All Elite Wrestling
AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door 2023
June 25, 2023
Scotiabank Arena
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Watch: PPV, B/R Live, FITE (Non-US)

Meet our previewers:

Tyler Forness: The host of The Good, The Bad, and The Hungee podcast for Voices of Wrestling, Tyler takes a break from his writing duties with USA Today’s Vikings Wire and Vikings 1st & SKOL to preview his most anticipated show this year. You can find Tyler on Twitter @TheRealForno and in the Voices of Wrestling discord under the same name.

John Carroll: John used to host Wrestling Omakase and is still hanging around this site, mostly to annoy people. Not even major surgery and a tiny post-surgery infection could stop them from attending Forbidden Door as planned this weekend, as they’re very excited. They’re here on this preview to bring a little balance—for instance, they’re more of a hardcore NJPW fan/casual AEW fan, whereas Alex is a hardcore AEW fan/hardcore NJPW hater. Follow them on Twitter @toshanshuinla if you must.

Alex Wendland: Wow. Big John Shade. Alex burnt out on wrestling writing about NXT for Voices of Wrestling and has mostly enjoyed AEW as a viewer rather than content contributor. What will be plainly evidenced throughout this Forbidden Door preview is that Alex is a level-headed enjoyer of quality pro wrestling, whereas John has loathed every second of content AEW has produced. Connect on LinkenIn and find him on Friendster!

Will Young: Will is just some guy. He’s been watching wrestling for 20 years this month and has been hyper-focused on it ever since Kane took the mask off. He’s been following NJPW for over a decade and AEW from the beginning. If you want to see more of what he thinks about wrestling today, or read his threads of GIFs and screen captures from older shows, follow him on Twitter or go to his wrestling blog (yes, those still exist), and look for his long-form pieces on Voices of Wrestling.

Forbidden Door Zero Hour
Women’s Owen Hart Cup Tournament First Round
Athena vs. Billie Starkz

Tyler: The first match in the Owen Hart Cup, this is an interesting matchup. Athena is a proven world champion, as she is currently the ROH Women’s Champion. She has a really good track record in All Elite Wrestling with some really good matches. Her work in ROH has been excellent and has been a perfect fit for her. Starkz is only 18 years old, but was on the indies for awhile before signing with AEW. She has shown real improvement, but isn’t ready for any real push. Give Starkz 2-3 years, and they could have an excellent piece of their women’s division. Matches like this with a quality professional will make a difference. Prediction: Athena

John: It’s really something that AEW has taken one of their best workers in a women’s division that remains extremely thin and locked her behind a paywall on a show nobody but their absolute biggest pervert fans watches every week, but that’s exactly what they’ve done with Athena by making her ROH Women’s Champion. Hopefully, the Owen Hart Cup is the start of her getting more actual TV time in AEW again. This should be a solid pre-show match, as Billie should be more than capable of holding up her end of the bargain. Prediction: Athena

Alex: Hardass Athena has been a revelation and one of ROH’s brightest spots, but the story here is Billie Starkz. Long-maligned by those who didn’t have an agenda, Starkz now has a spot in which she can prove herself and make something happen. She’s not going to win, and she shouldn’t, but her performance will be the story of this match. I know I’m rooting for her–AEW needs more high-level performers in the women’s division. Prediction: Athena

Will: In one of the first-round matches of the Owen Hart Cup tournament, you have two wrestlers who exemplify different ideals of the late Hart. In Athena, we have one of the most watchable heel performers across AEW and ROH, equally good at being both a weasley smart-ass and amoral cheater. In Billie, it’s the up-and-coming spark plug who is easy to root for and is just looking for a chance. While this could be an easy Athena win, having Billie get her first big win and move on in the tournament is a way to get fans to take notice of someone that AEW has had their eye on for a long time.  Prediction: Billie Starkz

Adam Cole vs. Tom Lawlor

Tyler: This match feels fresh out of Fire Pro Wrestling. The contrasting styles and personas are fascinating to see. This has become one of the matches I am looking forward to the most because it’s so odd. Cole has a style that fits the AEW promotion built around high spots whereas Lawlor is a shoot fighter with a heavy MMA influence. How this match goes is fascinating to me on many levels. I don’t think there is any doubt on who wins this match and it might end up being a bad match due to the contrasting styles, but it has a real chance to be good.  Prediction: Adam Cole

