The SmarK Rant for AEW Full Gear 2023 – 11.18.23
By Scott Keith on 18th November 2023
The SmarK Rant for AEW Full Gear 2023 – 11.18.23
Live from Los Angeles, CA
Your hosts are Tony Schiavone, Excalibur & Nigel McGuinness
ROH World title: Eddie Kingston v. Jay Lethal
Lethal grabs a headlock, but Eddie takes him to the corner and puts a beating on him, then takes him down for two. Clothesline puts Lethal on the floor and JJ gives him some encouragement, so he runs back into the ring and gets into a chop exchange with Eddie. Back to the floor and Lethal runs him into the post, which means it’s time for a TRIPLE STRUT. Lethal with a suplex for two. I would be remiss in not pointing out Nigel burning Stokely Hathaway by accusing him of “being jealous of his sister, Anne.” “Well she’s adopted anyway” Stokely notes. Lethal with an overhead suplex into the corner, which gets two. Lethal beats on him with chops, but Eddie catches him with an exploder. They trade cradles for two and Lethal hits an enzuigiri and goes up with the flying elbow for two. Kingston hits him with a pair of Saito suplexes to come back but the various clowns take the ref…but Ortiz returns to the side of light with a guitar shot to Sonjay Dutt, and Eddie finishes with a half and half suplex into a backfist at 10:52 to retain. At least I think Ortiz was a heel before, I honestly don’t even remember who turned on whom in the Santana-Ortiz feud. Match was a decent affair but the crowd was just kind of quietly filing in. **1/2
Buddy Matthews v. Claudio Castagnoli
“This is a match that I’ve been looking forward to since it was made last night” notes Nigel. Now there’s AEW booking issues in a nutshell. Claudio goes for the Giant Swing right away and Buddy escapes, so they fight to the floor. Back in, Buddy with a flying knee for two, and he goes to the chinlock. BREAKING NEWS: Paul Wight is INDEFINITELY out of action following the bodyslam on Wednesday. Wait, when was the last time he was “in action”? Claudio with an uppercut out of the corner while Nigel puts over his “vascularity”. HEY! That’s infringing on the Outrunners’ gimmick! Claudio tries the Swing again and Buddy cradles for two. Buddy goes up with the knees again, but Claudio catches him in the Swing on the way down and that gets two. They fight to the top and Buddy brings him down with kicks into a powerbomb for two. Jackhammer gets two. Claudio fights up with a cutter out of a fireman’s carry and blasts Buddy with a spinning uppercut for two. Ricola Bomb into the Sharpshooter follows, and Buddy taps at 10:24. Good match that got much better reaction than the opener, but nothing you need to go out of your way to see or anything. ***
ROH World tag team title: MJF & Samoa Joe v. The Gunns
Max attacks both Gunns to start and chases Austin to the floor, but Colten grabs a headlock on MJF and Max struts to escape that. Gunns double-team Max and Joe actually helps out like a good partner and then tags himself in and hits the Gunns with a double dive. Back in, Joe walks away from a dropkick and beats on Colten in the corner before nicely offering MJF the tag again. Austin puts the boots to MJF and the Ass Boyz get a double elbow for two. Austin with a chinlock to cut off the ring and Max fights for the tag before backdropping both Gunns to the floor. Hot tag Joe and he runs wild and powerslams Austin for two. Max tags himself back in and teases a muscle buster, but Colten breaks it up. Max counters the 310 to Yuma into a double DDT that sets up the KANGAROO KICK, but now Joe tags himself in to break that up. So they try stereo muscle busters, but that goes south and Joe takes 310 to Yuma and that gets two before MJF saves. So they try it again, but now Adam Cole’s music hits and he hobbles out on crutches to provide distraction while Joe chokes out Colten to retain at 9:28. Kind of weirdly heatless and meandering until the surprise Adam Cole reveal. **
Afterwards, the Gunns show their sportsmanship by double-teaming MJF and Pillmanizing his leg. And between the pre-show and the PPV, he goes out in an ambulance, while making Adam Cole promise not to let them take his title away. Oh man, we’re getting the reveal of the Devil tonight, aren’t we?
