Since its debut in early October, AEW's Wednesday Night Dynamite has power-slammed WWE NXT in a head-to-head ratings battle thanks to a loyal fan base and edgier presentation that lapsed fans are finding refreshing. And, indeed, the product has hit the reset button on a form of entertainment that critics said had grown stale.
AEW's roster is an eclectic mix of well-established performers and up-and-coming talents who have carved out a name for themselves on the independent circuit but had not yet broken through on a big stage. The blend has served the promotion well thus far, as it continues to surpass television ratings and viewership expectations. The company's previous pay-per-views have also outpaced buy-rate projections.
Unlike WWE, which holds a minimum of one pay-per-view event every month, AEW plans to limit their big shows to four times a year. The quarterly schedule harkens back to the wrestling days of old and relies on the traditional higher-cost pay-per-view model rather than a lower-priced monthly subscription service. But while fans are being asked to pay $49 rather than $9.99, the three-month build to a payoff event allows for richer storylines and makes the price more palatable.
AEW has done a solid job setting the stage for the Full Gear main event, which pits inaugural champion Chris Jericho against Cody Rhodes with the AEW World Championship on the line. Both Jericho, who turns 49 on the day of the title defense, and Cody have reinvented themselves since departing WWE, and it seems are at the peak of their careers.
While Jericho retained some of the trademark obnoxious traits that made him famous, his character has taken on a darker and more devilish persona than we've seen before. Cody, meanwhile, is unchained and brings a new level of emotion to the ring. His colorful in-ring promo on Wednesday's go-home show was easily one of the best of the year on any wrestling show. It brought a sense of realism that has been lacking for years in wrestling and allows fans to believe in what it is they're watching. The blurred lines of reality should bleed over into Saturday's show and add to the intrigue.
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Here is a look at that match along with a preview of the rest of the card.
Chris Jericho (c) vs. Cody
Cody stated that should he lose to Jericho, he will never receive another shot at the AEW Championship. This makes for an intriguing storyline, since Jericho is white-hot at the moment and his "little bit of the bubbly" catchphrase is becoming mainstream. Some other things to keep in mind here are how Jericho's stablemates in the Inner Circle will factor into the bout, as well as an unidentified three-judge panel who will declare a winner should the match go to a 60-minute time limit. Could corruption play a factor here? Possibly. But at the end of the day I think that it would be a mistake to take the belt off of your first champion here, no matter who it is. Jericho has only held the title since August, and as AEW is still trying to find its footing, it needs stability at the top. That said, Cody will still get a title shot in the future. You can bank on that. Pick: Chris Jericho
Unsanctioned Lights Out Match
Kenny Omega vs. Jon Moxley
These two were originally set to tangle at the All Out pay-per-view, but the match had to be pushed after Moxley developed a MRSA infection in his elbow. The delay has worked to their advantage, as fans have been treated to weeks of brutal attacks, including a brain buster through a glass table. Both have done a strong job of selling hatred toward each other and getting the fans emotionally invested in the match. You can expect more brutality when they collide in Charm City. Despite being one of the biggest names on the roster and a leader behind the scenes, Omega has taken a number of losses already, while Moxley has been kept strong. With the AEW fan base still firmly behind Omega, he can take another L here without doing too much damage. Pick: Jon Moxley
AEW Women's World Championship
Riho (c) vs. Emi Sakura
Like with Jericho, I'd hate to see the women's title change hands so soon after the first champion was anointed. However, Emi Sakura did score a pinfall victory over Riho in a tag match on Wednesday's Dynamite. The message was clear: Sakura is capable of taking the title on Sunday. But will she? I doubt it. Look for the undersized fan-favorite Riho to retain and another contender to quickly announce their presence. Pick: Riho
AEW World Tag Team Championship
SCU (Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky) (c) vs. Lucha Bros vs. Private Party
If we are to see a title change on the show, this is the match where it will happen. SCU became the first AEW tag team champions by mowing through the field in a tag tournament, including a surprising upset victory over Lucha Bros in the finals. What wouldn't be a surprise now is if the high-flying Pentagon Jr. and Rey Fenix get revenge. The Lucha Bros are arguably the best tag team in the world at the moment, and it would be in AEW's best interest to put them in the driver's seat. Private Party, who earned their way into the match on Wednesday, will be given time to shine but won't be walking out with gold. Pick: Lucha Bros
The Young Bucks vs. Santana & Ortiz
Santana and Ortiz have been unapologetically brutal since debuting in AEW and joining the Inner Circle. Two weeks ago they beat down the aging legendary tag team Rock 'n' Roll Express, who are the real-life inspiration for Nick and Matt Jackson. While payback would be sweet for The Young Bucks, a big night could be in store for all members of the Inner Circle to establish them as the elite heel faction in AEW. Pick: Santana & Ortiz
"Hangman" Adam Page vs. PAC
These two were originally scheduled to meet at Double Or Nothing, but front office issues forced AEW to postpone the match. It wouldn't be until the premiere episode of Dynamite that they would face off, with PAC scoring the win. Meanwhile, Page is still looking to establish himself as a credible contender since falling short against Chris Jericho in his bid to become the first AEW Champion. There was a lot of buzz surrounding him not long ago, with some predicting he would eventually become one of the faces of the promotion. A win here would go a long way toward putting Page back in the conversation. Pick: "Hangman" Adam Page
Joey Janela vs. Shawn Spears
This match is a late addition to the card and was set up on AEW Dark. I'm going to use some uncharacteristic logic to pick this match. Since Spears is managed by Tully Blanchard, who was an original member of the Four Horsemen stable and Baltimore is "Horsemen Country," I'm going with Spears over Janela. Also keep in mind that the top of the AEW food chain is a huge fan of wrestling history. Pick: Shawn Spears
The Buy In
Britt Baker vs. Bea Priestley
The fans have rallied around Britt Baker since AEW's inception. There's just something about the real-life dentist that connects with the crowd, and you'd have to be blind not to see she could easily be groomed for a run at the women's title. Expect for these two to put on a solid match on the pre-show, with Baker coming out on top. Pick: Britt Baker
Full Gear is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, November 9 from Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore.