LECLAIR’S AEW x NJPW FORBIDDEN DOOR 2023 REPORT: Alt perspective, detailed coverage of Danielson vs. Okada, Omega vs. Ospreay, MJF vs. Tanahashi, more

By Brandon LeClair, PWTorch contributor

AEW & NJPW Forbidden Door 2023 preview


JUNE 27, 2023

Announcers: Excalibur & Kevin Kelly & Taz & Tony Schiavone

-Pyro shot from the entrance stage as Excalibur welcomed the audience to the show, with over 14,000 in attendance at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. He introduced Kevin Kelly as his partner. Kelly introduced Taz.

-Hiroshi Tanahashi headed to the ring first for his match with MJF. The announcers talked up his accolades before the AEW World Heavyweight Champion, MJF, made his entrance. Max sported a new robe with “New Japan is an Indie” inscribed on the back. Excalibur tossed to the ring for Championship introductions in both English and Japanese.

(1) MJF (c) vs. HIROSHI TANAHASHI – AEW World Championship match

“The Devil” MJF and “The Ace” Hiroshi Tanahashi stepped out of their respective corners as the bell rang. MJF immediately began taunting Tanahashi, mocking him and the crowd. Tanahashi shoved MJF to the mat and played a little air guitar. The crowd broke into a dueling chant for both men. MJF returned the favor to Hiroshi and mocked the air guitar. Tanahashi gave him a quick shoulder tackle. The champion rolled to the outside and shushed the fans.

MJF hesitated for a moment, then began to walk up the ramp. “I’m done,” he said to the camera. Tanahashi led the crowd in a “coward” chant. This brought the champion back to the ring. “You think I’m a coward?” MJF asked the crowd. They cheered. He offered Hiroshi a handshake. Tana shook his hand and Max bowed to him, then tried to kick him in the gut. Hiroshi caught his leg. MJF fell backward into the corner. He drew Tanahashi toward him, then pulled the referee in front of him.

Tanahashi got driven into the ring post. Max pulled him out and gave him a quick Suplex. Friedman played to the crowd, then grabbed a seated waist lock on his challenger. A second dueling chant rose from the crowd. MJF wrapped Tanahashi around his knee with the kitchen sink. He shrugged and continued to talk trash to the crowd. Tana returned to his feet, using the ropes for balance. He countered MJF on the approach and rolled him up for a quick two count. MJF rolled to his feet quickly and pulled Tanahashi into an abdominal stretch. He grabbed onto the rope while the referee checked in with Hiroshi.

Max continued to sink into the hold as the match crossed 5:00. “Shut the hell up!” he told the crowd. Referee Bryce Remsburg caught MJF’s hand on the rope. He counted Max to four. “What are you gonna do?” MJF asked. Remsburg kicked his arm off the rope. Tanahashi used the distraction to give the champion a hip toss. He worked MJF toward the corner and gave him a body slam. Tanahashi climbed to the middle rope and hit a rolling Senton for a cover and near fall. Hiroshi climbed to the top rope this time. MJF rolled to his feet and cut him off. He hooked Tanahashi in for a Superplex, but the veteran shoved him away. He dove onto Max with a cross body.

Hiroshi caught MJF with a running elbow in the corner. He positioned Friedman onto the top turnbuckle and press slammed him off of it. Kevin Kelly noted that MJF just had a scheduled tweet go out saying he’d have already defeated Tanahashi by now. The two men worked at each other in the corner. MJF gained control and hoisted Tanahashi to the top turnbuckle. He climbed up to meet him and delivered a big Superplex for a delayed cover and two count as the match crossed 9:00.

A third dueling chant swelled. Tanahashi rolled to the apron. Max retrieved him, setting up for the Heatseeker. Tanahashi powered him off. MFJ stumbled and grabbed at his knee. Max still caught him with a rolling elbow and an under-hook Shoulder-breaker. Max covered for a two count. He spit in Hiroshi’s face. “You’re a legend?” he yelled,” you’re a joke!” He spit at Tanahashi again. Tanahashi rose to his knees and pounded the mat. He willed himself up. MJF fired away, but Hiroshi shrugged them off and begged for more. The champion poked him in the eye instead. Max looked for a running kick, but Tanahashi caught his leg and spun him for a Dragon Screw.

Tana applied the Cloverleaf on the champion. Max began crawling toward the ropes, but Hiroshi pulled him back to center. MJF eventually reached the bottom rope for a break just before 13:00. Tanahashi set up for a Suplex. Mas blocked it. Tanahashi adjusted and hit a spinning Neckbreaker. He hit the ropes and dropped Max with a Slingblade. Tanahashi set up for the High Fly Flow. Max got his knees up. MJF grabbed at his injured knee in agony. Both men rolled around on the mat.

The champion rolled to the outside and retrieved his AEW title. Bryce Remsburg saw him and pulled the belt away. As he was handing it off, Tanahashi rolled Max up for a visual three count. By the time Remsburg turned, MJF kicked after two. Tanahashi began arguing with Remsburg. MJF pulled out the Dynamite Diamond Ring. He shoved Tanahashi into Remsburg, sandwiching the referee in the corner. While he was recovering, MJF hit Tanahashi with the ring for a cover and three count.

WINNER: MJF in 15:32 to retain the AEW World Heavyweight Championship

(LeClair’s Analysis: Nothing special here. This felt a lot like John Cena’s recent appearances in WWE. Tanahashi has lost several steps and seemed content to work a very MJF-centric, slow and plodding match. The crowd helped things along, staying hot throughout and giving plenty to both men when they took their ample opportunities to play to them. The result never seemed in any real doubt, and I didn’t think it was necessary to give Tanahashi a visual pinfall. I get that he’s a legend, and this show is meant to serve both companies in various ways, but I think that’s a situation where you go hard at-bat to have to your rising heel champion and young star get a definitive win over a big name from another promotion, especially given its placement on the card, and regardless of what’s in store for the rest of the night.)

-After a quick sponsor break, Satoshi Kojima headed to the ring for his Owen Hart Tournament match. CM Punk followed, to a massive chorus of boos from the Toronto crowd. He seemed to relish in it, but stopped to give high fives to supporters along the ramp. As “Cult of Personality” faded out, a “CM Punk” chant overtook the boos.

(2) SATOSHI KOJIMA vs. CM PUNK – Owen Hart Foundation Men’s Tournament Quarter-Final match

Satoshi Kojima and CM Punk circled one another briefly before locking up and trading some quick holds. Each took a turn gaining brief control before they worked into the corner. Kojima got the upper hand on Punk there, hitting him with rapid fire chops and them tossing him across the ring. The crowd cheered as Kojima flexed his pecs. CM Punk returned to his feet and tossed Kojima to the floor, then flexed his own pecs for each side of the arena. The crowd (mostly) booed this.

Punk headed to the outside. He chopped Kojima against the ringside barrier. Satoshi shrugged him off and began delivering his own chops. Punk wound up near the time-keeper’s area. Kojima chopped him so hard that Punk flew over the barrier and into the lap of Dasha Kuret. Punk slowly crawled back to ringside and he and Satoshi worked back into the ring. Punk gave Kojima a body slam, then hit Hogan’s signature ear taunt and leg drop. Punk cracked a smile as the crowd booed him.

Kojima returned to his feet and gave Punk another big chop. Punk stumbled back, then fired back with one of his own. He worked Satoshi to the corner, then mounted him for ten punches. Punk went for a rear chin-lock, but Kojima got his foot on the ropes. Punk broke the hold immediately. Punk worked Kojima into the opposing corner and gave him a number of short-arm lariats. He called out “lariat” and “Kojima” to the camera repeatedly. Punk gave Kojima a backdrop and covered him for a two count.

