WrestleWatch- AEW Full Gear 2022
By Mick Robson
AEW has been in a weird spot since their last PPV, All Out. Featuring CM Punk defeating Jon Moxley to win the AEW World Championship, and The Elite- that being, the Young Bucks and a returning Kenny Omega- becoming the first AEW Trios Champions, it was a stellar PPV that should have been a victory lap for the promotion.
"I'm old, tired, and I work with f**king children". Those were the words of a bitter CM Punk, at the All Out post show media scrum. Punk decided to go off on a seemingly unprovoked rant on his former best friend turned bitter enemy IRL, Colt Cabana; Hangman Page; and the EVPs of AEW, the aforementioned Bucks and Omega. Tony Khan appeared shell-shocked and just nodded along as Punk tore into everyone.
At one point in his rant, Punk said that if anyone has a problem with him, to come find him and talk to him face to face. Well, The Elite did that, and apparently there was a backstage brawl for realsies, involving, Punk, The Elite and Punk's buddy, AEW producer, Ace Steel, who allegedly bit Omega. A bite mark was visible on Kenny's arm in the days that followed, and Steel was released from AEW. Punk and The Elite were sent home pending an investigation.
Holding the fort down in the absence of those men was Jon Moxley. Originally scheduled to take some vacation time after dropping the title to Punk, Mox found himself staying around to help clean up Punk's mess. A mini tournament was held for the vacant AEW Championship, which Moxley won. His next PPV challenger- Maxwell Jacob Friedman, MJF. No stranger to controversy himself, MJF made his own return from a backstage drama-induced hiatus as The Joker in the Casino Ladder Match at All Out, winning the poker chip to get this title shot. So that's our Full Gear main event.
Elsewhere, it seemed that The Elite have been cleared of wrongdoing following the investigation, as they make their return to the company to challenge the Death Triangle for the Trios Championship. Also, Saraya- the former Paige in WWE- has become All Elite, has been cleared to wrestle, and will have her first match in 5 years, facing Dr Britt Baker DMD.
Let's do this!
Zero Hour Pre-Show
Match 1: CHAOS (Orange Cassidy, Trent Berretta, Chuck Taylor, Rocky Romero & Danhausen) def. The Factory (QT Marshall, Aaron Solo, Lee Johnson, Nick Comoroto & Cole Karter) (at 11:55)
Match 2: World Title Eliminator Semi-Finals- Ricky Starks def. Brian Cage (at 10:00)
Match 3: Eddie Kingston def. Jun Akiyama (at 10:30)
Note: Kingston vs. Akiyama was the pre-show highlight, both in the action during the match and the emotion and humour in Kingston's pre and post-match promos, selling how much wrestling Akiyama meant to him while shilling the PPV in the pre-show's dying moments!
Match 1: Steel Cage Match- "Jungle Boy Jack Perry" def. Luchasaurus (w/ Christian Cage) (at 18:40)
Thoughts: This was a tremendous way to kick off the PPV main card. Jungle Boy found himself busted open early, and the camera got a great shot of the dinosaur raking the smaller man's flesh across the steel. Despite Luchasaurus' physical dominance, Christian still got involved, pick-pocketing the referee to get the keys for the cage door. This gets Christian ejected, but the damage is done. Apparently, escapes aren't a thing in AEW steel cage matches, so they brawl to the outside and get some weapons to bring back to the cage. Eventually, JB turns things around, gets Luchasaurus on a table... and puts him through it with a flying elbow drop from the top of the super-sized cage to win! Awesome. (****)
Match 2: AEW Trios Championship- Death Triangle (Pac, Rey Fenix & Penta El Zero Miedo) (c) def The Elite (Kenny Omega, Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) (at 18:40)
Thoughts: Another outstanding match. A fired up Elite comes out to the tune, "Carry On My Wayward Sons" by Kansas". The crowd are the real MVPs of this thing, chanting "Fuck CM Punk" and "Colt Cabana". Of course, the athleticism is jaw-dropping, with high spots and choreography aplenty, but after both sides hit each other with their best shots, Fenix is forced to accept Pac's offer to cheat, and counters the One Winged Angel with a ring bell hammer shot that went undetected by the referee. Slightly surprising to have The Elite lose in their grand return, but they have an out, and the action was as great as you would expect from wrestlers at this level. (****1/4)
Match 3: AEW TBS Championship- Jade Cargill (c) def. Nyla Rose (w/ Vickie Guerrero & Kiera Hogan)
Thoughts: Weird to see Jade essentially as a babyface here. She came out dressed as a character from Thundercats- the reference was lost on me, but she looked phenomenal as always. Jade also started this match with a lot of aggression, and while Nyla fought back with power of her own, she eventually fell to Jaded like everyone else. Nothing special, but not bad either. (**1/2)
Match 4: ROH World Championship- Chris Jericho (c) def. Claudio Castagnoli, Bryan Danielson & Sammy Guevera (at 21:30)
