AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door Preview
This Sunday night, June 26th, All Elite Wrestling returns to pay-per-view, but this time we aren't coming alone! In conjunction with New Japan Pro Wrestling, the longest running professional wrestling company in Japan, we proudly present Forbidden Door (Order Now) on Bleacher Report, NJPW World, FITE, traditional PPV providers, and even select movie theaters courtesy of Joe Hand Promotions!
This unique event brings pro wrestling's two premiere companies together with match-ups that may never happen again, multiple title fights including the crowning of the AEW Interim World Champion, and the introduction of a brand new championship to the world of All Elite Wrestling! Over the course of the last several weeks, fans have witnessed NJPW athletes arrive in AEW with a myriad of intentions, some looking a start a fight while others merely looking for a challenge, and now it's time for the fights to begin!
The action begins live on pay-per-view at 8pm EDT/7pm CDT, with the Buy-In kicking off at 7pm EDT/6pm CDT on the official AEW YouTube channel! When the night is over, one man will stand as the Interim World Champion, one man will lay claim to be the first All-Atlantic Champion, and other individuals will either find themselves with new championships around their waist, or have to leave Chicago empty-handed. The Forbidden Door will be opened wide this Sunday night, and both AEW and NJPW are inviting fans to enter...
AEW INTERIM WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH...
Jon Moxley vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
It is finally here; this match fans have been salivating to see for three years, and that both men involved have been looking to make happen. It seemed like a possibility prior to pandemic travel restrictions limiting travel from country to country, fans hoped there was a chance after Moxley lost the AEW World Title to Kenny Omega and began hunting for New Japan wrestlers. He took on fighters like KENTA, Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima, and Minoru Suzuki, but it seemed Tanahashi would never be one to step through the Forbidden Door for a fight with Moxley.
It seemed there was hope for this fight to finally happen when Mox, after defeating Will Ospreay at NJPW's Windy City Riot event, challenged Tanahashi to fight him at Capital Collision, but that bout would end up as a Four Way match for Tanahashi's IWGP United States Heavyweight Title, one in which Juice Robinson would secure the victory to become the new champion.
Mox and Tanahashi did come to blows during the match, “The Ace of New Japan” even drove Mox through a table with his signature High Fly Flow splash, but as exhilarating as that was, it wasn't the same feeling as the two men locking horns one-on-one. Fate just didn't not seem to have this collision in its plans, but fate is a tricky thing, and the universe's plan for one person can have monumental effects on so many others:
CM Punk, due to an injury that necessitated surgery, would be forced to miss his anticipated match with Tanahashi, which in turn forced AEW to address the championship situation. AEW CEO Tony Khan, as was done with the TNT Title and ROH Women's World Title, elected to create an AEW Interim World Championship, and upon his return, whenever that may be, CM Punk will have to face whomever that champion may be.
As the number one ranked man in the top five, Jon Moxley was awarded the opportunity to fight for this AEW Interim World Title, all he had to do was defeat the winner of a Casino Battle Royale that took place the June 8th Dynamite.
So it would be Kyle O'Reilly and Mox who would battle it out in the main event that night for the right to fight at Forbidden Door for the Interim Championship. It was a tremendous fight, proving to any one who saw him as primarily a tag team wrestler, that Kyle was just as top-tier working singles. Unfortunately for one-half of reDRagon, it was the former AEW World Champion who won out in the end, and punched his ticket to the United Center pay-per-view fight!
The question was now just who Moxley would face on June 24th in the championship fight, and that would be answered on June 12th at Dominion 2022 when “The Ace of New Japan” defeated Hirooki Goto to earn his spot in the Forbidden Door title fight. Finally, after years of chasing the match, Jon Moxley was going to get Tana in a one-on-one fight, and it would be in as historic a setting as it could possibly get, the first co-branded pay-per-view event between AEW and NJPW!
Now Tanahashi is no stranger to championship success, he held the IWGP Heavyweight Championship a record eight times for a total of 1,396 days, is a 3-Time US Heavyweight Champion, a 3-Time IWGP Tag Champion, a 3-Time NEVER Openweight Six Man Champion, and a former IWGP Intercontinental Champion. “The Ace” is a 3-Time G1 Climax winner who, at 91 victories, has won more matches than anyone in the history of this tournament that began in 1991, and that nickname by the way, “The Ace of New Japan”, was earned the hard way by beating Keiji Muto in the Tokyo Dome back in 2009.
