“We’re proud of you” – The Graphics Team on Adam Page’s nameplate as he made his entrance to the ring for the biggest match of his career encapsulated the importance of AEW’s Full Gear.
Full Gear started as a tongue-in-cheek joke with Cody Rhodes yelling at Adam Page on The Elite’s YouTube show, BTE. 2 years later, it all came full circle with Adam Page ending Kenny Omega’s near year-long reign as AEW World Champion.
While Jericho and Moxley held the title before Omega’s memorable run, it was always about Adam Page.
While some promoters would have prolonged the moment to squeeze more money out of the chase, Full Gear was Adam Page’s time to shine. Page wasn’t just another wrestler booked to become world champion. He was the litmus test to determine whether AEW can tell an engaging story with the right protagonist beyond the already stacked marquee.
Adam Page was the choice, and instead of hot shoting the belt on him from the jump, AEW went in the opposite direction.
Tony Kahn presented an Adam Page, who is talented by flawed. Tough but vulnerable. Charismatic but unsure of himself when it matters most. That’s a story everyone can relate to. Especially when it involves someone you can’t help but root for despite Page’s perceived alcoholism and poor choices.
In many ways, AEW went all-in on Adam Page, and the payoff was awe-inspiring. While Page battled one of his former friends in Omega in the ring, he had to contend with the possibility of dealing with former friends outside of the ring in The Young Bucks.
Page’s apology to Matt and Nick Jackson for days gone by came with a warning of ruin should the Bucks interfere. Matt and Nick came to ringside, looking as if they were going to cost Page the title. However, a simple head nod from Matt Jackson spoke more than any carefully crafted promo could convey.
Page hit two Buck Shot Lariats to beat Omega. The story didn’t end there as a perceived babyface turn for the Bucks was dashed as they helped Omega back to the locker room. At that moment, it became clear. It went beyond turning heel or babyface. The Bucks wanted their friend back and expressed that by staying out of it and letting the best man win.
Tony Kahn’s long game included the unexpected arrival of several superstars that could have eclipsed Adam Page’s rise to stardom. However, it didn’t, which speaks to the level of performer Page is night in and night out.
The investment paid off. An incredible story was told with the right person. Everyone in AEW should be proud of Adam Page.
Eddie Kingston vs. CM Punk was a tale of two cities within the fandom. While diehard Punk fans stood by their guy, Kingston’s promo on Rampage resonated on a level rarely seen in modern wrestling.
Calling out Punk for looking down on him all those years ago in independent wrestling locker rooms is something Kingston never forgot. He used that emotion to cut a promo about his trials and tribulations.
The promo was the talk of the town.
Days later, Eddie Kingston’s article in the Player’s Tribune about his struggles with depression and anxiety gave us a raw look at the “Mad King.” It signaled that his words on television were all too real, and perhaps more importantly, CM Punk was his next tribulation.
Suddenly, the overwhelming support for CM Punk became split or even slightly in Kingston’s favor. The story of Punk looking down on Kingston while spearheading others to do the same is the anthesis of the Phil Brooks, who publicly spoke against WWE’s bully culture.
To those who backed Kingston, CM Punk was a liar. Someone chalked up Kingston’s emotional ramblings to sour grapes, while others recognized the earnest nature of his words all too well. The match exuded pain and loathing as one looked to teach a lesson while the other battled for respect.
Before the match began, Kingston drilled Punk with a spinning back fist, nearly knocking him out. Kingston laughed as the referee checked on Punk and was met with the retort of the middle finger.
The bell rang, and a divided Target Center fervently cheered both men. Punk fought back from the jaws of a bloody defeat while Kingston battled hard and dirty, living up to his promise that he wasn’t looking to win but to hurt Punk.
As the match progressed, Punk gained control and tapped into his heel persona a bit by delivering the all too familiar John Cena-Esque five moves of doom. Punk followed it up by hitting the three amigos, a tribute to Eddie Guerrero.
Excellent heat followed by a loving tribute was quite the emotional roller-coaster.
Kingston came back with strikes and suplexes. Then, both wrestlers channeled their inner Frye/Takayama and battered each other in the center of the ring. Kingston got a little too cocky, went for the GTS, but Punk saw it coming and hit him with it instead. Punk dodged a back fist from Kingston and delivered another GTS for the three count.
The only match to go under 15 minutes was an absolute war as the small things in the bout’s final moments were a pièce de resistance of storytelling. Punk was too worn to finish Kingston with the first GTS.
The desperation Punk showed as he ducked the same spinning back fist that nearly finished him before the match began was quick but beautiful selling. Punk hitting the second GTS and conjuring all the strength he could muster for the pin was the cherry on top.
Punk offered Kingston his hand after the match. Kingston ignored him, leaving the ring to a chorus of boos. It served as a great piece of storytelling that condemns Kingston’s actions while keeping him as a babyface because we’ve all been there.
Man, did this match deliver big time!
You will not find a better three-match start to a pay-per-view than Darby/MJF, FTR/Lucha Bros, and Danielson/Miro. Three different matches that told three different and distinct stories. Jungle Boy’s journey from hesitation to execution was brilliant as he nailed Matt Jackson with a Con-Chair-To to score the win for his team.
Britt Baker pinned Tay Conti in a match that continues to show not only why Baker is one of the best overall performers in AEW but how badly WWE missed the boat with Conti.
The Minnesota Street Fight with the Inner Circle vs. Men of the Year, and American Top Team was a bloated and sloppy affair. They were some fun moments, and the Minnesota-themed weapons (I did not know the toaster was invented in the twin cities) were a nice touch.
However, there was too much going on and not enough focus on hiding the inexperience of former UFC Champions Junior Dos Santos and Andrei Arlovski. In several instances, the timing was off, and you could hear Jericho constantly calling spots throughout the match.
Sammy Guevara’s Swanton Bomb off the ladder to the floor was a cool moment, but why was referee Aubrey Edwards holding the ladder in place for Guevara? Some won’t care, while others will state safety first.
While the latter is easy to understand, Jericho was already holding the ladder. Why is the one authority figure who is supposed to be impartial helping one of the teams? Again, it’s 2021, and wrestling fans let a lot slide these days.
Jay Lethal is officially All Elite and left ROH before the ship completely sank and was brought out as the promotion’s newest signing. He will debut on Dynamite this Wednesday. Lethal needed a change of scenery for quite some time. Now, he has it.
Some things felt rushed throughout the show. In the co-main event, Jericho is heard yelling, “Come on, we got to go,” before the finish. The bell rang for the Kenny Omega/Adam Page main event at 11:31 pm.
Since pay-per-view events must be off the air with two minutes to spare (11:58 pm), 27 minutes for the main event to get their stuff in with storylines and post-match celebration doesn’t seem like a long time when talking about an artist such as Kenny Omega. However, they made it work with a great match and even better storytelling.
Rhodes & Pac vs. Black & El Idolo felt like a TV match instead of a pay-per-view bout. There was nothing wrong with the match, but the stakes weren’t as important as everything else on the card. One less match would have given the entire card more room to breathe.
If All Out was a 10, Full Gear was a 9. AEW knocked it out of the park with two tremendous pay per views events, back-to-back. Some have said Fuller Gear tops All Out, and I wouldn’t argue that point. Each show presented different themes exceptionally well. One was about new arrivals, while the latter was about climatic battles coming full circle.
While the Minneapolis Street Fight was the show’s low point, it didn’t detract from the event as a whole. Calling something a thrill ride is a cliché when singing the praises of a show; however, it appley applies to AEW’s efforts on Saturday for a stellar pro wrestling event.