wrestling / Columns

411’s AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door Preview

June 25, 2023 | Posted by Ryan Ciocco
AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door CM SK Image Credit: AEW

Greetings and salutations everyone, and welcome to this preview of Forbidden Door II, the event SO nice that they decided to hold it twice! As we look towards the show its self, I’d like to take a minute to reflect on the first rendition of this show which, despite having a good amount of injuries on both sides of the aisle from AEW and New Japan, still produced some quality matches.

For starters, we got the proper, in-ring debut of Claudio Castagnoli, as he was introduced as Bryan Danielson’s replacement in a match with Zach Sabre Jr. We also had two very strong 4-way matches to decide both the then All-Atlantic title, as well as the IWGP World Heavyweight Title, and who could forget the main event between Jon Moxley and Hiroshi Tanahashi, with the former defeating the latter in defense of his AEW Interim Title belt? And that’s not to discredit the awesome three team IWGP and ROH tag team title unification match that saw FTR come out on top with THREE sets of title belts.

This year, better health has permitted for both New Japan Pro Wrestling and All Elite Wrestling to field a very strong card yet again, as the fans of both companies (and wrestling in general, per se) will populate the Scotia Bank Arena in Toronto for a night they won’t soon forget.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

Women’s Owen Hart Cup Tournament Match (The Buy-In)
Athena vs. Billie Starkz

Image Credit: AEW

Happy graduation present, Billie, you’re about to get your rear kicked by the dominant Ring of Honor Women’s Champion!

(Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure she already has in one of Athena’s ROH Women’s Title Proving Ground matches, but…)

At any rate, I am certainly happy for both ladies, as they get a spot on the card (even if it is on the Buy-In/Zero Hour pre-show available readily and for free on YouTube) and they were two of the eight women who were drawn to compete in the second annual Owen Hart Cup. Clearly, I do not think that anyone will be surprised by the outcome of this match and who goes over, but I will say that it’s great for young Billie to get more mainstream exposure within the industry, and I just hope that she at least gets SOME offense in on Athena before she goes HAM on Starkz.

WINNER: Athena

Adam Cole (BAY BAY!) vs. “Filthy” Tom Lawlor

Image Credit: AEW

A relatively late addition to the card seeing as it was added on this week’s edition of Rampage, this match is clearly a power play between “random tag team partners” in MJF and Cole. You will recall that on this past week’s edition of Dynamite, that Cole persuaded/got into the head of MJF and basically strong armed him into accepting the title defense challenge against Tanahashi for the PPV. So to get back at Cole, MJF set up a “tune up match” with Lawlor, as both him and Royce Issacs beat up on Cole in the middle of the ring until MJF “made the save” on Cole’s behalf.

Of course, that will do nothing to speak to the quality of the match we have at hand, as we all know that Cole can go with seemingly anyone anytime and anywhere, and those who have followed the career of Lawlor know that he has taken to wrestling post his MMA career like a duck to water. While the purpose of the match was to serve as the AEW World Champion’s game of one-upping Cole, the completely random feel of the opponents could very well make for a sneaky good (or at least very solid) match between them with a winner that should be obvious.

WINNER: Adam Cole

Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara, and Minoru Suzuki vs.
Sting, Darby Allin, and TBA

Image Credit: AEW

This is not the first time that “Le Suzuki Sex Gods” have come together as a team, as you will recall at the inaugural Forbidden Door event they defeated the team of Eddie Kingston, Wheeler Yuta, and Shota Umino. This is, however, the first time that Jericho and the Icon Sting will be in a match against each other in the history of their careers, which says a lot considering both men were in WCW and WWE at the same time.

However, all of these angles and story lines omits the biggest question mark surrounding this match, which is the mystery tag team partner that the guys in face paint will bring with them. At last year’s event, it was Sting and Darby teaming up with Shingo Tagaki (and was supposed to be Hiromu Takahashi as well, however, he was not cleared to travel for the event) to defeat The Young Bucks and El Phantasmo (with Hikuleo benched due to the removal of Hiromu). But, as Sting and Darby both mentioned, this man they are bringing has a history with Jericho, and while none of the guys involved with Darby and Sting last year fit the bill, it does leave plenty of options open for whomever that may be. To be honest, I don’t feel like the third person matters, as this is a situation where Sting and Darby will go over anyway, with the mysterious third person being a ride along for the victory.

WINNER: WINNERS: Sting, Darby Allin, and the mystery third component

Moxley, Wheeler Yuta, Claudio Castagnoli,
Konosuke Takeshita & Shota Umino vs.
The Elite, Eddie Kingston, and Tomohiro Ishii

Image Credit: AEW

For some reason, I can’t help but feel like the “Anarchy in the Arena” match back at Double or Nothing was made to be a bigger deal between the Blackpool Combat Club and The Elite (complete with Hangman Page reunion). That Kenny Omega will not be standing in with his Elite brothers and instead we have two completely random partners for Nick, Matt, and Adam makes this feel lessor on par with that match and more of a match just to have a match.

