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  • Connor Ewens

Let's Review: AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door 2023

Wrestling's largest cross-over episode is back for a second time as AEW & New Japan re-unite for an event of mashups and dream matches. This is not only NJPW's first PPV to eminate from Canada, but it is AEW's too. These shows aren't about the stories, although there is a couple to talk about. These are about the best talents from two different rosters mixing it up for the love of the art. We have a stacked 13 match card to talk about. We initially had 14, but unfortunately the Adam Cole vs Tom Lawlor match has been cancelled at the last minute. Big Tony K has said he was sent home with a fever, it's unfortunate but I think the card feels less bloated without it. I'll cover the relevant info as we go. Let's not call each other buddy, buddy. Let's review.

25th June 2023- AEW x New Japan Forbidden Door

-Kevin Kelly, Excalibur & Chris Charlton are on commentary for the pre-show. Also worth mentioning, not only do we have Justin Roberts as ring announcer we have Takuro Shibata as a Japanese ring announcer too.

(Pre-show) CHAOS (Chuck Taylor, Trent & Rocky Romero) & El Desperado vs Mogul Embassy (Brian Cage, Swerve Strickland, Bishop Kaun & Toa Liona) w/ Prince Nana

I'm going to keep it brief for the pre-show action since there's a lot to talk about already and FOUR PRE-SHOW MATCHES IS RIDICULOUS. The team of Trent & Rocky (Rappongi Vice) was one of my favourite tag teams in New Japan so it's always nice to see them together. El Desperado feels like an odd fit but that just makes this more entertaining. They do the best friends hug spot late in the match with Desperado in the middle and he looks so confused but compliant, it's great. Together Cage, Liona & Kaun are the ROH 6-man champions. This match gets the most time on the pre-show and they craft a good tag match with it. All 8 men get their time in the sun, there wasn't many standout spots in this one. Just enjoyable action to warm up the crowd. I was happy for El Desperado to get the reactions he got. Strickland nails Rocky Romero with a double stomp to pick up a win.

Mogul Embassy win via pinfall (12:23)


(Pre-show) Billie Starkz vs Athena

This is a first round match in the Owen Hart' Cup Tournament. Starkz is only 18 years old but has already shown she can work in the ring alongside some of the best in the division. Athena is the ROH Women's Champion and I think one of the greatest Women's wrestlers under contract with AEW. This was a predictable outcome, but it was a nice opportunity for Starkz to display her talent on a big stage. Hopefully we'll see more Athena on AEW programming in future. Athena wins with a Yokosuka cutter manoeuvre onto her knees.

Athena wins via pinfall (7:49)


(Pre-show) El Phantasmo vs Stu Grayson

This should be a good little match, these two have incredible work rate. El Phantasmo is riding alone after being forced out of Bullet Club by David Finlay. Recently Stu has abandoned the Dark Order and joined 'The Righteous' faction. He's featuring more prominently on ROH TV now. A competitive match, El Phantasmo was especially impressive. He got Stu Grayson in a titty twister! Haven't seen that in a while. He nailed Stu with a spinning, springboard DDT and it looked awesome. This sets up a CR2 and a victory for ELP. Good action and the right man won ahead of the forthcoming G1 tournament.

El Phantasmo wins via pinfall (7:14)


(Pre-show) United Empire (Jeff Cobb, Kyle Fletcher & TJP) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi, BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi)

6 of New Japan's regulars mixing it up in a very fast paced matchup. Nothing much else to say except it was a good showcase for these guys. I hope to see these guys have a bigger feature on the main show next year. Guys like Cobb, Takagi & Takahashi are absolute stars. Shingo finishes off TJP with the Made in Japan for a win for the LiJ stable.

LiJ win via pinfall (7:30)


-The main show begins, Chris Charlton has left commentary and Tazz has joined Excalibur & Kevin Kelly.

MJF (c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi for the AEW Championship

In a sense it's surprising that the AEW World title match opens the show, but it makes sense for two reasons. First, this wasn't a marquee match of the show so it wasn't going to main event. Plus, MJF not wanting to wrestle would ideally want to get in first and out as soon as he can. 'The Devil' comes out donning a robe with "New Japan is an Indie" sown on the back. Tanahashi gets a loud, positive response from the crowd. Late 40s and still competing at this level is impressive. He can't put in the classic performance he's famed for back in the day, but he still is more than capable of putting on a show. Both men play the crowd well, MJF continues to be wrestling's greatest heel. After Tanahashi & the referee accidentally collide, MJF uses his Dynamite Diamond ring to cheap shot Tana and retain the title.