The match hit 7:30 as Punk continued to beat down Kojima in the corner. He whipped Satoshi to the opposite end of the ring and went for a diving body blow, but Kojima moved. Punk crashed into the turnbuckle. Kojima lit up his chest with rapid-fire chops. Kojima hit a quick running elbow in the corner, then tossed him to the mat. He climbed to the top rope and delivered a heavy elbow drop for a cover and near fall. Taz noted that the elbow was a “little low”, and it was. Punk grabbed at his crotch.

Satoshi hit some quick fire backhand chops, then dropped Punk with a DDT. He called to the crowd. Kojima hooked Punk in for a cutter, but CM fought him off and tossed him toward the corner. Punk hit the running clothesline and held on for a Bulldog. Kojima blocked it, but Punk still took him down. Punk climbed to the top rope and perched on the turnbuckle, looking around at the crowd, as of contemplating returning the favor with a low blow. He went for the chest instead. Punk immediately transitioned into the Anaconda Vice. Kojima broke the hold with shots to the back of the head just after 10:30. A “Pepsi sucks” chant broke out. Punk signaled for the GTS.

The two men traded Mongolian chops in the center of the ring. Punk scooped Satoshi for the GTS, but Kojima elbowed free. He hit Punk with the cutter, then removed his elbow pad. Kojima sized Punk up and charged, but Punk turned him inside out with a Neckbreaker and cover for two. Punk tried to will on a small “CM Punk” chant. He chopped at Kojima’s chest and hoisted him into the position for the GTS. He stalled for a moment then tossed him up. Kojima caught the leg on the way down. He gave Punk a big Brainbuster for a cover and very close near fall.

Kojima called for the finishing Lariat. Punk ducked it and kicked Kojima in the head, then caught him with the GTS for a leg hook and three count.

WINNER: CM Punk in 13:37

Punk stared deadpan into the camera, then did push ups around the ring. He posed on the middle rope, miming a crown being placed on his head. He went to Satoshi Kojima and helped him up. Punk held his arm up before leaving the ring.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Toronto went even harder at CM Punk than they did on Saturday’s Collision. Almost comically, though, there is still a sizable congregation of Punk fans that will do anything they can to drown out the boos with opposing chants. It felt more hostile in nature, but I kind of liked it. The dueling chants we so often see in pro wrestling fall under the “too cute” category for me, so I think the unorganized chaos of two groups of fans with genuinely opposing viewpoints on this particular wrestler make for a fun dynamic. The announcers went up to the line of calling Canada “bizarro world” without actually saying it. It seemed to indicate, pretty strongly, that no turn for Punk is on the immediate horizon. Say what you will about CM Punk, but with only a few shows under his belt since returning, it should be stated with reservation that his presence makes AEW feel like a bigger, more important company. The attitudes toward him, whether positive or negative, are of a significance that very few wrestlers under contract are able to elicit. The shows are simply more compelling with him there. I thought he worked this match masterfully – trolling and playing up the boos without ever officially crossing over into heel territory. Kojima was a strong dance partner and a fun clash of style for Punk. This was solid all around, with a great crowd making it that much more enjoyable. The post-match show of respect was the right move for Punk, as he tried to quell the negative reaction and solidify that his character is going to do things the right way even if you hate him.)

-A video package confirmed a week-long residency in Chicago, with Dynamite, Rampage, Collision, and All Out all taking place in the Windy City.

-Orange Cassidy headed to the ring for his International Championship defense.

(3) ORANGE CASSIDY (c) vs. KATSUYORI SHIBATA vs. DANIEL GARCIA vs. ZACK SABRE JR. – AEW International Championship match

Excalibur and company noted that three of the four men in the match are champions, but only Orange Cassidy’s is on the line. The defending champion started things out by delivering his patented lazy kicks to his opponents. Before long, Katsuyori Shibata and Zack Sabre Jr. were tossed to the outside. Daniel Garcia dropped Orange Cassidy and applied a Sharpshooter. Shibata returned to the ring quickly and kicked Garcia in the face to break the hold. Seconds later, Zack Sabre Jr. returned to the fold and began manipulating the hand and fingers of Cassidy. Garcia broke it up quickly.

Sabre Jr. and Garcia got in each other’s face and began trading quick punches. Shibata broke up the stalemate, chopping both men. The three challengers traded round-robin slaps and uppercuts. Garcia danced his way through both. Shibata and Sabre Jr. teamed up momentarily to eliminate Garcia from the equation. They then went to work on each other. Garcia clotheslined both men and started dancing again. Cassidy hopped in the ring and rolled up Garcia for a two count. All four men rose to their feet and delivered simultaneous kicks, taking everyone down.

Shibata applied an abdominal stretch on Garcia. Sabre Jr. applied one on Orange. Shibata and Sabre Jr. couldn’t stop slapping each other while in their respective holds, so Cassidy and Garcia fought out. The latter two men applied Sleeper holds on the former two and the slap fight continued. That was quickly broken up, and all four men began trading rapid fire Suplexes. The stalemate ended with Cassidy countering Garcia’s Suplex into Stundog Millionaire for a counter and near fall as the match approached 5:30.

Cassidy called for the Orange Punch on Garcia. Sabre Jr. intercepted him, grabbed his hand from the apron and pulling it over the rope. Sabre Jr. worked Cassidy to the floor. In the ring, Garcia locked Shibata with the ROH Pure Championship for a cover and near fall. Garcia worked Shibata to the corner. The crowd chanted “you’re a wrestler!” at him. Shibata shrugged off Garcia’s forearms and downed him in the corner. Shibata delivered heavy forearms of his own, then hit a running stalling dropkick in the corner. Orange Cassidy rolled back in and stalked Shibata. The two came face to face. They sat down in the center of the ring, knees almost touching. They began open-handed chopping each other on the pectoral and neck. Shibata worked Cassidy to his feet with kick face kicks. Orange begged off to stick his hands in his pockets. He hit the ropes and caught Shibata with an Orange Punch. Cassidy sold his injured hand.

Shibata shrugged off the punch and kicked Cassidy. Orange recovered and caught Shibata with Beach Break for a cover and near fall. Zack Sabre Jr. returned and stomped on Cassidy’s hand. He began twisting it, forcing Orange to stand. Orange tried to pull Zack into a mouse trap pin, but Sabre Jr. rolled through it and tired to apply a hold. Garcia broke it up quickly. Zack caught Garcia with a kick. Cassidy went up for a Stundog on Sabre Jr. Zack countered into arm and hand manipulation. Shibata kicked Sabre Jr. in the back of the head to break it up. He went for the PK, but Garcia pulled at his leg. Shibata and Sabre Jr. traded quick roll ups for two counts. Garcia broke up the latter one just before 11:00.

Sabre. Jr. went for a rolling uppercut on Garcia, but Daniel rolled him into a backslide for a two count. He hit Sabre Jr. with an underhook Piledriver. Shibata returned and caught Garcia with a PK. Cassidy exploded with an Orange Punch on Shibata. He trapped Garcia in a crucifix pin for a three count.

