AEW Full Gear 2021 Preview
This Saturday night, LIVE on Bleacher Report (Order Now), the Bleacher Report App, as well as via cable and satellite providers, All Elite Wrestling returns to pay-per-view with FULL GEAR 2021! Three World Titles will be on the line, the next challenger for the Men's World Title will be determined, and quite a few rivalries will come to a head at The Target Center in Minneapolis, MN (Buy Tickets)!
It has already been a wild week in AEW-land so let's take a look at how we got to each of these epic collisions set for Saturday night!
AEW MEN'S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH...
“The Cleaner” Kenny Omega(c) vs. “Hangman” Adam Page
The story of these two former friends, former World Tag Team Title partners, former Elite brethren, it has been well-documented over the last two years, and was explored in detail (Read Here). Their early failures in All Elite Wrestling and their championship successes as a tag team, the issues that drove them apart while still holding said titles and the events of FULL GEAR 2020 that put the final nail in the coffin; it has all played out in front of the world and now we stand on the precipice of it coming full circle on Saturday night.
Hangman Page has struggled with his own feelings of inadequacy, perhaps an impostor syndrome would be an appropriate label, but through the support of The Dark Order and by actually taking the time to reset and refresh, he returned to AEW on the night of the Casino Ladder Match, seemingly a changed man, and earned this championship match.
Since that moment, Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks have attempted to undermine the #1 Contender to The Cleaner's World Title with verbal barbs, dismissive actions, and generally treating him like the same kid they took under their Bullet Club wing many years. It is rather humorous that the first night The Elite truly realized that this Hangman was not the same man they decimated at DYNAMITE: HOMECOMING 2021 was when he was decked out as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and knocked Matt Jackson head over heels with a lariat.
Perhaps seeing that happen to his Elite brother is why Kenny Omega turned tail and rain when Hangman hit the ring to save Alan “5” Angels from a post-match chair assault after the World Champ beat The Dark Order member. Kenny, with a look of fear on his face, bailed out even though Page had possession of the World Championship belt. Hangman could've kept the belt, held onto it until the contract signing on Wednesday, or even until the pay-per-view, but that's not the kind of man he is, and Adam laid the belt out for Omega to reclaim unscathed.
Kenny, on the other hand, made sure Page did not leave their contract signing unscathed. As can been seen in the video embedded above, Don Callis and Omega once again conspired for that leg up on the competition, but in doing so really told the world just how scared they are of the threat Hangman represents to Kenny's World Championship reign. They left him bloody, sporting a black-and-blue eye, but secure in the knowledge that his ex-partner was running scared.
With that knowledge, there was just one last piece of business that Adam had to take care of before Saturday night, and that was between himself and The Young Bucks:
The shock from that apology was written all over Matt and Nick's face, but it was the right thing to do and just another illustration of the growth Page has undergone over the last year. The exclamation on everything is coming this Sunday night when these two former partners, former Elite brethren, finally collide in possibly the most emotional World Championship match All Elite Wrestling has experienced to date. This fight has been coming for over a year, this World Title journey for Hangman has been building for the last two years; will it be the moment Hangman claims the crown so many foisted upon him before AEW ran its first bell, or will it be the night Kenny Omega permanently destroys the dreams of Adam Page to continue his dominance over AEW?
AEW WOMEN'S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH...
Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D(c) vs. Tay Conti
There wasn't a deeper issue when this match was first announced to the world, it was just about the Women's World Championship held by Dr. Britt Baker and her new #1 Contender Tay Conti. It could have been a battle of who is the better wrestler, but in true Baker fashion, it became something greater as The Good Doctor elected to belittle Tay's best friend Anna Jay as well as, in Britt's words, “her loser friends” in The Dark Order.
It started with Anna stepping up to defend her Dark Order family, as well as her bestie, in the form of a match between the champ and “The Queen Slayer”. The championship may not have been on the line in that battle, but there was certainly pride on the line, as well as Anna Jay delivering a preview of what Britt had coming for her when it was time to fight Tay Conti. Again, in typical Baker fashion, the one-on-one match between her and Anna became more akin to a handicap match thanks to Rebel and Jamie Hayter.
