By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
AEW-NJPW Forbidden Door Hits
Will Ospreay vs. Orange Cassidy for the IWGP U.S. Championship: Cassidy wasn’t anywhere near my top ten dream match opponents for Ospreay. Still, Ospreay always brings it, and Cassidy really shined despite taking a clean loss. This was the highlight of the night. The post match angle with Katsuyori Shibata was cool. I didn’t get the sense that everyone in the building was familiar with him, but the bulk of the audience knew him and popped big for his surprise appearance.
Claudio Castagnoli vs. Zack Sabre Jr.: AEW is getting better at this surprise thing. This wasn’t pushed as yet another Tony Khan major announcement. Bryan Danielson gave good hype without going overboard for his replacement in his scheduled match with Sabre and for the Blood & Guts match. It still led to the majority of fans suspecting that the former Cesaro would replace Danielson, and AEW delivered exactly what the masses were hoping for. Castagnoli is a perfect fit in the Blackpool Combat Club. He had a strong match with Sabre and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.
Jon Moxley vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi for the Interim AEW World Championship: A good main event. Hopefully there will come a time when the masses will be familiar enough with NJPW talent that their wrestlers are realistic options to hold the AEW World Championship. We’re just not there yet based on the way AEW’s television ratings have dipped since the NJPW wrestlers showed up on Dynamite. With that in mind, Moxley going over was absolutely the right move even if the fans in attendance were rallying behind Tanahashi late in the match.
Minoru Suzuki, Chris Jericho, and Sammy Guevara vs. Wheeler Yuta, Shota Umino, and Eddie Kingston: This match got the main card off to a strong start. I don’t know why they didn’t tell the story of Jericho and Umino’s history on AEW television, but I’m happy they told it before the match and that they leaned into that as much as they did. Umino really got over because of it and I am looking forward to seeing more from him and Jericho. The added stipulation that the winning team members would carry the man advantage in the Blood & Guts match didn’t enhance the match in any way. Rather, it made the outcome feel even more predictable. Even so, on a night where I had high expectations for most of the main card matches, I slept on this one and it blew away my expectations.
Jay White vs. Kazuchika Okada vs. Hangman Page vs. Adam Cole in a four-way for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship: I enjoyed this match a lot until the deflating finish. If Cole was legitimately hurt, then they made the right call to go home even if it was awkward. The action leading up to the closing moments was really strong and Okada and Page were super over with the live crowd. I liked the way the broadcast team stepped in and explained that Page collapsed when Okada tried to hit him with the Rainmaker clothesline. I’m not sure if it was something they came up with or a story that Tony Khan fed them, but someone did a good job of coming up with a logical explanation on the fly.
Pac vs. Miro vs. Malakai Black vs. Clark Connors a four-way to become the first AEW All Atlantic Champion: Putting aside the ridiculousness of this title belt and the baffling decision for AEW to introduce yet another title belt, this was a really enjoyable four-way. Connors didn’t win me over with his pre-show promo, but he certainly did with his work throughout the match. Pac going over was a mild surprise in that I assumed they would go with Miro. I’m all for whatever is going to get Pac working singles matches rather than spinning his wheels in Death Triangle vs. House of Black six-man tag matches. Speaking of Black, he was so over early in his AEW run that fans chose him over Cody Rhodes at a time when Cody was one of the company’s top babyfaces. AEW really had something with Black that has sadly been squandered.
Thunder Rosa vs. Toni Storm for the AEW Women’s Championship: A good match with a questionable outcome. Storm had momentum coming into the match after getting a rare win over Britt Baker only to follow that up with a clean loss to Rosa. They worked well together and did a good job of getting over the idea that Storm’s shoulder gave out at the end. I just hope there is a plan in place for Storm to get her mojo right back. In the moment, it’s hard not to feel like she’s in the same place that Ruby Soho was after she lost a title match. Soho went in with momentum and the support of the fans, but she lost and then seemed to be relegated mostly to the AEW YouTube shows.
Sting, Darby Allin, and Shingo Takagi vs. El Phantasmo and “The Young Bucks” Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson: The heels worked hard to make Sting shine and the crowd loved it. A lot of the comedy wasn’t for me, but it did give the show a bit of variety and worked for the live crowd.
AEW-NJPW Forbidden Door Misses
Post main event brawl: Again? The show-ending brawl on Dynamite was a mess. The show-closing brawl on Rampage was much better. This show-closing brawl at the end of Forbidden Door felt like overkill and took away from the moment of Jon Moxley winning the Interim AEW World Championship. Let’s face it, this pay-per-view played largely to the most hardcore pro wrestling fans. Is there any reason to think that these viewers needed an extra push to watch Dynamite on Wednesday? If Tony Khan really felt the need to have one more big brawl angle, then it would have played better coming out of the Claudio Castagnoli vs. Zack Sabre Jr. match.
ROH Tag Team Champions Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler vs. IWGP Heavyweight Tag Champions Jeff Cobb and Great O Khan vs. Rocky Romero and Trent Beretta in a three-way for both tag titles: It pains me to put this match in the Miss section. There’s not a tag team in the world that I enjoy watching more than FTR. But the injury spot with Harwood bowing out early and making his return later in the match felt unnecessary. It took viewers out of the moment because they were concerned about Harwood. And those who recognized it for what it was knew that nothing mattered until he returned. And can we just get back to FTR working standard tag team matches? I enjoyed their recent singles matches and some of their six-man tags, but this is the best tag team in the world and they’ve worked one standard tag team match on AEW television since they beat the Young Bucks back in early April.
Four match pre-show: The matches were fine and even good in some cases. But they felt thrown together with the primary goal of getting more people on the show and non felt like they truly mattered. I’m sure it was a cool moment for those who got to work this show, but I am strongly opposed to match filled one-hour pre-shows for any company. It leads to the live crowds eventually having moments where they run out of gas during the main card, and it just makes for a needlessly long night. To AEW’s credit, they didn’t go overboard with the length of the main card this time around, which was especially important with this show airing on a Sunday night on a non-holiday weekend.