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Pantoja’s AEW Full Gear 2023 Review

November 19, 2023 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
AEW Full Gear MJF Image Credit: AEW
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Pantoja’s AEW Full Gear 2023 Review  

AEW Full Gear

November 18th, 2023 | KIA Forum in Los Angeles, California

ROH World Championship: Eddie Kingston [c] vs. Jay Lethal

Why is this not Jeff Jarrett getting a title shot? AEW has really shown how little ROH matters with these matches meaning little, Joe throwing down his title, and a top ROH Title contender getting squashed on AEW TV. The idea here is that Eddie wanted the “old” Lethal who was ROH Champion and not the guy running around AEW these days. Ultimately, we didn’t get that. Instead, they had a mostly solid enough back and forth but it was like a lot of what Lethal does in most matches these days. Stokely Hathaway was on commentary and was very anti-Eddie. The finish saw both men go for the guitar only for Ortiz to show up, grab it, and lay out Sonjay Dutt with it. Eddie avoided the Lethal Injection and retained with a backfist in 12:19. It was a fine little match and nothing more. [**½]

Buddy Matthews vs. Claudio Castagnoli

Oh, hello. Right off the bat, this was some good, hard hitting stuff. Claudio always delivers big European uppercuts but Buddy was game to throw stiff shots back. He had Claudio well scouted, interrupting his head of steam spot outside and countering the Big Swing a few times. That made the reaction for the Big Swing a bit better. It is weird to consider Claudio looking like a face here. Anyway, there were “We Want Mami” chants during this. I liked Claudio doing similar tactics to Yuta against Buddy. It makes sense to have stable continuity as they’d have the same strategy and scouting reports. Claudio obliterated him with the big uppercut and though Buddy survived, he got with the Ricola Bomb and lost to the Sharpshooter in 10:28. Very good wrestling match here. [***½]

ROH Tag Team Championship: MJF and Samoa Joe [c] vs. The Gunns

Joe is filling in for Adam Cole since MJF’s allies have all been taken out. MJF came out in a robe that said MJF 365. Today does mark that 365th day of him as champ. We got tag team MJF here with lots of showboating and goofy antics. I mean that in a good way. He didn’t want to tag in Joe but Joe did it himself and took out the challengers with an elbow suicida. MJF took the heat for a while and Joe got the hot tag but MJF decided to tag back in and do his own Muscle Buster. It failed and then Joe cut off the Kangaroo Kick, angering Max. However, they ended up trying stereo Muscle Busters only to get cut off. That spot came off awkwardly. Joe took 3:10 to Yuma but was close to the ropes so MJF could break the pin up. When things looked dire, Adam Cole came out on crutches to a huge pop. That distraction was enough to allow Joe to choke out Austin for the win in 9:26. That was pretty fun. [**¾]

Post-match, MJF hugged Adam Cole. He then came face to face with Joe and the two shook hands. Then, The Gunns jumped MJF to really weaken him for later and Cole couldn’t do anything about it. They smashed MJF’s leg with a chair and commentary hyped it as a serious injury. MJF even did a stretcher job into an ambulance. MJF shouted for Adam Cole to not let Jay White take his title from him and Adam promised.

Main show time!

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

A kids choir was out to sing part of Christian’s theme. Sting had his normal facepaint as did Darby and Adam had the opposite side of Darby’s painted up. Darby handled most of the early action, which included him getting destroyed by Luchasaurus with a chokeslam from in the ring onto the apron. He bounced UGLY. That led to him taking the heat, as expected. Also of note, they teased Adam vs. Christian but of course, Christian backed away. Christian crawled under the ring and pulled Adam from the apron, interrupting the hot tag in a creative manner. I love stuff like that. He eventually got the tag and did his thing, hitting his signature moves on Wayne and Luchasaurus. Sting did a dive off the apron where he jumped over Ric Flair at ringside. That’s hilarious. Christian accidentally hit Luchasaurus late and then ran away from Adam through the crowd, leaving his team behind. Luchasaurus took a barrage of offense capped by the Coffin Drop to end this in 15:08. That was good fun and Christian continues to be one of the best things in all of wrestling. [***½]


We got an update on MJF’s status from Bryce Remsburg. Tony Schiavone also brought out Bullet Club Gold to cover this. Jay White said he’s the champion and Schiavone said MJF can’t defend the title tonight so the match is canceled. They went to announce Jay as champion but Adam Cole interrupted. He said he’ll defend it with one leg in Max’s place.