Sting, Darby Allin & Adam Copeland v. Christian Cage, Luchasaurus & Nick Wayne
Having a children’s choir singing Christian’s theme song is just amazing. Speaking of theme songs, LA decides to sing “Metalingus” just for the hell of it. Nick Wayne gets an inspirational fatherly hug from Christian and then takes Darby down with a headlock off that. Darby takes him down with armdrags, however, as Nick flies all over off that. Over to Sting, and he takes Nick to the floor and tosses him into the railing. Back in for Cage, but he wants no part of Adam Copeland and tags out immediately to Luchasaurus. Luchasaurus with a corner clothesline, but Copeland takes him down with a legsweep and neckbreaker. Darby comes in and Cage necks him from the apron, allowing Luchasaurus to give Darby an absolutely insane chokeslam onto the apron. Not like he’s already got a broken shoulder or anything. Back in the ring, Christian chokes him out in the corner and Nick adds his own choking and a PK to the shoulder for two. Apparently they’re opening the show so that Darby can jump on a plane and climb Mount Everest tomorrow. Goddamn lazy millennials. He’ll probably waste a bunch of money on avocado toast once he gets there.
Wayne with a backbreaker for two, but Darby fights off the heels and goes up with a Code Red on Nick for a double down. Christian cuts off the tag and sets up the spear, but Darby blocks that and makes the hot tag to Cope. Christian runs away again, so Copeland hits Luchasaurus with the DDT instead and spears him out of the ring. Nick gets tossed out after that and Darby hits both heels with a dive, and then Sting gets his own dive. Back in the ring, Sting and Copeland double-team Luchasaurus with a Scorpion Deathdrop combo, and then Darby joins in for a Rockerplex as well. But then Luchasaurus lays everyone out and it kind of falls apart, to say the least, while Christian gets into a scuffle with Ric Flair and hits him with a low blow. But he hits Luchasaurus with the TNT title by mistake, and this time runs away into the crowd and abandons his team, which is probably smart. And Darby finishes Luchasaurus with the coffin drop at 15:14. I don’t normally single out referees because they’re so useless and interchangable as it is, but holy crap Rick Knox was terrible at directing traffic at the end there. You literally had ONE job: Keep control of the match and count to three! Fun match, but it never really got into second gear. **1/2
Tony Schiavone has another referee with him, Bryce Remsberg, and brings out Jay White…before announcing that the main event has been cancelled due to injury and Jay White is the champion by default. This brings out Adam Cole, and if MJF can’t defend the title…he’ll do it for MJF. IT’S HAPPENING TONIGHT.
AEW International title: Orange Cassidy v. Jon Moxley
Mox beats on him in the corner and they quickly head to the floor, where Moxley continues laying a beating on Orange. Mox with a suplex onto the railing, and back in the ring for a drop suplex from Moxley. Orange fights back out of the corner, but Moxley slams him for two. Moxley with a cloverleaf and he stomps Orange’s head in, but they head to the top and trade back rakes. So Moxley is into that idea and headbutts Orange down to the apron. Orange fights back with a diving DDT for one, and a bloodied Moxley pops up right away. So Orange flips him off and sends him to the floor for a pair of dives. The crowd wants one more time, so Orange hits a diving elbow and they head back in the ring. Mox tries the Death Rider, but Orange reverses to the stunner, and then Moxley hangs on and beats on him with elbows and a bulldog choke. Orange reverses out and tries a choke, but Mox makes the ropes and pulls off the top turnbuckle, before hitting Orange with a cutter and a piledriver. That gets two.
So Mox gives him the mocking kicks, but Orange goes to the POCKETS and Mox runs into his own exposed turnbuckle as a result. Orange Punch only puts Mox down after three shots, but Mox rolls him up for two. So Orange hits another pair of them to put Moxley to his knees, and a sixth one to set up the Beach Break for the pin at 12:04 to retain! AWESOME. That was exactly what they needed to put Orange over the top, just a guy taking a beating and then coming back to win because he NEEDED to. And when hitting him in the face didn’t work, you hit him MORE TIMES, and hit him HARDER. It’s too bad the Fenix stuff had to break up the story in the middle because Orange regaining the title here would have been epic. ****1/4.
So the main event tonight is now officially Adam Cole defending the title against Jay White. They can go so many ways with this one.
Meanwhile, Mark Briscoe is the next entrant in the G1.
