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AEW Full Gear 2023 preview and predictions

It’s time once again to forensically analyze guys – and girls – fighting in tight shorts.

Quick reminder, there are three categories: star quality, match quality, build.  For each we’ll assign a score out of 10.  To get a total score with which to rank the matches.

Star quality is based on fan appeal.  If scores are even, matches’ll be ranked according to personal preference.  Otherwise this is supposed to be at least semi-objective.

We’ll then predict the winner(s) of each contest. 

Without further ado.

Jon Moxley vs Orange Cassidy (International Title)

Star quality: 8

Two of the most popular babyfaces in the company, which might lead one to wonder why the company keeps them feuding with one another.

Match quality: 9

They had themselves a hell of a match at All Out.  So this should be up there among the best things on the card.  Yes, there’s the whole babyface vs babyface thing but these are two guys the audience has a connection with.  So they should be invested in the match.  Plus the dude who goes round grating people’s heads open will obviously play heel anyway.

Build: 6

AEW haven’t had too much time to overthink (read: ruin) this by allowing it to lag or get too fancy.

Moxley beat Orange for the belt, lost it to Fenix and in Moxley’s mind Cassidy disrespected him by swooping in and stealing his property while he was injured.  He’s pissed off, told us why he’s pissed off and told us what he’s going to do about it: ‘beat… the everloving piss out of you’.

While Cassidy – far from disrespecting the former champ – hasn’t been able to think about anything else since September.  To truly feel he’s earned his title, ‘I need to beat you, I have to beat you in order to be the International Champion that I know I am.  I will beat you’.

Okay, they’re both babyfaces and the build’s been a little blunt, but we’ve got a title, a grudge and both guys might win.  All helped by strong promo work.

Wrestling doesn’t have to be complicated.

Overall Score: 23

Bringing us to the toughest prediction of the entire show.  Partly because it’s a title meant to signal someone’s on the way up.  And both guys are above that.  Partly because going back to Moxley would feel like simply re-setting things and pretending two months never happened.  Partly because it feels like Cassidy’s done everything he can as champion.

The story is that Cassidy needs to win to validate himself as champ; Moxley’s the only thing he wasn’t able to overcome.  And he’s vowed to do so.  More than once.  Usually when a babyface does that, they’re damn well winning.  But there’s the possibility they continue with Moxley as the immovable object, the single thing beyond Cassidy’s abilities.

Suggested when the BCC-er shook off an Orange Punch Wednesday and sneered that Cassidy ‘hits like a bitch’.  So that’s likely to play into a finish: either it still doesn’t work, Cassidy loses and the story is him having to pick himself up; or he comes up with some way to soup up his finish or just hits like nine of them.

As is clear from my constant meandering, I still can’t decide.  Guess I’ll go with…

WINNER: Jon Moxley

MJF vs Switchblade Jay White (AEW Title)

Star quality: 7

Champ remains popular with live crowds; White’s not ‘there’ yet as will be discussed below.

Match quality: 9

A ‘10’ is so very tempting; this could be AEW’s match of the year.  Both have played their part in contenders, both are in their athletic primes, both are proven workers and know how to manipulate a crowd.  And White will be keen to show AEW fans and higher-ups what he can do when given the biggest of stages.

Preventing a perfect score is the high likelihood of shenanigans.  BCG, Wardlow, Samoa Joe, Roderick Strong and even the Devil himself(herself?) may get involved.  And AEW have unfortunately spent much of 2023 scared to have stars lose cleanly.

Build: 5

Finally, some other wrestlers want the world title.  Probably too many, but it’s preferable to too few.  One of them is Jay White.  Who made his intentions clear by pinching the item itself and taunting the champ.  Who… wasn’t all that bothered?  It took him a long time to decide he wanted it back.  So there was no real reason to get invested.

Continuing MJF’s recent struggles to find his character while vacillating between goof with a clipboard and shouty douchebag who checks his own Trends

As for White while he did bag a pinfall over the champ, it wasn’t enough to elevate him to bonafide main eventer.  Too much of the year was squandered with him languishing in the middle of the pack.  In fact you might argue Collision saved the Kiwi, establishing him on the main event fringes, thanks in part to CM Punk wanting to work with him.