MJF retains via pinfall (15:46)


CM Punk vs Satoshi Kojima

Hostile crowd reaction for Punk this evening. I quite like the dynamic that I'm never sure how the crowd are going to react to Punk each night. I've always liked CM Punk no matter what "drama" he's been involved in. I expect more boos tonight because we're in Kenny Omega territory. This is another Owen Hart Cup Tournament match, Punk is a strong candidate for winner. Satoshi Kojima is a legend in Japanese wrestling, with significant success in New Japan as well as AJPW & NOAH. A match between two veterans so you can expect it to be good. Kojima is reliably sound in the ring. Punk works the crowd throughout, not explicitly being a heel but doing antics to get them to react. For example he hit Kojima with Mongolian chops like Tenzans, Kojima's tag partner. After a stiff match, Punk put away Satoshi with a GTS to win. A very good match, another predictable outcome but that didn't detract anything from this.

CM Punk wins via pinfall (13:40)


Orange Cassidy (c) vs Zack Sabre Jr vs Katsuyori Shibata vs Daniel Garcia for the AEW International Championship

Zack Sabre Jr is the NJPW TV champion and Shibata is the ROH pure champion. As dogshit as the Jericho Appreciation Society gimmick is, Daniel Garcia is taking it and running as far with it as he can. He always draws chants of "you're a wrestler" and they cheer loudly whenever he does his little dance. He's very entertaining, but it's hard to take him as a serious threat. Like, there's a moment in this match when Shibata & ZSJ keep pushing him away while they fight almost to say "you're not worth it". Orange does his usual sloth-style before heating up as the match continues. This match was high octane with non-stop action. Shibata & ZSJ were the highlights for me with their exciting technical style and brutal strikes. I liked the spot with all guys exchanging suplexes with each other. An insanely exciting match with Orange taking advantage of a PK to Garcia from Shibata and pinning to retain. That's 25 title defenses now which is impressive. Post match we see a verbal exchange between Orange and Zack, maybe a singles confrontation at Wembley?? All three champions have a staredown before Shibata & Orange show each other respect.

Orange Cassidy retains via pinfall (11:15)


SANADA (c) w/ Douki vs 'Jungle Boy' Jack Perry w/ Hook for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship

This is a weird pairing, for a championship as prestigious as the World title, I think Jack Perry is an underwhelming challenger. On a show built around dream matches I think SANADA deserved a higher profile opponent. No shade to Perry, he's great but he's not quite there yet. Both men have said before this match that they haven't watched the other wrestle before. I can't tell if that's an interesting addition or a further diminishment. Referee 'Red Shoes' Unno is the most over in this match, getting a hero's welcome in Canada. This is a good match that followed a basic formula. Plenty of back and forth but ultimately the world champion remained most dominant. Some nice spots in this match like Sanada trapping Jungle Boy in a pretzel and kicking him, always fun to see. Sanada pushed for the Skull End finish but Perry was able to avoid it. Eventually SANADA retains hitting a poison rana, a shining wizard, a backbreaker and a moonsault to top it off. Interesting to have the match end with a moonsault, somewhat anticlimactic.

As Jack Perry and Hook walk up the ramp together, Perry absolutely decks Hook with a clothesline. The boos rain on him. This will be interesting, I wish him the best of luck as a heel character. If they want to push Perry to the next level, dropping the Jungle Boy is an unfortunate necessity. No one will take him seriously as a Jungle Boy. Maybe 'Tarzan' Jack Perry? I jest, I assume he will go through a full character change. Hopefully it works.

SANADA retains via pinfall (10:49)


-Tony Schiavone replaces Taz on commentary. Great. Taz & Chris Charlton were good to have around to provide in depth analysis. Tony Schiavone wasn't a good play-by-play, nor is he a good colour commentator. He's a nice guy who works well with interviews and segments and what not but keep him away from the table please.

The Elite (Hangman Page & Young Bucks), Eddie Kingston & Tomohiro Ishii vs Blackpool Combat Club (Jon Moxley, Claudio Castagnoli & Wheeler Yuta), Shota Umino & Konosuke Takeshita

A feud carrying on since Double or Nothing, the Elite & the BCC have been at each others throats. Takeshita was seemingly an Elite ally until he allied with Don Callis & the BCC. Shota Umino has been an ally and almost a follower of Jon Moxley since he debuted in New Japan a few years back, so his alignment with the BCC is natural. The Elite recruit two guys with personal history with their opponents. Eddie Kingston has a lifelong hatred for Claudio Castagnoli and a longtime frenemy relationship with Moxley. Ishii has had a rivalry with Moxley which has churned out classic matches in the past. Plenty of moving parts, plenty of talent so you can expect this to be thrilling. Team Elite take charge first hitting plethora of dives and strikes. The BCC took charge and kept Eddie down for the middle portion of this match. A few interesting nuances between Moxley & Kingston. Kingston looked reluctant to fight Mox. Later on, Mox turned down an opportunity to cheap shot Kingston. After taking turns beating down Kingston, the BCC finally slip up and face the wrath of Ishii who goes on a tear. It's pretty back and forth from here. Takeshita puts in a great showing, having a very nice exchange with Hangman. My favourite part of this match was when Kingston & Moxley exchanged forearms in the ring, whilst the other 8 men proceeded to fight amongst themselves outside the ring, hitting offence whilst the two lads keep leathering each other. We saw a Claudio big swing into a dropkick by Yuta, shades of Cesaro & Tyson Kidd. Although BCC controlled for the longest time, the Elite walk away with the victory thanks to Ishii's deadly brainbuster move to Wheeler Yuta.

