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TJRWrestling AEW-NJPW Forbidden Door Preview

aew forbidden door main preview

All Elite Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling are teaming up for a historic event called Forbidden Door featuring talents from both promotions coming in big matches with several championships on the line.

John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling AEW-NJPW Forbidden Door preview. I like the concept of the show, but injuries have hurt the lineup especially considering there’s no CM Punk, Bryan Danielson and especially Kenny Omega, who has been out of action for a long time now. If they did this show and gave us Omega vs. Okada then that would build a lot of interest with fans because of the matches they had in the last five or six years. Instead, we get a mix of some of NJPW’s biggest names, but not all of them and then a lot of tag team/multi-man matches to try to get more people on the show. If you’re into storylines, there isn’t much here. It’s mostly about the in-ring action, which is what AEW and NJPW care about anyway.

If you need info on how to order Forbidden on pay-per-view, check out AEW’s website for info on how to watch it in your country. It’s different depending on where you live. I’ll be using Fite TV in Canada, most likely.

Joining me for the preview are Joel McIntyre, Alex Podgorski and Matthew Fowler.

Alex: As the writer for this site most familiar with New Japan Pro Wrestling, I can’t stress how disappointed I am with this line-up. The realist in me knew that a card composed of straight dream singles matches was never going to happen given company politics and all that. But the idealist in me was still hoping that we could at least get a handful of these. Sadly, two awesome and MOTYC-level matches I really wanted to see – Tanahashi vs. Punk and Danielson vs. ZSJ – won’t happen now or possibly ever. What we’re left with is a ‘desperation’ show with a hastily-put-together card that looks good but won’t be anything out of this world. I can’t speak for my peers here but think the show will be great but not excellent. It will be ok, but not the legendary, show-of-the-year-level iconic show it has been hyped up to be. I don’t know if there will be another show like this in the future; but if there is, then hopefully it doesn’t have as many changes due to injuries as this one.

(Note: All graphics are from AEW.)

John: AEW added two more BUY IN PRE-SHOW matches on Rampage. Since they were added after we wrote our previews, we won’t have thoughts on them. Frankly, if AEW wanted our thoughts, they could have announced this earlier.

* The Factory (QT Marshall and Aaron Solo) vs. Chaos (Hirooki Goto and Yoshi-Hashi)

* Swerve in our Glory (Swerve Strickland and Keith Lee) vs Suzuki-gun (El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru)

Remember when Keith Lee was supposed to be a big star in AEW? It’s not happening. I don’t know if it’s ever going to happen.

Max Caster and Gunn Club (Billy Gunn, Austin Gunn & Colten Gunn) vs. Yuya Uemura, Alex Coughlin, The DKC & Kevin Knight (BUY IN PRE-SHOW)

Joel: I have no idea who the NJPW guys are so I’m going with Max and The Gunn Club on this one.

Winners: Max Caster and Gunn Club (Billy Gunn, Austin Gunn & Colten Gunn)

Alex: Talk about inconsequential. I know the Gunn Club is booked regularly on lower-card matches in AEW and the other side is composed of NJPW undercards either in New Japan proper or on New Japan Strong in the US. This will be a nothing match with some decent spots but nothing else. As for a winner, I think the AEW guys take it to set the tone for the rest of the show. New Japan tends to go into these sorts of shows with a clear ‘New Japan vs. everyone’ mentality, which has been a part of their booking playbook since at least 1995. I see no reason to divert from that here. And what better way to start the show than with the AEW guys putting the visiting New Japan guys at a disadvantage in terms of final score?

Winners: Max Caster and Gunn Club (Billy Gunn, Austin Gunn & Colten Gunn)

Matthew: I fully admit that I am not the most educated fan when it comes to NJPW, and honestly know nothing about any of the guys on the NJPW side. Good for Billy Gunn for getting to wrestle with his kids on a PPV, but this match means nothing to me and I am guessing a lot of other fans. I will go with Caster and the Gunn Club to win, as I can’t see AEW wrestlers losing to virtual unknowns.

Winners: Max Caster and Gunn Club

John: The team of Max and Gunn Club should win here. They get the kind of push where they beat the guys who are barely on the main shows, but when it comes to winning big matches, it doesn’t really happen. Max usually has entertaining raps at least. I don’t watch the pre-show matches. The four hours of writing about the main show matches is enough for me.

Winners: Max Caster and Gunn Club (Billy Gunn, Austin Gunn & Colten Gunn)

 

Zack Sabre Jr. vs. ????

