AEW Full Gear 2023
November 18, 2023
Watch: PPV / Bleacher Report / FITE (Non-US)
Meet our reviewers
Sean Sedor: This is the start of a long night for me, as after I’m done watching this AEW PPV, I’ll be watching the F1 race in Las Vegas, which may or may not be a shit show (and their weekend in Vegas has turned out to be a shit show in many ways already). You can find me on Twitter @SASedor2994. If you’re interested in some of my other escapades, you can watch me play the Formula 1 games on YouTube (just search my name), and you can also go to the Be The Booker forums if you’d like to check out my EWR Diary, where I play as WCW (started in 1998, currently in April of 2002).
Fred Morlan: I’m the cohost of Voices of Wrestling’s AEW podcast, The Good, the Bad, and the Hungee. I’m hopeful that this PPV will steer out of the ditch that is the MJF storyline, though I know it’s not going to happen.
ROH World Title
Eddie Kingston (c) def. Jay Lethal
Sean: ROH Board of Directors member Stokely Hathaway joined the commentary team for this one. I didn’t know if they were going to save this for Final Battle or not, but they decided to do it here (which I don’t mind). We get a chop battle between Kingston and Lethal early on before the latter makes control on the floor. It’s at this point that Jeff Jarrett and Sonjoy Dutt get some shots in on Kingston while Lethal had the referee distracted. Kingston managed to fight back with an exploder, but Lethal responded with a Lethal Combination and his Macho Man Elbow.
At one point, Karen Jarrett and Satnam Singh distract the referee, which leads to both Kingston and Lethal trying to go for Jeff Jarrett’s guitar. Ortiz ended up taking the guitar, and smashed it over the head of Sonjay Dutt. This allowed Kingston to take control, and he put Lethal away after a spinning backfist. A perfectly fine match here, but certainly not memorable in any way. Kingston remains champion, and we’ll see where things go from here with Final Battle only being a few weeks away. ***
Fred: While I love Stokely, the addition of a heel authority figure to the AEW-verse is another sign of the sports entertainmentification of Tony Khan.
This is about what you would expect from this match. Jay Lethal controlling Kingston early with heel antics early, EK getting hope spots, rinse & repeat. Jay Lethal did turn Macho Man’s flying elbow into a falling elbow as he got just no air off the top. The best spot of the match was Ortiz hitting Sonjay Dutt with a guitar shot.
I’m an admitted Eddie Kingston mark, and this just didn’t do a whole lot for me. It was solidly worked but never shifted into a higher gear. **3/4
Eddie’s chaotic sixty seconds promos are always fun, even if they don’t actually do anything other than threaten Stokely.
Claudio Castagnoli def. Buddy Matthews
Sean: This match came about after Buddy Matthews picked up a win over Wheeler Yuta on Collision last night. We haven’t really gotten to see the same Big Match Buddy that used to tear it up during the WWE’s revival of the Cruiserweight Division in the previous decade (I can’t believe we’re at the point where I can safely refer to the 2010’s as “the previous decade”), but maybe we’ll get to see that version of Buddy again here against an absolute machine in Claudio Castagnoli. This one started off hot with Claudio dishing out some European Uppercuts before Buddy managed to avoid the first Giant Swing attempt. Things soon spilled out to the floor where Buddy managed to gain control after a flying attack off the ring steps and a running knee strike.
Back in the ring, Claudio tried for the Giant Swing again, but Buddy managed to avoid it once again. The third time ended up being the charm as Claudio finally traps Buddy in the swing after counting a dropkick off the ropes. Buddy does manage to fight back with a powerbomb and a jackhammer. He then locked in a crossface, but Claudio was able to fight out of it, and followed up with the Ricola Bomb. One Sharpshooter later, and Buddy tapped out. A pretty solid match here between these two. Exactly the kind of stuff I like to see on these pre-shows. Also, given some of the nonsense we’ve seen in AEW lately, it’s nice to just get a straight match with no shenanigans. Buddy refuses Claudio’s handshake after the bout, so I presume we’ll be seeing more BCC vs. House Of Black matches in the future. ***1/2
Fred: Buddy’s wrestling on back to back nights after going nearly three months without a match after House of Black dropped the Trios belts at All In.
