wrestling / Columns

411’s AEW Full Gear 2023 Preview

November 18, 2023 | Posted by Ryan Ciocco
AEW Full Gear Kenny Omega Chris Jericho Young Bucks Image Credit: AEW

Welcome, one and all, to the official site preview for AEW Full Gear, emanating from the “Fabulous Kia Forum” in Inglewood, California! As has been the case for the past little increment of time, I am Ryan, and I will be your guide for the matches, the stories, and, as you may also have deduced from the article headline yes, the predictions as well!

As has been tradition since AEW opened its doors in 2019, Full Gear is usually the final big Pay-Per-View event of the calendar year (well, except for this year, due to the announcement of the “End of the World” event on December 30th), and as a result, a lot of stories and feuds get some validation and perhaps that closure that they so desperately need. Taking a quick look at the card, we find ourselves with some interesting, short-term feuds, but we also have some feuds and angles that predate even the formation of the company, as I speak of the six-man tag match featuring real life best friends Christian Cage and Adam Copeland.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an AEW show on the pay circuit if we didn’t have title matches galore, special stipulation matches spread throughout, and a promise (but will it be delivered on?) by company owner and General Manager Tony Khan of a MAJOR signing. How will all of this unfold at Full Gear, the 2023 version? Let’s find out, shall we?

Zero Hour ROH Tag Team Championship Match
MJF & TBA © vs. The Gunns

Image Credit: AEW

So, by this point in the game, we have established a litany of things; the first of which is the fact that, despite having a partner out due to injury, MJF is not afraid to defend the ROH tag team titles by himself, as he did this back at WrestleDream against Dutch and Vincent, the Righteous. The second thing is the fact that, no matter who MJF has attempted to enlist to help him fight the rather large congregation of “Devil Haters”, they keep getting picked off by nefarious forces. That leads into the third and final point on the list, which makes one wonder if MJF may finally give in and accept the offer of Samoa Joe to help him out, especially since Joe gave up his ROH TV Title belt.

All of this doesn’t consider the team that stands to oppose MJF and whomever (if anyone) does get to team up with him, as Austin and Colten Gunn are former AEW Tag Team Champions and are a serious threat to take the ROH Tag Team titles from MJF. However, MJF has faced the best and he has nearly always beaten them as well, although another handicap match might be pushing the limits. The bottom line is this; if the match was on the main show, I might consider a title change here, since MJF would still have his AEW World Title (in theory, naturally) and the Gunn Brothers would have another set of tag belts. However, being on the Zero Hour, I don’t think that change happens just yet, although I am very interested to see if MJF goes it alone again.

WINNER: MJF and The Fantastic TBA (STILL ROH Tag Team Champions)

Kenny Omega & Chris Jericho vs. The Young Bucks

Image Credit: AEW

Some people may groan and say, “Look, this is just a way to get Nick and Matt Jackson on the PPV show in their hometown” and you know what, there is some credence to that. However, there is also a very interesting dynamic at play here, and I’m not talking about the strife within The Elite, with Omega opposing his buddies Nick and Matt.

There is a stipulation within this match that states that, should Kenny and Chris win over the Bucks, that they would take the guaranteed tag team title shot that Nick and Matt possess. However, if Omega and Jericho lose to the Bucks, then they are never allowed to team up again. At its elemental core, this kind of stipulation doesn’t seem to be a problem for Omega and Jericho considering that they only really came together to fight off the forces of the Don Callis Family. And now that they finally did get a victory in a tag team match over Konosuke Takeshita and Kyle Flecther recently, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to assume this “Golden Jets” tag team has run its relatively short course.

And yet, for some odd reason, I really want to see Jericho and Omega continue to proudly represent the city of Winnipeg and win this match, take that tag team title shot that the Young Bucks have, and go on to defeat current champions Ricky Starks and Big Bill. All that to say, I don’t see that happening as the safe option, especially at “home”, is to bet on the Bucks.

WINNER: The Young Bucks

Sting, Darby Allin & Adam Copeland vs.
Christian Cage, Luchasaurus, & Nick Wayne

Image Credit: AEW

There is a lot of strife and a lot of stories going into this match, and while it certainly seems as if you might know who will win this match, we need to do a further dive into this one first.

