Chris Toplack | AEW
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AEW Tag

My Live Experience at AEW Full Gear

I recently had the pleasure of attending AEW Full Gear at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore and wanted to share with you my entire first-hand experience.

Friday: November 8th

I was joined by my closest friend Simon who was just growing familiar with AEW and became excited at the prospect of joining me for this historic event. We left our hometown of London, Ontario on route to State College, Pennsylvania which was roughly 6 and a half hours away.

As a local restaurant guide and avid craft beer enthusiast, I felt the overnight stay in the home of Penn State would present some interesting dining options and culture.

Here are some digestible thoughts from our first day:

  • Otto’s Pub and Brewery offered some flavourful yet reasonably priced beer

  • The Brewery is arguably one of the best dive bars I’ve ever been to

  • Dear America: I envy your dramatically lower beer prices!

  • Pennsylvania is an undeniably gorgeous state, but I would readily nervous to drive down the scenic yet steep hills in the dead of winter

  • State College is a dream for any foodie with dozens of incredible restaurants within a stone’s throw from each other

  • Chris Toplack runs on Dunkin’

Saturday: November 9th

After getting up early, we made a less than 3-hour drive from State College to Baltimore, Maryland. Once again, Dunkin was our delectable savour.

Baltimore has a well-documented reputation of being a violent city, but I felt completely safe and secure in every part we visited.

Our first stop was to Diamondback Brewing Company in Locas Point. The rustic and industrial atmosphere of Diamondback Brewing Co is incredibly inviting and while their beer is quite reputable, the fire oven pizza is the undeniable highlight of any visit.

Recommended: Soppressata Pizza, Locus Point Lager

After going for a short walk around the neighbourhood, we made our way back downtown to proactively check into our room at the Days Inn by Wyndham Baltimore Inner Harbor. The hotel is conveniently located next door to Royal Farms Arena, so it was certainly a prime location.

As we entered the lobby, there was a line of at least 40 wrestling fans waiting to check-in. Many of which were also wearing the “A Little Bit of the Bubbly” Chris Jericho t-shirt that I was also donning.

The first fan that I interacted with was holding a 6-pack of White Claw. I referenced Joey Janela and we started discussing the card. Not long after that, a few more fans filed in behind us and joined the conversation. I somehow started holding court and discussing AEW as a whole along with the pro-wrestling landscape.

Here are a few takeaways from the 5 or 6 fans that chatted with me in line.

  • Many of these fans travelled from around America to see Full Gear yet they were incredibly shocked that we drove 8 and a half hours from Canada to be there. They applauded our commitment just as I admired theirs.

  • They ADORE Cody and Chris Jericho

  • Most of them have stopped watching the WWE product and sadly even NXT

  • They collectively believed there was no way MJF would turn on Cody that evening. I disagreed. (Spoiler: I was accurate)

In an interesting story, I actually interacted with the “lapsed fan” that Cody, Tony Khan and several others have so often referenced. He had stopped watched wrestling for the better part of 10 years but happened to be in Las Vegas for Double or Nothing. He checked out the PPV and specifically cited that it was Cody vs Dustin Rhodes that brought him back into the fold. It moved him to tears.

I specifically wanted to reference this gentleman as a few other individuals I came across were also lapsed fans proving it was much more than rhetoric from executives.

After checking in and getting settled, we made the short walk over to the arena and waited to enter the building behind a long line of passionate fans.

AEW Full Gear

Upon entering the building, I was somewhat alarmed by the lack of security. Yes, there was a metal detector, but you don’t even present your tickets until you get upstairs. Never the less, we easily got in and made our way to our seats.

Sec 227, Row G, Seat 3 – 4 (We were parallel to the ring and entrance ramp in the middle section of the arena. Perfect seats to oversee the action – Referenced in the photo)

Rather than provide you with a play-by-play analysis of each match, I’m just going to share some thoughts and observations.

The Buy-In

Golden Boy (who is highly underrated) received a very respectable response from the audience. Taz, on the other hand, received your typical East Coast pop since Baltimore is not too far from the official home of ECW.

The video packages that aired prior to the PPV were well produced and immediately reminded of HBO or UFC produced documentaries. It’s clear they spared no expense and I remain hopeful to see more of these videos featured on AEW Dynamite.

Also, Justin Roberts is a ball of energy who is clearly passionate about his role in the company.

Britt Baker vs Bea Priestley

  • This match belonged on the main card.

  • Britt Baker is undoubtedly their most believable babyface star.

  • Bea Priestley excels as a gritty heel.