AEW Women’s title: Hikaru Shida v. Timeless Toni Storm
Toni TEARS UP THE SCRIPT like she’s Vince Russo and slugs it out with Shida to start, but Shida hits her with chops on the apron to take over. Nigel reels off old timey references and the others are just dumbstruck by him (“It’s that accent! Speak English!” notes Taz) but Storm fights back with her own chops and a POPEYE PUNCH for one. Storm needs to start squaring up like a 19th century pugilist next. More chops and Shida puts her down with a high knee and missile dropkick for two. Storm heads out for some advice from Lutha, and the answer is the HIGH HEEL OF DOOM, which gets two. Clearly if she had thrown it, it would have finished. Storm tries for the piledriver but Shida reverses to Strong Zero and they’re both out. They slug it out again and Shida gets the head kick and falcon arrow for two. Shida tries a Michinoku Driver, but Storm rolls through into an anklelock to capitalize on a Shida ankle injury. Shida makes the ropes and heads to the floor to beats on Lutha with the kendo stick in frustration, but Toni gets a piece of silver flatware from the corner and loads it in her tights. This gives us a very unique hip attack in the corner, which finishes at 10:33 and thankfully makes Toni Storm a three time champion. And then Mariah May comes out and literally gives Toni her flowers for winning. A very needlessly wacky finish to a very average match, but the crowd was ready for Toni to get the title back here and that was the only result they could book. **1/4. Like really, Toni’s ass is dangerous enough as it is without the need for metal reinforcement.
Meanwhile, Eddie Kingston joins Renee and he wants to be part of the big tournament all the kids are talking about. And he announces that not only does the winner of the tournament get ANOTHER new title (OH FOR…), but he will also put his own titles up for grabs in every match of his, so the winner will end up with all three titles. Now you know how much I love AEW adding titles, but I guess this is their way to create their own Triple Crown title so I guess I’m willing to let it play out and see where it goes. I do enjoy the idea of a tournament where a champion has to defend in every match. But man, this really needed to be for a World title shot or something meaningful, not yet another nebulous title to water things down even more.
AEW World tag team title, ladder match: Ricky Starks & Big Bill v. Kings of the Black Throne v. Rush & Dralistico v. FTR
Everyone brawls to the floor right away and Dax hauls a ladder into the ring, but Brody runs it into his face while Nigel complains about kids today and all their acronyms. And there’s too many states these days! Please remove three. PS he is not a crank. We get a trainwreck spot on the floor and Dralistico hits everyone with a dive. Next up, we get a showdown between Bill and Brody and they HOSS FIGHT and really why couldn’t this just be the match instead of shoehorning all the other teams and the ladder in there? Dax breaks it up with a ladder and we get the Terry Funk spot, but Dralistico gets some shine and fights everyone off with kicks before making the climb. Cash pushes him off , but Rush beats on Cash in the corner and stops to be tranquilo. Cash comes back with a powerslam and climbs, but Black brings him down and then slingshots the ladder into Cash’s face in a cool spot. Cash and Black fight to the top and Cash goes low and follows with a piledriver onto the ladder below in a spot that looked dangerous but was probably super-safe before the ropes absorbed all the impact on the ladder. Brody wrecks more people with a dive, and Ricky runs wild in the ring and hits Dax with a DDT. Ropewalk for Cash and he follows with a backdrop driver. Black cuts him off with kicks, but Ricky backdrops him on the ladder, and then Brody tosses Dax onto the ladder as well. This sets up a cannonball on the ladder, but Brody gets the worst of that one thanks to geometry. Stupid math. Brody makes the climb, but Big Bill dumps him over and onto the ladder. Dralistico makes a comeback on Bill and that ends badly for him. So Rush has to save his brother and puts Bill in the corner with a ladder, which sets up the Bull’s Horns. Next up, everyone climbs up ladders and we get a slugfest up there until everyone ends up on the mat again. So poor Dralistico winds up taking a Ganzo Bomb onto a ladder bridge outside and he’s probably gonna wake up thinking he’s Sin Cara or something. So another ladder gets set up to replace the wrecked one, and Cash hits Brody with a flying splash onto that one. This leaves Dax alone to climb, but Starks saves and then Big Bill pulls Dax down, and Starks grabs the belts to retain at 20:15. This was some crazy-ass shit right there and way exceeded my relatively low expectations for what they’d do with it. ****1/2. Like a few minutes in I was questioning the idea of the match and then they just starting dropping each other on ladders and anything else that was handy and it got awesome and never turned back.