Joel: There are really 3 prevailing theories on who the mystery guy is. Johnny Gargano, who will be in Chicago doing a signing that day, hasn’t wrestled in six months and yet trends at least once a month every time AEW teases a new signing. Jonathan Gresham is already signed to AEW for the ROH brand and fits the technical wrestling aspect that Bryan Danielson described perfectly. Then there’s Cesaro. Based on Bryan stressing it is the ONLY person he trusts and based on the fact Excalibur stated the mystery person would be the newest member of Blackpool Combat Club, I’m going with Cesaro (Claudio) here. He’s the only one of the three who fits everything that Bryan described and fits the mold of the BCC. The match should be fantastic. I’m going with Cesaro because I think the story calls for it.

Winner: Cesaro (Claudio)

Alex: Please don’t be Gargano. Please don’t be Gargano. Please don’t be Gargano.

There are many reasons why I was looking forward to ZSJ/Danielson so much, one of them being that both wrestlers are deadly serious and Bryan can ‘switch on’ when needed. Gargano doesn’t have that ability; to me he comes across as a try-hard and a phony. That’s why I’d prefer that Bryan handpick someone bigger, stronger, and more believable in the ring: Cesaro.

Or, CSRO, or however he spells his name. Or better yet, Claudio Castagnoli, let’s go with that.

Claudio would be an excellent addition to AEW’s roster. There was a report recently that at least one member of the Blackpool Combat Club want him to join their ranks. Personally, I think Claudio would be an excellent addition to AEW, even if he doesn’t appear often. I know AEW’s roster is bloated and filled with unused talent. But to be honest, I don’t think there’s anyone else that can be a challenge to ZSJ. I have to be honest here; there’s no one that can truly replace Danielson in this scenario. But it’s better to have someone that can show some great conditioning and come across as a threat to ZSJ. Claudio would fit that bill perfectly, especially given how he hasn’t really slowed down or gotten worse for wear after such a long career.

But to make things interesting, I don’t think there will be a clear winner here. Because the dream match was ZSJ vs. Danielson and now we’re getting a replacement, it would make sense to make this a true, 100% even match down to the end. They should book this as a match with a time-limit and have Claudio pinning ZSJ while ZSJ has Claudio in another wacky hold. The ref counts three as Claudio taps, creating a dusty finish that will necessitate a rematch. I think that sort of finish would do a lot more to turn heads than yet another ‘Ex-WWE-guy-debuts-with-AEW-and-wins-his-first-match-and-then-disappears-for-a-month’ booking direction that has become all too common.

Match result: 15-minute DRAW

Matthew: This match is obviously hard to predict, as we have no idea who Zack Sabre Jr. will be facing. Names like Cesaro and Johnny Gargano have been thrown about, so obviously anticipation is high for this match. Hopefully Tony Khan comes through here with a big surprise that meets or exceeds these expectations. I will go with the surprise being Gargano here, with him getting the win in a very good match.

Winner: Johnny Gargano

John: My feeling is that it’s going to be Cesaro/Claudio, but I really don’t know. I’m not sure if Gargano is ready to return to wrestling yet. I think Jonathan Gresham, who is the ROH World Champion, is a very good choice because he’s known for being a great technical wrestler and he’s already under a deal to AEW/ROH, so he would fit in fine here. I just think it’s going to be Cesaro/Claudio, who is very close to Bryan Danielson and fits the description that Bryan gave. Sabre’s style isn’t the most exciting to watch, but he’s a talented wrestler that knows how to put on a good match with anybody. The surprise wrestler should win, so that’s my pick.

Winner: Mystery Wrestler (Cesaro/Claudio)

 

Bullet Club (Young Bucks, Hikuleo & El Phantasmo) vs. Darby Allin, Sting, Shingo Takagi & Hiromu Takahashi

Joel: Sting, to my knowledge, has yet to take a loss since arriving in AEW. Once again, another match that lacks real story. I think Sting’s first loss should be something that is a big deal and built up to. I’m going with Darby’s team here.

Winners: Darby Allin, Sting, Shingo Takagi and Hiromu Takahashi

Alex: This is a thrown-together-at-the-last-minute match that doesn’t make sense. Senseless eight-man matches like this won’t really help anyone, especially with all the chaos that’ll likely happen with the Bucks, Hiromu, and Allin throwing themselves around like they all have death wishes. I expect twelve to fifteen minutes of wacky over-the-top nonsense masquerading as professional wrestling. Everyone in this match will go into it with the sole purpose of trying to impress each other and get the biggest crowd reaction. I think it’ll come down to one of the Bucks trying to out-crazy Hiromu, which is about as suicidal a goal as one can have in pro wrestling. And I think Takagi will take advantage of that for his team. with everyone going balls-to-the-wall with nonsense and cray spots, Takagi will come in at the end and murder whoever’s still alive with lariats and high-impact bombs to secure the win for his side.