  • The live crowd was very invested in this match along with the nearfalls.

  • Brandi and Awesome Kong, in particular, received a loud ovation from the audience.

  • I understand it’s part of the gimmick, but why bring an actual knife into the ring? There was an audible gasp when it was exposed.

Main Card

  • By this point, the vast majority of the arena was jam-packed. Aside from some of rows below the hard cameras along with the highest level above that section, I would say it was about 95% sold out based on the seating arrangements. I read there were roughly 8,500 in attendance and that seems quite accurate.

  • JR received a great reaction.

  • The opening package and pyro got the crowd instantly excited.

Santana and Ortiz vs The Young Bucks

  • This was an ideal way to kick off the show.

  • The Proud and Powerful entrance music only enhances the overall presentation of Santana and Ortiz. They really came off as big stars here.

  • As expected, The Young Bucks were quite popular in Baltimore.

  • The early story in this match of the Young Bucks getting the upper hand by cutting off the ring and isolating each man was well done.

  • This was honestly my favourite Young Bucks match to date under the AEW banner since it featured some solid psychology early on.

  • While Nick Jackson sold the leg injury well, I found it a little odd how he still managed to land superkicks with it.

  • Despite the great near falls, I was very convinced that Santana and Ortiz would pull off the victory.

  • Upon winning and getting the Rock N Roll Express involved, Ricky received a great pop for his assisted Canadian Destroyer and Suicide Dive.

  • While the Rock N Roll Express is universally respected and revered, the general consensus around me was that no one wants to see them actually compete in an AEW ring.

Adam Page vs Pac

  • Both men were presented as legitimate stars with Adam Page receiving a more positive response due to being a babyface.

  • I assumed that with the victory, Adam Page would be a sensible choice for the winner of Cody vs Jericho, but the recent episode of Dynamite threw that logic out the window.

  • Overall, this was a fantastic match that concluded at the right time.

Shawn Spears (with Tully Blanchard) vs Joey Janela

  • I would have swapped Britt Baker vs Bea Priestley for this match. Most seemed a little perplexed that this bout made the main card.

  • AEW is really trying hard to establish Shawn Spears as a viable villain, but lack of response signifies that he is not that star they are presenting him as.

  • Joey Janela received a fair ovation, but the crowd remained fairly silent throughout the majority of his offense.

  • Tully Blanchard getting involved was expected yet still fun to witness live.

  • When officials ran down to check in on Janela, most around me assumed it was merely an angle. As it proceeded to carry on, there was some legitimate concern.

  • Arguably the weakest match of the entire card.

SoCal Uncensored (Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky) (c) vs Lucha Brothers (Pentagon Jr. and Rey Fenix) and Private Party (Isiah Kassidy and Marq Quen)

  • The live audience vocally rallied behind the Lucha Bros as it’s clear they are one of the most popular acts in the company.

  • I’m unsure if this was shown on television or not, but Fenix would casually leap up and walk the ropes. It displayed his exceptional balance.

  • While SoCal Uncensored received a positive response, they were booed throughout with the vast majority of my section. They were mostly screaming for the Lucha Bros to claim the gold.

  • Yes, this match was devoid of psychology, but it was incredibly exciting and had everyone on their feet.

  • The spot where Rey Fenix leaped to the outside on all opponents was one of the loudest and most impressive moments of the evening.

  • The crowd voiced their displeasure over SoCal retaining, but still applauded those involved in the match.

  • I was surprised that when the lights came on and a second Pentagon stood in the ring that most didn’t immediately clue in that it was Christopher Daniels. In a video I posted on Twitter and Instagram, I even vocally yelled out that it was Daniels. Most around me only clued in after he successfully landed Angel’s Wings.

  • Either way, it was great to see Christopher Daniels exact his revenge on Pentagon. By the way, I firmly believe CD is the greatest independent wrestler of all-time.

Riho (c) vs Emi Sakura

  • Sadly, this was a bathroom or concession break for hundreds of fans. A clear indication that they were not particularly invested in the match.

  • While I appreciate Emi Sakura’s Freddy Mercury inspired gear and entrance, the novelty is quickly growing stale. It’s clear that most fans did not view her as a viable contender.

  • To the surprise of many including myself, the match was far better than initially anticipated. A true testament to the talent of both women who shared great chemistry.

  • Riho’s surprise roll up victory received a reputable ovation but many fans still don’t know enough about Rhio to really buy her as champion. Perhaps some of those well-produced video packages could work wonders.

  • I was quite surprised the match was given nearly 15 minutes to tell a story.

