SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
On June 26, 2022, in the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, the “forbidden door” opens wide as All Elite Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling put on a joint show, AEW x NJPW: Forbidden Door. AEW’s Jon Moxley finally gets his hands on NJPW’s Hiroshi Tanahashi in a match to determine the interim AEW World Champion. The IWGP and ROH Tag Team Championships are all up for grabs as FTR, Jeff Cobb and Great O-Khan (all hail), and Roppongi Vice face each other in a winner take all match. Chris Jericho has enlisted the services of Suzuki-gun to weaken Eddie Kingston and his crew. Thunder Rosa faces the toughest challenger for the AEW Women’s Championship yet when she faces Toni Storm and a mystery technical wrestler faces master technician, Zack Saber Jr, and more.
Jon Moxley vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – AEW Interim World Championship Match
The Story: With AEW World Champion CM Punk announcing that he would be taking time off due to injury and missing Forbidden Door, a tournament of sorts was held to determine who would be the interim champion. One the AEW side, Jon Moxley defeated Kyle O’Reilly, while Hiroshi Tanahashi beat Hirooki Goto. Now they meet at Forbidden Door.
New to New Japan? – Hiroshi Tanahashi is credited as the wrestler who brought New Japan back to a prominent position after a dark period. He earned the moniker “Ace of the Universe.” He has adopted a “rock star” personality often strumming an air guitar as a taunt. His finisher is a frog splash called the High Fly Flow. Moxley has been pursuing a match with Tanahashi for a while, but the pandemic worked against the two getting matched up until now.
Prediction: I wouldn’t discount Tanahashi winning the title. He was originally scheduled to wrestle CM Punk for the title. While Tanahashi is in the upcoming G1 Tournament in Japan, he does have most of his Wednesdays free. But I’m going with the safe bet with Moxley winning.
Jay White (c) vs. Kazuchika Okada vs. Adam Page vs. Adam Cole – IWGP World Heavyweight Championship Match
The Story: After losing his AEW World Championship to CM Punk, Adam Page set his sights on then IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, Kazuchika Okada and called him out. Unfortunately for Page, Okada dropped the title to Bullet Club leader Jay White who then refused to accept Page’s challenge. Adam Cole used the tenuous relationship that exists between the Elite and Bullet Club to try to get the title shot instead. Jay White refused him too. After Page wrestled Silas Young, White confronted Page when things broke down into a two on one beat down when Cole got involved. Okada the made the surprise save. This match was then booked.
New to New Japan? – Jay White is the current leader of Bullet Club. The Elite were originally a subgroup within Bullet Club who spun off onto their own thing and funded AEW. Jay White takes credit for this since he takes credit for running off Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks from NJPW. (He also likes to take credit for selling out Madison Square Garden when ROH and NJPW held their joint show there). Jay White’s signature finish is the Blade Runner which is a move he can hit from anywhere though it doesn’t always lead to a finish.
The other New Japan representative in the match is Kazuchika Okada, believed by many to be the best wrestler today (and definitely deserving of being in the conversation). He is the leader of the Chaos faction though he stands alone in his matches. His signatures are a cobra clutch called the Money Clip (derisively called the Paper Clip by those don’t like the move) and a riptide clothesline called the Rain Maker. The Rainmaker is not an especially protected finisher and Okada occasionally has to hit several of them in big matches. He has a signature taunt where the hard-cam will rapidly zoom back.
Prediction: Jay White should retain here. For people not familiar with Okada, I wouldn’t use this match as a barometer of his skill level since he tends to only bring it on big events.
Thunder Rosa (c) vs. Toni Storm – AEW Women’s Championship Match
The Story: Thunder Rosa, wanting to defend her title, offered an opportunity to anyone who wanted to challenge her. Marina Shafir took her up on the offer and promptly lost. Shafir attacked Rosa after the match prompting Toni Storm to make the save. Storm intimated her interest in the title and since she is the number one ranked woman, received this match. Storm then faced and defeated Shafir who had now allied with Nyla Rose. Shafir and Rose attacked Storm and this time Rosa made the save. The one match on the show without the Forbidden Door theme.
Prediction: Tough one here in this face versus face matchup. I’m leaning towards Thunder Rosa retaining unless there is some backstage politics going on.
Will Ospreay (c) vs. Orange Cassidy – IWGP United States Championship Match
Great O-Khan & Jeff Cobb (c) vs. Dax Hardwood & Cash Wheeler (c) vs. Rocky Romero & Trent Beretta – IWGP Tag Team Championship and ROH Tag Team Championship Winner-Take-All Match
The Story: I’m covering both matches here since the builds to both are intertwined. Members of the New Japan faction Chaos, Rocky Romero and Trent Beretta, reunited to reform Roppongi Vice and challenged FTR, Dax Hardwood and Cash Wheeler, for the ROH Tag Team Championship. These titles had eluded Roppongi Vice in their time in ROH. United Empire members Great O-Khan and Jeff Cobb interrupted the match. The following week Will Ospreay, leader of United Empire along with other members of his faction debuted and went after FTR and Trent. Meanwhile, in Japan, Rocky went after newly crowned IWGP Tag Team Champions, Great O-Khan and Jeff Cobb. Back in AEW, Will Ospreay defeated Dax Hardwood and, along with the United Empire, continued their attack after the match. A returned from injury Orange Cassidy confronted Ospreay. Now Ospreay defends the IWGP US Championship against Cassidy and both the IWGP and ROH titles are up for grabs in a three-way tag team match.