Plus he’s been overshadowed by the sheer pile of contenders and Devil storyline.  Despite it only really getting going ten days before showtime.  An intriguing little whodunnit which I don’t believe will culminate until after this show so we’ll park that for now.

Overall Score: 21

Taken in toto – White carrying the belt, White pinning Max, the threat of the Devil and/or Wardlow interfering – we’re supposed to think this might be it for MJF’s record reign.

And for the first time since this event last year it seems somewhat possible the challenger might emerge as champ.  But only somewhat.

The fact World’s End even exists suggests MJF will retain.  As does the ongoing story with Samoa Joe.

WINNER: MJF

Kenny Omega & Chris Jericho vs the Young Bucks (If Omega/Jericho win they’re #1 contenders to tag belts; if the Bucks do Omega can no longer team with Jericho)

(Before we start, I’m just refusing to write G***** J***.  Because the name sucks and they haven’t even bothered explaining what sounds like a bad writer describing someone taking a piss… *gets idea*.)

Star quality: 7

Like their boy Hangman, the Bucks are ice cold.  They’ve all but disappeared from tv for the past month, though their presumed heel turn and promo work leading up to this has been promising.

Omega and Jericho remain pretty damn popular.

Match quality: 8

Last time the Bucks faced off with Kenny in a tag it resulted in a MOTY contender and possibly my favorite tag of all time.  Problem is, Jericho ain’t Hangman.  And that match was all about nuance and their relationships.  So, much like last month, this one will go as far as the Best Bout Machine’s ring-time.

Which ultimately brings into question the whole purpose of this duo.  Wouldn’t it make more sense for both Canadians to be teaming with younger workers who get a ‘rub’ while carrying the load in-ring?

Build: 6

Additional pay-per-views might not be the worst thing for AEW.  It will make them feel less special, but means stories can neither lag or be forgotten about for weeks on end.  At least in theory.

Take the build to All Out for example.  They had four hours, two shows and one week to build a pay-per-view.  So Jon Moxley and Orange Cassidy got a ton of focus, Orange got a main event win and both got promo time.  It was one of the better builds they’ve done this year (which says a lot about the booking but was good even so).

This fits that bill.  The Bucks are being prickish heels and prickish heels get jealous when their friends hang with other people.  But this is also about ego and professional pride.

The Bucks jabbering with Jericho turned into a pissing contest: while they might be the best team in the world, he and Omega are among the best singles.  And Kenny himself, after initially trying to play peacemaker, became irritated and warned that we’ve seen what happens when he faces the Bucks, they lose.

I’m also quite happy for this to be a brief.  After spending two years getting the Elite back together only to split them up six months later, the last thing I want is to see it all unwind again over a period of months.  Them all just going their separate ways for now without a lot of drama is probably best for all concerned.

Overall Score: 21

Kenny asked the Bucks to ‘keep it clean’, will they?  The only way I see them winning is if they cheat and it plays into that story.  Though I’d be quite happy for the faces here to split and Omega to become a serious singles guy again.

WINNER: Omega & Jericho

Hangman Adam Page vs Swerve Strickland (Texas Death Match)

Star quality: 6

Page is cold.  He’s one of my favorite guys, I hate to say it, but it’s true.  Since Swerve called him out for lagging he hasn’t exactly become a solid fixture on the show – Here comes Hangman, he’s winning every week, building momentum, Swerve lit a fire.

His fan reactions have been tepid; a fiery promo Wednesday did help.

Strickland on the other hand has certainly made the most of regular tv time and being in a high-profile feud.

Match quality: 9

They were having a hell of a match at WrestleDream before the lousy finish.  Assuming this one’s clean, there’s no reason they can’t better that.  On a personal note, really hope the Texas Death stip doesn’t result in puddles of blood, the match does need a level of violence and intensity, it doesn’t need gore.  Bringing us to why it’s taking place.