This was a solid but not spectacular match. Claudio had some great moments, and Buddy had some good spots. Not a high level match but worthy of your time if you have it. ***3/4
ROH World Tag Team Titles
MJF & Samoa Joe (c) def. The Gunns
Sean: I’m so happy that the whole “MJF defending the titles by himself” thing is over, as him just going through teams by himself is really stupid. MJF went after The Gunns right away, but was quickly double-teamed by them until Samoa Joe made the tag. Joe then went on to clean house for a good minute or two. He tagged back into MJF…who gets beaten down by The Gunns for a few minutes before Joe comes back into the fray once again. The Gunns managed to avoid stereo Muscle Busters, and connected with the 3:10 To Yuma on Joe. Just when it seemed like The Gunns were on the verge of victory, we get a trademark WWE distraction finish (fitting for a guy in MJF that clearly prefers WWE style sports entertainment) in the form of Adam Cole, who comes out on crutches after his music hit. This allows Samoa Joe to lock one of The Gunns in a choke for the victory.
The match itself was decent for what it was, I suppose. Obviously MJF was playing the babyface in peril, but I did find it odd that the World Champion of this promotion pretty much spent this entire match getting beaten down. Virtually no offense aside for a spot or two here and there. The big story, however, occurred afterwards. While MJF was talking with Adam Cole at ringside, The Gunns jumped him and targeted his leg with a chair (the injured Cole was helpless to stop them). They eventually Pillmanized MJF’s leg, and he got taken away on a stretcher as Zero Hour came to a close. Looks like some kind of hook for the PPV, with the question being “what will happen with the main event?”. It doesn’t get me that interested, as I fully expect MJF to come back in time (like the Hulk Hogan style babyface he’s desperately trying to be), but I guess I’m a little curious to see exactly what path they’re going down with this. **1/2
Fred: This is Samoa Joe’s first 2 vs. 2 tag match in AEW since last November, when he teamed with Wardlow against The Gates of Agony on Rampage.
Samoa Joe is just the best at being a professional wrestler. More WWE stuff here – can these partners coexist, a finish directly from an entrance theme distraction. The work was fine but this was just inessential viewing. The post-match undermined the booking as well – if Joe is guaranteed a total shot against MJF, wouldn’t he want MJF to not be beat down so he could retain his title for a later match? MJF’s leg gets murderkilled, he’s taken to the hospital, begs Adam to not let them take his championship.Everyone is real sad as a Gunn just casually walks through the curtain behind them all. This is the sunk cost fallacy storyline. **
Adam Copeland, Darby Allin, & Sting (with Ric Flair) def. TNT Champion Christian Cage, Luchasaurus, & Nick Wayne
Sean: We get what looked like a high school choir on the stage singing along to Christian Cage’s theme during his entrance. Meanwhile, we get a big special entrance from the babyfaces that included Adam Copeland with half of his face painted up (he actually looks pretty cool, not gonna lie). Christian briefly got involved after the opening exchange between Darby Allin and Nick Wayne, but backed out as soon as Copeland got involved. After Luchasaurs tagged in, we got our first big spot of the match as he destroyed Darby with a chokeslam on the apron. The heels work over Darby for a few minutes until Darby finally fights back with a Super Code Red off the top rope. Christian managed to pull Copeland off the apron before the hot tag could be made, and the beatdown of Darby continued.