WINNER: Orange Cassidy in 11:28 to retain the AEW International Championship

Zack Sabre Jr. grabbed his, and Orange Cassidy’s title and told him that they’re not done. Shibata got involved. The announcers noted that Sabre Jr. had Cassidy’s number throughout the match. “Next time,” Sabre Jr. said, realizing he was outnumbered. He rolled out of the ring, allowing Cassidy and Shibata to share a handshake and pose.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Fun, chaotic match with a frenetic pace and some comedy relief. Cassidy got all of his usual spots in despite working with more serious characters in Shibata and Sabre Jr. The latter was impressive, clearly getting the better of the International Champion throughout and making a strong case for a one-on-one title defense down the line. They set it up clearly in the post-match scrum, too. The crowd ate this up, and Orange continued his remarkably impressive run as the staple and glue of AEW’s mid-card. I wasn’t huge on the finish, because the stealing the pin gimmick is used so often in these kinds of matches. Additionally, it’s a finish designed to get heat on a heel and Cassidy is anything but.)

-Excalibur tossed to a video package for Jungle Boy vs. Sanada.

“Jungle Boy” Jack Perry headed to the ring first. The crowd serenaded him to the ring. Sanada received a respectable reaction. Kevin Kelly talked about the champion’s journey to IWGP World Heavyweight gold.

(4) SANADA (c) vs. “JUNGLE BOY” JACK PERRY (w/ Hook) – IWGP World Heavyweight Championship match

Sanada strode confidently toward the center of the ring as Jack Perry stared off into the crowd, looking nervous. The crowd broke into a “Red Shoes” chant, honoring the match’s beloved referee. Jungle Boy gave him a nod of respect. He met Sanada in the center and the two locked up. Perry gained control in a brief exchange. He tossed Sanada off the ropes, and the champion leapfrogged him twice before connecting with a big dropkick. Perry rolled to the outside. Sanada seemed poised to dive, but Jungle Boy returned to the ring quickly and tossed Sanada. Perry executed a dive onto the champion below, then quickly tossed him back into the ring for a cover and quick two count.

Excalibur noted that this match is contested under New Japan rules, which means a 20 count on the outside and a title change on disqualification. Kevin Kelly mentioned that Red Shoes is notoriously lenient in big title matches. Sanada went for the Paradise Lock, but Perry blocked him. Jack Perry looked to apply the hold himself, but Sanada easily kicked him away. The crowd booed a little. Sanada applied the hold on Perry successfully. Jack was caught on his knees in the center. Sanada riled up the crowd, then delivered a stiff running kick to the challenger. He covered lackadaisically for a two count. Taz called it a weak cover.

Taz launched an admonishment of Sanada for not taking Perry seriously as a challenger. Jungle Boy pulled in the champion for a Tiger Driver. Sanada shoved him away, but Perry caught him with a kick and was then able to execute the move. He covered for a two count. Sanada shot to his feet and lifted Perry’s feet onto the top rope for a spin out Neckbreaker. Both men were down in the center of the ring as the match approached 7:00. The rose to their knees and crawled to each other in the center, trading big chops to the chest. Jungle Boy got one in that made Sanada recoil. He fought back with one of his own, but Jack ate it and wasn’t phased. They traded quick uppercuts. Perry pulled Sanada into a backslide for a near fall.

The champion tried to hook Jungle Boy into a crucifix, but Perry slid free. He pulled Sanada into Skull End. Sanada shimmied his body just enough to get his foot on the bottom rope after a few beats. Both men returned to their feet, missing wildly with kicks. Sanada tossed Perry into the air and onto his shoulders, delivering a TKO for a cover and two count. Sanada climbed to the top turnbuckle and went for a Moonsault. Jungle Boy rolled outo f the way. Sanada still pulled Perry in for a lifting reverse DDT, but Perry countered. He hit the champion with a Poisonrana. Sanada rolled to his feet and pulled Perry in for another reverse DDT. He fell into it, but Perry flipped over him into a cover. Sanada kicked out. He caught Perry with a a Poisonrana of his own. The champion headed to the top turnbuckle and hit a Moonsault for a cover and three count.

WINNER: Sanada in 10:44 to retain the AEW World Heavyweight Championship

Hook slumped against the apron, disappointed. He entered the ring to help Jungle Boy to his feet. Sanada held up the title on the ramp. Jungle Boy collapsed to a knee halfway up the ramp. Hook helped him to his feet and raised his hand. Jungle Boy gave him a clothesline. Perry dropped to his knees and mimed the waving the crowd does during his entrance. He walked past Hook, picked up the FTW title and tossed it down the ramp. The crowd booed as Perry walked to the back. Taz and Excalibur were shocked.

(LeClair’s Analysis: I thought this had its moments, but never really clicked into high gear. The finish came abruptly, and the crowd didn’t seem prepared or excited for it. Though they seemed to generally like both guys, I never got the sense that they felt strongly about one over the other enough to really get into the back and forth. It likely didn’t help that, like a lot of other title matches on the show, the result felt like a foregone conclusion. Ultimately, this really felt like the vehicle to turn Jungle Boy. The moment got an expected amount of heat, and served as a creative way to replace Taz midway through the show, but I think it speaks pretty strongly to the failures of booking when it comes to Jack Perry. As has been a recurring theme with a lot of AEW originals, the start/stop nature of his focus and push led to a dwindling of crowd interest that eventually necessitated a complete change-up. Enter heel turn. I still think Perry can be an effective bad guy, and I certainly thing they can get plenty out of him, but the momentum he lost along the way is quite unfortunate.)

-Back at the announcers desk, Taz collected himself, calling Jungle Boy a “dead man.” Excalibur turned to quick narration hyping the ten man tag team match. Taz left the booth and Tony Schiavone joined Excalibur and Kevin Kelly.

-Eddie Kingston entered first, followed by Tomohiro Ishii. The Elite came out together. The crowd sang them to the ring. Blackpool Combat Club headed to the ring from a tunnel on the floor with Konosuke Takeshita and Shota Umino in tow. They had new music.

(5) THE ELITE (“Hangman” Adam Page & Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) & TOMOHIRO ISHII & EDDIE KINGSTON vs. THE BLACKPOOL COMBAT CLUB (Jon Moxley & Claudio Castagnoli & Wheeler Yuta) & KONOSUKE TAKESHITA & SHOTA UMINO – Ten-Man Tag Team match

After some jawing back and forth, Shota Umino began the match with “Hangman” Adam Page. Umino backed Page into the corner quickly, then begged off. Hangman shot Shota off the ropes. Umino caught himself and gave Page a quick arm drag. The two men traded quick take downs and covers for one counts. Page cut Shota off with a quick big boot. Hangman tagged in Tomohiro Ishii. The two dropped Umino with a double shoulder tackle. Umino rolled to the corner and tagged in Konosuke Takeshita.

Takeshita came face to face with the Stone Pitbull as the mach crossed 2:00. Ishii delivered stiff forearms to the chin of Konosuke. Takeshita absorbed them and delivered some of his own. Konosuke rocked Ishii with a big forearm, but Tomohiro delivered an even bigger one. Takeshita stumbled back but recovered. The two men ran at each other, trading a number of shoulder tackles before collapsing simultaneously. The crowd gave them a big ovation. Ishii tagged in Nick Jackson. The crowd booed. Matt Jackson entered the ring and the duo took down Takeshita together. They played to the crowd and this time, they cheered.

Both Takeshita and Jackson tagged out. Eddie Kingston and Jon Moxley replaced them. The two stood in the center of the ring in a stare down. The crowd rose to their feet. Kingston gave Moxley a chop, then pulled down his singlet to let Moxley hit his bare chest. They traded hits. Kingston screamed louder with each hit. Wheeler Yuta entered the ring to break it up. Kingston chopped him to the mat. Nick Jackson did the same. Moxley dropped him. This brought everyone one. A ten-man brawl ensued in and around the ring. Wrestlers set up near the entrance for the Bucks to dive to onto the pile. Hangman Adam Page then dove onto the recovering wreckage.