John: If you’re wondering where this match came from, it’s a Rampage spoiler as apparently the Filthy One came out of the crowd and attacked Adam Cole to set up a match on Sunday. Everyone had Cole pegged as skipping Forbidden Door because he and Britt Baker had a signing booked on the West Coast or something, but I guess those fans are gonna have to meet the Bay Bay man some other time. Anyway, I don’t have real strong feelings about this match. It’s a deeply weird matchup, and sometimes those deliver and sometimes they don’t. Given how loaded this lineup is I would be surprised if it got more than like ten minutes or so anyway, though. Prediction: Adam Cole

Alex: Weird one! Adam Cole Bay-Bay has been outperforming most expectations in his title program with MJF and he’ll pick up a nice little win here against Tom Lawlor. In my humblest of opinions, this match has the largest position-on-the-card disparity of any on the show. If we’re to believe this will be a competitive bout, we would have to expect shenanigans. Prediction: Adam Cole Bay-Bay

Will: A fun curio of a match for anyone who ever wanted to see these two play off each other. Lawlor is a little pit stop on the road to the eventual MJF/Cole main event title match, should succeed in being a notch in Cole’s belt while introducing Lawlor to a larger audience that will likely pick up what he’s putting down. Prediction: Adam Cole

AEW Women’s World Championship
Toni Storm © vs. Willow Nightingale

Tyler: There is an element of disappointment here, as Nighingale’s spot was likely to have been filled by Mercedes Mone. That match will likely happen in time, but seeing Nightingale in this spot is a nice outcome. She has shown a lot of improvement over the last year or so in AEW with her in-ring work and her crowd connection has always been excellent. She is the perfect contrast to what Toni Storm is currently, which is a slimy heel. The match has a high ceiling with how talented these two women are and Storm is a near certain lock to win, but if they are limited on time, it could end up being a disappointment. Prediction: Toni Storm

John: Well, at least the Forbidden Door women’s match actually has a connection to New Japan this year, with Willow being the Strong Women’s Champion and all. Last year the women’s match had nothing to do with NJPW at all, and felt completely shoehorned on there—of course, the dream for this show is for Rossy Ogawa to finally return Tony Khan’s calls and get STARDOM involved, but it will have to wait for at least another year. Anyway, I doubt they’re gonna make Nightingale a double champion here, but these two should be able to deliver in a battle of women’s powerhouses (as long as they get enough time to do so, of course, as Tyler said). Prediction: Toni Storm

Alex: An imperfect matchup feeding a newly-pushed Willow Nightingale to the AEW Women’s World champion, Toni Storm. Definitely feels like this should’ve been a super-match between Mercedes Mone and Toni Storm (or maybe even Jamie Hayter?). Still, there’s an opportunity here for Willow to continue making a name for herself and get over in a loss. Toni’s matches are too good for all the Outcasts nonsense which tend to follow her; hopefully, we can avoid most of those irritating tendencies here and on the rest of the show. Prediction: Toni Storm

Will: In classic AEW fashion, the match involving the Women’s Champion becomes something of a last-minute addition to a PPV card; thankfully, both Willow and Toni are at the top of their respective games, and I expect this one will turn some heads. As much as I’d love Willow to get the nod here, I don’t see it happening with this little lead-up. Prediction: Toni Storm

AEW International Championship
Orange Cassidy © vs. Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Katsuyori Shibata vs. Daniel Garcia

Tyler: My initial reaction to this match being made a four-way was disappointment. The presumed Orange Cassidy vs. Zack Sabre Jr. match that we believed was going to happen is more appealing than this, but just one year after Katsuyori Shibata came to Cassidy’s rescue after his five-star match against Will Ospreay, he challenges for the International title for the second time. The inclusions of Sabre Jr. and Garcia will be fun, especially with how well AEW lays out multi-person matches. The real intrigue here is whether Cassidy drops the title in Toronto, the city where he won the belt back on October 12. Prediction: Orange Cassidy