Copeland finally got tagged in, and Christian immediately got out of there. All three babyfaces ran wild as Copeland tossed Wayne onto Luchasaurus on the floor before Darby and Sting each nailed dives. We got a weird spot where Christian confronted Ric Flair, which led to Flair chopping Christian right in front of the referee (not a DQ apparently), but Christian got the last shot in on that exchange with a low blow. Once again, Copeland tried to get his hands on Christian, but the TNT Champion went into the crowd and ran off as fast as he could, leaving Luchasaurus in the ring by himself to take the finish. While this by no means a great match, I thought it was a very fun match to kick off the PPV with. Darby took some crazy bumps, as per usual, and everyone involved got moments to shine. Ric Flair’s involvement near the end, in clear view of the referee, was pretty nonsensical, but aside from that, I really don’t have any other complaints. An entertaining opener to say the least. ***1/2
Fred: Ric Flair spent half this match over in the heels’ corner for some reason. This was a pretty fun match, with the basic structure you would expect. Darby sold his ass off and took the requisite crazy bumps you would expect him to, and Chrisitan remained the best heel in the business by running away after his various antics. ***1/2
AEW International Title
Orange Cassidy (with HOOK) (c) def. Jon Moxley (with Wheeler Yuta)
Sean: Having this match go on second is an….interesting choice. These two had a great main event at All Out, but unfortunately, the International Title has been in a bit of a muddied state since then with injuries to both Jon Moxley and Rey Fenix. It’s a brawl straightaway as Mox is beating the crap out of Orange Cassidy on the floor. Back in the ring, and Mox is firmly in control. Cassidy manages to finally fight back after taking a page from Mox’s playbook (digging his fingernails into the back and biting) before hitting a big superplex. Mox is busted open at this point, and Cassidy follows up with a series of dives onto the former champion.
After some more back-and-forth between the two, Cassidy goes for HOOK’s Redrum, but while Moxley escapes, he inadvertently pulls off one of the turnbuckle pads. A few minutes later, Orange sends Mox into the exposed turnbuckle. Mox refuses to go down after SEVERAL orange punches, but it ultimately proved to be too much. Orange followed up with the Beach Break and secured the win! Even though I would still put the All Out match above this rematch, these two delivered an awesome bout. Mox kicked so much ass as this monster that was beating Cassidy up all over the place, while Cassidy played his role to perfection as well. This really continued the story from Cassidy’s first run with this title, as despite everything thrown in his way, he was able to survive an incredibly strong opponent to retain his title. Given that these two are now 1-1, I suppose we could see a third match down the line between these two, but time will tell on that one. ****1/4
Fred: I’ve got to be honest, I had a hard time focusing on this match at first due to the StOrY tElLiNg that happened before it with Cole & Jay White. This had an absolutely fantastic closing stretch that was so good it woke up what had previously been a quiet crowd. The highlight of the show so far. ****1/4
AEW Women’s World Title
“Timeless” Toni Storm def. Hikaru Shida (c)
Sean: In some of her matches on television since this gimmick really went into overdrive, Toni Storm has presented a script to her opponents, only for them to rip up the script. Here, Toni ripped up her own script. Whatever (insert eyeroll here). They’re doing a pretty normal match here, but the crowd really isn’t reacting to any of it. What they DO react to is Toni using a shoe on Shida for a nearfall. At one point, Shida appears to “injure” her leg, and Toni goes right after it with an ankle lock, which Shida manages to survive.
They spilled out to the floor, and after Luther prevented her from using the kendo stick on Toni, Shida used the kendo stick on him. This distraction allowed Toni to take the tray that Luther had. She hid it in her trunks, and it was very obvious that she was setting that up for the loaded hip attack for the win. However, the execution ended up being super poor, as the tray somehow ended up halfway out of her trunks when she hit the hip attack. Then, when she scored the pin that won her the title, Aubrey Edwards was staring right at the tray as it was sticking out of her ass. The match itself wasn’t that bad, but the obviously screwed up finish definitely takes it down a notch. Toni wins the title as pretty much most people expected. Mariah May brought her flowers after the fact, so that story is only going to get ramped up from here. **1/2
Fred: Oh God, we’ve got the WWE-angled TV watching on pay-per-view now. This is how Roderick Strong originally hurt his neck, you know.
We had a solid open with a chop battle playing off of last night’s match between Storm & Emi Sakura. We had some schtick with the shoes, but it was a pretty good match until the finish, which completely fell apart. Luther didn’t catch the kendo stick to save Storm from a Shida shot. Toni Storm shoved a chunk of metal in her trunks, which immediately stuck out the rest of the way. They did a series of moves where it was visible to the ref Aubrey, who of course did nothing. Storm had to stop & adjust her trunks before hitting her finisher. Just an utter failure of a finish which ruined what had been an enjoyable match to that point. *1/2
AEW World Tag Team Titles – Four-Way Ladder Match
Ricky Starks & Big Bill (c) def. FTR, Kings Of The Black Throne (Malakai Black & Brody King), & LFI (RUSH & Dralistico)
Sean: So this was turned into a Ladder Match last night on Collision, with the rationale from Ricky Starks being that, because of Big Bill’s height, his side has an immediate advantage (not horrible logic I guess, but still a risky move). We get a big brawl to start this one out, culminating in a series of dives and a “superplex onto the pile on the floor” spot.