At the top of the list of things to watch for in this match is the reunion (albeit on opposite sides) of Cage and Copeland. Once one of the most successful tag teams of their time, they became bitter enemies, separated by brands, and then injuries/near retirement almost derailed their respective and illustrious careers. That both men are still able to be doing what they love after what they went through is nothing short of spectacular. Then, we have the Allin and Wayne angle, with young Nick turning on Darby and joining his “father” Cage. And then as we all know and are aware of, this is the final run of Sting matches, and you can almost believe the fact that he simply is not booked to lose through his final match at Revolution in 2024.

So, where does that leave us regarding the match result? Well, so far in his AEW career, Copeland does NOT have a signature win, Sting is basically bulletproof, and Cage’s TNT title is not on the line. Odds are, after a hard fought, back and forth match up with some proposed cheap shots from the heels (namely Cage), that Copeland gets that first big win under belt, also fair to assume Wayne eats the pin.

WINNER: Sting, Darby Allin, and The Rated R SOUP-ER-STAR, Adam Copeland

Texas Death Match
Swerve Strickland vs. Hangman Page

Image Credit: AEW

Back at WrestleDream in Seattle, Strickland got the better of Page in his relative hometown in a match that was extremely good. Fast forward nearly a month and a half later, and we have another installment in the series, except this time we have a Texas Death Match, and let me tell you, the stipulation is quite apropos given the recent chain of events.

One may have thought (whether naively or not) that after Strickland knocked off one of the original members of the company (and a former AEW World Champion to boot) that he would be on his way up the main event ladder. However, not only has that not happened at all, but he’s also regressed back to the mean, and breaking and entering Hangman’s “house” has been the catalyst for another match between the two men. However, and not for nothing, this development has brought back the passion, the fire, and the anger that Page once possessed, plus his promos have been aggressive and passionate.

So, would the smart money be with Strickland getting a definitive win again over Page, or would it make more sense to have Page go over in a match he used to defend the AEW title in so we can continue this feud for a little bit longer? Personally, I would like to see these two continue this for a little bit longer, so I’ll take Page to get his revenge from the previous defeat.

WINNER: Hangman Adam Page

AEW TBS Championship Match
Kris Statlander vs. Julia Hart vs. Skye Blue

Image Credit: AEW

Even though the AEW Women’s Division gets some criticism for how it is booked and who is featured across the shows (to be fair, it’s not entirely unwarranted), I do have to say that this match-up, and the push for Hart and something resembling a character establishment for Blue makes this one a very interesting match. Also, it certainly doesn’t hurt that we have a champion who, despite early on defending the title at every turn, hasn’t been doing as much lately, so it will feel like a more special title defense.

The line of thought here is that, given the recent events that have unfolded, Blue and Hart couldn’t possibly work together in this match. After Hart spit the mist in the eyes of both Blue and Willow Nightingale, it was the former who has maintained more of a mysterious and more aggressive side to her character as of late. You also have seen the champion Statlander attempt to come to her aid and help Skye, only for Blue to remain standoff-Ish with her. It’s not the most compelling storyline going on in the company, but in terms of establishing another feud behind the AEW Women’s Title, it has done a good job at moving some characters around on the chess board. As for who wins this match, well, it would be interesting (see also great) if Blue won the belt, as a payoff of sorts for her interesting character development, but I’d be remiss if I were to belt against the champion losing the title, at least not yet.

WINNER: Kris Statlander (STILL AEW TBS Champion)

AEW World Tag Team Championship Match
Ricky Starks & Big Bill vs. La Facción Ingobernable vs.
FTR vs. Malakai Black and Brody King

Image Credit: AEW

Well, I will say this much; this match certainly doesn’t lack star power nor clash of styles, and when you look at who is involved, there certainly can be a case made for all the challenging teams to be in this one, even if the announcement came from out of nowhere.

When laying claim to title shots, one simply cannot discredit Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood; not only are FTR now former two-time champions, but they were the most recent champions before Big Bill and Ricky quickly dispatched of them to win the belts. Could a third run with the belts be in the cards? Well, certainly not if The Kings of the Black Throne nor LFI have anything to say about it, although to be completely fair, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to consider these two teams as fodder to off-set each other considering the House of Black have been looking for a challenge from RUSH, Preston Vance, and Dralistico. Considering that they have been hinting at HoB and LFI going into a feud recently, it would seem smart to assume that neither team wins the belts here and they continue with group warfare moving forward. The one question to be answered here is, will we see a title switch back to FTR, or can Big Bill and Starks maintain the champion’s edge that does exist even with three challengers in the fold? Some part of me believes there is little to no sense in taking the belts from the champions just yet, although the match quality most certainly will not be in question.

