Editor's Note: The following is an opinion-based preview and doesn't reflect the viewpoints of F4WOnline.
I love an easy, breezy week where I really get to focus on writing this column. Nothing is happening in the world to distract me, no societies potentially crumbling to pull my attention away -- just pure, unadulterated wrestling focus. Once again, wrestling is seeking to provide at least somewhat of a respite from a world in constant chaos and I am grateful for it.
This AEW Full Gear card is absolutely stacked and mercifully there is no Shawn Spears match for me to have to preview. Some of the builds to the matches are lacking, but the matches themselves are great and we love great matches. I’m trying to be positive here because re-reading what I wrote below, there is some real negativity. Even as a self-described cynic, it’s never my intention to drag AEW like this (Nightmare Family notwithstanding). Their product is good-to-great depending on the week. They do a lot of good things, but those good things could be even better with some refinement. Maybe watching 96 straight hours of CNN is unhealthy, but that’s a conversation for me to have with my therapist, not the entire Internet.
Let’s run through the card and see who comes out on top at the end of AEW’s last pay-per-view of 2020.
Orange Cassidy vs. John Silver
As popular as Cassidy is, AEW is still doing him a disservice by having him largely wrestle serious matches. He isn’t over because he’s a plucky underdog type, he’s over because of a unique gimmick and bizarre charisma. The appeal of "the lazy guy who is good at wrestling" has a finite shelf life. The novelty of it, at some point, will wear off. Wrestling fans get tired of everything no matter how good it is. Let OC wrestle his style of comedy match here and there. I promise it will be good.
It gives me no pleasure writing this, but Silver is just a whole bunch of fun. Being in Beyond Wrestling (please come back!) country means I have seen him live more than any other wrestler. I will never forget when he beat Zack Sabre Jr. at a bar in Providence, RI, when ZSJ was both the PWG and EVOLVE champ. Apoplectic is probably a good word to describe my reaction to that. That aside, he’s been incredibly entertaining in AEW and makes the most of his screen time. Good for you, meat man. You deserve it.
One of these guys has a real character and gets meaningful TV time and the other doesn’t. This is an easy W for OC.
Elite Deletion: Matt Hardy vs. Sammy Guevara
I have so much appreciation for what Hardy has brought and continues to bring to pro wrestling. His creativity, constant reinventions, and willingness to push boundaries later in his career is incredible. He’s done a lot of what Chris Jericho has done, just at a smaller scale and with less success. The man deserves his flowers. I have no idea how to preview a cinematic match. It’s going to be good, bad, and weird. Guevara should "win" and finally, mercifully, put this feud to bed.
Chris Jericho vs. MJF (If MJF wins, he joins the Inner Circle)
I was really wondering how they were going to get to a Jericho/MJF match after Le Dinner Debonair. I should have known the answer was right in front of me all along. I am actually embarrassed I didn’t see this coming. Truly shameful. Le Dinner Debonair was certainly...something, but no one, not a single soul, can say that it wasn’t ambitious. One of the very best things about AEW is that they will just try things and trust the performers to get it over. WWE falls into the habit of trying to please everyone (DQ finishes, people constantly getting wins back, etc), so no one really separates themselves. Even if the segment fell completely flat, people are always going to remember a full on song and dance number on national TV, and that’s worth something.
Are we heading toward a full Jericho face turn (or at least as much as Jericho is capable of turning)? There is a non zero chance this ends with the Inner Circle turning on the Demo God and walking out of Jacksonville with MJF as the new leader. This could happen Saturday or MJF could win and they slow burn to that point (the more likely scenario, IMO). Either way, I think that’s the ultimate end game of all of this.
I don’t think they invested the time in this program just for MJF to lose and walk away from it. He wins on Saturday and begins to sow seeds of dissension throughout the Inner Circle. An additional question: what happens to Wardlow?
World Title Eliminator Tournament final: Hangman Page vs. Kenny Omega
Page is the most relatable, big name pro wrestler in a long time. He’s open about his insecurities. He broadcasts his flaws on television every week. Being one of the few actual humans in pro wrestling makes him stand out. When something, or in this case someone, is relatable, they resonate. A big part of the reason Steve Austin was so over was that everyone knows what it’s like to hate a boss and to want to rebel against an authority figure. Of course, part of his success was generational talent, but the relatability really took it to the next level.
None of us are ever going to wrestle a historically great match like Omega, but all of us know what it’s like to deal with self doubt and destructive coping mechanisms. We all know what it’s like to have those coping mechanisms affect our relationships, so when we see Page’s foundation start to shake, we empathize. Keep being sad, Adam. It reminds us that it’s okay for us to feel things.
Page’s humanity is a wonderful juxtaposition to the entirely unrelatability of this version of Kenny Omega, aka the best wrestler in the world version. I touched on it above, but very few, if any, know what it’s like to be the absolute best at something. I barely know what it’s like to be average. There’s always going to be that distance. We can marvel at the physical gifts and be in awe of the performance (personal preference caveats apply), but we can’t relate. It’s something out of our reach.
This does seem more like the Omega people expected when AEW was announced -- the guy putting on classics and living at the top of the singles card. As much as I’d love to see Page win, I don’t think it happens against this iteration of Omega.
