Reverse Hipster's 2023 Full Gear Review
The Patriarchy vs. Sting Darby Edge 7.5/10 C
This match did nothing for me. It was just fine. The Babyfaces won and had a few high spots, but when this feud is over, this match will be looked back at as filler.
Orange Cassidy vs. Moxley 8/10 B-
The story going into this match was that Orange couldn't beat Moxley. Throughout the match, Moxley is on a different level. Moxley was taking all of Orange Cassidy's best shots, eating them, and kicking out at one until Cassidy could finally chop Mox down and win the match. It was a decent match that told a nice story. It was an important moment for Orange Cassidy, but the way this match was wrestled, it was almost like they were holding back a bit. I would have liked to see Moxley punish Orange Cassidy more instead of just taking punishment.
Toni Storm vs. Shida AEW Woman's Title 8.05/10 B-
This match had a nice pace and hard-hitting action. Toni won the title, but Shida fought hard to keep her title. Shida hit Toni with really hard shots that made Toni look tough just for getting up. Shida also fought through several instances of cheating, including being hit with a foreign object. The second time Toni used a foreign object, she won.
The final sequence is where this match loses points. Toni should have worn pants. We could have been wondering why throughout the match and then found out when she stuffed metal down her pants to hit a Hip attack for the win. Instead, she put it in her shorts, and it nearly fell off, messing up the flow of the matches of the final sequence; plus, it was super visible, which made it extremely hard to buy into the fact that the ref couldn't see it. Lastly, I like Toni as the AEW Woman's champion because she has traditionally been the best champion, but I don't love another short reign for a woman's champion by Shida.
Dralistico & Rush vs. FTR vs. House of Black vs. Bill & Ricky Starks Fatal Fourway AEW Tag Team Title Match 8.3/10 B
This match was a double-edged sword for me. On the one hand, it had some holy moments that drove the match grade up, like the neckbreaker slams to the ladders and Cash Wheeler diving out onto Brody King, trying to put him through a ladder. '
However, these spots also seemed unnecessarily reckless. I think of Stone Cold and how a mistake on a Tombstone cut his career short and nearly paralyzed him. Then, in this match, we got guys performing that move off of and onto a ladder. Then, in the corner, both Brody's finisher on the ladder and Cash's dive onto the ladder could not break the ladder in half, and it looked bad and unsafe. Lastly, Ricky and Bill winning was a good thing in the long term but an unsatisfying way to end the match.
Statlander vs. Skye Blue vs. Julia Hart TBS Title 8.5/10 B
This match was great from start to finish. It was easily the match of the night so far. Statlander was basically in a handicap match beating down Skye Blue and Julia, but the more she did that, the bigger a target she became and the more Skye and Julia worked together. Skye tried to form an alliance with Julia, which is where this storyline has been going for weeks. Juia was out for herself, though, and she beat Skye down. All three women looked great, not just in spurts but all match. All three women have come so far in the ring, but in the end, Julia Hart took advantage of Statlander's finisher and stole the TBS Championship. Julia Hart could be the best TBS champion yet.
Hangman Adam Page vs. Swerve Texas Death Match 9.5/10 A
This match reminded everyone what it meant to have a death match. Right away, Adam Page was stapling Swerve with a staple gun and drinking his blood. Was it disgusting? Yes, but the visual of Adam Page's mouth covered in blood and the savage look in his eyes made this match look like a gladiator match. These men were bleeding all over the place. It was gruesome. This blood was earned, and it would make you think that the match would be quick because of how much blood was being lost from Swerve especially, but it wasn't. This was a true death match in that these men tried to kill each other. Grinding each other with barbwire and staples to the face and slamming on center blocks and even glass spots. Page and Swerve were so creative in this match.
I don't think I have seen someone do a 450 splash to someone with a glass on their back or stable posted notes through someone's mouth and drink their blood or tombstone while standing on the guard rail. Swerve took the most punishment in this match. He let Adam Page do everything short of actually killing him. On top of everything else, he was slammed through a table with barbed wire around his body. I loved the brutality of this match. The only thing I didn't like was Cage's interference. Swerve didn't need it, and it watered the match down just a tad.
This match felt generational. I could see Adam and Swerve being rivals for the rest of their careers. I don't want them to go right back to it, but they should hate each other for the rest of their careers. After a blood feud like this, there's no going back. They will be able to go back to this for many years down the road. My favorite aspect of this match was that Swerve won. Swerve had all the momentum in the world. He is the hottest act in the company, and I kept thinking about Triple H vs. Randy Orton in 2009. Can AEW do what WWE couldn't? Let the bad guy win and allow him to go supernova instead of putting him out. AEW absolutely did. Swerve to the AEW title incoming.
