AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door HOT TAKE
For·bid·den - /fərˈbidn/ - not allowed; banned.
Door - /dôr/ - a hinged, sliding, or revolving barrier at the entrance to a building, room, or vehicle, or in the framework of a cupboard
Whether it be grand fiction, historical figures or the most anointed athletes who have ever lived, fans from across all spectrums and genres have greatly discussed and argued what would happen if their most beloved personalities and competitors could transverse realms and compete on equal footing - and who would then stand supreme when the dust settled from the insane scenes that would surely follow.
Such craziness would be the stuff of immediate legend because there was no way it could actually ever happen. Until now. Until the formation of All Elite Wrestling. Under President and CEO Tony Khan, AEW has continuously gone against the grain, breaking down barriers and shattering expectations, revealing and then crossing through Forbidden Doors to send its combatants and management to other promotions, but no one ever suspected that we'd see those mad scientist plans climax at the United Center in Chicago against the might of New Japan Pro Wrestling.
But, that's the beauty of 2022 and that's the beauty of The Forbidden Door - two promotions that are completely different, yet each revere fighting spirit, valuing the spirit of competition and the physical war that defines professional wrestling, bell to bell, above all else. Live on FITE this Sunday, the Forbidden Door explodes open as athletes from two very different walks of life, each of whom are competing for their home promotion as much as themselves, head to the ring in the Windy City of Chicago.
Competitors will win. Competitors will lose. Their promotions will never be the same again.
FITE is proud to broadcast AEW x New Japan Pro Wrestling as they present The Forbidden Door, exclusively for our international global audience.
The Forbidden Door will feature the following big time fights and championship contests:
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jon Moxley to crown the Interim AEW World Champion
AEW fans were SO close to seeing CM Punk vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi squaring off for the first time before the level of competition in All Elite Wrestling led to Punk requiring surgery on his foot and being out of action. Faced with a tough situation, AEW President Tony Khan declared an Interim World Champion would be crowned at Forbidden Door, with the winner facing Punk when the Second City Saint is cleared to return to the ring.
For Jon Moxley, this match is a chance for him to once again shock the system and change the game, forcing all eyes across the world to be focused squarely on him and his unique anarchy-thriving style of in-ring mayhem. Since marching out of WWE, Moxley has had two homes in professional wrestling, each of which he has torn through like a riotous tornado - AEW and NJPW.
While he has captured important championships, including the AEW World title and the IWGP United State title in each promotion and has enraptured fans across the globe, for someone as driven as Moxley, there is one thing that even he hasn't achieved - that momentous moment where the world stops and everyone, everywhere gazes upon him as the dealmaker, the triumphant soul by which all others are measured. Over the course of his career, Moxley has been the soul of the Shield, the Game Changer and the master of the mayhem in alleys and arenas across the world, but the one thing Jon Moxley wants more than anything else is to hold true power. A victory over Tanahashi gives Moxley the power - the power to rule, the power to enforce his will, the power to not give a shit. If Moxley can quickly trash and take out Tanahashi, he'll be the man walking out with the gold and even more importantly, pure, true power.
For Hiroshi Tanahashi, one of the true definitive New Japan Pro Wrestling competitors and a living legend by any definition, this is easily the most important match he has entered the ring for inside the United States. A victory here would give him a World Championship win on multiple continents as well as a way to permanently entrench his legacy worldwide. If Tanahashi can connect with the High Fly Flow or the Slingblade, he will not only score a victory over Jon Moxley, but he will change the trajectory of AEW and New Japan forever, at the same time. Given his penchant for competing in long bouts and driving his way through such physical and mental stress in order to achieve a victory, the longer this goes, the more likely we'll see Tanahashi make history. Tanahashi already ruled the Tokyo Dome, Korakuen Hall and New Japan itself, but now Tanahashi looks to rule the entire world.
When this battle ends, one man will be the Interim Champion. One man will hold the power. One man will face off with CM Punk down the line. One man gets to truly define what the legacy of the first-ever Forbidden Door event will be in the time capsule that is professional wrestling history.
If there was ever a more insane combination of great professional wrestlers and major attitudes in one ring at one time with a top World Championship at stake, it hasn't taken place in this reality….and every single one of them is after two things - the title and redemption.
For many fans, perhaps the greatest professional wrestler living today is Kazuchika Okada, who has awed and entertained fans across every continent with his incredible in-ring prowess and fighting spirit. His shocking appearance this week on AEW Dynamite kicked the momentum for the Forbidden Door up a new notch in terms of momentum. Okada is for many, the living, breathing embodiment of the New Japan Pro Wrestling fighting spirit, who has captured every major title and defeated every major opponent. When he walks into the Forbidden Door, he isn't just seeking another line for his resume. He's seeking redemption.
Okada traveled all the way to the United States looking for the reigning and defending IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, Jay White, who shockingly dethroned him as NJPW Dominion just days ago. White, the leader of the Bullet Club, has told the world many times over that he's the most important competitor in the world, boasting he has single-handedly sold out Madison Square Garden and changed the face of professional wrestling. White walks into the Forbidden Door believing he is better than everyone else in the world, but his ego still desires something greater than just another victory - he wants the redemption that comes with defeating three top competitors and thumbing that victory in the eye of every fan watching internationally on FITE.
