Since their first show in Las Vegas on May 29, 2019, AEW has quickly been gaining buzz in the wrestling community. With a mix of seasoned and less-experienced wrestlers, the company has consistently offered up matches that are exciting and unexpected. Now, just two months after their live debut on TNT, AEW has pulled out all the stops to deliver a massively entertaining pay per view: AEW Full Gear 2019.
AEW has been hyping Full Gear for weeks, and for good reason. This is only the company’s second pay-per-view event, and its first since the start of their weekly live program on TNT, Dynamite. In the month since Dynamite began airing, AEW has had the opportunity to reach a much broader audience and draw in new viewers. Many of the matches aired on TNT have been pay-per-view worthy, but the underlying goal has always been to hype up Full Gear. With less scripting than other wrestling companies, the wrestlers are allowed to shine on the mic, injecting real emotion into their promos. Fans vocalized their support not only for the wrestlers for but AEW as a whole, and the excitement for the pay-per-view event was palpable. With all this buzz surrounding it, did Full Gear live up to such high expectations?
Britt Baker vs. Bea Priestley
The first match of the night took place halfway through the pre-show, with the Britt Baker vs. Bea Priestley buy-in match. There was some long-standing history between these two, as the hype video explained: the last time they squared off in the ring, Priestley stomped on the back of Baker’s head, giving her a concussion. Baker was, rightfully so, looking for retribution.
The match was fairly standard, giving each wrestler a moment to showcase what they do, but there wasn’t anything new or groundbreaking. Priestley dominated the first half of the match, wrapping Baker around one of the ring posts and focusing her attention on Baker’s low back. Baker is visibly in pain, but she rallies and manages to fight back. After a few failed attempts, Baker locks Priestley into the “lockjaw” and forces Priestley to submit.
RESULT: Britt Baker wins via submission
After her victory, Baker exists the ring, while Priestley remains to recover. Shortly thereafter, Awesome Kong’s music begins playing and she walks out to the ring, accompanied by Brandi Rhodes. Kong attacks Priestley, and Rhodes uses a knife to cut off a chunk of Priestley’s hair. As Kong has a collection of hair strung around her waist, it seems she is marking Priestley as her next opponent.
The appearance of Kong and Rhodes wasn’t surprising, as Rhodes had run a number of promos in the past few weeks setting up an alliance between her and Kong. Full Gear was the perfect place to progress that story and show the fans where it would be headed.
The Young Bucks vs. Santana and Ortiz
Next up was the tag match of The Young Bucks vs. Santana and Ortiz. The Young Bucks were clearly crowd favorites, eliciting the first pop of the night from the audience. There supporting The Young Bucks in the audience was Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, who just the previous week were beaten up by Santana and Ortiz on Dynamite.
The match was exciting and dynamic, with both tag teams showing off their strength and versatility. At one point Santana tried to tag in by tagging Ortiz’s boot, but the ref wouldn’t allow it. It was a brief moment, but a reminder to the fans that AEW is striving to follow the rules they set forth, and not allow an “anything goes” mentality.
One of the most impressive feats came later in the match when Matt Jackson of The Young Bucks hit Ortiz with three suplexes in a row. Then, when Santana tried to interfere, Jackson suplexed both wrestlers at the same time twice. It was a stunning show of strength and resulted in loud cheers from the audience.
Santana and Ortiz were ultimately victorious, pinning Nick Jackson after hitting him with the “street sweeper”. After the win, fellow Inner Circle member Sammy Guevara walked to the ring, seemingly live-streaming the victory. He presented Santana and Ortiz with a sock filled with baseballs, clearly intending on using it on The Young Bucks. Rock ‘n’ Roll Express rush into the ring to save their friends, resulting in a huge pop from the audience. Generally when old-school wrestlers make an appearance in the ring, the amount of actual wrestling is minimal, but not so for the Express. Ricky Morton jumped over the top rope to deliver a ”Canadian Destroyer” to Santana, before hitting a suicide dive outside of the ring. The crowd responded with chants of “You still got it” as Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson posed in the ring.