As far as the landscape of AEW, it could even be argued that Tanahashi plays a part in the very existence of this event. It was heading into his Wrestle Kingdom 14 fight with Chris Jericho that Tanahashi said to Tokyo Sports if he defeated then-AEW World Champion, he would open the forbidden door to get a title match. With that, the term Tanahashi coined would make its way into the lexicon of AEW, and over the last several years has seen multiple individuals cross over from NJPW into All Elite Wrestling. One thing almoust all of those individuals had in common was Jon Moxley as everyone from NJPW that came to AEW had their sights on the then-IWGP U.S. Heavyweight Champion. KENTA and Yuji Nagata came for the title, Satoshi Kojima and Minoru Suzuki just came for the fight, and although it would be Lance Archer who ultimately ended Moxley's record breaking run with that championship, it would be Tanahashi who defeated “The Murderhawk Monster” to reclaim the title for Japan.
Bonded; in hindsight, it truly feels like no matter the situation what Jon Moxley and Hiroshi Tanahashi have done in their careers the last several years, there have been threads to bind them. The words exchanged over the years, the IWGP United States Title, the aforementioned four way at Capital Collision, and this Sunday's championship fight; those are just a few of the examples of how they've been bonded from a distance, but it wasn't until the June 15th Dynamite that the two warriors finally had some face-to-face time...
Of course it would be their other binding threads, a mutual history with Chris Jericho and Lance Archer, that would bring that moment to a frustrating end, but it also brought Mox and Tanahashi together on the same page the following week, even if for just one night. Jon and “The Ace” proved an excellent team, defeating Archer and Jericho in the main event last Wednesday night, but as soon as that bell rang, their focused returned to one another. In what was a rather surreal moment, while the rest of the world brawled all around them, Moxley and Tanahashi stood as the calm in the center of the storm, nose-to-nose, eyes fixed on one another, with total focus towards their impending fight.
The fight will finally take place this Sunday night live on pay-per-view when Tanahashi's Forbidden Door comment comes full circle. One man will walk away as the AEW Interim World Champion with a potential fight against CM Punk down the line should the winner keep the belt until “The Best In the World” heals up. Only one of these men will be able to make history, only one will claim victory in this first-time ever clash of each companies respective foundation; will “The Ace of New Japan” be able to make that moniker “The Ace of All Elite Wrestling”, or will Jon Moxley begin his road towards officially being the first 2-Time AEW World Champion?
Then there are the questions that arise depending on who wins; will Tanahashi stay here to defend the championship or will it go to New Japan with him? Could Moxley hold onto the Interim Title long enough to fight Punk in a unification and become an official 2-Time Champ? Could we see someone else along the way dethrone whoever wins the Interim World Title on Sunday? It's going to be quite a wild summer, and it all begins here when AEW and New Japan kick the Forbidden Door wide open!
IWGP WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH...
“Switchblade” Jay White(c) vs. Adam Cole vs. Adam Page vs. “The Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada
This is...loaded...to say the least.
Jay White only just defeated Okada to claim the IWGP World Heavyweight Title on June 12th at Dominion 2022, and he's thrown right into the fire with this title defense against three challengers. It's a first on many fronts; the first multi-man title defense in this championship's history, the first defense for Jay White, the first IWGP Title match of any kind for Adam Cole, and the first IWGP World Heavyweight Title shot for Hangman Page.
There's also plenty wrapped up in the history of these four men; the story of Hangman Page and Adam Cole has been well told here in AEW, but the story of Kazuchika Okada and Jay White is one of betrayal and championships. White was brought into CHAOS, but simply used it as a means to up his value in NJPW, and much like Will Ospreay would later do with The United Empire, he stabbed Okada in the back to join BULLET CLUB. In return, when Ring of Honor and NJPW combined to run Madison Square Garden in 2019 for the G1 Supercard event, Okada ended the IWGP Heavyweight Title reign of “Switchblade” with his first defense.
That brings to mind a very important note pertaining to this match: even though Jay White was the first-ever Grand Slam Champion having held the NEVER Openweight, IWGP US, IWGP Heavyweight, IWGP Intercontinental, and IWGP World championship titles, he has not successfully defended a title past one defense since that US Title run in 2018. Okada ended the IWGP Heavyweight Title reign on the first defense, Tetsuya Naito ended the Intercontinental reign on White's second defense, and Ishii stopped that NEVER title run after one defense. Suffice to say, while White has been a dominant athlete, his success as a defending champion as been lacking.