AEW International Championship: Orange Cassidy [c] vs. Jon Moxley

Their first meeting headlined All Out and was fantastic (****½). Things were pretty even to start until Moxley busted out a Boss Man Slam. I like how OC was willing to resort to Moxley antics here like the back rake and biting. He knows that what he’s done thus far hasn’t been enough to beat Moxley. Of course, Moxley was bleeding just a few minutes into this, giving OC something of an advantage. It felt like Moxley was also forcing Orange Cassidy to come out of his comfort zone. OC survived a modified choke and was able to trade strikes with Moxley as best as he could. Moxley got up after a big shot and was lost, swinging blindly. That allowed Cassidy to fire off three straight Orange Punches before a fourth put Moxley down to one knee. He added two more and then retained with Beach Break in 12:05. Certainly not on par with the All Out match but it was a well told story and the ending that we needed so OC could exorcise that demon. [***¼]

Mark Briscoe joins Bryan Danielson and Andrade as a member of the Continental Classic.

AEW Women’s World Championship: Hikaru Shida [c] vs. Toni Storm

To start, Toni ripped up a script as she was ad-libbing. Love that. Shida lit Toni up with chops as a concerned Mariah May watched backstage. Toni’s chest was very red even before the bell so the chops only made it worse. They progressed into bigger moves like a Shida Falcon Arrow, while Toni kept up with the character stuff like getting a shoe to throw from Luther. She also tried to use Shida’s boot as a weapon at one point but that failed. Shida got distracted with an assault on Luther using a kendo stick, which allowed Toni to put a metal plate in her pants. It was hanging out so the referee could see it. She used the plate to hit the running ass attack and win the title in 10:22. That was alright as a match as it never feel like it really clicked the way it should. Outside of the Hayter match/Toni hasn’t had any standout matches in a few years. That said, she was a stellar character here. [***]

Mariah May showed up to literally give Toni her flowers.

Eddie Kingston announced that he will put up his ROH and NJPW Titles on the line in every match he has in the Continental Classic. Interesting. Less fun is him saying the winner of the tournament would be a triple crown champion because they’d get the Continental Title. Another title in AEW is not a good move.

AEW World Tag Team Championship Ladder Match: Big Bill & Ricky Starks [c] vs. FTR vs. The Kings of the Black Throne vs. La Facción Ingobernable

This had the expected plunder you’d get in a match like this so I’m not going to bother recapping that aspect. Plenty of reviews will do that. Instead, I’ll discuss things I liked and disliked. I appreciated the Brody/Bill faceoff attempt though it’s not some big matchup I think anyone is interested in. I dig the way FTR manages to adapt to almost any situation or stipulation even if their style is traditionally not something you’d expect to work in a ladder match. Ricky got a hot run that reminded me of how good he should’ve been as a babyface had AEW not fumbled that bag horribly. LFI were clearly there for some big spots and they made it work. The biggest spot was likely Brody’s Gonzo Bomb on Dralistico through a ladder. In a surprising result, Ricky pulled down the title to retain after 20:05. I really thought they’d do a switch here since Ricky and Bill feel like filler champs. That was a good, wild ladder match with some absurd spots. It’s hard for one of these to stick out given how many we have across wrestling these days and I likely won’t remember most of it but it was a blast while we got it. [****]

AEW TBS Championship: Kris Statlander [c] vs. Julia Hart vs. Skye Blue

Skye took off her hat and stomped on it during her entrance before replacing it with a crown. Kris had Globo Gym Cobras gear. Skye and Julia worked together against Kris from the start and even shook hands only for Julia to take her down and bounce her head on the mat. That feels like a dumb move by Julia because you should really be trying to take down Kris. Skye showed off some different offense too, busting out more power based moves to go along with the new persona. Julia nearly won it with a moonsault but Kris broke the pin up and planted her with a powerslam on the outside. Skye’s Code Blue was fantastic but then Kris started throwing big Germans and such, showcasing true power. Kris hit Skye with Saturday Night Fever only for Julia to knock her over and steal the pin in 11:21. That was actually really good with a fair bit of action and the Skye/Julia story as the main piece, with Kris kicking ass throughout. [***½]

Tony Schiavone was in the ring to give us the BIG SIGNING ANNOUNCEMENT. That is Will Ospreay, as expected. He said that he’s officially here but will finish up with New Japan first. He made sure to note Wembley in 2024 as a big date.

