After a relatively encouraging few months for the AEW women’s division, Full Gear represented a potential turning point. Improvements had been gradual and frankly, long overdue but with three promoted matches on the PPV card, there was an opportunity to make a major statement. In that sense, the AEW Women’s World Title tilt felt pivotal, a genuine candidate to steal the whole show. As champion, Toni Storm’s reign had been steadily building to this moment, laying the groundwork with impressive in-ring consistency.
In the meantime, Jamie Hayter’s emerging momentum had arguably become the division’s biggest story. Hayter seemingly connected with live crowds overnight, suddenly receiving raucous reactions at every turn. In truth, that response was the organic result of Hayter’s work, combining a striking charisma with raw, exciting physicality. That felt like a natural fit for Storm’s work as champion, setting the stage for an aggressive, gruelling affair. There was an established backstory here too, even if it hadn’t been covered in too much depth on television.
At Full Gear, Hayter and Storm were the eleventh of thirteen matches, following Sting who followed Samoa Joe who followed Saraya who followed Chris Jericho. AEW PPVs are a unique beast but even after over three hours of action, the live crowd was immediately onboard at the start of this match. In fact, there was a palpable big fight feel, with the audience seemingly desperate for a Hayter title win. Ordinarily, that can be challenging, with Hayter still firmly positioned as the programme’s heel.
This felt bigger than one match’s structure or story though. Too often, these Women’s World Title matches have had to hook the people with their in-ring work alone, underserved by a lack of television build. Here, fans were with them at the first bell, regardless of which way they leaned. That ultimately allowed for something special but first, Hayter and Storm got right to work. Opening with tight fundamentals, the champion and challenger exchanged holds with a wonderful intensity, swiftly spotlighting an almost perfect stylistic matchup.
With almost understated facial expressions and body language, Hayter and Storm added immense gravity to this match, elevating the title in the process. It truly felt as though this match meant everything to both women, as the former friends wrestled with a noticeable caution, desperate not to make the first mistake. Ego and emotion soon got involved though and that poised intensity transformed into something more chaotic. These two didn’t need weaponry to add an element of violence either, seamlessly shifting the match with mere intent.
Admittedly, the crowd response did then slightly dwindle, with Hayter working a control segment that limited the audience’s ability to cheer her. It’s distant memory by the end and rightly so, but that could be a challenge for Hayter’s remaining run as a heel. Either way, Storm soon rallied and the work noticeably went up a notch. Everything was already crisp but it packed an extra punch as the pair went back and forth, trading bombs as the audience came back to their feet.
Hayter even drew blood in this portion, earning a headbutt in response. The physicality on display was remarkable, resulting in a blunt, engrossing brutality. It felt like a shootout, two of the division’s hardest hitters testing each other’s toughness and grit. Then, in the match’s more divisive piece, shenanigans followed. First, Rebel arrived, hitting Storm with the belt and setting up a dramatic false finish that completely shifted the match. From there, it’s a race to the finish, with Storm finding a desperate new level, aware of the odds suddenly stacked against her.
Britt Baker followed, taking Storm out at ringside and creating an even bigger false finish, with the audience exploding for the presumed title change. This potential finish worked so well in fact that when Storm kicked out, the live crowd instinctively booed, understandably assuming that Hayter’s chance to win had just passed. That really felt like the moment and if it wasn’t, perhaps Storm would remain champion after all. It’s worth noting that such a result always felt possible anyway, with Storm probably entering as the favourite.
The match played into that doubt effortlessly too, as Storm rallied to score her own near-fall, rendering any expectation or prediction irrelevant. Another two-count followed and then the final interference, with Baker inadvertently taking a bullet for Hayter, making the final touches in the meantime. With one last chunk of cheating, Hayter sealed the deal, claiming the title to a triumphant ovation. This was one of the more unique dynamics that I can recall, with each heel tactic earning a louder response.
The constant interference won’t be for everyone and understandably so but I have to say, I thought this was an incredible read on the situation. Such a finish probably sounded incredibly overcomplicated on paper but in execution, only enhanced the drama and increased the audience’s already sizeable investment. The execution element can’t be overstated either, with absolutely everything landing perfectly. The timing, the physicality, it was exactly as intended, completely nailing an undeniably intricate finish. Something so “overbooked” can produce mixed results but in this setting, I thought it was an objective hit.
That finish achieved more than just providing the match with a theatrical element also, protecting Toni Storm in the process. Storm’s brief reign meant so much more than the facts and stats could ever capture, especially with her unfortunate interim status. As champion, Storm was a television constant in a way that so few previous titleholders have been, wrestling with hunger and passion almost every week. Storm carried the belt with pride, projecting the presence and stature of a true champion. Full Gear was Jamie Hayter’s moment, but Storm deserved this protective presentation.
Producing probably the best AEW Women’s World Title match yet, Jamie Hayter and Toni Storm left Full Gear with their names cemented in promotional history. Pairing immense skill with a truly magical moment, this was the kind of title match that ideally, will signal a shift for the AEW women’s division. Clearly, the pieces are in place and if things develop as they should, this will be the first of many PPV thrillers contested for that very belt.