A back-and-forth between the two biggest men in the match (Big Bill and Brody King) leads to them being the meat in a ladder sandwich. Dax Harwood does probably the worst Terry Funk spinning ladder spot of all-time before his partner Cash Wheeler gets a ladder slammed in his face by Malakai Black. Not the best night for FTR so far, but Cash is able to turn that around after giving Black a piledriver onto a ladder. More trouble for The House Of Black as Brody King gets a ladder to the face off a dive attempt. Ricky Starks goes on an offensive flurry before a bloodied Brody King gets back involved. To this point, this has been a pretty entertaining match.
Everybody is going crazy at this point as bodies are flying everywhere. The craziest spot occurs when Brody King absolutely destroys Dralistico with a brutal Gonza Bomb on a ladder bridge. Eventually, it came down to Ricky Starks and Cash Wheeler battling on top of a set of ladders for the belts, and after a little bit of help from Big Bill, Starks grabbed the belts, and the champions retained. I wasn’t sure what to expect in this one, but when the dust settled, this absolutely rocked. Everyone involved was busting their asses (both figuratively and in some cases literally), and their efforts resulted in a wild and crazy ladder match. As far as the result goes, I don’t mind Ricky Starks and Big Bill holding onto these titles a little bit longer. Not much else to say about this one other than it definitely overachieved. ****1/4
Fred: A fan in the crowd asked a very important question during this match: “Hey Bill, why are you so big?”
This was, unsurprisingly, a spotfest. There’s way too many highlights to put over here: Malakai Black did a fantastic slingshot spot where he whipped a ladder off the ropes into the face of Cash Wheeler. Brody King Ganso Bombing Dralistico on a ladder. Cash splashing Brody through the ladder. Ricky Starks avoiding big bumps like the plague. I’m a sucker for matches like this, and this was a great example of the genre. ****1/2
Julia Hart def. Kris Statlander (c), Skye Blue
Sean: Skye Blue comes out with a new look to reflect her new attitude, ditching her baseball cap and going for much darker colors in her gear. After Kris Statlander had the edge in the opening moments, we got some brief teamwork between Julia Hart and Skye Blue. That didn’t last long, however, as Hart was the first one to break the truce between the two. The action continued as these three traded offense. Skye Blue nearly had the match won at one point with a different variation of her Code Blue. Statlander responded by dishing out numerous German Suplexes out to both Julia and Skye.
Eventually, Statlander managed to connect with the Saturday Night Fever on Skye Blue, but then Julia Hart came off the ropes with a relatively weak lariat, but it was enough to send Statlander off, and she pinned the prone Skye Blue to capture the TBS Title. I like that Julia at least hit a move on Statlander before getting the pin on Skye. This was a perfectly fine match. It didn’t blow the roof off by any means, but there was some fine action throughout. Seeing Statlander toss around some smaller women was fun to watch. As for Julia Hart, this is a long-time coming for her. She’s done a great job with this new character after joining the House Of Black, and even though she’s still not a polished product, she’s definitely improved in the ring over the last several months (and the match with Statlander at WrestleDream showed that). Fascinated to see where she goes from here now that she’s the champion. ***1/4
Fred: this wasn’t a perfect match, but the stuff between Julia Hart & Kris Statlander was quite good, and Kris is at her best when she’s hitting massive suplexes and slams on people. If this sets up a rematch between Hart & Stat to follow up on their WrestleDream match, I’d be okay with that. **3/4
Will Ospreay signs with All Elite Wrestling
Sean: When Tony Khan revealed that there’d be a big signing at Full Gear, Will Ospreay was one of the leading contenders almost immediately. After numerous reports came out that the signing was likely going to be Ospreay, that did indeed end up coming to pass. While AEW is certainly a promotion with many flaws at the moment (far from its peak), I’m very happy that Will Ospreay is going to AEW instead of WWE. It’s a much better fit for him, and I’m sure this means that Ospreay is still going to have chances to work with New Japan here and there. Ospreay said that while he’s not starting with AEW just yet, he will be once his time with New Japan is up early next year. Will Ospreay is All Elite, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Fred: Thank God he’s not retiring to WWE. He’s not going to fix AEW’s issues, but they still have the capability of having great matches on a weekly basis and he’ll fit right in on that aspect.
