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AEW, NJPW put on outstanding show & other takeaways from Forbidden Door

Despite a series of injuries, illnesses and lineup changes that had some referring to the show as “cursed,” New Japan Pro Wrestling and All Elite Wrestling managed to put together a tremendous night of wrestling on June 26 in Chicago. The Forbidden Door show kept a crisp pace and kept a red-hot, sold-out crowd entertained from start to finish. It is a clear leader for Show of the Year thus far.

From New Japan’s perspective, the show opened a few new avenues for booking, and had to be a morale boost for its workers. The NJPW wrestlers were greeted enthusiastically as stars throughout the show, and with fan restrictions on cheering and booing stubbornly in effect in Japan, the reactions had to feel great. Many fans in Chicago were clearly there to see New Japan stars they would not normally see in person. They also got to see some of AEW’s best workers put in positions to have excellent matches. The show delivered on all counts.

Here are a few takeaways from the New Japan perspective:

Jay White retains; will enter G1 Climax 32 as IWGP World Heavyweight Champion

White’s match for the IWGP World Heavyweight title was kept close to the vest until the go-home show, when Kazuchika Okada made an appearance on AEW Dynamite and the four-way was announced. Adam Cole and Adam Page rounded out the title match. The match was excellent to the end, which did have a strange finishing sequence when Cole ducked what looked to be a finishing Rainmaker clothesline from Okada and collapsed to the mat. White then slid into the ring, hit Okada with the Blade Runner, then pinned Cole to end match.

It’s possible the finish was supposed to be Cole taking the Rainmaker and White stealing the victory from Okada, WWE-style. It’s also possible Cole suffered a concussion and they had to finish the match a bit early. Hopefully, Cole is all right soon.

The finish put over White while protecting Okada and Page, each of whom have had a bigger NJPW presence than Cole the last few years. The result also makes Okada the early favorite to win the 2022 G1 Climax tournament, which begins July 16. The G1 is all about creating a title challengers, both for Wrestle Kingdom and big shows leading to it. That means the champion usually does well in the tournament, but falls just short of winning it.

FTR win IWGP World Tag Team Championship

Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler have had a brilliant 2022 already. They added a layer with an excellent performance in their match with Roppongi Vice (Trent Baretta and Rocky Romero) and The United Empire (Jeff Cobb and Great O-Khan). Their win makes them the AAA, Ring of Honor and IWGP World Tag Team Champions.

The victory opens up some intriguing matches that haven’t been seen before. NJPW booker Gedo has had to work with a very homogenous roster since the pandemic began. FTR’s presence opens things up.

A rematch with United Empire in a straight tag team match is an obvious one. YOSHI-HASHI and Hirooki Goto got a clean win over QT Marshall and Aaron Solo on the pre-show. That would put them in the AEW’s fans’ minds as challengers. Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi) are another excellent team. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) would be another never-before-seen match for FTR.

Hopefully we see some of these matches before they are pulled back to AEW Tag Team Champions, the Young Bucks. While the Bucks and FTR have produced great matches in the past, it would be nice to see these first-time battles. There’s plenty of time to build back to FTR and the Bucks after Harwood and Wheeler have a run with the IWGP gold.

Shibata vs. Ospreay?

One of the biggest crowd reactions of the night (behind that for Claudio Castagnoli’s debut against Sabre), was for Katsuyori Shibata, who made a shock run-in to rescue Orange Cassidy from Will Ospreay and Aussie Open’s post-match beatdown. Shibata fought off all three and celebrated afterward with Cassidy. It was a feel-good moment after Cassidy lost a tremendous match with Ospreay for the IWGP U.S. Title.

Ospreay was careful and stayed away from Shibata’s head, which suffered a subdural hemotoma in 2017. The angle left fans wondering if Shibata was being built to a future U.S. title shot. He’s a trainer at NJPW’s Los Angeles dojo, so he lives in the U.S. and it would not totally out of left field. Still, he barely survived a very serious injury. A high-impact match with Ospreay could also be a bit too dangerous for him.

We’ll see in the coming weeks if this was a built to something more, or just a happy moment on the Forbidden Door show. Ospreay has Juice Robinson, the former champion who was stripped of the title after suffeing appendicitis, as a natural challenger. They’re both in the D Block at this year’s G1 Climax 32. Plus, the storyline is Robinson won’t even give back the title belt, so if Shibata is in line, his turn might not be for a while anyway.

 The Future is Bright: Young wrestlers who shined at Forbidden Door

Two men accomplished the rare feat of raising their stock while taking losses.

Shota Umino teamed up with Wheeler Yuta and Eddie Kingston in a loss to Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara and Minoru Suzuki. The heel finish was the correct call since the stipulation for the match was the winning side would get the advantage in the Blood and Guts match on Dynamite on June 29.

Umino looked great in the match and had the crowd on his side the whole way. He went after Jericho a lot, a callback to when Jericho attacked him when he was a Young Lion in NJPW in front of his father, referee Red Shoes Uno. Umino got a lot in and looked impressive before Jericho pinned him following the Judas Effect elbow strike. He looks like a star on the rise.

Clark Connors also took the fall in his four-way match to crown the first All-Atlantic Champion. Pac won the four-way over Connors, Miro and Malachai Black. After being taken out early by Miro and selling a long time, Connors exploded back into the match by spearing Miro into the table in a surprise spot. He then went on a fiery run of offense that had the fans chanting for him. After a strong showing in the Best of the Super Juniors tournament this year, his performance was another step forward.

Other notes

  • Hiroshi Tanahashi put on another clinic in intelligent pro wrestling with Jon Moxley. These two had circled each other in storyline for years, with AEW’s Tony Khan wanting to hold the match for a show in which he had a piece of the action. Tanahashi is clearly banged up, but his timing and ability to tell a story in a match is still among the best in the business. Moxley was just as good, and Tanahashi put over Moxley for the AEW Interim title in a very good main event.
  • Lance Archer got a win over Nick Comoroto in an entertaining big man match. That win allowed Archer to look good for both NJPW and AEW fans going into his upcoming G1 tournament appearance.
  • From AEW’s perspective, if you’re wondering where the NJPW Strong crew falls in NJPW’s pecking order, this show gave you the answer. The LA Dojo crew was there to put people over and were presented as prelim guys for the most part. While Comoroto looked good against Archer, a four-man team of Yuya Uemura, The DKC, Alex Coughlin and Kevin Knight was swept aside by the short-handed combo of Max Caster and 58-year-old Billy Gun. This showing, combined with The DKC’s squash loss to Hook on AEW Rampage shows NJPW Strong is still seen as a way to get the LA Dojo crew some experience, not pushes.

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