AEW Full Gear 2021: When Keeping it Real Goes Right
Last week, I wrote my first piece on professional wrestling, an in-depth review of the Go-Home Edition of AEW Dynamite ahead of the AEW Full Gear PPV. I would have to be declared delusional if I decided to not follow that up with an in-depth review & analysis of the actual Pay-Per-View, and so… here we are! A few days removed from the event, I have now had time to sit with the show, the stories, and the results, having taken a breather, I think I’m ready to share my thoughts and feelings about the show.
With one of, if not the biggest stories in Professional Wrestling having its culmination set to take place at Full Gear in the form of Hangman Page battling former ally, turned bitter rival, Kenny Omega, for the AEW World Championship, with a story being told for over two years (in AEW), the talking point and true moment of the show was always going to be the main event, and we’ll get there! That was not the only match on the card however, and there is a whole lot to discuss about the rest of the show first…
MJF vs Darby Allin…
When talking about the PPV as part of The Deep Six Wrestling Podcast, I put out the guess that either the Falls Count Anywhere Match or the Street Fight would open the show in an effort to spread them further away from one another. Instead, AEW opted to make a somewhat bold decision in having Darby and MJF have the task of kicking off the main card. And my god did it pay off. In a story built around who is the better of the Four Pillars of AEW between the two of them, having your PPV open with a fresh match between two homegrown talents that are under 30 years old was a great showcase for two talents who have already managed to cement themselves as top stars within the company, while also being a highlight at how bright the future of All Elite Wrestling is.
Spectacle. The one word I would use to describe this match. It was simply a spectacle, with the audience getting to see a side of MJF that has yet to appear on AEW, one who can match Darby’s speed and bring out some flashy moves of his own. On Dynamite, MJF stated how some tried to pigeonhole him as just being a good talker, and yet he proved them wrong by being an incredibly gifted technical wrestler. He has now taken that a step further following Full Gear, showing just how complete of a package he is. And while some may argue that seeing the level of greatness within him during his match against Darby showed that MJF would be a capable babyface wrestler, I really hope to whatever higher power is out there, that it does not happen.
Often times, dirty finishes are criticized in Professional Wrestling, and rightfully so when done over and over again. However, having MJF use the Dynamite Diamond Ring to allow him to beat Darby Allin with a Side Headlock Takedown is a brilliant bit of storytelling that once again serves as a satisfying payoff for attentive viewers.
Thumbs Up to the Opener, kicking off a night of truly incredible Professional Wrestling.
Lucha Bros vs FTR for the AEW World Tag Team Championship…
I love the Lucha Bros. I love FTR. I love Tag Team Wrestling. With all that out of the way, I was perfectly excited for this rematch, coming off of FTR basically stealing the AAA Tag Team Titles away from Lucha Bros a few weeks back, as well as Dax Harwood’s match on Dynamite last week, a match that is on my MOTY Shortlist, and while this was a pretty excellent tag team offering, it also has remained the one real negative part of the PPV for myself.
With such a convoluted finish, that wasn’t executed well either, having the Lucha Bros retain in the fashion they did, by pinning Cash Wheeler in one of the Super Ranas masks after he and Dax went to the floor without the masks on, who was not the legal man, it just came off badly for me, which is a shame, because with an actual finish here, this would’ve likely gone down as one of the better Tag Team matches this year.
Thumbs in the Middle for this, with the finish significantly hurting my feelings on this match.
AEW World Title Eliminator Finals, Miro vs Bryan Danielson…
Coming off of last year’s World Title Eliminator Finals with Page v Omega I, Miro’s wonderful TNT Championship reign, and Danielson’s streak of highly impressive matches, expectations were high for this one, and in my eyes… it delivered!
These two worked a different style of match than I was expecting, and they also went much, much longer than expected (20 minutes), and I was perfectly okay with that. It gave this match a much bigger feeling to it, with both men attempting to actively dig as deep as possible to earn a shot at the World Championship, both having genuinely valid reasons for wanting to go this hard, with Miro trying to find a new purpose after his God failed him when he lost the TNT Championship, and Danielson wanting to be the one to dethrone Kenny Omega… which we will get to later!
These two worked stiffed, they worked hard, and Danielson gave Miro one of his best matches to date, while also continuing his trend of not having a set finish, similar to WALTER and Zack Sabre Jr., as Danielson won via knocking out Miro with a DDT, in one of the most surprising finishes to a wrestling match this year. Thumbs Up to this one for me as well!
Christian Cage and Jurassic Express vs The SuperKliq in a Falls Count Anywhere Match…
Truth be told, by the time we got to this match, I was feeling a bit gassed with the insane match quality that preceded this, however (for the most part), I found the six men in this to be quite capable at keeping the crowd and myself fully engaged here. The story of the match ended up being all about Jungle Boy, which was a great pairing to the opener as he is another one of the Four Pillars (Pillows, to some) of AEW, so seeing him not only get such a big spotlight in the match, but also to have the finish revolve all around him and his acceptance of sometimes having to take things a step further, opting to deliver the Con-chair-to on Nick Jackson himself, rather than allowing Christian to do so.
It goes without saying that this was pretty nuts from start to finish, with Christian, a 47-year old man, diving off of a balcony, Luchasaurus hitting a Shooting Star Press off the stage, Jungle Boy diving off the stage, Cole hitting a Panama Sunrise off of a production beam, and so much more. For those into this style of frenetic wrestling, I cannot imagine not enjoying this. The only bit of real criticism I have towards this, is that it felt like it could’ve gone on 5 minutes shorter and wouldn’t have lost anything. Still, a Thumbs Up overall.
