The future is now. MJF won the AEW Championship on Saturday at Full Gear, kicking off what could be a new era of AEW. MJF pinned Jon Moxley in the main event after getting help from none other than William Regal. Treachery is always afoot in the world of professional wrestling.
Full Gear was a good pay-per-view, but probably the weakest of the year. The best match was the Ring of Honor Championship, which saw Chris Jericho retain his title by pinning Claudio Castignoli. Other highlights include Jamie Hayter defeating Toni Storm to become new Interim AEW Women's Champion, and The Elite's return in which they lost to Death Triangle.
Many a championship changed hands on the show: Not only are MJF and Hayter new champions, but Samoa Joe made Powerhouse Hobbs submit to win the TNT Championship. The Acclaimed retained their Tag Team gold in a bout that saw what looks like the end of Swerve in Our Glory.
The absence of CM Punk was most definitely felt at the pay-per-view. Big questions going forward is whether stars like Bryan Danielson, Wardlow and FTR can recapture the momentum they once had but have lost over the past few months in the hopes that the Punk-sized hole can be filled. MJF as world champion should help, too.
MJF wins AEW Championship
Daniel Van Boom
MJF is officially the man! MJF beat Jon Moxley in the main event of Full Gear. And he did so with the help of none other than William Regal, who turned on his protege by handing MJF a pair of brass knuckles, which MJF used to beat Moxley.
Moxley didn't exactly wrestle the match as a heel, but certainly didn't play the role of babyface. The crowd was staunchly behind MJF, and showered Moxley with boos whenever he reversed MJF's offense. Moxley often taunted the crowd's jeers, even if he didn't act like a villain.
The main event had a slow start. The first major spot happened about 12 minutes in, when MJF landed a Tombstone Piledriver on the ring apron. Though it laid out Moxley, MJF hurt his knee doing the move, screaming in agony. He attempted another Tombstone, but Moxley fought out and did a Piledriver from the apron through a table on the outside.
A quick tangental note: Full Gear had too many table spots.
MJF nearly got counted out following the Piledriver, then Moxley planted him with a Paradigm Shift DDT for a nearfall. Moxley then applied a Figure Four Leglock on MJF's injured leg, further cementing MJF's role as plucky babyface in the match.
After MJF reversed the Figure Four, Moxley continued working over the knee, then went up to the top rope. MJF met him up there, and Moxley landed a very ugly Paradigm Shift from the second rope. MJF didn't kick out, but grabbed the nearby bottom rope to break the pinfall.
Moxley and MJF got into a punch exchange, and when Moxley bounced off the rope to get momentum, MJF pulled the referee in his way for a ref bump. MJF got the Dynamite Diamond Ring out of his tights, but William Regal came down and scolded him. MJF threw the ring at Regal, and gave him the finger.
Moxley put a Bulldog Choke on MJF as a second referee came in the ring, but MJF backed Moxley into the second referee for a second ref bump. MJF tapped out while Moxley had him in the choke, but there was no referee to call it. As Moxley got up to wake a referee, Regal passed Brass Knuckles to MJF.
MJF clocked Moxley with the Brass Knuckles and pinned him for the win.
Rating: 3.5 stars. Good but not great main event. Just as it started building towards a hot finish, we got a flurry of ref bumps and tomfoolery. That's fine for storytelling -- Regal turning is an interesting swerve -- but stopped it short of becoming a fantastic match.
The Acclaimed beat Swerve in Our Glory
Daniel Van Boom
These four caught lightning in a bottle at All Out, stealing the show with their incredible tag team championship match. They've tried to recapture that magic on an episode of Dynamite, and once again here at Full Gear. It's wasn't to be though: The match was more disjointed than the All Out clash, and failed to reach the same peaks.
But that's OK, because The Acclaimed retained their AEW Tag Team Championship titles. Everybody loves The Acclaimed!
