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AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door preview & predictions: The ones who knock

The Forbidden Door finally opens on Sunday. Was it worth the wait?
Jon Moxley & Hiroshi Tanahashi

Editor's Note: The following is an opinion-based preview and reflects that of the writer and not of our website.

When AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door was first announced, the buzz was strong. I was excited, you were excited, we all were excited. 

Now? I am…sort of excited, but more about the idea of it than the execution.

The next few paragraphs are mostly critical of the event (sorry!), but this event even happening to begin with is potentially monumental for pro wrestling over the next decade. A co-branded show from the second and third most popular companies in the entire sport is unheard of in modern wrestling. It opens up endless possibilities for more and for even bigger shows, but has been hampered by clunky booking, injuries, and ambiguous communication.

When the show goes live, the bell-to-bell action should be excellent, but a good quality product isn’t always enough.

To me, the biggest question is this: How much popularity do AEW and NJPW stand to gain from this? A lot of the popularity gains New Japan had over the last five-to-ten years have been dampened due to a combination of the pandemic and their cracking down on people GIF-ing/Streamable-ing parts of their matches. 

Gone are the days when you could readily find the last eight minutes of a G1 Climax match on the web. Sure, New Japan wants those matches to be watched live or on-demand, but those clips and GIFs were free advertising spread by people who want the sport to grow. This event could go a long way toward rebuilding some of that fan base, but it sure seems like it will have a hard time attracting the more casual fan.

Much of what is already on the card has been overbooked at best and, at worst, it required a press release to explain. I’m grasping at straws to explain why a face-to-face between Jon Moxley and Hiroshi Tanahashi, an actual god, seemed to serve as a vessel for Chris Jericho reintroducing Sammy Guevara to his faction and announcing a weird six-man tag match. 

Surely, a match that has been talked about for three years can be sold by the two people in the actual match. A lot of these problems will get swept under the rug if the show is good, but there are certainly some cracks in the AEW foundation as of late - ones that need to be sealed up soon.

Let's preview the Forbidden Door.

Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara & Minoru Suzuki vs. Eddie Kingston, Wheeler Yuta & Shota Umino

Every card needs an opening match. This will serve to further the issues the Blackpool Combat Club and Kingston have with Jericho and his pals. Suzuki will be captivating as always as he and Kingston having a cute lil’ face-off sure would be nice. And Guevara will also be here. Not much else to say!

Prediction: JAS & Suzuki

Inaugural AEW All-Atlantic title: PAC vs. Miro vs. Malakai Black vs. Clark Connors

The following titles exist, or will soon exist, in the ever convoluting AEW wrestling multiverse: AEW World Championship, Interim AEW World Championship, AEW Women’s World Championship, AEW World Tag Team Championship, AEW TNT Championship, AEW TBS Championship, AEW All-Atlantic Championship, ROH World Championship, ROH Pure Championship, ROH World Television Championship, ROH Women’s World Championship, ROH World Tag Team Championship, AAA World Tag Team Championship, and the FTW Championship. 

This doesn’t even cover titles from New Japan, Rev Pro, or whatever other title someone totes out to the ring. Adding another to that list is just too much. Jamming this onto the card is especially strange. This very much seems like an AEW only thing and would have been the perfect way to draw eyeballs to the product over the summer. Everyone loves brackets!

I hope we get to see how The House of Black acts with a title as the way they are presented now, the competition part of pro wrestling seems to matter less than spooky tales about vengeance and violence. It’s either Black or Miro, but I think Miro is bigger than this belt.

Prediction: Malakai Black

Zack Sabre Jr. vs. TBA

If this is CSRO stretching and getting stretched by ZSJ, sign me the heck up. If this is like, Jonathan Gresham or someone else, tuck me the heck in bed.

Prediction: TBD

The Young Bucks, Hikuleo & El Phantasmo vs. Sting, Darby Allin, Shingo Takagi & Hiromu Takahashi

I am far too rapidly approaching my 37th year on this big blue marble and there are embarrassingly few things I enjoy more than going to bed at a reasonable hour. I am once again pleading with Tony Khan to stop filling his cards with so many matches to help me achieve that goal.

I was ready to end the preview here, but then Shingo and my precious Hiromu got added to it. Does it make sense? Nope! Does this contradict everything I wrote in the intro? Yes! Nevertheless, I am immediately 100 times more interested now. Shingo still does the high speed Dragon Gate-style as well as anyone and Hiromu might have the most uniquely captivating energy in all of wrestling.

