When the show finally starts after the Buy-In, the best promo money, time, effort, and execution can buy for All Elite Wrestling has finally aired, and it starts the finish of the most insane, belligerent, unpredictable, insane, and phenomenally bad year in the world that most of us can remember. Full Gear starts live, and it is poised to be an instant classic with the levels of matches presented and the general atmosphere of these pandemic PPV’s.
Quick promotion of the event and then the weight of the world is applied on my chest as KENNY OMEGA AND HANGMAN PAGE OPEN UP THE SHOW? WHAT?! DON CALLIS IS ON THE MIC? WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK IS GOING ON HERE?
AEW World Title Eliminator Tournament Final – Kenny Omega vs. “Hangman” Adam Page (4 ¾ stars)
In the truest sense of all of the fashions in international professional wrestling, Kenny Omega is the obvious favorite. And it is obvious to the fact when Justin Roberts, selling some of the best work he’s done, rattles and details the extent of the tournaments and various extreme phenemenons.
Not without some surprises, The Dapper Yapper mentions he trained with Joey Janela to beat Sonny Kiss and he trained with Rey Fenix to beat Penta El Zero M. Finishing off the current round of accomplishments, he plugs that Omega has beat Page and his opponent is near, but not within NORTH CAROLINA. It is magic. And a perfect way to start the match. You can read more about what I really think about this story HERE.
The magic of the surprisingly great four-man booth of Callis, Excalibur, Ross, and Schiavone was a pure delight throughout, giving a lot of great context as to why Callis is here, these two and their history, and the story so far in AEW. All the while, Omega and Page aren’t going 100% but they are definitely giving a steady great portion of effort to keep the pacing up.
Later in the match, there are perfect moments of these two dueling with big moves and near falls, but Omega gets the win in a perfect One-Winged Angel. This has only simmered the already consistent flame between these two, and I see more in the future for more Omega and Page, so not going through every step of every great move is good to save.
Regardless, they gave a phenomenal match and a surprising start to what would be a great PPV.
John Silver vs. Orange Cassidy (4 ¼ stars)
Look, you’re gonna look at the star rating I gave this and think it has something the other matches don’t. And while, that’s true, it’s not phenomenal professional wrestling. These two make a phenomenal comedy match start and move into a very good, if not great match throughout with so many great exchanges of well-timed reversals and great moments all over.
It’s hard to exaggerate how great a match can be based on its entertainment value vs. the athleticism/psychology/story, but these two definitely lay the foundation for a comical match and finish with pushing these two guys to their best work yet, Orange possibly having a slightly higher mark. John Silver is so great in everything that he does that I won’t be surprised if he goes elsewhere sooner rather than later, or rises up the ranks of the Dark Order.
TNT Championship Match – Darby Allin vs. Cody (c) (3 ½ stars)
Cody finally getting his Cody Rhodes announcement by Justin is a very nice note that made me pop a little. Darby gave a lot to this match and sold properly for a majority of the match, really pushing his versatility and his resolve against stronger opponents. I felt this match of all the matches tonight went a little long, but not boringly long or annoying.
It just felt like they kept painting a lot of drama and when it paid off, it never felt like the big moment it was supposed to be. Darby gets a series of great reversals and near falls then he finally lands the Coffin Drop and gets the 1-2-no. It took a series of roll-up pins and a surprise 3 count. Cody put over Darby by kneeling and handing over the belt. Taz came out and interrupted with Brian Cage and Ricky Starks came from behind and attacked them, leaving the body of Darby on the painted car he used in his entrance.
The Natural Nightmares are back on the screen after that beatdown, and QT calls out Allie and Dustin mentions something about a Bunkhouse Match against Butcher and Blade. Wednesday night. Should be more than interesting with the set-up alone. Good to also have these tags work on Dynamite. We’re also getting Fenix vs. Penta 2, Tay Conti (w/ Anna Jay) vs. Red Velvet (w/ Brandi Rhodes).
AEW Women’s Championship – Nyla Rose (w/ Vickie Guerrero) vs. Hikaru Shida (c) (3 ¼ stars)
Both have updated gear which makes both look better, of small note.
The smallest of notes, because most of this match has been done before with a lot of outside spots that hadn’t been completely played out or hinted at before.
It seems that it was an attempt at making a better match than before, but it felt to me that it was a continuation of the current story that is… the very obvious one. AEW’s entire division just feels flat and the fact we haven’t had another women’s belt PPV match against anyone on this roster is just a little weird.