The road to FULL GEAR 2021 has only seen this rivalry escalate as Hayter, thanks to the involvement of Rebel and the Women's World Champion, bested Anna Jay in the first round of the TBS Women's Title Tournament. As if that shady victory wasn't enough, Baker and her cronies decided to assault Anna after the match; perhaps it was designed to send Tay Conti a message through her BFF or, more likely, to draw her out to assist Anna. If the latter was the case, Britt and her lackeys were successful and it left Conti open for an assault. Now they couldn't have foreseen Thunder Rosa also joining the fray to run off Britt and Hayter, leaving Rebel to take the lumps for her unit, nor that it would turn into the six-woman tag on DYNAMITE in the video embedded below.
That match was undoubtedly an enlightening experience as the Good Doctor was in a position to save Rebel at the end, but chose to stay outside the ring and let Tay Conti pin her. Not the first time Britt has sacrificed Rebel, doubtful it will be the last, but it was a clear indicator that the Women's World Champion did not want to be inside the ring with her top contender.
Well Saturday night there is no choice in that matter, Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D will have to lock up with Tay Conti one-on-one with her coveted World Championship on the line. By hook or by crook, Baker has found a way to hold onto that title on four other occasions since May 30th when she ended Hikaru Shida's record-setting reign, and Britt will undoubtedly go to any lengths to maintain her hold on the Women's World Title. She will find a way to get by, with a little help from her friend's whenever necessary, but Tay has friends of her own, friends like Anna Jay, who will always have Conti's back against any odds.
Britt is in for one of her toughest fights at FULL GEAR 2021, and depending on how the tag match goes on THE BUY-IN, Jamie Hayter may not be able to have her back. Baker may have to do something she hasn't done in quite some time and face the music all by herself...
AEW WORLD TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH...
The Lucha Brothers (Penta El Zero Miedo & Rey Fenix w/ Alex Abrahantes)(c) vs. AAA World Tag Team Champions FTR (Cash Wheeler & Dax Harwood w/ Tully Blanchard)
This tag team rivalry has already seen one tag team championship change hands when FTR, temporarily under the guise of Los Super Ranas but fooling no one, took the payoff from Andrade El Idolo to face The Lucha Brothers on DYNAMITE. In a crooked fashion befitting the methods of their mentor Tully Blanchard, Dax and Cash took advantage of a referee distraction to crack Rey Fenix across the skull with a AAA Tag Team Title, steal way that championship, and end The Lucha Brothers historic reign as AAA World Tag Team Champions.
FTR wasn't done with felonious assaults on The Lucha Brothers though, nor on those around them as indicated by the black eye Alex Abrahantes has been sporting thanks to Tully Blanchard. A little ruse with Super Rana lookalikes brought Rey and Penta out to even the score, but instead it was their ally Alex who paid the price. That would prove the final straw for The Lucha Brothers as they challenged FTR to face them one more time, but this time with the AEW World Tag Team Titles on the line! Now this was perhaps the intent of FTR all along, doing whatever necessary to bait Penta and Fenix into putting the championship they won from The Young Bucks inside a Steel Cage on the line.
Clearly the alliance between Andrade and FTR was not over yet given how they assisted El Idolo in his one-on-one bout with Cody Rhodes. In the same fashion as how they used the tag title against The Lucha Brothers, so too did they use it against “The American Nightmare” to help out Andrade. Certainly there was some self-satisfaction in those actions as well given the less-than-flattering comments Rhodes used to throw at Dax and Cash before they came to All Elite Wrestling.
