Winners, Live Grades, Reaction and Highlights

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AEW staged its penultimate pay-per-view of 2023 Saturday night with Full Gear, headlined by world champion MJF defending against “Switchblade” Jay White.

That blockbuster main event capped off a show that saw every major title in the promotion at stake, the culmination of several prominent feuds, and the reveal of a new signing:

Who signed on the dotted line, which championships changed hands and was MJF able to overcome all of the recent adversity he has encountered by retaining his title?

Find out with this recap of Full Gear, complete with grades and analysis for each of the night’s matches.

Announced in advance of Saturday’s show were:

  • AEW World Championship: MJF (c) vs. Jay White
  • International Championship: Orange Cassidy (c) vs. Jon Moxley
  • AEW Tag Team Championship Ladder Match: FTR vs. La Facción Ingobernable vs. Kings of the Black Throne vs. Big Bill and Ricky Starks (c)
  • AEW Women’s World Championship: Hikaru Shida (c) vs. “Timeless” Toni Storm
  • TBS Championship: Kris Statlander (c) vs. Skye Blue vs. Julia Hart
  • Texas Death match: “Hangman” Adam Page vs. Swerve Strickland
  • Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho vs. The Young Bucks
  • Adam Copeland, Darby Allin and Sting vs. Christian Cage, Luchasaurus, and Nick Wayne
  • Ring of Honor World Championship: Eddie Kingston (c) vs. Jay Lethal (Zero Hour)
  • Ring of Honor World Tag Team Championship: MJF and Samoa Joe (c) vs. The Gunns (Zero Hour)
  • Claudio Castagnoli vs. Buddy Murphy (Zero Hour)
Credit: All Elite Wrestling

Eddie Kingston defended the Ring of Honor World Championship against Jay Lethal to kick off the evening’s Zero Hour pre-show.

With Stokeley Hathaway watching from the commentary position, Jeff Jarrett, Satnam Singh, Karen Jarrett, and Sonjay Dutt all made their presence felt at ringside, with no repercussions.

Lethal controlled the pace and dominated the action, but the gritty Kingston never gave up, fighting his way back into the bout. Just as it looked as though Jeff Jarrett’s trademark guitar would play a factor into the closing moments of the contest, Ortiz appeared and blasted Dutt with it.

The distraction allowed Kingston to rock Lethal with a back fist and score the successful title defense.

It was a good enough match to start the show, with too much attention paid to those at ringside, Hathaway’s intensifying vendetta against the champion on commentary, and Ortiz reuniting with his friend following the clash.

Kingston has earned better than to have his ROH title reign wasted in the opening match of kickoff shows in front of half-empty arenas, too.


Kingston defeated Lethal to retain



Top Moments and Takeaways

  • “What can I do?” Stokeley Hathaway of the Ring of Honor Board of Directors said when pressed by Tony Schiavone about allowing interference from Lethal’s teammates at ringside.
  • Ortiz appeared, grabbed hold of Jarrett’s guitar, and blasted Dutt with it. He appeared to reunite with Kingston following the match.
  • Kingston commandeering a live mic is always a fun experience, regardless of the setting. He did so here after his win. 
Credit: All Elite Wrestling

If you take two wrestlers the caliber of The House of Black’s Buddy Matthews and Blackpool Combat Club’s Claudio Castagnoli and put them in the ring with no frills or outside interference, you are setting your show up for some damn fine in-ring action.

Neither man disappointed Saturday night, delivering a good, hard-hitting match that saw both men bruised and welted but in which Castagnoli ultimately won with the Sharpshooter.

The match did nothing to further any ill will between the BCC and The House of Black, but it did provide fans a preview of things to come later on the main show with great in-ring action and a quality win for Castagnoli, even if Matthews could have used the victory more.


