“Beautiful, Glorious Professional Wrestling Violence” – AEW “Full Gear” – November 16th, 2019 Review

The opening salvo to the fifth AEW pay-per-view was about one thing: “pressure”. There was certainly no doubt at all that for the men and women of All Elite Wrestling, the pressure to deliver was on. After weeks of insatiable build-up on weekly episodes of Dynamite and Dark, the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore would prove to be the appropriate battleground. Plus…who didn’t love that stage? An original, PPV-specific entranceway that gave the show that extra bit of character? You know, like WWE knew how to do back in the day with those huge swinging hooks for Backlash and the like…

The Buy In Pre-show: Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D. vs Bea Priestley

The first half-hour of the countdown show was filled with some fantastic ‘Being the Elite‘-Esque video packages to hype Santana & Ortiz vs The Young Bucks, Moxley vs Omega and of course, Cody vs Jericho. If there’s one thing that AEW is consistent with, it’s their production values as pertains to hype videos and stripping back the layers of their talent to tell stories that engage, intrigue and excite. All three storylines were bolstered and helped along with some very well-put-together packages ahead of the main broadcast.

The warm-up match was one I have to say I’ve been looking forward to now for some weeks, as Britt Baker sought retribution from the nefarious Brit, Bea Priestley. The ‘half-human, half-monster’ Priestley had her work cut out for her early on as an all-business Baker stormed the ring and the two slugged it out in a match more that was more than worthy of inclusion on the main pay-per-view.

Despite a huge foot-stomp from the turnbuckle onto the back of the real-life dentist from the rough and ready Priestley that could have easily ended the affair there and then, this really was Baker’s time to shine. Boy, did Baker use that time well… I’m firm of the belief that she is a future AEW Women’s Champion and probably the best female competitor on the roster in terms of being an all-round, star-package deal. Using Lockjaw for the win, the other half of NXT‘s Adam Cole notched a valuable ‘W’ in the ever-present win/loss record books of All Elite Wrestling.

The real talking point of the match, however, was the emergence (again) of Awesome Kong, who returned alongside Brandi Rhodes, to beat down a wounded Bea Priestley post-match and claim a lock of hair as a trophy of sorts. Whatever this monster and master pair have lined up, it could inject the women’s division with some much-needed vitality in the storyline department.

Proud & Powerful vs The Young Bucks

The first match of the pay-per-view proper was an absolute barnburner and was 100mph from the off. From Matt Jackson channelling his inner Ricky Steamboat with some gorgeous arm drags to the insane camel clutch/Boston crab from the newly-anointed Proud & Powerful, the work-rate of both teams really was something else from start to finish and oozed intensity. Not just confined to high-spots and aerial assaults, the four men showed their wrestling psychology chops as Santana & Ortiz began the methodical taking apart of Nick Jackson, as the tag team supremo found the former LAX focusing on his right leg with a plethora of hard-hitting and unorthodox moves designed to wear down the younger Bucks’ vertical base.

Storytelling and selling were in overdrive from the both teams, as Ortiz became immortalised in gif form forever after his amazing oversell of a Matt Jackson superkick and the crowd totally bought into the near-fall created as a result of a great Risky Business double-team move on Santana that drew the first of many “This is awesome!” chants of the evening. After the Bucks failed to hit their Meltzer Driver finisher after Nick Jackson’s leg gave way during the springboard offence, the tag team contingent of The Inner Circle picked up a clean win after hitting a slick Street Sweeper double-team for the 1-2-3, much to the shock of the audience.

After teasing confrontation with the legendary Rock n’ Roll Express, who were sat at ringside to cheer on the Bucks over the team who assaulted them on the recent episode of Dynamite, the two Hall of Famers finally got physical as they attempted to even the odds when Sammy Guevara – who came complete with a loaded sock in preparation for a post-match beatdown.

