I’m gonna bury the lede here; Full Gear 2020 was far from the outlaw mud show AEW’s detractors (namely Jim Cornette) like to refer to the organization as. Though there was plenty of mud, plenty of blood, and lots of stuff that will make a well-adjusted person wince. But we’re wrestling fans! How many of us can actually say we’re well-adjusted people? Full Gear, from top to bottom, was a great show; there’s not a single skippable match on the entire event. It didn’t contain many big surprises or huge swerves, just outstanding wrestling and a spoonful of silly shit to make the medicine go down.
The Buy-In: NWA Women’s World Championship Match: Serena Deeb (c) def. Allysin Kay
The match starts with the competitors in a hard collar-and-elbow along with Kay using her size advantage to get the early upper hand, until Deeb utilizing some clever evasive counters and some dope submission wrestling. It gets heated when they start trading slaps. Both Deeb and Kay play to their strengths here; there’s a great moment when Deeb continually throws punches from the mount position and Kay just flings her out of the ring; Deeb charges back in and gets hung off the top rope by a Kay reversal. Eventually, Deeb wins the match with a Serenity Lock.
Grade: A very good match and a very good showcase for Allysin Kay. Will she be a free agent for long, or will this performance get her an AEW contract?
After the match, Thunder Rosa returns and gets all up in Deeb’s face. An NWA Women’s World Championship match is on the horizon.
World Title Eliminator Final: Kenny Omega def. “Hangman” Adam Page
Kenny vs. Hangman in the opening spot is a very good move, as there is no downtime on this pay-per-view card, so you might as well start off hot!
Don Callis is on the call for this match; he ends up not being too bad but early on he’s more focused on getting his notes across than actively supplementing commentary. I may be one of the few who misses him calling the action on big NJPW events, so it was a nice little treat to have him here. The long-winded announcements and the broom-toting dancers are still around, which I’m hoping is just a tournament garnish and/or head games toward his former tag team partner and finals opponent.
Kenny starts the match by offering Hangman a handshake and Hangman refusing, the early moments finding the recently-supplanted tag champs evading and countering each other’s offense, an easy story to tell with competitors who know each other so well. To articulate the importance of this match, Kenny and Hangman are about as stiff as they would be on Night 16 of any G1 Climax. The thud on Hangman’s chops early on made me wince.
Slipping after the first part of You Can’t Escape, Kenny quickly recovers and slows down the pace by slapping on a front chancery. Page hits a middle turnbuckle clothesline and turns Kenny inside out from the apron to the floor. Kenny goes for One-Winged Angel; Page escapes from it and tries to hit one of his own to no avail. Page goes for the Buckshot Lariat from the ramp but Kenny hits him flush with a V-Trigger. Kenny hits a Tiger Driver ’98 but can’t cinch the cover. After an exchange of home run strikes, Page hits the Deadeye but can only hook one leg.
Page goes for a Buckshot Lariat, but Kenny ducks it and hits two V-Triggers. He gets Page set up for One-Winged Angel; Page struggles to escape but Kenny hits it for the win.
Grade: Not the emotional masterpiece you’d expect from the first match between former partners after a long tag team championship run, but it was an incredibly visceral match. Also, it’s far from the last time Hangman and Kenny will lock up in an AEW ring.
Orange Cassidy def. John Silver
Trent and Chuck Taylor come out to give Cassidy some last-minute encouragement before the match, and Chuck’s wearing a Tobias Harris Philadelphia 76ers jersey, a subtle nod to both our Vice President-elect and the city which had a pivotal role in the election results. It’s nice to be reminded today is a historic day.
Cassidy is not as jacked as Silver, but gains the advantage with all his greatest hits (the hands in the pockets, the shin kicks). Silver tears the pockets out of Cassidy’s jeans, which provokes a hailstorm of boos. Silver dramatically outmuscles Orange by hitting hard strikes and kicks and throwing him around for much of the middle portion of the match. Silver counters the tornado DDT with a vicious brainbuster, and later hits a one-freakin’-handed gorilla press onto the ropes. SIlver hits two huge Irish Whips into the corner, but on the third, Cassidy does a Flair (or Ray Stevens if you wanna go way back) flip onto the apron and sends Silver’s head into the turnbuckles and follows it up with a tornado DDT.