John: The build for this was weirdly rushed and stupid, as the moment the Shibata/OC-ZSJ/Garcia tag match ended on this past Wednesday’s Dynamite they just threw a graphic up for the same four people in a four-way match at the PPV like “oh yeah, these four people you just saw fight? Well now they’re fighting AGAIN on Sunday, except just without tags!”. Not very good booking at all from a guy who gets hailed as a genius, y’know? The match itself should be fine, although it will have a ceiling as pretty much all four-way matches do. It’s also a weird one where you have three champions in there but only one title on the line, which pretty much gives away who’s winning. Honestly, I would have rather had them drop Garcia and do it as a non-title “battle of champions” three-way with OC, ZSJ and Shibata, with none of their titles on the line, cause then at least you would have no idea who’s winning (and then you could have done a future title match where whichever champion lost would have felt obligated to give the person who beat him a title shot). What they ended up doing here just feels lazy and dumb, a rare misfire on this card. Prediction: Orange Cassidy

Alex: I was shocked to see Katsuyori Shibata take the fall in the Dynamite tag match, but it was largely glossed over in favor of announcing this match immediately after. I have to assume that was to set up a future ROH Pure rematch with Daniel Garcia. Regardless, this should be…fine? Orange Cassidy isn’t ending this run in a multi-promotional four-way match. In a card filled with tons of matches that have obvious outcomes, this one feels especially perfunctory.  Prediction: Orange Cassidy

Will: To paraphrase a certain famous clerk, he’s not even supposed to be here today. The story of the beleaguered All-Atlantic Champion continues, as OC has to fend off three top-tier technical wrestlers at once. While I’m not a fan of the way this came together nor am I terribly keen on multi-man matches like this (especially involving four guys who work best 1v1), this will be another impressive result under the champion’s name when all’s said and done. Prediction: Orange Cassidy

Men’s Owen Hart Cup Tournament First Round
CM Punk vs. Satoshi Kojima

Tyler: The hope was that this would be KENTA in a battle of wrestlers with the Go To Sleep finisher, but for various reasons, the match isn’t happening. While the storyline isn’t nearly as sexy, the match will be better. We all know that Punk can deliver in a singles match, but Kojima can as well. He delivered against Jon Moxley at All Out 2021 in a really fun match and the strongest arm is going to lariat Punk to oblivion before staring at the lights. This would be a great match to open the show with. Prediction: CM Punk

John: Look, just like Tyler said it’s probably true that Punk/Kojima winds up being the better match than Punk/KENTA—somehow, Kojima really is less broken down than KENTA in the year of our lord 2023. But that really doesn’t even matter. Everyone knows Punk vs. KENTA was The Match—KENTA has been building it up on Twitter for what seems like years now, and the obvious storyline of Punk stealing his move is a way better hook than “well, we need to get Punk on this show somehow so here’s a New Japan Dad he can beat, and we’ll make it a first round Owen match why not.” Obviously, there have been conflicting reports on why Punk/KENTA was called off (oh boy are those reports conflicting—you can just look in my Twitter mentions for the past few days if you don’t believe me), but whatever the case may be, it’s a bummer to lose out on a match that would have had real buzz. This match, for as good as it may end up being, just doesn’t. What can you do. Prediction: CM Punk

Alex: Who can blame KENTA for not wanting to j-o-b to the guy stealing his schtick for over a decade? Kojima received a huge pop when he worked against Jon Moxley at All Out 2021. He’s got a Minuro Suzuki-like following if Suzuki hadn’t spent months and months working the United States over the past few years. Expect a shockingly strong, positive response to Kojima and fun, short match with CM Punk winning.  Prediction: CM Punk

Will: I don’t know what to tell anyone who is legitimately surprised or upset that CM Punk is not fighting KENTA in the year 2023. As it is, it seems Punk vs Kojima has been met with a mildly positive reaction and it is another curiosity that I certainly never expected to see outside of a reprise of Final Battle 2003. My hopes are not high from an in-ring standpoint at this point in the careers of both men, but hey, maybe they’ll surprise me. Punk moves on, easy-peasy. Prediction: CM Punk

