Biggest Takeaways from AEW Full Gear 2021 Results
All Elite Wrestling presented its Full Gear pay-per-view Saturday night, live from Minneapolis on B/R, a show that altered its course for the foreseeable future.
A new world champion was crowned in the night's main event, as "Hangman" Adam Page overcame his self-consciousness and professional disappointments to defeat Kenny Omega and ascend to the top of the company.
His victory headlined a show that also saw several stars shine in defeat, one of the most emotional fights wrestling has seen in quite some time and two young stars setting the stage for their own future excellence.
Dive deeper into those topics and more with this recap of a blockbuster event, one of the best presented by any company this year, and what it means for AEW moving forward.
Darby Allin, MJF Prove Status as AEW Pillars in Superb Opener
AEW showed tremendous faith in Darby Allin and MJF by booking them in the opening match and expecting them to set the tone for the remainder of the evening. They rewarded that faith with an incredibly smart match that incorporated elements of the build to it.
MJF claimed Allin could not survive a wrestling match with him. Allin targeted his opponent's injured left knee and applied a Figure Four. This, after an opening sequence borrowed from the late Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko's legendary ECW series.
The heel taunted Sting at one point, grabbing for a Scorpion Death Lock that Allin never quite let him apply. Speaking of The Stinger, he prevented interference from Wardlow and Shawn Spears, both of whom had been prominent in the build to the bout.
MJF failed to mentally crack Allin, who resisted using his skateboard as a weapon at the urging of his opponent. Finally, the heel made good on his promise to beat Allin with a headlock takeover, but not before cracking him with the Dynamite Diamond Ring like any slimy, detestable bad guy.
Those elements, great ring psychology and a red-hot crowd resulted in a near-classic match and, arguably, the best match of each man's career.
For a feud that centered around the idea of Allin and MJF being two of the four young pillars of AEW, they supported that sentiment with a stellar professional wrestling match that enhanced their stars and had to make Tony Khan and the rest of the AEW brass happy and excited about the long-term health of the company's roster.
Bryan Danielson Survives, Elevates Miro in World Title Eliminator Final
Bryan Danielson didn't so much as defeat Miro as survive The Redeemer on Saturday night.
After outwrestling both Dustin Rhodes and Eddie Kingston en route to Minneapolis, he found himself overwhelmed physically and tossed around the ring with reckless abandon by a bigger, stronger, more confident monster of a competitor in Miro.
Every time Danielson tried to throw something new at his opponent or transition into a new hold, he was cut off and beaten down. It wasn't until he delivered an ugly DDT from the top rope and applied the guillotine choke that he was able to put away the former TNT champion by submission.
The same guillotine that Roman Reigns used to end Danielson's WWE career in April.
It took Danielson digging deep into his arsenal to secure the win and earn a shot at the AEW world title. In doing so, though, he elevated his opponent.
Miro looked like an unstoppable force. It can be argued that he was the superior wrestler. He was ready for everything uncorked by his opponent and had an answer prepared. It wasn't until Bryan introduced something new that Miro succumbed.
By out-wrestling the best on the planet, he looks like a much stronger candidate for future title opportunities and a competitor deserving of main event contention. Both Danielson and the layout of the match allowed that to happen, strengthening The Redeemer's status and credibility even as he walked away as the runner-up in the prestigious tournament.
Jungle Boy's Coming-of-Age Story Continues with Wild Win over Superkliq
2021 has been a banner year for Jungle Boy, whose coming-of-age story began at Double or Nothing in May with a victory in the Casino Battle Royale and continued Saturday night in a chaotic Falls Count Anywhere Match that saw him, Christian Cage and Luchasaurus defeat The Young Bucks and Adam Cole.
Early on, young Jack Perry lacked the intestinal fortitude to deliver the ConChairTo that probably would have earned his team the win. Faced with escalating violence at the hands of Superkliq, including multiple uses of thumbtacks, Jungle Boy soon found himself in a position to deal the blow that he could not several minutes earlier.
Stepping in and telling Cage he could do it himself, he uncorked the ConChairTo on Matt Jackson and made the pinfall for the win.
It is almost appropriate that Captain Charisma was involved so prominently in his partner's crisis of conscience.
It was he who Jungle Boy eliminated to win the aforementioned Battle Royale in what was his biggest win to that point, and it was he who elicited the edginess from Perry necessary for him to take that next step and earn a win over the best the industry has to offer.
It was a nice touch and a suitable conclusion to a match that felt like another stop on Jungle Boy's eventual rise to the top of the card, and the legitimacy and rub provided by association with Cage will go a long way in getting him there.
Crowd's Disdain for Cody Adversely Affects High-Profile Tag Match
If there were anything to take away from Cody Rhodes and PAC's victory over Andrade El Idolo and Malakai Black on Saturday, other than the questionable booking that resulted in yet another needless loss for the heels, it was the crowd's growing disdain for The American Nightmare and its effect on the quality of the match.
On a night that started red-hot and maintained that investment during the first three matches of the night, the excitement and energy came to a screeching halt with this contest. When there was audible energy, it was negative and directed at Rhodes, who found himself on the receiving end of not-so-subtle insults and chants.