Winners: Darby Allin, Sting, Shingo Takagi & Hiromu Takahashi

Matthew: This is another match that was thrown together last minute this past Wednesday on Dynamite. I have no doubt that hardcore fans are excited to see Takagi, Takahashi, Hikuleo and El Phantasmo in this match, but the average wrestling fan has no idea who any of them are. AEW has done a very poor job of introducing these guys and making us care for this match at all. I will go with Allin, Stint, Takagi and Takahashi getting the win here, as I see no reason not to have the crowd favorites go over here.

Winners: Darby Allin, Sting, Shingo Takagi and Hiromu Takahashi

John: A random tag team match with no story. Young Bucks being part of it makes it interesting. One of the issues with the show is that guys like Takagi and Takahashi are among the best wrestlers in the world, yet they were basically thrown into this match during a quick Darby Allin promo. When you watch the match and see how good Takagi and Takahashi are, you’ll want to see more of them, but you’ll also wonder why they were barely mentioned before. Anyway, if there’s one thing to know about Sting matches is that he doesn’t lose in AEW, so I’ll pick his team to win.

Winners: Darby Allin, Sting, Shingo Takagi and Hiromu Takahashi

Trios Match: Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara & Minoru Suzuki vs. Eddie Kingston, Wheeler Yuta & Shota Umino

Joel: The match is clearly about Jericho and Kingston. The one problem I’ve had with Jericho the last few years is they don’t seem to know when to just end his rivalries and most of them go on far longer than they need to. Orange Cassidy was three matches when it should’ve been one. The Pinnacle lasted six months when it should’ve been over in half that time. American Top Team the same. I feel this feud with Eddie Kingston’s group, and now by extension the BCC, is getting close to that territory. Hopefully Blood and Guts next week is the end. Then again, Blood and Guts should’ve been the end of the Pinnacle rivalry last year and they still squeezed another match out of it. I think Jericho’s team wins here. They’re clearly waiting until Blood and Guts to give Eddie his big victory.

Winners: Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara and Minoru Suzuki

Alex: This match could go either way. Kingston’s side has a die-hard fighter in Kingston, a strong BCC guy in Yuta, and Moxley’s protégé in Umino. But the other side has veteran Jericho, one of the (supposed) Four Pillars of AEW in Guevara, and Minoru “the-man-with-the-worst-personality-in-the-world” Suzuki. And since this match is mostly thrown together and lacks a deep central story behind it, either team could win and it would make sense to a degree. Personally, I think the heels will take this one simply because they have two of the most experienced wrestlers plus Guevara on their side. Jericho and Suzuki alone have around sixty years’ experience between them and they’ve seen it all. No matter how much heart Kingston and his crew have, it won’t be enough to overcome the experience of those two veterans and the craftiness of Sammy Guevara.

Winners: Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara & Minoru Suzuki

Matthew: There is honestly only one thing that interest me in this match, and it is hopefully seeing Suzuki and Kingston beat the living hell out of each other. The match itself is just another thrown together mess with no real story behind it. Honestly this feels like a waste of Chris Jericho, who especially with all the injuries should be in a much bigger match on this card. As for a winner I will go with Jericho, Guevara and Suzuki getting the win.

Winners: Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara and Minoru Suzuki

John: The rivalry between Jericho and Kingston has been great, so I expect the crowd to be hot for their interactions. Suzuki and Kingston should be fun too. I don’t know much about Umino while Yuta has been impressive. Sammy’s always good too. Jericho’s team won at Double or Nothing and then we go into Blood & Guts on Dynamite. I assume Eddie’s team will win at Blood & Guts, so either side could win here really. I think Jericho’s side should win. Just makes more sense to me, but really it doesn’t matter much.