Chris Jericho (c) (with Jake Hager) vs Cody (with MJF)

  • Quite frankly, most fans were extremely surprised the AEW Championship match was up after the Women’s Championship match.

  • It’s undeniable that Cody is the biggest babyface in AEW. He received a rockstar reception from the live audience.

  • When “Judas” starts playing and Jericho enters the stage to ample pyro, it’s clear that he’s still in his prime at 49 years old.

  • Justin Roberts is a national treasure for his marvellous introductions of Cody and Jericho. When Justin said, “From Undesirable to Undeniable” the crowd very loudly yelled, “Undeniable to GOD DAMN Undeniable.” It’s clear Cody’s promo from AEW Dynamite really resonated with all of us.

  • The crowd loudly chanted “Happy Birthday” until Jericho flipped us off. Chants of “Fuck your birthday” then filled the arena. One of the most humourous moments of the evening.

  • Chris Jericho did everything in his power to get booed and he really puts a lot of effort into being an opportunistic heel. Teasing Cody’s mom garnered a definite negative reaction.

  • The spot where Cody dove out of the ring, landed on the entrance ramp and starting juicing the hard way looked far worse in person. From my angle, it appeared as though he injured his neck.

  • Jake Hager is even more physically imposing in person.

  • MJF throwing in the towel was met with universal shock. The soon to be heel turn was expected at this point.

  • I’ve read that when MJF low blowed Cody that the crowd was booing. I persistently disagree as hundreds around me were loudly cheering. Truthfully, it’s because MJF can be a full blown heel again.

  • Either way, this was undoubtedly match of the night for the story they told. At just under 30 minutes, I actually wish it went longer due to how emotionally gripping the story was. There’s an older quote from Roger Ebert that claims “A good movie is never long enough and a bad move is never short enough.” The same logic applies to pro wrestling.

Jon Moxley vs Kenny Omega

  • Oddly enough, many fans around me got up to leave until they remembered we still had one more match remaining.

  • Kenny Omega received a great response, but it’s clear that Jon Moxley is the more popular of the two.

  • Yes, the match had some questionable spots throughout, but it was very fan-pleasing overall.

  • From a live perspective, it did present some obvious visibility challenges.

  • I also felt bad for both competitors since they spent a considerable amount of time searching for items under the ring. I would imagine it was frustrating.

  • Perhaps it was just me, but given the weapons involved, I expected much more blood. Deathmatches are not necessarily my forte, but that element or lack thereof was somewhat surprising.

  • While I noted that the match was fan-pleasing, it did tend to drag at times. At just shy of 40 minutes, it felt amount 10 minutes too long.

  • I’ve seen/heard various complaints that this match was too chaotic or too violent, but it honestly came off as tame compared to some of the wars I witnessed in ECW. I understand it’s not for everyone, but it was provided fans with an amusing live experience.

Final Thoughts

Was the 8 and a half hour trip to witness AEW Full Gear live in Baltimore worthy of the time and financial investment? Absolutely. The unbridled passion from the AEW fanbase was palpable and extremely contagious. I felt part of a special movement where there’s a viable alternative in the marketplace that brings us joy. I have supported AEW since day one and that loyalty feels stronger than ever before.

Mind you, I’m also still very passionate about WWE NXT and really root for both promotions to succeed. Wednesday’s are for true wrestling fans.

I’ve had the pleasure of attending major pro-wrestling events and sporting events through North America and AEW Full Gear was one of my favourite events to date. From a wrestling perspective, I wouldn’t put it over any of the NXT TakeOver’s I’ve attended, but the live atmosphere was even better.

If you have the opportunity to experience the AEW product and audience during an episode of Dynamite or at a PPV, I promise it will be worthy of your time.

  Jon Moxley vs Kenny Omega

Jon Moxley vs Kenny Omega

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AEW Fight For The Fallen Full Show Review and Recap

Fight for the Fallen 

AEW Fight for the Fallen has officially concluded. Proceeds from the gate will go to Jacksonville’s Victim Assistance Advisory Council to help victims of violent crimes. $150k was raised for victims of gun violence. Whether you loved the show, felt it was average or detested it, the money raised is the most important story here.

I enjoyed Daily’s Place venue as the Amphitheatre came across well on television. The production standards remains very reputable but the angles jumped around a lot. You could tell the wrestlers were often confused in terms of where to look. 

I heard there were quite a few issues with the BR Live stream. Other than the Closed Caption issues with seemingly everyone encountered, it was fairly smooth until the final couple of matches were it acted up like crazy. Let’s hope they can resolve this in the future. 