Build: 4

You can’t threaten to kill someone in pro wrestling.  Because you’re not going to.  For obvious reasons.  It’s an idle threat, something to be avoided by parents, teachers and babyfaces the world over.  While a home invasion is similarly hard to pull off because it stretches credibility.  If you’re going to do one, you need to have your stuff together:

  1. The heel better have a damn good reason to act so recklessly
  2. The company and babyface need to have their responses sorted, things have gone beyond mere competition
  3. You’d better have a good way to end the feud; some things can’t be solved by pinfall

Starting with #1, Swerve’s played the ‘on the edge’ heel persuasively enough that Page costing him a title shot was sufficient.  Particularly since Strickland was superb in simply violating Hangman’s personal space without smashing the place up or punting his wife in the head.  With a single camera and Nana concerned about them being caught.

As for #3, well a Texas Death Match is as good a stip as any.  Especially if they’re making this the match Hangman goes to when he’s really ticked with a heel.

The problem here lies in the middle.  Because there was absolutely no reaction to Strickland threatening an infant.  Page didn’t burn the arena down, the announcers weren’t disgusted, and Tony Khan seemingly saves the verbal smackdowns for when tag teams are playing Crocodile Dundee.

Instead it was left to a lower-card wrestler and a mid-card manager to give Swerve what for.

Until the angle was somewhat saved by strong performances from both this past Wednesday: Page bringing appropriate intensity, Swerve showing appropriate fear.  As noted then, it’s a shame the surrounding story and thus the company have let them down.  They didn’t even bother explaining the rules or Hangman’s history in such matches.

Overall Score: 19

It is possible ‘anything goes’ allows a fleet of heels to cost Page the match.  But considering Swerve’s actions and the likelihood they’re making this Hangman’s Match, all things point to the babyface emerging victorious, free to once again have his infant child defecate on sacred ground.

Presumably leading to a third match next month.  Because unless there’s some sort of injury angle, Page needs to follow through on his promise to pursue Strickland as long as he’s walking and talking.

WINNER: Hangman Page

MJF & Samoa Joe vs the Gunns (ROH Tag Titles)

Star quality: 6

Much as I enjoy them, the fact the Gunns don’t even seem credible ROH tag contenders is amazing given they held the AEW ones earlier this year.

Match quality: 6

This could be good but will likely settle for solid given Max has a world title match later on the show.  As is usually the case with these MJF tags, they’re more story than substance, which is fine, there’ll be more than enough of the latter on the main card.

Build: 7

That’s not for the match itself but the Joe/MJF storyline around which it’s built.  The announcers have talked it up, Max and Joe have talked it up, there are pros and cons: Joe will undoubtedly help Max hold onto the tag belts he’s promised will be awaiting Cole on his return.  But at the cost of putting his own world title at risk.  The babyface has a dilemma.  It’s the fulcrum of any good story.

Outside of that the Gunns won a couple squashes and cut a nice promo on the penultimate Dynamite.

Overall Score: 19

If the heels are going to win, AEW have done a horrible job preparing them and us for it.  In contrast, a lot of tv time’s been used on this Joe/MJF story.  So it’s likely they’ll win here, setting up Joe as MJF’s next contender – either at World’s End or Winter is Coming, perhaps even defending the titles on the ROH ppv as a bonus to grab a few extra buys.

WINNER: MJF & Samoa Joe

Sting, Adam Copeland & Darby Allin vs Christian Cage, Nick Wayne & Luchasaurus

Star quality: 7

Copeland feels flat already and the babyface trio did nothing to boost Collision numbers last Saturday (admittedly, paired against nobodies).  A big part of what made Cage & co’s act and feud with Darby so good – the TNT Title – has been forgotten about.  Wayne & Saurus make up the numbers: they don’t talk, win or have characters outside of Cage.

Match quality: 6

‘I ask cause I’m not sure…’ Is Adam Copeland still any good?  Because the last two matches I’ve seen were an absolute snorer with Saurus and a similarly boring clash with AJ Styles.  If he isn’t, that leaves Darby with a lot to do.  Which is what happens when you put two aging ‘Legends’ on the same side of a three-man team.

Build: 2

En route to WrestleMania XIV the Undertaker refused to face Kane.  He’d thought his brother dead, questioned his own role in the fire which left him disfigured and questioned Paul Bearer’s manipulative influence.  Until finally, after a period of months, Kane chokeslammed him into a casket and set it on fire.  And it was time to put ‘em up.

It took six months to finally get Taker to agree, his reticence was understandable, as was the act which prompted his finally snapping.