Thoughts: Beautifully structured four way match, with the initial alliances between the BCC and JAS holding strong in the early going, but ultimately giving away to individual ambitions. Most interesting was the conflict with Sammy- initially following his "boss" Jericho's orders, but eventually snapping and attacking his leader, hitting the GTH and a Shooting Star Press for an awesome near fall. Everyone gets moments, and the incredible roll Claudio gets on, swinging Guevara around the place, is only stopped by an intercepting Jericho, who hits the Judas Effect for the narrow victory. (****1/4)
Match 5: Saraya def. Dr Britt Baker DMD (at 12:30)
Thoughts: This match wasn't great, and probably over-stayed its welcome. Saraya was on the verge of tears making her entrance, as was her brother at ringside, which was great to see. When it came to the match, though, the fans didn't seem to know how to react, and were quiet through most of it. Saraya was noticeably a bit rusty, and while nothing was completely botched, there were a few dicey moments. The move that was once called the Paige Turner is now The Knight Cap, but the old Rampaige DDT doesn't seem to have a new name yet, but it led to the win, with two consecutive ones spelling the end for the Doctor. (**1/2)
Match 6: AEW TNT Championship- Samoa Joe def. Powerhouse Hobbs & Wardlow (c) (at 9:55)
Thoughts: Big meaty men slapping meat. Seemed decent, if unspectacular. At one point, Wardlow shines with a huge flip dive- he may be a monster, but moves like that remind us that he was a self-admitted Jeff Hardy mark growing up. Ultimately, if you're wondering why Hobbs was there, it was to take the fall, as he tapped to the Coquina Clutch. Joe is now a double champion, also holding the ROH TV Championship! (***)
Match 7: No DQ- Sting & Darby Allin def. Jay Lethal & Jeff Jarrett (at 11:00)
Thoughts: No DQ gave Sting the juice to work his magic at 63 years old, diving onto Satnam Singh at one point out of the stands. Darby pinballed himself around the place with reckless abandon, and he teams up with the elder statesman of AEW to hit a combo Coffin Drop/Scorpion Death Drop on the gigantic Singh, and soon after, Sting catches a handspringing Lethal with the Scorpion Death Drop, which was a little rough, but Darby follows with a clean Coffin Drop for the win! (***1/4)
Match 8: AEW Interim Women's Championship- Jamie Hayter def. Toni Storm (c) (at 15:00)
Thoughts: This was hard-hitting and intense. Hayter looked powerful throughout and Storm looked gritty. Rebel gets involved for some shenanigans, and convincing near falls, and Britt Baker joins in for more of the same. The interim champ fires back with a ripcord strike and Storm Zero, but Hayter still kicks out. Eventually, a ripcord lariat spells the end. One of the better women's matches I've seen in AEW, even with the shenanigans, and easily the best match Storm or Hayter has had under the Elite banner. (***1/2)
Match 9: AEW World Tag Team Championship- The Acclaimed (Anthony Bowens & Max Caster) (c) def. Swerve In Our Glory (Swerve Strickland & Keith Lee)
Thoughts: The champs were the underdogs, with an injured Bowens coming in with a busted shoulder, but he fought valiantly. Hot tag to Caster and he cleans house. Lee uses his next-level speed and power to even the playing field, and the resilient Sweve isn't having it, getting a set of pliers to wreck the "scissors fingers" of Caster. "Daddy Ass" Billy Gunn helps make the save. Swerve wants Lee to use the pliers, and when the big man refuses, Swerve slaps him. Keith Lee opts to exit the match at this point, soon leaving him easy pickings for The Acclaimed! (***1/2)
Match 10: AEW World Championship- MJF def. Jon Moxley (c) (at 23:15)
Thoughts: This crowd in the Tri-State Area is heavily pro-MJF. Maxwell proves he's a god amongst men by motorboating a busty audience member during his entrance. He did ask for consent first, proving that even the Devil has some level of decency. Mox tries to goad MJF into a brawl, while MJF tries to be more cerebral. They battle to the apron at one point and MJF hits a Tombstone on the apron- we've seen quite a few Tombstones on this show. Not a fan of seeing it used as "just another move". MJF sells his knee on the Tombstone landing, giving Mox a target for the rest of the match. We get shenanigans with ref bumps, and when MJF goes to use the Diamond Ring, William Regal storms out to stop him. Mox is able to lock in the bulldog choke, and MJF taps, but the ref is still down. As Mox tries to revive the ref.... Regal slips MJF a pair of brass knuckles! MJF clocks the champ, then pins him. The ref comes to... and we have a new AEW Champion! Slightly above-average match elevated by crowd investment and The Moment of MJF climbing the mountain. (***3/4)
An extremely strong AEW PPV. Not quite an all-timer, but good enough that it should quell some of the naysayers for now. There will always be critics, but it was important to bounce back after the All Out fiasco, and they certainly did so here. The first two matches on the main card set the bar impossibly high. Just about everything was of a high standard though, with the only possible disappointment being Saraya vs. Baker, but there's always that question of rust when someone comes back after a long layoff. Saraya has it, but we can only go up from here. Beyond thrilled to see MJF as world champion- it felt like it was time after the Punk and Wardlow feuds, and although the path had some twists and turns, I'm glad we're there now.
Overall Score: 8/10
Until next time, take care.