However, let’s not dismiss this match as a completely random and hapless mishmash of talent. For starters, Moxley and SHOOTER together is always a fun time, as everyone knows how close the guys have been in New Japan and its American based off-shoot, New Japan STRONG. You also have the concept of Takeshita fighting alongside the BCC and Umino (after much posturing was originally made by Don Callis that they were NOT affiliated with the BCC), and this group definitely makes a lot more sense than their opponents. While it will be awesome to see Mad King and The Stone Pit Bull teaming up with The Elite, the reasoning for such a union feels way less organic and unstable than their opponents (Eddie doesn’t respect The Elite but he hates Claudio, and Ishii is there because Eddie chose him). While I COULD see The Elite and Eddie/Ishii working together long enough to win this match, I feel like their opposition are a more natural unit that will gel far easier.

WINNER: The BCC, Konosuke Takeshita, and Shota Umino

Men’s Owen Hart Cup Tournament Match
CM Punk vs. Satoshi Kojima

Image Credit: AEW

Let’s not waste our time and believe that Kojima is actually going to win this match, because he isn’t, barring an audible that is called because “Pepsi Phil” gets injured and they can’t have him move on in the Men’s Owen Hart Cup. Let’s instead talk about how great of a match these two guys can have and how good they are at their craft in professional wrestling.

It may be disappointing to some that this match isn’t the “Battle of the GTS” between Punk and KENTA, but Kojima is a 32-year veteran of the wrestling game, mainly between New Japan and All Japan Pro Wrestling. Most infamous for the “machine gun chops”, Kojima is a world champion in both promotions and will pose a viable threat to Punk in his first singles match since his return to AEW. Speaking of, Punk’s stamina will be tested here as, like mentioned above, he has yet to appear in a singles match since he returned to the company, but let’s be honest, its not like he would just lose the ability to thrive as a singles guy anyway. And, despite the most obvious end result that we SHOULD get to, let’s take a moment to appreciate just how good they two guys can give for this bout.


AEW Women’s World Championship Match
Toni Storm vs. Willow Nightingale

Image Credit: AEW

Another match where the end result should be predictable (except this time, it will be because of the woman who is defending her belt and who isn’t), this is the first and only match on the card to feature AEW exclusive talents in it. That there has been a preexisting story line already in place (even if it comes and goes) only makes this match between two powerful ladies all the more interesting.

But again, the onus of this match is placed squarely on one Toni Storm, since it will be her AEW Women’s Title on the line and NOT Willow’s recently won Women’s STRONG Title (although the thought of a title unification here could have been interesting). And while it would have been pretty obvious who was going to win anyway based off of the title on the line, let’s not fool ourselves and assume that Storm won’t be going into this match without the rest of the Outcasts at her side while Willow will come out, presumably, by herself, unless Skye Blue isn’t busy. However, even in that case, I cannot see Storm losing the belt she very recently won from Jamie Hayter at Double or Nothing, and perhaps a win here will push her towards challenging for Willow’s Title next.

WINNER: Toni Storm (And STILL Champion!)

AEW International Championship Match
Orange Cassidy vs. Zack Sabre Jr. vs.
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Daniel Garcia

Image Credit: AEW

Finally, we arrive at a match where it truly does feel like the result could be completely up in the air, and perhaps the mighty reign of Orange Cassidy finally comes to an end as someone gets the better of him (or, by extension, someone else who is in the match and therefore Orange doesn’t have to be pinned or submitted to lose his title). Assuming there is no title change and everything remains status quo, the talent in this match alone makes this a viable candidate for match of the night status.

What’s even more interesting about this match is that, while some guys have personal interchanges (Cassidy-Garcia and ZSJ-Shibata), no one in this match had a very memorable night at the first Forbidden Door. While neither Garcia nor Shibata were on that show, Orange lost his IWGP United States Title match to champion Will Ospreay, and Sabre lost to the debuting Castagnoli in place of Danielson. By default, either someone is going to redeem themselves in this match, or someone will win their Forbidden Door debut match, and to be completely honest yet again, the way titles have went around the globe, you can make the argument for anyone to win this match. However, I feel like both Shibata and Sabre already having their belts rules them out, and while Garcia would make sense, he’s already made a stake to claim the Pure Title from Shibata. So when we take all of that in…

WINNER: Orange Cassidy (And STILL Champion!)