Silver goes to finish it with a discus lariat— a homage to his boss, Mr. Brodie Lee— but Cassidy hits an Orange Punch and a Beach Break for the win.
Grade: Put some respect on John Silver’s name! Motherfucker is a hoss! An incredible showing from Silver, who, as I predicted, didn’t lose a thing by losing.
TNT Championship Match: Darby Allin def. Cody Rhodes (c)
Darby rides in on the top of a beater car (a 1990-something Mazda 323 if you’re wondering) very similar to the one he used to run over the human effigy of Cody on Wednesday, smashing his “Face of TNT”-edition skateboard into the windshield. J.R. has a great line, of which he sounded legitimately concerned, “Please don’t tell me that’s his personal vehicle!” During the match announcements, Darby sits in the corner while Cody preens and postures in front of his eight-person entourage— and the Nightmare Family is most certainly less a family than an entourage now— providing a striking contrast between champion and challenger.
An opening sequence of quick reversals finds Darby slipping behind Cody and slapping him in the back of the head. Cody extends his hand to Darby to help him up and he refuses. After Cody gets the upper hand again, he tries it a second time and Darby accepts but quickly rolls him up into a magistral cradle. The early points of this match find Cody to be condescending, the fact that Our Cool Boss has beaten Darby in their last two encounters in the forefront of the subtext.
After a hammerlock toss onto the ramp, Cody spends the second-half of the match working Darby’s left arm. Darby attempts to Irish Whip Cody but his arm gives out. Having secure control over Darby for some time, Cody begins to get distracted, squeezing in some pompous pushups in the ring while his opponent is down. Darby tries to escape a Crossrhodes by moving forward to the corner, then tears off the center turnbuckle pad and sends Cody shoulder-first into it.
At a certain point, Cody is just hitting random power moves instead of continuing to work the arm. He grabs his weight belt and goes to whip Darby with it, only for Darby to trip him up with it and get the nearfall. Darby hits a Coffin Drop but only gets a two-count. After a top rope Crossrhodes, Cody pins Darby, whose arm is underneath the ropes. Mike Chioda catches it. Yet again, the “ace” can’t see through the fog of his own hubris. It gets to the point where both Arn and Cody are telling Darby to just stay down. Late in the match, Cody and Darby exchange a series of pin attempts and Darby sneaks in the win with a count of 3.001.
Grade: Easily the best match yet between Cody and Darby. Pretty outstanding stuff that no only plays on their previous history and the classic story of targeting a body part, but also Cody’s tendency to take smaller and/or younger opponents lightly.
Cody snatches the belt from Chioda when the music plays and presents it to the Face of TNT while on bended knee. That brings out Taz, who says he needs a (plastic) barf bag. Team Taz jumps Cody and Darby from behind, and Brian Cage and Ricky Starks have a little tug-of-war over the TNT Championship. Brian Cage eventually throws Darby through some signage and before Team Taz can smash Darby’s arm with the Mazda door, Will Hobbs chases them off with a chair.
Segment: QT Marshall and Dustin Rhodes have some unkind things to say about Allie/the Bunny and challenge the Butcher and the Blade to a Bunkhouse Match on Wednesday. Dustin gets all fired up like it’s 1992, and with a Bunkhouse match on the horizon, his promo style is extremely appropriate.
AEW World Women’s Championship Match: Hikaru Shida (c) def. Nyla Rose
An interesting state J.R. brings up: Nyla has been ranked as #1 contender for 24 consecutive weeks. That’s three weeks more than half the year. I don’t want to harp on AEW’s abandonment of their own rankings system because it’s a dead horse now, so I’m just going to leave that stat right there.