Texas Death Match
Swerve Strickland (with Prince Nana) def. “Hangman” Adam Page
Sean: Swerve had an awesome entrance that included a bunch of dancers doing Prince Nana’s dance alongside Nana. However, as they were doing the “Who’s House? Swerve’s House!” part of Swerve’s entrance, Adam Page ran down the entryway and jumped Swerve to get this match going! That’s how you start a match that’s part of a deeply personal rivalry. The first portion of this match sees Hangman fully in control, as he just destroys Swerve. He gets out a staple gun and starts shooting staples all over Swerve’s body (he’s now all bloodied up at this stage). If that wasn’t enough, he stapled one of his young son’s finger paints to Swerve’s face before DRINKING SWERVE’S BLOOD!! Adam Page is truly a sick fuck.
Swerve finally gets in some offense after a low blow, and then sends Page face first into a steel chair wrapped in barbed wire. Then, just to prove that he’s even more of a sick fuck than Hangman, he no-sells more shots from the staple gun before SHOOTING HIMSELF with a staple gun. We are in deep waters here, folks. Swerve then punishes Hangman, hitting a Death Valley Driver onto a cinder block on the apron, and a freaking piledriver on top of the ringside guardrails. Page responds with a barbed wire assisted fallaway slam, and a moonsault to the floor with the barbed-wire wrapped chair. Both the ring mat and the white ropes are stained with blood as Hangman gives Swerve a tombstone piledriver on the barbed-wire chair.
A battle on the top rope leads to a powerbomb and a Swerve Stomp to Hangman on the barbed-wire chair. Swerve then brings out broken glass, dumps it on Hangman’s back, and hits a 450 Splash. Pure Insanity. Nana then helps Swerve bring out a barbed-wire board, and sets it up on chairs in the ring. Hangman turns it around however, and hits a top rope fallaway slam onto the board! He drops Swerve on the barbed wire again and again! The Buckshot Lariat connects, but Nana pulls Swerve to the floor so he can break the count. Mogul Embassy member Brian Cage then flies in and attacks Page from behind. Page fights him off. Nana then tries to get involved, and he ends up eating a Dead Eye off the apron through a table. All of this allowed Swerve to recover, and he hit Hangman from behind with a cinder block. He then took a chain and choked Hangman with it using the post (literally hanging the Hangman). Page was counted out, and that was it.
Even with the interference, this was nothing short of incredible. EASILY the Match Of The Night up to this point. These two absolutely destroyed each other in an absolute war with so many sick and disgusting spots. I love that the AEW has made the Texas Death Match one of their signature stipulations. Whenever it comes up, you know you’re in for something special. Bouts like this are such a stark contrast to all of the nonsense in the MJF-verse (your “flavor of ice cream” still sucks, Max). This result not only means that Swerve is 2-0 against Hangman, but it’s also the first time Adam Page has lost a Texas Death Match in AEW. It’s good to see Swerve pick up more wins (he’s needed them), but the fact that Page lost here after the home invasion angle makes me think we’re getting a third match between these two at some point down the line. What stipulation could that be, and how can they possibly top this? Lord only knows. *****
Fred: This was perfect brutality. I wouldn’t have done the Brian Cage interference at the end, but that can’t change the fact that this is absolutely one of the most violent matches I have ever seen, maybe the single most violent. The fact that they cut from that to a recap of MJF getting sent off in an ambulance shows how AEW has lost its touch. *****¾, and no, that’s not a typo.
