The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of WrestlingInc or its staff
Whether you loved it or hated it, there is no denying that John Moxley vs Kenny Omega from AEW's Full Gear was one of the most memorable wrestling matches of 2019. Days after the event took place, fans are still debating the merits of the match, whether the violence was necessary and whether or not this kind of product can attract viewers from beyond wrestling circles.
As I mentioned in my review Saturday night, I thought the match was fantastic, a true wrestling spectacle. At the same time, it is a very different style of wrestling match, and it is totally understandable that some fans are not going to like that style of match. It isn't going to be everyone's favorite match, even though I really liked it.
In a lot of ways the reaction is similar to a Zack Sabre Jr. match. With ZSJ, his basic technical style isn't very exciting for some people. Those people are not wrong for disliking ZSJ, they just have a different expectation for what they want to see in a wrestling match. Now I could spend all day talking about how brilliant ZSJ is, how smooth his work is and how he gets the most out of everything he does, but that is going to ultimately fall on deaf ears. If you are into wrestling to see high-spots and big moves, you are not going to think ZSJ is as exciting of a wrestler as fans who really like that kind of technical style. Neither party is wrong, or has an incorrect view of wrestling, they just have different tastes.
For some reason though, simply admitting that the match wasn't their type of match isn't enough for some people. For some, they have tried to portray Moxley vs Omega as something more sinister than it really was; that a match that violent will never attract fans and that it will turn off new viewers. I've read opinions that state that a match like that should never take place again, and it was a complete disaster on the same level as the Seth Rollins vs The Fiend debacle from Hell in a Cell.
I think that even if you absolutely hated the match; there are two undeniable truths about the match. The first is that the audience was really into the match, and one of the most basic rules of wrestling is to work a match that gets over with the live audience. This match definitely accomplished that, even if some viewers at home really didn't like it. The second truth is that the match did generate a buzz about the promotion, in a way that the sublime Chris Jericho vs Cody Rhodes (a very traditional style match) did not. As an upstart promotion, AEW needs to garner headlines and have people talking about the promotion, even if that means having people debate days after an event whether a match was good or bad.
I really disagreed with a take a lot of people had, including both Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez on Wrestling Observer Radio; which was that Omega and Moxley are both really talented performers who could have had a really good match without doing any of the crazy weapons spots. While it is true that both guys are super talents that could have had a very good, traditional wrestling match, I think that kind of thinking completely misses the point of what this match was supposed to accomplish.
The point of Moxley vs Omega was not just to have a nice, solid match. The point was to provide the audience with something truly memorable and spectacular, something most fans have never seen before. In an extremely competitive wrestling landscape, AEW needs to produce content that stands out from its competitors, chiefly WWE. WWE can produce good wrestling matches; they cannot produce something as violent and as spectacular as the Moxley vs Omega match.
In an era where a lot of wrestling fans first experience the product through GIFs or short video clips, having memorable moments that can be easily shared on social media is important. If you have Moxley get great heat on Omega with some tight wrestling maneuvers and then build that up for 10 minutes leading to a great Omega comeback...that isn't really easy to share with people who are not already watching the match. Omega and Moxley crashing into a spiderweb of barbed wire? That will make anybody stop scrolling and wonder what the hell they just saw.
Unsurprisingly, the following episode of Dynamite on Wednesday was up in viewers by more than 10 percent over the previous week, stopping a skid of declining viewership for the program that had taking place since the debut. It's not unreasonable to believe that following the chaotic ending to Full Gear, more people were interested in tuning into Dynamite to see what would happen following the match.
That isn't to say that traditional wrestling and storytelling has no place in the age of social media, Jericho vs Cody had a very traditional vibe and it was great. The thing is that every match can't be like that; you need to have more diversity on your shows and Full Gear did have a lot of diversity; the final two matches being a perfect example of that.
At the same time, I don't think the match was devoid of storytelling. Another complaint I've heard about the match was that they did not understand why Moxley and Omega were going to such lengths to try and destroy each other. While I admit that they could have done more (and said as much during my preview of the show last week) with promos leading up the match, I disagree that AEW didn't tell a proper story building up to this match.
For starters, Moxley attacked Omega when he made his debut six months ago at Double or Nothing, which started the feud. Why did Moxley attack Omega? Moxley told us this on several occasions, that for years Moxley heard about how Omega was the best wrestler in the world, and when he arrived in AEW, Moxley wanted to go after the top guy. That kind of logic perfectly fits Moxley's character. After their match at ALL OUT had to get scrapped due to Moxley's injury, we next saw Moxley on the first episode of Dynamite, when he gave Omega the Paradigm Shift through a glass table.
Of course, after you put someone through a glass table, you probably don't have a regular test of grappling skill to decide your differences, you need to have a violent, hardcore match for Omega to try and get his revenge. Seeing this (and the showdowns in subsequent weeks where Omega introduced the barbed-wire broom) Tony Khan, on air, made the match an unsanctioned match because again, it was REALLY CLEAR that these guys really wanted to hurt each other. At that point Moxley vowed that he would be ever more violent and that the blood would be on Khan's hands for unsanctioning his match with Omega.
At the same time, AEW was working a storyline where ever since Omega was attacked by Moxley, he was on a losing streak and wasn't getting along with his friends in The Elite. Omega obviously was very motivated to destroy Moxley, especially after the glass table incident. In the match, Omega took out broken glass, which the announcers said must have been from the broken table. Later, Omega demanded his friends in The Elite bring out the barbed wire spider web, while his friends pleaded for him to stop and that this wasn't him as Omega had been consumed by vengeance and was willing to do anything to defeat Moxley.
I mean, to me this wasn't a lack of storytelling or explanation leading up to the match. After seeing how the match unfolded, this was actually great storytelling that really emphasized the characters of both men involved in the match. This wasn't just a bunch of crazy spots looking to generate some hype on social media, this was a match with real thought put into how it was going to tell a story.
So when people say that they don't understand why this match ended up being so violent and full of crazy spots, I don't really know what to say to them. To me, it was made pretty clear given how both Moxley and Omega were presented on television that this was a logical match for them to have.
I think some people may have been turned off by the violence, but didn't want to admit that was the reason, so they leaned on the "no storyline" excuse, which doesn't pass the smell test for me. Like I said, it is perfectly fine to dislike this match because it was too weapons heavy and full of wacky high spots, but don't try to tell me that there wasn't a storyline here or the match didn't make any sense.
The other possible explanation is that some people just were not paying attention to Dynamite and how the story was unfolding. Again, there is nothing wrong with skipping a few episodes, or only watching the major shows, but don't be surprised when you miss some stuff from a storyline perspective. Not only to me but for the many other people who really enjoyed the match, the storyline for this match was quite clear.
So no, the match didn't cross any lines other than being a style of match that some fans are going to inherently dislike. At the end of the day, the match got over and AEW got some serious buzz coming off of the PPV as people were still talking about it days later. The match was different from something WWE would produce, and it actually told a pretty satisfying story. People are free to dislike the match, but I encourage them to dislike for the right reasons. I think it is possible that it ends up being the most important match in AEW history; and we will see if the promotion can capitalize on all the attention it has received.
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