New to New Japan? – The United Empire is a faction of foreigners in New Japan with more of a pan-global feel. They are heels but they won’t directly interfere in each other’s matches, so they have some honor. Will Ospreay is the leader of the United Empire and one of New Japan’s top four or five guys. Ospreay uses four finishers, the Os Cutter which barely finishes anyone anymore and the Hidden Blade, and elbow to the back of the head don’t always lead to finishes. The Storm Breaker is a protected finisher that I don’t believe has ever been kicked out of. The times his opponent is too big for Ospreay to get up for Storm Breaker, he uses the Super Os Cutter. Jeff Cobb uses the Tour of the Islands as his finisher and Great O-Khan uses the Eliminator.
Prediction: The IWGP Tag Titles are not exactly the most protected titles in the New Japan ecosystem so I’d be happy to see them go to FTR though I’m personally a big fan of Rocky Romero so any titles you can slap on the man is good with me. But my official pick is FTR. Meanwhile Ospreay retains. Also, the physical IWGP US Championship is currently in possession of Juice Robinson who was forced to vacate it when he missed a title defense due to sickness.
Chris Jericho & Sammy Guevara & Minoru Suzuki vs. Eddie Kingston & Wheeler Yuta & Shota Umino
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. ???
The Story: The Eddie Kingston/Chris Jericho feud continues despite Kingston’s group losing the Anarchy in the Arena match at Double or Nothing. Kingston continued pressing his attack on Jericho and the Jericho Appreciation Society and he and William Regal challenged the JAS to a Blood and Guts match. Jericho agreed under the condition that he’d get a hair versus hair match against Ortiz first. Jericho defeated Ortiz with the help of a disguised Sammy Guevara who rejoined his one-time Le Sex Gods partner. Jericho also contracted the help of Suzuki-gun (Suzuki’s Army) and Minoru Suzuki himself to challenge Kingston, Wheeler Yuta, and Shota Umino (who is connected to Moxley) at Forbidden Door, and for Zack Sabre Jr. to take out Brian Danielson. Danielson is unfortunately injured so he has chosen a secret opponent for ZSJ to wrestle.
New to New Japan: Minoru Suzuki has already made some appearances in AEW and all you really need to know is that his current nickname is “the Murder Grandpa”. He is the leader of Suzuki-gun which literally means Suzuki’s Army. These are a bunch of like-minded gents who share a love of sadism and an overwhelming desire to hurt their opponents. Suzuki’s signature finish is the Gotch pile driver. ZSJ doesn’t have a set finisher usually applying a painful looking hold to submit his opponent or winning with a pinning combination.
When Moxley participated in New Japan’s G1 Climax tournament, he essentially kidnapped a young lion (basically a rookie) to serve as his “second” and to tag with in preview matches. This young lion was Shota Umino, son of NJPW referee, “Red Shoes” Uno. Moxley served as a corrupting agent on Shota Umino, basically turning him into a delinquent.
Prediction: Star power is definitely on the Jericho side so unless things break down with the volatile Suzuki, the heels have got this. As far as Zack is concerned, his most likely Forbidden Door opponents are Johnny Gargano, John Gresham, or Claudio CSRO (fka Cesaro). Personally, I got CSRO.
Pac vs. Miro vs. Malakai Black vs. Clark Conners – AEW All-Atlantic Championship Tournament Final
The Story: A new title was desperately needed in AEW, so a tournament was held to crown the All-Atlantic Champion. Pac defeated Buddy Mathews, Miro defeated Ethan Page, and Malakai Black defeated Penta Oscuro in AEW while Tomohiro Ishii defeated Clark Conners in NJPW. Unfortunately, Ishii was injured in the match, so Clark Conners chosen as his replacement.
New to New Japan? – Clark Conners has recently graduated from New Japan’s LA Dojo and is moving on into the next stage of his career.
Prediction: I was hoping Ishii would win this match and take the belt with him to Japan where it can be a foreign title, but alas…
AEW doesn’t really need another title on the show, but this feels tailor made for Miro, so I think he wins.
Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson & El Phantasmo & Hikuleo vs. Darby Allin & Sting & Shingo Takagi & Hiromu Takahashi
The Story: They needed something for the Young Bucks to do. Darby Allin and Sting have been feuding with the “Undisputed” part of Undisputed Elite. With Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly apparently out, the Young Bucks have taken on the task of wrestling Darby and Sting and are bringing Bullet Club along for the ride. Meanwhile, Darby and Sting have tapped Hiromu Takahashi and Shingo Takagi of Los Ingobornables de Japon for help.
New to New Japan? – El Phantasmo, aka ELP, and Hikuleo are representing Bullet Club in this match. ELP was usually in the mix challenging for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title but has recently entered the heavyweight division. His defining characteristic is his insufferability. Hikuleo is another recent graduate of the young lion system and in the early stages of his career.
Shingo Takagi and Hiromu Takahashi are members of Ingobornables de Japon who are a group of mostly laid-back wrestlers with a delinquent vibe to them. Except for Hiromu who is like a younger brother who is just nuts. Hiromu is one of NJPW top Jr. Heavyweights and Shingo was the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion for a while.
Prediction: Young Bucks win this one.
Buy In – Max Caster & Billy Gunn & Austin Gunn & Colton Gunn vs. Yuya Uemura & Alex Coughlin & The DKC & Kevin Knight
The Story: Nothing here, just a match that was booked.
New to New Japan? – Yuya Uemura, Alex Coughlin, The DKC, and Kevin Knight are all young lions or recent young lions training in New Japan’s LA Dojo.
Prediction: Caster and the Gunn Club win but look out for Coughlin deadlifting Billy Gunn at some point in the match in what should be a spectacle of strength.