AEW pay-per-views rarely miss and Full Gear certainly did not.
Yet there were a number of things that kept a strong outing from being a great one at the Kia Forum in Los Angeles on Saturday night.
“Hangman” Adam Page and Swerve Stickland stole the show with an insanely violent and unique-feeling Texas Deathmatch that was held back slightly by the finish.
MJF is still AEW world champion, but the lack of a major angle left the end of the show feeling flat.
AEW did provide a needed and mostly well-done reset to its women’s division, welcomed in a big signing and saw Adam Copeland and Christian Cage add a strong first act.
Here are five takeaways from Full Gear.
The end wasn’t as clean as you would have liked with Swerve Strickland and “Hangman” Adam Page in a literal blood feud. And it kept one of AEW’s best extreme matches from being an all-timer.
Stickland, in a performance that will only further raise his stock, needed Prince Nana to pull him out of the ring to beat the 10 count in the Texas Deathmatch and got help from Brian Cage – instead of letting seeing these two decide it on their own.
We saw an extremely sadistic side of Hangman after the storyline of Stickland invading his home.
He used a staple gun all over Stickland’s body, even attaching some of his kid’s artwork with it and drank drips of his opponent’s blood.
Once Prince Nana freed Strickland’s’ hands, he matched Hangman’s level of viciousness, stapling himself and feeling no pain.
(Warning: Graphic Violence)
Strickland went and got a cinder block and placed it on the apron, eventually driving Hangman’s back into it. With both men now bloodied, Strickland was able to get up from being pile-driven on a barbwire chair.
Hangman was later power-bombed on and stomped on the same chair. Stickland hit Hangman — whose back was covered in glass — from the top rope a then drove him into the glass again — but the Cowboy managed to beat the count.
An avalanche Rolling senton, a pile driver and Dead Eye onto barbed wire from Hangman — plus a Buckshot lariat with barbwire wrapped around Stricklands head didnt end it as Nana pulled the challenge to the outside Cage came out to attack Hangman, who eventually put Nana through a table to outside with a Deadeye.
It open the door for Strickland to hit Hangman from behind with a cinderblock As Page stirred, Strickland tied a metal chain around Hangman’s neck and choked him on the ring post for his second win over the cowboy.
Oh Baby, Babyface
MJF is getting good at the babyface stuff, but how much is too much, especially when he keeps winning with heel tactics?
The 26-year-old is now the first person to hold the AEW world championship for a year after using the Dynamite Diamond ring to defeat Jay White in the main event — that disappointedly did not include a post-match Devil or Samoa Joe angle.
The drama-filled and story-driven match was filled with cliche babyface spots that mostly worked. MJF wrestled after a preshow angle where Bullet Club Gold attacked his knee, leaving him to return in an ambulance to keep the truly injured Adam Cole from wrestling in his place.
White masterfully attacking the leg the entire match, MJF delivered an insane elbow drop onto White, who was only lying slightly propped up by a broken announce table on the outside.
The champ gutted through the storyline pain, able to continually find counters. MJF risked it all with a wild leaping cutter over the top rope onto the floor.
The end was filled with tense momentums of Cole almost throwing in the towel with MJF locked in the Figure Four. White took the ROH tag belt from Cole and smashed MJF over the head with it, but the champ kicked out.
White also got hold of the diamond ring that Cole placed down too early but MJF countered with a low blow. It’s almost as if MJF feels he needs to overcompensate for being a heel all those years.
A kids choir fitting sang the theme for father figure Christian Cage’s entrance and then Darby Allin, Sting and Adam Copeland all put three bats into a spotlight for theirs. Copeland also painted half his face like Allin.
The story of this match was Cage running from Copeland at every turn, eventually costing his team the match.
After hitting Luchasaurus with the TNT championship by mistake, Cage ran through the crowd opening the door for the good guys to get the win as Luchasaurus took all three men’s finishers.
The first only action Cage and Copeland got was Cage crawling under the ring to pull him off the apron and throw him into the ring post.
Allin played the babyface in peril for most of this fun match, which had a ton of cool tandem moves, Ric Flair getting physical with Cage before getting low-blowed.
Sting, who shared a moment with son Stephen after the match, jumped over Flair onto Luchasaurus and Nick Wayne to the outside at one point for an excellent opener.
Queen of Harts
Julia Hart’s ascension has been validated as she stole a victory from Kris Statlander to become the new TBS champion in a match that really cooked at the end.