Winners: Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara & Minoru Suzuki

Ring of Honor World Tag Team Championship and IWGP Tag Team Championship Winner Takes All: FTR (Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler) vs. United Empire (Great-O-Khan and Jeff Cobb) vs. Roppongi Vice (Trent Beretta and Rocky Romero)

Joel: FTR have been number one in the rankings for two months almost and have yet to receive a title shot. AEW just gives them shots at other titles to distract from the fact they’re giving every other team in the rankings a title shot but them. I think the plan here has always been for FTR to do what Kenny Omega did last year. Collect as many world titles as possible. I think this is leading to FTR and the Young Bucks at All Out where all the titles are on the line. I’m going with FTR here. The IWGP Tag Titles are the last big titles they’ve yet to win.

Winners: FTR(Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler)

Alex: I just don’t see Cobb and O-Khan losing so soon after winning the titles at Dominion on the 12th. It’s more of an exception than a rule for New Japan to book frequent title changes. Plus, Cobb and O-Khan are representing Ospreay’s United Empire stable in this match. Because of those two factors, I think those two will retain the IWGP tag titles and will also take the ROH titles as well. Cobb is an awesome hoss and power wrestler while O-Khan is…unique…as far as modern wrestling is concerned. I can see these two wresters going on a dominant streak while they carry both titles, almost as a heavyweight version of the Young Bucks back when they carried more title belts than they had limbs.

As a match, this will be your token demolition derby match. that used to mean something, but since such spot-heavy contests are a dime a dozen these days, it won’t be anything special. There will be plenty of high spots and wacky dives as expected. Sadly, I anticipate minimal story or psychology here as doing so would take away from the chaos that such multi-man matches are built on. This will probably go just under fifteen minutes with lots of people getting thrown around by Cobb. He will probably be the star of this match as he goes into the G1 as one of the few big men that can also move well. So expect Cobb to be a key player in this match.

Winners and STILL IWGP Heavyweight Champions AND NEW ROH Tag Team Champions: The United Empire (Jeff Cobb & The Great O-Khan)

Matthew: This is the fifth match on this review, and the first one to at least have the resemblance of a story. FTR is the best tag team in the world right now, and already have the AAA Tag Team Belts to go along with the Ring of Honor Championships. I predict that FTR will be adding more gold here and will leave the show with the IWGP Tag Team Championship’s. FTR then can face the Young Bucks for the AEW Tag Team Championships at All Out in a few months to try to capture all of the gold.

Winners: FTR(Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler)

John: This should be a chaotic match where hopefully my favorite team FTR gets the win. It’s been cool to see them become babyfaces and get even more known for having great matches. Is being ROH Tag Team Champions that big of a deal? I don’t know if Cobb and O-Khan would be able to defend those titles on a regular basis or if ROH will even have a regular schedule at this point. Who knows? Roppongi Vice could win too, I guess. Once again I ask, does it really matter? There are so many different titles involved with so many different companies at this point that I’m not sure any titles are that coveted other than the truly big ones. Give me FTR for the win. Why not? It would be cool to see them defend the IWGP titles in NJPW sometimes as well.

Winners: FTR(Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler)

 

AEW All-Atlantic Championship: Pac vs. Miro vs. Clark Connors vs. Malakai Black

Joel: I’ll tell you who needs the win the most. Malakai Black. I would say Pac, but AEW has already established Pac is not going to be any higher than he is right now. Black has been booked horribly since his feud with Cody Rhodes ended. Yeah, he got his faction with Brody and Buddy, but they spent three months feuding with the Varsity Blondes and Fuego Del Sol. The feud with Death Triangle was good but most of that feud centered on Julia Hart turning heel on Death Triangle, who she wasn’t even aligned with. Black needs something to get him back in the spotlight. That being said, much like Jade and the TBS Title, it is clear that they created the All-Atlantic Title specifically for Miro. I think Miro gets the win here.

Winner: Miro

Alex: Let’s play the elimination game here. You have four wrestlers that are technically representing different countries: the United Kingdom (PAC), Bulgaria (Miro), the Netherlands (Black), and Japan (Connors?). There’s a compelling case to be made for any one of them becoming champion since any one of them would benefit from the additional attention and screen time that comes with wearing a title belt. Connors is only in this because Ishii got hurt and to be honest, New Japan Strong lacks the same presence and significance as the main New Japan roster. That leaves the three AEW regulars, all of whom have languished to some degree in AEW’s bloated midcard. PAC is solid but he’s tied up right now with his teaming with Penta Oscuro and his feud with Black. And speaking of Black, he has other business to attend to right now by trying to get his House of Black stable over as something important. So by process of elimination we’re left with one possible winner: Miro. It would make sense for him since he needs the win more than the others here. His last win of substance was on June 1st and Johnny Blaze/Spade/Nitro/Morrison/Mundo/Impact/Elite/Game Changer. Winning the title here would give him a much needed purpose on AEW and make for a refreshing title scene since he’s not as ‘athleticism-heavy’ as the majority of AEW’s roster.