Castagnoli defeated Matthews



Top Moments and Takeaways

  • “We want Mami” chants are not exactly what you hope for when a guy as talented as Buddy Matthews is in the ring. That is an indictment on the creative for not giving fans a reason to care about Matthews enough outside of his spot in House of Black.
  • Matthews used a jackhammer. The mystery signing is definitely Goldberg.
  • The physicality of the match was apparent on Castagnoli, who sported cuts and scrapes on the right side of his head and left shoulder.
Credit: All Elite Wrestling

AEW World Champion MJF wanted anything to do with teaming with Samoa Joe to defend the Ring of Honor World Tag Team Championship against The Gunns Saturday night and it was apparent on numerous occasions throughout the match.

He did not want to tag Joe, even turned his back on him at one point, but ultimately realized he would need the support of The Destroyer if he wanted to retain the titles.

Joe provided just that, rolling late in the match as he took the fight to the challengers. When Austin and Colten Gunn got the best of him, Adam Cole made a surprise appearance that provided a distraction and allowed Joe to score the win with a Coquina Clutch.

After the match, the heels beat down MJF and destroyed his knee with a steel chair, creating doubt about his ability to defend the AEW World Championship against “Switchblade” Jay White later in the night and providing a cliffhanger at the conclusion of the Zero Hour show.

A solid match, strong storytelling, and a great angle helped make this the best part of the kickoff show.


MJF and Samoa Joe defeated The Gunns to retain the titles



Top Moments and Takeaways

  • MJF wore a purple and yellow robe to the ring with “365” written across its back. Excalibur called him out for being presumptuous considering his 365th day as world champion is not until tomorrow and he still has a main event against Jay White slated for later in the show.
  • “I don’t need your help,” MJF told Joe, then turned his back on the former ROH TV champion as he unloaded on Austin Gunn.
  • Cole’s unexpected appearance drew a monster pop, which should squash any concerns that he would somehow lose popularity or momentum due to his injury.
Credit: All Elite Wrestling

Sting’s final match in the state of California kicked off Full Gear and saw him partner with Darby Allin and “Rated R Superstar” Adam Copeland to defeat TNT Champion Christian Cage, Luchasaurus, and Nick Wayne in trios action.

The match featured a jaw-dropping bump from Allin and both character work and spectacle befitting the legendary competitors at play in this match. Was it a great match? Not by any stretch of the imagination, even less so by the time Ric Flair got involved late.

Still, it was a fun opener with considerable energy and an appropriate finish as the cowardly Cage left his teammates behind to fight his battle for him. It did not go so well and now, the question becomes whether the feud between these two sides will continue.


Copeland, Allin, and Sting defeated Cage, Luchasaurus, and Wayne



Top Moments and Takeaways

  • A children’s choir sang the heel team to the ring because Christian Cage is for the kids.
  • It should not be lost on anyone that Wayne is in the ring with three legitimate Hall of Famers. What a time for that young competitor. 
  • Allin took a sickening spill over the rope, bumping the apron on the way down as Steve-O of Jackass fame watched at ringside.
  • Luchasaurus looked strong as he weathered a three-on-one attack and stood tall.
  • Cage took off through the crowd to avoid further beating, leaving his teammates to suffer the loss.
Credit: All Elite Wrestling

AEW International Champion Orange Cassidy beat Jon Moxley as definitively as anyone has to this point in the almost five-year history of the company, retaining his title and leaving no doubt as to who the better man is.

Freshley Squeezed absorbed everything Moxley threw at him, bloodied his challenger, and rocked him with six Orange Punches before pinning him following Beach Break.

It was an appropriate conclusion to a story that has gone on for months and a defining moment in the career of Cassidy.

Moxley does not lose like this. He is so rarely on the losing side of any match, and definitely not this definitively, that it means more. It is more memorable. Above all, it is a sign of respect from the former world champion to Cassidy that he would be willing to put him over to that extent.

A big moment for Cassidy, a strong match with some great storytelling, and a red-hot crowd helped make this a big win for this show.