In the ring, Moxley and Kingston continued to chop the hell out of each other at 6:30. Claudio Castagnoli broke up the stalemate by attacking Kingston from behind. Claudio dragged Moxley back to his own corner to take himself in. Castagnoli stomped at Kingston’s raw chest. He gave him an uppercut. Kingston collapsed in the BCC corner. Moxley splashed his chest with some water at ringside. Eddie fought free of the corner with some more chops. Claudio cut him off with a lariat, then tagged in Wheeler Yuta. Wheeler pounced, mounting Kingston and punching him repeatedly. He draped Kingston over the middle rope, bringing Eddie face to face with Moxley on the floor. Mox contemplated giving him a cheap shot, but thought better of it. Claudio delivered a knee to the face for good measure.

Yuta tagged in Konosuke Takashita. Takeshita continued to work over Kingston. Ishii stepped in the ring. Takeshita hit Ishii so hard that he fell backward, out cold on the apron. The Bucks checked on him and helped him to the outside. Kelly said he’s done. Takeshita tagged in Shota Umino. Umino continued to beat down Kingston before tagging in Claudio just past the 10:00 mark. Castagnoli stuck his foot in Kingston’s face. Kingston grabbed the foot and shoved Claudio away. He managed to drop Castagnoli and make a desperate dive toward his corner. Claudio tagged in Moxley. Jon cut Kingston off. Eddie rose to meet him. “What are you doing?” he asked as Moxley hesitated to fight him. He gave him a chop. Moxley returned the favor. The continued.

Both Kingston and Moxley wound up on the mat. Mox tagged Umino, Kingston reached Ishii, who had recovered. Umino got dropped by Tomohiro and tagged in Castagnoli. Ishii gave Claudio a Brainbuster. He grabbed Takeshita by the throat. Umino attacked Ishii from behind. He and Takeshita double-teamed the Stone Pitbull with a lifting knee strike and rolling elbow. They followed up with a tandem reverse DDT. Moxley returned and tried to clothesline Ishii. Tomohiro instead shoved him into Umino. Ishii gave Moxley a release German Suplex. Ishii made a diving tag to Hangman Page. Umino tagged in Takeshita.

A large “cowboy shit” chant broke out. Takeshita went for a springboard lariat off the middle rope, but Page caught him with a massive mid-air elbow.l He knocked Wheeler Yuta off the apron, then gave Takeshita a Fallaway Slam. Page leaped over the top rope onto Yuta below. He returned to the ring, where the Young Bucks had draped Takeshita on the outside of the apron. Page climbed to the top turnbuckle and hit a Shooting Star Press onto Takeshita below. The Bucks tossed Konosuke back in the ring. Page hit a diving forearm from the top rope and covered for a two count.

Hangman looked for a Powerbomb on Takeshita as the match crossed 15:30. Konosuke countered. Page tossed Takeshita in the corner, where he ate a double Superkick from the Bucks. They set up for a BTE Trigger, but Takeshita blocked it, sending the Bucks crashing into each other. They recovered just enough to drop Takeshita with double Superkicks. Moxley and Kingston returned to the fold. The Bucks tried to Superkick Moxley, but Kingston stepped in front of him, costing his own team. Takeshita gave Page a Blue Thunder Bomb for a near fall. A brawl ensued. The BCC cleared the ring of everyone but Matt Jackson.

Claudio gave Matt Jackson the big swing. He covered him, but the Bucks and company all entered the ring together to break up the count. Claudio and Wheeler set Matt Jackson up for a super dive from the top. Nick Jackson leapt off the rope to send Wheeler crashing to the mat. Outside, Eddie Kingston got slammed into the ring post. Wheeler Yuta got dropped by Ishii for a two count. Page gave Takeshita a Powerbomb. Claudio gave Page a running Uppercut. Moxley gave Kingston a cutter. The Bucks dumped Moxley to the outside. Page went for a Buckshot Lariat on Yuta, but Wheeler ducked and hit Page with a German Suplex. Ishii caught Yuta with a clothesline. He set up for the Drop Brainbuster and connected. Ishii covered for a three count.

WINNERS: The Elite, Eddie Kingston & Tomohiro Ishii in 21:25

Konosuke Takeshita left the BCC behind, unimpressed. Kingston argued with the Bucks and Page at ringside. He gave Ishii a hug and continued to talk trash. Kelly and Excalibur noted that Kingston was conflicted about his fighting his friend and angry that he didn’t get his hands on Claudio Castagnoli.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Really good tag team match. These multi-man AEW tag matches tend to suffer from a lot of the same follies, and I thought they did a stand-up job avoiding most of these tonight. The addition of NJPW wrestlers injected some new life into the BCC vs. Elite feud that, while entertaining, feels like it might be extending past its best-by date. Konosuke Takeshita, in particular, was a highlight. He made a case for all the hype surrounding him tonight. The knock-out forearm to Ishii looked and sounded absolutely brutal. I was surprised to see the Young Bucks get minimal participation in the match. Though they had plenty of double team opportunities and outside the ring shenanigans, they rarely entered as legal men. I found it notable that, on their first tag into the match, there were significant boos. Quickly, though, they were drowned out by cheers as the Bucks hit a couple poses. Then, the reaction was almost exclusively positive throughout the rest of the match. This wasn’t totally without issue, though. The drama between Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston felt unearned and rushed, largely because Kingston was introduced as a participant so late into the build. It’s part of the issue with AEW’s late-developing Pay-Per-View stories – they’re often hamstrung when a situation calls for complexity, because the backstory isn’t fully there. I get the gist – Kingston desperately wants to beat up Claudio, but if he isn’t willing to do it at the expense of his friend, why would the Elite trust him to be their partner? Furthermore, why weren’t the Bucks and Hangman more frustrated with Kingston? Instead, it was Eddie jawing at the Elite when he nearly costed them the match on more than one occasion. Finally, I thought that, like the match before it, this was brought down a notch by a weak and unexpected finish. Yuta just got a significant pin over the Elite last month, only to take the fall to Ishii, who has no skin in this feud. It felt like a feud extending cop-out.)

-Excalibur and Kevin Kelly introduced the Japanese announce team, positioned next to them at ringside. They then quickly turned their attention to the AEW Women’s World Championship match and tossed to a video package.

-Willow Nightingale entered first, holding her Strong Women’s Championship high. Toni Storm followed, flanked by the other Outcasts.

(6) TONI STORM (c, w/ Saraya & Ruby Soho) vs. WILLOW NIGHTINGALE – AEW Women’s World Championship match

Saraya and Ruby Soho rounded the corner at ringside and began threatening both announce desks. In the ring, Willow Nightingale grabbed Toni Storm in a front face-lock and wrestled her to the mat. Toni Storm rolled out of the ring and regrouped with her cohorts. They gave her a quick pep talk and she returned to the ring. Willow missed wildly with a pair of clotheslines but still pulled in the champion for a roll up and two count, followed by a big body slam.

Storm pulled herself to her feet in the corner. She dodged Willow’s running offense, but the challenger caught her with a missile dropkick on the ricochet. Storm escaped under the bottom rope again. This time, Nightingale followed her. Soho and Saraya stepped in front of their partner, getting in the face of Willow. She stood tall against both, moving them out of the way to return Storm to the ring. She turned her back on the Outcasts just long enough for them to trip her up on the apron, allowing Storm to capitalize. Toni pulled Willow to the floor and tossed her into the barricade while Saraya and Soho talked trash to fans at ringside.

