HomeTelevisionAEW x NJPW Forbidden Door 2023 Review: Omega & Ospreay Deliver a...

AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door 2023 Review: Omega & Ospreay Deliver a Modern Classic

Forbidden Door Poster
Photo Credit: All Elite Wrestling

I’ll just get it out of the way now. This was a fun, exciting, enjoyable pay-per-view. It ended before midnight and not a single match felt rushed. A+ show. Truly. The pre-show was jammed with four matches in an hour, yet somehow these matches did not feel crammed in the slightest. 

Some great additions to the show, both English and Japanese ring announcers. NJPW 20-count rules. It’s the little things. 

Pre-Show Matches:

Mogul Embassy defeated Chaos

The right opener for the pre-show. Crowd appeared to continue filing in, but imagine as you enter the arena, the sounds of cheers and fan eruptions welcoming you and driving up the anticipation for the rest of the night. A fun eight-man, nothing serious on the line, which to be perfectly honest, seems to be a healthier theme in wrestling. Just give me good matches. 

Athena defeated Billie Starkz to advance in the Women’s Owen Hart Memorial Tournament

I have not seen much of Starkz, so I was skeptical if this would be a five-minute mauling. It was anything but, this kid impressed the hell out of me. Yes, needs more in-ring time but if they are giving her a pre-PPV spot, there is a lot of confidence being placed in who I believe will be a top-tier wrestler in the future. Athena is a great heel. Let’s keep her there. 

El Phantasmo defeated Stu Grayson

Big Grayson fan here. So glad to see him in a high-profile spot. Again, a great match, and to be honest, if there was more story or visibility, this would have fit nicely on the main program. Stu losing was a surprise, but I suppose we can’t have everyone from AEW winning tonight. 

(Bushi, Hiromu Takahashi, Shingo) defeated LIJ United Empire (TJP, Kyle Fletcher, Jeff Cobb)

What a stampede! Jeff Cobb is always a favorite. The right match to close the pre-show, giving fans the right hype to start off the main program. Everyone got their signatures in, a bit shorter than I would have liked, but regardless of winner, very enjoyable. 

Now, onto the main show, AEW Forbidden Door!

We kick off, by request, or I should say, demand by the champ, MJF retains the AEW World Championship against Hiroshi Tanahashi

It was astonishing how well they worked together. My running theme of the night was “not on my 2023 bingo card, nor conceived of being on any bingo card.” Both played mind-games, MJF ever portraying the classic heel, vintage grabbing ropes while the opponent trapped in an abdominal stretch. I also enjoy MJF yelling and shouting throughout his matches. It adds a little bit of Flair… uh, I mean, “flare” to it. Tanahashi clearly stepped out of his typical in-ring comfort zone multiple times for positive results. Of course, in typical dirty MJF fashion, manages to use the Dynamite Diamond Ring to knock out his challenger for the win. 

This was the right move. MJF doesn’t want nor need a clean win. Hell, he was ready to get himself counted out too. My one gripe, which you will see a few times through this review, is the predictability issue. Had this not been billed as a championship bout, then we could believe Tanahashi capable of defeating MJF. The moment a title is on the line in a scenario such as this, you know there’s no title change. However, it does save grace the champ had to cheat to win. 

CM Punk defeated Satomi Kojima to advance in the Owen Hart Men’s Memorial Tournament

Again, the odds of Kojima winning an AEW tournament match is very unlikely. If this was KENTA, it might have been a different story. Punk being booed relentlessly didn’t faze him, in fact he leaned right into it all, because he can, and he will. We got Punk impersonating Hulk Hogan with a big boot followed by a curvy leg drop. Kojima is still a beast, or Punk sold it enough to make him look like it. It took a few tries, until Punk finally scored the GTS for the win. 

I have to point out, Kojima hit a near-picture perfect top rope elbow drop, except it landed a bit low. A bit too low. Very low. You get my meaning? 

Despite being booed, and playing up the heel persona, post-match Punk showed respect to Kojima. Gotta admit, in some ways Punk is pretty classy.

Orange Cassidy retains the AEW International Championship against Daniel Garcia, Zack Sabre Jr., and Katsuyori Shibata. 

This was an unpredictable match. While I made the prediction OC would retain, throughout the match I felt my guess would turn out to be wrong. The only one who I thought would not win was ZSJ. However any of the other three would seem believable. Pure fun and enjoyment here. Sure, we had some over-the-top multiple strikes or holds where everyone took turns, but come on, it’s a freaking show people. Don’t get so angry about a few light-hearted spots. I will point out some major eye-catching highlights. Shibata is a monster. He destroys people.