Winner and inaugural AEW All-Atlantic Champion: Miro

Matthew: A title that can only be defended against foreign competitors is a unique idea, and the tournament matches so far have been entertaining. However, AEW needs another title belt like they need more former WWE superstars. My hope is that AEW uses this new title to finally push Malakai Black, who has been greatly misused since joining the company. I will go with exactly that, with Black getting the win and some much needed momentum.

Winner: Malakai Black

John: It’s the AEW European TV Title! That’s what it feels like anyway. Does this company really need more titles? There are so many. It’s three ex-WWE guys against an NJPW guy in Connors, who a lot of people probably don’t know. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen Connors in a match. Miro was already TNT Champion while Pac hasn’t held a title in AEW even though he should have by now and Black is the best choice to win, in my opinion. I think it should be an entertaining match with lots of nearfalls, pin breakups and I think Black is going to beat Connors to become the champion.

Winner: Malakai Black

 

AEW Women’s Championship: Thunder Rosa (c) vs. Toni Storm

Joel: The booking of Thunder Rosa as AEW Women’s Champion has been some of the worst booking of a Women’s champion I’ve seen. Every woman that appears on the show gets more time than her. She takes a backseat to the TBS Champion Jade Cargill and her reign has been the definition of lackluster and it isn’t even her fault. It’s the fault of AEW and their inept booking of the women’s division that has existed since day one of this company. With that being said, get the belt off of Rosa. Toni is the hot hand right now. Don’t do her like you do every other debuting talent and lose interest after a month. Give Toni the title and see what she can do with it.

Winner AND NEW AEW Women’s Champion: Toni Storm

Alex: One of these matches is not like the others!

This match doesn’t make sense on a show built on the AEW/NJPW cooperation. It’s a pure AEW match so it sticks out like a sore thumb. I’m not sure if Tony Khan or any other AEW executives will read this but if they do… you do realize that New Japan’s parent company Bushiroad owns Stardom, right? You know, Stardom, probably the most-talked about women’s promotions in Japan? I’m sure they would’ve loved the promotion and attention as much as New Japan and would’ve gladly offered up one of their wrestlers to job to Rosa just for the exposure AND such a match would’ve fit this show thematically. But hey, what do I know?

Anyways, I think this will be a solid match but again I think it’ll go on for too long. I think many AEW wrestlers are more concerned about ‘getting time’ as opposed to putting on dominant performances and I think Rosa should re-evaluate her priorities. If so many people have noted how poorly she has been treated as women’s champion, she should rectify that by demolishing challengers Brock Lesnar style.

But that won’t happen. Instead, she’ll have another competitive 15-minute match on a show that will be filled with competitive 15-minute matches. In other words, this match will be fine but it won’t really stand out much in any meaningful way.

Winner and STILL AEW Women’s World Champion: Thunder Rosa

Matthew: Kudos to AEW for now completely ignoring the women on this show, even though NJPW does not have females on there roster. This match should be very good, although like most matches on this card could have used a better build. Nevertheless, both these women have a opportunity to show NJPW what they are missing by not having women on the roster. I will go with Thunder Rosa winning here after a great match.

Winner: Thunder Rosa

John: A title change would be fine with me because Rosa has been boring as the champion. However, AEW likes to book long title reigns for this title. They’ve had five different women hold this title and all of them have held it for at least 100 days with Rosa being past that point now. I think Rosa’s chase for the title was fun and the fans were into it, but there’s a lot less interest in her as champion. If Storm wins it gives her credibility while if she loses then she might disappear for months at a time like Ruby Soho has done. That’s why a Storm win intrigues me. I think they should do a title change, but my prediction is Rosa retains.

Winner: Thunder Rosa

 

IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship: Will Ospreay (c) vs. Orange Cassidy

Joel: I’m disappointed. I’m not the biggest Ospreay fan but they had one of the biggest talents in NJPW and they chose to pair him with Orange Cassidy. Scorpio Sky is off this show although that could be due to injury. Some other names missing from this lineup are Ricky Starks, Jay Lethal, Ethan Page, Wardlow and countless others that deserved this spot. I’m going with Ospreay because I don’t believe NJPW management would sign off on the United States Title being on Cassidy, who never appears anywhere except AEW.

Winner: Will Ospreay

Alex: Now this is just sad.

