Since Chris Jericho and Hiroshi Tanahashi first faced off at Wrestle Kingdom three years ago, and Tanahashi uttered this simple phrase, the wrestling world has been waiting for the ‘Forbidden Door’ to be kicked open. And now, All Elite Wrestling (AEW) and New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) are set to take over the United Centre in Chicago, Illinois for the first ever Forbidden Door show, featuring seven championship matches, shocking debuts and first time ever contests. In the main event, Jon Moxley and Hiroshi Tanahashi finally face off with the Interim AEW World Championship on the line, in a first time ever singles meeting. Moxley claims to have been calling out the Ace of New Japan for three years, while conversely Tanahashi simply claims that it has taken three years for Moxley to rise up to Tanahashi’s level. In the co-main event, the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship is defended in a rare 4-Way match as recently crowned defending champion Jay White faces former champion Kazuchika Okada, Bullet Club stablemate Adam Cole, and long time rival “Hangman” Adam Page. Three of the top tag teams in all of AEW and NJPW will battle in a Winner Takes All triple threat contest for both the IWGP World Tag Team Championships and ROH World Tag Team Championship as FTR (Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood), Roppongi Vice (Trent Beretta and Rocky Romero) and the United Empire (Jeff Cobb & Great-O-Khan) enter the squared circle.
The leader of the United Empire will also be in action, as Will Ospreay defends his recently won IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship against the unlikely contender, Orange Cassidy, though “Rock Hard” Juice Robinson still retains physical possession of the title belt. In the highly anticipated AEW Women’s Championship match, Thunder Rosa defends her gold against Toni Storm. Also on the show, the first ever AEW All-Atlantic Champion will be crowned as PAC, Miro, Malakai Black, and Clark Connors face off in a one-fall fatal four way. Connors comes into this match replacing Tomohiro Ishii, due to an injury keeping Ishii from being medically cleared, and will be looking to make the most of what is certainly the biggest match of his life. Meanwhile, Zack Sabre Jr was expecting to face off with Bryan Danielson to determine who the best technical wrestler in the world is but will instead now battle a hand-picked opponent of Danielson’s choosing, the man who will also become the newest member of the Blackpool Combat Club. Two unpredictable six-man tag team contests will also take place, when Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara and Minoru Suzuki team up to face Eddie Kingston, Wheeler Yuta and Shota Umino for the entrance advantage at the upcoming Blood & Guts show, and The Young Bucks, Matt and Nick Jackson team up with El Phantasmo to battle the dream team trio of Darby Allin, Sting and Shingo Takagi.
There will also be four big matches on the Buy-In pre-show, including Max Caster of The Acclaimed and all three members of the Gunn Club teaming up to face four of the top prospects in the NJPW LA Dojo. The team of Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland will also team up to battle El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru of NJPW’s Suzuki-gun faction, while Lance Archer looks to prepare for the upcoming G1 Climax 32 tournament when he faces off with the massive Nick Comoroto in a hoss fight. Starting off the show, QT Marshall and Aaron Solo will be in tag team action against former IWGP Tag Team Champions, Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI.
+ Jon Moxley vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (Interim AEW World Championship): funnily enough, in my opinion this is a much bigger match than Tanahashi/Punk would have been. The winner here will face Punk somewhere down the road, and the fact it really could have been either man was really exciting. Something happened in the crowd at one point, and disappointingly the crowd reacted very strongly to that instead of the match going on in the ring. This was everything it was built up to me for the last few years, and I liked it a lot. I really did not like the aftermath of this one, however, even though I was expecting it from the beginning
+ Jay White (c) (w/ Gedo) vs “Hangman” Adam Page vs Kazuchika Okada vs Adam Cole (IWGP World Heavyweight Championship): in no uncertain terms, the build to this one was a mess. But the match was very exciting, so who really cares. There was one particular thing of note that I can’t say without spoiling things, but once I realised I was even more invested in the match. Jay White is just a step above both the AEW guys, and a half step in front of Okada, and he absolutely was the best wrestler on the whole show. Amusingly, even the US crowd hated the Money Clip. There was the second awkward ending of the show here, possibly due to an injury, but everything to that point was really good
+ Zack Sabre Jr. versus Bryan Danielson’s hand-picked opponent, and the newest member of the Blackpool Combat Club: everybody knew who this was going to be, and it didn’t disappoint. I couldn’t stop smiling, especially once these two got into the swing of things. Sabre is great as a dickhead bad guy, even though he is so eacy to appreciate, and his opponent is the kind of guy that I can truly believe Danielson would hand-pick