The golden boy of the company, greeted with enormous pyro displays, a game show appearance and reality shows, has fallen out of favor with the fans he helped attract to AEW. This match was the first time that it became apparent it was negatively affecting the quality of the product.
The crowd was not invested in Cody's redemption. Rather than exhausting themselves by greeting him with the loud, mixed reactions that once accompanied John Cena in arenas across the globe, fans simply did not react at all.
The result was a match that limped to its conclusion, not nearly as hot as one would expect considering the high profile of the stars involved.
Some of that can be attributed to middling, inconsistent booking that saw characters' motivations shift midway through the contest, but at some point, excuses for the fans' reaction to a guy positioned as one of the company's top stars will run out.
Rhodes can refuse to turn heel because of his position in the company's community outreach program and all the good it does for the cities AEW visits, but something has to be done to adjust or retool his character, otherwise there will be further scenarios like the one Saturday, when there was nothing he or anyone else in the match could do to overcome the disdain that became apathy.
Tay Conti Shows Out, Breaks Out in Defeat
No one knew what to expect when Tay Conti signed with AEW.
Released from her WWE contract after years of non-usage, she arrived in the company as an unknown entity. From there, she proceeded to deliver eye-opening performances that left fans wondering what her former employer was thinking by letting her go when she clearly had "star" written all over her.
In the biggest match of her career to date, Conti proved the moment was not too much for her. She performed up to the situation, realizing her potential before our eyes. It was a championship match no one thought she would win but had those same doubters potentially rethinking their stance.
She did lose, but only after surviving three stomps (one on the ring steps) and evading the devastating Lockjaw submission. She was a strong challenger who was presented as Baker's toughest to date by the commentary team.
Conti's star burned bright, she hit all of her stuff and withstood an ugly Air Raid Crash on to the ring apron to continue fighting. She excelled when she needed to the most, and like MJF and Darby Allin did on the men's side of things earlier in the night, she established herself as a building block of the women's division for years to come.
It is amazing that the other guys somehow managed to let her slip through their figures, not recognizing the talent it had on its hands.
Punk and Kingston Unleash Hell, Deliver Physical Battle in Night's Hottest Match
In three weeks, CM Punk and Eddie Kingston managed to build one of the hottest matches on the Full Gear card simply by injecting real-life animosity into their feud. It worked, and both men arrived in Minneapolis as the recipients of two of the biggest, longest and most passionate responses of the night.
The crowd was behind Kingston as he caught Punk with a wild spinning backfist before the bell rang. They supported Punk as he thought through a bloodied forehead, the result of catching the steel steps with his face. It wasn't until Punk rose his hand in the air, mimicking John Cena, that fans turned.
By the time he hoisted Kingston on his shoulders for the second Go To Sleep of the match, seconds after one last desperate backfist attempt by his opponent, that the crowd booed. Kingston, the beloved underdog whose story was the talk of social media earlier in the week and whose trials and tribulations were apparent to diehard fans, was not going to win, and they knew it.
Who won and lost was important, sure. But beyond that, it was the manner in which the match came about in the first place.
Punk, Kingston and AEW demonstrated to the entire wrestling world that there doesn't need to be a long, scripted, overly produced program for wrestling fans to invest in. Strong personalities, defined characters, great promo work and genuine intensity will suck in the audience.
The hottest match of the night was not one with hours upon hours of television time devoted to it. It was a contest added to the card on the second-to-last episode of Rampage before the show, with a few video packages, a great promo segment and some pull-apart brawls enhancing it.
The match itself was only 11:11 long, the shortest of the Full Gear card. Like its build, it accomplished what it set out to do, delivering an effective story in a succinct package.
Not everything has to be of epic proportions to leave a lasting impression. The question now is whether the feud will continue, especially since Eddie refused his opponent's sign of respect following the bell.
Hangman Page Wins World Title, Pays Off Best Story in AEW's Young History
While others have been at the forefront of the company since its inception, "Hangman" Adam Page has been gradually prepped to become the star around whom the promotion revolves since Day 1. He won the inaugural Casino Battle Royale at Double or Nothing in 2019 but then lost upon his opportunity to make good on his promise to become the first AEW world champion.
A crisis of conscience ensued, with little breaks to capture the tag team titles with Kenny Omega or befriend The Dark Order popping up along the way, before he disappeared to be with his wife and newborn baby. An electric return and victory in the Casino Ladder Match in October set him on a path to pay off a two-year journey Saturday night in Minneapolis.
In an industry oftentimes too cute for its own good, AEW delivered the storybook ending. There was no flub circa WCW Starrcade 1997, when Eric Bischoff and Co. overthought the easiest layup in wrestling history in Sting vs. Hulk Hogan. This was exactly what it needed to be, with Page overcoming Omega and his own doubts to finally capture the title that had eluded him.
It paid off the best arc in AEW's short history, a story that made a star out of Page and connected him with fans in ways most could only dream of. It was that relationship and the reaction the fans in Minnesota gave his triumph that helped make the closing moments of Full Gear one of the company's defining moments.
With Page as champion, he ushers in a new era. Gone are the days of Elite dominance. Now, it's time for cowboy s--t to encompass AEW. What that means, and just how quickly Bryan Danielson steps up to challenge the new champion, should make the next few weeks of Dynamite and Rampage destination viewing.