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Full Gear was the first AEW PPV to have been successfully built by weekly television, meaning in some ways it was the first proper AEW PPV in history. So how was the first proper AEW PPV?
I thought the show was really fantastic. It had almost everything you would want in a modern wrestling show: fast paced action, traditional storytelling, a controversial finish, matches with real stakes and just a spectacular main event. I don't expect all fans to agree on everything that took place at Full Gear, but it is hard to think that this show was anything but a solid night's worth of entertainment. It is hard for me to think of a better PPV, top-to-bottom, than this show.
Jon Moxley vs Kenny Omega: ****¾
Today at work, I got a little bit of salt in a tiny paper cut on my finger. It hurt like hell, so I can really relate to what these guys went through tonight.
Look, I can totally understand why some fans would not like this match--even hate it. It is very different from traditional wrestling, and plenty of people are entitled to believe that the Jericho vs Cody match was a better match. While a lot of the stunts and props used in this match have been used before in deathmatch promotions, this was probably the first time most fans saw something like this.
For me, the match was an amazing spectacle. Was it a technical classic? Of course not, but it was endlessly entertaining and I was on the edge of my seat wondering what the hell these crazy dudes were going to do next. A good wrestling match is all about exploring emotion through the medium of faux-athletic competition, and whether it was the emotion displayed by the wrestlers or the reaction of the crowd, this match had that. I can understand fans being turned off by the gratuitous use of violence, but as an overall viewing experience it was tremendous.
Chris Jericho vs Cody Rhodes: ****
This is the kind of match you can have when you have two wrestlers who are over like superstars, and you have a title and angle that the fans take seriously. This was a very traditional, world championship style match, right down to the finish. They didn't do anything crazy, no high-risk moves outside of Cody's worked dive to the outside. If two opening match guys did this match, it would bomb; but when you have guys who the crowd believes are major stars, this kind of match really works.
The finish was very interesting. At first, I don't know if you can do a major match with that kind of finish in 2019; especially because they never really established that the competitor's second can throw in the towel for them. That being said, I think the finish really worked. It protected Cody and Jericho, and allows Jericho to remain champion. It also puts MJF on the trajectory to be a major, top heel in the company, which is what he is destined to become. The live audience may have been disappointed at first, but this was the correct decision for the company over the long term.
SCU vs Lucha Brothers vs Private Party: ***¾
This was what you would expect from these teams; the main story being told was the budding rivalry between SCU and the Lucha Brothers, with Private Party getting involved for some key spots and then ultimately taking the pinfall. Fenix as usual, emerged as the star of the match and was the best wrestler in the ring by a wide margin.
One thing that stood out to me was that particularly in tag matches, AEW has been willing to do a lot of surprise finishes. That helped sell a lot of the near-falls in this match; for instance when Marq Quen hit a shooting star press on Kazarian, it felt like it legitimately could have been the end of the match. I think if up until that point every match had ended with someone hitting their finisher, that near-fall isn't nearly as believable.
The Young Bucks vs Proud and Powerful: ****½
This was a classic Young Bucks match; really the style of match that has been copied by almost every other wrestling promotion on the planet. They did a ton of stuff and high spots, really too many to count, but it all worked and the crowd was rocking the entire time. You really can't do tag team wrestling much better than this.
Putting over Proud and Powerful is a bold, but necessary move. The Young Bucks haven't gotten many wins in AEW, but they have helped establish younger teams to try and grow the division. This was the biggest match of Santana and Ortiz's career and they really delivered, going toe-to-toe with the Young Bucks. Santana is a really solid worker and Ortiz adds a lot with his facials and wildman antics. I was going to say it was a little much having two old guys beat up the guys who just won the match, but when you can lay offense in as good as Ricky Morton, who cares? Morton hitting the destroyer and JR saying "You're never too old to Rock n' Roll!" was perfect.
Riho vs Emi Sakura: **¾
This match was technically very good, and the finish with all of the crazy roll-ups and counters was impressive. That being said, this match really suffered from the lack of build. They had an angle for the match, teacher vs student, but they didn't start the build for that match until three days ago on Dynamite. If they started the build-up with that angle three weeks ago, I feel like the crowd would have been more into the match.
PAC vs Adam Page: ****
Another very good match; with Page going over big. Page really felt like a babyface that connected with the audience here, his best performance to date. PAC is just a mistake-free wrestler, everything he does is exactly the way it is supposed to be done. They had a lot of good spots, including the brainbuster onto the chair and Page hitting a fall-away slam from the top rope. They did a nice job building to each man's signature moves and building the finish around that.
Shawn Spears vs Joey Janela: **¼
This served as kind of a buffer match on the card, as it had the least amount of heat of any match on the show. The match itself was solid and didn't overstay its welcome. Spears needed to win because he serves an important role as a mid-card heel, and he needs to pick up victories in order to build credibility so that if someone beats him, they beat a guy with a winning record.
Britt Baker vs Bea Priestley: ***
They did a nice video package before this match and Baker did a really good job in it. Baker is green and has been kind of hit or miss, but tonight she did really well and the crowd got behind her and her Lockjaw finish. Priestley is someone who should be a star soon enough, she has a great presence in the ring and has an aggressiveness that is lacking in a lot of the female talent in AEW.