+ Will Ospreay (c) (w/ Mark Davis & Kyle Fletcher) vs Orange Cassidy (IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship): I understand anybody who was sceptical about this going in, but rest assured it was better than I think even the men involved could have hoped for. Ospreay is just another level of great as a wrestler, and Cassidy’s character work always gets a kick out of me. The aftermath was the best part of the whole show for my money
+ The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) & El Phantasmo) (w/ HIKULEO) vs Dudes with Attitude (Darby Allin, Sting & Shingo Takagi): put simply, no Hiromu is a big loss as Darby/Hiromu is a dream match for many either in a team or as opponents. Sting did some cool things, considering his age, but Shingo/ELP were the highlights overall. Frankly, this felt really unnecessary with nothing on the line, but I understand wanting Sting on your main card
+ PAC vs Miro vs Malakai Black vs Clark Connors (AEW All-Atlantic Championship): obviously this was originally Ishii instead of Connors, so I guess I’ll have to wait to get a Miro/Ishii meat fight. This was easily the biggest match of Connors’ life and he did not disappoint, considering he was in there with three man whose styles could not be any different from each other. All four men looked incredible, and I think this was my favourite match of the show
+ FTR (Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler) (ROH c) vs United Empire (JEff Cobb & Grat-O-Khan) (IWGP c) vs Roppongi Vice (Trent Beretta & Rocky Romero) (Winner Takes All for the ROH World and IWGP Tag Team Championships): the big selling point of the match was a strange one, and whether I liked it or not kind of depends on whether it was real or not – I have a feeling it was not, and that just made me think it was a cheap cop out; FTR are always fantastic as a team, but I think Rocky looked the most amazing of everyone. Cobb’s power is insane, and O-Khan has a few fun things as well, but the UE were the weakest team. One big referee botch drew the ire of the fans, but overall this was good
+ Le Sex Gods (Chris Jericho & Sami Guevara) & Minoru Suzuki (w/ Tay Conti) vs Eddie Kingston, Wheeler Yuta & Shota Umino: with the winning team set to earn the man-advantage in Blood & Guts this coming week on Dynamite, I predicted it going one way in particular. This was a great showing for Shota Umino (or SHOOTER as he is affectionately known in the USA), but Kingston and Suzuki were the highlights. As always with these opening matches on AEW, this maybe did too much stuff, but of course everything was fun
+ Swerve In Our Glory (Swerve Strickland & Keith Lee) vs Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru): it is such a shock seeing my main man Despy in an AEW ring for the second time, and more so still seeing him against Swerve, which is a singles match I didn’t know I wanted until right now. Keith Lee was probably twice as big as both the Suzuki-gun guys, but that dastardly Kanemaru has some great tricks up his sleeve. A fantastic final stretch really sealed the deal, including some fantastic stuff from Swerve
+ Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) vs The Factory (QT Marshall & Aaron Solo): this was a perfectly fine opening match, though the crowd;s intense hatred for QT was the highlight. Truthfully, Solo was impressive against the always good former NJPW champs
+ the core commentary team of Excalibur, Taz and Kevin Kelly of NJPW was just fantastic. I love JR and Schiavone, but they would not have been a good fit for much of this show. JR did join for the latter matches, and he was not nearly as bad as I was expecting, Schiavone and even Caprice Coleman did great
– Thunder Rosa (c) vs Toni Storm (AEW Women’s World Championship): I have a feeling one of these women got hurt relatively early on, and that really upset the rhythm of the match from that point. Neither competitor looked good, and Toni Storm’s ass attack once again was the hardest hitting thing on the show — she really needs to let up on that. The ending came out of absolutely nowhere and left both me and the live crowd confused. This was the worst match on the main card
– Gunn Club (Billy Gunn, Austin Gunn & Colten Gunn) & Max Caster (w/ Anthony Bowens) vs NJPW LA Dojo (Yuya Uemura, Alex Coughlin, The DKC, and Kevin Knight): I really didn’t like how this went. It made no sense, and it made one team in particular look really bad
– Nick Comoroto vs Lance Archer: part of me wants to say “I’m a big fan of what Comoroto will be one day”, but he’s not there yet and he’s already been wrestling for almost a decade. Archer is fine, but nobody would say hoss fighting is his speciality
> it is very, very clear that this show has had some wild changes since the idea was first conceived, not least of which was the injury to CM Punk, but further injuries, illness or intra-company politics have kept many more from their originally scheduled appearances
> there was a sign in the crowd that read “If Punk loses we OH WAIT”. I laughed
Should you watch this event: With 13 matches across roughly four-and-a-half hours, this was a long show that never felt too long. The wrestling was fantastic, with the NJPW guys clearly absolutely loving to get some reactions form a loud crowd. Truth be told, even with the negatives above there was nothing worth skipping entirely, but go out of your way to see the All-Atlantic four way and the final four matches (Ospreay/Orange, Sabre/his opponent, IWGP title and Mox/Tanahashi). Holy smokes what a show.