The ending saw what looks to be the breakup of Swerve in Our Glory. Swerve encouraged Keith Lee to use plyers to mangle Anthony Bowens fingers, but Lee refused. Swerve slapped Lee, which led to Lee bailing on Swerve. The Acclaimed hit their tandem finisher on Swerve for the win.
There were some wicked spots in this match. Bowens at one point hit a reverse Hurricanrana on Lee -- it's wild to watch a man of that size get spiked. A steel barricade was setup on the side of the ring, and Caster crossbodied Lee through it in another painful looking spot.
The match wasn't bad, but went longer than it needed to and felt much flatter than their All Out showdown.
Rating: 3.25 stars.
Jamie Hayter wins Interim Women's Championship
Daniel Van Boom
We got ourselves a new AEW Interim Women's Champion. Jamie Hayter pinned Toni Storm after interference from both Britt Baker and Rebel, ramming Storm's face into an exposed turnbuckle and then laying her out with a Rainmaker clothesline to clinch victory.
This match had a weird dynamic, because Hayter is a heel that the crowd loves. She used interference and underhanded tactics, and the crowd cheered louder every time she did so. The crowd loved Hayter, and the match built up to a great finish that gave the audience what it wanted. If you can forgive the backward psychology of treating a cheating heel like a babyface, this was tremendous.
It was hardhitting at points, with Storm getting hardway blood, seemingly bleeding through the nose. The match worked up to a bunch of false finishes, with each women using the other's finisher, and the aforementioned interference by Rebel and Baker leading to nearfalls the crowd was extremely invested in.
Rating: 4 stars. Jamie Hayter got the win, and the adoration of the crowd. Toni Storm looked great in defeat, however -- it took three women and an exposed turnbuckle to beat her. The crowd is into Hayter, and I'm excited to see where she goes next.
Darby Allin and Sting beat Jay Lethal and Jeff Jarrett
Daniel Van Boom
This tag team match started with a bunch of malarkey. Darby Allin brawled with Jeff Jarrett up the entranceway, while String fought with Jay Lethal into the crowd. There was a crazy spot where Allin did a Coffin Drop off a ladder setup on the ramp, only to be caught by Satnam Sing. As he seems to do every pay-per-view, Sting jumped off a ledge in the crowd to topple Lethal and Singh.
It was a wild start that led into a stilted match. Sting's advanced age was far more evident here than in previous pay-per-view bouts -- it's probably time for him to stop jumping from high places onto concrete. Watching him apply the Scorpion Deathlock as gingerly as possible because he can't crouch properly was a little cringe.
The crowd was into it at parts, but also lost interest in others. They chanted "TNA" when Sting and Jarrett were in the ring. When Allin got a hot tag and ran wild on Lethal, the crowd was absolutely dead. But they got into it at the end, particularly when Sting got Singh in position for a Scorpion Death Drop and Allin Coffin Dropped Singh on the way down.
Sting countered Lethals' offense into a Scorpion Deathdrop and Allin, after taking out Jarrett with a Suicide Dive, hit a Coffin Drop on Lethal for the win.
Rating: 2.5 stars.
Samoa Joe wins TNT Championship
Daniel Van Boom
In another surprise result at Full Gear, Wardlow lost his TNT Championship. Samoa Joe won the AEW TNT Championship in a three-way between Joe, Wardlow and Powerhouse Hobbs by making Hobbs submit. Wardlow was in the middle of a Powerbomb Symphony, planting Hobbs over and over again, when Joe blasted Wardlow with the TNT Championship, then locked a Coquina Clutch on Hobbs to make him submit.
This was a fun hoss match, a clash between three very meaty men. Because this is AEW, though, there was some impressive acrobatics thrown in. Wardlow hit a crazy springboard moonsault on both Hobbs and Joe, and Joe later smashed his opponents on the outside with his wicked Suicide Dive.
Wardlow got to shine in this match, and was very much presented as being a rightful winner robbed of his championship.
Rating: 3.5 stars. Once among AEW's most popular stars, Wardlow has gotten cold since beating MJF at Double or Nothing. Giving him something to chase in Samoa Joe's TNT Championship is a step in the right direction.