But one man who has was successful against as a champion, way back in 2018 during that US Title run, was Adam Page. White's very first defense of that title, after defeating Kenny Omega to claim it, was against Hangman, and while it took twenty-five minutes to get it done, “Switchblade” left the bout with the title still in his hands. It wasn't the first time Page got close to an IWGP championship, he was part of the tournament where Kenny Omega became the first champion, but Adam lost to Jay Lethal in the opening round of the tournament. Adam has fought for the NEVER Six Man Titles, the IWGP Tag Titles, as well as that US Title, yet never found success in any of those challenges.
But that Adam Page, that was an entirely different human whose self-belief was, at times, non-existent. He was a very young man still cutting his teeth, and surrounded by some of the very best athletes wrestling had to offer in BULLET CLUB. The Hangman that enters into this ring finally knows just how good he is, finally knows that he is every bit as good, if not better, than the rest of the professional wrestling landscape. This is an Adam Page who earned his confidence the hard way, through blood, sweat, and tears, and would likely still be AEW World Champion if not for the fact that, at his core, Hangman Page is a good person. He couldn't not take the easy way out against CM Punk, it was contrary to his heart and soul, and while it may have cost him the AEW World Championship, it did not cost him his identity.
So now Adam Page has a chance to become a champion once again this Sunday night, and to do that, he must contend with Okada, a man who defeated Page in their lone singles match during the 2018 G1 Tournament, Adam Cole who he has now beaten twice here in AEW when the World Title was at stake, and a Jay White who holds that US Title victory, as well as a 2018 G1 win, over Hangman. Cole already knows, whether he will ever admit it out loud or not, that this is Hangman evolved, and soon White and Okada will find that out for themselves.
As for Adam Cole, this is the very first time he's had a shot at an IWGP Title, and has just one unsuccessful stab at the NEVER Openweight Six Man belts on his resume back in 2016. This is a monumental moment for the 2022 Owen Hart Foundation Tournament winner, and one he aims to use to make history. See Cole and White may be buddy-buddy now, Adam is the one who first brought Jay White into AEW several months ago, but years ago it was Cole defeating a very young pre-Switchblade Jay White on a 2017 Ring of Honor event. This is well before CHAOS, well before BC, and while they may be bonded because of that BC banner, Cole and White never flew the flag simultaneously. There may be an alliance there, but clearly it's a tenuous one, and despite both men's insistence that Forbidden Door is about BULLET CLUB and Undisputed Elite, “Switchblade” did not seem particularly moved to give Cole a shot at the IWGP World Heavyweight Title.
Then Kazuchika Okada arrived into AEW just a few days ago, looking to reclaim the title he lost at Dominion 2022, and not only did the roof blow off the UWM-Panther Arena in Milwaukee, but White's head may have exploded as well. “The Rainmaker”, for those unaware, has been one of the modern day pillars of NJPW and competed in some of the most legendary matches in modern wrestling against foes like Kenny Omega, Tanahashi, and Naito, and been lauded with Match of the Year, Wrestler of the Year, Hall of Fame, and MVP awards aplenty. Not only is the the former IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, the head of the CHAOS unit is also a five-time former IWGP World Champion with the longest reign in the title's thirty-five year history to his credit at 720 days.
That reign also makes Okada the most successful champion as he defended it a record twelve times against foes such as Omega, Cody, Minoru Suzuki, Kastuyori Shibata, and Naomichi Marufuji, just to name a few. Tatsumo Fujinami and Tanahashi may have held the IWGP Heavyweight Title more times than “The Rainmaker” (6 and 8 respectively), but Okada's 1,790 days spent as that champion, and his 30 title defenses, make him, far and above, the greatest to ever hold that championship. That legacy of success didn't end when the original IWGP Heavyweight Title was unified with the Intercontinental Title. In fact, Okada added to his legacy with a 159 day reign with the now-christened IWGP World Heavyweight Title that added four more successful defenses to his resume before “Switchblade” ended the run on June 12th.
So after everything with Cole, Page, and now Okada, and White clearly uninterested in defending his title against Cole or Page, any illusion of choice was removed from the equation, and now “Switchblade” must defend against Cole, Page, and Okada this Sunday night in Chicago! If Jay White can survive against all three challengers and somehow emerge from the United Center with championship intact, it will indeed be a miraculous moment for BULLET CLUB and “Switchblade”, but with three challengers such as this, is there any hope for “The Catalyst”?
AEW WOMEN'S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH...
Thunder Rosa(c) vs. Toni Storm
Every woman who comes into All Elite Wrestling has the goal of claiming the AEW Women's World Championship. It's a title that's been elevated into the most prestigious Women's Championship thanks to the work of those champions who came before, Riho, Nyla Rose, Hikaru Shida, and even Dr. Britt Baker, and is continued on by the reigning title holder “La Mera Mera” Thunder Rosa.
