AEW-NJPW Forbidden Door pre-show results: Powell’s live review of Athena vs. Billie Starkz in a Owen Hart Cup tournament match, Kyle Fletcher, Jeff Cobb, and TJP vs. Shingo Takagi, Hiromu Takahashi, and Bushi, Stu Grayson vs. El Phantasmo


By Jason Powell, Editor (@prowrestlingnet)

AEW-NJPW Forbidden Door Zero Hour Pre-Show
Aired live June 25, 2023 live on social media
Toronto, Ontario at Scotiabank Arena

A brief shot aired from outside the building while pre-show hosts Renee Paquette and RJ City checked in while standing inside the ring. They ran through the lineup and various ways to see the show. There were boos when the graphic for CM Punk’s match was shown…

Ring announcer Justin Roberts handled the introductions for the opening match. The NJPW ring announcer followed Roberts with Japanese introductions. Excalibur, Kevin Kelly, and Chris Charlton were on commentary at ringside…

1. Swerve Strickland, Toa Liona, Bishop Kaun, and Brian Cage (w/Prince Nana) vs. Rocky Romero, Trent Beretta, Chuck Taylor, and El Desperado. The babyace team performed some early dives onto their opponents at ringside. Kelly played up Punk having an “adversarial relationship” with the crowd. Back in the ring, Liona executed an alley oop style Samoan Drop on Beretta, who was isolated by the heels.

Cage slammed Beretta onto the apron with a Death Valley Driver. Beretta avoided Liona’s senton attempt. The heels continued to isolate Beretta until he avoided a Liona splashed in the corner. Beretta tagged in Desperado, who picked up a two count following a spinebuster on Swerve.

Desperado fought off Kaun and Liona. Romero, Beretta, and Taylor all met Desperado in the middle of the ring and hugged him. The heels came back. Swerve caught a kneeling Desperado with a running kick and had him pinned, but Romero broke it up.

Romero tagged in an performed Sliced Bread on Swerve. It was rapid fire spot time with the wrestlers taking turns hitting big moves. Romero took Cage down with a diving huracanrana from the ropes. Swerve and Cage bumped heads and then Romero hooked Swerve into a pin for a two count.

Beretta and Taylor hit their finisher on Swerve, but Kaun broke up the pin. Cage and Swerve performed a double team move on Romero. Swerve followed up with a double stomp from the top rope on Romero and then pinned him…

Swerve Strickland, Toa Liona, Bishop Kaun, and Brian Cage defeated Rocky Romero, Trent Beretta, Chuck Taylor, and El Desperado in 12:30.

Powell’s POV: A spot heavy opening match with a poor finish. I get that the heels roughed up Romero. But Romero literally sat on the mat and stared up at Strickland, who looked to the crowd and took eight seconds before performing his top rope double stomp, which didn’t even look good.

The daily fantasy sports partner’s ad aired… Paquette and City checked in from the ramp and set up a video package on the Kenny Omega vs. Will Ospreay match for the IWGP U.S. Championship…

2. ROH Women’s Champion Athena vs. Billie Starkz in an Owen Hart Cup tournament first round match. Kelly noted that Starkz recently graduated high school as the valedictorian of her class. Excalibur said the crowd of 14,826 was still filing into the building. Athena offered a handshake and then Starkz ducked her cheap shot attempt.

Excalibur said Bryan Danielson vs. Kazuchika Okada will headline the pay-per-view. Athena took offensive control and performed some suplexes. Athena threw a kick to Starkz’s side. Starks fell into the corner and the referee checked on her.

Starkz eventually came back with a Death Valley Bomb for a near fall. Excalibur wondered if she had been playing possum. Starkz kicked Athena’s back and then went up top. Athena cut her off by bouncing into the top rope.

A short time later, both women traded a series of dropkicks. Athena avoided one and then went for a standing moonsault that Starkz avoided. Starkz connected with a dropkick while Athena was down and then picked up a two count.

Starkz went up top. Athena rolled to the apron. Starkz went for broke with a Swanton attempt that Athena avoided. Starkz rolled to the floor. Athena drilled her with a knee against the broadcast table. Athena rolled Starkz inside the ring and then hoisted her up and dropped her into a sideways Codebreaker and scored the pin…

ROH Women’s Champion Athena defeated Billie Starkz in 7:50 to advance to the semifinals of the Owen Hart Cup tournament.

Powell’s POV: I assume there’s a far less complicated name for the Athena move than the poor description that I used, but Excalibur’s call didn’t help me out that time. Anyway, the outcome was never in doubt, but I enjoyed the match. I continue to hope that Athena will escape ROH purgatory and become a fixture on AEW television again soon. She’s really shined as a heel.

A video package focused on Danielson vs. Okada…

3. El Phantasmo vs. Stu Grayson. Charlton explained that Phantasmo is out of Bullet Club, but he made a lot of enemies and is now on his own. Vincent and Dutch came out with Grayson, but they didn’t stick around for the match. Phantasmo offered a handshake, which Grayson accepted. Grayson didn’t release Phantasmo’s hand initially so they had a tense exchange.

Both men stood in the middle of the ring and traded chops, which led to them trading slaps, and then punches. Phantasmo grabbed both of Grayson’s nipples, which got a rise out of the crowd. Moments later, Phantasmo performed a springboard crossbody block. Grayson ended up at ringside and was hit by a suicide dive.

Back in the ring, Phantasmo performed a springboard moonsault for a near fall. Grayson came back with a nice series of moves and picked up a two count of his own. Grayson went up top and was cut off by Phantasmo, who joined him on the top rope and performed a huracanrana. Phantasmo followed up with a top rope splash for a good near fall.

Grayson rallied with a kick and then went up top and performed a 450 splash for another near fall. Phantasmo came back with a cool DDT from the ropes and then performed a modified Pedigree and scored the pin…

El Phantasmo defeated Stu Grayson in 7:15.

Powell’s POV: This was a well worked match. Normally, I’d grumble about a 450 splash only getting a near fall during a pre-show match. This event is essentially the Super Bowl for spot-heavy wrestling, so I’m neither surprised nor annoyed.

A video package aired on the AEW World Championship match between MJF and Hiroshi Tanahashi…

4. Shingo Takagi, Hiromu Takahashi, and Bushi vs. Kyle Fletcher, Jeff Cobb, and TJP. Fletcher, Cobb, and TJP jumped the LIJ crew to start the match. Takahashi eventually battled back and used some lightning quick offense while working over all three opponents. Takahashi failed to power up Cobb, who stuffed a huracanrana attempt and then suplexed him.

Later, Takagi put TJP down with a Pumping Bomber and had him beat, but Cobb broke it up. Takaashi and Bushi cleared Cobb and Fletcher to ringside. Takagi stuffed a kick and then blasted TJP with a lariat and hit the Made In Japan finisher for the win…

Shingo Takagi, Hiromu Takahashi, and Bushi beat Kyle Fletcher, Jeff Cobb, and TJP in 7:30.

Powell’s POV: This was good for what it was. There are only so many spots on the main card, but I hope that Takagi and Takahashi will both have higher profile roles on the actual pay-per-view next year.

Paqutte and City spoke at the bottom of the entrance ramp. City tried to get the fans going against by saying that he was looking forward to Punk vs. Kojima, but he only got a few boos this time. Paquette listed Danielson vs. Okada and played up their main event.

Paquette also spoke about Kenny Omega vs. Will Ospreay for the IWGP U.S. Title. Paquette mentioned the AEW World Championship match opening the show… A Forbidden Door pay-per-view ad aired…

Join me for my live review of the Forbidden Door pay-per-view in a separate post available via the main page.


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