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Pantoja’s AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door 2024 Review

July 1, 2024 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door Mercedes Mone Image Credit: AEW
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Pantoja’s AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door 2024 Review  

AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door

June 30th, 2024 | UBS Arena in Elmont, New York

Time to watch a six hour show that will likely be way better if it was 3-4 hours but here we go.

Kyle Fletcher vs. Serpentico

14 matches were announced coming into this and this wasn’t one of them. So 15 matches. Fletcher came out aggressively knowing he had this well in hand. He dominated and won with the El Generico corner Brainbuster in 3:10. So that was rather useless and doesn’t belong on a PPV. Total squash. [NR]

Gabe Kidd and Roderick Strong vs. The Kings of the Black Throne vs. Kyle O’Reilly and Tomohiro Ishii vs. Private Party

Man, I hate when multi-team matches only allow two legal wrestlers at a time. Such a pet peeve of mine, especially here where the wild action would benefit things. The crowd popped for Ishii facing off with King given their vast size difference. There was focus on the Kyle/Roddy dynamic, which included Roddy shouting “KYLE” to stop him from getting offense in on Kidd. Things broke down after the hot tag to Ishii and we got the fun action that we could’ve had the whole time if four people were legal at once. Ishii and Kyle lifting the old reDRagon finisher on King made for a great spot. Private Party hit stereo dives but spent too much time celebrating to actually capitalize. I don’t think they’ve won a match since they beat the Bucks in 2019. Indeed, King put down Marq Quen with the Gonso Bomb in 8:35. That was a lot of fun. [***¼]

Kris Statlander and Momo Watanabe vs. Tam Nakano and Willow Nightingale

They didn’t give Tam her own entrance, so someone needs to remove Tony Khan from his position. How dare he? Kris avoided interaction with Willow, only opting to start once Tam was legal. Their interaction was good as I was hoping for. Willow came in and Kris immediately tagged Momo. They also had some solid back and forth. Tam ended up playing the face in peril, setting up the hot tag to crowd favorite Willow. They did a good job of cutting that off, with Kris pulling her off the apron and depriving fans of that moment. The hot tag finally came and we got our Willow/Kris interaction ahead of their match this Wednesday. Tam’s German suplex on Kris was probably the highlight of the match. She added a Tiger Suplex before Willow hit Momo with a Bret’s Rope DVD for two. That probably should’ve been the finish. Willow responded with a Pounce before Tam beat Momo with Twilight Dream in 10:21. A hell of a match that got better as it went on until it peaked and went on for another minute or so. [***¾]

Owen Hart Foundation Women’s Tournament Quarterfinals: Mariah May vs. Saraya

Toni Storm was out with Mariah like a rushed mama to support her child. Saraya got distracted early and rolled up but survived. Mariah had some impressive moments like a top rope rana and good looking missile dropkick. When Saraya took over the match was less interesting as her heat segment didn’t really click. Toni poking fun at her was good though. Mariah got something going with a headbutt and then she did the Toni hip attack. I don’t think it has quite the same impact but go off girl. Toni took out Harley but the distraction allowed Saraya to hit her finisher only for Mariah to get her hand on the bottom rope. Saraya went for another big move but Mariah rolled her into a pinning combination to steal this in 8:30. That was solid stuff. Saraya’s section missed the mark but Mariah is great and kept me engaged. [**¾]

After the match, Toni celebrated with Mariah until Mina came out to raise her hand as well. Toni and Mina nearly came to blows but Mariah did her best to keep the peace.

Hiromu Takahashi, Titán and Yota Tsuji vs. The Lucha Brothers and Mistico

On paper, this match is stupid in the best possible way. The crowd reacted pretty good to this ahead of the bell and we got the absurd lucha action you’d expect here. Titán and Fénix did some awe-inspiring stuff right from the bell. Yota and Penta had a solid exchange before we got Mistico and Hiromu, which was very good. I liked LIJ kind of playing the heels with them ganging up on offense and the lucha boys doing more of the aerial stuff to get the crowd behind them. The action just kept ramping up to the point where everyone was down to a standing ovation. Mistico got left alone with Titán at the end and won with La Mistica in 12:02. Look, I didn’t write a lot here because there was just too much going on. A super fun tag that was filled with the action you’d expect from everyone involved. [****]

That was likely the best Pre-Show I’ve ever seen. Onto the long ass main card.