TBS title: Kris Statlander v. Skye Blue v. Julia Hart
Skye has newer music, showing that she’s angrier and even more proactive. Really though this is Julia’s time. Stat runs wild on the others to start and legdrops Skye for two, then hangs Julia in the corner for a weird staredown with Skye. Julia and Skye double-team Statlander and take her to the floor for a rana from Skye out there, but Kris suplexes them both on the floor. Back in, Taz declares that “title opportunities are few and far between”. IN ALL ELITE WRESTLING. Where they literally hand out title belts at the turnstiles. Julia and Skye get rid of Statlander and then slug it out to work out their issues. Skye with a PK for two. Statlander comes back in and breaks up the fight, but Skye rolls up Julia for two. Neckbreaker on Statlander and everyone is out off that. Julia is up first with a lariat on Statlander and she goes up, but Skye cuts her off and Statlander brings Julia down with a slam for two. Skye tries a rana on Kris and gets slammed as well, but she goes up and Julia pushes her off and hits her own moonsault on Skye for two. Kris saves and powerslams Julia on the floor, and Skye makes a comeback in the ring before walking into the piledriver, which she reverses for two. Code Blue gets two in a good near fall. Another try, but Julia breaks that up with a kick and takes out Statlander before locking in the Hartless on Skye. Statlander breaks that up with suplexes on both women and hits Saturday Night Fever on Skye, but Julia steals the pin to win the title at 11:20. Really this should have been at the last PPV but Julia deserves this title. They worked hard but the match didn’t have much heat. ***
Tony Schiavone joins us for the big contract signing, which as predicted was Will Ospreay, bruv. He’s All Elite, bruv! But he’s finishing up in New Japan first, so he won’t be around until Revolution.
Texas Death Match: Hangman Page v. Swerve Strickland
Swerve and the Nana Dancers for the entrance is great. Page hits the ring before the bell and hits the Buckshot Lariat right away, sending Swerve to the floor. Page kicks his ass out there and hauls him in for a chair to the face, before duct taping his hands together and giving him the staple gun to the pec. No lockups and takedowns here, I’ll give them that. Back in, Page gives him another chair to the face and then he STAPLES HIS KID’S PAINTING TO SWERVE’S FACE and rips it off. And then he drinks in Swerve’s blood. Next up, it’s the barbed wire wrapped chair, but Nana saves and cuts Swerve free. But then Swerve gets the staple gun and staples Page with it before running the Hangman into the barbed wire in the corner. Swerve losing his mind due to blood loss and becoming a killing machine is another layer of greatness we didn’t even know we needed. Page makes a comeback and they fight to the apron, where Swerve hits him with a death valley driver on the cinder block, on the apron, which is already THE HARDEST PART OF THE RING. And then Swerve follows with a piledriver onto the top of the railing for good measure.
Back in the ring, Page catches him with a fallaway slam, but Swerve grabs a piece of barbed wire, so Page shoves it back in his face and then wraps it around his body and hits another fallaway slam to send Swerve to the floor. So then Page moonsaults the barbed wire chair onto Swerve, as you’d expect. Taz is pretty sure that Swerve is regretting some of his life decisions at this point. Back in the ring, Page tries another Buckshot, but Swerve rolls through it and then kicks the barbed wire chair back in Page’s face. They fight for a tombstone and Page wins that one, onto the chair, and Swerve somehow gets up. They fight to the top and Swerve hits him with the barbed wire chair, tangling it up in Page’s hair in the process, and follows with a powerbomb on the chair and the Swerve Stomp on the chair. This match is nuts. Hangman somehow breaks that count at 9, so Swerve goes nuclear with the BROKEN GLASS, followed by a 450 and the JML Driver…but PAGE GETS UP. So they fight to the floor again and this time Nana pulls out the barbed wire board to end this with style. Back in the ring, Swerve sets that up on the chairs and they head to the top, but Hangman bites him and brings him down with a fallaway slam off the top, onto the board, and then a powerbomb onto the barbed wire, and a Deadeye on the barbed wire, and then a barbed wire crown for Swerve to set up a Buckshot Lariat with more barbed wire, but Nana pulls Swerve out of the ring to break up the count. So this brings out Brian Cage to destroy Page, but Hangman fights him off with the barbed wire punches. Next up, Prince Nana comes in and goes after Page, but he goes through the table as a result. But this leaves Swerve to smash the cinder block on Page’s head, but Page gets up again. So Swerve finds a chain and hangs the Hangman, and that’s finally enough to beat him at 29:51. That was a really great horror show match for the first 20 minutes, but then they peaked and went way too long, and all the interference was a drag at the end. It was flirting with five stars or more there for a while but they couldn’t close the deal at a reasonable time and I really thought the Brian Cage stuff took me out of it. Still great, but they should have gone home with the broken glass spot if Swerve was winning. ****3/4. I’m sure that’ll be a controversial opinion, but that’s why I’m the professional word-writing guy.