Commentary wise, everyone sounded a little uninspired. Perhaps it was the heat. Alex Marvez playing that insider role similar to Jay Glazer just simply doesn’t resonate with me.  Mike Tenay was really the only individual that comes to mind who filled that role well. 

By the way, what’s Joey Styles up to nowadays? 

The Buy In 

Sonny Kiss vs Pete Avalon with Leva Bates

Sonny Kiss defeated Peter Avalon with a falling split from the top-rope called Kiss Is It. 

A “reading sucks” chant broke out at one point. 

Admittedly, I have only seen a few Sonny Kiss matches, but Sonny is extremely athletic and really pumped up the crowd. 

I have been an AEW supporter since the formation of the company, but this Librarian gimmick is embarrassingly bad and eats up screen time for far more deserving talent. 

The match was kept this short, but sweet and it was a wise decision and that includes the outcome. 

Britt Baker and Riho vs Shoko Nakajima and Bea Priestley 

The team of Nakajima and Bea Priestley got their arms raised after Nakajma pinned Riho with a hurricanrana. Following the conclusion, tensions flared between Priestley and Baker as they continued to fight. I sense this is planting the seeds for a future one on one bout. 

There were a few sequences that were rather slopping, but the match did an excellent jump on highlighting the skill and sheer depth of the women’s division. 

In a hilarious slip-up, Britt Baker went to the wrong corner to tag in her partner. Yes, the wrong Japanese partner. Excalibur did a good job of covering it up. 

Bea Priestley draws many similarities to Paige and that’s a big compliment.  A great on-screen debut for Priestley as she was aggressive and opportunistic. Excellent Ring IQ.

Britt Baker has star written all over her and will be the face of the women’s division. 

Main Card 

Darby Allin, Jimmy Havoc and Joey Janela vs. MJF, Sammy Guevara and Shawn Spears (Six-Man Tag Team Match)

Shawn Spears wore a shirt that borrowed artwork from Cody and stated “The Chairman.” La Parka called and wants his nickname back. 

Spears earned the victory for the team after pinning Darby Allin with a Death Valley Driver.

Darby Allin received a very strong reaction. To me, the MVP in the match was arguably Sammy Guevara who looked outstanding. 

This was a hot way to kick off the main card. 

Brandi Rhodes vs. Allie

Brandi introduced Awesome Kong as the great equalizer in her corner. That’s about the most effective backup one could ask for. As expected Brandi played the opportunistic heel.

Awesome Kong distracted the referee while Brandi Rhodes tapped out to the Dragon Sleeper. Allie went after Kong, but Brandi landed the Bionic Spear for the victory. 

Post-match, Awesome Kong went for the Awesome Bomb until Aja Kong made the save. 

Brandi and Allie simply didn’t click in the ring and it was a bit of a letdown. I noted this point on the previous episode of the podcast that while I admire Brandi’s work ethic and passion, I am not particularly drawn to her ring work.

The Dark Order vs Jack Evans and Angelico vs Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus  with Marko Stunt (Who is essentially the Spike Dudley of the team) 

The winner earns an opportunity to advance to All Out for an opportunity at a first round bye in the NEW World Tag Team Championship tournament

The audience still seemed rather confused by the Dark Order. Who are they? Why should we pay attention to them? At a glance, they come off as a D-list version of the War Raiders. They won the match and received zero reaction to their victory. 

Evans and Angelico got in some spots, but they were fairly forgettable. 

Luchasaurus saw his stock dramatically rise. Sure, the gimmick is a tad over the top, but he’s a legitimately solid hand. At 6’5’’, he moves like a cruiserweight yet his moveset still features effective power moves.  Also, the crowd was very invested in Jungle Boy. He’s plays the smaller babyface who garners sympathy very well. There’s money in that pairing and they should have won the match, but their time will come.

This was a fun tag-team match which the fans clearly enjoyed.

Adam Page vs. Kip Sabian

Hangman Page has one of the best theme songs in the game today. 

It was an excellent clash in styles, though the crowd died down during the match. Much of that was due to placement on the card following an exciting tag-match, a predictable conclusion and also the fact Sabian didn’t play a heel in the match, so there was a noticeable lack of heat. Perhaps he was nursing the knee injury via storyline, but maybe there’s something more to it as Page seemed a bit slower than usual.

The action picked up towards the end with Page powerboming Kip onto the entrance ramp. Page quickly won with the Dead Eye.

Post match, Chris Jericho was wearing one of the Dark Order minion masks and viciously attacked Hangman Page who was left bloodied. 