Hechicero vs. MJF

Massive pop for MJF in his home. MJF played to the crowd in the early stages which kind of allowed Hechicero to take control with his technical acumen. Hechicero had fun with the crowd too, strutting and flipping them off after delivering a huge knee to Max’s jaw. I love when MJF busts out the short piledriver. It’s such a well done transition and it looked great here. MJF sold the hell out of his arm after Hechicero targeted it, boosted by him having a torn labrum last year. The finish kind of came from out of nowhere as MJF hit a Panama Sunrise and then a Brainbuster to win in 9:49. A good match but nothing special. MJF didn’t even use Salt of the Earth, that man was just doing a hometown cameo. [***]

The Acclaimed and Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada and The Young Bucks

Max had a longer rap than usual and Tanahashi trying to air guitar alongside is was a blast. The rap itself? Meh. Okada jumped Tanahashi on the apron but bailed outside when Tana got tagged. I’m okay with that because I’ve seen them wrestle more than enough. The Elite did their usual stuff from the Bucks kissing each other on the cheek and mocking the air guitar work to Okada being a total jerk to them wearing Max’s headphones to block out negative crowd reactions. Max took the heat which isn’t what I’d have done. The crowd doesn’t like him so I’d have gone with Bowens or Tana as the face in peril. Bowens got the hot tag and did his thing before Tanahashi got the tag to reignite his old rivalry with Okada. They haven’t had a great match since like 2018 but it was fine to relive it here. Okada took a series of moves including the Mic Check but with help from the Bucks, he got his knees up on High Fly Flow. In the end, Okada hit a dropkick and the Rainmaker on Tanahashi to win in 13:00. About as good as I was expecting since Tana is past his prime and the Acclaimed are the Acclaimed. The Bucks were kind of just there but man, Okada is so fun in this role. [***]

Owen Hart Foundation Men’s Tournament Quarterfinals: Bryan Danielson vs. Shingo Takagi

Okay, now THIS is actually for the sickos. My first live ROH show was in 2006 and it saw Bryan in the main event while Shingo nearly stole the show in a six-man tag right beforehand. So this is pretty cool. Bryan looked to target the knee while Shingo just overpowered him whenever he could. Shingo caught a diving Bryan outside with a twisting suplex that dropped Bryan on his head. It’s not a Bryan match unless he gets dropped on his head. They had doctors check on Bryan (as usual) before Shingo took control inside for a bit. Bryan turned the tide with some elbows and an avalanche back suplex but he took a brunt of the fall too. That’s where this really started to pick up. It became a battle of Shingo’s power against Bryan’s technical skill and Shingo’s power was winning out as Bryan was battered. Shingo hit Pumping Bomber and Made in Japan but Bryan managed to kick out. Bryan couldn’t even stand despite the kick out. Shingo added his own MMA elbows but Bryan caught a sliding lariat into an armbar and suddenly had life. Shingo survived that and the Busaiku Knee and they just kept going at it. He powerebombed out of a triangle choke but Bryan caught him in another armbar and Shingo submitted in 19:58. Just outstanding wrestling because Bryan is the greatest to ever do it and Shingo is fantastic. Better than the Okada/Bryan match from last year. [****½]