Blackpool Combat Club (Jon Moxley, Wheeler Yuta, and Claudio Castagnoli), Konosuke Takeshita, and Shota Umino vs. The Elite (Hangman Page, The Young Bucks, Eddie Kingston, and Tomohiro Ishii)

Tyler: The latest in the longstanding feud between The Elite and the Blackpool Combat Club has an interesting twist to it. After returning last week to confront Claudio Castangoli, Eddie Kingston joins The Elite to continue exacting his revenge. He also brings with him Tomohiro Ishii, who has had some wars with Jon Moxley. This is bound to explode in a massive way with the volatile nature of both Kingston and Moxley. The other real intrigue here compared to their previous matches is the inclusion of both Konosuke Takeshita and Shota Umino. Takeshita is a former DDT wrestler, so his appearance on a New Japan show is somewhat noteworthy, and how will Umino factor in with a Tanahashi babyface presentation as the Roughneck while also being Moxley’s protege? Ultimately, seeing the Hung Bucks get their hands on Takeshita will provide some extra intrigue as they continue the setup for the likely Blood and Guts match. Prediction: The Elite, Eddie Kingston, and Tomohiro Ishii

John: I thought it was pretty awesome when Eddie Kingston came out at the end of last week’s show for a number of reasons, but not the least of which is I thought he was going straight into his upcoming New Japan appearances (the Strong title challenge on July 5 in Korakuen against the aforementioned KENTA and then, of course, his G1 Climax participation) “cold,” straight out of surgery, without having appeared on AEW TV since all the way back in January. Instead, they smartly made him a prominent feature of this Forbidden Door period, which makes him feel a lot hotter heading into his upcoming stretch of New Japan appearances. Good job everyone! I know I for one missed the insane energy he brings to AEW broadcasts—just screaming “SAY IT” repeatedly right in Jon Moxley’s face being a great example.

Anyway, this is one of a couple matches that feels more like standard AEW storylines with New Japan guys kind of shoved in, which I think you’re going to like if you’re more of an AEW fan but maybe be a little annoyed by if you’re more of an NJPW fan. Personally, I would rather see more random AEW vs. NJPW matches a la the totally bizarre Cole/Lawlor match on the Forbidden Door undercard than this kind of “AEW storylines but with New Japan guys thrown in there” match, but I guess as long as this isn’t the entire show it’s OK. Shota Umino in particular stands out like a sore thumb here—I saw multiple confused people going “Shota is a heel?” on Twitter (he is not), but I guess he’s been showing a little more of an edge of late at least. Given the collection of talent here, I’d be pretty shocked if this wasn’t quite great. And I guess either team could win it, but Wheeler Yuta definitely stands out as a guy who could take the fall. Prediction: The Elite, Eddie Kingston & Tomohiro Ishii

Alex: How fantastic is it to have Eddie Kingston back on TV? Dynamite had an absolute electricity to it when he was on the microphone Wednesday, and he just oozes both believability and heart in everything he says. I never like the “I don’t like you but I am going to team with you” conceit, but I’ll put up with it here because we’re not teasing a team turning on each other. And yet I have a hard time believing The Elite and Co. win this match. Kingston and Tomohiro Ishii have no kayfabe chemistry teaming with The Elite, and their opponents are mostly a well-oiled unit (plus Konosuke Takeshita). For that reason, and my belief that this is STILL not the end of the Elite/BCC feud, I’m going with the bad guys.  Prediction: Jon Moxley, Wheeler Yuta, Claudio Castagnoli, Konosuke Takeshita, and Shota Umino

Will: Eddie Kingston, how I’ve missed you. His injection into the proceedings of the last couple of weeks on Dynamite adds a much-needed oomph to the ongoing Elite/BCC feud, which is not exactly running out of fuel, but needs a little something to keep it chugging along. I imagine the road is still being paved toward Blood & Guts between the two factions and, at this point, the Blackpool boys could use a win a bit more, especially to help boost the station of the newly-turned Takeshita. Prediction: Blackpool Combat Club

Le Suzuki Gods (Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara & Minoru Suzuki) vs. Sting, Darby Allin & TBA