Chris Jericho & Kenny Omega v. The Young Bucks
Well good luck following that one. Matt trades armdrags with Jericho to start, but Jericho beats on Matt too much for Kenny’s liking and he tags himself in to save a Buck. But then Matt beats on Kenny, so Kenny sends them to the floor and follows with the Terminator Dive. The Bucks target Jericho’s arm, however, and go to work on him in the ring. Jericho fights them off, but Nick dropkicks him to the floor and Matt runs the arm into the post. Back in the ring, Nick works the arm in the corner, but Omega gets a hot tag and runs wild on the Bucks. Snapdragon on Matt and he puts Nick in the corner before hitting the You Can’t Escape on Matt, and follows with a moonsault on Matt to the floor. Back in, Omega with a bodypress on Nick, but Nick rolls through for two. Jericho comes in with a double Lionsault on the Bucks but Matt takes out the arm again and tries his own Walls. Jericho counters that for two, but the Jets collide and Matt gets two on Jericho. Jericho comes back with the Walls, but Nick tries to save and Kenny takes him out. Matt kicks the arm to escape and the Bucks take out Kenny on the apron and then double-team Jericho with the senton from Matt for two. Jericho takes Matt to the top for a rana, but Nick goes DOWN LOW behind the ref’s back and then Matt kicks Kenny in the Golden Nuts as well. Nick with a Judas Effect on Jericho off that, for two. Bucks with the BTE Trigger on Jericho, but that only gets two. Jericho reverses the Meltzer Driver for two and goes low on Nick, and it’s back to Omega, who has to choose his target and hits the Bucks instead of Jericho. Nick escapes the One Winged Angel, and Matt hits his own version on Omega for two. But then Jericho hits a codebreaker on Nick and Omega hits Matt with a german suplex for two. Jericho with a Judas Effect on Nick and Omega hits Matt with the knee and One Winged Angel, and that finishes at 20:54. Man, they REALLY had to work for that one. Got there by the end but talk about starting from a deficit position. This was in the death spot after the death match. ****. So the Jets can challenge for the tag titles at any time they want, and afterwards the Young Bucks refuse a handshake and go on an epic tantrum.
AEW World title: Adam Cole v. Jay White
Cole of course can’t even stand on his own to do his entrance gimmick. “They should make this a last man standing match” notes Nigel, bringing the goods still. But then Stone Cold MJF shows up in a stolen ambulance with his leg all wrapped up.
AEW World title: MJF v. Jay White
Jay immediately goes for the leg and stomps him down in the corner, then follows with a suplex into the corner for two. The Gunns get some cheapshots from the floor and that gets two. But then they get caught and thrown out of the match. Jay antagonizes Adam Cole on the floor and MJF is all fired up, but Jay kicks him in the leg. Max fires up again with a slam, but that hurts his leg again, so he slugs away in the corner instead. Max somehow manages to hit a Kangaroo Kick in his depleted state, which puts White on the floor, and Adam cheers him on for a dive. But then Jay dropkicks the leg again for two. White beats on him in the corner, but MJF manages a mule kick out of the corner, but he tries a Panama Sunrise and hurts himself again. White with the uranage for two. MJF fights off the sleeper suplex and lands on the floor as a result, and White beats on him out there, but Max comes back with a DDT out there. And then he slams Jay through the table for good measure, and goes up and drops a flying elbow from the top rope to the floor. Well that was crazy.
Back in the ring, White with the dragon screw to take out the leg again, but Max fights his way to the top, and White brings him down with a uranage for two. Jay with the chops and Max gets fired up again, so Jay goes to the eyes and takes him down with a flatliner and german suplex for a double down. MJF reverses the Blade Runner into a rollup for two and follows with a tombstone for another double down. Max with the double stomp on the arm to come back, but Jay fights off the Heatseeker, so Max hits him with an insane cutter from the apron to the floor. Back in, that gets two. Max decides to pull down his knee wrap, but the leg gives way again and the doctor checks the knee. But MJF continues on, so Jay dragon screws him again and gets a figure-four. Adam Cole has the towel ready, but MJF fires up again and reverses the hold. So now Jay White has to make the ropes, but he steals the ROH tag title from Cole and nails MJF for two. The ref gets bumped and Adam Cole has the diamond ring ready for him, but Jay takes out the knee again and steals the ring. Max goes low in epic fashion, but the Gunns return and Max has to fight them off before hitting White with the ring to retain in 29:46 and finally get the belt back. And the Brochachos celebrate and hobble back to the dressing room together as the show is oddly lacking any mention of the Devil storyline whatsoever. Obviously this was a great match with old school drama via the leg injury, but it felt like something from a totally different universe than the rest of the show. ****1/2
And still no Devil reveal!
Another great PPV, although there was some odd booking choices this time around and the logic leading to the main event made absolutely no sense. So Adam is too injured to defend the ROH tag titles but he’s able to be cleared to defend the AEW World title as a single? Regardless, thumbs way up and I’m sure we’ll be talking about the death match for a good long while.