Since she captured it from the Good Doctor inside a Steel Cage on Dynamite: St. Patrick's Day Slam 2022, Rosa has topped Nyla, Serena Deeb, and Marina Shafir in championship bouts, and continues to state her goal of elevating Women's Wrestling to the highest of plateaus. Thunder has a goal of being the most dominant woman in the game, being the best Women's Champion that AEW has ever seen, and while she's got a ways to go to match the records set by Hikaru Shida, Rosa is the type of athlete who will always do the work to become the best.
Enter: Toni Storm...
On the verge of departing wrestling as a whole, Storm emerged onto the AEW stage as part of The Owen with her eyes firmly locked on claiming the trophy as her prize. While Dr. Britt Baker crushed that hope with a little assist from Jamie Hayter and holding the ropes, Storm kept her eyes on the prize and rebounded with four consecutive wins, including getting hers back over Baker. Toni worked her way into the top spot in the rankings, and earned this championship match with Thunder Rosa.
This is the moment Toni came to AEW for in the first place, this is the kind of fight Thunder wants as the AEW Women's World Champion, it's the kind of battle that shows just why AEW has the best women in all of professional athlete under its banner.
Whether it is Toni Storm leaving as the new champion, or Rosa walking out with the title still in her possession, both women will know they've been in a fight!
IWGP UNITED STATES HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH...
Will Ospreay(c) vs. Orange Cassidy
What an interesting situation that brought us to this IWGP United States Heavyweight Title fight; Orange Cassidy has been on the shelf recovering from injury since Revolution 2022 nearly four months ago. So it was quite a shock when he strolled out onto the stage following Ospreay and Dax's top shelf bout on the June 15th Dynamite in the midst of a United Empire assault FTR and Roppongi Vice.
One week later, this past Wednesday, Cassidy would show the world that he's ready to go after his long layoff when his CHAOS unit defeated United Empire in a Trios bout. The situation could have broken down into a wild brawl as the rest of United Empire came to ringside, but FTR were on the spot to even the odds and quell the moment.
That leads us to this Sunday night when Orange Cassidy gets this huge championship opportunity against a man some believe is the best wrestler on the planet today. Ospreay certainly has a resume to bolster that idea; in addition to being the current IWGP U.S. Heavyweight Champion, Will has been the RevPro British Heavyweight Champion for nearly 870 days, he is a former IWGP World Heavyweight Champion who technically never lost the title but rather was forced to vacate it after suffering a neck injury.
Although he was unsuccessful in reclaiming the title from Okada when he came back to competition, the man he stabbed in the back to form The United Empire, Ospreay has amassed a strong group of allies in The UE, claimed that vacant US Title, and now inserted himself into AEW business as well. Then if you look at Ospreay's resume before moving up to heavyweight, he can claim 2016 and 2019 Best of the Super Juniors Tournament wins, three IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title reigns, a NEVER Openweight Championship run, as well as a two day reign with the ROH World TV title back in 2016.
Orange has done...stuff...but now he's back to do some more...stuff...as part of this Forbidden Door pay-per-view extravaganza, and that..stuff...begins with taking Ospreay's IWGP United States Heavyweight Title! It's the kind of dream match that you didn't know you wanted until it was announced, and it comes to reality this Sunday night!
WINNER TAKES ALL...
ROH World Tag Champions FTR (Cash Wheeler & Dax Harwood)
IWGP Tag Team Champions United Empire (Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb)
Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Trent Beretta)
While this entire Forbidden Door endeavor came into the public eye when Adam Cole interrupted AEW CEO Tony Khan and NJPW CEO Takami Ohbari on April 20th, it wasn't until May 25th that it felt like the door was blown off the hinges:
Prior to that moment, just days before AEW presented Double or Nothing 2022, there had been talk and speculation about what Forbidden Door would look like on June 26th, FTR and Roppongi Vice had both made overtures about wanting the IWGP Tag Titles, thus that night in Las Vegas, The United Empire decided to make their presence felt in AEW. Jeff Cobb and Great-O-Khan had a date for those championships coming up on June 12th at Dominion 2022 against BULLET CLUB's Bad Luck Fale and Chase Owens. That United Empire pair laid waste to Cash, Dax, Rocky, and Trent that night, but The UE weren't done with them yet, not by a long shot. On June 8th Will Ospreay made his presence known on Dynamite, but it proved to be merely a set-up for Aaron Henare and Aussie Open's Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis to assault Wheeler, Harwood, and Beretta. It was a bit insane, especially considering that Ospreay had to essentially hop right back on a plane and head back to Japan for his championship bout, but the message was delivered loud and clear.