Texas Death Match: Hangman Page vs. Swerve Strickland

Their WrestleDream match was outstanding (****½). My most anticipated match on this card. Page ran out before his music hit to start this match and he hit a Buckshot Lariat in the opening minute. He took it to the next level, using a stapler as a weapon Less than five minutes in and Swerve was bleeding so Page just stapled him in the face a couple of times. Page also let Swerve bleed on him and into his mouth, which was gross. The tide turned when Swerve was finally cut free (his hands were bound) and he started no selling staples. He even stapled himself. The next big spot saw Swerve hit a DVD onto a cinder block and the spot looked fantastic. Both guys painted the ring with their blood as this was just barbaric. They brought barbed wire into play and somehow managed to keep the violence level ridiculously high throughout. The spot where Swerve hit Hangman with a chair from behind only for a piece of the barbed wire wrapped around it to get stuck across Page’s head was sickening. Swerve hit a 450 splash onto broken glass on Hangman’s back and added his finisher but Page still got up. Page went into a barrage that included the moonsault fallaway slam off the top through boards and it was capped by a Buckshot Lariat with barbed wire around Swerve’s neck. However, Nana pulled Swerve outside so he beat the count, bringing out Brian Cage to beat up Page. Page turned it around and took him out before putting Nana through a table with Deadeye off the apron. Swerve took that opening to hit Page with a cinderblock and then hang him with a chain, keeping him down after 29:44. An incredible match. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I love this stuff. Exactly the kind of violent war it needed to be. I don’t think the Cage run-in stuff was needed but that’s a small negative on a spectacular match. [****¾]

Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega vs. The Young Bucks

If the Bucks win, Jericho and Kenny split. If they win, they get the Bucks’ Tag Title shot. It’s such a dumb stipulation. Who cares if they split? They’re not a real or longstanding team. This feels like a time killer with nothing else for the Kenny/Don angle at the moment. So, they were doing stuff and it was hard to find a reason to care. The story here isn’t great (the Bucks being upset with Kenny for not being there for them is funny given how nobody helps Hangman when he’s being consistently terrorized) and the match itself followed something special. Kenny being in there was best as he developed chemistry with the Bucks over the years and had good interactions with them. Jericho was kind of just there. As this neared the conclusion, the Bucks kicked Jericho low. Kenny questioned them about it and got kicked low too. Omega had to choose at one point between hitting a V-Trigger on Jericho or the Bucks and he teased Jericho but hit Matt Jackson. In the end, Kenny won with a One Winged Angel in 20:53. Eww, that means more teaming with Jericho. That match just dragged. [**½]

AEW World Championship: MJF [c] vs. Jay White

We were set for Jay vs. Adam but the ambulance sirens blared and MJF returned with his leg taped up. He’s been doing cheesy Rock lines from the Attitude Era so he might as well lift the Austin gimmick too. He started the match but couldn’t really do anything and was easily beaten up. Jay still got help from the Gunns though MJF managed to at least fight them off a bit. After the Gunns got ejected, MJF made this more even but it never really got interesting. It was more waiting for the other shoe to drop and I can’t help but think about how I just wanted Max vs. Jay and not this stuff. When a table spot went awry, MJF decided to call an audible and do a diving elbow to the floor outside. Gnarly. They picked things up down the stretch and had a fair bit of drama between Adam Cole possibly throwing in the title and MJF potentially tapping out. The Gunns ran back down because this apparently wasn’t overbooked enough. He fought them off and won by using his famous ring to retain in 29:42. So, at first glance, I didn’t like this at all. Sitting back for a bit, I can appreciate what they tried to do and the match did pick up late. It’s just got some of the worst Attitude Era overbooking and they went too long. [***]

The final score: review Good
The 411
This wasn’t on par with the best AEW PPVs thanks to some overly long late matches and some middling stuff early on. However, there’s a lot to like here from OC’s big win to the TBS Title match to the fun trios match. And that Death Match is going to be talked about for a long time.

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AEW Full Gear, Kevin Pantoja