The true magic and nostalgia of Ricky Morton were on display as the 63-year-old wrestling legend hit a Canadian Destroyer on Santana before taking out Guevara and Ortiz with a fantastic tope Suicida, which did nothing if not send the crowd into a frenzy and prove that Morton is absolutely timeless. A great opener that was well-paced and exciting, AEW once again rightly put their faith in their quite-frankly amazing tag team division to suck the paying customer in.

PAC vs ‘Hangman’ Adam Page

You always knew that this rubber match would be something special and it certainly didn’t disappoint. I’m continually impressed and constantly surprised by the enviable athleticism of Page when you consider he appears to be much more of a ground and pounder…a younger, in-shape JBL if you will. With that being said, I’m also a huge fan of ‘the Bastard’, who has a real knack of making things look genuinely nasty between the ropes. Throughout this physical battle full of big hits, PAC really did showcase what makes him such a love-to-hate, hate-to-love wrestler – in that, he has an unfounded ability to both dish out and receive punishment.

I’m talking of course about PAC withstanding a back-cracking slam on the ring apron (AEW does love an apron spot), big time moonsault to the outside and a gargantuan big boot from the creator of the fantastic “cowboy shit” tagline. I’m also talking however about the downright mean and nasty brainbuster from the disgruntled Geordie to Adam Page on a chair on the outside – a proper cringe moment if ever there was one in the course of the match.

With counter after counter and the crowd eating up what was described as “grappling magic” from the PPV announce team of Jim Ross and Excalibur, ‘Hangman’ seemed done for when PAC transitioned himself out of Page’s finisher and locked in the spider-esque Brutalizer submission hold but the wily Aaron’s Creek, Virginia native not only got out of it but succeeded in besting PAC after ‘the Bastard’ failed to hit a low blow whilst distracting the referee. Another Deadeye-driven pinfall victory for Page surely sees him thrust himself back into serious contention for AEW’s top prize after coming up short in Chicago this past summer. As for PAC, there literally isn’t anything that this Brit can do right now that would keep him grounded in my boots… after all, it isn’t just about flipping and flying about a wrestling ring that earns you the moniker of “The Man That Gravity Forgot” right?

Shawn Spears w/ Tully Blanchard vs ‘Bad Boy’ Joey Janela

I was excited for this one following a quite timid buildup that escalated in a hurry in a recent episode of AEW Dark, whereby the Four Horseman and AEW’s self-appointed “Chairman” viciously attacked Janela backstage with a pair of pliers and a cigarette butt in the mouth. Unfortunately, as big a fan as I am of both of these gentlemen, I couldn’t help but find the match a bit… flat. Maybe the unconventional style of Joey Janela just failed to create the perfect foil for the man looking to eliminate “garbage wrestling” but something just didn’t click.

There was a certain irony, intentional or otherwise, that on the 22nd anniversary of the infamous Montreal Screwjob, Earl Hebner would find himself officiating a match whereby there was a Sharpshooter locked in right in the centre of the ring. I personally love that kind of stuff but I’m happier still that they didn’t take the easy route and do the whole “ring the bell, false finish” angle for a cheap bit of heat and to take the easy route out. Despite some vicious stomps from Janela to Spears, the ‘Bad Boy’ failed to get himself out of the blocks as he’s been able to do time and again when afforded time in front of the camera for All Elite Wrestling but likewise, Shawn Spears performance didn’t quite hit the mark as it really should have given this was a pay-per-view outing for the former “Perfect 10”. Tully Blanchard continues to validate his pairing with Spears, especially when he aided his protege with the spike piledriver on the outside that set up Spears hitting the C4 for the win on a dazed, down-and-out Janela in the ring.

Kip Sabian and Penelope Ford interviews

“Superbad” Kip Sabian again used the most of his limited interview time at Full Gear by announcing to the world his official alignment with regular bad gal Penelope Ford.

The sex appeal of the two is undeniable and the cocky, better-than-you approach is tried and tested. AEW may have a new Posh & Becks ready to break the glass ceiling. After all, “why be bad when you can be Superbad?”