Saraya pins Britt Baker D.M.D.
Daniel Van Boom
I guess AEW is Saraya's house. In her AEW debut, Saraya defeated Britt Baker D.M.D., pinning her after two Cradle DDTs. Saraya was visibly emotional as the made her entrance. The crowd was excited to see Saraya return to the ring: Despite following the massive ROH Championship match, the crowd had plenty of energy for this bout.
Britt Baker worked over Saraya's neck, playing off Saraya's career being halted for five years after breaking her neck in 2016. It was a little confronting seeing Saraya get Curbstombed -- which Baker did twice in the match -- but made for compelling wrestling. Saraya showed some ring rust, see the sloppy Powerbomb above, but performed very well for someone who hasn't wrestled for five years.
Other than Baker attacking Saraya's neck in the opening section of the match, there wasn't much psychology here. Back and forth action that went on a touch too long: It felt like the ending game after the crowd's excitement had already crescendoed. Saraya's AEW finisher is her Cradle DDT, though the crowd was surprised when she successfully pinned Baker after planting her with two of them.
Rating: 3 stars. Saraya is a welcome addition to AEW's women's division. I look forward to a return bout once Saraya's ring rust has worn off. I was surprised to see Saraya beat Baker, the top women's star, so decisively, but at this point Baker is a made woman and doesn't lose clout from suffering the loss.
Chris Jericho retains ROH Championship
Daniel Van Boom
Chris Jericho is still Ring of Honor Champion, defeating Bryan Danielson, Claudio Castignoli and Sammy Guevara in an outstanding Fatal Fourway match.
The opening minutes were fast paced, with similar back-and-forth action to the Elite match earlier in the night. There was a fantastic spot where Claudio and Danielson both had Jericho in a Boston Crab, taking one leg each, and Guevara jumped off the top rope and caught both with a flying Cutter.
The title bout picked up a lot when Guevara stood up to Jericho, his boss in the Jericho Appreciation Society faction. Earlier in the match, Guevara hit a Spanish Fly on Danielson and Jericho followed up with a selfish Lionsault that hit both Danielson and Guevara. Minutes later, Jericho hit a Codebreaker on Claudio, leading to a pinfall that Guevara broke up. The two had a showdown that the crowd was super into, chanting "You fucked up!" at Guevara.
That led to a fantastic nearfall later in the match. Danielson and Claudio once again got Jericho in a dual submission, with Danielson putting on a Labelle Lock while Jericho was already in Claudio's Sharpshooter, and Guevara once again broke it up by blasting Claudio and Danielson with Superkicks. Guevara extended his hand to Jericho, helping Jericho get up, and they hugged in the ring.
Guevara then backstabbed Jericho, hitting him with a GTS and following up with a Shooting Star Press. Guevara got a two count that the crowd totally bought as a finish. Tremendous sequence.
Guevara then barraged Danielson with elbow strikes, only for Danielson to fight out and push Guevara into Claudio, who Gorilla Pressed Guevara and throwed him outside onto Jericho. Danielson hit a Busaiku Knee on Claudio for another great false finish.
The final few minutes of the match were excellent. Guevara popped up while Danielson and Claudio were on the turnbuckle, taking out Claudio with a Sammy Cutter and then leaping back to the turnbuckle to hit Danielson with a Spanish Fly. Danielson no sold the Spanish Fly, and put Guevara in a Labelle Lock. Jericho broke it up, saving the championship.
Jericho ended up on the outside, where Claudio threw him from barricade to barricade. Danielson tried a Hurricanrana on Claudio, but Claudio caught him in midair and planted him with a gnarly Neutralizer on the outside floor. Back in the ring, Claudio manhandled Guevara with a Giant Swing. Jericho interrupted with a jumping Judas Effect on Claudio, following it up with a second Judas Effect for the win.
Rating: 4.25 stars. The best match of the night.
