The “Forbidden Door” will open this Sunday as AEW and NJPW join forces for their first co-promoted event.
What promised to be a pay-per-view full of interpromotional dream matches has been severely hindered by AEW’s current injury crisis. With CM Punk and Bryan Danielson suffering injuries and Kenny Omega still out of action, Forbidden Door will be more of an entry point into the AEW-NJPW partnership than a definitive supercard.
Punk was originally scheduled to defend the AEW World Championship against NJPW superstar Hiroshi Tanahashi in the main event of Forbidden Door. But—just days after winning the title—Punk suffered a foot injury that required surgery, keeping him out of action for the show. AEW has created an interim world title in Punk’s absence, with either Jon Moxley or Tanahashi set to be crowned as interim champion on Sunday.
As much as Moxley vs. Tanahashi is a fitting main event for Forbidden Door, it’s not quite as special as Punk vs. Tanahashi would have been. Moxley regularly competes for NJPW and would have inevitably faced Tanahashi one-on-one at some point. A Punk vs. Tanahashi match is something that never seemed possible until it was on the verge of happening. While NJPW was rising in popularity in the United States over the past decade, Punk was either with WWE or out of pro wrestling entirely. Seeing Punk vs. Tanahashi in Punk’s hometown of Chicago would have been surreal. It’s the type of dream match that everyone hoped for when Forbidden Door was announced.
Danielson not being cleared to compete at Forbidden Door is an equally big blow. Danielson was supposed to face Zack Sabre Jr. in what would have been a matchup of the two best technical wrestlers of their era. More than a decade removed from his last match against Sabre, it would have been a chance for Danielson to prove that Sabre still hasn't surpassed him.
Sabre will instead take on a mystery opponent “hand-picked” by Danielson. While replacing Danielson with an equal wrestler is impossible, former WWE star Cesaro debuting in AEW and stepping in for Danielson would go a long way in making up for it.
Bad luck has marred the build to AEW and NJPW’s first supershow, but it’s still incredible that this event is even happening. Pro wrestling is at its best when companies work together to give fans new and exciting matchups. For too long the COVID-19 pandemic kept the industry constrained and limited that talent movement. AEW and NJPW are natural partners and can both benefit greatly from this working relationship. AEW wouldn't even exist if it wasn’t for its founding fathers becoming breakout stars while working for NJPW in the 2010s. Sharing talent and collaborating on events will make both companies stronger than they would have been on their own.
The Forbidden Door main card begins at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday, with three matches also set to air on the pre-show. Here’s a full rundown of the lineup, along with predictions for each match:
Jon Moxley vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi for the interim AEW World Championship
Though it’s not as much of a marquee main event as Punk vs. Tanahashi would have been, Moxley vs. Tanahashi is probably the better in-ring match. It would be great if Tanahashi was able to have a short run as interim world champion until Punk makes his return, but Tanahashi likely won’t be able to appear in AEW often enough to make that a viable possibility.
Moxley is a strong choice as interim champion. He had a great world championship reign in 2020 and should always be near the title picture. Hopefully Punk is able to return in time for an undisputed title match against Moxley at All Out this September.
Prediction: Jon Moxley wins
Jay White vs. Kazuchika Okada vs. Hangman Adam Page vs. Adam Cole for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship
One of the biggest disappointments with the Forbidden Door card is the fact that Okada isn’t involved in a one-on-one match. This four-way will be stellar, but anything that gives Okada less time to shine is a negative. He’s one of the greatest wrestlers to ever live. Just having Okada appear at a sold-out United Center will be a special moment in AEW history.
We’re only two weeks removed from White defeating Okada to win NJPW’s top championship. White isn’t going to lose the title this soon, though it will be interesting to see how dissension between him and Cole gets us closer to a Bullet Club/Undisputed Elite split.
Prediction: Jay White retains
Thunder Rosa vs. Toni Storm for the AEW Women’s World Championship
Rosa vs. Storm is the only match on Sunday’s card that isn’t an interpromotional bout (NJPW does not have a women’s division). It’s surprising that this isn’t being saved for a future AEW PPV. If the match was happening further into Rosa’s reign, it’d be easier to buy her losing the title. While Storm has the potential to be the face of the AEW women’s division, Rosa’s title reign is just now kicking into gear.