Three-Way AEW Tag Team Championship Match: SCU (c) vs Lucha Bros. vs Private Party 

Absolutely incredible. That’s surely the first thing that springs to mind when you think of 1/6th of this match: Rey Fénix. The guy is literally a human highlight reel and maybe most exciting performer on the entire All Elite Wrestling roster. In what was probably a daunting and monumental task for the referee Rick Knox, this three-way dance was sure to be a hit for all those who needed their spot-tastic fix for the evening and for me at least: it certainly didn’t disappoint. Whilst I’m a strong advocate of all three teams, including the champions themselves, I can’t help but dream of that eventual Lucha Bros. run with the titles because for me they are, pound-for-pound, the best tag team in the company right now… maybe even the world.

Marq Quen and Isiah Kassidy continue to showcase their creative and interesting brand of wrestling, keeping you guessing and interested as to just what the two of them will do next. Their hunger to put on a surefire classic every time they step into the ring is never in doubt, but there again, neither is the hunger of one Scorpio Sky. Sky is an absolute workhorse and athletically he’s a sound a wrestler as you could want on your card and when paired with the experience of Frankie Kazarian, SCU are capable of silencing any critics of the inaugural AEW Tag Team Champions. Really, I was hinging my bets on this match being on a show stealer on a stacked card and it was definitely in contention for that title, be under no illusion.

The tag team madness came to an abrupt end when Private Party’s Gin and Juice finisher was countered by SCU, before Scorpio Sky hit the SCU Later knee to keep a hold of the straps. Thankfully for all us wrasslin’ fans, however, the SCU/Lucha Bros storyline seems destined to rage on, as the Mexican bad boys proceeded to beat down the champions after the match – only for the lights to go out, unveiling a mirror image moment as Pentagon seemingly stared at himself when the house lights came back on.

Quite the return for a disguised Christopher Daniels, who floored the Lucha Bros. and signalled the re-emergence of the “Fallen Angel” a few weeks after being put on the shelf by Pentagon Jr and Rey Fénix on Dynamite. Take my money and fight forever.

AEW Women’s World Championship Match: Riho (c) vs Emi Sakura 

A match 13 years in the making, it was time for the student to face the teacher with the winner walking out with a few pounds of gold heavier. Excalibur mentioned that it was their 286th meeting inside a wrestling ring and I can only hope that the previous 285 occasions were as well-executed as this. Sure, I still don’t get the whole Sakura channelling the late, great Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. Sure, I’m not amazingly high on Riho as Women’s Champion other than the fact that she’s easy to like and a fantastic poster-girl for women in wrestling (she started training at the age of 9 remember!). But after it’s all said and done, did they do what they came in here to do? I gotta believe they did that much.

With an electrifying end sequence that stunned me with the quickness and technical ability on show, Riho pulled out the win over her hard-hitting mentor with a spinning crucifix into a cradle that seemingly came out of nowhere. After besting Sakura on the big stage, it was refreshing to see a moment of genuine and emotional mutual respect between the two women, who I’m sure will eventually lock horns again down the road.

AEW World Championship Match: Cody vs Chris Jericho (c)

With wrestling legends Dean Malenko, Arn Anderson and The Great Muta at ringside to act as judges should the match end in a 60-minute time limit draw, this world title match had a big fight feel from the outset and for many fans, the build-up alone has warranted the purchase of the event from pay-per-view providers. Wearing his custom “Le Champion” weight belt, the 49-year-old defending Champion is nothing if not the “master of reinvention” as Jim Ross referred to him, and Jericho once again came to deliver on the big stage with the gutsy, always entertaining young Rhodes. You surely had to know that this match would deliver in every which way and it did, from start to finish. Both men are truly brilliant storytellers and that much was evident from this red hot 30-minute encounter at Full Gear.