The match starts off with fisticuffs before Shida keeps the pressure on with three dropkicks and a big knee strike. Nyla kicks out at one. Shida knows in order to wear Nyla down, she’s going to have to take it to the outside, but Nyla gains the advantage there. Nyla unsuccessfully tries to go for plunder, but referee Aubrey Edwards threatens to disqualify her. Shida capitalizes by hitting a flying knee off off the chair. As Edwards tends to Nyla after toppling over a guard rail, Vickie Guerrero hits Shida in the knee with her own weapon of choice, the kendo stick. Rose gains the advantage.
Rose wrenches in a half-crab and kicks Shida in the face repeatedly. Shida hits a deadlift vertical suplex on one good leg. Nyla digs her fingers into Shida’s knee and hits a diving knee drop on it while Shida dangles off the ropes. Nyla powerbombs Shida but lifts her up after two; she goes for the Tamashii but Shida kicks out at one. Shida hits an avalanche Falcon Arrow, but pulls Nyla up after two and smirks.
Vickie goes to hit Shida with the kendo stick, but Edwards takes it away before Shida escapes the fireman’s carry and pushes Rose into Guerrero. Shida finally hits a Tamashii and four hard knee strikes for the win.
Grade: Not quite as good as their wild brawl at Double or Nothing, but very good nonetheless. Shida showed a distinct killer instinct here, which will guide her well as she continues her championship reign.
AEW Tag Team Championship Match: The Young Bucks def. FTR (c)
The Young Bucks and FTR are rocking corresponding Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics-inspired trunks and ring jackets as they make their way to the ring. For those of you unaware of NBA history, the Lakers and the Celtics have faced each other in the NBA Finals an unprecedented 12 times, and the teams’ rivalry in the 1980s— led respectively by Magic Johnson and Larry Bird— might be what saved the NBA from dwindling ratings and fan interest, capturing the imaginations of basketball fans before Michael Jordan dominated the 90s and changed the sport forever. The Bucks are without question the Showtime Lakers of tag team wrestling (they have the accolades, and even though they’re Christian white boys, they have the swagger); their flash and star power serve as a huge contrast from the workmanlike FTR.
Although Matt is injured, he starts the match. Wheeler immediately goes after the injured ankle but the elder Jackson fends him off. After things get a little heated and a standoff occurs, Nick tags in. Dax and Cash begin their strategy of isolating one opponent until Matt steps back in and the Bucks gain the advantage together. Matt tags in again and ferociously goes after Harwood, going after his injured hand. He tries to pull it out of the socket and repeatedly kicks it while Nick holds it against the rope. Although Matt is reported to have legitimate leg injuries (plural), the Bucks’ best matches involve Matt being at partial strength due to some sort of ailment (like his back “injury” in their final couple years in NJPW).
Later in the match, FTR hit a Hart Attack for a two-count, which kicks off a string of tag team tribute moves (including the top rope assisted bulldog, the Dudley Death Drop, the Twist of Fate followed by the Swanton Bomb, and DIY’s superkick/running knee combo). Matt eventually locks in a Sharpshooter on Harwood as his brother puts one on Wheeler, but the elder Jackson’s ankle gives out. Matt snaps Dax’s fingers and the Bucks hit a BTE Trigger (itself somewhat of a homage move, a variation of the Golden Trigger), but Cash breaks it up.
Matt brings in a chair and Dax is daring him to brain him with it, knowing the match will swing FTR’s way via disqualification (meaning the Bucks still lose, meaning they will never challenge for the tag titles again). Nick, as well as referee Rick Knox, beg for him not to, so he throws it out and the Bucks go for a Meltzer Driver. Wheeler powerbombs Nicks on the timekeeper’s table, which doesn’t break. Wheeler hits a big superkick late in the match and goes for a springboard 450 splash (a fitting crime of hubris), which misses and gives Matt an opening to superkick him and gain the win.