Adam Cole steps back into the ring this Sunday after nursing several injuries in the wake of his Owen Hart Foundation Tournament win over Samoa Joe. For Cole, this match not only represents his chance to ascend ever higher in both AEW and New Japan but to shove a win in the face of Jay White, who he has exchanged words with in recent weeks as well as Hangman Page, someone Cole has collided with in the past inside the ring. The championship bout allows Cole to change the narrative within all of professional wrestling to force the attention back on him. Championship gold is something Cole has never been a stranger to over the course of his career and a victory here would be the type of redemption an athlete as driven as Cole never quits desiring, because he has an insatiable hunger for success matched only by his own ego.
Then, there's former AEW World Champion Hangman Page, who is seeking to carve his own personal redemption story against all that oppose him. After losing the AEW title to CM Punk at Double or Nothing, Page has become more and more embittered and driven to regain his former stature as champion. One of AEW's most proficient pugilists, Page has never stepped back from a challenge and a fight as deep and as dangerous as this one may be just the thing the Hangman needs to recharge his batteries and refocus himself towards the top of not just AEW, but New Japan as well.
With four competitors who have all graced the heavens of professional wrestling greatness, it's impossible to wager who will have the true advantage, because on any given day, all of these men could easily be the best professional wrestler in the world, and now FITE fans will get to see who emerges IWGP World Heavyweight Champion live at The Forbidden Door this Sunday.
Bryan Danielson's mystery man vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
It was supposed to be the first time ever, dream match meeting of two of professional wrestling's most technically profound pugilists, sneering mirror images of the other in New Japan Pro Wrestling's Zack Sabre Jr. and The American Dragon Bryan Danielson. For someone like Danielson, who prides himself on his ability to aggressively out-maneuver and out-perform his opponents in the ultimate game of human chess, not being cleared to compete has to be a mighty blow to his ego.
Undaunted, Danielson declared on Dynamite that he had found the one man he trusts to enter the squared circle and take out Sabre Jr., promising that Sabre wouldn't learn who it was until this mystery man entered the ring. With Bryan's insane tenure, one has to wonder whether he's tapped a former WWE, Ring of Honor or New Japan Pro Wrestling partner or opponent to take on his cause and take ZSJ down a notch.
For Sabre, who prides himself on breaking down his opponents mentally and physically, having to do so without any advance mental preparation or knowledge of who he's going to lock up with is going to force him to battle even harder right out of the gate, instead of his usual long, drawn out in-ring process. While Bryan vs. ZSJ will have to wait for another day to shock and awe the global FITE audience, fans will be predicting who this mystery competitor will be all the way to bell time this Sunday evening.
AEW World Women's Champion Thunder Rosa vs. Toni Storm
Since capturing the AEW World Women's Championship from Dr. Britt Baker, DDS, Thunder Rosa has taken on all comers, with the exception of her opponent this Sunday at the Forbidden Door PPV, Toni Storm.
Since invading AEW, Storm has followed a path similar to the one that brought stardom and gold to Thunder Rosa - a clear, concise series of victories that captured the imagination of AEW fans across the FITE cosmos.
Storm's high-flying, hard-fighting accomplishments in making it all the way to the finals of the first-ever Owen Hart Foundation tournament as well as the spirit she has shown inside the ring makes her almost a mirror image of Thunder Rosa's hard-nosed, lucha-infused, MMA-inspired battles.
Each has battled their way from their native countries - Mexico and New Zealand - to achieve global glory and an infinite fan base that have supported them in their ascension to this moment Sunday evening live on FITE. The Forbidden Doors means many things to many athletes and fans, but those who crave great women's professional wrestling, the countdown is on until two of the most renowned, beloved fighters in AEW history face off to see who is truly the best athlete in All Elite Wrestling's women's division.
Will Ospreay is one of the most athletically gifted professional wrestlers of this or any other generation. The problem is that the leader of the United Empire will tell you over and over and never let you forget it. Brash and proud and loud, Ospreay will rise to the heavens to drive his opponents down to hell and never, ever let his greatness as one of the true aerial assault specialists in professional wrestling leave your mind. While he has evolved since making his New Japan debut into an ever-more dangerous competitor, the one thing that remains permanent about Ospreay is his attitude.
Orange Cassidy of All Elite Wrestling is the absolute polar opposite. While he's continued to grow as a competitor, Cassidy's attitude is never more than a shrug. He's always laid back, no matter how intense the situation, and while his in-ring prowess is never in question, Cassidy will never be confused for Ospreay when it comes to over the top, animated braggadociousness.
But, that understated slacker method that Cassidy exudes has shocked the best of opponents, including former AEW World Champion Chris Jericho. While Ospreay believes his stature is well above those who love and support professional wrestling, Cassidy is the everyman, one with the fans - and that, as much as taunts he gives opponents and his performances in the ring, are why the fans believe in his ability to accomplish the impossible.
Two very different styles of competitors will clash for the first time ever with one of Japan's most prestigious championships in the line, live on FITE.