I’ve never been a fan of Orange Cassidy’s gimmick or the absurd reaction live audiences give him. I get there’s some kind of twisted logic behind it: he doesn’t expend so much energy so that he can actually hit at full power if and when he needs to. But Cassidy is a comedy gimmick through-and-through, and he’s being served to Ospreay on a silver platter. There is no chance that Ospreay, a former IWGP World Heavyweight Champion and a guy praised by both AJ Styles and Kazuchika Okada, will lose his newly-won US title to the silliest character in AEW. And yet, I think this match will also go longer than it needs to. Ospreay will do his trademark acrobatics stuff and Cassidy will respond in kind. Cassidy will sell for Ospreay but Ospreay will have to do the same, even though this comedy gimmick’s offense shouldn’t hurt him at all. He has survived like a hundred Okada Rainmakers and far worse punishment in New Japan; what is this guy’s pitiful arsenal compared to that?

I don’t expect anything great here; just ten minutes of senseless, jokey filler. There will likely be lots of serious moments on the rest of the show and this will be the lighter part to change the atmosphere. But such a moment isn’t always needed, and if you ask me, AEW should’ve served up anyone else to wrestle Ospreay.

Winner and STILL IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion: Will Ospreay

Matthew: I like Orange Cassidy as much as the next guy, and have actually met him at some independent shows. Nevertheless this is a waste of Ospreay, who should have a much bigger match on this show. Chris Jericho is in a meaningless tag match, and would have been better used here facing Ospreay. As for the match, I am sure it will be good and Cassidy will do hold is own. As for a winner this one is the easiest match on the show to predict, as I don’t see any chance of Ospreay losing here.

Winner: Will Ospreay

John: I think Ospreay has become one of the best wrestlers in the world. Yes, he does a lot of “flippy shit” that some people don’t like, but he’s also developed in terms of doing the little things right and when he actually sells moves he does a nice job of it. I would have loved to see him against somebody else that I like more than Orange Cassidy, but it is what it is. Tony Khan said Orange Cassidy is a favorite of his, so he’s going to put him in big spots like this. While I think some AEW talent might win an IWGP Title or two, I think in this case it makes sense for Ospreay to retain. Cassidy will come close a few times with the fans firmly behind him, but I think Will should win.

Winner: Will Ospreay

 

IWGP World Heavyweight Championship: Jay White (c) vs. Kazuchika Okada vs. Adam Cole vs. “Hangman” Adam Page

Joel: Oddly enough, this is one of two matches on this card that really has any back story to it. It’s essentially Bullet Club and Page/Okada. Jay White just took the title off Okada so it would make zero sense to have him lose it here, especially right back to Okada. I don’t think NJPW management wants their World Title in the hands of somebody not currently under contract with them so I’m canceling out Cole and Page. Jay White is one of the hottest stars in the business right now so I think he will have this title for a while. I think Cole or Page takes the pin to protect Okada.

Winner: Jay White

Alex: I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: New Japan does not book short title reigns. At least not anymore. New Japan cares about title reigns and still holds to the notion that a champion is only as good as the length of their reign and their successful title defenses. And New Japan has tried time and again to make Jay White into someone important. His last world title reign was a transitional reign brought about, ironically, by the creation of AEW. Now that he is on top of the company, there’s simply no way he’s losing in his first defense. Not to Okada and not to two AEW wrestlers that won’t be venturing over to Japan anytime soon. Hangman may have history with New Japan but there’s no way he’s beating White here, especially since he won’t be part of the upcoming G1 tournament. And Cole? He has never worked a meaningful tour in Japan, even if he might be “friends: with White.

I can see this match going around twenty minutes and having the typical chaos associated with four-way matches. Lots of quick and tense near-falls being broken up at the last possible moment. There might be some double- and triple-teaming against the biggest threats in the match (either White or Okada). But in the end, all the craziness and high-spots will lead to White stealing a win to retain his title. Whether he remains friends with Cole after this show remains to be seen.

Winner and STILL IWGP World Heavyweight Champion: ‘Switchblade’ Jay White

Matthew: This match has the potential to not only steal the show, but possible be a match of the year contender. Why AEW decided to wait to this past Wednesday to announce this match is truly beyond me. I expect these four guys to overcome the bad build however, and tear the house down. As for a winner, Jay White just captured the title a few weeks ago and I don’t see him losing it here. I will go with White getting the win after and long and very good match.