Jericho & Omega vs. The Young Bucks 9/10 A-
This match was very well executed. It's interesting how time changes things. The Bucks stay true to their history and refuse to work with the man who tried to destroy them. However, given the war against the Callis family, Jericho is a necessary ally. Jericho looks mature compared to the Bucks, who look a little like brats. In this match, you can tell Kenny is trying to walk the tightrope between his friendship with Jericho and the Bucks. He fights clean and stops Jericho from taking liberties with the Bucks.
However, the Bucks fight dirty. They take advantage of Kenny trying to fight fair and throw every dirty trick they can at Jericho. However, regardless of what the Bucks do, Jericho fights admirably. Jericho kicks out of several of the Bucks's finishers by himself and has Kenny's back to the end and only low blows the Bucks after they low blow Kenny and Jericho first. Jericho takes the punishment, and Kenny Omega eventually wakes up and fights the Young Bucks like they were anyone else. In the end, it's Kenny who puts them down and takes away their tag team opportunity.
This is a crushing blow because the Bucks lost a friend, a title match, and their pride. Kenny and the Ocho are better than them. They threw a fit at the end, but it was all they could do. Everything they thought was wrong, and they lost everything because of it. Amazing storytelling and great action.
MJF vs. Jay White AEW World Title 8.99/10 A-
This match was excellent storywise. MJF was injured earlier in the night, and Adam Cole had to step up to defend MJF's title for him. Then, at the last second, MJF returns to the ambulance to fight. MJF coming back was super predictable, but the way he sold the pain in his leg made the moment feel big, regardless. Jay White got the upper hand early, going after MJF's leg, but soon, MJF would take over.
Despite the winces in pain, MJF actually controlled this match for most of its duration. That's a negative because Jay White should be able to dominate an injured MJF. However, once again, MJF makes up for that by doing some amazing spots. Mjf threw Jay on the announce table, and it collapsed immediately, making AEW look bad and ruining the spot. But the show must go on, so MJF climbed to the top rope and did the elbow drop anyway. MJF's improvised spot was even better than the original cause there was very little padding on the ground. The dive MJF took was actually riskier than a table spot and more taxing on his knees. The spot reminded me of Cactus Jack in WCW. The other spot was the over-the-top-rope cutter out of the ring by MJF. I haven't seen anyone do that before.
MJF eventually took Jay White down with the Dynamite Diamond ring and completed the epic comeback. However, some things could have been improved with this match. Firstly, if MJF was so hurt, he should have tried to end the match early. The longer the match went on, the more unbelievable it was. Plus, there were several instances when MJF broke the count or threw Jay White in the ring to break the count. That makes no sense if Jay White gets counted out of the ring MJF retains. Why wouldn't he want that in his injured state? He cheated anyway, so it's not as if he had to get an honorable victory.
Secondly, AEW had to make Jay White look like a scrub for this match to happen. Jay White getting dominated by a one-legged guy is bad for his wrestler cred. If he couldn't handle MJF on one leg, how am I supposed to buy into his abilities? It's not as if he made a mistake. MJF was just better than him. Thirdly, why did Jay White attack the leg so much but only to do one submission? He should have been trying to get MJF to tap out all match. MJF looked great in this match but did not do much for Jay White.
The Patriarchy vs. Sting, Darby Allin, and Edge
This was an okay match to open the night. Edge didn’t look as impressive as I wanted to see him in this PPV in-ring debut. Christian Cage found a way to get away from the attack from the babyfaces and left his “children” in the ring to fend for themselves, which is a story to look at going forward. The babyfaces won, and the best part of the segment was Darby Allin hyping up the crowd to see one of Sting’s final matches.
Final Grade: 5/10 Average
Orange Cassidy vs. Jon Moxley (International Championship)
I think this is a rematch that did not live up to the hype of the first match. Orange Cassidy hit some pretty impressive moves, and Jon Moxley was recovering from them easily. It’s all part of the legend of both characters, but as a match, it wasn’t very entertaining to watch. While I’m happy to see Cassidy get the big win over Moxley and Moxley is healthy enough to wrestle again, this feud kind of undid everything. Cassidy is the International champion again, but he is restarting the reign from scratch, while Moxley took one of his biggest losses in AEW.
Final Grade: 4/10 Below Average
Hikaru Shida vs. Toni Storm (Women’s Championship)
Toni Storm’s Timeless character brought character work to a women’s division that desperately needed it. This match was okay, highlighted by the creative ways that Storm cheated to eventually win the championship. In a division where the championship has been hot potatoed around, I’m hoping Storm can have a real run this time and defend in good matches against AEW’s best women.
