AEW has done it again. Their sixth PPV offering, Full Gear 2020, was another strong showing for the upstart company, featuring a handful of good-to-excellent singles bouts, another wacky Deletion match, and an all-time tag team classic.
The big news coming out of Full Gear is that we have new Tag Team Champions, a new TNT Champion, and a new number-one contender, and for all the WWE loyalists claiming AEW is only pushing ex-WWE talent, none of the aforementioned came from WWE. All Elite Wrestling is finally moving past the stage where they feel the need to draw viewers in with established names, and will now begin building around their own, homegrown talent. If only for this reason, Full Gear was a significant step in AEW's growth, but there's a lot more.
The show opened with a spectacular PPV-quality match, as former partners Kenny Omega and Hangman Page faced off in the finals of the Eliminator tournament to establish a new top contender. This match would've been right at home on a G1 Climax show; a lean sixteen minutes of furious action. The story of the match, after the initial flurry, became Omega's knee. Omega went for You Can't Escape, but failed to stick the landing on his kip-up, and seemed to ad lib a knee injury to cover for it. If so, this was a bit of genius, as both guys ran with the knee for the rest of the match. Kenny then had trouble executing some of his signature offense, but eventually fought hard to hit the One Winged Angel for the win. It will now be Moxley vs. Omega II at Revolution, and I can't freakin' wait. This was fantastic. ****1/2
Next up was Orange Cassidy's revenge match against John Silver, who cost him in his second bid for the TNT Title. I was ready to dismiss this as a throwaway, but this match was a whole lot of fun crammed into nine minutes. Cassidy did his usual lazy man shtick at the beginning, which Silver sold with great annoyance. From then it was a full-on sprint, with both guys hitting really crisp offense. Cassidy is so much fun to watch and I'd love to see him get the TNT Title eventually. After several reversals and counters, Cassidy hit Orange Punch and Beach Break to win. Fun stuff. ***1/4
Cody, now legally sporting his last name Rhodes, defended the TNT Title against Darby Allin in a classic veteran vs. underdog story. Cody played the heel, bullying, biting, taunting, and at one point threatening to use his weight belt. Allin fought from underneath, narrowly withstanding a top-rope CrossRhodes when his arm was under the ropes during the pin. Cody later kicked out after a Coffin Drop and went for another CrossRhodes, but Allin countered with a cradle, leading to a series of traded nearfalls until Allin scored the three-count. Cody sold frustration after the match, teasing a heel turn, but ultimately raised Allin's hand and gave him his moment in the sun. This was a very good match and a big step for the company as they crowned the first homegrown male champion in AEW history. ***3/4
Hikaru Shida vs. Nyla Rose was next, and they had an okay match. There were some sloppy moments, the most egregious of which involved Vickie Guerrero missing a leg trip on Shida from the outside. Shida had to sell the distraction just because Vickie brushed her leg, which made her look like a dumb babyface. Fortunately it didn't affect the outcome; Shida outmaneuvered Rose and sent her crashing into Vickie before bringing the action back into the ring and finishing her opponent with a series of knees to the face. I liked the finish here, as it kept Rose looking like a formidable opponent who can only be defeated using extreme tactics. I was glad to see Shida retain; she should keep the title for another few months at least. I assume Britt Baker is the next big challenger. **3/4
Alright, now for this tag team match. Holy goddamn this was incredible. Throughout this bout I couldn't help thinking of numerous classic NWA tag team matches like The Andersons vs. The Rock n' Roll Express, The Midnight Express vs. The Fantastics, etc. FTR worked over Matt Jackson's injured angle like crazy, but early in the bout Dax Harwood accidentally punched the ring post, giving the Bucks a target to work over as well. This match was all storytelling, and at this point anyone claiming The Young Bucks can't do psychology isn't being honest with themselves. There were almost no signature Bucks high spots in this match; it was nearly all gritty survival-mode stuff. After 28 minutes of hot tags, near falls, Matt's ankle, Dax's hand, classic tag team finishers, it boiled down to Matt vs. Cash. Cash knocked Matt out with a superkick, but rather than go for the cover, he decided to stick it to the Bucks by going for a 450 splash. But Matt moved, regained his feet and leveled Cash with a superkick to win the match and the titles. Just absolutely perfect tag team wrestling from start to finish. Earlier this year the Bucks delivered an all-time great tag bout against Omega & Page. They've done it again here. *****