It’s not impossible, the Thunder Rosa match had a great story and was one of the better matches of the division’s history.
But this match never got to that point.
Both workers had good matches going back and forth, showing better spots than they’ve had before, but I didn’t feel like it added too much to the overall feel. Might be the lower spot of the evening for me, but still a good match.
AEW Tag Team Championship – The Young Bucks vs. FTR (c) (5 stars)
I also spent some of my time talking about this match HERE, but this match even exceeded my already high expectations.
A great way to have all this history working with these guys and a slightly-not-so perfect story thus far, this match proved everything that everyone wanted before. Young Bucks vs. FTR would be otherworldly.
And, for many moments throughout, it exceeded what I expected for these two on a level I enjoyed to a far reaching degree. Suffice to say, I fucking loved every move of this match, every second of this, every little tiny nod to all of the tag teams that came before them – Hart Foundation, Steiner Brothers, #DIY, the Hardys, the Dudleys, and others.
All the multiple eras of tag team wrestling converged into a very beautiful, coalescing journey of the appreciation and representation of the best that tag team wrestling can offer.
Is it the absolute greatest tag team match of all-time?
One could definitely argue that, but that’s a conversation for another day.
What occurred at the end of this match was magic. After nearly 25 minutes of work on Matt’s injured leg, Nick finally breaks what feels like is the peak of the momentum for FTR with an amazing 450 splash and what happens next just baffles me in the best way possible. Cash Wheeler lays out Nick Jackson with a Superkick. He gets Dax out. He sees a kneeling Matt Jackson, trying to gain the courage to stand and keep going. Cash looks at him and gives him a mocking Too Sweet, then flips him off. Superkicking his head off and not going immediately for the pin, Wheeler hops through the middle rope and TRIES TO LAND A SPRINGBOARD 450 SPLASH. Matt rolls away and lands a Superkick with his exposed foot.
The Young Bucks finally have won the AEW Tag Team Championships. Kenny Omega comes down to celebrate with his friends. Hangman lurks in the entrance.
The Elite Deletion – Sammy Guevara vs. Matt Hardy (4 ¼ stars)
I could try to explain the mystical insanity of The Elite Deletion of Sammy Guevara, but what transpires is goofy, violent, and downright broken.
If you don’t know what Matt Hardy has done with his characters/gimmicks/personas/vessels, this is gonna be a lot. Matt calls some of his friends and demands he may need their help when the word is sent.
Sammy rolls up in a golf cart similar to the one he was run over by Matt in. Pulling up, he sees NEO and says hello. A hologram welcomes Sammy to the compound and his demise.
The power to his cart is shut off and out of the darkness comes a monster truck with Matt Hardy in it. Destroying the cart, Matt leaves to try to find Sammy but Sammy finds him with a trash can. They fight through the woods and Matt’s front lawn, with Sammy proclaiming “Daddy’s home,” and then they make it to Matt’s fountain where Matt pulls out the Scepter of Mephistopheles, beating Sammy all the way out to his ring, exactly where it was when the Final Deletion of Jeff Hardy occurred.
At a certain point, Santana and Ortiz get involved while Private Party come to Matt’s aid. Matt and Sammy shoot fireworks at each other and make their way to the Lake of Reincarnation.
A masked man is carrying Hurricane Helms (I POPPED SO HARD), claming Matt never had his back, while Sammy Guevara (yeah, that guy) always had his.
He takes off his mask to reveal he is Gangrel. Private Party gets involved.
Helms and Hardy have a few good moments, but Sammy throws Helms in the lake and Helms comes back as his interviewer gimmick. After throwing him in the lake again, he comes back as Hurricane Helms later on.
All the action heads back to the ring for a moment before Hardy gets beat up by Santana with a bat. Eventually Hardy crawls away as his group of friends have been beat up. Hardy eventually locks him and Sammy in the Dome of Deletion, with another ring in place.
Using the rope hooks, jumping off of tables, and generally beating down Matt Hardy throughout, Hardy never quits. Something finally breaks in him and he spears Guevara through the ropes into more tables. Guevara is bleeding in his mouth and out of the back of the head.
Hardy continues to attack, nailing a final chair shot to the head, pinning Sammy 1-2-3. Sammy is lifeless. Private Party bring a trash can and they toss Guevara in, tossing the can into the back of a truck driven by Benjamin. “Adios, forever.”