The champion Statlander hit her Saturday Night Fever finisher on Skye Blue, but Hart knocked her off and got the pin.
Things excitedly feel far from over between Hart and Blue — two performers on the rise.
Hart and Blue attacked Statlander early like a handicap at points until they were alone in the ring.
There Hart faked Blue into thinking that had a truce before immediately turning on her. This is the most aggressive we have seen Blue in a match — playing into her transformation since getting misted by Hart.
She got new music and a dark crown.
Stanlander, who needs to be pushed into the women’s world title tier now, went into an array of German suplex to start pushing this match to a fun conclusion filled with near falls that finally pulled the crowd into it.
Hooray for Hollywood
This time Storm ripped up her own script to start the match, with Mariah Maye watching backstage.
Storm would fake out ref Aubrey Edwards with her shoe and hit Shida with the loofah she was hiding in her back, but only got a two-count.
The champion eventually took a kendo stuck to Storm’s butler Luther.
It allowed Storm to sneak off to place her metal tray in her tights and eventually hit Shida with it through her signature hip attack.
Somehow, Edwards didn’t notice and Storm, who got celebratory flowers from Maye, earned the pin to become a three-time AEW women’s champion.
The ref looked bad here and something felt missing even despite some creative cheating and the right winner.
Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho over The Young Bucks
The Elite are in shambles. Kenny Omega chose Chris Jericho over The Young Bucks and beat them for their shot at the AEW world tag team champions.
Matt and Nick Jackson threw a temper tantrum after and refused to shake Omega’s hand.
The Bucks, who each hit low blows to Jericho and Omega, fought dirty all night and were even getting booed in their hometown.
Later it was Jericho who went low on Nick Jackson, leaving Omega with a choice. After a fake-out, he still attacked the Bucks.
Omega would kick out of a One-Winged Angel and saved Matt Jackson from going after Jericho to eventually set up a One-Winged Angel of his own to win it as the Golden Jets seem destined for the titles.
Orange Cassidy over Jon Moxley to retain the AEW International championship.
Moxley, though blooded as always, continually ate everything Cassidy threw out of him continuing the story from their first match.
He even mocked Cassidy by hitting him with his own soft kicks.
Cassidy eventually hit Moxley with six Orange Punches and a Beach Break to finally win.
The victory in the physical match validates Cassidy’s toughness and his second reign.
Ricky Starks and Big Bill (c) over La Facción Ingobernable, FTR, Kings of the Black Throne in a ladder match to retain the AEW World Tag Team championships
This one didn’t hit for me as there was very little drama around any of the teams actually attempting to climb the ladders to win the match.
Starks and Bill won by the former simply punching Wheeler off the ladder they were both on.
There were a few cool spots in the chaos.
Black sling-shotted a ladder off the ropes onto Wheeler, who got some payback with a mid-rope piledriver onto a ladder.
At one point Brody King delivered a slightly awkward-landing Gonzo bomb to Dralistico onto a ladder propped up on the corner of the ring and the barricade before Wheeler did a splash onto King on the same ladder.
MJF and Samoa Joe over The Gunns to retain the Ring of Honor world tag team championship
Adam Cole returned on crutches and the distraction of the Gunns allowed Samoa Joe to lock in the Kokina Clutch to get the win.
MJF and Joe, who had a ton of fun showing off during the match, shook hands to confirm their deal that he is entitled to an AEW World championship shot.
Claudio Castagnoli over Buddy Matthews
Castagnoli tapped out Matthews with a sharpshooter. After losing, Matthews brushed by Castagnoli’s shoulder and refused to shake hands.
Eddie Kingston over Jay Lethal to retain the Ring of Honor World championship
Ortiz returned to Kingston’s side to thwart some outside interference and hit Lethal with his spinning back fist finisher to get the win.
- Will Ospreay was AEW’s blockbuster signing but said he will need to finish up with New Japan before coming in. He is scheduled to work Wrestle Kingdom on Jan. 4.
- Mark Briscoe entered the Continental Classic. Eddie Kingston entered and will put his ROH world title and New Japan Strong belt on the line in every match he wrestles. So the tournament winner could now become a strange “triple-crown” champion instead of some more meaningful stakes.
Biggest Winner: Julia Hart, Swerve Strickland
Biggest Loser: AEW tag team division
Best match: Swerve Strickland vs. “Hangman” Adam Page, Texas Deathmatch