wrestling / TV Reports

St-Pierre’s AEW Full Gear Review

November 10, 2019 | Posted by Jake St-Pierre
Chris Jericho
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St-Pierre’s AEW Full Gear Review  

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The Young Bucks vs. Proud ’n Powerful
It most certainly won’t come as a surprise when I tell you that The Young Bucks, Santana, and Ortiz constructed a great tag team match. It may not have been the most exciting match any of these men have been a part of, but that’s not what it needed to be. It had plenty of high octane action, but in order to put the new act over, you can’t simply wrestle a sprint. The match has to cater to their supposed strengths, something I thought was roundly accomplished by the end.

If the goal is to get Proud n Powerful over as nasty heels – a novel concept – then they needed to come off both parts cerebral and rugged. Those two traits were demonstrated tremendously in the continued assault on Nick Jackson’s leg, providing a purpose for a heat segment beyond just following the formula. It gave the slow moments something significant in several ways, setting up the feverous closing stretch as well as the catalyst for PNP’s clean victory. It gave a logical reason for The Young Bucks to go all out (pun intended) in a last gasp of glory, but also a clear strategy for the necessary Santana & Ortiz victory. So from a booking standpoint, I don’t think the match could have been structured much better.

When it comes to execution, there were a few wonky moments here and there, primarily the finish. While it wasn’t bungled to any noticeable degree, its impact was lessened by a weird sequence that didn’t quite emphasize the drama the way I’d have liked. I think a match like this needs a real climax to put it over the top, and despite the forecast for that looking great based on the build, they didn’t quite stick the landing. It’s a minor quibble, but one that I feel needs addressing. Still, the crowd reacted significantly to the surprise pinfall, so it wasn’t all for naught. Overall, there’s not much to complain about here if you’re looking for great action or logical booking, even if it wasn’t quite a Match of the Year contender or anything. ***3/4

Sammy Guevara makes his way down the ramp, vlogging as Santana & Ortiz continue the punishment. Sammy pulls out the loaded sock that PNP used against the Rock and Rolls… who interfere and save the day for the Bucks. Ricky Morton pulls off a Canadian Destroyer of all things… and a TOPE SUICIDA to cap it off. Good babyface redemption, even if Proud ’n Powerful won when it counted.

Hangman Page vs. PAC
This was a very, very good wrestling match, worked about as professionally and clinically as you could hope for its spot on the card. While Hangman Page has been one of the more underdeveloped babyfaces on the roster, he is growing into the role very well between the ropes. It’s not like he’s green obviously, but if he’s to be taken as a main event level wrestler, he needs to continue to improve to that level. While it’s difficult to glean from this match specifically, Page continues to work on himself as a top level talent and that should be commended.

However, his opponent is someone that has it all together fabulously. PAC’s heel schtick in WWE always fell short for me, but since that departure he has morphed into one of the most well-rounded performers in the entire industry. He does what so many high-flyers seem fundamentally unable to do, and that is continue to be an athletic marvel while also credibly playing a bad guy. He uses that athleticism to further himself in a fight rather than show off to his adoring minions. Of all the incredible things the man can do, that might be the most impressive, especially since he can still be spectacular when the need arises.

This match was worked perfectly for its spot on the card while also affording its participants the time necessary to make an impact. It felt long enough to feel significant while never outstaying its welcome so early in the night, and that’s a talent not many wrestling promotions/wrestlers have. They didn’t rush, but they had to work at a fast enough pace to make the most of their allotment. They struck that balance between working with urgency, but also with care, and it’s hard to complain about that. ***1/2

Shawn Spears vs. Joey Janela
It’s not surprising to me that the least-developed match on the card turned out to be the least rewarding. There was only a few minutes of context on the previous episode of Dynamite to make this match feel like anything but filler, which is a difficult mountain to climb for great workers. While Spears and Janela aren’t anything resembling bad, they simply aren’t advanced enough to overcome the crowd apathy and bathroom break vibes in the building. The match was solidly worked and had a few promising moments, but it felt strongly like a second-hour Dynamite match rather than something that needed to happen on this show. These two could use more TV time in the future, for sure. **

Goldenboy interviews Kip Sabian backstage, the Brit giving a decent interview before unveiling former Bad Girl Penelope Ford as his new flame. Given she used to be Joey Janela’s right hand gal, it’s good storyline development for all involved. They just need to give it the right amount of time and context.

AEW Tag Titles: SoCal Uncensored vs. Private Party vs. The Lucha Brothers
If you see this match on paper, your expectations probably become clear. There isn’t going to be much in the way of depth and psychological warfare. It’s likely that you’re going to see what largely amounts to an athletic blur at some point. You probably won’t be surprised to know that this match met those expectations with aplomb.