Cassidy pinned Moxley to retain the title



Top Moments and Takeaways

  • Tony Schiavone revealed in a pre-match promo segment that MJF is injured and will be unable to defend the AEW World Championship later tonight. Adam Cole interrupted and volunteered to do so in his place. This is despite being injured and having undergone surgery recently. The booking makes no sense, no matter what big angle AEW has planned for the main event segment. A major miss.
  • Cassidy and Moxley, on paper, should not have the in-ring chemistry they do. 
  • Oh, look, Moxley’s bleeding. At least it makes sense within the story’s context, as he busted Cassidy open in September at All Out and Freshley Squeezed fired up and returned the favor here.
  • “Where’s the turnbuckle pad?!” Bryce Remsburg could be overheard asking, a rare referee who is not completely unaware of his surroundings inside a pro wrestling ring. 
Credit: All Elite Wrestling

“Timeless” Toni Storm regained the AEW Women’s World Championship, defeating Hikaru Shida in a shenanigans-filled match that never really lived up to the promise of the talent involved.

There was incessant interference from Storm’s butler, Luther, and cheating from the challenger. The finish came when she stuffed a metal tray in the back of her tights and delivered a running hip attack in the corner,

Despite the questionable quality of the match itself, there is no denying what this meant for the character that Storm has created. It was the coronation of the Timeless one and the appearance of Mariah May at the conclusion of the bout continued to plant the seeds of the obsessed fan that will play out in the coming months.

Given how many character incarnations she has been through since arriving in AEW, it is rewarding to see Storm excel, create something wholly different than anything else in the company, and get it over to the point that a championship victory could not be denied.


Storm defeated Shida to win the title



Top Moments and Takeaways

  • Storm introduced a shoe and, after referee Aubrey Edwards caught her, produced another and rocked Shida with it for a two-count.
  • Luther stopped Shida from using her kendo stick on Storm, then paid for it in the form of a low blow and a few shots about the body. 
  • “That thing is still sticking out the back of her britches,” Taz astutely pointed out but Edwards somehow missed on two different occasions in the closing moments of the match.
  • Mariah May joined Storm in the ring for the post-match celebration, bringing her flowers.
Credit: All Elite Wrestling

Ricky Starks and Big Bill defended their AEW World Tag Team Championship against FTR’s Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler, House of Black’s Malakai Black and Brody King, and La Faccion Ingobernables’ Rush and Dralistico in a 4-Way Ladder Match.

Some people enjoy the Fast and The Furious franchise because it is loud, obnoxious, and features jaw-dropping action, and eye-catching car crashes.

This was the equivalent of that film series.

There was little to no story thread, just moves, high spots, big bumps, and ladder climbs before Starks was able to rock Wheeler with one of the belts, knocking him to the mat and allowing Absolute to secure the successful title defense.

The comparison to the Fast franchise is not intended to be an insult. It is extremely successful and has a huge fan base. That does not mean it is for everyone, though.

The effort was there and everyone involved worked extremely hard. When there is no thread holding it together, though, it’s more of the same ladder stuff we see across different promotions.

At least the right team went over here. As great as FTR is, and as refreshing as LFI or The House of Black would have been as champs, Starks and Big Bill still feels like a team that has more to accomplish.


Starks and Big Bill defeated LFI, FTR, and The House of Black to retain



Top Moments and Takeaways

  • The commentary team doubled down on the reason for Starks and Big Bill choosing the ladder match stipulation being the height of the latter like it was a great explanation in the first place.
  • Starks steals the spotlight every time he is on camera. Whether it is in AEW or elsewhere, he is going to be a guy who headlines pay-per-views and makes boatloads of money for his employer.
  • Some of the ladder bumps in this one were wicked, even as they looked relatively tame. 
  • King delivered a Gonzo Bomb to Dralistico on a ladder that did not give at ringside.
Credit: All Elite Wrestling

The house did not always win Saturday night, but Julia Hart held up her end of the deal, bringing gold to The House of Black by defeating Skye Blue and Kris Statlander in a three-way match to win the TBS Championship.

The match, better than expected thanks to some solid timing and a few really clever spots, it saw Hart and Blue putting aside their differences on more than one occasion to take down Statlander.