Tyler: One of my favorite things about these shows is that we get mixed tags that include wrestlers from each promotion teaming together. Sting and Darby Allin teamed with Shingo Takagi last year, and it was the most fun I had on the show. This year, Suzuki teams with Jericho and Guevera for the second-consecutive year and it feels like they enjoy themselves in the ring. The intriguing part about this match is the TBA. Sting told Jericho on Dynamite that he has a lot of enemies and this was the biggest of them. The presumed choice is Tetsuya Naito, whom Jericho wrestled twice in New Japan, going 1-1 and holding the now-defunct IWGP Intercontinental Championship. It’s still an intriguing one, as Tony Khan alluded on Thursday’s media call that it could be Goldberg, whom Jericho had a contentious feud with in WCW before leaving for WWE. That could be a fun element, but the coolest part about this match is that Sting and Jericho will be wrestling in the ring together for the first time ever. Truly incredible that it’s happening in 2023. Prediction: Sting, Darby Allin, and TBA

John: Hmm, I thought I read that Tony Khan said this mystery partner wasn’t likely to be Goldberg on that media call actually. That’s what the Wrestling Observer recap said anyway. Well, either way, I think it’s gonna be Naito (if only because the “you’ve made enemies in other organizations” line only really makes sense for Naito & EVIL on the NJPW roster, and it ain’t gonna be EVIL) and I’m definitely happy to be in the building for the pop on Saturday at Collision when he’s announced (and presumably will be there to come out). But yeah, otherwise this is the other weird “AEW storylines with NJPW guys shoved in”match—even weirder given that Minoru Suzuki has turned babyface in the last year in New Japan, but just shows up here to team up with Jericho & Sammy for the second year in a row like nothing changed. Shrug. Either way, I assume this continues building both the Jericho/Sammy dissension storyline and then Jericho/Sting feud (that seems like a likely All In match, huh?), and I hope I get to see Naito give someone a Destino. Prediction: Sting, Darby Allin and Tetsuya Naito

Alex: Must agree that this feels particularly cobbled together, and not the way I would prefer for Chris Jericho and Sting to face off for the first time. I know John is clinging to any possible way to get Tetsuya Naito on this card, and he would definitely be the best case scenario as the TBA. Frankly, I’m not sure who else it could be while still making an impact, especially with Yota Tsuji  showing up ringside in NOAH on Thursday. That would be a pretty quick back-and-forth to feature in a six-man tag.  Prediction: Sting, Darby Allin, and TBA

Will: Last year’s six-man between Le Suzuki Gods and the makeshift team of Kingston, Yuta, & Shooter certainly felt like it came a bit out of nowhere, so the build this year for a similar match is certainly a step up. As far as Sting & Darby’s mystery Dude With Attitude goes, I figure it’ll likely be in the LIJ orbit as it was last year, whether that’s Shingo, Hiromu, or otherwise. I’m not about to pick against neither the mystery opponent nor Sting. Prediction: Dudes With Attitude (Sting, Darby Allin, & TBA)

AEW World Championship
MJF © vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

Tyler: Rinky dink indie fed in Japan. What a phenomenal line from MJF. It fits his character to a T. He doesn’t have any respect or reverence for anything that isn’t himself or territory wrestling. That quote was also perfect in that it set up the Ace Tanahashi to defend New Japan’s honor. It’s the perfect match to set up for these two. Tanahashi could challenge for the AEW title at every Forbidden Door until he retires and it would be great and make sense, while MJF’s style can work perfectly with what Tanahashi is physically. They are going to have a true territory style match that could end up being a 4.5-star match with excellent psychology if they are given ample time. It’s also a great change of pace compared to the rest of the card. Prediction: MJF

John: Yeah, I dunno, I have to strongly disagree with my partner here and say I thought the MJF “indie fed” shit sucked. It just came across super try-hard in an utterly predictable way, the kind of way a lot of MJF’s promos and lines come off—oh yeah, this is what the mega-heel is supposed to say to piss off the internet marks, here we go. Just once I’d love for him to throw us a curveball and not go for the cheapest heat possible, but I guess what would be asking too much. It did result in a nice little Tanahashi promo response (that they, uh, didn’t play on Dynamite for some reason, even though it was only a minute long), which you can watch here. Luckily MJF is much better at actually wrestling than he is at delivering unique or engaging promos, so this match will probably be pretty damn great. Prediction: MJF