As usual, this sort of multi-man match has a uniquely high athletic standard. It’s not beholden to the same structure of a normal 2v2 outing, nor is it possible to emit the same sort of dramatic flair a singles match can. So in lieu of storytelling like the previous Bucks vs. PNP match, they didn’t have a real choice other than relying on speed, and it worked out exactly like you’d hope, even if my expectations weren’t quite surpassed. That’s not even a black mark, as I’m always willing to reward a match for living up to its billing on paper. So many of us expect everything to blow us away that we take things like this for granted, so I can’t say I wasn’t satisfied. It delivered on its promises, which is all I can ask of it.

It’s true that this match was structured intricately enough to make its statement, but Rey Fenix’s performance is what gave this match a memorability factor. His athleticism and wow-factor were clearly a step ahead of both his partner and adversaries, and it made for some of the boldest and most significant spots of the match. He shines in whatever situation he’s put in, and part of me hopes that he sees singles success in this company before too long. But as it stands, he and the rest of the participants here gave a hell of an effort on the tag team front, even if the finish seemed a little abrupt. ***1/2

The Lucha Brothers throw some more leather at SCU after the match, but the lights go out and a SKINNY PENTAGON appears. Of course, it’s the returning Christopher Daniels to even the score with the man who put him out.

AEW Women’s Title: Riho vs. Emi Sakura
This match had all the hallmarks of a good Joshi match, including the back-and-forth nature of their offensive sequences and the fervent pace that comes with it. Sakura and Riho’s familiarity with one another has to help, but that’s not all this match had to hang its hat on.

I briefly mentioned this bout’s pacing in the opening sentence, but I think that particular match trait is what gave these two the platform to turn out what they did. There wasn’t a boring heat sequence to extend their time allotment. They went out there and worked with a purpose, staying true to their style and giving this card yet another uniquely satisfying match. I even got a big kick out of Emi Sakura bridging out of her pinfall like this was a Jaguar Yokota match or something. Add on the easy Teacher vs. Student psychology and a fabulous closing sequence (which reminded me of AJ vs. Okada from Dominion 2015 in a lot of ways) and you’ve got a women’s title match that delivered as well as one could hope, something I find myself saying about Riho’s efforts more and more. ***1/2

AEW World Title: Chris Jericho vs. Cody
By some incredible divine intervention, Cody Rhodes might be one of my favorite wrestlers. He’s a legitimate superstar in this industry. I’ve struggled for the three years Cody has been outside of WWE to find what it was that made him special. While he had several good matches in his ROH tenure (the Bullrope match with Jay Lethal comes to mind), he struck me as someone who was playing main event wrestler. A serviceable wrestler, but not much more. While he undoubtedly garnered support from his audience, I never saw an intangible. Then I watched All In in 2018.

That match with Nick Aldis set in motion what ended up becoming Cody’s niche. The younger Rhodes boy thrives on context. Atmosphere. He takes in his surroundings and engrosses the audience into every single thing he does. He’s not the most athletic. He’s not particularly impressive looking. However, when the time arises for a spectacle, it’s become clear to me that Cody is the man to call.

And when I said Cody thrives on context, it’s never been clearer than this feud with Chris Jericho. I’d call it the Feud of the Year, personally. Week after week, we were treated to fabulous angle after fabulous angle. Cody using MJF’s scarf to punch through glass is still one of my favorite moments of 2019. Chris Jericho’s performance as his foil has been unbelievable, whether he’s using his minions to hurt Dustin or making video packages that skew the “funny don’t make money” narrative. And to cap it all off, Cody cut one of the best promos of this century on the go-home Dynamite. It’s the best heel and the best babyface in wrestling fighting it out. It’s what wrestling was built upon and when executed as gorgeously as Jericho vs. Cody, it still has a marked place in wrestling lore. Good Guy vs. Bad Guy never gets old if you do it right.

And to my surprise, this match carried every single ounce of the weight its spectacular build-up unleashed. It was slow and methodical. It struck a beautiful balance between intense and cerebral. The psychology of Cody wrestling with his self-imposed stipulation, balancing his hatred for Jericho and hunger for the title. A crowd that hung on every move of its participants. This is what wrestling can be with the love and care it deserves. The intrigue and tension were boundless. While the stipulation of Cody never challenging for the AEW Title again could have weighed down the mystery of the result, it only heightened that sense. Jericho has only held the title for two months after all, but Cody making such a bold claim tells you that there’s no way he could lose. And they didn’t telegraph their conclusion at all, and that’s one of the genius moves of this match in the end.