The money exchanged between MJF and Andrade for FTR's services also put Harwood in the ring with PAC this past Wednesday on DYNAMITE, and it certainly got violent both during the match as well as after the fact:
If that merciless assault on PAC is any indication of what FTR and The Lucha Brothers have in store for each other, this is going to be a knockdown drag-out fight, and all that is left is for the bell to ring and the fight to begin! One year ago, at FULL GEAR 2020, FTR's first World Tag Team Title reign came to an end at the hands of The Young Bucks and they never received a rematch during Matt and Nick Jackson's tenure. Now Cash and Dax have an opportunity to beat the team that beat the team that beat them a year ago, and become the first two-time AEW World Tag Team Champions.
History is on FTR's side, they've beaten The Lucha Brothers both times they've fought in tag team action, but the stakes here are greater than either of those battles. Will FTR make this three in a row, taking two tag team titles from Penta and Rey in the process, and creating their own history as two time champions? Or will it be The Lucha Brothers claiming redemption for their AAA Tag Title loss, as well as the assault perpetrated upon Alex Abrahantes, and make FTR two-time losers when it comes to FULL GEAR?
2021 MEN'S WORLD TITLE ELIMINATOR TOURNAMENT FINAL...
“The American Dragon” Bryan Danielson vs. “God's Forsaken Champion” Miro
00:30:51 – the time Bryan Danielson has spent in the ring between his two Tournament matches thus far. The first being an extremely hard-earned victory over “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes on October 23rd and the second coming against Eddie Kingston on October 29th. Each one took the measure of “The American Dragon” and left him battered, bruised, yet wanting more. Yet anyone who has watched Danielson over his twenty-two year career knows that in the midst of the fight is when he seems most alive.
00:07:27 – that is the time Miro has spent in this tournament in his lone victory over “Freshly Squeezed” Orange Cassidy. Stepping up into the tournament as Jon Moxley's substitute, the former TNT Champion decimated OC in vicious fashion. Miro has been the scariest person in the AEW locker room ever since the moment he let the beast out of its cage and decimated Kip Sabian. He was a terrifying TNT Champion, and it absolutely shocked the world when Sammy Guevara found the magical ingredients to dethrone him. It was a glorious moment for Sammy and his supporters, but he may have inadvertently unleashed an even worse monster on AEW with the head space Miro has occupied since then. A monster whose body is rested, and operating at peak performance...
The thing about Bryan's time spent in the tournament is that it doesn't offer a complete picture of just how “The American Dragon” has spent his time outside of the tournament. Aaron Solo on AEW DARK, Anthony Bowens on RAMPAGE, and Rocky Romero on this past DYNAMITE; around his two tournament matches, Danielson has spent another half hour inside the ring with those three contests. In fact, since his first match at Arthur Ashe Stadium on September 22nd, Danielson has wrestled in AT LEAST one match every week, ten bouts in eight weeks, that's a tremendous pace to keep up, and one can argue it either keeps him ready for the fight at all times or leaves him worn down for sadistic men like Miro.
Which of these fierce warriors will leave the Target Center as the next contender for the AEW Men's World Championship? Will it be “The American Dragon” who rises up to achieve the goal he set for himself upon day one? Or will Miro be redeemed before his god and move on to unleash his sadism on the winner of Omega versus Page?
“The Best In The World” CM Punk vs. “The Mad King” Eddie Kingston
It is hard to believe that, despite mutually occupying space on numerous events for IWA-Mid South in the formative years of their careers, CM Punk and Eddie Kingston never once stepped inside the squared circle together. They've shared a commentary table together, most notably in June 11th of 2005 for one of the most iconic matches in modern independent wrestling, but never have they fought.
That all changes this Saturday night in Minneapolis at the Target Center, and despite it all coming together rather quickly, there is as much emotion wrapped up in this as there is in the battle between Kenny Omega and Adam Page. Listen to the words above as they spill forth from the mouth of a man who has been referred to over the course of his career as “The Mad King”, “The Last Of A Dying Breed”, and “God's Middle Child”. Listen to the raw emotion that erupts from his soul while looking at CM Punk; there is pain, there is anger, there is the soul of Eddie Kingston laid bare before the world. He sees a man, a hero, who should've opened the door for him and given support, but instead offered derision, ridicule, and held the door closed on so many besides Kingston.