Alex: There’s an interesting parallel between how MJF has talked about Hiroshi Tanahashi and NJPW in kayfabe on a wrestling television program in comparison to the absolute burial SANADA delivered regarding “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry and AEW. MJF has been absolutely tame in comparison with his over the top cartoonish dismissal of Tanahashi. Another match in which the outcome is perfunctory, but the bout itself should be tons of fun. Tanahashi is rounding back into shape for the G1 (pun intended), and we’ll get a fun AEW World Championship match out of it.  Prediction: MJF

Will: Similarly to Adam Cole being handed an easy win to keep him hot in the ongoing MJF feud, his eventual opponent gets the honor of being another AEW Champion to beat the great Hiroshi Tanahashi. It’s a shame that Tanahashi is often in these situations where there is no chance in hell that he could win, because it’s a lovely thought to imagine a world with Tanahashi holding one of the biggest North American wrestling championships. I’m no great fan of MJF, but he can certainly go in the ring and I look forward to seeing how these two work together en route to another successful defense. Prediction: MJF

IWGP World Heavyweight Championship
SANADA © vs. “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry

Tyler: Some have expressed frustration with Jungle Boy being the pick for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship match. Sure, it doesn’t make sense from a kayfabe perspective, but that doesn’t really matter a lot when you are talking about an interpromotional show. Perry just came up short in challenging for the AEW World Championship a few weeks ago at Double or Nothing. Plus, his story right now is that he is trying to earn a singles title this year. Perry has challenged for the International Title as well and this is his next challenge. SANADA is over with the fans in Japan, but isn’t there with western audiences in the same way. On the Capitol Collision shows, SANADA was fourth from the top in tag matches. There is a real disconnect, but New Japan is trying to make a major star here and it’s no doubt that he has been elevated. The best part of the match is that these two are objectively handsome. This should be a good match bell-to-bell and the hope is that both wrestlers can be elevated in the minds of fans. Prediction: SANADA

John: Count me in on those who think Jungle Boy is an incredibly weak IWGP World Heavyweight Title challenger. Maybe it could have worked better if it was done in a better way, but instead, we had SANADA show up randomly in a video saying he was putting out an open challenge, and then Jungle Boy showing up later that night to be like, “Well, I said I was going to be a singles champion before the end of the year, so why not this belt?” Way to put over your partner’s top championship, guys. Great work. Anyway, I’m not worried about the match itself really—both of these guys are good wrestlers despite what you sometimes hear about them in some places, so I’m sure they’ll deliver. It just feels so weak for an IWGP World championship match that I’m left wondering why they even bothered—maybe they should have just had SANADA in a tag match or something instead. Prediction: SANADA

Alex: “I have no knowledge of Jack Perry,” SANADA told Tokyo Sports (translation approximate). “It’s sad to see someone like that challenge for the IWGP. It is good that this open challenge will be decided so easily. This is the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, I think it’s worth more than the AEW Championship.”

For all the bellyaching regarding “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry challenging for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, no “bad partner” malarkey matches the quote above. Does it bother me?

NO! This is pro wrestling. Talk shit, have great matches. That’s what it’s all about. And for all the real criticisms of Jack Perry’s place on the card, he’s proven to bring it between the bells. Dare I trust Perry’s matches to entertain me more than SANADA’s, and due to SANADA’s involvement, this is one of the only quality question marks I have on the card.  Prediction: SANADA

Will: I do so enjoy the puroresu practice of absolutely annihilating your opponent in the press, and SANADA seemingly did Jungle Jack no favors in giving him the verbal brush-off. If anything, it makes it feel a tiny bit more real in that, yeah, Jungle Boy is a random-ass pick to have go for one of the biggest wrestling championships in Japan, especially considering that he just choked in his own title opportunity not long ago. This will be an important test for the champion SANADA, who still has not completely won over the entire NJPW audience (myself included), but is certainly more interesting now than he has been in years. I’m hoping for, at the very least, a good match here, and maybe one or both of these two can show me something in what will be one of the biggest matches of Perry’s career to date and another successful defense for the champ. Prediction: SANADA

IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship
Kenny Omega © vs. Will Ospreay

Tyler: Business is about to pick up with the top two matches on the card. The first time that these two wrestlers faced off in Tokyo Dome, it was arguably the best match of all-time. This reminds me of Omega/Okada from Dominion in 2017. The story of the first match mirrored the story of Omega/Okada from Wrestle Kingdom 11 where Omega was trying to and failing to hit the One-Winged angel. Ospreay was in the same spot in trying to hit the Stormbreaker. The other story from the first match was how much Omega bullied Ospreay, including scarring his forehead. On last week’s Dynamite, Ospreay attacked Omega and pointed at the scar before annihilating him with a hidden blade. This is going to be a war that could very well top their first match from January. After the match, Ospreay cut a promo backstage and said that if he couldn’t beat Omega by the end of the year, he would quit. One intriguing element here is Don Callis. There was some potential speculation that the two could be paired together down the line, but when Callis confronted Ospreay to offer him personal security on Sunday because they are in Canada whom both disparaged, Ospreay gave him a look of uncertainty. You can’t trust Callis and Ospreay knows that. Will that factor into the decision? That’s something to keep an eye on, especially with All In coming in London.  Prediction: Kenny Omega

John: That first Kenny/Ospreay match from Wrestle Kingdom earlier this year was so good it’s just the kind of match I can’t even imagine not liking, even if you’re not, particularly a fan of either guy. Sometimes two wrestlers go out there and capture lightning in a bottle, and these two guys undoubtedly did that in January. Having to follow up on what I saw some people call “the greatest mach of all time” must be a lot of pressure. It will, of course, be interesting to see the two of them flipped completely for one- Kenny goes from the invader to the defending hometown hero, while Ospreay goes from the banner-waving home promotion guy to someone who has basically insulted an entire country. So I imagine the heat for this should be unreal and very pro-Omega. What I worry about though is what they teased on Dynamite this past week, with Don Callis offering “security” to Ospreay. It would kind of suck if, after letting Kenny get such a clean and dominant win over Ospreay back at Wrestle Kingdom, they muddy up the rematch with typical AEW interference bullshit and have Ospreay’s win be very much not clean (also making this match little more than another step in the Omega/Callis storyline instead of letting it breathe on its own as an epic rematch). I know I’m kind of getting angry about something that hasn’t actually happened yet, but that feels like the direction we’re heading in here and I don’t like it. But regardless, even with that cloud of possible shenanigans now hovering over the match, I’m sure they’ll deliver (even if I’m less sure it will actually be able to match their Tokyo Dome encounter). Prediction: Will Ospreay

Alex: I tend to eschew star ratings. There are great matches I will forget soon after they happen, MOTY contenders I will remember for a long time, and then a special little box matches saved for truly special matches. There are years (like 2022) in which I don’t add any matches to this tiny collection, but this year there are already two. The first match between Kenny Omega and Will Ospreay from Wrestle Kingdom in January is one of those matches, and, like just about everyone else, there’s no match in the world I could look forward to more than this one. Even as one of the best matches in pro wrestling history, it felt like Omega and Ospreay still had more meat left on the bone. Personally, I think there’s a match to come after this, too.  Prediction: Will Ospreay

Will: I mean, you can’t NOT do this one here, right? The Canadian United States Champion of a Japanese company, Kenny Omega, faces off for the second time against the guy who wants so badly to either destroy him or become him (or both), Will Ospreay. AEW has done its due diligence in introducing Ospreay to its audience in the past year and there’s enough lingering buzz from their classic encounter at this year’s Wrestle Kingdom to carry this match into the stratosphere.