TNT Champion Cody Rhodes vs. Darby Allin
The nature of wrestling is inherently corny. And, as I frequently say in these columns, that’s okay. Something can be corny and good as those aren’t mutually exclusive things. But, and this is an all caps, bold, size 44 font BUT The Nightmare Family is both the absolute corniest and one of the worst things about AEW. Having a coach that comes to the ring with a clipboard? Corny even though it’s Arn heckin’ Anderson. QT Marshall? A bag of corn chips. And, last, but certainly not least, is the Gunn Club. All the Gunn Club (God, I hate typing this) does is sit ringside and cheer. That’s it. Sometimes, Billy hops in the ring, but largely they just whoop it up in the stands with their pals. Who was clamoring for more of them? I know the Nightmare Family is just whatever Cody wants it to be on any given day, but Jesus, man.
The dog is the best part of the family. This is somehow a less intimidating stable than Retribution.
The reason Allin hasn’t come up yet is because Allin has barely come up during the build to Full Gear. Sure, they showed him in the crowd and he got a video this week, but Cody and Orange Cassidy have been the recent focus of the TNT title picture. This match has no build. Cody just came back looking like an edgelord version of M. Bison one week, won the title back, and then everything picked up right where it was before he left to do a TV show no one will watch. Great stuff by our Three Star General, as always.
Cody didn’t win the belt back just to lose it. My mistake, let’s try that again: Cody didn’t win back the "Ace belt" just to lose it. I would love to get to the level of delusion he’s just putting out into the world. Yes, Cody having milquetoast matches with some indie guys makes you an ace. It would be great if they would finally just pull the trigger on Darby here, but Cody needs another overly drawn out, melodramatic victory yet again.
AEW Women’s Champion Hikaru Shida vs. Nyla Rose
The lack of attention given to the AEW women’s division is yet again on full display here. Running back the same match they did at Revolution in February is certainly a decision they made. Only five of the female wrestlers listed on AEW’s website have more than ten singles matches in 2020. Five. Not a typo -- five in almost an entire calendar year. Sure, Kris Statlander got injured and sure, there was a pandemic preventing them from bringing in foreign talent, but those are excuses, not reasons. If John Silver can get on a PPV and if they can run another Matt Hardy/Sammy Guevara match, there is certainly room for more than one women’s program to run at the same time.
One segment at the end of the go home show does not make a feud. Shida and Rose could have actually tried to kill each other and it still wouldn’t be enough to get this program where it should be. There is a history to work with that would have been easy. Instead, Rose just demanded a match, Shida said "lol, sure" and now, here we are. I’m all about simple builds but c’mon, a little effort goes a long, long way.
Rose has gotten exponentially better since she started with AEW, but Shida has still been better. She’s carried the division for most of the year and deserves to end the year as champion. Shida retains.
AEW Tag Team Champions FTR vs Young Bucks (If the Bucks lose, they will never challenge for the titles again)
Man, where to start with this one? I guess the stipulation makes the most sense. It worked well when Cody did it as it added serious stakes to his match last year with Jericho. Obviously, that was all undone when they introduced the Cody Rhodes Championship earlier this year (that is the TNT championship, for the record). This just feels lazy. This feels tacked on to something that shouldn’t need it. This match has been talked about for years which is all this build needed. These are two teams that have wanted to do this forever getting to finally do it. I don’t even know why the belts need to be involved, but I suppose it does make sense for ‘The Best Tag Team In The World ™’ to walk out with gold for gravitas, but putting on an actual dream match is enough.
The Young Bucks mescaline vision quest to just be the most unlikeable good wrestlers alive is still going strong. AEW really needs to make up their minds with the Bucks alignment. Heel/face alignment matters less than ever in wrestling, but consistency actually does. You can’t have them superkicking non-wrestlers and bragging about getting fined one week and then starting an injury angle the next. Mix that with some ‘huge stakes’ and baby, you got a stew going. What we certainly didn’t need is the 900th Matt Jackson injury angle of the past few years. Whatever. I’m not rooting for the Bucks and neither should you.
If Omega beats Page and Cody beats Allin, the Bucks have to lose here. Otherwise, every Executive Vice President is going over and that would be a real tough scene. Plus, FTR is just better at this -- better at playing characters, better at telling stories, just better all around. Please, for the love of god, let them keep the belts.
I Quit Match: AEW World Champion Jon Moxley vs. Eddie Kingston
Kingston is, and has been for a long time, one of the most authentic performers in all of wrestling. He is a spectacularly captivating promo artist - and make no mistake ghat he is an artist on the stick - that really makes you believe what he says. We believe it because he believes it. When he says this is his life, this really is his life. It’s all he has and it’s all he needs.We’re squarely in this ‘meta era’ of pro wrestling where it’s never been more clear that people are playing characters, but Kingston goes against that. He is genuine and real, desperate and calculating. He doesn’t break kayfabe because there is none to break. The Mad King is, unquestionably, the "Last of a Dying Breed".
Moxley has found such a great dance partner in Kingston. His program with MJF was incredibly "pro wrestling" with MJF playing the over the top heel. His program with Jake Hager didn’t have a whole lot to it because, well, Jake Hager. He hasn’t really got to sink his teeth into anything since he took the belt off of Jericho in February. Man, remember February? That was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. With Kingston, he’s found someone who matches his intensity. Their shared history grounds the story and gives them something to play off of. Moxley has been fine and was getting by on his presence and intensity until Wednesday night. What a segment that was with two world class talkers going head to head. One small thing that I absolutely love is that Moxley has no catchphrases and no gimmicks.
'I Quit' is the perfect stipulation for this match. It plays into both of their strengths as tough as nails brawlers who will do anything to win. For as much praise as I’ve spouted for Kingsto, there’s just no way he wins. This has been one of the best transitional feuds in recent history but that’s all it is: a transitional feud. Mox retains and ends 2020 with Pretty Platinum™ on his shoulder.