RESULT: Santana and Ortiz win via pin
“Hangman” Adam Page vs. PAC
“Hangman” Adam Page and PAC have been feuding on Dynamite for the last few weeks, culminating in Full Gear’s mid-card match. Page was energetic and on the offense to start, bouncing around the ring and slamming PAC with various hits. The match remained somewhat one-sided until the two left the ring, at which point PAC suplexed Page head-first onto a metal chair. Page struggled to regain his ground from there on. At one point PAC locked him in a sleeper hold, and it looked like that match was going to be called then and there. Page managed to collapse onto the rope as he was starting to lose consciousness, forcing a break. Rallying with what little strength he had left, Page hit PAC with the “Dead Eye” and got the pin. A solid, straightforward match.
RESULT: “Hangman” Adam Page wins via pin
Joey Janela vs. Shawn Spears (with Tully Blanchard)
Janela and Spears delivered a solid, though unremarkable, mid-card match. The pair had displayed a rivalry on a past week of Dynamite, but theirs was not a story AEW chose to showcase repeatedly before Full Gear. As a result, this match, while good, had less drive behind it. The wrestlers performed admirably, with a standout moment involving Spears exposing a turnbuckle link and using the tag rope to tie Janela’s hair to it. Janela struggled to escape and ultimately had to pull free of the knot, leaving behind a chunk of hair. The match ended with Blanchard interfering while the ref was distracted, allowing Spears to get the pin.
RESULT: Shawn Spears wins via pin
AEW World Tag Team Championship: SCU (c) vs. Lucha Bros vs. Private Party
The first AEW World Tag Team Chamions, SCU, were forced to defend their titles against not one, but two tag teams at Full Gear. The Lucha Bros lost to SCU in the final round of the tournament for the belts, and Private Party won their place in the match by defeating The Dark Order the previous week on Dynamite. These three-way tag matches are always a little cumbersome, especially when it’s only allowing two wrestlers in the ring at a time, but the teams made it work. Ray Fenix had a few especially standout moments, displaying exceptional athleticism as he utilized the ropes creatively, including jumping off the top rope to take out every other wrestler, including his own teammate. Despite the best attempts by Lucha Bros and Private Party, SCU pinned Ray Fenix of LB and SCU retains with a pin over Isaiah Cassidy.
RESULT: SCU retains titles via pin
Post-match, the Lucha Bros bring a metal chair into the ring, presumably to use it against SCU. The lights of the arena go out momentarily, and when they come back on, a second Pentagón Jr. is standing in the ring. Both men stare one another down, before the interloper attacks Pentagón Jr. He removes his mask, revealing Christopher Daniels, who had been previously injured by the Lucha Bros.
AEW Women’s World Championship: Riho (c) vs. Emi Sakura
The Women’s World Championship match was up next, featuring two competitors with a long history together. The announcers reminded the audience throughout the match that Riho and Sakura have known each other for thirteen years. Riho has been wrestling since she was nine years old, and Sakura was her teacher in Japan. The veteran Sakura was determined to defeat Riho, and repeatedly slammed into her or put her in brutal holds. It’s almost painful to watch, for at only 98 lbs, Riho appears so small that a single bump could break her. She’s much stronger than she looks, and utilizes her speed to her advantage. Despite numerous attempts by Sakura to pin Riho, Riho rallies enough to get the pin over Sakura, to retain the title. There were no interference or post-match challenges, so as of now there is no indication of who Riho’s next opponent for the title might be.
RESULT: Riho retains via pin
AEW Men’s World Championship: Chris Jericho (c) vs. Cody
It’s always a little surprising to see the World Championship title not be the last match of the night, but given that the final match is an unsanctioned “Lights Out” match, it seemed fitting. The crowd seemed ready for the match, cheering loudly for Cody and booing Jericho. The announcers informed the audience that it was Jericho’s 49th birthday. Jericho flipped off the crowd, and they responded with a resounding chant of “Fuck your birthday”. It’s the type of heel heat few are able to generate, yet Jericho seems to do so with ease.