Prediction: Thunder Rosa retains
Will Ospreay vs. Orange Cassidy for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship
Cassidy being Ospreay’s opponent at Forbidden Door has drawn a significant amount of criticism. There may have been better options to face Ospreay than a “gimmick” wrestler like Cassidy, but this match is guaranteed to exceed any low expectations. It will follow the same formula as PAC vs. Cassidy from 2020’s Revolution, with Cassidy shining when he decides to take the match seriously but ultimately falling short.
Prediction: Will Ospreay retains
Four-way match to crown the inaugural AEW All-Atlantic champion: Miro vs. PAC vs. Malakai Black vs. Clark Connors
The creation of the All-Atlantic Championship was a curious decision by AEW. With so many titles existing between AEW and ROH, the last thing the company needed was a new secondary championship. It feels especially redundant given that we haven’t been told what makes the All-Atlantic Championship all that different from AEW’s other titles.
The Forbidden Door card took another hit when NJPW’s Tomohiro Ishii had to be replaced by Connors due to a knee injury. Of the three AEW representatives in the match, PAC would benefit most by becoming the first All-Atlantic champion. He’s been with AEW since the start of the promotion but has yet to hold a title.
Prediction: PAC wins
Winner-take-all match for the ROH and IWGP tag team titles: FTR vs. Jeff Cobb & Great-O-Khan vs. Roppongi Vice
Both the ROH and IWGP tag team titles will be on the line in this winner-take-all match. FTR have been one of the highlights in all of pro wrestling this year, and them winning NJPW’s tag team titles would open the door for even more incredible matches. The promise of FTR heading to Japan to defend the IWGP tag team titles is one of the most exciting results that could happen on Sunday.
Prediction: FTR win
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. mystery opponent
Claudio Castagnoli, the former Cesaro in WWE, is the only available choice that could make up for Danielson being injured. Aligning with Danielson and the Blackpool Combat Club would be the perfect introduction for Castagnoli. Even at 41 years old, he has the chance to prove in AEW that he’s capable of being the main eventer that WWE never saw him as.
If Castagnoli is Danielson’s replacement, he can’t lose in his debut. Castagnoli should be given every opportunity to be a top star in AEW.
Prediction: Claudio Castagnoli wins
Chris Jericho, Minoru Suzuki and Sammy Guevara vs. Eddie Kingston, Wheeler Yuta and Shota Umino
This six-man tag match is taking place three days before the Jericho Appreciation Society and a team led by Kingston collide in a Blood and Guts match on Dynamite. Assuming that Kingston will get his revenge on Jericho in the Blood and Guts match, Jericho, Suzuki & Guevara should be victorious at Forbidden Door.
Prediction: Chris Jericho, Minoru Suzuki and Sammy Guevara win
The Young Bucks, Hikuleo and El Phantasmo vs. Sting, Darby Allin, Shingo Takagi and Hiromu Takahashi
It would have been nice to see The Young Bucks in a higher profile match with a better build at Forbidden Door. Still, any Young Bucks match is guaranteed to be a contender for best of the night. And it’s great that Forbidden Door will have Los Ingobernables de Japon representation in Takagi and Takahashi.
The Young Bucks are the current AEW tag team champions. Sting or Allin should get the win for their team here, setting up a future title match.
Prediction: Sting, Darby Allin, Shingo Takagi and Hiromu Takahashi win
QT Marshall & Aaron Solo vs. Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI (pre-show)
Once in contention to main event the PPV, Goto will instead team with his Chaos stablemate YOSHI-HASHI against The Factory’s Marshall and Solo on the Forbidden Door pre-show. This will be one of the most definitive wins that NJPW gets against AEW all night.
Prediction: Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI win
Keith Lee & Swerve Strickland vs. El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru (pre-show)
With a breakup of their team on the horizon, Lee and Strickland will take on the Suzuki-gun duo of Desperado and Kanemaru. Tensions between Lee and Strickland have been building since Strickland eliminated Lee from a battle royal two weeks ago. A loss here should lead to the official end of their partnership.
Prediction: El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru win
Max Caster, Billy Gunn, Austin Gunn & Colten Gunn vs. Yuya Uemura, Alex Coughlin, Kevin Knight & The DKC (pre-show)
This match will pit Max Caster and The Gunn Club against a team from NJPW’s LA Dojo. The Acclaimed and Gunn Club pairing is one of the most fun things in AEW, and they’re the perfect choice to open any show. It would be surprising if the dojo team beat a featured AEW act, albeit a comedic one.
Prediction: Max Caster & The Gunn Club win
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