WINNER: Big Bill and Ricky Starks (STILL AEW World Tag Team Champions)

AEW Women’s Championship Match
Hikaru Shida vs. Toni Storm

Image Credit: AEW

From the outset, one would be remiss if they assumed this was just another title defense and match between Shida and Storm, who are not strangers to one another in the ring. However, that simply doesn’t stand to reason anymore, because Storm is now Timeless, and so for that, this match has taken on another dynamic and a new feel to it that the previous matches did not have to them.

It may be narrowminded to say that Storm’s new gimmick is totally original, but as far as her ability to pull off the silent era-meets Vaudevillian actress, she has absolutely done a great job in the role. The question now becomes, how will it translate into this match, and will she be able to throw Shida off her game enough to become a three-time Women’s Champion? That obviously will be easier said than done, since Shida possesses the discipline and ability to handle pretty much anything thrown her way, but Storm will be a barometer for just how much she can handle the inane. Either way, this is more than enough reason to believe that, with the character development and change Storm has made, that she could dethrone Shida and become the new champion.

Oh, and there is also the whole Mariah May thing, perhaps she ends up paying dividends for her idol and helps Storm get the win, conjuring something akin to a new-age Mickie James and Trish Stratus love/hate angle (Shoutout to i8mypants for that one!)

WINNER: Toni Storm (NEW AEW Women’s Champion)

AEW International Championship Match Match
Orange Cassidy vs. Jon Moxley

Image Credit: AEW

When this match first was took place at All-Out in Chicago, it delivered on seemingly every front, and Orange was able to overcome Jon and retain his title. Despite the stop and start continuation of this feud through Cassidy losing the title and regaining it and Moxley being sidelined for a bit with a concussion, we are back on track to see another BRISCOE between these two guys.

The International Title has seen a little bit of instability since Cassidy originally lost the title belt, but he’s been back on track to be even better with it back in his possession, but Moxley is a former holder of not just the World Title but also the International belt. This kind of match shows off the ability to adapt for both Cassidy against a more violent opponent, but also for Moxley, who can’t get in his own way against an opponent who could tend to anger him with his mannerisms and attitude. There stands to be an argument for Moxley to win the title again, since he only lost it because he got injured in the 3-way match featuring Cassidy and eventual winner Rey Fenix, but would they consider putting an early end to OC’s second run with the belt? Considering how much reserve and fortitude that Cassidy tends to display, I don’t think it would be wise to bet against him barring the unforeseen happening in this one.

WINNER: Orange Cassidy (STILL AEW International Champion)

AEW World Championship Match
MJF vs. Jay White

Image Credit: AEW

Announced some time ago and with something of an interesting build going for it, this match could be one of the better title defenses during the run of MJF as champion. It doesn’t hurt, either, that White has been a proven commodity prior to ending up in AEW, as not only one of the leaders of the Bullet Club, but also a former IWGP World Champion in New-Japan Pro Wrestling. Naturally, some of that has seeped into AEW as well, with White leading Bullet Club Gold with Juice Robinson and the Gunns by his side, while MJF has, well, no one on his side.

This will be another show where MJF pulls double duty, having done this at All-In, where he won the ROH Tag Team Titles with Adam Cole (BAYBAY) and then beat Cole in the main event of the show for the AEW World Title. Following a defense of the ROH Tag Team belts in the Zero Hour (whether he has a partner or not is another story), MJF then moves on to the main event of Full Gear to try and knock off White, who has physical possession of his title belt.

Given the fact that MJF does face Austin and Colten Gunn in the Zero Hour, it brings into question whether White will have that backup for his title match, or whether he does go it alone against MJF. Either way, to discredit Switchblade is a mistake for sure, but MJF has just passed the year mark as champion, and I don’t believe that White is the man to defeat him for the title belt. I could be wrong, but I am not betting against MJF losing here, but I will bet on a good, but perhaps interference filled, main event title match. I’m also betting that we will find out who the man behind the devil mask and the masked men who have helped him are.

WINNER: MJF (STILL AEW World Champion)

Full Gear has a start time of 7PM ET for Zero Hour and is available on PPV and Bleacher Report!

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AEW Full Gear, Ryan Ciocco