The Golden Jets (Chris Jericho & Kenny Omega) def. The Young Bucks
Sean: If The Golden Jets win this match, then they get the shot at the AEW World Tag Team Titles that The Young Bucks won at WrestleDream. If The Young Bucks win, then Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega can no longer team together. This is a fascinating match in so many ways. Not only are they in the unenviable position of following that Texas Death Match, but they have high expectations to live up to, given that the last two times The Young Bucks wrestled Kenny Omega in tag team action, it was a Match Of The Year Contender.
Some solid wrestling to start this one off, but a big turning point occurred after Omega hit the Terminator Dive. Jericho got involved in the action on the floor, and that led to (I believe) Matt Jackson trapping Jericho’s arm in the steel steps before kicking the steps a few times. Jericho did his best to fight back with the damaged arm, and eventually made the tag to Omega, who ran wild on Matt and Nick (they were getting booed at one point while they were going after Jericho).
Jericho tags back in despite a bloody arm. He nearly botches a lionsault, but comes back and locks in the Walls Of Jericho on one of the Jacksons. Omega then eats a German Suplex on the apron as The Young Bucks regain control. Jericho tried to get the momentum back, but he got kicked low behind the referee’s back. Then Omega also got a kick to the nuts behind the referee’s back. Jericho eats the BTE Trigger, but he kicks out! After recovering, Jericho nails some superkicks before returning the favor from earlier with a low blow of his own. Omega teases turning on Jericho with a V-Trigger before connecting with a V-Trigger on one of The Young Bucks. Matt Jackson hits Omega with a One-Winged Angel, but Omega kicks out. Matt stops a One-Winged Angel, and hits Croyt’s Wrath. The action is fast-and-furious in this one. Jericho cuts off the IndyTaker with a Codebreaker, and that was the beginning of the end. Omega eventually lands the One-Winged Angel for the pin. This didn’t match the previous Omega & Partner vs. The Young Bucks tags, but it was still a very strong match. It took some time for the crowd to get into it, though they did get reactions as the action picked up. It might’ve been a little better if it had taken place before the Texas Death Match, though that’s just my view on it. Afterwards, The Young Bucks threw a wild temper tantrum, which pretty much confirms that they’re going heel. Curious to see where they go from here. Maybe Omega and Jericho go on to win the AEW World Tag Team Titles, and we get a rematch between these two teams with the titles on the line? I guess time will tell. ****1/4
Fred: These guys are in the unenvious position of following a masterpiece. They did a slow-paced build with the tension between Kenny Omega & the Young Bucks boiling over as the match went on; by the time this hit its final gear, it became a great match with some perfectly timed spots built around the four guys’ biggest moves. The Bucks’ freak out after the finish was perfect for their continuing heel turn. They shouldn’t be faces for a long time; they’re just so much better at this aspect of the game. ****1/2
AEW World Title
MJF (c) def. “Switchblade” Jay White
Sean: Well, after some truly awesome wrestling on this show, we’re back to….whatever this is. Now I want to get this out of the way: I don’t entirely hate the concept of doing a show-long storyline. HOWEVER….that show-long storyline has to actually be good. As Adam Cole is coming down to the ring on crutches, Nigel McGuiness rightly calls this a farce. This whole thing feels like they heard critiques about the result of this title match really not being in doubt, and decided “hey, we need to do something to give this main event some doubt!”. Of course, a blind man could’ve seen what’s coming next, as MJF comes back in the ambulance and limps out to the ring. He’s here, and the originally scheduled main event is back on. Appropriate that MJF is wearing yellow tonight, because he’ll be continuing to play out his Hulk Hogan cosplay routine.
Jay White immediately goes after the injured leg, and allows The Gunns to get shots in while he has the referee distracted. The Gunns tried to injure MJF’s leg again, but the referee catches them in the act, and ejects them. MJF finally manages to get some offense in, connecting with punches in the corner before hitting the always ridiculous Kangaroo Kick. The crowd goes silent as White cuts off MJF’s dive attempt. He goes through some of his signature offense (including the back suplex over-the-top-rope which I feel like we haven’t seen him do in awhile). This leads to a spot where he was going to set White up on the announce desk, but the table broke as soon as White’s weight landed on it. Despite this, MJF still goes up to the top rope and hits a giant elbow drop to the floor! I have my complaints about MJF, but I will give him credit. Still going through with that move with no announce desk was the definition of ballsy.