The match began and quickly started turning in Jericho’s favor. Early on, Cody attempts to hit Jericho by jumping through the ropes. He misses his mark and hits his head on the metal ramp, resulting in a nasty cut and pretty substantial bleeding from his forehead. Cody struggled from that point forward, blood running down his face for most of the match.
Jericho maintained the upper hand for most of the match. Cody got in a few hits here and there, but Jericho was ultimately in control. Jericho was continuing his assault on a nearly unconscious Cody when Maxwell Jacob Friedman, who had accompanied Cody to the ring, literally threw in the towel, forfeiting the match on Cody’s behalf.
RESULT: Chris Jericho wins via forfeit
MJF showed concern for Cody after the match, seemingly forfeiting out of fear for his friend and mentor’s health. This quickly changed when MJF hit Cody with a blow, turning heel. This ending likely served two purposes: it gives Cody a new rival to square off against, as well as creating a loophole around Cody’s stipulation that if he lost, he would never go after the title belt again. He can now argue that he didn’t lose, but that the match was thrown by his backstabbing ally. I did not expect Jericho to lose the title, nor did I expect Cody to abide by the stipulation he set for the match should he lose. The end-result provided a satisfying way for Cody to continue his quest for the championship while still keeping the title on Jericho, a man charismatic and seasoned enough to carry the title on his shoulders as well as to be the face of the company.
Unsanctioned Lights Out Match: Jon Moxley vs. Kenny Omega
For the final match of the evening, the ref makes the announcement that it will be unsanctioned. The lights are dimmed, and when they come back up, everything that happens is out of AEW’s control. Jon Moxley and Kenny Omega have been teasing this match since Dynamite first aired on TNT, and in that month have elicited the most-hyped match of the pay-per-view. It began as a standard fight, but that wouldn’t last long. This was an unsanctioned match: everybody was waiting for weapons to come out and extreme hits to be made.
Moxley and Omega did not disappoint. Their fight quickly left the ring and spilled out into the arena. When they finally made it back to the ring, a trash can was brought into the ring.This would prove to be one of the tamest weapons used though, as soon the pair bring out the barbed wire bat and broom. Both had been teased repeatedly on Dynamite, but here they were finally put to use. Moxley hit Omega across the back repeatedly with the bat. Not much later, Omega retaliates with the broom, resulting in both men bleeding from their necks and backs. Moxley was especially bloody, with streams of blood running down both shoulders.
The match continued with more brutality, with the men using a board of mouse traps, a metal chain, shards of glass, and even an ice pick to inflict the most possible damage on one another. It was cringe-inducing, to say the least. The most brutal hit of the night though came later, when Omega had a bed of barbed wired brought out. He attempted to throw Moxley onto it, but Moxley countered and suplexed Omega onto it. Unfortunately Moxley fell onto it as well. Both men were entangled in the barbed wire, and it took numerous people’s assistance to get them free.
Somehow the match continued, and as the men made their way back to the ring, Moxley cut the ties holding the canvas mat to the ring, and pulled up both the canvas and the padding, exposing the bare wood underneath. Moxley slammed Omega into it repeatedly, eventually pinning Omega for the win.
RESULT: Moxley wins via pin (win does not count towards his win/loss record)
AEW’s Full Gear was an exciting, well-paced pay-per-view. It showcased some of the company’s best talent without shoe-horning in everybody on the roster. The wrestlers were all given a moment to display their abilities, and nearly all of the storylines lead into something new, undoubtedly to get people interested in tuning into Dynamite to find out what happens next. In a world where six-plus hour pay-per-views have become common, Full Gear’s modest three and a half hour run time felt concise and structured. AEW is fairly new to the wrestling scene, but its combination of seasoned veterans and talented upstarts, along with what can only be described as insightful booking, has undoubtedly lead to the start of one of wrestling’s most exciting new ventures.