IWGP World Heavyweight Championship Match
SANADA vs. Jungle Boy Jack Perry

Image Credit: AEW

Look, I understand that the build for a card like this will never be as strong as any inner-promotional card could ever be, however, I was hoping that the build for a match involving the richest prize in New Japan would be more than just merely random banter about how the champion “doesn’t know Jack Perry” and Perry finally coming face to face with SANADA on the go home edition of Rampage. And never mind the people who will complain that they were “hoping that someone better than Jungle Boy” would challenge for the IWGP World Title belt.

But, let’s not sell the ability for this match to be good short, because it can definitely be. While Perry may not be the marquee challenger for the IWGP Title (and so soon after he lost in the 4-way match for the AEW World Title less than a month ago at Double or Nothing), there is no denying that he is one of the best and brightest talents in AEW. SANADA, on the other hand, has always been a good hand no matter what group he was in, or title belt he was around, but he finally realized his potential when he won the IWGP World Title recently from Kazuchika Okada. As with many of the matches on this card, the end result should not shock or surprise anyone, but the quality of the match going in and what these guys can deliver should definitely be on the higher end of realized potential.


IWGP United States Championship Match
Kenny Omega vs. Will Ospreay

Image Credit: AEW

It is very interesting how much of a difference a year can make in the wrestling business; at this same event a year ago, Omega was forced to sit it out due to the laundry list of injuries he had and the surgeries he required, while Ospreay was the defender of this same title belt against Orange Cassidy. At the second installment of Forbidden Door, not only have roles changed, but this will renew a rivalry that has been dying for an adamant conclusion for some time now.

I must confess to my mistakes previously, whereas I was assuming that a New Japan based talent, when opposing Omega for the United States Title, would win it so they could take the title back to Japan (Omega’s match on Dynamite with Jeff Cobb some time back, for one). However, Ospreay winning the title belt that he previously had and also lost to Omega would serve as the ultimate irony and the revenge that Will would seek against Kenny. If for nothing else, this match is going to be a lot of fun given how much these guys have previously not liked each other and how much relatively healthier they are than in their previous encounters. I just hope that the match doesn’t feature any outside shenanigans (for instance, Callis coming out to screw over Omega) and it is just a hotly contested match between two super talented wrestlers.

WINNER: Will Ospreay (And NEW Champion!)

AEW World Championship Match
MJF vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

Image Credit: AEW

So, for the above match, I made reference to how much can change in the business in one year. However, the opposite may end up being true in this match, as everyone may recall that last year in the show’s main event, Tanahashi lost an AEW Interim Title match to Moxley. One year later, The Ace of New Japan finds himself fighting for the biggest prize in AEW once again, except this time against the man who dethroned Moxley for the title back in November at Full Gear in one Maxwell Jacob Friedman.

So, will history repeat its self, or will Tanahashi Hi-Fly Flow his way to victory and become the new World Champion of AEW? Well, if I’m being completely honest, the prospect of someone else being the champion in AEW sounds very intriguing, a man as accomplished as Hiroshi, no less. However, let’s dispel of the notion in one fell swoop by simply acknowledging the fact that the title reign of MJF has a long way to go yet. And while he wasn’t going to drop the title in the “Four Pillars” match at Double or Nothing, he more than likely is not going to drop the belt to a talent outside the company either. Although, can you imagine the roof coming off for every near fall pin attempt that Tanahashi gets on MJF?

WINNER: Maxwell Jacob Friedman…MJF (And STILL Champion!)

Bryan Danielson vs. Kazuchika Okada

Image Credit: AEW

You know, it really does say a lot about the two men in this match when it was announced as the main event of the show and they don’t even NEED a title belt on the line to make it all the more important.

(Either that, or it lines up with my ideology that hardly any of the title belts are in grave danger of trading hands, take your pick. I personally would give the nod to the impact of these two generational talents facing off with no title belt.)

While these men are both very talented in the ring and can go with just about anyone out there, let’s not sell this short of being a legitimate dream match (as much as I may cringe at the usage of such terminology). And while Danielson couldn’t go last year (as mentioned earlier, Claudio was drafted in to take his place) one wonders IF he had been cleared, would the matches have been changed around so these two guys could have met (Okada took part in the 4-way IWGP World Title match, which was won by Switchblade Jay White)? For all intent and purposes, I feel like I know who SHOULD win this match up, but I will not be too upset if this one goes a half hour with 500 near falls and a couple of awesome submission hold reversals thrown in for good measure.

Bryan Danielson

And that will do it for the preview! All that is left is to check out Forbidden Door II Sunday Night at 8PM EST, and don’t forget to check out the Zero Hour on the company’s YouTube channel starting at 7PM EST, where you can catch up on the build for all of the show’s main matches, and also catch the Owen Hart Women’s Cup match between Athena and Billie!