The home country reception to Omega (and hopefully against Ospreay, if my home nation has any good sense) will be something to see and I really look forward to seeing how (and if) these two can top what they did only six months ago. When it comes to a winner, I imagine an Ospreay W will not only tie up the burgeoning series between them, leading to a conclusive third encounter, but will allow Ospreay to take the US Title into the G1 and set up challengers for the rest of the year. Yeah, the belt itself is often forgotten about, but no time like the present to re-heat it, right? At any rate, these two really showed me something this year against one another and I’m hoping for an Empire Strikes Back situation this Sunday, quality-wise. Prediction: Will Ospreay

Bryan Danielson vs. Kazuchika Okada

Tyler: When Bryan Danielson talked about his list of dream matches when he was with WWE, we all laughed at him. The overwhelming thought was that he wasn’t going to leave WWE to have any of these matches. Well, he finally made the jump and this is the first of, God willing, many of them to come. Okada is a tremendous opponent for Danielson. Both viewed as the best wrestler of a decade in the 21st century, it’s a true dream match. You don’t need a backstory between these two individuals because of their talent. The only thing that you need for this match was exactly what the build has been. Danielson calls himself the litmus test of great and challenges Okada to a match at Forbidden Door. They exchange a couple of promos and they face off to finish the go-home Dynamite. The mega pop for Okada was phenomenal and I had literal goosebumps. These two are going to war and it’s going to be incredible. This match has a floor of five stars on Dave Meltzer’s scale with a ceiling of greatest match of all-time. Pro wrestling is the best and it really doesn’t matter who wins here, but it will likely be the opposite of who wins between Omega and Ospreay. Prediction: Kazuchika Okada

John: This match represents the true ideal of Forbidden Door, and frankly what I would like to see them deliver more of in the future: no need for AEW storylines or NJPW storylines getting involved, simply taking one of the very best wrestlers on each roster and matching them up to deliver a true dream match. There’s almost very little that I feel the need to say here, because I mean it’s Bryan Danielson vs. Kazuchika Okada. It’s a match that would have felt completely impossible as recently as 2021, and even after Danielson jumped to AEW later that year and the AEW/NJPW deal fully came together in 2022, it’s not a match I think anyone felt like we were guaranteed to get. Kudos to both sides for coming together in the spirit of the show and putting together a true dream match main event, and I hope to see more of this type of thing in the future. I think at times during this preview I sounded a little more negative than I intended to- to be clear, I’m going to this show, I can’t wait to attend it, and I think it will be absolutely fantastic. But do I wish we could have at least one or two more “dream” singles matches like this on the card? I definitely do. And I’m not saying you need to book them strictly from the ranks of main eventers either, but c’mon, something like Hiromu Takahashi vs. Darby Allin is sitting right there! Either way, I’m happy with what we’re getting and it will be topped off by a hell of a main event (even if, once again, the result doesn’t exactly seem in doubt here). Prediction: Kazuchika Okada

Alex: With the exception of Kenny Omega, no one has been in as many of my favorite matches ever as Kazuchika Okada. There’s nothing profound in saying Danielson/Okada is a dream match, but that doesn’t make it false. Generational talents from consecutive generations, one from either side of the Pacific, meeting on (relatively) neutral ground. This is truly the stuff dreams are made of, and makes one wonder what we missed at the injury-cursed 2022 Forbidden Door. Even with all of the injuries, that 2022 show was an all-timer and the best show of the year. The potential of this match is representative of the entire show: there is no ceiling now that both companies have healthy rosters. The bar might be higher for Forbidden Door 2023 than for any show in pro wrestling history, and with good reason.  Prediction: Kazuchika Okada

Will: Wow. I’ve been watching wrestling for 20 years this year and, even after this long, it still manages to surprise me. Two of the greatest wrestlers of their time meet up in a match that I’m just grateful is happening at all, even if I would have loved it to have happened a few years earlier. A bit has been done in the last couple of weeks to further heat it up, but in my eyes, all you need is the marquee “Danielson/Okada” and I’m a happy friggin’ camper. It’s no secret that Danielson has been nothing but generous in terms of his performances in AEW (perhaps even to his own detriment), so I have a hard time imagining him winning over Okada, who is G1-bound and is never far away from the title picture. I hope this lives up to the enormous hype placed upon it and, judging by that crowd reaction when the coin dropped on Wednesday, I’m not the only one. Prediction: Kazuchika Okada