The show took a bizarre left turn from great tag team action to weirdo Matt Hardy shenanigans, as Hardy faced Sammy Guevara in Elite Deletion. Cinematic matches have been done to death these last few years, but at least with Matt Hardy they're tongue-in-cheek, overtly silly, and thus entertaining. This went way too long and ultimately didn't do much at all for Sammy, who I feel like at this point would realistically be kicked out of The Inner Circle for losing so much. But there were some fun moments, like Matt crushing Sammy's golf cart with a monster truck, Matt and Sammy shooting roman candles at each other, Hurricane Helms and Gangrel showing up to help Matt. They ended up locked in Matt's shed, fighting in his private wrestling ring. Sammy hit a swanton off a ladder through a table, but Matt survived and speared Sammy through a table on the floor, leaving Sammy bleeding (kayfabe) from the back of the head. Matt smashed Sammy's head with a chair and pinned him, then stuffed him into a garbage can and had his groundskeeper drive him away in a pickup truck. Again, this was fun but about twice as long as it needed to be. ***1/4
The semi-main event slot went to Chris Jericho vs. MJF, and the crowd was solidly behind Jericho here. Both guys used heel tactics all the way through which made for a unique dynamic - two jerks trying to out-heel each other. Jericho missed a Judas Effect on the outside, hitting the ring post, which created an opening for MJF to work over the elbow, softening it up for his Salt of the Earth armbar. Both guys locked in their submission finishers at different points, but in both cases the opponent made the ropes. MJF got Wardlow to throw him his diamond ring and distract referee Aubrey Edwards, but simultaneously Jake Hager appeared at ringside and tossed Jericho his baseball bat. Upon seeing this, MJF pulled an Eddie Guerrero and pretended Jericho hit him with it, as Aubrey turned back around. She asked Jericho if he used the bat and Jericho protested, but MJF suddenly rolled Jericho up and hooked the tights for the three count. MJF will now be allowed to join The Inner Circle. This was a fun match with a different type of story, and MJF distinguished himself by being a better cheater than Jericho. ***3/4
The main event I Quit match was nothing we haven't seen before, but Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston made their feud so personal that story carried them to a better match than the sum of its parts. They brawled all over ringside as expected, and used chairs, a barb wired bat, the wire itself, and a pile of thumbtacks which Kingston suplexed Moxley onto. The thumbtack spot always makes me cringe, as I can't image how painful dozens of tacks in one's flesh must be. Kingston then dumped rubbing alcohol all over Moxley's back, which was a nice touch. After escaping a choke, Moxley came back with the Paradigm Shift and then applied a bulldog choke with barb wire wrapped around his arm. Kingston quickly gave up, and Moxley retained the title. Kenny Omega made an appearance after the match, as the new number-one contender, before the show went off the air. Another strong Moxley main event. ****
Full Gear was probably the third-best AEW PPV thus far (Revolution and Full Gear ‘19 were my favorites I think), featuring a masterful tag team match, a great opener, a very good main event brawl, and a bunch of other solid stuff. More importantly though the company elevated the non-WWE talent with high profile wins; only Jon Moxley and Matt Hardy came out of their matches on the winning side. That's a pretty strong statement on how AEW sees its future. Omega, The Bucks, MJF, Allin, Orange, and even though he lost, Page are clearly all going to be among the company's major focuses going forward. February's Revolution PPV will be interesting to say the least.
Best Match: FTR vs. The Bucks
Worst Match: Shida vs. Rose
What I'd Change: Trim the Deletion match by about ten minutes and maybe find a way for Sammy to steal the win
Most Disappointing Match: Nothing really
Most Pleasant Surprise: I wasn't so much surprised by this as pleased, but just the fact that so many homegrown guys won.
Overall Rating: 9/10
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