Final Grade: 5/10 Average
Fatal Four Way Tag Team Ladder Match (Tag Team Championship)
This match was underbuilt, but the competitors involved made it work. Multiman ladder matches are always fun, and these guys brought the spots. The most brutal spot for my money was Brody King hitting a Gonzo Bomb on Dralistico on a ladder draped between the ring and the barricade. Eventually, Ricky Starks and Big Bill cleared the ring and retained the championship. I feel like this is a strange team to carry the division, but I’ll let it slide for now.
Final Grade: 6/10 Above Average
Kris Statlander vs. Julia Hart vs. Skye Blue (TBS Championship)
This was a well-executed triple threat with creative spots and timing, telling a story throughout the match. In the end, Julia Hart stole a pin on Skye Blue after an offense from Kris Statlander to win her first championship in AEW. Statlander’s whole reign ended up being underwhelming, but AEW did the best thing they could by putting the championship on rising star Julia Hart.
Final Grade: 6/10 Above Average
Adam Page vs. Swerve Strickland (Texas Death Match)
AEW has overused Death Match wrestling in the past, but this rematch and feud necessitated it. Swerve Strickland is doing the best heel work in wrestling right now, and Adam Page brought the fight to him. The match started with a surprise attack, a dozen staples put around Strickland’s chest and biceps, and an all-timer spot where Page stapled his son’s drawing to Strickland and drank Strickland’s blood, spitting it throughout the ring like Triple H. While AEW can be guilty of needless blood, this was not it. Page relished in drawing Strickland’s blood, and the staples in his body amplified the rest of the match as I thought about the agony it would be to feel the staples in your body every time you used your muscles throughout the wrestling match.
Strickland absolutely put his body on the line for this match and for the company. He gave us some of the most blood we’ve seen in a major wrestling promotion since the Eddie Guerrero blade job. He brought back his signature cinder block for some brutal spots and beat Page at his own game by choking him out to win the match. The only knock on this match is that Strickland got help from Brian Cage and Prince Nana when he did not need it. Page did great work in this feud, too: he never got the credit he deserved in his championship run, and he brought that level back out for this feud to make a new star. If anyone is in doubt, I’m here to tell you Strickland is that star. He can put on a match of the night candidate at any given time, and he’s willing to put his life on the line for the company. Strickland should be the next AEW champion.
Final Grade: 9/10 Amazing
Golden Jets vs. the Young Bucks
Maybe it’s just hard to go back to normal wrestling after what Adam Page and Swerve Strickland did to each other, but I could never get fully into this match. Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks undoubtedly have great chemistry. I love the looks of regret they gave when hitting offense on each other. Sometimes with your friends, it can be personal. Aside from that, I think this was a normal Young Bucks match. Omega and new friend Chris Jericho won to earn a Tag Team Championship opportunity, and the neverending Elite story continues.
Final Grade: 5/10 Average
MJF vs. Jay White (AEW Championship)
This match was booked throughout the night as Jay White vs. Adam Cole (on behalf of MJF) with a severe ankle injury because MJF was hurt by the Gunn Club later in the night. Predictably, MJF came back and worked the match hurt against White. The booking added drama to the match, but it took away from everything else. The MJF vs. everybody story is interesting, and it was nice to see Cole back in his corner. However, MJF and White are two of the best wrestlers on AEW’s roster, and we didn’t get to see them have THAT match which White in AEW still desperately needs. MJF did an inconsistent job selling his injury throughout the match, and the offense he chose to do with a hurt leg made no sense. Eventually, MJF won, and it made White look terrible while MJF is getting his worst PPV grade as champion. We also got no answers on who is targeting friends of MJF in the Devil Mask, which was the biggest question going into this PPV.
Final Grade: 4/10 Below Average
Rob’s Final Thoughts
AEW had a match-of-the-year candidate buried in a pile of pretty average matches for a PPV. In the end, a below-average match from two of AEW’s most consistent high-level performers really put a damper on this night. A PPV full of average matches is bad, but one with a match of the year candidate gets a slight bump up. There are a lot of places AEW can go from here, but for what I saw in this PPV:
Overall Grade: 4/10 Below Average
Reverse Hipster's Final Grade 84.8/100 B
2023 Full Gear Review, it was a tale of two halves. The PPV started out extremely average but mostly decent. Then, the card began to take off. The women's division has grown by leaps and bounds. Toni Storm now stands atop the division as a badass women wrestler with drawing power and an actual character. However, the undercard presented the most hope—three young stars who have developing characters and have actually gotten development in the ring. If AEW keeps this up, they could have an exciting group of women's wrestlers coming up and actually become a desirable destination for women's wrestling.
This PPV will most likely be remembered for the Death Match. That's good when you can attach a PPV to a legendary match. Overall, the PPV was solid, with good to great matches and good story development. Last year, I said that the match count needed to be cut, and it was this year. I also said that there needed to be more stipulations. Last year, there were two non-stipulation matches, and this year, there was just one. These changes result in Full Gear being much better this year.