With Lance Archer holding someone up by their neck in typical fashion in some dingy weird place, and Jake Roberts casually mentioning some lyrics to “Flowers on the Wall,” they both cut a promo on how Archer doesn’t have anything at the moment and doesn’t want to be kept waiting. It’s a fun, well-shot promo that works for a guy who needs more time. It’s just not a promo I felt needed to happen after a massively violent match. It comes off as normal and not so menacing for Archer to say “Everyone dies” after Sammy Guevara looks dead after a match.
MJF vs. Chris Jericho (4 ½ stars)
It’s hard to put into words how great this story has been so far. Every beat has had some form of great, if not transcendent moment for this year in sports for segments.
Consider this match was made pretty recently compared to most of these matches on the card. Jericho comes out really hard on MJF, letting him know how he really feels. MJF answers by isolating Jericho’s arm after a failed Judas Effect on the outside on the post, really laying into a series of creative moves he either hasn’t used before or kept fresh enough to feel like he was really digging for (and coming up with) a lot of good work. Jericho had a lot of really great career call-backs throughout, including a massive frankensteiner off the top rope.
I won’t wax too poetically about this match like others, mainly because this match stands as a phenomenally great, traditionally paced match.
The finish is a seven-star finish and one of my favorite things to happen on AEW ever, if not wrestling in general.
In a call-back to one of many Jericho’s friends in wrestling, Eddie Guerrero, MJF got the diamond ring in his hand and went to go for the punch while Wardlow had Aubrey Edwards distracted, but Jericho slid under, then got a move in for Jake Hager to throw Floyd, Jericho’s bat, in. But MJF does it perfectly, and drops on the mat, looking like he’s been taking out by the bat. MJF then rolls up Jericho and gets the quick 1-2-3. Rather than having a lot of heat between MJF and Jericho, they hug it out and walk out together.
A promo for AEW Revolution is announced for February 27. Dasha is backstage with Orange Cassidy, fresh off his win earlier tonight, and he’s with Trent and Chuck. Dasha gives her congrats and asks his thoughts on his win, which he has none.
Miro, Kip Sabian, and Penelope Ford show up and Kip demands an apology to Penelope for what happened last week during Miro and Trent’s match with Penelope and Orange. He says sorry, but it’s not enough. Nothing boils all the way over, but it does keep this working.
AEW World Championship – I Quit Match – Eddie Kingston vs. Jon Moxley (c) (4 stars)
Kingston comes out with a Tracy Smothers shirt on and Mitsuhara Misawa colors on. Moxley comes down with the belt. Shit gets real right away. Justin Roberts’ intros are perfect.
Everything is right, as it should be. To start and end this show with brutal, violent back-and-forth matches with plenty of history makes this event stand out as a true champion of what a PPV should really feel like thematically. Omega/Page have a subdued, finesse way of putting on the chops and the big moves. Moxley and Kingston here just go blow for blow with no regard for human life.
It’s also a little hard to explain this one’s pure brutality, but for someone who just spent a long time explaining why WALTER and Ilja Dragunov was so great, I guess I can sum it up in this way – Moxley and Kingston were never going to fail. It just never felt like the game-changing, forward-thinking piece of booking that AEW was, sometimes is, and tries to be.
Mox has had a series of fights now with previous or larger opponents with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears shed throughout. He started all of this huge run leading to his current championship reign last year with what I still think is his biggest win yet – the unsanctioned victory over Kenny Omega at last year’s Full Gear. Which is why it felt perfect, not only to start and finish, but truly finish with Omega congratulating Mox on his brutal, hard fought win after finally making Eddie Kingston say “I quit” while having barbed wire wrapped around his throat.
It is a story that has Omega coming up and earning the right to finally go for the belt, while Moxley has continued, albeit tougher and tougher contests each time, to defend his title on the grandest stage available. It’s just a matter of time before Mox and Omega finally meet with sanctioned rules and the belt on the line.
No PAC makes Dylan a sad Dylan. However, this was a phenomenal show that kept me continually ready and excited for every single moment, something not all PPV’s can accomplish.
AEW’s PPV quality continues to exceed most companies, and it feels that the quarterly PPV method might actually work best for the pacing of the stories they wanna tell. It’s fun to see how it can all be different for everyone around – you can have a big event on a weekly show or you can make a paywall be the true difference for the amount of quality you want to represent.
I feel like AEW has found a very nice balance between the two and none better proven than the build to this year’s Full Gear. Check in with us on Wednesday for more AEW coverage.