Toni draped Willow over the middle rope, then crowded the referee, blocking his view of Saraya and Ruby interfering. Storm applied a seated Full Nelson to Nightingale as the crowd tried to will the challenger on. Willow rose to her feet and powered out of the hold briefly, but Storm gave her an elbow to the back and re-applied it as the match hit 4:45. Willow used her power to flip Storm over her, breaking the hold. Storm retreated to the corner. Willow caught her with a hip check and big boot. Storm rolled to the apron. Willow grabbed her hair. Toni pulled her into a guillotine. Willow was shook up, but stayed on Storm. She joined her on the apron and pulled her up for a driver on the edge of the apron. Willow tossed the champion back in the ring and hit her with a running Death Valley Driver for a cover and near fall.

Willow climbed to the top turnbuckle. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the Outcasts slide spray paint into the ring. She climbed off the turnbuckle. The referee caught the can of paint and sprayed it at the Outcasts. He ejected them from ringside. Toni used the momentary lapse in attention to try to catch Willow with Storm Zero. Willow blocked it, but Toni still shoved her to the corner. Storm hit the hip attack into a DDT for a cover and near fall just before 8:00. Toni came up bleeding from the nose. She kicked at Nightingale’s face. Willow shook it off. She gave Storm a Spinebuster, then applied an Indian Death Lock.

The champion desperately grabbed at her challenger’s hair. She threw chops wildly, but had no leverage. Willow delivered violent chops of her own. Toni screamed in agony. She resorted to biting the knee cap of Nightingale to break the hold. The two women stumbled to opposing corners. Storm called for the Hip Attack again. She charged, but Willow picked her out of the air with a Pounce. The momentum carried Storm to the floor. Willow retrieved her, tossing her in the corner and peppering her with rapid punches.

Nightingale pulled down her singlet straps. She charged at Toni in the corner, but the champion pulled the referee in front of her. Willow stopped herself. Toni poked her in the eye. Storm pulled Willow in for Storm Zero for a cover and three count.

WINNER: Toni Storm in 10:26 to retain the AEW Women’s World Championship

Saraya and Soho ran from the back to greet Storm. The camera showed Skye Blue and Dr. Britt Baker watching on different screens backstage.

(LeClair’s Analysis: Strong match. I thought this was on the higher side of AEW Women’s title matches, though the bar is admittedly fairly low due to the consistent lack of development and story-telling in the division. Willow has a genuine, strong connection to the audience, and although the finish was never in doubt, I thought they did just enough to make you think twice. Ejecting Soho and Saraya in the early going was the right call. They’ve been too involved in Storm’s matches, and after last month’s Double or Nothing debacle that featured heavy interference in every under card match, I was happy to see some control and order from the officiating. The final few minutes were a lot of fun – with Storm getting the near fall after the DDT and Willow then looking to be in good position with the submission. Toni biting the knee to escape was a cool touch. Again, though, I thought this suffered from another weak finish. They went back to the distraction well, and nearly recreated MJF’s win over Tanahashi earlier in the night. Just replace the diamond ring with an eye poke. Too similar for the same show.)

-Excalibur quickly tossed to a video package for the IWGP United States Championship match

-Will Ospreay entered first, flanked by Don Callis and “military grade” security. Excalibur mentioned that Callis offered his, and the security’s services. He asked Kelly what he makes of the return of Ospreay’s “Aerial Assassin” moniker. Kenny Omega followed, entering to his NJPW theme music and introduced as the “Best Bout Machine.”

(7) KENNY OMEGA (c) vs. WILL OSPREAY (w/ Don Callis) – IWGP United States Championship match

The crowd rose to their feet as the bell rang. Kenny Omega invited Will Ospreay to step to him, but the challenger was slow initially coming out of the corner. The two took a quick jog around each other and anticipated a lock up. They traded quick arm wrenches as the crowd settled in. Ospreay stepped over Omega’s hold attempt and tried to work him over. Kenny maintained position and drove his apple into Will’s triceps.

As the match crossed 2:00, neither man could maintain control for more than a moment or two with quick arm holds. Omega trapped Ospreay in a headscissor and took him to the mat. Ospreay stood on his head to escape, but Omega dropped him. The two battled to the northwest corner of the ring and traded chops. Ospreay walked Omega around the ring for more. He whipped him back toward the nortwest cortner and charged. Omega caught him with a boot and went for the One-Winged Angel. Ospreay countered and went for the Oscutter. Kenny blocked it and went for a release German Suplex. Ospreay landed on his feet. Will went for a kick, but Kenny ducked it. The exchange ended in a stalemate.

The announcers wondered what the relationship is between Ospreay and Callis. The challenger chopped Omega to the mat and then taunted the crowd, shaking out his hand. Omega returned to his feet and fired some rights. Omega flipped over Ospreay in the corner as the match crossed 5:00. He scooped Ospreay and landed a Fireman’s roll into a middle rope Moonsault for a cover and two count. Ospreay rolled to the outside. Omega initiated the Terminator clap. He hit the ropes, but Don Callis grabbed his feet. The crowd erupted in boos. Omega went after Callis, but the two security guards stepped in front of Kenny. The referee ejected Callis, despite his pleading.

Ospreay dove onto Omega on the outside. He tossed Kenny into the ring steps, and then back into the ring. Ospreay delivered a spinning Backbreaker for a cover and two count. Excalibur reminded the audience that this, like the IWGP World title match earlier, is being contested under NJPW rules. Omega and Ospreay traded stiff knife-edge chops. Ospreay gave Omega a Brainbuster for a cover and two count. The announcers said that Ospreay didn’t expect to get the cover, but instead, wanted to force Omega to expend the energy to kick out.

Kenny sent Will flying toward the ropes. Ospreay rolled over his back and applied an abdominal stretch. The camera pulled back to show a wide angle shot of the crowd, which had begun a dueling chant. The camera missed Omega escaping the hold. Kenny kicked Ospreay in the ribs and hit a leaping forearm before covering for a two count. Omega pulled Ospreay into Powerbomb position. Ospreay went dead weight, so Omega kicked him in the face. Ospreay hit one of his own. He lifted Omega and draped him over the top rope. Ospreay climbed to the top turnbuckle. He got situated, then delivered a Shooting Star Press onto the back of Omega, sending him bouncing awkwardly into the ring.

Omega rolled onto the apron. Ospreay went to the southeast turnbuckle and delivered an Oscutter on the apron. Omega collapsed to the floor in a heap. Ospreay walked him to the announcers desk. He slammed Omega’s head violently into the desk twice. He tried a third, but Omega used his hand to block it. Ospreay bit the hand and slammed him again. Omega came up bleeding from the forehead. Ospreay propped the table cover against the ring apron and tossed Omega through it. He rolled the champion in the ring.

Blood began flowing into the eyes of Kenny Omega. Ospreay gave him stiff rights as Omega stumbled around the ring. Ospreay had Omega’s blood all over his hand, forearm, and bicep. He lifted his arm and licked the blood off his bicep. He stared at the hard cam maniacally as the crowd chanted “you sick f—.” Kenny emerged from the corner, teetering. He threw a couple of weak punches that Ospreay easily shrugged off. He dropped Kenny with a forearm. Ospreay signaled for Kenny’s own V-Trigger. He sized the champion up and delivered it. Omega collapsed in a heap on the apron. Ospreay got in an argument with two kids in the front row. He stole a Canadian flag from another fan in the corner. He twirled it around, then stuck it between his legs and pulled it back and forth. He stuck the end of the flag up his nose.