Still the AEW contingent managed to get some of theirs back on the 6/10 Rampage when FTR and Trent defeated Ospreay and Aussie Open, but it didn't settle any of the scores that had rapidly formed between Roppongi Vice, FTR, and United Empire. Then when Dominion 2012 proved to be a wildly successful night for Ospreay's crew, bringing both the IWGP U.S. Heavyweight Title and IWGP Tag Titles into the fold, it made the idea of a fight for Forbidden Door even more enticing.
So what better way to make this already landmark event even bigger than by putting it all on the line? With FTR holding the ROH World Tag Team Titles while United Empire controls the IWGP Tag Titles, and Roppongi Vice having a stake in this after being assaulted by UE, pitting all three teams against one another with BOTH championships on the line seems like the best way to settle these issues!
Between Dynamite and Rampage, chaos (no pun intended) has erupted twice this week between these teams (and half the men involved in this PPV event), and fans are ready for the teams to lock horns on Sunday night! Will the reign of The United Empire come to an early end in Chicago? Roppongi Vice are four time IWGP Junior Tag Champs, can they make that move up and claim heavyweight gold for the first time? Or will it be FTR claiming a third championship to go along with the ROH and AAA World Tag titles?
AEW ALL-ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH...
“The Bastard” PAC vs. Miro vs. Malakai Black vs. Clark Connors
In the beginning, ten men were in competition to become the first-ever AEW All-Atlantic Champion. It began with “The Bastard” PAC defeating Buddy Matthews, a double victory of sorts because it meant PAC would move onto the championship match at Forbidden Door and it notched Death Triangle a win over The House of Black. It continued one week later with “The Redeemer” Miro and “All Ego” Ethan Page engaging in a tremendous contest to secure the second position in this championship Four Way. Page fought his heart out, but Miro proved to much in the end and forced that Man of The Year to submit in the end.
With two men from AEW locked on, the All-Atlantic field turned to New Japan Pro Wrestling and their representative in the pay-per-view title fight. NJPW chose to find their man of the course of three matches with the first pitting Clark Connors against Tomoaki Honma and the second with Tomohiro Ishii battling Yoshinobu Kanemaru. It would be Connors and Ishii who met on June 21st to claim the third spot, but it was “The Stone Pitbull” who came out as the victor moving onto Forbidden Door.
The fourth man in the title bout was determined just a few days ago with a second Death Triangle versus House of Black contest, this one pitting Penta Oscuro against Malakai Black on Dynamite, and it would be The HoB who stood tall after that head-to-head collision.
So it was at the close of Wednesday night that the field was seemingly set for the first-ever All-Atlantic Championship bout, but the very next day would bring swift change to the picture as Ishii would be diagnosed with knee injury on 6/23 that necessitated his removal from the pay-per-view bout. As the man Ishii defeated to earn the spot, Clark Connors would step up into The Stone Pitbull's spot and make his journey to the United States for a chance to make history.
Thus the stage is set for this landmark contest pitting four men from four different parts of the world against one another for the right to be the first All-Atlantic Champion. While three of the individuals are quite well-known to AEW audiences, Connors is something of a dark horse in this match as his only AEW appearance was on the May 17th edition of AEW Dark in a victory over The Factory alongside his fellow NJPW LA Dojo compatriots.
Connors, a five year veteran of the sport, entered into the LA Dojo in 2018 under the tutelage of Katsuyori Shibata, and would have his first major match in the system against none other than Jushin “Thunder” Liger. Since then he has competed in both the 2019 and 2020 Super J Cup Tournaments, the 12th Young Lion Cup, won the Lion's Break Crown Tournament over Danny Limelight, fought in the 2021 New Japan USA Cup, the Tag Team Turbulence Tournament, and this year's Best of the Super Juniors Tournament. Clark Connors has been in the ring with Max Caster, Christopher Daniels, Rocky Romero, and various United Empire members, just to name a few. In short, he is a very game opponent just looking that career changing victory, and the moment is upon him this Sunday night at Forbidden Door. Connors just has to contend with three of the most feared foes in all of AEW in order to secure this new crown and go down in history as the first All-Atlantic Champion.
With the hatred between Malakai and PAC, and Miro's obsession with facing down his god, Connors may be the man most able to focus solely on becoming the champion. As the x-factor, the dark horse, Clark Connors would love to sneak in the Forbidden Door, and take this title back to NJPW with him! Can he pull off this feat on Sunday night? Will it be The House of Black or Death Triangle who brings the championship into their fold? Or will “The Redeemer” bring redemption to his three foes and the glory to this brand new title?