AEW Women’s World Championship: Toni Storm [c] vs. Mina Shirakawa

The match I care the most about on this show by a mile. Mariah May was in the ring before entrances holding flowers for both participants. Toni had a Statue of Liberty themed entrance. Mariah couldn’t pick a side and was stressed a ringside. Mina annoyed Toni with her constant shimmying but it helped her goad Toni into a dropkick to the knee. From there, Mina took apart the knee, including a ring post Figure Four and you know how much I love that move. Toni missed a hip attack and hit the stairs, further putting Mina in the driver’s seat. Toni obviously rallied but Mina hit the Glamorous Driver for a good near fall. That said, a pinning combination just before actually made me bite on a near fall. Toni went in on a barrage after, capped by Storm Zero to retain in 11:41. Really good stuff that probably could’ve done with a couple more minutes. I’m glad it straight up with no interference or BS either. I’m probably the high man on this but I loved the match and everyone involved. [***¾]

Post-match, a stressed Mariah entered the ring and talked to Toni, who went over to pick up Mina. She shoved her away but then extended her hand. They shook and Mariah wanted them to hug, which we got. Then Mariah brought them in for a triple kiss to a pop. Nigel was crying as he gave the moment a standing ovation.

Orange Cassidy vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

The idea here is a clash of styles and Orange Cassidy being in a bit of a funk now having to face someone very tough. Some very good back and forth to start here with both guys playing to their strengths. I liked OC taking a powder to mess with ZSJ’s head only for ZSJ to sarcastically clap for him, proving that the mind games weren’t working. ZSJ also mocked OC with soft kicks before hitting a hard one to send him back. OC started to rally with a tope suicida and a diving tornado DDT that ZSJ sold the shit out of. OC got technical and even busted out a Texas Cloverleaf but due to damage to his fingers, he couldn’t keep the grip on it. The battle for leverage on pins down the stretch was great and OC, who vowed to get the pin with his hands in his pockets, tried it and couldn’t get the job done. The transitions done there were fantastic. Zack caught OC in a submission and when OC reached for the ropes, he pulled back on the arm and leg in horrific fashion. OC had to submit at the 16:21 mark. Just some fantastic wrestling and a case where styles clashing worked out for the best. That closing stretch was everything I wanted. [****]

Big Bill, Chris Jericho and Jeff Cobb vs. Hook, Katsuyori Shibata and Samoa Joe

Imagine having a Joe/Hook/Shibata trio and wasting them on this Learning Tree garbage. Anyway, the fans immediately chanted “please retire” at Jericho. Joe and Cobb had themselves a BIG MEATY MEN SLAPPING MEAT battle which ruled. Hook came in and ended up playing the face in peril. His interactions with Cobb were good too. Actually, when it was Cobb in there, this worked well enough. Jericho and Bill? Not so much. I appreciate that we live in a world where Shibata gets to wrestle again. Hook hit Judas Effect, which was slow as hell yet still looked better than Jericho’s, to beat the FTW Champion in 13:59. Why did that get 14 minutes? It wasn’t bad but it also wasn’t very good. Please let the awesome Hook/Shibata/Joe trio move on from Jericho. [**½]

AEW TNT Championship Ladder Match: Dante Martin vs. El Phantasmo vs. Jack Perry vs. Konosuke Takeshita vs. Lio Rush vs. Mark Briscoe

The smart booking would be a Takeshita title win but this has always felt like the Jack Perry Invitational. He got chased by everyone at the start and was knocked out by a Takeshita forearm. So, this is a ladder match. I’ve reviewed so many at this point that it’s hard to tell them apart. They’re almost always good and feature dope spots and you almost always forget about them by the next day or two. This had the expected big spots from Mark Briscoe’s dive onto a ladder with Takeshita on it to Takeshita hitting a big Brainbuster on a ladder. Also, it looked like both Takeshita and Dante got hurt. Apparently though, both were fine. Maybe they were pulling a Bryan Danielson. Takeshita’s Blue Thunder Bomb off the apron through a bunch of tables was my favorite spot. Then, just as everyone expected, when everyone was down and Mark Briscoe was close to winning, Jack Perry knocked him down and stole the win in 16:52. That was a hell of a ladder match but again, in a world with so many, it’s hard to stand out. I enjoyed it and had a great time but I won’t remember any of it by Tuesday. [****]

AEW TBS & NJPW STRONG Women’s Championships: Mercedes Moné [c] vs. Stephanie Vaquer