A terrific tag match that was exciting all the way. It broke down into just brawls often, the match felt like Lucha Libre rules a lot which is fine but it didn't feel like much of a tag match at times. The structure and ruling of AEW tag matches is something that will always be a topic of discussion. I had a great time watching this nonetheless, everyone had their moment to shine and the Elite get a win back. Ishii being the one to do it is a good choice because the BCC can spin that to say the Elite didn't beat them, Ishii did.

The Elite & Co win via pinfall (21:29)


-Commentary mention Kingston was conflicted throughout the match, which would be fine if you didn't have multiple sequences where they were happy to fight each other. The story here should really be about Moxley's conflicted feelings.

Toni Storm (c) w/ Saraya & Ruby Soho vs Willow Nightingale for the AEW Women's Championship

Difficult spot for these to be in, sandwiched between an exciting 10-man tag and the highly anticipated Omega-Ospreay 2. The Outcasts have been rampaging in the women's division recently and it's been mostly enjoyable. Glad to see these 3 women in a top position in the division. Willow has been slowly getting pretty over since signing with AEW in 2021. She is the inaugural and current reigning NJPW Strong Women's Champion. She's not only a great talent but she's super likable, gives off Bayley vibes when she was a hot babyface. This was pretty basic but it was we executed. Willow dominated most of the match and Toni Storm used heel tactics to sneak out a victory. She used eye gouges and biting to gain the upper hand, eventually hitting Storm Zero for the win. It's another predictable outcome, which isn't always a bad thing but that's 4 out of 6 main show matches that could be considered predictable.

Toni Storm retains via pinfall (10:27)


Kenny Omega (c) vs Will Ospreay w/ Don Callis for the IWGP United States Championship

The hype is very high for this one, and for good reason. These two tore the house down at Wrestle Kingdom in January when Omega took the title away from Ospreay, a match that recieved critical acclaim from fans and journalists. Ospreay has came back for revenge and wants his title back. Don Callis, who recently turned his back on Omega, is supporting Will Ospreay in his attempt to win back the title. Ospreay has an awesome entrance that further establishes the Ospreay vs Canada narrative. He has a military grade security escort thanks to Don Callis. Kenny as expected recieves a loud ovation from his native crowd, who loudly sing his entrance theme to him. I love it when he uses the Cleaner gimmick and theme.

There is so much to this match to talk about. It goes through 3 main stages. First we have the match, where both guys display why they're two of the best wrestlers on the planet with slick reversals, transitions and counters. Callis is receiving nuclear heat. He tries to trip up Omega so the referee sends him to the back. They continue to try and out-wrestle each other, Ospreay seemingly with the advantage after a beautiful shooting star press to a rope-hung Omega. The action spills outside, Ospreay starts pounding Kenny's head through the announce table and our favourite Canadian is bloodied. Omega bloodied Ospreay at Wrestle Kingdom, so I guess this is revenge for Will. Some great crowd work by Ospreay here. He first licks Omega's blood off his arm (gross). He then uses the V-trigger knee strike, one of Kenny's signature moves. Then, to ramp up the heat, he steals a Canadian flag from the crowd and flosses his crotch with it then picks his nose with it. Bold play, some people hate the use and abuse of flags. I loved this. Omega fights back and uses the flag to choke Ospreay in a bit of revenge for Canada. He smashes Ospreay's head against the steps and now both men are bloody messes.

Phase 2 of the match now, it's a fight. Less about the work rate but each guy uses big offence to try and put each other down. Omega DDTs Ospreay on the steel steps. Both men take turns hitting German suplexes on each other in a great sequence. Ospreay using a Sharpshooter on Omega to a chorus of boos. Ospreay then using a crossface move to even louder boos. Was this a Chris Benoit reference? Unsure if intentional but if so that's BALLSY heel heat. Ospreay continues to strike down Omega, but Kenny manages to fire back with his patented snap suplexes, knee strikes and a poison rana. Ospreay's sky twister press was a thing of beauty. Eventually both men readh another stalemate in the ring, which brings out piece of shit Don Callis to return.