SIX MAN GRUDGE MATCH...
Eddie Kingston, Shota Umino, & Wheeler Yuta
Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara, & Minoru Suzuki
***WINNING TEAM GETS THE BLOOD & GUTS ADVANTAGE***
We've seen what happens when Eddie Kingston gets in the ring with Chris Jericho and Minoru Suzuki, albeit not in the same match. It turns into a knockdown, drag-out fight that can potentially tear apart arenas, and leave all involved bruised, battered, and bloodied.
Now factor in all that has gone down since Kingston and “The Wizard” locked up for the first time, the fireballs and the blood and the gasoline, and the penchant for violence that always exists with Minoru Suzuki involved, and this Trios Grudge match could turn very ugly very quickly. Plus, with “Th Spanish God” now back at the side of Jericho and his Appreciation Society, we've got a very explosive dynamic here for the United Center!
The x-factor in this whole fight though is Shota Unimo, or “Shooter” as Jon Moxley affectionately dubbed him several years ago when taking the young lion under his wing. See Unimo has been on excursion in the United Kingdom ever since November 2019, competing primarily for RevPro, but the COVID-19 pandemic did put his entire wrestling career on hold from March 2020 until July 2021, and aside from a surprise return to NJPW to answer Jay White's Open Challenge at Windy City Riot in Illinois, Shota has remained in the United Kingdom for nearly three years.
Now, as part of Forbidden Door, Shota will come to the home field of his erstwhile partner to unite with two of Jon Moxley's allies, and go to battle with their enemies. Shota is quite familiar with Minoru Suzuki, having been beaten many time by the Suzuki-Gun ilk before his UK excursion, and he has been disrespected in the past by Chris Jericho while doing his ringside duties as a young lion. This fight is a chance to show those men how far he has come during this excursion, and just how much he has learned during his time away from NJPW.
This Trios bout will no doubt turn ugly, it seems inevitable with the men involved and the history wrapped up in their rivalries. Can it be contained within the ring, or will this chaos spill out into yet another form of anarchy beyond anyone's control?
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. ???
It had been fourteen years since Bryan Danielson beat Zack Sabre Jr. in their first ever meeting, a 2 of 3 Falls match in Coventry, and it had been thirteen since their second (and last) meeting in Oberhausen, Germany where ZSJ would even the score with “The American Dragon”.
Ever since then, as both men (already incredibly skilled) have only gotten better at their craft, it has been a dream rematch none thought would be possible. Yet when Forbidden Door began to coalesce into form, it became one of the most hoped for fights for June 26th. Sabre Jr. himself even made the challenge for Bryan to face him this Sunday night, but unfortunately life didn't care about the wants of the fans, Bryan, or ZSJ, and as Danielson said in the video embedded above, as a results of Anarchy in the Arena at Double or Nothing 2022, he is unable to compete on Sunday.
That doesn't mean Zack Sabre Jr. is without an opponent though; Danielson has arranged for some competition for this man with a legitimate claim to being one of the best technical wrestlers in the world today. His resume is testament to that: three-time IWGP Tag Champion, four-time RevPro British Heavyweight Champion, former PWG World Champion, 2018 and 2022 New Japan Cup winner, and 2015 PWG Battle of Los Angeles winner.
Now the speculation is, of course, running rampant as to just who Danielson has hand-picked to face ZSJ this Sunday night, but “The American Dragon” said nothing to tip his hand one way or the other, leaving it for Sabre Jr and fans to all find out together when said competitors walks onto the stage in Chicago.
All we know is that this is individual is someone Danielson, and this William Regal, respect enough to allow admission into The Blackpool Combat Club, and believe he is versatile enough to go with one of the best technical wrestlers in the world on Sunday, and then indulge in some violence inside Blood & Guts on Wednesday!
ONE NIGHT ONLY...
BULLET CLUB (AEW World Tag Champions The Young Bucks, & El Phantasmo w/ Hikuelo)
Dudes with Attitudes (Darby Allin, SHINGO, & Sting)
The relationship between The Young Bucks and BULLET CLUB is...complicated...to say the least. As members of that unit for over four years, Matt and Nick were wildly successful, helped build that unit into a worldwide phenomenon, and made the now-familiar BC skull logo into one of the most popular shirts in modern professional wrestling. But eventually, with The Elite sect growing in popularity in the midst of The BULLET CLUB, some internal strife between Kenny Omega and Cody Rhodes, and The BC breaking down into factions within factions, a bit of a civil war would ensue within the unit.
