The All Elite Wrestling Full Gear match card is STACKED! It is one of the more exciting line-ups of wrestling matches I have seen since, perhaps, Wrestle Kingdom 14. When you are being compared with the very pinnacle of wrestling that can only be a good thing. Most of these matches will be of exceptional in-ring quality, but a fan's enjoyment of a wrestling match is also affected by what proceeds the bell to bell action.
Today we analyse and rank the build to each of the Full Gear matches.
1. Kenny Omega vs Adam Page - AEW World Championship Number One Contendership
This is one of the best told stories in wrestling history as far as I am concerned. That will upset a lot of people, I'm sure people will cite McMahon/Rock and Cena/Punk. However I am talking about critical metrics not popularity although that seems like an odd thing to say...
Kenny Omega and Adam Page are telling a long-term story with grey areas shifting moral compasses and contemporary ideas out with the usual sphere of professional wrestling. Themes include alcoholism, anxiety, depression, friendship, egotism, legend and ambition.
Kenny Omega is the former ace of wrestling who has spent over 18 months out of the spotlight. In that time he has wrestled great matches and won the tag team titles. In his mind he raised up Hangman Page and established him as a major force in AEW. However his affection towards Page has waned and his formerly team-player attitude has become too burdensome.
At All Out Omega snapped, since he has tasked himself with regaining former glory and stature and heads into Full Gear with renewed ambition and perspective. The Cleaner is bubbling under the surface yet he is playing a subtler role.
Adam Page is bringing subtleness and intelligence to create a character almost unique in it's make-up. Self-doubt and avoidance/numbing of pain are vital cogs to his character. The real struggles of this generation are present on screen in a messy but beautifully crafted character full of nuance and intrigue.
A story reaching back to the early days of AEW and the NJPW version of the Kenny Omega character that has been present and at the front of the pack in AEW for months. This is also without a doubt the most anticipated match by fans.
2. Jon Moxley vs Eddie Kingston - AEW World Championship
Oh my days, what a promo. You know the one I'm talking about! Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston tore the house down on the go-home episode of Dynamite. Just imagine what it is going to be like when they can actually touch and they have the microphone as part of the I Quit stipulation.
Eddie Kingston brings the threat of violence like almost no other, whilst displaying a highly impressive level of vulnerability as he wears his real-life struggles on his sleeve. It seems highly unlikely that Kingston will win on Saturday however the strength of his performances in recent weeks has left room for doubt.
Jon Moxley remains a diamond of a performer. He is the modern day babyface champion, something that is incredible hard to do with today's intelligent, informed audience. His role in this feud is on par with Kingston. Moxley's performance, riling up Kingston on Dynamite was astonishing.
3. Chris Jericho vs MJF - MJF's Inner Circle Potential Membership
This match's build included THAT musical segment. It wasn't everybody's cup of tea, heck it wasn't really my cup of tea. But if you are arguing against its quality or impressiveness in execution I have to doubt your integrity. It will be replayed in highlight packages for years to come, expect to hear it referred to for as long.
That being said he following week became somewhat muddled and perhaps less than earned. MJF and Jericho's sudden match challenge was unexpected. But this week brought another about turn. MJF's excellent in-ring work and out of ring intensity rescued the build to this match and renewed anticipation for their Full Gear showdown.
This match is also an advertisement for the richness and interwoven nature of AEW's characters. We have Wardlow lurking on the sidelines, untrusting of MJF and almost an after-thought in this showdown, yet he has been making waves in recent weeks. Then we have Sammy Guevara, is he bluffing? Or does he really hate MJF? Also, what's up with Santana's new stoic demeanour?
4. Cody RHODES vs Darby Allin - TNT Championship
The rich history of this match over the history of AEW makes this an anticipated match more so than the immediate build does. That's not really a sleight, i'm not sure what more needed to be done. Darby Allin's character is well served by brooding from the rafters and Cody has been on screen as he is accustomed to doing.
This one stretches back to pre-Dynamite days with that draw at Full Gear in 2020. Add two Cody victories over the next 18 months with the most recent one being fortuitous to say the least. This one has Okada/Ospreay long-term story-telling feels to it.
5. Orange Cassidy vs John Silver
I feel like I'm doing something wrong or immature by ranking this one so highly. But John Silver is on the main card of Full Gear pretty much by popular demand. Everyone is very keen to see him in a one on one on a big stage and that is testament to AEW giving him opportunity to share his character and profiling him accordingly.
When you add the Orange Cassidy character to this, they have concocted a dark horse for a Pac/Cassidy type under-card match of the night!
6. Hikaru Shida vs Nyla Rose - AEW Women's Championship
What I am realising as I am writing this is that the very best of AEW booking is focused to the top of the card with the exception of one match. As we get to the bottom of this list, the compliments are fast running out. That being said, the talent in the matches down here do match them anticipatable if not well-built.
That is very much the case in the flagship match of AEW's much maligned Women's division. Rose and Shida had barely interacted since All Out before this week and most of the discourse came from Vickie Guererro. In fact, that very discourse was unnecessarily mocking of Shida's culture.
Shida is a talent that AEW need to do more with. This has been a disappointing use of her.
7. Serena Deeb vs Allysin Kay - NWA Women's Championship
This is going to be a good match. There hasn't been a build due to the lateness of Kay's availability. It's position of seventh is an indictment of the two matches below rather than anything about it specifically!
8. FTR vs Young Bucks - AEW World Tag-Team Championship
I am not trying to whip up controversy to pull eyeballs to this article. This one is here because there is an argument to be made this one would've been better without it's Full Gear build!
This match is one of wrestling's most wished for. It is between 2 of the top 5 tag teams in the world. It is for the most prestigious tag team championships in the business at this point in time. Add that all to the fact it is on a big stage, how on Earth can I justify it being so low.
There has been wonderful build to this match. Years ago and then again a month or two ago. But the most recent build has seriously weighted this one down. The contrast to original expectations of how great this feud would be is a huge part of this. But so many of us go into this match with much trepidation.
FTR's reign has not been as expected. They haven't had many if any matches on the level of their NXT run. Add that to the fact Matt Jackson is injured and the Buck's characters are a mess. This one could be a disaster. It is in fact only saved from bottom spot because the damage done here has been to a fictional story rather than the realities of the match in 9th position.
9. Matt Hardy vs Sammy Guevara - Elite Deletion
People really don't want to see this match after everything that has happened thus far. We wanted to move on from the chair shot, the fact this was kept in the spotlight despite Sammy Guevara's misdemeanour and then came the horror show that was their All Out match. It'll be filmed in advance and I'm sure they'll be so very careful after everything that has happened. But still!