It’s time for one of the more unique shows of the year, as AEW and New Japan get together for another Forbidden Door (which does not seem to actually be forbidden in any way). This one has been built up a bit better than last year and the top of the card looks rather strong. If it is anywhere close to as good as the original show, we should be in for a nice night. Let’s get to it.
Zero Hour: Mogul Embassy vs. Roppongi Vice/El Desperado
This is one of three matches that were added to Zero Hour this week on Collision. The Embassy has been treated as something of value on Ring Of Honor and it would be nice to see Swerve Strickland getting a bit more of a high profile win. Vice is a team who has been around in a variety of forms so having them around makes some sense. Desperado is a wild card, but that seems to be the point.
I’ll take the Embassy to win, even though the Gates of Agony notoriously never win anything of note. Maybe it’s different if they are in a six man match, but it is one of those random matches that could go either way. Hopefully Strickland gets a dominant pin over a member of Vice as it would be the most beneficial long term, even if the Gates continue to be rather dull.
Zero Hour: El Phantasmo vs. Stu Grayson
Grayson hasn’t been around AEW much lately but when he is given the chance, especially away from the Dark Order, he can put on quite the show. Phantasmo is a bigger star of course and in a better place, making this kind of a strange choice to put on the card. Hopefully they can make something work out of this, despite what is likely to be a limited amount of time.
Phantasmo wins here, as Grayson isn’t going to win here when he can barely get on AEW TV most of the time. This feels like a way to get Phantasmo in front of the audience and Grayson is the one who was selected to be out there too. The match should be fairly good if Grayson is trying to get some focus on himself and if that is the case, we should be in for something fun.
Zero Hour: United Empire vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon
So this seems to be a showcase match for New Japan stars and that should be fine. Kyle Fletcher and Jeff Cobb are regular enough in AEW so at least commentary will have something to talk about. At the same time, Los Ingobernables haven’t been around lately but the talent will be more than enough to carry things forward, as the story isn’t the point to this one.
I’ll go with the Empire to win here as they have been around more frequently, but if there is one match on here where either would win with either making that much of a difference, it would be this one. If these guys get ten minutes or so, everything should be fine, as there is more than enough talent in there to fill in pretty much whatever amount of time that they are given. But yeah, the Empire wins here.
Zero Hour: Women’s Owen Hart Foundation Tournament First Round: Athena vs. Billie Starkz
This is one of the matches that has some importance going forward and it is probably the one that has the least interest as far as who wins. It is almost hard to fathom this going any other way, but I’m hoping that we get the Athena who has been tearing up Ring Of Honor in recent weeks. If nothing else, the tournament works if we can see more of Athena on a bigger show.
Of course Athena wins here, as she is already a champion coming in and is up against a 18 year old rookie who hasn’t done much around here so far. This should be all about Athena running over Starkz until she gets to advance. Hopefully the match is there to get Athena over, as she is more than ready to move up into the big leagues of the women’s titles, assuming they can find someone who can take the title from her. For now though, Athena wins here and does so handily.
IWGP World Title: Sanada(c) vs. Jungle Boy
This feels like a match that is there to further a bigger story. Jungle Boy may have been in the World Title match last month but in no way does he feel like a serious threat to beat Sanada here. Instead, it feels like another place where he can come up short and further what seems to be a much needed heel turn. AEW hasn’t exactly been trying to hide his long at best shot and that is the right way to go.
So yeah, naturally this is Sanada winning, though Jungle Boy should be able to get in some stuff of his own. There is nothing to suggest that Jungle Boy is going to come close to winning so it is more about letting the two of them have a nice match before getting to the only possible option. That is the right way to go in this place and having the title on the show is a big deal on its own.
Men’s Owen Hart Foundation Tournament First Round: CM Punk vs. Satoshi Kojima
We’ll keep going with the obvious results here, as this is little more than a way for Punk to get back in the ring and get the first singles win of his comeback against a legend. Punk has only been back for two shows so far and while he has been in some multi-man tag matches, he has to have some singles matches at some point to really make it feel like he is back.
In case you didn’t get the idea, Punk wins here, albeit after Kojima gives him a heck of a match. Kojima is certainly a name and a very accomplished one at that, but Punk is one of the biggest stars in AEW at the moment and giving him the win is not only the right way to go, but pretty much the only logical choice. Being in the ring with Kojima will likely be a cool moment for Punk, and having him win will be a nice bonus.
Adam Cole vs. Tom Lawlor
This is another match that was added at almost the last minute but at least Lawlor attacked him on Rampage. That at least puts it ahead of the matches that had no build whatsoever other than an announcement so things are a step up. In this case, Cole is gearing up for his World Title shot against Maxwell Jacob Friedman and gets to face someone who should be in a higher profile company than he already is.
In what could be a hidden gem on the show, Cole wins here, and hopefully Lawlor does well enough to get a job, or at least one down the line, as a result. Lawlor is someone who has done well pretty much everywhere I’ve seen him go and it would be nice to see him in AEW more often. For now though, he can be a nice win for Cole, who is on his way to bigger and better things.