Shibata and ZSJ clearly have some beef going on between them, their one-on-one moments were jew dropping. Mr. Entertainer, Daniel Garcia tried multiple times to intervene, comedic dancing and all, wound up getting parked on his tukas for it, until he rallied and stood tall later on. Prompted chants of “You’re a wrestler!” on more than one occasion. Sometimes I am skeptical of four-way matches, but this was the most fluid contest imaginable. Crazy finish with Shibata knocking out Garcia, but Cassidy launching Shibata to the floor, stealing the pinfall was wild. 

At one point it appeared Shibata legit knocked Garcia out cold. 

After the match ended, Sabre Jr., Shibata, and Cassidy all had words while holding their respective championships. If this is the beginning of more matches between them, all I have to say is YES PLEASE. 

Sanada retains the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship against “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry w/ Hook

Surprisingly much better than anticipated. This started out from exchanges to a gradual increase in intensity and one-upmanship. Perry showed a more aggressive side, likely responding to the live crowd turning on the longtime babyface. Had this not been a championship match, I would have believed Perry could defeat Sanada, because the match was just that good. Sanada had a series of consecutive moves, culminating with a picture-perfect moonsault for the three count.

The finish caught many by surprise, in 2023, when was the last time someone didn’t kick out of a moonsault. Regardless if this was a planned finish or not, it drives the point home one does not always need a specific finisher to win. Hell, after a long-drawn out battle, a big move could and should end it. There was a time where a piledriver, not always a wrestler’s specific finisher, would be the “big move” to end a long match. One could say the same for Destroyers, but those are as common as an armdrag. 

The expected finally happened, as Perry and Hook made their way up the ramp, Perry turned, flooring Hook and making the heel turn. Perry embraced the booing crowd, even taunting “where’s your waves now?” I have a sneaking suspicion heel Jungle Boy might turn out better than babyface boy. 

Here’s the best part, Taz on commentary was totally disgusted and angry. To a point where he says Perry is a dead man. He storms off, and Tony Schiavone finishes out the night on commentary. Now this is an angle I want to see. 

Team Elite (Bucks, Hangman, Kingston, Ishii) defeated Team BCC (Mox, Claudio, Yuta, Takeshita, “Shooter” Umino)

AEW knows how to rile up a crowd. Let’s tease Eddie Kingston and Claudio Castignoli to start, but to have Claudio tag out definitely irks the live crowd. Kingston tags out so the match truly starts with two others. What began as a slower-paced wrestling bout gradually progressed into an all-out war with action taking place everywhere, but not, and I repeat, not in a way which felt chaotic or where I couldn’t tell what was happening. Favorite part saw Eddie and Mox get into it, chopping the crap out of each other while bodies were flying and diving, wrestlers slamming each other in and out of the ring, going all over the place, all while Mox and Eddie couldn’t be bothered to be interrupted while slaughtering each other. Later on, Kingston would be the target of the BCC, despite Mox’s visual reluctance. Claudio had no problem stomping Eddie repeatedly. In an insane exchange, Ishii and Takeshita go at it, until Takeshita hits Ishii so hard, Ishii drops like a potato sack and stops moving. Bucks looking on thought he was dead. Later on Ishii would have his offensive rally, destroying Yuta with a sick brainbuster for the pinfall. 

Other spots, Bucks superkicks everyone until Eddie intentionally takes one intended for Mox. Eddie tries to maintain some sort of peace, but ultimately it is Mox who shatters it. Everyone had their time to shine, in a match like this, it’s typically easy to rush around, but this somehow was traceable, well-paced, and overall well done. 

What happens next, is likely a newfound run for Eddie Kingston going after the BCC, likely intent to dismantle them in order to get to both Mox and Claudio. 

Toni Storm defeated Willow Nightingale to retain the AEW Women’s World Championship

This was the match, I thought Willow had a shot to win the title. I’m serious. Going into it, like other title bouts, figured it would be predictable since Willow, despite being on the AEW roster, comes in on the side of NJPW. What can I say, but Willow made me believe. Unfortunately, the expected interference took away somewhat, and Storm’s constant use of cheat moves would eventually help her retain with a Storm Zero piledriver. However, Willow was most certainly the better wrestler, with multiple suplexes and even a few Death Valley Drivers for near-falls. 

They showed Skye Blue and Dr. Britt Baker, DMD looking on.

Will Ospreay defeated Kenny Omega to become the new IWGP United States Champion

This was the show-stealer. No doubt. No question. Also a Match of the Year Candidate.