Will continued to mock the crowd, unaware of Omega’s recovery just behind him. Kenny ripped the flag away from Ospreay and wrapped it around his neck. He used the slack to toss Ospreay across the ring multiple times. He threw Ospreay over the top rope and let Ospreay hang with the flag. He delivered it to the two kids at ringside, unaware that it wasn’t theirs. Ospreay sat slumped against the barricade as the match approached 19:00. Omega got a running start from the timekeeper’s area and delivered a V-Trigger, sending Ospreay clear over the barrier and into the front row. Ospreay spilled back over to ringside as Omega sold the injured knee from earlier in the match. He walked Ospreay to the ring steps and slammed him violently against them. Ospreay came up with a pool of blood dripping from his head. It had created a small puddle at his knees.

Doc Sampson cleared the match to continue, according to Excalibur. Omega placed the stairs on their side and climbed on top of them. He dragged Ospreay up there and gave him a vicious DDT. Kelly said they’d need to consider calling off the match. Omega rolled his challenger into the ring and locked him in a body scissor. He began working on the arm, trying to apply an arm bar. The blood on both men allowed Ospreay to slip free and turn onto his stomach. Omega, thinking fast, pulled the arm above his head to transition into a Triangle Choke. Ospreay managed to dead-lift Omega and hit a sit-out Powerbomb to end the exchange.

Both men dragged themselves to their feet. Omega hit a quick snap Dragon Suplex. He set up for a V-Trigger, but Ospreay exploded from the ropes and caught Omega with a Spanish Fly out of nowhere. The challenger turned the United States Champion over into a Sharpshooter right in the center as the match crossed 24:00. Omega crawled valiantly to the ropes, but Ospreay walked him back. Kenny looked poised to tap, but instead, he pushed his body up. Sensing a loss of grip, Ospreay let go of the hold and pounced on Omega’s back, locking in a Crossface. Kenny began crawling to the ropes again. Ospreay rolled him him over and kept the hold applied. A large “Kenny” chant broke out. Ospreay pulled back on the hold, trying to blink the blood from his eyes. Kenny managed to get a foot on the bottom rope.

Will Ospreay hunched over the top rope, gasping for breath. Omega used the opposite side of the ring to steady himself. They met in the center, trading chops. Omega had nothing on his chops. Ospreay invited more. Kenny gave him punches to the jaw, but Ospreay was unaffected. He dropped Omega to his knees, wound up and kicked him in the face. Ospreay called for another Oscutter. He leapt off the middle rope, but Omega picked him clean with a knee to the face. Both men rose slowly. Ospreay threw a punch, but Omega ducked it. He hit two Snap Dragon Suplexes. He set up for a third, but Ospreay elbowed himself free. Kenny hit him with a Poisonrana instead. He pulled Ospreay into a Spike Piledriver for a cover and very near fall at 28:50.

Omega scooped Ospreay and hit him with an Ushigoroshi. Ospreay collapsed to his knees, face to the turnbuckle. Omega hit a running V-Trigger. He hoisted Ospreay onto the top turnbuckle and set up for a super One-Winged Angel. Ospreay flipped out of it to the mat. He got underneath Omega and kicked him in the face. Kenny fell to the outside. Ospreay climbed to the top turnbuckle and hit a Sky Twister Press to the outside. Will tossed the champion back in the ring and climbed the southeast turnbuckle. He hit a diving elbow to the back of Omega’s neck. Kenny sat up. Ospreay called from the sliding elbow. Kenny ducked it. Ospreay recovered quickly and pulled Omega in for a pinning Liger Bomb. He scored a two count.

The Aerial Assassin hit the ropes and delivered another Oscutter. He covered, but Omega just got the shoulder up at the last moment. Both men were down in the center of the ring. Don Callis ran back to ringside. The crowd began a loud “piece of sh–” chant. Referee Paul Turner ignored Callis, despite throwing him out earlier. Kenny Omega rose first. He pulled Ospreay up to his knees by the hair. Blood and drool spilled onto the canvas. Omega delivered two pointed knee strikes to the face of Ospreay. He stared down Callis the whole time. Callis pulled his security in front of him. Kenny delivered a third, brutal knee to the face. He set up for the V-Trigger.

Don Callis leapt onto the apron and wrapped his warm around the face of Will Ospreay. Omega cracked a smile. He charged. Callis dropped the floor. Omega hit Ospreay with the V-Trigger. Callis grabbed Ospreay’s arm, preventing Omega from pulling him in for the finish. Paul Turner left the ring to remove Callis. Don pulled a screwdriver from his pocket. He tossed it to Ospreay. Omega lifted Ospreay up for the One Winged Angel. Ospreay jammed the screwdriver into his forehead. Omega dropped Will. Ospreay hit Omega with the Hidden Blade. He lifted him up and delivered a Storm Breaker for a cover. Omega got his foot on the bottom rope just before three.

Callis and Ospreay were furious. Callis called Ospreay over and whispered something to him. Ospreay sized Omega up, then delivered a One Winged Angel. He hooked the leg, but Omega kicked out at one. He exploded to his feet, matching the reaction from the crowd. The match ticked toward 38:00. Omega and Ospreay traded quick chops and rights. Omega hit Ospreay with another V-Trigger. He pulled him in for the One Winged Angel. Ospreay wrapped his legs around Omega’s sternum on the drop. Kenny telegraphed it and delivered a release German Suplex. Ospreay slumped to the ropes. Omega hit another V-Trigger. He looked for the One Winged Angel again. Ospreay blocked it. He went for Storm Breaker. Kenny blocked it. He hooked Kenny by the arms and delivered a brutal looking Tiger Driver ’91. Omega crumpled at the neck. Ospreay covered for another last moment near fall.

With the champion absolutely spent, Ospreay pulled him up for another Storm Breaker for a cover and three count.

WINNER: Will Ospreay in 39:27 to win the IWGP United States Championship

Ospreay sat in front of the fallen body of Omega and gave the hard camera double middle fingers. He knelt before Omega and held the IWGP U.S. title just out of his reach. Doc Sampson leapt in the ring to tend to Omega as Ospreay walked gingerly up the ramp with Callis at his side.

(LeClair’s Analysis: What an absolute tour-de-force of pro wrestling. These two beat the living hell out of each other and told an intricately layered, deeply compelling story that had a plethora of perfectly executed ebbs and flows. AEW smartly saved the gore for this encounter, and it worked. This rivalry, and the construction of this match, called for violence and the blood ratcheted up the intensity considerably. Omega and Ospreay had the crowd eating from the palm of their hands for nearly forty minutes. I’m over the moon about the match itself, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the ridiculousness of Don Callis returning to the ring after being ejected by the official. It would’ve been one thing if referee Paul Turner immediately called for Callis’ removal again, but instead, he largely ignored his presence. He watched him interfere, and tried only to separate him from the action, not taking any steps to procure his ejection a second time. Wrestling companies need to be better about this stuff, especially when the action in the ring is so top-tier, so dramatic, and so engrossing that you feel for a moment that you’re watching a genuine competitive contest. It takes you out of that, and it’s a shame. Despite my reluctance to give a full endorsement to finish-spamming, I thought it worked for this match. It had drawn out to such epic length that it felt right at home. Omega kicking out of the One Winged Angel at one felt like a magical moment. Despite it defying logic, it was the shot of adrenaline to the down-and-out superhero and one of the quickest and coolest boosts of serotonin you’ll get watching wrestling. This one is going to be remembered.)

