(10) AEW needs professional writers, part 93889 — Last week, I wrote that fans look for three things in any scripted television show: (a) fun and excitement, (b) a fictional universe that makes sense, and (c) an emotional connection. After mulling on it, I am going add two things to that list: (d) continuity, and (e) coherence. The best shows ever written have all five elements. Somehow, after 5 years, AEW cannot nail all 5 at the same time on a regular basis.
I don't really have to give examples anymore. Including Full Gear, AEW produced 10 hours of content this week. The in-ring action was solid; everything else was iffy. In other words, decent parts did not make a decent whole.
(9) WWE needs full-time champions — A promotion has to produce really, really good TV if they're going to have key plot devices off screen for days and weeks at a time. WWE's effectiveness at this is mixed in recent years: it didn't work with Brock Lesnar; it somewhat has worked with Roman Reigns. Now we're getting into the territory that it isn't working with Roman Reigns.
There's only so much L.A. Knight and guest appearances by Cody Rhodes can distract from the Roman and Logan Paul-shaped holes on SmackDown. Knight and Jimmy Uso faced off against each other for the third time in the past month and a half on television. That's not quite a ringing endorsement of (storyline) movement.
(8) Will Ospreay and Kota Ibushi go to AEW — In the most unsurprising news of the day, New Japan's Will Ospreay is heading to All Elite Wrestling. This was my guess because at the end of the day, Ospreay has a ton of miles on his body and wants a lighter schedule, still wants to live in the UK, and he wants to make life changing money. As he noted in the media scrum, he felt that AEW was the best decision for his family.
It is everything he wanted and then some. Hopefully, good TV comes out of Ospreay, bruv.
Joining Ospreay as a contracted star is Kota Ibushi, who Khan revealed as an AEW signee after the train wreck SEGA-sponsored Street Fight match.
(7) The Heel Turn Finally Happened — Drew McIntyre turned heel once again, aligning himself with the Judgment Day by helping Damian Priest and Finn Balor retain the WWE Tag Titles with a Claymore front kick to Jey Uso.
So far, this has been a pretty well done angle as all the pieces make sense. The Judgment Day storyline has been WWE's best production outside of The Bloodline; on second thought, it is the best thing WWE has going for it at the moment considering Roman Reigns is not around.
(6) Sometimes, it is better to simply not book the match, part 10000 — AEW is notorious for booking matches for the sake of booking matches to feed the social media wrestling nerds that get a hard-on for anything Tony Khan cooks up. It just contributes to bad television.
The SEGA Street Fight may have been fun to watch, but ultimately it meant nothing. It barely advanced the on-going Omega-Callis feud, which did not play into the Full Gear match between The Young Bucks and The Golden Jets aside from Callis being ringside. It just made little more sense to do it on the week of the pay-per-view in advance of a much more meaningful side plot.
(5) Julia Hart's crowning achievement — A while back, Julia Hart was portraying a cheerleading character that was running out of mileage quick with two guys that had a lot of potential, but suffered from significant underdevelopment as TV characters. Her transition from plucky cheerleader to brooding mistress was initially clunky—not on her part, but how AEW handled the progression on TV.
Today, Hart is the most improved performer in AEW. She finally had her crowning moment at Full Gear, winning the AEW TBS Championship by pinning Skye Blue, someone she had corrupted. I figured Hart would win, but I thought Blue would come around to join Hart. But that's not the case.
The Three Way Match with Kris Statlander and Blue was really, really good. I also thought that was Blue's best match in AEW thus far. I just hope that Hart gets the quality TV presentation that she deserves, because AEW has a brilliant performer on their hands if they make the right investment in her storylines.
(4) Ronda Rousey has apparently re-discovered her love for pro wrestling — Rousey's second run in WWE may have ended as somewhat of a flop, but she seems to have reconnected with pro wrestling after a couple appearances on the indie circuit with AEW's Marina Shafir.
Rousey has wanted to tag with Shafir for a long time; first teaming together at a Lucha VaVoom show at the end of October against Taya Valkyrie & Brian Kendrick; and then following up with a Wrestling Revolver match against AEW/ROH's Athena and Billie Starkz, which led to the ROH appearance.
Won't spoil it, but the result shows that Khan is probably planning for an Athena-Rousey match, perhaps at Final Battle. Rousey might generate some buzz for the ROH brand—maybe a few Honor Club subscriptions for the novelty of seeing Rousey outside WWE—but the reality is that (a) ROH is a brand for wrestling nerds; (b) nerds don't really care for Rousey; and (c) this might lead to Khan getting ideas that nerds aren't going to be as on board with as he think they would be.
