hockey and love goaltenders?
The Timeless Toni Storm angle is good to me, and I enjoy the character. I also enjoy the stability Hikaru Shida has brought to the Women’s Division as champion. Gone are the antics of the Outcasts, who she has beaten and pushed down the ladder. I feel like with Mariah May and Megan Bayne coming in soon, plus the possibility of Athena finally coming up to AEW and Mercedes Mone eventually wrestling for All Elite Wrestling, Shida as champion ensures the title is on someone the fans like and can have good matches.
Storm might win tonight, but I think Hikaru Shida continues to hold down the division until new contenders come and old contenders (like Jamie Hayter) return. It might not be your cup of tea in presentation, but Storm and Shida should have a strong match.
Winner: Hikaru Shida
AEW International Championship
Jon Moxley vs. Orange Cassidy (c)
If Jon Moxley didn’t get hurt in his match with Fenix, I think he would still be International Champion with Orange Cassidy getting this rematch to try to get his championship back. I don’t know how it changes things that Moxley is the challenger, but they did a good thing on Dynamite making Moxley look like a bigger threat than before when he no sold the Orange Punch.
When OC lost to Moxley, he was running on fumes, battered, and beaten up. He’s more rested now, while Jon Moxley is returning like the Terminator for the belt he lost. I am thrilled with Jon Moxley being more serious and think it might be time to bring him back to the main event. That’s also why I think Orange Cassidy retains.
Part of it is because I think this was supposed to be OC winning it, and part of it is because I think the next International Champion will actually be Konosuke Takeshita, who needs a new program after his work against Kenny Omega. This allows Jon Moxley to work the Continental Classic as one of the favourites, and opens up the possibility of Orange Cassidy losing the title to someone who has youth and international experience on their side. The championship can possibly become what we hoped it would be when it was first created as the silly named All-Atlantic Championship. It can finally be the title that’s defended all over the world. A true international championship.
I’m not talking enough about the match, but it’s a rematch. I expect Moxley to hit hard, Orange Cassidy to be a perfect babyface, and the finish to be earned. A good shot at match of the night.
Winner: Orange Cassidy
Texas Death Match
Swerve Strickland vs. Hangman Adam Page
This is my most anticipated match of the night and maybe my most anticipated match of the year.
I’ve fought back against the claims that Hangman Page has done nothing in 2023 because he was in my favourite match of 2023, the death match against Jon Moxley at Revolution 2023. But there’s no question he hasn’t had much purpose aside from existing in these feuds against Blackpool Combat Club. Swerve Strickland has given him more purpose, but even then it felt like shuffling the BCC for the Mogul Embassy, with the strange ROH Trios Championship win with the Young Bucks that led to zero ROH matches and they just dropped the belts back.
When Hangman Page prevented Prince Nana from cheating for Swerve in the match against Bryan Danielson, Swerve and Nana returned the favour by costing Hangman the match against Jay White. This meant the two weren’t done after Wrestle Dream as I expected. Swerve couldn’t just take the spot of Hangman Page’s. He had to absolutely destroy Hangman. And in doing so, he crossed the line in breaking into his house.
A lot of people didn’t like this, but I think it allowed Swerve to play into how evil he is. It was certainly better than when Seth Rollins invaded Edge’s house only to eat a banana and laugh, but that stuff is always going to remind people of WWE antics. They want reality in their pro wrestling. The reality is that Swerve went too far, and he lit a fire in Hangman Page. Page is now focused and determined to destroy Swerve Strickland.
It’s good, because this match and feud is creating two main eventers. It’s bringing Hangman Page back to the spotlight, and it’s showing the world that in 2024, Swerve Strickland is ready to be a World Champion in AEW. This match could and should deliver.