-After a promo break, Minoru Suzuki headed to the ring for the six-man tag team match. Chris Jericho and Sammy Guevara followed. The crowd sang along to “Judas”, as usual. Guevara and Jericho seemed amenable. The announcers talked up their tension. Sting and Darby Allin entered next. Tetsuya Naito came last, delaying his emergence for several moments before sauntering down the ramp to a good reaction.


Sammy Guevara began the match with Tetsuya Naito. The latter took his time removing his entrance gear. Sammy knelt in the opposing corner, waiting patiently. Chris Jericho tried to lead a “Sammy” chant from his position on the apron, but the crowd largely ignored him. Guevara and Naito teased lock ups, each ducking the other’s attempt. Sammy eventually shot Naito off the ropes. Naito caught himself and dropped Sammy with a kick. Guevara delivered one of his own, then spun around on the mat into what Schiavone called the “sports entertainer” pose. Naito tossed him from the ring and mimicked the pose. Sammy gave him a respectful clap from ringside.

Tetsuya delivered a quick arm drag to Sammy, then walked him to the corner to tag in Darby Allin. Sammy opted not to wrestle Darby, instead tagging in Minoru Suzuki. Tony called him the “scariest man on Earth.” Darby threw a punch that didn’t make Suzuki flinch. He invited Darby to give him another. Allin obliged. Suzuki took a small stutter step, then sized up Allin. He gave Darby a massive forearm. Darby stumbled back. He licked his hand and chopped Suzuki. Darby tagged in Sting.

Sting stepped to Suzuki as the match hit 5:00. Jericho began begging Suzuki for a tag, throwing a full tantrum. Minoru looked like he wanted to face Sting, but he relented to Jericho and tagged him in. Jericho put his fists up and circled Sting. Suzuki attacked the legend from behind. Sammy and Jericho swarmed. Sting tossed Suzuki and Sammy to the outside and began trading punches with Jericho. Sting worked Chris to the corner. Jericho countered and whipped him to the heel side. He let out a Sting-signature yell and charged. Sting side-stepped him. He dropped Jericho and applied the Scorpion Death Lock. Sammy came flying into the ring with a cutter off the top. Sting’s head hit the mat awkwardly. Aubrey Edwards checked on him and got the okay.

Jericho and Sammy posed together in the ring. Suzuki entered and put an elbow on the crown of Jericho’s head, leaning in and joining them for a photo op. Guevara worked Sting to the corner and mounted him for punches. Sting lifted Sammy away and fell into Darby Allin for a tag. Allin battled Guevara out of the corner. He gave him a Code Red for a two count at 8:30. Darby climbed to the top rope. Sammy leapt to meet him and delivered a Spanish Fly from the top rope for a near fall. Jericho and Sting continued to stare each other down from their opposing corners.

Allin and Guevara cracked heads. They crawled to their respective corners. Naito and Jericho received the tags. Naito gave Jericho a little poke to the eye, then turned him over for a Neckbreaker. He hooked him in for a Pump-Handle, but Jericho broke free with an elbow. He grabbed a Sleeper hold. Everyone else entered the ring. Guevara put Allin a sleeper. Suzuki put Sting in a sleeper. The holds didn’t last long. Bodies spilled to the outside. Allin dove through the middle rope at Jericho. Jericho picked him out of the air with a Judas Effect. Guevara hit a rising knee on Naito in the ring, but the camera missed it.

Chris Jericho retrieved a table from underneath the ring. Jericho walked Sting to the table. He laid him across it and punched at his chest and head. Jericho instructed Guevara to drive Sting through the table. Sammy looked conflicted. “Do it, I’m your boss!’ Jericho demanded. Sammy reluctantly climbed to the top turnbuckle. He drove Sting through the table with a 630. Sting looked like he was supposed to move at the last second, but didn’t make it. In the ring, Jericho went for a Judas Effect on Naito. Tetsuya blocked it and set Jericho up for Destino. Jericho fought free and dragged Naito into the Walls of Jericho. Sting returned to the ring, looking shaken up and having recovered far too quickly. Suzuki cut him off with a sleeper. Jericho caught Naito with a Codebreaker for a cover and two count.

Minoru Suzuki tagged in just before 14:30. He worked over long-time rival Naito. Sting entered the fold and threw some punches at Suzuki. He gave Suzuki a clothesline. Naito rolled up Minoru for a three count.

(LeClair’s Analysis: This felt like an appropriate come-down match, despite some intrigue from the crowd seeing Sting and Chris Jericho get after each other. I thought it felt largely disjointed and plodding. Darby Allin and Sammy Guevara worked a good amount of the fifteen minutes, but the crowd was only invested in their legendary partners. Naito seemed to be going through the motions a bit. Sting got his usual spots in. Until late in the match, the most entertaining moment was Guevara and Jericho posing in the ring, only to be joined by Minoru Suzuki at the last moment. The story here wound up being Sammy Guevara and Sting. They teased tension between Jericho and Sammy, with the latter being reluctant to deliver a 630 on the legend through a table. Sammy did the move, and Sting looked like he was trying to roll out of the way. He didn’t make it, though, and Sammy crashed into him hard. This ruined the flow of the rest of the match, because Sting had to no-sell the splash and return to the ring, clearly shaken. This all led to another awkward finish, with Sting giving Suzuki a clothesline and Naito rolling him up for a three count. Again, like the ten-man tag earlier in the night, this just felt like an unsatisfying end. Since the NJPW talent were introduced to this match so late in the game, it didn’t feel like they had any stakes. Therefore, both being involved in the eventual pinfall felt anticlimactic – a punt, if you will.)

WINNERS: Sting, Darby Allin & Tetsuya Naito in 15:08

Jericho tried to attack Naito from behind after the match, but Sting chased him off.

-Excalibur quickly tossed to a video package for the main event.

-Bryan Danielson entered to “The Final Countdown.” The opening notes of the song elicited a huge pop from the crowd. Danielson stopped at the bottom of the ramp. He put his hands on his hips, looked around and smiled. Danielson knelt before the steel steps, gave them a slap, and ascended the stairs and turnbuckle. He threw his arms as the crowd sang along. He couldn’t hide his joy.

Kazuchika Okada entered to a massive response from the crowd. Dollars fluttered from the rafters. Okada entered the ring with purpose, removing his robe and retreating to his corner for the opening bell.


A large “holy sh–” chant broke out as the bell range. Neither Kazuchika Okada nor Bryan Danielson moved from their respective corners for the opening thirty seconds. They stepped to center and locked up. Okada worked Danielson into a mat predicament, trying to stretch his arm. Danielson rolled through it with relative ease. The two circled one another and locked hands for a test of strength. Okada worked Danielson to his knees, but Bryan used the opportunity to pull Okada’s legs out and turn him over into a Surfboard. He stomped on the back of Okada’s knees and threw his arms up to the delight and approval of the crowd.

Danielson did some jumping jacks as Okada returned to his feet. They circled again. Okada grabbed a headlock as the match approached 3:00. Bryan broke free. Okada dropped him with a shoulder tackle and played to the crowd. Both men hit the ropes quickly, ducking each other’s offense Kazuchika got the better of the exchange. He dropped Danielson with an uppercut to the jaw. He didn’t let up, sending Bryan to the outside with a dropkick to the side of the head. Okada followed the Dragon. He tossed him into the steel steps, then gave him a big boot into the front row.

Okada dragged Danielson back of the barrier by the neck. Bryan regained positioning and tossed Okada face-first into the ring post. Danielson returned to the ring to break the referee’s count. He sized up his opponent and gave him a sliding dropkick through the bottom rope. Kazuchika’s shoulder clipped the edge of the Japanese announce desk. Danielson climbed to the apron and caught Okada with a flying knee. He tossed Okada’s right arm into the post, then rolled him back into the ring.