Grade: At times this match did feel too much like a Homage to Tag Team Wrestling. I get being meta is the Young Bucks’ thing (and being obsessed with tag team wrestling is FTR’s thing), but the story felt too-heavy handed in that way. I have a feeling this would be a very good match in a vacuum. There’s cognitive dissonance in that the Bucks spent the entire buildup to this match bullying non-wrestlers but suddenly put on a gutsy, against all odds babyface performance and won.
The Elite Deletion: Matt Hardy def. Sammy Guevara
The opening shot of the match is the image of Sammy riding into Cameron, NC on a golf cart emblazoned with the words “SPANISH GOD” and Hardy on the phone with some allies on standby. NEO1 greets Sammy upon arrival into the Hardy Compound and the golf cart gets smashed by a monster truck after NEO cuts off the cart’s power supply. (“Now that is a squash job!”) Sammy moonsaults off the wheel of the monster truck for a two-count. After fighting on the lawn for a couple minutes and trying to drown Hardy in the fountain, Sammy gets hit with the Scepter of Mephistopheles. Hardy screams, “YOU ASKED FOR THIS” before throwing Sammy into the ring.
Hardy nails Sammy with a powerbomb through a table before Ortiz swiftly breaks up the count. He and Santana beats his ass until Private Party— listening to their own entrance theme inside a car— pull up on the Hardy Compound. They fend off Santana and Ortiz long enough for Hardy and Sammy to have a firefight with Roman candles. Hardy gains on Sammy after he’s flopping around in the mud and makes a little wisecrack toward Jim Cornette before a hooded figure is seen holding up an unconscious and tied up Hurricane. That figure is revealed to be Gangrel(!), as he berates Hardy for his disloyalty while praising Sammy. Gangrel gets fought off as Hardy unties Hurricane. Hurricane criticizes Hardy for leaving him captive for two years and Hardy blames it on long-term storytelling.
Sammy superkicks Hardy and throws Hurricane into the Lake of Reincarnation. Gregory Helms reappears with a very valid question: “Is this rivalry cursed, or are you just a klutz?” Helms gets thrown (back) into the lake.
Gangrel helps Santana and Ortiz beat up Hurricane and Private Party, who were toddlers when the Brood was thing.
Hardy and Guevara make their way to the Dome of Deletion, which Hardy makes sure to lock behind them. Sammy starts unhooking turnbuckles— as he’s still very young and thus probably not all that far removed from being the scrub on ring crew duty— and attacking Hardy with them, eventually choking him out with the ring ropes. Sammy misses a Swanton Bomb off the very high ladder for a two-count. Hardy hits a second Twist of Fate (Sammy might be better than anyone at taking these) and then spears Guevara off the apron and through a table.
Sammy lifts his head from a pool of blood and can’t stand up, and Hardy hits him with a chair and serves a Con-chair-to for the win.
Grade: A much grimmer ending than I expected, but a very fitting way to finally conclude this feud.
After the match, Sammy is stuffed in a garbage can and put on a truck bed. Reby Hardy plays piano as Senor Benjamin drives him away.
Segment: Jake “the Snake” Roberts complains of him and his client Lance Archer having nothing to do. They haven’t been on Dynamite in weeks, and Archer has beaten his four training partners out of the business. “I have to feed this son of a— but he doesn’t want food, he wants people,” Jake says. Archer, as he has before, warns the AEW roster. One of AEW’s major problems is they have more great talent than they know what to do with, so some of them get lost in the shuffle. With Archer calling out Eddie Kingston on Dark, his day is coming soon.
MJF def. Chris Jericho (which means MJF and Wardlow are now in the Inner Circle)
MJF appears in a tacky light-up robe (which might look okay if that Burberry pattern were the lining) to a torrent of boos from the light-ish crowd at Daily’s Place and Jericho once again enters to a serenade of “Judas.” Some of these fans aren’t wearing their masks while singing, which makes me feel 20% might be a dangerously high percentage of capacity for crowds while this pandemic is still going strong.
Max wants to start the match with a handshake, but Jericho slaps him in the face instead. MJF gains an early advantage and plays to the crowd, to which commentary notes a wrestler shouldn’t do while in the ring with a competitor like Jericho. A person may not have such an advantage many times in a match with the 30-year veteran. Jericho misses a Judas Effect and hits the ring post; Max responds like a shark smelling chum in the water.