Stephanie headbutted Mercedes during introductions to get this off to a hot start. Some stuff here didn’t click as well as they wanted. Stephanie did a sweet lucha style move off the top and Mercedes went for her own but it came off sloppy and wasn’t the kind of spot you want to follow up a better one. Stephanie stepped up, hitting her spots crisply and getting the crowd into her despite her being a relative unknown in AEW. Mercedes also didn’t do her kip-up as cleanly as Stephanie, which was kind of a theme for the match. The gutbuster combo Stephanie busted out was dope as hell too. When Mercedes got going on offense, the crowd booed and chanted anti-Celtics chants. The crowd really got behind Stephanie because she was outperforming the TBS Champion. Mercedes hit her finisher to win in 16:48 to a chorus of boos. Stephanie was fantastic and Mercedes seemed off. It wasn’t a good look for the big singing. That said, the match overall was very good with some impressive exchanges when things clicked though there were some moments where it really missed. [***½]

Post-match, Mercedes’ celebration was cut off by the return of Britt Baker. Yeah, I get the name value but I don’t have high hopes for this one.

They announced Wrestle Dynasty in the Tokyo Dome on 1/5 which will feature New Japan, AEW, STARDOM, ROH and CMLL. So Forbidden Door: Winter Edition.

IWGP World Heavyweight Championship: Jon Moxley [c] vs. Tetsuya Naito

Okay, so I’ve made my feelings on Naito well known. He lost at WK in 2018 and that killed his momentum. Yes, he’s a multi-time champion since then but it never felt the way it could’ve and he’s been broken down for several years. This match made it more evident than ever. He looked slower than ever and simple spots like a Spear looked very bad. This was also a gear or two slower than what I’m used to from Moxley. They sluggishly kept going and Moxley hit a Death Rider for two though it looked like Naito didn’t even kick out. He hit Destino and regained the title after a bad 17:02. Love Naito but he shouldn’t be your top champion in 2024. Gedo booked that company into the ground and they have no stars so this is what we get. Somehow, Jericho didn’t have the worst match on a show. [*]

AEW World Championship: Swerve Strickland [c] vs. Will Ospreay

Will had a Hayabusa tribute mask during his entrance. The crowd has been kind of dead outside of a few moments since Jericho came out but they woke back up for this in a big way. Right off the bat, this was something. The stuff they did looked incredible following the slog that was Naito/Moxley. When Will snapped the rana off the guardrail, you knew this was something special. That’s a wild spot to just casually do. Swerve targeted the arm for a bit but got cocky and started throwing disrespectful strikes, which Will was more than happy to give back. I was blown away by the Swerve Stomp to the outside onto the announce table. The fact that the table didn’t break made it so much worse. I really liked how Swerve got his forearms up to block Hidden Blade but that it still hurt him to do so. That’s one of those little things that adds to a match rather than just countering each other like you’re invincible. We got our first official finisher kick out when Will hit Stormbreaker. Swerve followed that up by hitting his own Hidden Blade only to miss the Swerve Stomp. Will’s next Hidden Blade then took out the referee meaning it was time for shenanigans. That gave us Don Callis and his trusty screwdriver, which is how he beat Omega last year. Nana shoved Callis to the mat so Will went after him but held up. That hesitation allowed Swerve to capitalize and hit the Swerve Stomp for two. He pounced and did the arm breaker spot followed by the House Call for another near fall. I think that should’ve been the finish. Will tried to continue but could barely stand so Swerve added another House Call and won with the JML Driver in 27:04. One of the best matches of the year. Will’s PPV run between the Takeshita match, the Bryan match, and this is one of the greatest ever. Incredible pro wrestling in terms of action itself but the added story bits of Will not being able to reach that next level that Swerve goes to was great. [****¾]

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
A fantastic PPV. My only gripes are that Naito/Moxley sucked, Jericho didn’t need to be on there, and it ran way long. PPVs don’t need to go from 6:30 to midnight. That said, there’s a lot of incredible things here from that main event to the women’s matches to Bryan/Shingo.