AEW Full Gear 2023 is in the history books. Many thought this was going to be an uneventful show, with matches not really considered PPV-quality. I am among those who had doubts about how Full Gear would play out. I was happy to be wrong. From shocking title changes to an incredible Texas Death Match, AEW once again gave fans reason to get excited and even the doubters to nod in approval quietly where no one could see and would dare not admit on social media. Was this a perfect PPV event? No, but there rarely is these days from any company. This was a fine show worthy of its mantle. Could the main event have been less overbooked? Sure. Did some underhyped matches outshine the ones majorly pushed? Yes again.
AEW constantly fights an uphill battle from old generation wrestling fans and the fickle keyboard warrior fans who invest so much time and energy into being angry instead of finding something useful to do. In my view, AEW put on a solid show tonight, and I have no doubt many will want to argue with me, but won’t.
The pre-show consisted of some great matches, Eddie Kingston retaining the Ring of Honor World Championship against Jay Lethal, Claudio Castignoli defeating Buddy Matthews, and the duo of MJF and Samoa Joe retaining the ROH Tag Team Championship against The Gunns. Kingston later on announced he would defend the NJPW Strong Openweight Championship and the ROH World Championship in the Continental Tournament. Matthews was a clear MVP in his losing effort, but man if he won it would have been 100% believable. MJF and Joe as a team were fantastic. Sarcasm and arrogant humor is typically MJF’s arena, but seeing Joe pull it off with Max as the straight man was pretty brilliant. Gunns put on quite the show and for a time I thought they might win.
Post match, MJF is beaten up badly by Bullet Club Gold to a point where he is taken out of the arena in an ambulance. Adam Cole, who helped Joe and MJF win their match, promises Max they won’t take the title away from him.
This prompts the start of Full Gear, where the trio of Darby Allin, Sting, and Adam Copeland defeated The Patriarchy (Christian Cage, Luchasaurus, Nick Wayne)
Fine opener to spark the live crowd. Would anyone even have a trio of Copeland, Darby, and Sting on a bingo card? Nope, never. But here it is for our enjoyment. Hell, even Ric Flair was at ringside cheering the baby faces on. Christian is an ultimate-level heel, and his cowardice shows once more as he runs away from the match to avoid Copeland, leaving Wayne and Luchasaurus for defeat.
Darby is not going to wrestle much longer. Bumps like one taken, a chokeslam onto the ring apron was evidence of it. I love this kid, but this has got to get toned down before he seriously gets hurt.
Tony Schiavone makes the announcement with Adam Cole and Jay White, that MJF is not cleared to compete and will have to forfeit the AEW World Championship. However, Cole claims he spoke to Tony Khan and will compete in his place.
Come on. Everyone knew where this was heading. Really? Where’s Samoa Joe? Why involve Cole out of nowhere when he’s been sidelined since the last major event? Joe could have easily waltzed up and claimed he would defend as his way of asserting himself as the next AEW Champion. Even though we knew what would happen later on, it would have made for less crowding in the booking. Cole should have stayed out of it.
Orange Cassidy retained the AEW International Championship against Jon Moxley
Jim Ross would have called this a barnburner. Non-stop from both OC and Mox. Both guys told the story in and out of the ring. Cassidy with doubts about overcoming the unstoppable Moxley, but also possessing fire and anger as Mox would often mock and dismiss the champion as a non-threat. At Full Gear, Mox learned OC can certainly be a threat, and all those who sit protected behind computers should certainly consider changing their minds just a bit after this match, if they watched. Cassidy stayed away from the comedy shtick and instead remained focused as a wrestler fighting for his life. Locking in the Kata Ha Jime with Hook watching from ringside was a nice touch even Taz approved of. In the end, a barrage of Orange Punches followed by the Beach Break finally put Moxley away for a clean three count pinfall.
Kudos to Mox and AEW for putting Cassidy over. The guy earned it. People can call him “pockets” or whatever the hell else they want, but no one can deny the man playing the character of Orange Cassidy has transformed himself into a wrestler to be respected.
“Timeless” Toni Storm defeated Hikaru Shida to once again become AEW Women’s World Champion
The intros were great. You had to cheer for both women. Shida is a solid wrestler every time. This was no exception. Were there a few miscues and some stalled moments? Sure, but they didn’t take away from the entertainment factor. Storm resorted to tomfoolery and shenanigans to win, but it was in the manner she committed the acts which were fun to watch.
What Shida does from here is unclear, and it does appear the women’s division is slowly seeing a resurgence. I emphasize slowly because I want to be realistic and not get any hopes up just yet. They have some solid main eventers now, but there is a need for more variety in the title picture.
I approve this title change. Mariah May brought Storm flowers after the win. This is one angle I worry about. It’s been done many times before, often with mixed results. The common denominator is predictability.
Ricky Starks and Big Bill retain the AEW World Tag Team Championships against FTR, LFI, and House of Black in a Four Way Ladder Match
Good grief, this was insane. I enjoy these matches. Fickle fans maybe won’t. While I am fine with the champs retaining, I would have thought an unexpected change to LFI or House of Black would have been a good move. Rush is insanely over. The guy has volcanic charisma. Brody King brutalized everyone, throwing people through objects all over the place. At one point it looked like a demolition derby. Again, we should all come to expect these from ladder matches, regardless if it comes from AEW, WWE, MLW, or others.