Which is what I thought we were getting with Edge & Christian.  I thought they’d tease it.  Elongate it (what!?).  Stretch it out (what!?).  Have some patience (what!?).

Instead, in all ill-advised moment of honesty Copeland said he’d come to AEW to ‘have fun with Uncle Jay’.  The most despicable heel on the roster with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.  Then meandered through reasons not to face him while Cage said and did despicable things to him and others.

Until, after being non-plussed by Cage’s promise to turn him into a paraplegic, instantly agreeing minutes later to face him after the mere threat of a con-chair-to to his admittedly injured neck.

And six weeks after the initial refusal, they’re wrestling.  You may have noticed a few differences in execution.

None of which is helped by having not really explained the pair’s background to any newer fans.

And even more perplexingly, you wouldn’t know this is among the final few times we’ll ever see Sting wrestle.  They seemed to have forgotten the match even exists on Wednesday.

Overall Score: 15

Adam Copeland’s already dead as a babyface.  He came here to screw around with his pal while he winds down his career.  So he needs a refresh if he’s to be taken seriously – yes, already.  Leading to the question, if Cage won’t go to Copeland, will Copeland go to Cage?

It’s unlikely given it’d mean both man and company admitting this has been a failure so far.  But apart from being necessary, it’s the only way the babyfaces don’t win here.

Most likely outcome?  Allin pins Wayne to get his revenge for last month (hands up if you remembered that happened, cause I didn’t till just now.  Be honest…) and hopefully end a feud with Cage etc. which is becoming stale.

Oh and Ric Flair’s out there so may play a part in the finish if the babyfaces are winning or may harass several women in the front row.  He shouldn’t have been signed.

WINNER: Sting, Adam Copeland & Darby Allin

Timeless Toni Storm vs Hikaru Shida (AEW Women’s Title)

Star quality: 5

In what’s been one of the worst booking periods of a poor year, the company have allowed the women’s division to disintegrate to nothing.  Shida’s new gimmick might as well be ‘The Placeholder’ and while Storm’s ‘Timeless’ character is certainly entertaining and creative, it’s been (predominantly) limited to backstage and p-in-p skits.

Match quality: 7

This could probably be a little higher, much depends on how Storm wrestles in the guise of her new character.  Does it insist on a lot of zaniness?  There’s also sure to be a weird atmosphere because Storm’s kind-of(?) supposed to be a heel but absolutely won’t be.

Otherwise, there’s a very good chance this will be the company’s best women’s match this year.

Build: 1

‘Hey, isn’t Toni zany and creative!?’ is basically the entire story here.  They’ve pitched it as Storm’s Hollywood Homecoming, a tagline announced out of nowhere: Shida wasn’t consulted, Storm hasn’t won any matches and their interactions have been limited to Storm coming out after Shida’s and ‘stealing her spotlight’.

She was doing this because she felt Shida had stolen hers.  First at Wembley by walking in as champ then by dethroning Saraya after Storm herself had failed at the task.

As was explained during a nice segment ten days ago.  But that was our lot.

It’d be nice if in 2024 the women didn’t end up near the bottom of every single one of these previews.

Overall Score: 13

Shida’s freezing as champion, she couldn’t even pin Saraya cleanly last night, hasn’t had any real feuds or memorable matches.

While Storm seems to be the centerpiece of the division.  The story with her and Mariah May took precedence over the champ on Dynamite, with the latter offering to assist Storm in any way she could.  Helping her take the title wouldn’t be a bad start.

And a long reign building to a split between she and May would allow for long-term storytelling and feud-building sorely lacking among the women.

Depending on if Mercedes is the touted new signing (Ospreay’s the latest favorite), you might even have her come in, win the TBS Title and have it be the ‘wrestling’ belt building to a champ vs champ clash.

As long as it’s not someone who’s spent years on the WWE undercard only to be thrust into the AEW limelight, I’m happy either way.

WINNER: Toni Storm

Ricky Starks & Big Bill vs FTR vs LFI vs Kings of the Black Throne (Ladder Match, AEW Tag Titles)

Star quality: 5

After Starks and FTR were made to feel a little special over the summer, both acts have joined the rest of this crew in the section marked ‘middling’.