Winner: Jay White

John: It’s the second Fatal 4-Way match on the show, so hopefully they are placed apart in terms of match order. I would have preferred it if this match was just Okada vs. Page because I would love to see that as a singles match and I think it would be better than a 4-Way match. White is pretty good while Cole is great, but Cole also had multiple AEW World Title shots and now he gets another World Title shot. Since NJPW just put the IWGP World Title on White recently, I think they are going to want him to keep the title.

This might be the match of the night although sometimes 4-Way matches can get repetitive and I don’t find them as interesting as singles matches. I just think Okada is going to carry the match with the other three guys doing a great job as well. I’m excited to see Okada in an AEW ring. With no Danielson on the card, Okada is probably my favorite wrestler on the show. I’m a big Okada fan even though I don’t write about NJPW regularly. I watch plenty of it and I think it’s great that he’ll be in an AEW ring in Chicago on Sunday. It’s possible that Okada gets the win to get the title back, but I’ll go with the popular choice by picking White, who I think will pin Cole to get the win. White has been an ally of Cole, but they could do a “steal the pin” finish with White pinning his “friend” because the opportunity presented itself.

Winner: Jay White

AEW Interim World Championship: Jon Moxley vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

Joel: Moxley has wanted this match with Tanahashi for years so I’m glad he’s getting it. I hope the version of Tanahashi we get isn’t the one we saw on Dynamite. He did not look good in that match. Much like the IWGP Title, I don’t think Tony Khan wants the AEW World Title in the hands of somebody not currently under contract to AEW. So I’m going with Moxley here. He’s the best choice and probably the best choice to hold the world title while CM Punk is out.

Winner: Jon Moxley

Alex: As much as I would love to see Tanahashi mop the floor with Moxley and show how superior a wrestler he is, all of us here at TJR know that isn’t happening. AEW will not book an absentee champion like WWE did with Brock Lesnar in 2014-15, especially with CM Punk not even appearing in a non-wrestling capacity. They need their world champion on as many shows as possible and Moxley is still ‘the guy’ to many diehard AEW fans. Plus, this match is the logical conclusion to Moxley’s secondary storyline in AEW. He has gone through several top-level New Japan guys one by one: Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima, Minoru Suzuki, and KENTA. All of them are big names in Japan and now Moxley faces his biggest challenge in Tanahashi. But this is the Tanahashi of 2022, not the Tanahashi of 2012-2018. Years of wrestling like Eddy Guerrero and Bret Hart on a schedule that would make John Cena stop to catch his breath has really started to take its toll on the 45-year-old Ace.

I think Tanahashi will do what he does best and bust out a great performance in order to represent New Japan as best he can. But I don’t have high hopes for Moxley as Tanahashi’s dancing partner. Moxley’s brawling style won’t mesh perfectly with Tanahashi’s more traditional grappling approach and high-flying offense. Then again, I’ve been wrong before and for this match I hope to be proven wrong again by seeing a career-best performance from Moxley. And if there’s one wrestler that can pull that out of him, it’s Tanahashi.

Winner and NEW AEW Interim World Champion: Jon Moxley

Matthew: This obviously was not the original plan, with AEW having to quickly pivot after the CM Punk injury. Personally I hate Interim Champions, and wish this was just for the actual AEW World Championship. Moxley and Tanahashi are both huge stars however, and seeing them face off is unquestionably very cool. Picking a winner in this one seems easy, as I don’t see Tanahashi moving to America to defend the AEW title. Therefore I will go with Moxley to get the win and once again become AEW Champion.

Winner: Jon Moxley

John: This should be a lot of fun and it is a dream match for a lot of modern wrestling fans. Tanahashi is one of the best NJPW wrestlers ever and a lot of people would say one of the best wrestlers from any era in any country. However, as Alex pointed out, at 45 years old he’s lost a step. It happens to everybody. That’s life. I think Tanahashi is also more than capable of putting on a wrestling classic with anybody, so even though he is older, he’s going to be ready to put on a show with Moxley in this match. I also think it’s very unlikely that Tanahashi gets the win here although if he did then it would surprise some people, that’s for suer.

I’m glad that Moxley is in this spot because he deserves another run as the AEW World Champion even on an interim basis. Most of the time with the AEW World Title, they give the champions a long reign and rarely even give a rematch to a former champion. Sometimes, though, those former champions deserve another run with the title. Anyway, I don’t know how long CM Punk is out, but if he’s back by All Out then they can do the title unification match at that show with Moxley or Punk leaving as the true AEW World Champion. If it’s later in the year then do it at Full Gear. A Moxley win here seems very likely. I don’t think people will be surprised to see him ending the show as the champion again.