Simultaneously, hear the words of another man called many names over the course of his career, “The Best In the World”, “The Second City Saint”, “The Straight Edge Superstar”, hear his disappointment and disgust in regards to Kingston. For Punk, his words and emotions stem from feeling that Kingston let everyone else down, that he had everything within him to be in that best in the world conversation, but failed himself as well as those who believed in his potential. Punk sees squandered ability, Punk sees wasted talent, and perhaps most offensive to Punk, he sees no accountability.
Whether Punk is right or Kingston is right, the answer is somewhere in the gray between the two views, but neither man will likely every see the other's perspective. There are too many years here, too much emotion and anger, sadness and betrayal, disappointment and rejection; now it is time to settle this in violence and pain. It is time to take all of the feelings that have festered for the last fifteen years and unleash them in physical form upon one another.
Just as with the words they exchanged during RAMPAGE a week ago, this will not be pretty; it will be emotional, violent, divisive and it's doubtful the deep-seeded perceptions of either man will be different when the final bell rings. Perhaps that's what this will be about in the end, not about changing beliefs or aligning their respective perceptions, but about the release that will come from finally letting out a decade-plus worth of pent-up emotions...
MINNEAPOLIS STREET FIGHT...
The Inner Circle (Chris Jericho, Jake Hager, Ortiz, Sammy Guevara, Santana) vs.
The Men Of The Year (Ethan Page & Scorpio Sky) & American Top Team (Andrei Arlovksi, Dan Lambert, Junior Dos Santos)
Dan Lambert has been an obnoxious thorn in the side of All Elite Wrestling for months now, ranting and raving about the competitors in the locker, what he thinks wrestling (and wrestlers) should be, and generally yelling at clouds. Words can be ignored, tuned out, but what cannot be are the people surrounding the founder of American Top Team.
The Men Of The Year in Scorpio Sky and “All Ego” Ethan Page are strong enough on their own standing by his side, but Lambert is further bolstered by the greatness of MMA practitioners such as Junior Dos Santos, Andrei Arlovksi, Paige Van Zant, Amanda Nunes, Dalton Rosta, Austin Vanderford, and the deadly Jorge Masvidal.
This insane combination of pro wrestlers and fighters has essentially insulated Dan Lambert, protected him to run his mouth however he wants, secure in the fact that it's going to be an extremely difficult task for anyone to get their hands on him. In fact, it likely made many timid to even verbally confront the man for his venomous verbiage, but that does not mean everyone was afraid of the fight.
Chris Jericho and The Inner Circle stepped up to the plate despite the odds, and they never backed down from the fight regardless of the outcome. Jericho and Jake Hager took the first loss in the fight, falling to The M.O.T.Y in a tag bout at RAMPAGE: GRAND SLAM, and leaving “Le Champion” open to eat a flying knee from Jorge Masvidal. It was a painful night for The Inner Circle, but they did what they always do, dusted themselves off and tried again.
This time on RAMPAGE in Miami, Sammy Guevara joined his two Inner Circle compatriots to fight former UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior Dos Santos, Sky, and Page but once again The I.C was upended by the numbers game and Masvidal's brutal knee strike.
If there was any upside to the ongoing battles with Lambert's ilk, it would be that it brought the entire Inner Circle back on the same page for the fight. Santana, Ortiz, Jericho, Hager, and Guevara came together in the face of this numbers game, and issued the challenge for the ten man tag we will see at FULL GEAR 2021. There were just a few caveats thrown in if Dan Lambert agreed on his team's behalf: Ethan Page got a TNT Title match where, if “All Ego” won then Sammy would quit The Inner Circle, but if Guevara retained the championship, The Inner Circle would get their match. It was all riding on The Spanish God's shoulders, and he stepped up to the task:
With the ball in The Inner Circle's court to select their opponents for FULL GEAR 2021, Dan Lambert finally bit off more than he could chew as he was selected as one of the competitors for this pay-per-view fight! Now Lambert may be a life-long wrestling fan himself, he may be surrounded by some of the best fighters in the world at ATT, but he is not a competitor himself. Still, when he propped himself up as the original member of American Top Team, he unwittingly made himself a viable selection for the team and now has to reap the consequences!