Bryan headed to the top turnbuckle while Okada stood bent parallel to the ropes. Danielson jumped onto the outstretched right arm of Okada, continuing his plan of attack. He drove his knee into the elbow of Okada’s weakened arm and wrenched back. Okada got a foot on the rope easily, so Bryan rolled him toward center and locked him in for some hammer and elbow strikes. Bryan rolled over into Cattle Mutilation. Okada’s leg was bent, keeping the bulk of the pressure off. Bryan noticed this and turned him over into a cover for a two count. He stomped at Okada’s back and at the now-injured arm.

The American Dragon worked Kazuchika into the corner and gave him a series of stiff chops. Okada was reddened, but stuck his chest out and stepped to Bryan. He challenged him to deliver another. Bryan did. Okada shrugged it off and gave him a forearm. Bryan stumbled to the corner. He charged at Okada, but the Rain Maker gave him a Flapjack. The crowd clapped both men to their feet as the match approached 9:00. They traded Irish whips and ducks. Okada caught Bryan with a big boot. He whipped him to the southwest corner and delivered a leaping elbow, followed by a spike DDT for a cover and two count from referee Bryce Remsburg.

“A very methodical pace from two men who know each other’s dangers,” Excalibur claimed. Okada set Danielson up for an Air-Raid Crash Neckbreaker, but Bryan slid free. Kazuchika tossed Danielson to the outside and followed him. He whipped Bryan into the barricade near the Japanese announce desk. He clotheslined Bryan over the top and into the front row. Okada backed up and with a head full of steam, dove clear over the barricade onto Bryan and into the third row. He tossed his opponent back of the barricade and into the ring.

Kazuchika applied the Money Clip on Danielson in the center. Bryan rose to his feet after a few moments and shoved Okada away. He charged, but Okada lifted him up and into the Air-Raid Crash Neckbreaker. Okada worked Bryan into the corner. He hoisted him onto the top turnbuckle. Okada climbed, but Bryan began throwing elbows. He pulled Okada in and hit more hammer elbows to the chest and neck. Okada slipped to the mat. Bryan caught him with a big missile dropkick. Danielson flexed his fingers. Excalibur noted that he’s feeling the effects of the Air-Raid.

Dueling uppercuts left both men teetering from spot to spot around the ring. The crowd started a small dueling chant. Okada picked up the pace, hitting three consecutive uppercuts. Bryan blocked the fourth. Okada scooped him up, but Bryan slid down his back, Okada hit a shotgun dropkick. He lifted Bryan up into Fireman position and tossed him into the air. Bryan went down the back and caught Okada with a release German Suplex. Kazuchika stumbled to the corner. Bryan hit him with two of his signature running kicks in the corner. He set up for a third, but Okada exploded to center and delivered one of his own.

Bryan returned to his feet slowly. Okada gave him a massive dropkick. He climbed to the top turnbuckle. He dove, but Bryan telegraphed it. Okada landed on his feet but got caught in the waiting hands of the Dragon. Danielson pulled him into an arm bar attempt. He turned it over into the Labell Lock. Okada contorted his lower body to reach the bottom rope and break the hold at 17:35. Kazuchika rolled to a seated position on the apron. Bryan kicked him hard in the back. Danielson hit the ropes on the opposing side and dove through the middle at Okada. The Rain Maker blocked him. Bryan managed a standing switch, looking for a German Suplex. Okada blocked it and went for a Rainmaker. Bryan ducked the lariat. He created distance, then charged, catching Okada with the Busaiku Knee. Both men struggled to stand. Okada managed to pull Bryan in and deliver a Tombstone Piledriver on the ramp.

Both men slowly worked back to the ring. Danielson was shaking uncomfortably. Okada called for the Rain Maker. He pulled Danielson up by the trunks, but Bryan collapsed. He began shaking violently. Remsburg stepped between Okada and Danielson and pulled Kazuchika away. He called for Doc Sampson. The doctor checked on Bryan and cleared him quickly. Okada waved off medical and pulled Danielson up. He set up for the Rainmaker again. Bryan ducked it and hit another Busaiku Knee. He lured Okada in.

“It’s time to kick his f—ing head in!” Danielson exclaimed. He kicked Okada in the face, then backed to the corner. He called to the crowd and they led a “yes” chant. Bryan charged and hit the knee, but Okada no-sold it. He popped to his feet and hit Danielson with a Landslide. Instead of covering, Okada dragged Danielson to his feet and finally connected with the Rainmaker. He hooked the leg for a very close near fall. Okada continued working at the back of Danielson’s head and neck. He set him up for another Rainmaker. Bryan ducked it again. Danielson looked for another Busaiku Knee, but Okada ducked too.

Danielson dragged Okada to the mat and applied the Labell Lock for a second time. Okada writhed on the mat, using the positioning of his knee to spin himself closer to the ropes. Danielson sensed him gaining ground, so he interlocked his free leg around the other arm of Okada, completely trapping him. With Okada nearly out, Danielson saw an opportunity to sink into it further. He temporarily let the hold go and delivered brutal elbows to the back of Okada’s head. Kazuchika seemed to go out. Danielson reapplied the hold with added torque. Okada tapped.

WINNER: Bryan Danielson in 27:39

Danielson climbed to the middle rope, holding his injured right arm at his side. He threw up his good arm and invited the crowd to rise. They cheered him as “Final Countdown” played. Excalibur big the audience goodnight as Bryan continued to celebrate in the ring and the show faded to black.

(LeClair’s Analysis: I’m sure there will be plenty who disagree, but I left that match feeling deflated off the worked convulsing from Danielson. Selling is a critical part of pro wrestling, and Bryan Danielson does it just about as well as anybody. I thought this was a step too far. Danielson has a very real, very serious, and very scary history of concussions and head trauma. Seizing and convulsion is one of the most unnatural, off-putting, and unsettling actions the human body does. It’s traumatic to watch, particularly when it occurs to someone who you know has admitted to having this very thing happen to him, for real. I don’t think selling needs to extend to a point that the viewer could wonder if they’re watching a life-threatening medical event. It instantaneously killed the crowd. There was stunned silence – genuine anxiety and fear. And they didn’t recover. Though they came to life for some of the closing sequence, it wasn’t the same. The life had been sucked out of the building and there was no getting it back. What had already been a very methodical, slower paced affair turned into a vacuum of emotion just as the match tried to hit its crescendo and kick into the next gear. The result was a flat finish that should’ve felt bigger than it was. Danielson submitting Okada, not just getting him to pass out, was a huge deal, but it felt marred by the moments before it. The announce team very clearly hinted at this being only chapter one of a multi-part story, and while I’m intrigued by the next meeting, I’m more concerned about the injury Danielson appeared to actually suffer. His right arm was noticeably lame after the match, and he struggled mightily to use it in the closing minutes. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious. I enjoyed the bulk of this match, but thought it would’ve been better suited being swapped with Omega and Ospreay.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: A lot of good to great, varied wrestling that dialed back on a lot of the over-indulgence that plagued Double or Nothing last month. I thought this show was largely able to overcome a number of weak or flat finishes, particularly on the back of the remarkable Omega vs. Ospreay match. Disappointment with the worked seizure in the main event aside, Danielson and Okada delivered a unique bout that serves as a foundational block for a continued program. There was enough meat on the undercard to make the show feel loaded but never bloated. Overall, a stronger outing than last month, and a better overall representation of the Forbidden Door concept than last year’s inaugural event.



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