Jade Cargill retains TBS Championship
Daniel Van Boom
Spare a thought for Jade Cargill, who seems to always have to follow The Elite's pay-per-view matches. She retained her TBS Championship, defeating Nyla Rose with a Jaded.
It was a mostly nothing match. The crowd was still recovering from the exhilerating trios match, but did pop when Cargill managed to hoist Rose up for a Powerbomb. There was also a nearfall when Rose hit Cargill's finisher, Jaded, on Cargill, which the crowd kind of bought.
Cargill won with a big Pump Kick and then an impressive Jaded on Nyla Rose. The undefeated streak continues.
Rating: 2 stars.
Death Triange defeat The Elite (!)
Daniel Van Boom
The Elite have a new entrance, coming out to Kansas' Wayward Sons. The New Jersey crowd was ecstatic to see Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks, and they kept the party going with a bananas Trios match against Pac, Penta and Fenix. In a big surprise, Death Triange retained their Trios Championships when Fenix rolled up Kenny Omega after striking him with a hammer.
Party is really the key word here: This was a party match. In the immortal words of the late Pat Patterson, it was a bunch of flippy shit. But it was fun! There's no point recapping it, as it was just back-and-forth big move after big move. Here some cool gifs:
The element of the hammer was the only thing resembling a story here: About three quarters through the match, Pac tossed the hammer to Fenix, yelling for him to use it against Omega. Fenix was above it though, and threw it back saying he wanted end it fair and square. Fast forward to the end, when Omega had Fenix on his shoulders for a One Winged Angel. Pac tossed Fenix the hammer, and this time Fenix used it, hitting Omega with it before rolling him up for the win.
Rating: 3.5 stars. Really fun, as far as Cirque du Soleil wrestling goes.
Jungle Boy defeats Luchasaurus
Daniel Van Boom
Full Gear's main show kicked off with "Jungle Boy" Jack Perry defeating Luchasaurus in a steel cage. It was an exciting match, even if it was chaotic and sloppy at times.
Jungle Boy started off with a nice flurry, including a sweet Springboard Dropkick from the top rope, but was quickly cut off by his much larger foe. A basic heat period ensued, with Luchasaurus slowing the pace down and beating Jungle Boy around the cage. Luchasaurus rammed Jungle Boy into the cage several times, leading to Jungle Boy getting bloodied up big time.
Christian Cage, who came to the ring with Luchasaurus, stole a cage key from a referee on the outside and attempted to get inside the cage. That led security to take him away from ringside, but allowed Luchasaurus to exit the cage, get chairs and a table from under the ring and slide them into the cage.
Luchasaurus setup a chair in the center of the ring and tried to Chokeslam Jungle Boy on it, but Jungle Boy slipped out, ran into the ropes, leapt off the chair and planted Luchasaurus with a Canadian Destroyer. The crowd popped big for this, but it only got a one count. Jungle Boy then did Christian's Killswitch finisher to Luchasaurus, which got a two count.
Jungle Boy setup a chair to try the Canadian Destroyer again, but Luchasaurus caught him and demolished him with a Chokeslam onto the chair -- another two count. Luchasaurus beat down Jungle Boy and yelled at him to stay down, but Jungle Boy stood up, wiped the blood of his face and barraged Luchasaurus with strikes, then landed a Piledriver for a two count. The crowd was very much into Jungle boy's fire.
Jungle Boy setup a table in the center of the ring and laid Luchasaurus out on it after applying a Sleeper. When Luchasaurus sat up on the table, Jungle Boy clocked him with a steel chair. Jungle Boy scaled the ropes, then the cage. He crashed through Luchasaurus and the table with a huge Elbow Drop, then made Luchasaurus tap out with his Snare Trap submission hold.
Rating: 3.75 stars. This ended up being a fun match. The crowd was relatively quiet early on, but the two performers ended up getting a huge response and a "this is awesome!" chant. However, it was sloppy at times. Christian Cage opening the cage early on defeats the whole point of a cage match, and Luchasaurus' weaknesses as a performer are harder to hide now that he's not in a tag team and is working a less acrobatic style.