Julia Hart wins the TBS Championship in a Women’s Triple Threat against Kris Statlander and Skye Blue
Skye Blue got a whole new entrance and literally stomped out of her babyface persona for a Black (I guess Blue?) Swan-like persona. She’s evil now. When this was announced it seemed pretty clear Statlander would be losing the title, but not the one being pinned or tapped out for it.
I was right on that. After Statlander crushed Blue with Saturday Night Fever, Hart bum rushed her out, and stole the pinfall victory. Perfectly done. Hart has been pushed heavily, as has Skye Blue so it was not clear who would be the one to walk away champion.
The match was better than expected too. You’d think Statlander would have the advantage, but being a triple threat the advantage was taken away. Unfortunately her run as TBS Champion was largely uneventful. Not many title defenses, and the ones she did have were not memorable. As a big fan of Statlander, I’m disappointed her run wasn’t booked better. Then again, many babyfaces make better title chasers than actual champions.
AEW Announces Will Ospreay as the newest signee
With hype and fanfare, Ospreay is All Elite. He talks with Schiavone in the ring, says he will respect New Japan and wants fans to do so as well as he would be a no-name without them. He will finish out the duration of his contract, and then will be under AEW going forward.
This is great for AEW, and to be honest, it’s not like he won’t head back to Japan every-so-often anyway. One of the benefits of working with is the ability to book indy shows and travel to Japan for bookings when scheduled.
Swerve Strickland defeated “Hangman” Adam Page in a Texas Death Match
Let’s be clear, Hangman did not 100% come out dead loser. Thanks to interference from Prince Nana and Brian Cage, was Swerve able to gain victory.
This was a bloodbath. A “10” on the Muta blood scale. Google it if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Tons and tons of cringe-worthy moments, horrifying, shocking, and outright insane. Lots of blood, lots of mind-twisting spots. Page went on a tear early-on, torturing Swerve with a staple gun. Later came chairs, barb-wire, broken glass, and some of those most twisted and sinister use of many of these weapons. There were some gruesome moments seeing Hangman turn into a vampire and then later getting hit with a chair so hard the barbed wire twisted around Page’s neck. Swerve took one hell of a beating and torturing, even having the staple gun shot into his cheeks. Hell, later on he used it on himself. I guess once you have hit a level of pain you just become numb.
The finish was brutal, Page being choked out with a metal chain.
This match somehow stole the show, because when you have to follow that prior to the main event you know the crowd is going to be a bit winded.
The Golden Jets defeated The Young Bucks
Like I said, following the Death Match was no easy task, and it was pretty clear it was difficult to get into this match until later on. I can and will tell you there was never a clear indicator of a winner, very hard to predict this. But once they had the moment where Kenny’s loyalty was tested, choosing Jericho over the Jacksons, it was clear the Bucks were going to be on the losing end. Omega hit the One-Winged Angel for victory. The Bucks threw a temper tantrum after the match, even while Omega tried to patch things up.
Brandon Cutler posted on social media the Bucks would be taking time off and to respect privacy. It seems likely the freshly heel Jackson brothers were planning to take off for a while, if it is for personal reasons, then kudos to them for stepping away so they can heal up both physically and mentally. I am sure with Cutler setting the stage here, it will likely be used as a working angle as well until they return.
I imagine when they do return, they will remain heel, and I predict will align with Don Callis. He was on commentary during the match, and at times was questioned whether he had been communicating with anyone in the match. Of course he denies it. But we believe him, right? It’s Don Callis? What’s not to trust?
AEW Full Gear 2023 MAIN EVENT!
MJF defeated Jay White to retain the AEW World Heavyweight Championship
Despite ridiculous over-booking and over-hyping and over-dramatic performances, MJF did in fact compete with a bum leg and somehow manage to come out the champ. Cole came out, intro and all, but before the bell rang, the ambulance is back, being driven by MJF into the arena.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin-inspired?
I laughed hard, as a dozen or more people trying convincing MJF not to compete, yet somehow they were fine with a broken Adam Cole standing in his place? Come on folks, there’s storytelling and then absurdity. This wobbled across the line more than once. I’ll be bluntly honest. I enjoyed the match. MJF and White somehow pulled it off in a way which made sense. As much sense as anything can be in the wrestling business. MJF doing the Kangaroo Kick was absurd. Hitting the Heatseeker then clutching his leg, that’s more like it. The match relied more on suspense than wrestling. Would Adam Cole turn? Was Samoa Joe going to interfere? Roderick Strong and The Kingdom haven’t been seen, would they show up? Wardlow? Where’s Wardlow?
Probably not since Strong nearly got killed in his match with Action Andretti the night before.
What about “The Devil” mask and who is wearing it?
The end result worked out as it could have, with MJF outsmarting Jay White, using his Dynamite Diamond Ring to assist in victory.
The show closed with the Brochachos celebrating, and that was it.
I would agree the show-closer felt a little anticlimactic, but for what it was, it worked. This means all these mini-stories now have to begin closing. Drawing out these thread longer than they should will backfire.
AEW should tread carefully and start wrapping up some of these threads before storytelling becomes even more convoluted.
Solid B grade pay-per-view.