I hope Hangman Page has watched his Lucha Underground tapes when Swerve was Killshot and fought AR (Dante) Fox in the Hell is War match. It’s the greatest hardcore match I’ve ever watched. I hope this Texas Death takes some of the essence, as it could very well surpass what we got from Page and Moxley earlier in the year. This feud hasn’t been perfect, but it has hit all the right notes on the way to this final confrontation. Originally I thought at a 1-1 they’d face each other again in the rubber match at World’s End, but now I’m thinking it’s better to keep them at 1-1. You can break the tie when one of them wins the AEW Men’s World Championship, and the other becomes the number one contender.
Hangman Page wins, which ensures that Texas Death is now his iconic match in AEW. But Swerve Strickland doesn’t need a win to be victorious. He will be attached to Hangman for the rest of their careers.
Winner: Hangman Page
AEW Full Gear 2023 Main Event
AEW Men’s World Championship
Jay White vs. Maxwell Jacob Friedman (c)
Jay White has done everything you don’t do if you want to be World Champion.
I don’t say that in kayfabe. Outside of kayfabe, a lot of the things he has done is right in the Booker’s Book of Angles to Make Someone Look Credible Before Losing. I know. Long title.
Stealing the championship, stable beat downs before the pay per view, pinfall in a tag match, all of it is textbook what you do to build someone up you don’t plan to make the champion. When you plan to make them champion, you keep them away from the belt they eventually win. You create a possibility they might not win, because they already have momentum on their side.
If Jay White wins this, it could be good for Tony Khan that we no longer see these booking decisions as tropes for things to do when you want to artificially build someone up. If they work here, they have credibility in the future. Maxwell Jacob Friedman has already built up some contenders beyond Jay White, which makes it even harder to see Jay winning this. How can Jay win before we got the Samoa Joe rematch and the Wardlow match? How can he win before we find out who the Devil is?
I have my theory on the Devil, and I originally suggested that the Devil wins the title. But maybe the Devil just costs MJF the title. Maybe. It’s more likely that MJF walks into World’s End as AEW Men’s World Champion since it’s in Long Island. That’s home for MJF, and it’s likely a major goal for him to walk into his home as World Champion. That’s why I think despite all the little games, Jay White eventually falls to MJF.
This opens up MJF to face Wardlow and Samoa Joe, and focus on who ends up being revealed as The Devil. Did you know some people think it’s Danhausen? I just thought to mention that. DANHAUSEN! Man, some people, it’s like they watch a totally different program than the rest of us. Hilarious.
— Ryan Crouse (@ryancrouse1) November 15, 2023
Devils, Samoan’s, and Wardlow’s aside, it’s the twilight for MJF’s reign. This could be the last pay per view he leaves as AEW Men’s World Champion. For some this has been a good reign, for others a bad reign. For me it’s a unique reign that cannot be compared to anyone in history. Nobody has gone from top heel to top babyface like he has. It’s usually babyface to heel. For that, it’s unique, and I look forward to the day MJF can have a proper babyface chase to the title.
Winner: Maxwell Jacob Friedman retains the AEW Men’s World Championship
After the Nightmare Mode that was the summer of All Elite Wrestling, I think the trip to Full Gear was a lot better than in earlier months. Even with it going from Wrestle Dream to Full Gear and now World’s End at the end of December, I feel like the building of programs has greatly improved. Gone were the days of weeks of Dynamite and Rampage feeling inconsequential to the upcoming major shows only for the company to rush in the booking of the eventual pay per view matches. There’s only two matches that feel rushed and they involve the AEW World Tag Team Championship. I believe the original plan was the Young Bucks going up against FTR again. Clearly that got changed, and honestly? I think it’s for the better.
I’ll say this: I’m looking forward to this pay per view, but even more to World’s End. I’m looking for World’s End to be a clean slate that All Elite Wrestling needs. A reset of sorts from 2023. From all of the CM Punk drama. From all of the overpriced tickets leading to dwindling attendance. From the declining ratings of Collision which somehow everyone knew would be bad once the sports competition got tough but they still react in shock every time it drops. Maybe all of this stuff continues but at least it won’t be from a 2023 perspective. Full Gear should be the defining statement on 2023. World’s End will be the end of that statement.
As Ian Riccaboni says so beautifully, happy Wrestling everyone.
Photos by AEW