(3) Sometimes, it is just the little things — I liked Becky Lynch's surprise appearance last Friday. No music. Just came through the crowd. Loved the pop. And then appeared in-ring in a very good shot standing next to Charlotte Flair, Bianca Belair, and Shotzi. The four brawled with the healthy members of Damage CTRL to end SmackDown.
The shenanigans of Damage CTRL dominated SmackDown and, for now, the stable is probably going to be the focal point of Friday Nights. Nevertheless, Becky added a flair of excitement that only she can bring to the table, and it should lead to a very fun Women's WarGames match.
(2) MJF is a generational talent for many reasons, but this may be the biggest — MJF has transformed into one of the better anti-hero babyfaces of the last decade. In fact, he is probably a better antihero face than villain because there's only so much left MJF could have done as a heel.
But what really impresses me that some how he manages to make things work that have no business working. Look, the main event angle they ran was not a good idea. It was unnecessary and it really did not serve the overall story. I will say nonetheless that MJF (and White) made it work. The crowd was into it.
As a side note: even though I think MJF has been entertaining, I still feel that he's been let down by bad TV writing on the part of Khan. MJF's title reign should have transformed AEW's business the same way Steve Austin transformed WWE's business after the Spring of 1998. No, not saying AEW would overtake WWE—I mean, hell no—but at least make a difference in TV ratings and the box office. Unfortunately, Khan hasn't nailed the TV writing, stunting the positive impact MJF could have had over the past 12 months.
(1) So, AEW had a pay per view — Full Gear continues AEW's streak of pay-per-views that had good in-ring action with shrug-worthy extracurriculars.
Tony Khan tries to "think" like a wrestling fan—he said so himself. However, he thinks like a particular type of wrestling fan—the wrestling nerd that probably feels AEW can do no wrong. By no means Khan sees himself as perfect, but understandably, he's going to be blind to certain key flaws about himself and his approach. In the marketing and consulting world, this is known as an executive being unable to see the forest for the trees.
I'm not going to criticize the performers. The performers worked very, very hard on this event to get the crowd into it and put on entertaining bouts. However, a handful of things stood out to me.
Wrestling as a performer and wrestling as a particular character are two different things. Some performers, like Jericho, Swerve Strickland, Jon Moxley, and Orange Cassidy, are seamless at both; other performers, like Toni Storm, are great at the former but still learning how to do the latter. It showed in Storm's match with Hikaru Shida. I wouldn't say it was a bad match; I would just say that Storm had to wrestle in character, which she is still learning how to do. The finish was creative, but Storm simply wore the wrong gear to pull it off smoothly. I feel that they should have just wrestled a straight WWE-style pop wrestling match with the shenanigans being fully saved for the finish.
Strickland and Hangman Adam Page wrestled one of the most violent mainstream wrestling matches in a long time. I would arguably say it was the most violent match in the short history of AEW. It was, arguably, the best match on the pay per view. While I think home invasion angles are stupid, it did serve Strickland's character as a brooding, sick man that will screw with anyone's world to get to the top. Strickland is quietly becoming one of AEW's most intriguing villains, as he effectively fuses his cunningness and penchant for violence with his in-ring performances.
The main event angle was simply not good. I give the company credit for trying to bring intrigue to the obvious. AEW has a savvy fanbase; the company's brass understands that, so they try to "book ahead" of the savvy fan. Sometimes there's value in knowing what the result is going to be, but being interested and entertained by how the conclusion is reached. With that being said, the approach they took was not necessary and overkill. There's a time and a place for "overbooking" and that wasn't it.
"Overbooking" as some people call it is an artform in itself. The best "overbooked" main event finish ever was The Rock and Triple H at Backlash 2000 which included the brief return of Stone Cold Steve Austin. I do not think I have ever seen a crowd so jacked up for a finish that also included Linda McMahon bringing back a fired Earl Hebner. "Overbooked" finishes are earned and that event earned it because of how well WWE built the storyline up over the previous 3 weeks. It was not earned at Full Gear because the MJF-Jay White feud did not make for great TV.
I will give MJF and Jay White credit for trying to make it work. The crowd was into the match. Even when Adam Cole's interference attempts were not the smoothest (compared to what Santos Escobar did to Rey Mysterio at Crown Jewel), MJF & White made it work. All the respect in the world. But from the big picture, the whole angle was not a road worth going down.
Pay-per-views are supposed to be turning points in on-going storylines on television, be it the beginning of another chapter, the climax of an on-going angle, or the conclusion of a storyline. AEW continues to struggle with cohesion and consistency in its storylines and certain plot holes were exposed across the event. Nearly five years into the company's existence, AEW still has a hard time balancing pro wrestling as a performance art and pro wrestling as a television genre. It leans too much into the former and it greatly affects the latter.
All in all, if you are a huge AEW fan, then you probably liked the show; if you're neutral on AEW, then you might be wondering why you spent the money on the event.