The champion continued to fight and at one point, obliterated Blue with Saturday Night Fever. An alert Hart leveled Statlander, pinned her rival, and won her first title.

Hart, like Storm a few matches earlier, has spent considerable time building momentum for herself. After showing considerable improvement during this recent push, she had her efforts repaid in the form of a title triumph.

There is an argument to be made that Blue should not have eaten the pin given the fact that she is in the midst of a character transformation, but the finish protected Statlander, who is likely to be the first challenger for Hart in a rematch scenario.


Hart defeated Statlander and Blue to win the title



Top Moments and Takeaways

  • Blue entered the arena to new theme music, with a new look, completing the transition from the more generic babyface persona to this darker version of herself, brought about by the mist attack by Hart two months earlier.
  • Hart nearly won the title off a moonsault but Statlander just narrowly broke up the pinfall, then drove her challenger to the arena floor with a powerslam.
  • The finish was really well executed, with great timing. 
Credit: All Elite Wrestling

Will Ospreay is All Elite.

The Aerial Assassin was revealed as the latest signee to AEW, with the understanding that he will not be coming in until he finishes up with New Japan Pro-Wrestling. He did challenge Tony Khan to find him top opponents, especially for Wembley Stadium next August.

It’s a big addition to the roster in that it gives the company another legitimate main eventer. Whether it lives up to the hype that only intensified (by AEW’s own doing) is the real question.

Moments later, Hangman Page and Swerve Strickland settled their intensely personal rivalry in a Texas Death Match.

What ensued was one of the most violent, grizzly, graphic matches in company history.

It fit the story in that Page was vengeful, looking to punish Strickland for invading his home and threatening his family. The crowd cringed every time the cameras focused on the crimson-masked faces of the competitors, reacted for every high spot, and chanted “this is awesome,” even if it was not.

Adrenaline fueled urgent bursts of energy, Brian Cage interfered but paid for it, and Page finally got a measure of revenge on Prince Nana by driving him through a table. It was Strickland’s use of a cinder block and steel chain that ultimately earned him the hard-fought victory.

The match developed into a great hardcore match, but misses an “A+” grade because of the use of the staple gun early on that, in hindsight, was totally unnecessary and needlessly cringe-worthy.

The same story could have been told without crossing the line into tastelessness and the opening minutes flirted with it.

On a positive note, Strickland is a made man now. Fans were already totally behind him here and even more so after the victory. This was his “Austin at WrestleMania 13” moment and he passed with flying colors. He is a future world champion with this company.


Strickland defeated Page



Top Moments and Takeaways

  • There is a fine line between hardcore wrestling and garbage wrestling and there are way too many instances of this company stepping right over it. To the point that it stops being entertaining. The early moments of this match, with the stapling and the excessive blood loss from Strickland, reached that point. 
  • “This is completely unnecessary,” Excalibur said, quoting the late Tracy Smothers. He was not wrong.
  • Having Cage and Nana directly factor into the finish protected Page from being viewed as an outright loser for the second show in a row. 
Credit: All Elite Wrestling

The Golden Jets’ Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega battled The Young Bucks in a match set up by the latter’s mounting frustration with their friend’s partnership with The Ocho.

There was more than hard feelings and bragging rights at stake, though, as a win for the Jets meant they would receive the Bucks’ AEW tag title opportunity.

Though it appeared as though Omega might choose friendship over championship aspirations, he proved loyal to Jericho, rocking Matt Jackson with a V-Trigger. The action would intensify from there, culminating with a One-Winged Angel by Omega to Matt for the win.

After the match, the infuriated hometown heroes, having lost a championship opportunity and seen their friendship take another hit, through a fit by destroying the ringside area and refusing a sign of respect from Omega.

From a logic standpoint, the Bucks could have utilized their title opportunity at any point and held onto it long enough to lose it. That’s their fault and, ultimately, makes them look silly.

Beyond that, the match struggled to get the crowd back after the preceding match, but did have them invested late, once the competitors went through their action-heavy finishing sequence.

The post-match firmly established the Bucks as heels and it will now be interesting to see how they respond moving forward. Might an alliance with Don Callis be on the horizon?