I will do my best to put this into words. Just watch it. Find clips on YouTube, highlight reels. Whatever. Anything. Just watch it. It had everything, over 30-minutes of non-stop wrestling-turned-brutality. The match is more than the IWGP U.S. Championship, this was about Ospreay trying to overcome the specter of Kenny Omega’s legacy in New Japan. Their first match at WrestleKingdom blew everyone away, this one was a proving ground for bragging rights. 

 I’ll go through some highlights. Ospreay rammed Omega’s head into the announce table, and Omega wasn’t bracing himself at all. Later, Ospreay nearly killed Omega with a Tiger Driver ‘91, landing on his damn head. It gave me nightmares. 

Omega gets busted open with the headshots into the announce table, later on, Omega extracts revenge with a DDT onto ring stairs. Don Callis gets tossed from ringside. The back and forth felt endless, but never at all dull or losing steam. A near-pivotal moment came when Callis was back at ringside, sneaking Ospreay a screwdriver, which he drove into Kenny’s skull on a One Winged Angel attempt. Despite the use of signature and finishing moves, Ospreay could not keep Omega down. So if his moves weren’t working, he’d use Omega’s instead. V-Triggers followed by a One Winged Angel of his own… and KENNY KICKS OUT AT ONE! The crowd erupts, blowing the roof off the building as Kenny fires up but Ospreay out-wrestles him, hitting the aforementioned frightening Tiger Driver ‘91, then the Stormbreaker for the win. 

Unbelievable. Astounding match. Match of the night.

Funny moment, Ospreay has a shouting match with some kids in the front row. Then he steals another fans’ Canadian Flag and disrespects it, until Omega clotheslines the hell out of him, and gives the flag to the kids from earlier. Fan of the original flag… “Uh, hey, guys…” 

Team Sting (Sting, Darby, Tetsuya Naito) defeated Le Suzuki Gods (Jericho, Guevara, Minoru Suzuki)

Correct cool-down match. I just don’t know how anyone could follow it. Naito and Sammy had fun with some mind-games, joking around, until they started tearing into each other. Suzuki and Darby staring each other down, led to “Murder Grandpa” chants, and a solid strike nearly killing Darby to prove the live crowd right. Another “not on any bingo card I could have come up with” – for a brief moment Sting and Suzuki stood together in the ring. Jericho begged for a tag, to which Suzuki, multiple times shouted, “NO!” However after some arguing, conceded the tag and in comes Y2J to face off with Sting. Brawls broke out, Sting and Jericho got some time in, but ultimately Naito would fell Suzuki for the three count. 

During the Media Scrum – Jericho threatened Sting, and this isn’t over by a longshot. This is the right way for a feud to go. Get the multi-man matches out of the way, leading to the bigger one-on-one. This will somehow then transition to a feud with Sammy and Jericho. Just a guess. 

One scary spot where Sammy hit his 630 splash on Sting through a table appeared to go wrong, as it was possible Sting was not meant to take it. Not sure. 

Bryan Danielson defeated Kazuchika Okada by Submission with a broken arm

Danielson coming down to The Final Countdown was awesome. Absolutely awesome.

Revealed during the post-show press, Danielson did in fact fracture his right forearm during the match. Many online were disappointed the bout did not feel it lived up to the hype, but then again, when you wrestle with injuries and then break an arm, it’s a bit tough to do so. I enjoyed the slow methodical pace, and then the extremely hard shots throughout. Up until the injury, you could see the level of both wrestling and striking were gradually increasing, but you could tell at some point, Danielson keeping his arm locked while using his other arm and body, something was wrong. 

If not for the excessive hype and promo videos, this would have appeared to be an incredible match of legendary proportions. However, expectations were inflated so high it is understandable some, and I emphasize the word ‘some’ were left disappointed or as though it didn’t live up to the hype. 

I say it did. It was a damn good match and the submission moves both broke out after the injury to keep it on the ground were both brilliant and smart to save what they could. Danielson probably should have ended the match sooner, but at this point we know he will not quit no matter what. 

Danielson forced a submission to a heavily-modified LaBell Lock/Rings of Saturn/and whatever else he threw in there. 

Forbidden Door is a grade A+ PPV. 

Sure, the majority of title bouts were predictable in who would leave as champion, but in no way did it take away from the high quality of wrestling we saw. Plus, it finished by midnight. We knew MJF and Sanada were not losing their respective world championships, but both matches were of the highest quality. Had these been non-title matches, it would have added to the suspense of the possibility of a champion losing a match. 

I am sure there are some out there who will find the flaws and beat that horse to death. However, I do believe the majority enjoyed this show with the mindset of simply enjoying a series of wrestling matches without the burden of storylines. 

Forbidden Door is a big win for AEW. 

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