Malakai Black vs. Pac vs. Miro vs. Tomohiro Ishii to determine the first-ever AEW All-Atlantic Champion.
All Elite Wrestling will enshrine the first-ever All-Atlantic Champion this Sunday at the Forbidden Door in Chicago with four stellar, internationally renowned competitors vying to earn their place in history once and for all in the Windy City.
New Japan Pro Wrestling's Stone Pitbull Tomohiro Ishii is hard-nosed, no-nonsense competitor who over the course of his career, has brawled through his own unique trail of chaos and glory that will be forever intertwined with his innate toughness. He steps into the Forbidden Door as the finalist with the most experience but with a field of competition this varied and tough, even Ishii will have his work cut out for him.
Since returning to AEW, Miro has indeed been "The Redeemer", destroying everyone in his path as he enforces his will and shatters bodies and souls alike. He has promised to walk out the first champion and if anyone matches up equally with Ishii from a physical standpoint, it may very well be Miro as they are each Kaiju beasts come to life.
However, the addition of the dark assassin known as Malakai Black has brought a dark shadow to this championship bout. After earning his way into the title match at Forbidden Door on AEW Dynamite, Black finds himself in his biggest AEW opportunity to date. A victory here will not just send a chill down the spine of professional wrestling fans and promotions across the globe, but will also allow Black to plant his flag into pro wrestling history once and for all, bringing the House of Black to an even greater, darker platform.
One might not call him a hero, but perhaps the world has called for a bastard to change the course of history and in AEW, there is no greater bastard than PAC, The international star is an intense performer who can soar through the stratosphere as quickly as he can break down the body part of his opposition. With three truly tough, calloused competitors across the ring from him, PAC's high-risk style and all-out offense may be the variable that buck the odds and shocks the world live on FITE.
As Mr. Burns once famously said, "Release the hounds."
While much of The Forbidden Door has been built around the best potential in-ring battles inside the ring, this Trios bout is all but guaranteed to be an international incident in the making. Just days before AEW Blood and Guts on FITE's AEW+, Eddie Kingston and Chris Jericho will face off before they are encased inside a steel cage.
Jericho will be backed by the immortally tough Minoru Suzuki, the leader of NJPW's Suzuki-Gun, who has brought physical punishment and his own patented badassery to every corner of the FITE globe his entire career as well as the arrogant TNT Champion Sammy Guevara, accompanied by hellcat Tay Conti. Kingston will be matched with Blackpool Combat Club's Wheeler Yuta and NJPW's Shota Umono with all competitors primed for a truly brutal, physical war that will serve as an unofficial preview for Blood and Guts 2022.
ROH World Tag Team Champions FTR vs. IWGP Tag Team Champions Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb vs. Roppongi Vice with all titles on the line.
In a true winner take all scenario, FTR, who have been collecting Championships all over the world since coming to All Elite Wrestling, will have a chance to add even more radiant glory to their resume while also potentially suffering one of the most embarrassing defeats of their career.
With the ROH and IWGP Tag Team Championships each on the line at the same time, The United Empire's powerhouse combination of Jeff Cobb and Great O-Khan stand at that very same precipice of glory and humiliation, except for Cobb and O-Khan, Forbidden Door will be the grandest stage they have stepped onto as a tandem, potentially spreading the gospel of Will Ospreay and the United Empire to the masses beyond New Japan Pro Wrestling's faithful.
Even with two incredible tag team championship teams set to collide, the tandem to keep an eye on here may truly be Rocky Romero and Trent Beretta. Roppongi Vice has carved a very unique and pure tag team career in both the United States and Japan with their reunion this year having been well received in AEW. Now, they have a chance to shock the world by capturing two championships at once, springboarding themselves to the top of the entire tag team scene internationally. With everything to win and nothing to lose, Roppongi Vice will hit the ring in Chicago in a truly rare environment - the championship match where the challengers are not the underdog!
As if everything else already noted isn't enough, The Icon Sting, who has battled at numerous Tokyo Dome shows over the course of his career, will lead a dream team of the greatest Junior Heavyweight living today Horimu Takahashi, the sheer powerhouse known as Shingo and the elite daredevil madman himself Darby Allin as they march to war against the combined international might of Bullet Club members The Young Bucks, second-generation beast Hikuleo and internationally renowned Juniors star El Phantasmo. This eccentric fever-dream battle could only take place in the hellscape known as The Forbidden Door!
Believe it or not, there's more! From Keith Lee to El Desperado to The Gunn Club to The New Japan Pro Wrestling Dojo combatants to The Acclaimed and more, tons of stars from NJPW and AEW alike will be in battle this Sunday, at Forbidden Door, an event so unique and so massive that it promises that nothing will ever be the same, for you, for me, for AEW, for NJPW and hell for even FITE.
Where were you when the world changed? When you answer that question in the years to come, you'll answer the four letters that exemplify the greatness of combat sports programming - FITE.
Mike Johnson is the lead reporter for PWInsider.com and has been writing about professional wrestling since 1996. He can be found on Twitter @MikePWInsider and MikeJohnsonWrites.com.