Cody has been known in the past to bring people with him to the ring. DDP. Brandi. MJF. So the latter’s presence at ringside didn’t tip off any alarms. Often times in wrestling, bookers use a finish to advance storylines that come from a mile away, just because they use unfamiliar plot devices that give away their hand immediately. MJF being there did no such thing as it was a measure Cody has taken plenty of times before in his big matches. So when MJF threw in that towel, it had an element of surprise to it. But surprise often isn’t enough to make a wrestling angle work, given Vince Russo’s entire existence to prove that point. But this was done expertly. Cody didn’t quit. He didn’t wilt. He was fucked out of his stipulation by his best friend, and now he’s left with nothing. The story becomes “where does Cody go from here?” rather than “whew, they got out of that corner!” That’s the beauty of what AEW has been able to do creatively so far. Not only provide these compelling matches, but give you a reason to look beyond that. Cody and Chris Jericho did an incredible job of navigating that field. ****

MJF pretends to apologize to Cody after the match, playing up crocodile tears and everything before punting him in the balls. You knew it was coming, and it was still wonderful.

Lights Out: Jon Moxley vs. Kenny Omega
Well, they delivered. For better or worse, we got what what they said we’d get and even if you hate violence, you have to commend them for that. One of the worst things about WWE is how they seem unable to deliver on anything resembling intensity or brutality in their plunder matches. In some ways, that’s okay considering wrestler safety, but no one takes Extreme Rules or TLC or Hell in a Cell seriously because of it. When they promise violence, they deliver a few broken ladders and call it a day and then put down their viewers for not seeing the genius in it. As such, the major league scene for American wrestling has seen a dark age of hardcore brawls that seems to have suddenly evaporated with some of AEW’s content… and this match between Moxley and Omega is the end-all be-all of that “revival” so far.

This was unbelievable. It was a spectacle in ways that very few professional wrestling matches can accomplish. I view that in a positive sense, and overwhelmingly so. It spat in the face of subtlety, safety, and structure to the point that it lost all delusions of being a wrestling match. Despite the gimmicky nature of a few spots, this felt like a fight to the death. It wasn’t a pseudo-match with a few kendo sticks thrown in. Again for better or worse, this was as violent as we were told, and it felt different from anything on the current wrestling scene for it. It was significant. Intense. Horrifying at times. There was a visceral brutality to this match that turned it from a garbage brawl into a legitimately phenomenal piece of pro wrestling storytelling.

I adored the story of Kenny Omega getting carried away. He’s never been in this sort of situation before. The Joey Janela match was similar for sure, but he didn’t have this morbid animosity for the Bad Boy. That match was done in the spirit of showing Moxley he could throw down too. Omega’s evolution into an indulgent sadist was an engrossing dramatic plot device, and it gave these unbelievable feats of mortality a purpose. Omega wasn’t doing these things to look cool. He was overcome with disdain and bloodlust for Jon Moxley and went to unprecedented lengths to show he wasn’t going to back down. But try as Kenny might, he’s simply not Jon Moxley. This isn’t his bread and butter. He is famous for his incredible athleticism and fever pitch finishing stretches with Okada or Naito. This barbed wire, broken glass, and spider web stuff is foreign. He tried and succeeded at acquainting himself for nearly 40 minutes, but he get overzealous and wasn’t smart enough to minimize his risks. He went too far and paid dearly for it. Not only did we get endless danger and intensity, but we got a fantastic story to make it work.

In some ways, this is the best of pro wrestling. Death defying horror mixed with dense psychology and physical consequences. Rarely are weapons and drama so expertly intertwined with one another. It was a clash of styles that worked better than it had any right to, blending the best qualities of both men into an epic piece of “art.” It was hard to watch at points, and certainly shouldn’t be a monthly inclusion… but for what it was, I loved it. Absolutely loved it. ****1/2

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Speaking personally, I can't view AEW's first post-Dynamite PPV as anything but a rousing success. As with any All Elite program, the card was filled top-to-bottom with fleshed out performers and logical booking to buoy the consistently great wrestling we're treated to. They used the phenomenal build-up of Cody vs. Jericho to deliver drama and a new path, character development and brutality with Omega vs. Moxley, and a clear new tag team contender in the former LAX. Full Gear stumbled a bit when it came to filler with Janela vs. Spears, but the big picture was as clear as ever and made for a great 3 & 1/2 hours of wrestling.

article topics :

AEW Full Gear, Jake St-Pierre