Le Suzuki Gods vs. Sting/Darby Allin/Tetsuya Naito
Naito was the mystery partner for Sting and Allin and definitely adds some New Japan star power to the match. This is much more about Sting vs. Jericho and Allin vs. Guevara, with Suzuki and Naito there as well. The good thing about a six man tag is that you can get some different combinations in there, which could even include the bizarre option of Sting vs. Suzuki.
Much like the IWGP World Title match, this feels like a means to an end but we could be in for some interesting things here. The Jericho vs. Sting showdown is bound to happen and it would not shock me to see them go one on one (or two on two) at All In in London in about two months. For now though, we should be in for one of those zany tag matches that AEW knows how to make work very well.
AEW Women’s Title: Toni Storm(c) vs. Willow Nightingale
This is where what happens to Nightingale is one of the most frustrating things in AEW, as she has to actually win something at some point. While she has already advanced in the Owen Hart tournament and is the NJPW Strong Women’s Champion, she needs to win one of the two women’s titles in AEW. While that is a possibility here, I’m not sure I can imagine it actually happening.
As much as I want it to go the other way, I can’t imagine taking the title off of Storm so soon. Jamie Hayter returning to get the title from Storm (say, in London) would make the most sense and the Outcasts can interfere to give Nightingale an out. Nightingale still needs that big win and she can get it one day, but for now, it’s Storm defeating another champion to retain her own title.
AEW World Title: Maxwell Jacob Friedman vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Now stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but I’m not sure how much question there is here about who is leaving with the title. It’s the biggest issue with this show, but that shouldn’t stop them from having a solid match on the way. Friedman has shown that he can do very well in the ring under the right circumstances and Tanahashi is Tanahashi, so this this should work.
But yeah, Friedman wins here, likely with Cole getting involved in some way so he can take the title from Friedman down the line (or something similar). Tanahashi is one of those legends who can be put out there for one loss after another without any kind of a problem and that is what he is going to do here. At the same time, Friedman can brag about beating one of the best ever (and you know he will) so this is a rather logical idea.
International Title: Orange Cassidy(c) vs. Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Katsuyori Shibata vs. Daniel Garcia
We’re at a weird point for Cassidy’s title reign, as he has held the title for eight months and a good chunk of that has been spent on “he’s so tired and banged up that he can’t possibly retain the title much longer”. Then he just does it, beating one challenger after another. In theory he is being built up for someone to look like a huge deal when they finally take the title from him, but that has to actually happen at some point.
As ready as I am for Cassidy to lose the title already, odds are he retains here, as Shibata and Sabre Jr. already have titles and Cassidy already beat Garcia last month. If nothing else, Cassidy losing the title feels a lot better in a one on one showdown, and odds are he gets to retain again here. Sabre getting to torture some people will make it worth a look, but it’s Cassidy keeping the title.
Blackpool Combat Club/Konosuke Takeshita/Shota Umino vs. Elite/Eddie Kingston/Tomohiro Ishii
This is the big showdown match as the blood feud between the two sides continues. While Takeshita isn’t part of the Club, he certainly has the same enemies and that is enough to keep him in this kind of a feud. This one is going to be about violence and carnage as we get closer to what is likely Kingston challenging Claudio Castagnoli for the Ring Of Honor World Title next month. And some guest stars to keep up the theme of the show.
After Anarchy in the Arena, this needs to go to the Elite and company, likely with Umino or Wheeler Yuta taking the fall. Or they can just go for the obvious ending with Ishii pinning Castagnoli to set up the Death Before Dishonor match. Either way, there are going to be a lot of people involved and it will probably fall into chaos about halfway through, which is about all you can expect.
IWGP United States Title: Kenny Omega(c) vs. Will Ospreay
This is a rematch from a huge Wrestle Kingdom match which went very well (though I didn’t grade it as highly as some did). There is a real chance that it headlines the show and if it is similar to what we got on Dynamite with these two, I wouldn’t be opposed. Omega is capable of looking like an absolute star and Ospreay can hang with anyone in the world. Let these two go nuts and it should be a lot of fun.
As for a winner….it’s hard to imagine Omega going up 2-0, especially with Don Callis anywhere nearby. This should go to Ospreay to even the series and then they can do their big rubber match in Japan (or England). These two are going to beat the fire out of each other and it should be an awesome showdown, but Ospreay wins here to even the score and take away one of the main things Omega has at the moment.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Bryan Danielson
As big as some of the other matches are, come on. This is the definition of a dream match as perhaps the best in Japan is facing perhaps the best in the United States (and on neutral ground). It’s a match where the names alone make the show feel that awesome and it is almost impossible for this to not be good. Just let them do whatever they want and it should be a main event caliber match.
Then we get to the hard part, as this is pretty much a coin flip. I’ll go with Danielson winning as he is the closer to a home country star, but it really could go either way. Either way, despite Danielson being a heel coming in, there is a good chance that he is going to be cheered out of the building by the end. This is the kind of match that should headline a show and there is a very good chance that it will, with Danielson winning (I guess).
Forbidden Door really is one of the weirdest shows that you see all year and that makes it all the more interesting. New Japan isn’t being treated as a bunch of invaders and only a few of the matches really have personal issues. Instead, this is about proving who is better and we could have some outstanding matches on the way there. It will be nice to get back to the focus being only on AEW, but for a one night event, we could be in for a classic here.
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