TWO PILLARS COLLIDE...
Darby Allin (w/ Sting) vs. MJF
Two young pillars of All Elite Wrestling, two of the young talent upon whom the future of AEW is being built upon, and by their very nature, Darby Allin and MJF seemed destined to fight one another. And yet, aside from a six-man tag at the first FIGHT FOR THE FALLEN in 2019, they have never stepped into the ring together in AEW. Eventually that would have to change, eventually they would collide with one another, and when that moment finally came a little over a month ago, it is no surprise it was due to Max's rampant ego:
The restraint it must have taken for Darby to not punch MJF in the face in that moment, but he was not about to cave into Max's baiting. As Allin said, he wasn't going to let Friedman break him mentally, so instead MJF and The Pinnacle tried to break him physically in Philadelphia.
That attack put Darby on the sidelines, and also left his mentor Sting ripe for the picking by The Pinnacle when he aimed to give an update on Allin's condition. To say that MJF and his crew pushed things a bit too far would be an understatement:
When Darby did return, suffice to say he left quite an impression on the back of Wardlow with his thumbtack laced skateboard while Max tucked his tail and ran. What would follow a week later would be one of the most intense fights in DYNAMITE's history as Allin just exploded on MJF with every ounce of aggression, anger, and hate that he has towards Mr. Salt Of The Earth.
This Saturday night, in their first one-on-one AEW match Darby Allin and Maxwell Jacob Friedman will have the opportunity to break the other physically in an actual wrestling match. Not fighting in the crowd, not a parking lot assault, and certainly not verbal diahrea in the case of MJF; it is time for an official match where Max is going to have to answer for everything he has done to Darby and Sting over the last month. On the other hand, it is also MJF's golden moment to prove that he is truly the best of these four young pillars of AEW by defeating Allin. We shall soon see just who the strongest pillar is...
FALLS COUNT ANYWHERE...
Christian Cage & Jurassic Express (Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus) vs. The SuperKliq (Adam Cole, Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson)
From the moment Adam Cole arrived on the AEW stage at ALL OUT 2021, this rivalry between The SuperKliq, Jurassic Express, and Christian Cage has been at the forefront. They fought, along with Bryan Danielson, Frankie Kazarian, and Kenny Omega, in the closing minutes of that pay-per-view and haven't stopped fighting since!
At RAMPAGE: GRAND SLAM it was this exact match-up, albeit under traditional rules, that took place and saw Cole and The Young Bucks get the victory over Luchasaurus.
Adam Cole would top Jungle Boy in a singles match a few days later on DYNAMITE, and the complete Elite would also go onto Philadelphia the following week to defeat the Cage/JurEx/Danielson quartet. As if the trio of victories were not enough, add in the physical assaults perpetrated by The Elite upon the various men in this situation. They put Luchasaurus through a table, assaulted Christian Cage, and threw Jungle Boy off the AEW stage through tables on the floor. With Adam Cole bolstering their egos even further, the EVPs have certainly lived up to that Extremely Violent People acronym they adopted over the summer.
What goes around comes around though, and in recent weeks fans have witnessed Christian Cage return to AEW to even the odds, and con-chair-to Adam Cole across his skull. Jungle Boy made his return to fold as well to resume the fight with The Elite. Even after the challenge was made for this Falls Count Anywhere fight, Adam Cole used his history with Bobby Fish to sic Fish on JB. Fish lived up to his “Infamous” nickname with an abominable assault on JB after he beat Anthony Bowens, and again on RAMPAGE during their singles match. Fish did everything he could to send Jungle into the six-man FCA match a broken man, and although the JurEx member won, he left the fight with a wounded limb.