An instant classic, this really was a great wrestling match. Things slingshotted into high gear when Cody hit the metal ramp way face first and saw claret, with a legitimately nasty gash above his right eye that only added to the drama on display. After last week’s announcement that there would be judges there if it went the hour and that Cody would relinquish the right to challenge for the world title again in the future should he lose against “The Alpha”, it seemed certain that the godfather of All Elite Wrestling was destined to wear the gold of his own brand. However, talk about a swerve with monumental payoff value as a viewer.

Though Cody seemed poised to walk out champ after the “ultimate near-fall” following a Jericho Judas Effect countered into Cross-Rhodes, the “Youngest Ever AEW World Champion” caught his prey in the Liontamer. As Jericho wrenched the submission on “The American Nightmare” and added some gruesome kicks to the head during the process, Rhodes’ cornerman and best friend, MJF, threw the towel in and signalled the end of the match and, subsequently, Cody’s dreams of being AEW’s top guy.

As a distraught and conflicted Maxwell Jacob Friedman fought back tears and looked for repentance from his best friend for effectively side-swiping his in-ring career trajectory, a pissed off Cody brought him to his feet… as all best friends do. What not all best friends do, however, is then kick the other right between the legs.

MJF Cody Turn

Executed to perfection, MJF is now in the throes of what I can only describe as nuclear heat. What about the guy throwing a full pint all over Friedman as he made his way back up the ramp? Crazy heel work from the youngster who angrily proclaimed it’s his time now. The live audience erupted, no doubt everyone at home erupted and it may very well be THE major, stand-out talking point of a great PPV this past Saturday. Tune in to Dynamite on Wednesday for the inevitable heel-tastic retort from MJF.

Unsanctioned Lights Out Match: Jon Moxley vs Kenny Omega

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Talk about divide opinion. Go onto social media and check out what people are saying about this match and you’ll see a venerable divide of those who loved it and those who loathed it. Me? Well, I enjoyed it for what it was: “beautiful, glorious professional wrestling violence”. It was what it was advertised to be from the outset and I don’t think anyone can be angry at that. It was more than a slobber knocker. It was cruel, nasty and more-than-once difficult to watch. It featured horrendous shots with barbed wire baseball bats and sweeping brushes (including Omega literally sweeping Mox’s back and drawing blood), a board of mousetraps and inventive use of a big old gold chain (maybe a not-so-subtle reference to Kenny Omega’s dig that Moxley shouldn’t hope to chain wrestle him).

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Things went all Basic Instinct with the arrival of an ice pick and there was as-expected a nice table spot to keep all the Dudley Boyz fans happy. The violent and uncomfortable nature of the match (which Moxley seemed totally at home with) was maybe something new for many AEW fans and even the casual fan could not be blamed for feeling uneasy watching the two gladiators slam one another numerous times of the contents of a bag of broken shards of glass. Let’s not discount how morbidly majestic the sight of Moxley crawling through the cut glass to escape an Omega-applied Sharpshooter was though people. Even the monsters in us can appreciate the symbolism.

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Like… where did they get a barbed wire spiderweb from? That was crazy. A legit holy shit moment for sure. The anarchy reigned supreme as Omega fought his way back to his feet and drove both he and his adversary through a plexiglass logo with a horrendous V-Trigger. Not content to leave the ring in one piece, Mox did some home improvement and helped the ring-crew on their way as he pulled up the canvas for the triumphant big finish moment of the match as he finally put away Omega with a devastating Paradigm Shift on the exposed wooden boards after “The Cleaner” failed the hit the Phoenix Splash.

Sure, it may not be for everyone but one thing nobody in their right mind can do is to discredit or discount just what these two men were willing to do to their bodies for the entertainment of the fans. It won’t count in the win/loss records for sure but it’ll go down as one of the most physically demanding and barbarically creative 45 minutes in modern pro-wrestling. Top-to-bottom, it was a fun pay-per-view and be under no illusion: AEW is STILL not a flash-in-the-pan promotion by wrestlers for wrestling fans.

All pics and screencaps courtesy of AEW, Fite TV and ITV Wrestling, tweets courtesy of TDE Wrestling

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