I’ll admit, I’m a little nervous that Hangman Page vs Chris Jericho will headline All Out, since it might be a bit of a let down. Time will tell, of course.

SoCal Uncensored (Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky) (with Christopher Daniels) vs. Lucha Brothers (Pentagón Jr. and Rey Fenix)

I believe the Lucha Bros are the best tag-team on the planet today. Pentagon Jr possesses a larger than life presence. It’s truly incredible to witness. 

As fully anticipated, this was a bit of a spotfest. Christoper Daniels even got involved, but was ejected.

Following the double footstomp from Rey Fenix into the Package Piledriver from Pentagon Jr, the Lucha Bros emerged victorious.

Post match, the Lucha Bros attacked SCU with a ladder and proceeded to challenge The Young Bucks to a ladder match at All Out. 

Kenny Omega vs. CIMA

CIMA is primarily known for his time in Dragon Gate and from what I’ve seen, this was arguably his best singles match to date.

After a slower pace to kick off the match, the action quickly picked up. Yes, there were many V-Trigger’s and Meteroa’s, but it was also methodical too.  At this point, it was match of the night. 

Kenny Omega won his first singles match in AEW with the One-Winged Angel. He goes on to face Jon Moxley at All Out next month. 

Talk Is Jericho 

Chris Jericho came out and admired Hangman’s blood on his hand. Once again, he demanded a thank you from AEW, but not from Jack Off Ville. 

After running down Hangman, this brought out Page attacked Jericho. 

Officials and members of the locker room broke them up. 

The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) vs. Cody and Dustin Rhodes

The Young Bucks often get criticized for wrestling for spots, but they were able to slow it down with Cody and Dustin and put together a story based on competitiveness.

The Bucks teamed up for a Meltzer Driver on Cody and scored the pin.

I really wish they sent the fans home happy with a Brotherhood victory. 

Dustin Rhodes continues to prove why he’s one of the most underrated performers of the past two decades.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I’m grateful for this free show and enjoyed several matches, but I’m struggling to find myself fully engaged without proper storylines and feuds. It feels more like an Exhibition than a PPV. You can tell they are  laying the groundwork for them towards All Out and especially in October once they land on TNT. That being said, Fyter Fest and Fight for the Fallen lacked the same excitement as Double or Nothing

If I’m ranking all three events, Fight for the Fallen is in third.

𝗠𝗮𝘁𝗰𝗵 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗡𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁: Kenny Omega vs CIMA 

𝗢𝘃𝗲𝗿𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗚𝗿𝗮𝗱𝗲:  Somewhere between a B – to C +

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The Signature Spot – Ep 39

Fyter Fest predictions, a full recap of WWE Stomping Grounds plus a first-hand account of the entire OVW experience from the Gorilla Position’s Michael Melchor.

New episodes every Wednesday or Thursday!

Follow on FB: @TheSignatureSpot
Follow on IG: @TheSignatureSpot
Follow on Twitter: @ChrisToplack

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The Signature Spot – Ep 37

Recaps of WWE Super Showdown, NJPW Dominion, Raw, Smackdown, 205 Live, NXT, AEW news and I answer your questions in the topic of the week.

New episodes every Thursday!

Follow on FB: @TheSignatureSpot
Follow on IG: @TheSignatureSpot
Follow on Twitter: @ChrisToplack

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The Signature Spot – Ep 35

A full Double or Nothing recap, Jon Moxley’s tell-all interview, NXT TakeOver: XXV predictions and I’m joined by Associate Producer Evan Ginzburg as we discuss his work on The Wrestler and 350 Days.

New episodes every Thursday!
Follow on FB: @TheSignatureSpot
Follow on IG: @TheSignatureSpot
Follow on Twitter: @ChrisToplack

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The Signature Spot – Ep 33

AEW on TNT, Bret Hart vs Tom Magee, Vince opens up to Variety, a weekly recap and a full preview of Money in the Bank with Kyle Scharf.

New episodes every Thursday!

Follow on FB: @TheSignatureSpot
Follow on IG: @TheSignatureSpot
Follow on Twitter: @ChrisToplack

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The Signature Spot – Ep 21

Recapping the Elimination Chamber, NXT talent makes their main roster debuts, the awful Layfaette audience and Daniel Bryan’s potential Wrestlemania opponent.

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The Signature Spot – Ep 20

Remembering Pedro Morales, the new NJPW Heavyweight Champion, Double or Nothing sells out, AEW’s rumoured schedule and a full preview of WWE Elimination Chamber this Sunday.

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