Act 3 of this match now, the endgame. Omega punishes Ospreay with knees, Callis gets on the apron to cause a distraction. The referee gets involved, allowing Callis to throw over a screwdriver to Ospreay and spikes Omega on the head with it. Ospreay with a hidden blade and a stormbreaker for a 1-2-NO! FOOT ON THE ROPE!! Excellent nearfall. Ospreay hits a one-winged angel and Omega kicks out at one! Never steal Kenny's moves! He's awake and irate. Omega builds steam but Ospreay follows a V-trigger with a gnarly tiger driver 91. Ospreay hits a hidden blade and a stormbreaker to win.

FUCK I need a cigarette after that. I only rate from 0-5, but this deserves more if it's reviewed higher. One of the best AEW matches ever, this is one of the best western-style wrestling matches ever. This was nearly 40 minutes long and it never felt for a second like it was dragging. A serious contender for match of the year. Just go watch, okay? Two of the best, being the best. Their chemistry is unbelievable. Please give us Omega vs Ospreay III, ideally at All In so I can watch if live and cry with joy.

Will Ospreay wins the title via pinfall (39:50)


Sting, Darby Allin & Tetsuya Naito vs Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara & Minoru Suzuki

Another tough spot to be in, sandwiched between a MOTY candidate and the anticipated dream match main event. I wasn't excited about this until they announced Naito as the third man. Always love watching Naito wrestle, he's cool as hell. Suzuki & Jericho both get plenty of singing for their entrances as you'd expect. Loud crowd reactions for the face team too. We got some nice exchanges between Naito & Sammy, Suzuki & Allin as well as Sting & Jericho who have never shared a match together until now which is crazy considering their histories. Sammy & Jericho did their pose but Suzuki get involved too which was a nice moment. After solid back and forth tag action it broke down into a fight. Allin dived into a Judas Effect from Jericho which he sold well. Sammy did a 630 splash to Sting on a table. This was actually botched, Sting tried to roll off but didn't roll away in time and Sammy put him through. This finish came as Sting hit a clothesline to Suzuki and Naito held on for the pin. This had some nice moments, but it wasn't remarkable. I expected to see more from Allin, Naito & Guevara in this match. Sting, Jericho & Suzuki were the most active which I think harmed the quality of the match. Sting is so impressive performing in his 60s, I just hope he continues to only do it if capable. Post-match Jericho hits Naito, so Sting his Jericho.

Allin, Sting & Naito win via pinfall (15:09)


Bryan Danielson vs Kazuchika Okada

When it comes to AEW x NJPW dream matches, it doesn't really get bigger than this. New Japan's greatest wrestler possibly ever, against a wrestler so good he has a technical award named after him. This will be excellence. The promos from both men have been astounding ahead of this one. Danielson comes out to the final countdown, like he used to in his ROH days. A lovely moment. Okada comes out like an icon and recieves a huge pop. The fans are chanting holy shit before they even do anything, that's how you know there's a dream match. This was just 25+ minutes of pure wrestling greatness. A very technical start as they fought for control, then we got into the thick of it with blistering chops and strikes. The action just kept ramping up and up and it was great until one moment killed the atmosphere. After taking an elbow drop, Bryan starting convulsing almost as if he was having a seizure. It looked terrifying. Okada picks him up but Bryan takes advantage and hits a running knee strike. So, a fake seizure? I think it was, which is in terribly bad taste. We know now that Bryan fractured his arm, so I imagine this was to give him time to have that looked at but FUCK man a fake seizure?!?! From a man with a scary list of past injuries? Bad call. Danielson eventually locks in a modified submission on Okada and makes him tap clean! An unexpected finish.

I think it was a shock way to end the match and I liked it, I think the crowd were silent for two reasons. It was genuinely out of no where, but also that seizure spot sucked all of the life out of the match. It went deadly quiet after that. I understand why, but Bryan bro just sell your FRACTURED ARM?!? It would have made sense AND added to your ability to make Okada tap. Hopefully we see a second match between these two, this was close to perfection but fell off the rails slightly in the final moments.

Danielson wins via submission (27:47)


Overall- 72.2%

I'm not going to include the pre-show into final scores for future shows, I think it only brings down a shows score that's deserving of higher. I'll take that into account when I do end of year rankings. This was a very, very good show. No bad matches, and the weaker matches on the show were in positions where they were crowd coolers in between marquee matches. Pretty obvious what the best match was, but there are other great matches on this card too. The 10-man, the 4-way and the main event all excellent. Can we not do fake Danielson injuries anymore please? Hopefully his arm injury isn't too serious.

MOTN- Kenny Omega vs Will Ospreay

That was Forbidden Door, let me know what you think. Thanks again for reading. Until next time, see ya.


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