Winner AND NEW Interim AEW World Champion: Jon Moxley

BONUS TOPICS!

The Match I’m Looking Forward To The Most

Joel: Jay White vs. Kazuchika Okada vs. Adam Cole vs. “Hangman” Adam Page.

Alex: Moxley vs. Tanahashi.

Matthew: Jay White vs. Kazuchika Okada vs. Adam Cole vs. “Hangman” Adam Page.

John: Moxley vs. Tanahashi and Jay White vs. Kazuchika Okada vs. Adam Cole vs. “Hangman” Adam Page are even for me. Maybe I’d pick the 4-way due to the Okada factor.

 

The Match I Care About The Least

Joel: Will Ospreay vs. Orange Cassidy.

Alex: Thunder Rosa vs. Toni Storm.

Matthew: Max Caster and Gunn Club (Billy Gunn, Austin Gunn & Colten Gunn) vs. Yuya Uemura, Alex Coughlin, The DKC & Kevin Knight.

John: Bullet Club (Young Bucks, Hikuleo & El Phantasmo) vs. Darby Allin, Sting, Shingo Takagi & Hiromu Takahashi. Nothing to do with the talent. Just based on the build. I’d pick the Pre-Show match, but I like to pick something from the main show.

 

Longest Match

Joel: Jay White vs. Kazuchika Okada vs. Adam Cole vs. “Hangman” Adam Page.

Alex: Jay White vs. Kazuchika Okada vs. Adam Cole vs. “Hangman” Adam Page.

Matthew: Jay White vs. Kazuchika Okada vs. Adam Cole vs. “Hangman” Adam Page.

John: Jay White vs. Kazuchika Okada vs. Adam Cole vs. “Hangman” Adam Page. It’s unanimous.

 

Shortest Match

Joel: Bullet Club vs. Team Darby/Sting.

Alex: Will Ospreay vs. Orange Cassidy (10 minutes).

Matthew: This is AEW and NJPW, they don’t do short matches.

John: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. ????

 

Excitement Level on a Scale of 1-10 (1 being low, 10 being high)

Joel: 6. This card just feels like most NJPW cards these days. Just a bunch of sloppily thrown together multi man matches with no story and no real direction. This show was clearly booked with the intention of Punk, Bryan, and Okada headlining this card in some fashion and they now don’t have two of those. I firmly believe CM Punk won the World Title when he did so he could headline the United Center as AEW World Champion. Even without him, AEW has done a horrible job building this show. NJPW has done basically nothing to build this show. Their booking has been mediocre since the pandemic started. I think the matches will deliver as they often do on AEW shows but AEW needs to stop relying on just throwing together matches with no story hoping fans won’t care. Otherwise, PPVs like this will be forgotten about in a couple of weeks.

Alex: 7 – Even though this card is alright, it’s a far cry from what was expected when the show was first announced. But this isn’t necessarily NJPW’s or AEW’s faults. Injuries have forced unfortunate card changes and a lot of it is interpromotional politics making certain decisions difficult. Personally, I would’ve booked a few more random singles matches just for the fun of it instead of some useless multi-man matches that no-one will care about to give the show more importance and convince enough fans to want another such show in the future. Unfortunately, this card is so underwhelming (relatively speaking) that another AEWxNJPW card might not ever happen again, especially if ratings and buyrates disappoint once all is said and done.

Matthew: 6: This should be much higher, but the build for most of these matches has been horrendous. Match quality will unquestionably be high, with some possibly even reaching five stars. Stories matter as well however, and this show is greatly lacking them. Hopefully if AEW and NJPW do decide to do this again next year, they do a much better job of building the matches for the show and making people care about them.

John: I’ll go 7.5 here. I think the match quality is going to carry it with several matches around the four star level and a perhaps a few Match of the Year contenders if things go well. While I’m sure I will rate matches highly, you know some people with an AEW-NJPW bias will rate them even higher than me. I’m most excited about Okada in an AEW ring, the same goes for Tanahashi and seeing who the mystery guy is against Sabre. I wish the build was a lot better, but that’s just how this show is. I think in terms of match results, it might be even with AEW and NJPW wins, for the most part.

In Closing

John: I’ll be back with a review of AEW-NJPW Forbidden on TJRWrestling.net as usual. Check that out during the show or after it’s over.

You can also tweet me @johnreport. If you want to send an email, send it to me at mrjohncanton@gmail.com as well. Thanks for reading.