Jericho and Omega defeated The Bucks



Top Moments and Takeaways

  • Interestingly, Callis joined the commentary team for this match, despite his “family” losing Wednesday’s Street Fight on Dynamite. Might it suggest a major storyline development in this one? 
  • “Have you had a conversation with the Young Bucks this week?” Taz asked Callis. “No, I have not,” the most hated man in AEW replied, because he is totally trustworthy and has never told a lie. 
  • The Bucks rocking Kobes was a nice nod to continuity, seeing as how the show was in Los Angeles. 
  • The crowd struggled real hard to get into this one after the last match. Not just because of all that went into Page-Strickland, but also because this story just is not hitting home. 
  • Jericho sold the damage done to his right arm by the Bucks by hammering Matt Jackson with left-handed punches. 
  • “Looking for five stars with this one,” McGuinness said as the Bucks set up for the Meltzer Driver. Nigel knows what’s up. 
Credit: All Elite Wrestling

Due to injury, MJF was unable to compete in the main event and defend his AEW World Championship against Jay White so his best friend, Adam Cole, stepped up and competed in his absence despite also being injured and having recently undergone surgery on his ankle.

Booker of the Year stuff right there.

MJF drove back into the arena, ala “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in a Vince Russo fever dream, and hit the ring to defend his title.

What ensued was a match that did not live up to the efforts of the men involved. Both MJF and White worked hard, but the lack of consistency throughout made it one of the more lackluster in company history.

The entire story was based around an injured leg that was only injured when it needed to be and not when there was a high spot to execute. There was a referee bump, incessant cheating late, and Superman booking of the main event babyface the likes of which would make John Cena proud.

Add to that the fact that White looks like the biggest loser on the planet after failing to beat a one-legged champion, even with his hobbled best friend at ringside, and you have a main event that was a jumbled mess.

A main event that never needed the overbooking that started with the injury angle earlier in the night and devolved into the creative mess it ultimately became.

Is MJF a great professional wrestler? Absolutely. Does he need hopelessly overbooked messes like this to stay over with fans? No. What he does need is to avoid the same booking tropes that turned fans against the resilient babyfaces in WWE over the years and more importantly, quality heels to work with.

White no longer is, mostly because he failed to overcome a champion who competed on one leg for most of the match, despite using a championship belt to his advantage and having a chance to do the same with the Dynamite Diamond Ring.

It was horrendous booking of White, an unnecessarily complicated show-long storyline, an illogical booking decision to allow Cole into the mix in the first place, and a inconsistent selling from a student of the game that is usually way better with stuff like that.

On a positive note, the crowd was hot, so there’s that. Too much of that schlock booking, though, will eventually turn them on it.


MJF defeated Jay White to retain



Top Moments and Takeaways

  • The lack of logic surrounding the booking of this feud throughout the course of this show has been mind-blowing. 
  • Cole’s presence at ringside is hanging over this one like a dark cloud.
  • Why is MJF jumping off the top rope with an elbow drop to the floor on White when he’s nursing a knee injury? It’s par for the course as far as making sense, but still an absurd addition to this ridiculously overbooked match.

AEW Full Gear had a really strong middle portion, with great work from young stars in the women’s division, a solid ladder match and, despite the grossness of its early portion, a Texas Deathmatch that made a star of Swerve Strickland.

The opening trios match featured plenty of current and future Hall of Famers but never reached the quality that most AEW PPV openers are synonymous with, and the last two matches featured gaps within the logic of the creative that ultimately dragged the overall quality down.

MJF remaining a focal point is the right call, but him and Jay White deserved better than whatever mess they were thrust into Saturday.

The inconsistency within the creative is beginning to show itself more than at any other point in AEW history. Tony Khan and the rest of his team must step back and work to shore things up or there will be more nights like this.

Was Full Gear a bad show? Not by any mreans.

Was it one that never lived up to the potential of its card? Yes.

A good show, but not a great one, with a thud of a conclusion.

Grade: B-

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