A busted up arm is certainly not an ideal situation to head into a Falls Count Anywhere match, especially not with men like The Young Bucks involved whose track record with that stipulation is unblemished in AEW. This situation is going to be out of control and it is anyone's guess what these six men will do to one another when there are no restrictions to what they can do or where they can fight!
TAG TEAM GRUDGE MATCH...
“The American Nightmare” Cody Rhodes & “The Bastard” PAC
Andrade El Idolo & Malakai Black
That old adage about “the enemy of my enemy ..” can certainly make for strange bedfellows, and there are few stranger pairings than that of Cody Rhodes and PAC, nor that of Andrade El Idolo and Malakai Black. Neither coupling exactly meshes, but at least in the case of Andrade and Malakai, there is this darkness to both. Andrade's darkness comes out when that bell rings while Black's is ever-present, unavoidable, and embraced wholeheartedly.
And it seems to have seeped into Cody Rhodes as well; at least that is what Malakai believes to be truth, and a person's perception is that person's reality. Malakai now sees a Cody who has had to embrace that darkness to survive The House Of Black. In losing that third match, Black sees the victory in how Cody had to fundamentally alter himself to find a way to beat The Lord Of The House.
The spider web that has also ensnared PAC into this equation stems out of Andrade El Idolo's attempt to first fracture Death Triangle's unity, and then to fracture PAC's face essentially. Two classic bout have gone down between the men, one victory secured by each, but The Bastard's win was quite pyrrhic as he was immediately assaulted by Malakai and Andrade:
Cody coming to the rescue was quite shocking, never had he and PAC intersected, but again, that “the enemy of my enemy” ethos brought “The American Nightmare” out there to even the odds, and has now brought us to this altercation that will go down Saturday night! “The Bastard” has stated that when this night is done, so to is any alliance with Rhodes, so for their sake they best make sure it is a victorious temporary merger.
Hikaru Shida & Thunder Rosa vs. Jamie Hayter & “The Native Beast” Nyla Rose
Before FULL GEAR 2021 kicks off on pay-per-view at 8pm EST/7pm CST, the official AEW YouTube channel is the place to be! Signed on Wednesday night, this tag team match between four of the toughest women in the division is set to go down, and it has major implications on the TBS Women's Title Tournament! Thunder Rosa and Jamie Hayter are destined for a Quarter-Final showdown after FULL GEAR 2021, as are long-time foes Hikaru Shida and Nyla Rose, so the victor in this duos fight will add a little bit of momentum heading into those respective contests!
We know Shida is a bit banged up, having had her knee viciously assaulted by Serena Deeb following her victory over “The Professor”, and then Hikaru was further assaulted by Nyla backstage after the fact. Rosa has been a victim of The Beast Bomb in the past, but her main focus is finally becoming a champion in AEW and cementing status as the premier athlete in the division. The fact she gets to beat up one of Britt Baker's cronies in the process is just icing on the cake!
Which pair will cash in their chips on THE BUY-IN? Tune into the AEW YouTube channel at 7:30pm EST to watch it go down!
FULL GEAR 2021 comes your way, LIVE on Bleacher Report (Order Now) and via traditional cable and satellite providers, this Saturday night at 8pm EST/7pm CST! This is AEW's final pay-per-view event of 2021 and what a loaded one it has shaped up to be! The AEW Men's World Title, the Women's World Title, and the World Tag Team Titles will all be on the line while Bryan Danielson and Miro battle it out to become the next challenger to the Men's crown! After circling each other for the last 15 years, Eddie Kingston and CM Punk will fight for the first time in their careers as The SuperKliq gets into a Falls Count Anywhere battle with Jurassic Express and Christian Cage! It's going down at The Target Center in Minneapolis, MN Saturday night and tickets are still available here (Buy Tickets)!