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Jon Moxley Steals the Show During Claudio Castagnoli’s Debut at ‘Forbidden Door’

Jon Moxley at Forbidden Door

On a night that paid tribute to the stars of New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Jon Moxley emerged as the new AEW champion.

AEW partnered with New Japan for the Forbidden Door pay-per-view, providing viewers a taste of the brilliant wrestling that exists on a different continent. This was also a chance to see the two worlds collide, which was executed perfectly in the main event as Moxley battled New Japan’s “Ace” Hiroshi Tanahashi. The match was full of physicality and blood, and it ended with Moxley beginning his second reign as AEW champion.

In signature AEW fashion, the night featured surprises. Katsuyori Shibata unexpectedly made his AEW debut, and Claudio Castagnoli—who went by Cesaro in WWE—replaced the injured Bryan Danielson to defeat Zack Sabre Jr. There were also highlight reel performances from Will Ospreay, Orange Cassidy, Shingo Takagi, and Pac.

Here are the results from Forbidden Door:

  • Chris Jericho, Minoru Suzuki, and Sammy Guevara defeated Eddie Kingston, Shota Umino, and Wheeler Yuta
  • FTR defeated United Empire and Roppongi Vice to become the IWGP tag team champions
  • Pac became the inaugural AEW All-Atlantic champion in a four-way match with Clark Connors, Miro, and Malakai Black by forcing Connors to tap
  • Shingo Takagi, Sting, and Darby Allin defeated The Young Bucks and El Phantasmo in a six-man tag
  • Thunder Rosa successfully defended her AEW women’s title against Toni Storm
  • IWGP United States champion Will Ospreay defeated Orange Cassidy
  • Claudio Castagnoli defeated Zack Sabre Jr.
  • “Switchblade” Jay White retained the IWGP world heavyweight title in a four-way match against Kazuchika Okada, “Hangman” Adam Page, and Adam Cole
  • Jon Moxley defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi to become the interim AEW champion

There was a genuine intensity from the New Japan talent to work in front of such a passionate crowd at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, and every match on the show was solid. The pay-per-view kicked off with an entertaining six-man tag that highlighted Chris Jericho’s ongoing feud with Eddie Kingston. Jericho picked up the victory, pinning Shota Umino, and the whole encounter built to this Wednesday’s Blood and Guts match on Dynamite pitting The Jericho Appreciation Society against The Blackpool Combat Club, Kingston, Santana, and Ortiz. The win gave Jericho the man advantage for Blood and Guts, a nice stipulation for this match. Later in the show, there was a great backstage segment where Jericho further added to the moment by throwing a fireball in Umino’s face.

The opener was followed by FTR adding to their tag team title collection, winning the IWGP tag team titles in a match that also featured the United Empire’s Jeff Cobb and Great-O-Khan and Roppongi Vice. FTR continues their career-defining stretch as babyfaces, and it will be appointment-viewing to see them defend their newly acquired titles in Japan before pursuing the Young Bucks and the AEW tag titles. Another new champion was then crowned, as Pac pinned Clark Connors to become the first-ever All-Atlantic champion. There was another solid six-man where Shingo Takagi shined beside Sting and Darby Allin against the Bucks and El Phantasmo. Interestingly, up to that point, every pin fall was taken from someone on the New Japan roster, with Umino, Rocky Romero, Connors, and El Phantasmo doing the honors.

In the lone women’s match, Thunder Rosa defended Toni Storm. Rosa just passed 100 days into her title reign, which is still fairly short, but this stood out as a real opportunity to establish Storm by putting the belt on her. Even if it were a short title reign, a win by Storm would have given new life in her feud against Rosa. And it was also disappointing that women from the Stardom roster in Japan—which has the same parent company as New Japan—were not part of Forbidden Door. This would have been a perfect time to introduce a handful of Stardom stars, like Syuri, Mayu Iwatani, and Utami Hayashishita. Hopefully that will be the case if there is a second Forbidden Door.

The match of the night was Will Ospreay against Orange Cassidy. It was an outstanding performance from both men, and it is possible that Cassidy is even more of an athletic marvel than Ospreay. There was little question about the finish here, but the match was so captivating that it made viewers forget this was destined to be a win for Ospreay. It also begs the question of what Cassidy needs to do to get to the next level with his character, as few possess the same skill set in the ring. Most likely, he will need a much stronger presence on the microphone in order to reach that next tier. Following the win, while Ospreay and the United Empire were beating down Cassidy, it was a real surprise to see Katsuyori Shibata make the save for Cassidy. Every Shibata appearance is uplifting, and this was a great way for New Japan to reintroduce him to an even wider audience.

Another surprise took place when Claudio Castagnoli made his AEW debut against Zack Sabre Jr. The artist formerly known as Cesaro was an immediate hit with the crowd, and the United Center was ready to explode when it appeared he was going to beat Sabre in mere seconds. In retrospect, that may have been the right call, as it would have provided a sharp contrast to the rest of the card. As expected, Castagnoli and Sabre had a technically sound bout, with Castagnoli emerging victorious. It will be fascinating to see how Castagnoli navigates the waters in AEW, and it may be most effective if he turns heel and becomes an instant challenger for Moxley.

The IWGP world heavyweight title match featured an amazing collection of talent in reigning champion “Switchblade” Jay White, Kazuchika Okada, Adam Cole, and “Hangman” Adam Page. The match had its moments, but it never hit that elusive next level. It was hurt by an abrupt finish, where White quickly pinned Cole with no build or fanfare.

Something went wrong here—Okada missed a Rainmaker on Cole, White slid in the ring and hit the Switchblade on Okada, and then quickly pinned Cole, who shouldn’t have even been hurt. While it may add to the tension between White and Cole, the execution of the finish left a lot to be desired.

Forbidden Door closed with a spectacle of a main event between Moxley and Tanahashi. This was hard-hitting, gory, and full of emotion. It ended with a battered and bloodied Moxley hitting the Paradigm Shift for the victory. This was the right way to finish the show, and it was especially cool how the crowd responded with such appreciation for Tanahashi.

The aftermath was chaotic, and a bit unnecessary, with a brawl between the opposing sides of this upcoming week’s Blood and Guts match. That moment should have belonged to Moxley, who could have cut a promo offering his respect to Tanahashi and celebrating his title win. But the right man won, as Moxley—a signature AEW star—has once again staked his place atop the company.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.