The Firing Squad of Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, and King Haku would take up one side as the O.G. Bullet Club, while The Elite would comprise the other. The path of this chaotic situation would ultimately lead to The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, et al, to the formation of All Elite Wrestling while in New Japan it would bring Jay White, El Phantasmo, Robbie Eagles, Jado, and Gedo into The BULLET CLUB fold.
The Young Bucks would go onto help build All Elite Wrestling into what it is today, while BULLET CLUB would continue to grow under the leadership of Jay White to where it stands at this moment. But when Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows came to AEW in early 2021, it brought back all that old BC history with Matt and Nick, even a quite familiar hand gesture that had been adopted years prior. Again, the dynamics of The Young Bucks/BULLET CLUB relationship has remained complicated ever since 2018, and left many wondering where they would fall when Forbidden Door became a pay-per-view reality. We'd already seen their tentative reactions to Jay White's arrival at Adam Cole's behest weeks earlier, but now that a full blown NJPW contingent was in their face, how would the brothers Jackson react?
Well, just like they always do, by finding a way to make sure their names are a topic of conversation, and what better way to do that than by realigning with the unit they helped make a worldwide sensation, even if just for one night only!
As for Matt and Nick's partners this Sunday, that ought to prove an interesting dynamic. Although they were BULLET CLUB affiliated at the same time, the Dynamite in Los Angeles a few weeks back was the first time Hikuleo ever partnered with The Young Bucks. It was a successful union, one facilitated by Adam Cole and Jay White's relationship, but there has to be some thought to just how their relationship went years ago. And El Phantasmo, well he has no history with The Young Bucks, his entry into The BC came after their parting of ways, but the man has proven a tremendous asset to the unit. He is a two-time Super J Cup winner (although he disrespectfully smashed trophy both times) and he was one win away from the Best of Super Juniors finals this year before being knocked out by El Desperado. ELP is also entering his first G1 Climax this year, and quite frankly, his attitude and wrestling style is probably a perfect fit for that of the AEW World Tag Team Champions. Phantasmo also has a penchant for dipping into The BULLET CLUB history books for moves, loves to throw his own superkick (even though he got busted with a loaded boot), and can claim a win over Hiromu Takahashi in their last singles match back in 2021.
As for the other side of the ring, Sting and Darby Allin had found themselves a pair of ungovernable allies in Los Ingobernables de Japon members SHINGO and Hiromu Takahashi. The former competitor is a former IWGP World Champion, a former two-time NEVER Openweight Champion, and the current King of Pro Wrestling Trophy Holder (a situation that brings with it a wild, ever-changing set of rules) and is someone with whom The Young Bucks are quite familiar from their time in Dragon Gate Pro Wrestling.
Unfortunately, cards are subject to change, and we've only just learned that Hiromu Takahashi, the most successful Best of the Super Juniors competitor in New Japan history with four overall victories, will be unable to travel to the United States to compete due to a fever, so as a result the originally scheduled eight man will now be a Trios contest, thankfully for the man they call Sting dancing with New Japan Pro Wrestling is a bit of old hat. Although it has been 26 years since the last time “The Icon” stepped into a ring emblazoned with the lion's head logo, from 1991 to 1996 he was quite familiar with the competitors of that promotion. He fought Great Muta in the Tokyo Dome and fought him for the IWGP Heavyweight Title in Ryogoku. Sting fought Antonio Inoki, Kensuke Sasaki, Masahiro Chono, and Shiro Koshinaka all inside NJPW rings, and now he gets to revisit that old familiar turf with an added AEW twist.
Even though this is now a Trios Match, Hikuleo will still give the BULLET CLUB contingent a man advantage as second to The Young Bucks and ELP. Will he play an outside role in the BC trio having a successful outing on Sunday night? Or will Stingobernables score victory in the United Center?
TAG TEAM ACTION...
Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi)
The Factory (Aaron Solo & QT Marshall)
The Factory has gotten quite familiar with competitors from New Japan as of late. Between episodes of AEW Dark, NJPW Strong, and NJPW Windy City Riot, QT and his ilk have been rather embroiled in issues with the young lions out of the NJPW Dojo. It's been a pretty even fight with both units trading wins, but this Sunday on the Forbidden Door: Buy-In, QT and Solo are facing a whole new type of NJPW competition!