After they get back in the ring, they battle on the turnbuckle, which leads to a Super Uranage off the top rope by White. Don’t think I’ve seen him do that one before. MJF would respond with a tombstone piledriver and a FLYING CUTTER over the ropes to the floor. That was….nuts. MJF’s leg becomes an issue once again, and White locks in the figure four while Cole contemplates throwing in the towel (a callback to Full Gear 2019 with the Jericho/Cody World Title match). After MJF escaped, Cole tried to use his ROH World Tag Team Title on White, but he took the belt, hit MJF with it, and got a big nearfall. We finally got the ref bump we all knew was coming, and while White steals the Dynamite Diamond Ring from Cole, MJF gets it from Jay before he can use it. He takes out The Gunns (who came back out), uses the ring on White, and gets the pin.
I’m really conflicted about this match. I don’t like the MJF/Adam Cole storyline. I think it’s one of the worst storylines in wrestling right now. I didn’t like the whole “MJF is injured and we’re pretending a still very-injured Adam Cole is going to wrestle, only for MJF to make his triumphant return” angle. You can also argue that MJF was very inconsistent with his selling, and that nothing in this match really mattered until the referee bump that we all knew was coming. However, at the same time, a lot of the wrestling in this match was….actually pretty good. Maybe it’s just the fan in me that just enjoys seeing wrestlers do cool stuff in their matches, but I can’t look at a match where MJF does an elbow drop to the floor with no table and a flying cutter over the ropes (and Jay White doing a fucking Super Uranage) and call it bad. In good conscience, I just can’t do that. I enjoyed a decent chunk of the wrestling in this match. Even some of the nearfalls were really solid. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there was so much fun stuff in this match that it could’ve EVEN BETTER if they just had a normal storyline with no wacky MJF hijinx, fake injuries, or show-long storylines that insult the intelligence of the viewing audience. There’s a universe where this is a totally normal World Title storyline with a logical build that leads to a drama-filled main event. Alas, it’s just a match with a lot of cool moves that ultimately falls WAY short of being great because of all of the silliness surrounding it (which is totally unnecessary). It’s very clear that MJF worships at the altar of sports entertainment, so if you happen to read this Max….just go to WWE. You’ll make everyone happier. Trust me. ***1/2
Fred: If you read this site, you’re probably familiar with MJF’s infamous analogy about how pro wrestling is at its best when you’re offered different flavors of ice cream. This card was a great example of that. We’ve had the sublime violence of Swerve Strickland & Adam Page, the in-match storytelling of the Young Bucks anger towards the Golden Jets and of the perseverance of Orange Cassidy against Jon Moxley, the absolute insanity of the tag team ladder match. It’s clear that MJF wants his flavor to be storytelling.
My biggest problem with this is, well, the story’s a mess. How is Adam Cole cleared to wrestle in MJF’s place when he’s entering the ring in a walking boot? Why is MJF the one that’s surrounded by backstage staff trying to dissuade him when Cole’s in there, again, in a walking boot? Why is MJF able to hit a flying elbow drop from the top rope to the floor or a diving cutter to the floor on his leg that required him to go to the hospital? Why is the match able to continue when MJF literally can’t stand on his leg? Why was Adam Cole physically incapable of fighting Jay White over the ring when it was intercepted?
This match got some good reactions in the building, with the crowd getting invested into MJF and his underdog attempts to survive and win as the match went on. There was some really good work in this – the aforementioned elbow drop, Jay White’s super uranage, and MJF hitting that flying cutter from the ring to the floor on Jay White were all highlight moves. As a match – and solely as a match – this was solid if way too long and too melodramatic. Despite those negatives, I still end up on the positive side of the ledger with it.
As a story, this feels like yet another step in something that I don’t like and that will never end. How long are we continuing this storyline with the Devil? Will we get any kind of advancement with it by the next pay-per-view, or is this going to just be like the Bloodline and never end? Am I going to be sitting here in June 2026 and see MJF sit in a presser and say with a straight face that we’re just in the third inning? Is the third act of the Adam Cole-MJF storyline ever going to actually begin? Until it does, this storyline is a dud for me. ***3/4