Cody Rhodes and PAC vs Malakai Black and Andrade El Idolo…
This is probably the match I have the least to say about as it is the match that I felt did not need to be on the PPV. It was not bad by any means, and still offered a fine finish, unlike the Tag Team Championship Match, but everything about this one just screamed out as being a Dynamite Main Event.
For what it was worth, everyone looked good, but I would have rather just had PAC vs Andrade III here in its place. Thumbs in the middle.
Tay Conti vs Britt Baker for the AEW Women’s World Championship…
In terms of being a match that I had very little expectations for, Britt Baker and Tay Conti went out and had themselves a surprisingly fun Women’s Championship Match. And that was not meant as a knock on either woman, with Baker having been a highlight of AEW for the past year or so and Tay really coming into her own the past several months, it was more that the build to this match in particular just was not a favorite of mine.
That being said, I am of the firm belief that this was Baker’s best Championship Defense, which says a lot when comparing it to her match against Kris at All Out and her battle against Ruby Soho in the main event of Dynamite Grand Slam! On top of that, this really ended up feeling like a star-making performance for Tay Conti, who is only 26 years old and already looks to be getting better with each match she has. Her performance here really sold me on her as a future Women’s Champion within AEW, and I now look forward to whenever she wins that belt, although we all know where Britt is headed, with it likely being somewhere in relation to the Graveyards of Tijuana… Thumbs Up and major props to Baker and Conti for having a memorable match so deep into the card!
CM Punk vs Eddie Kingston…
Conversely, at least in terms of builds, Eddie Kingston and CM Punk’s extremely heated feud, while built in a relatively short amount of time, was a masterclass in how to sell a heated rivalry. Kingston managed to get crowds to boo Punk, which was shocking to hear at first, but at the same time, a testament to not only how good Kingston is, but how good of a heel CM Punk has been in the past, that fans were reminded of it in the lead-up to this match.
The match itself… was the shortest on the card, and yet, outside of the opener and the main event, it will likely be the one most talked about and most remembered in the long run. Punk and Kingston went out there, being given eleven minutes, and they went to war, with Eddie nailing Punk with his spinning backfist before the bell, teasing a knockout immediately. From there, we got Punk busted open, Eddie playing a wonderful babyface, and Punk going so heel to tease the FIVE KNUCKLE SHUFFLE… what a madman.
It never outstayed its welcome and it left me wanting so much more from both men, myself now clamoring for an AEW World Title run for Kingston and a mega heel run for Punk. More of this, please and thank you Tony Khan… THUMBS UP!
Inner Circle vs Men of the Year and American Top Team in a Minneapolis Street Fight…
If you are still reading this, it is indeed a long review, so I appreciate that! I don’t really know what to say about this one in particular. I have genuinely enjoyed this feud, with Lambert and Jericho being great sparring partners on the microphone, Men of the Year having been elevated greatly from their previous positions on the roster, and the introduction of Junior Dos Santos into AEW, all being great things that this program have brought us.
I enjoyed the match here as well, for what it was, that being a pretty typical plunder-style match, as well as Inner Circle getting their revenge on American Top Team, with Jericho pinning Lambert to end it. I got to see Lambert be a chickenshit heel, Junior Dos Santos hit a moonsault, and Sammy Guevara (the last of the Four Pillars) hit a Jeff Hardy-esque dive off a ladder and through a table. Thumbs Up.
And now his watch has ended…
Hangman Page vs Kenny Omega for the AEW World Championship…
All Elite Wrestling spent over two years of their weekly television building towards this moment, and boy howdy did it pay off. I wrote in length about my fandom for Adam Page, dating back to first seeing him wrestle in Ring of Honor during 2015, seeing his lack of interest from fans, then joining Bullet Club and continuing to flounder for quite sometime before shining in the G1 Climax to the point where New Japan Legend, Hiroshi Tanahashi, openly put him over as one of the top young talents in the sport of Professional Wrestling. It has been one hell of a ride with the Hangman, and it is one that I can say has moved me emotionally in a way that no other wrestling story has aside from the rise of KofiMania.
Hangman Page is my favorite wrestling character today, and it brings me legitimate joy to see him as AEW World Champion. I cannot name another promotion where this level of dedication or care would have been put into crafting the moment in which Page pinned Omega to win the World Title at Full Gear, and while that is a shame to some extent, it highlights how much AEW and those in charge care about delivering real, genuine stories to the audience, and how they intend to actually deliver on them.
This was one of the greatest endings to a wrestling show, probably ever, and it will go down in the history books as one of the best Professional Wrestling storylines of all time. Ride on Hangman… and please go get some rest Kenny. Thumbs Up.
While AEW Full Gear did not have the unmatched level of hype around it that All Out had in September, it never was meant to and never was going to. That show was all about the surprises, where this show was about one single moment as well as a hell of a lot of phenomenal pro-wrestling. It delivered in spades and is without a doubt in contention for being one of the best shows of the year. Darby Allin vs MJF, Miro vs Bryan Danielson, Eddie Kingston vs CM Punk, and Hangman Page vs Kenny Omega were all absolutely spectacular from start to finish. If you have yet to watch this PPV, please consider going out of your way to see it.
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