Max bites Jericho’s hand, so Jericho bites his. As much as Jericho tries to fend off MJF, Max has a pretty clear advantage during the early going. Jericho hits a huge Frankensteiner, a move I seriously doubt I’ve seen him do in at least 20 years. As Jericho is on his knees, Max aggressively taunts him, which leads to a strike exchange Jericho naturally wins. Max goes for Salt of the Earth early, but Jericho manages to maneuver into a Walls of Jericho. Max goes for a Lionsault, lands on his feet, and receives a Codebreaker. He catches a Judas Effect before it lands and locks in Salt of the Earth again.
Wardlow is called in and gives Max the Dynamite Diamond Ring; he takes a swing at Jericho, misses, and Jake Hager tosses Jericho at bat. Max— in a very brilliant nod to Eddie Guerrero— falls flat in the ring while Edwards decides whether or not to disqualify Jericho, who drops the bat as soon as she sees him with it. Max rolls up Jericho for the three count!
Grade: A good match that falls a little short of outstanding, but pretty adeptly utilizes character work, maybe better than any match on the card before it.
Segment: Dasha asks Orange Cassidy (with Best Friends) what his thoughts are coming out of his match with Silver, to which he very characteristically says, “I don’t have any thoughts.” Enter stage left, Miro, Kip Sabian, and a suddenly-goth Penelope Ford. Kip demands an apology for Orange’s “bollocks” with the Dark Order almost getting his fiancée hurt. Cassidy apologizes but gets slapped in the face anyway. Best Friends are ready for a fight but Orange corrals them to leave.
For the record, I would much rather see Orange vs. Miro than Orange vs. Kip, so I hope this eventually leads to that.
AEW World Championship Match: Jon Moxley (c) def. Eddie Kingston
Kingston is wearing Misawa’s colors tonight and screams at Mox, “I’m gonna fuck you up!” So the big fight feel is definitely palpable. They start off trading stiff punches until Kingston falls over and they switch to chops. It looks like they’re going to chain wrestle until Kingston starts biting Mox’s ear. After a spill to the outside, Mox tries to dislocate a couple of Kingston’s fingers and suplexes him on the floor.
After not too long, a bloody Mox brings in a barbed wire bat, hitting Kingston across the stomach with it. Kingston bleeds from the mouth as Mox grinds the barbed wire into Kingston’s face. Through the pain, Kingston hits two backdrop suplexes and throws a chair at Mox’s face. Kingston tears barbed wire from the bat and wraps it around his fist, punching Mox in the face and eventually hitting him with a spinning backfist. Two chairs are set up and Kingston is vertical suplexed, folding one of them the opposite way.
Then Kingston goes for the bag of thumbtacks, glittering on one corner of the ring as they sprinkle onto the mat. He hits Kingston hard with a lariat, goes for a Paradigm Shift, and Kingston hits Mox with a belly to belly onto the tacks. Kingston flips the timekeeper’s table over and grabs a bottle from Dr. Sampson. It’s rubbing alcohol, which Kingston pours into Mox’s puncture wounds. Kingston takes a handful of tacks and hurts both of them punching Mox in the face.
Kingston puts on a bulldog choke, but Mox tries to escape, only to receive some brutal crossface shots. Mox goes for a sleeper, a piledriver, a bulldog choke, and a Paradigm Shift in rapid succession. Mox wraps the barbed wire around his forearm and locks in the bulldog choke until Kingston mutters, “I quit.”
Grade: Now this was an emotional masterpiece.
Mox has a quiet moment of reflection before holding his title belt aloft. He tries to help Kingston to his feet and Kingston shoves him away and staggers backstage. Kenny Omega comes out to take a look at his once-and-future rival. Kenny basically says Mox will have to beat him in the middle of the ring this time, none of this unsanctioned deathmatch shit, as the show goes off the air.