Prediction: Dudes With Attitudes

IWGP U.S. Champion Will Ospreay vs. Orange Cassidy

Denying the pure breathtaking talent of Ospreay is crazy. He is not wrestling Twitter’s favorite wrestler, nor is he mine, but he has all the athletic gifts a wrestler could ever want. One of my first memories of him is hearing a promo where he said, ‘I heard you like to shoot ospreys from the sky’ and I realized that he was just another hyper-athletic theater kid which is not an insult! 

He’s who can take your breath away while at the same time making your eyes roll out of your head and out the door and also part of one of the best cinematographic moments in wrestling. Will has found himself since he's really leaned into being a heel, which has allowed him to cut out a lot of the empty calories (choreographed flippy stuff) from his matches. That said, I’m not sure he can resist hamming it up for an American PPV audience.

Between the overwhelming love for Cassidy, a general loathing for Ospreay, and the abilities of the two wrestlers, this match should have an insane amount of heat. A fired-up OC getting a near fall is going to blow the roof off the United Center. The match could either steal the show or be a spectacle of self-indulgence. Either way, it has my attention. As much as the crowd might want it - and trust me they will be frothing for it - there is no way Ospreay is dropping a belt he just won.

Prediction: Billy Boy

AEW Women's Champion Thunder Rosa vs. Toni Storm

This is a match with almost zero heat that I am worried will get buried in a bad spot and get lost in the rest of the card. Thunder Rosa continues to, somewhat confusingly, have a real (extended fart noise) title reign and that was before the disaster of a match with Marina Shafir a few weeks back.

So much so, that it’s worth wondering if AEW is losing confidence in their relatively new Women’s champion. That combined with Storm being very, very good at this whole pro wrestling thing has me sniffing around a title change.

Prediction: Toni Storm

Winners Take All: ROH Tag Team Champions FTR vs. IWGP Tag Team Champions Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb vs. Roppongi Vice 

Usually, these multi-man matches exist so that champion can lose their titles without taking the pin. But since two titles are on the line and the winners take them all, that changes things. Look, Roppongi Vice are nice and fun and but they are clearly here to eat a pin to set up a regular tag team match between the new champs and whoever loses their belts.

FTR has called themselves the best team on the planet and it’s never been more true than it is now. They’ve been on an absolute heater since Supercard of Honor and Dax Harwood himself has been doing his best Arn Anderson impression by putting on incredible TV matches with Will Ospreay, Adam Cole, and even his own partner just in the last two months. Figuring out how to keep everyone in two companies looking relatively strong is giving me a popsicle headache, but for this card to work, titles need to move between companies and this is the best spot for that to happen. 

The best things going today have never been better, and they leave Chicago with one more set of titles.

Prediction: FTR

IWGP Champion Jay White vs. Kazuchika Okada vs. Hangman Page vs. Adam Cole

Earlier, I wrote that if Forbidden Door winds up being filled with high-quality matches, a lot of the bad lead-up will be forgiven. This might be a perfect example of that. The yes-no-yes-no-YES of this match had my head spinning, but when that coin dropped and Okada walked out, I was healed. The weirdest great wrestler of the last ten years can wash away any and all types of pain.

As I was writing this, I had a recurring thought that I can not shake: would Jay White be the best performer in AEW? Not to be hot takey, but I think he could be. He has carried this program on the back of great mic work and incredible presence. He feels like a champion, he speaks like a champion, and carries himself like one. There’s a lot of talk about WWE throwing the bag at MJF and rightfully so, but White is someone who can carry an entire company and there’s no amount of money I wouldn’t give him.

He just won the title from Okada so him losing it here would be a huge shock. Nothing would create buzz like someone from AEW walking out of Chicago with the biggest prize from New Japan, but I can’t see it happening. One of the Adams is eating the pin.

Prediction: Jay White

Interim AEW World title: Jon Moxley vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

In life and in the universe of pro wrestling, there can only be one ace. Lots of people call themselves that, but it is truly a 1/1 position. There can be many constellations of stars, but there is only one Polaris. Only one star shines brighter than all the others. That star is Hiroshi Tanahashi. 

No one connects like him, no one structures a match like him, and no one makes the audience feel like him. AEW called him the Bret Hart of New Japan and, with full apologies to Bret, he is nowhere near as beautiful as Tanahashi. He was the IWGP Heavyweight Champion at the first Wrestle Kingdom back in 2007. Fifteen years later, he is main eventing a massive cross-promotional show and he’s still in the top two of all wrestlers when it comes to telling a story in the ring. And cats and kittens, he’s not number two.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how Moxley’s frantic, brawling style plays against Tanahashi’s more methodical, less is more approach. Moxley’s style works well regardless of his alignment and that will allow Tanahashi to work as the pure babyface that he is. Tanahashi winning would be shocking and beyond exciting, but I just can’t see a world where the match ends with anything other than Moxley with his hand raised.

Prediction: Jon Moxley