As announced on Rampage, CHAOS representatives Hirooki Goto and Yoshi-Hashi are coming Chicago for a fight, and The Factory are the (un)lucky one whose number was called! As a team Goto and Yoshi-Hashi are known as Bishamon, a name derived from one of the Shichi-fuku-jin (Seven Gods of Luck), the protector of the righteous, and the Buddhist patron of warriors. It's an appropriate moniker for two men such as these, fighters who, at 454 days, comprised 2/3 (along with Ishii) of the longest reigning NEVER Openweight Six Man Champions and are former IWGP Tag Champs who were dethroned just two months ago by Jeff Cobb and Great-O-Khan. Bishamon won the 2021 World Tag League, competed in the 2020 and 2017 versions together, and have been perennial contenders to those aforementioned IWGP Tag Titles for years.
All of that says nothing of their numerous accolades as individual competitors either, the championships captured and tournaments won by Goto as a singles competitor, the rigors that Yoshi-Hashi has faced on his own; suffice to say the experience of these CHAOS representatives far outweighs that of The Factory here. QT and Solo have eight matches together under their belt over the year since their tag team-up on 6/14/21, Bishamon has over sixty dating back to 2016, and that's just their experience in duos bouts. Factor in the propensity for multi-man bouts in the NJPW landscape and The Factory is worlds apart from the CHAOS experience.
That being said, QT Marshall is one crafty individual and his unit potentially has the support of Anthony Ogogo and Nick Comoroto at their side. The Factory's figurehead is not going to let this huge opportunity pass him by without a fight, or without pulling every trick he can think of out of his pockets. This is a night where the eyes of the world will be watching to see how Forbidden Door unfolds, and it all starts with The Buy-In where QT has the opportunity to demonstrate why his Factory is the place to learn the ropes.
TAG TEAM BOUT...
Swerve In Our Glory (Keith Lee & Swerve Strickland)
Suzuki-Gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
It would not be a stretch to say there a few more decorated Junior Heavyweight in professional wrestling than Yoshinobu Kanemaru. Just within the world of New Japan Pro Wrestling, the twenty-five year veteran has held the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Titles on six occasions since 2002, with four of those being alongside his Suzuki-Gun unit mate El Desperado. Their 304 day reign from March 2018 to January 2019 stands as the second longest in that championship's history, just forty-five days shy of the record set by the legendary Shinjiro Otani and Tatsuhito Takaiwa, and is testament to just how strong a team these two men are together.
As for El Desperado, in his NJPW career and as a member of Suzuki-Gun since 2014, he stands as a two-time IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion who has been in the ring with everyone from Jushin Liger to The Young Bucks, traversed from NJPW to Pro Wrestling NOAH with his Suzuki-Gun unit mates, and created anarchy wherever they have gone.
Now the most unpredictable unit in NJPW is bringing their ways to AEW once more as El Desperado and Kanemaru enter into competition against the duo of Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland, otherwise known as Swerve In Our Glory. Now these two men have had a bit of tension as of late, understandably so after Swerve eliminated Lee from the AEW Interim Championship Casino Battle Royal a few weeks ago, but they have apparently mended that fence, and are now focused on getting this statement victory before the eyes of the world.
Will Swerve and Lee overcome their massive tag team experience disadvantage to be victorious over the invading Suzuki-Gun team? Or will it be the four-time former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Champions who wave the banner for their unit when the final bell rings?
The Gunn Club (Austin, Billy, & Colten) & Max Caster
NJPW LA Dojo (Alex Coughlin, Kevin Knight, The DKC, & Yuta Uemura)
Live on AEW's official YouTube channel, the Buy-In will present to fans this absolutely FREE sneak peek at what's to come on Forbidden Door. Representing AEW in this eight man tag will be Max Caster of The Acclaimed, along with the full Gunn Club trio, a unit some have dubbed The Scissor Club, and they will be taking on four representatives from the New Japan LA Dojo in Alex Coughlin, Kevin Knight, The DKC, and Yuta Uemura!
In addition to The DKC's appearance on Friday night against HOOK, men from The Dojo contingent have also made their presence felt on episodes of AEW Dark, and can be seen in action regularly on the NJPW Strong program available on NJPW World. This should be a tremendous battle pitting seven of the hottest rising stars in professional wrestling, and one veteran with the heart of a young lion, against each other to see whether it's AEW or NJPW who heads into the pay-per-view proper with a psychological edge!
Forbidden Door begins live on pay-per-view at 8pm EDT/7pm CDT, and the Buy-In kicks off at 7pm EDT/6pm CDT on AEW's official YouTube channel with a wild eight man tag! Seven championships are on the line, the top athletes from AEW and NJPW will be in action, and with so much packed into the night, anything is possible with All Elite Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling combine forces to open the Forbidden Door (Order Now) to the world on Bleacher Report, NJPW World, Fite TV, traditional PPV providers, and in select movie theaters around the country!