Match quality: 8

Good teams, good workers, plenty of experience at structuring tags.

Build: 0

Four-ways are what wrestling companies do when they have too many wrestlers and too few ideas.  Exhibit A, ladies and gents, is the tag division since the last pay-per-view:

  1. When the Young Bucks were made #1 contenders, something forgotten about until last week.
  2. FTR were champs, they subsequently lost their belts, vowed they wouldn’t take a rematch until they earned one, didn’t earn one, but decided to throw their lot in with two other teams anyway.
  3. The House of Black did essentially nothing, because they never do anything.
  4. LFI have won a solitary tag after being gone for months – and the only thing I can tell you about Dralistico is his name’s a pain in the arse when taking notes (btw guess who’s taking the pin?).
  5. Typically, heel champs spend weeks vowing not to defend their titles, building to the moment when they’re informed they have to, they throw a fit, the fans enjoy it, everyone’s happy.  Instead, Starks & Bill went from vowing not to even entertain the idea to being forced into it in thirty seconds, laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation then came out swinging, vowing to retain their belts.  They didn’t sell anything.

So that’s a big fat zero for build, heat, payoff, whatever you want to call it.  The company then overcompensated by making this a ladder match with one day’s notice and had all the guys brawl during Collision.  Five P’s baby.

Overall Score: 13

As for a winner, meh, who cares?  The tag division’s dead again.  And this match and the build to it are the greatest proof.  Doubly a shame when Collision is crying out for something to set it apart.

WINNER: Ricky Starks & Big Bill

Claudio Castagnoli vs Buddy Matthews

Star quality: 4

Claudio’s usually fairly popular.  Matthews is an afterthought in a group of afterthoughts.

Match quality: 8

I wasn’t especially into Castagnoli when he debuted but no-one’s won me over more in 2023.  Predominantly via his ring work.  And often against flyers for whom he’s a great ‘base’: Rey Fenix and Orange Cassidy for example.  So this should be excellent.

Build: 0

It’s just a shame there’s absolutely no reason for it.  Matthews was going to attack Yuta with a chair on Collision when Claudio came out to challenge him.  The end.

Overall Score: 12

Claudio’s winning.

WINNER: Claudio Castagnoli

Kris Statlander vs Julia Hart vs Skye Blue (TBS Title)

Star quality: 4

Julia’s fairly over and is finding her character, neither of the other two are anywhere close.  The status of the TBS champ and title itself shown by the fact this match is more about Skye being misted by Julia than it is about becoming a champion.

Match quality: 4

And Blue is just nowhere near ready for the position she’s in, as was clear on Wednesday.  So while Julia’s making incredible strides, neither she or the champ are up to carrying Skye to anything above passable.

Build: 2

Blue might have been ‘turned’ by the House of Black Mist™; she might just not like Statlander.  Which would be understandable since the champion’s been thoroughly unlikeable, almost literally hissing at the screen while watching Blue on Wednesday.  Meaning she too might be turning.  Or might just be unlikeable.

The main takeaway here is that the only person whose stance is clear… is the heel.

Overall Score: 10

This may be building to a SWERVE BRO! with Julia and Skye.

Since after the crowd got behind her at the last big show, it seems they’ll put the title on Hart.  Especially as they’ve done nothing with Statlander during her reign.  Ideally they’d give Julia a little more seasoning since she’s improving so rapidly.  But then again, this title isn’t exactly a burden to bear.

WINNER: Julia Hart

_________________________________________________________________________

Overall Thoughts

I’m really hoping a new tv deal will allow AEW to step back and re-evaluate: because most of the positives and negatives here are same ol’, same ol’.

So we’ll limit things to:

  1. As usual it’s a strong card with matches to look forward to
  2. Where the hell are Takeshita and Hobbs who are/were supposedly being groomed after defeating Omega and Jericho multiple times?
  3. I hope you enjoy the show and the weekend, thanks for reading
  4. Don’t call yourself a ‘G’ unless you help somebody out

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Paul Hemming
Paul Hemminghttps://h00kedon.weebly.com/
Paul Hemming got into AEW during the pandemic, lives in Liverpool, England, and is a huge Liverpool fan, Playstation player and history lover.

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