All Elite Wrestling x New Japan Pro Wrestling
Forbidden Door 2024
June 30, 2024
UBS Arena
Elmont, New York

Watch: PPV / YouTube / TrillerTV & more

Listen to Voices of Wrestling’s AEW Podcast: The Good, The Bad & The Hungee

AEWxNJPW Forbidden Door 2024 Zero Hour
Kyle Fletcher def. Serpentico

I bet that jerk Jon Cruz blew off this booking. I love anything like AEW loves starting pre-show matches before even half the crowd is in the building; I look forward to bad-faith social media accounts taking screenshots. This was pretty much a squash. Fletcher hit a double underhook piledriver gimmick, paused, then did a stalling turnbuckle brainbuster for three. A solid enough squash. *1/2

AEWxNJPW Forbidden Door 2024 Zero Hour
House of Black (Brody King and Malakai Black) def. Gabriel Kidd and Roderick Strong & Kyle O’Reilly and Tomohiro Ishii & Private Party (Quen and Zay)

We need an Ishiii-Brody Best of Infinity series. They pushed the possibility of O’Reilly & Strong reuniting through the match, with Strong and Kidd arguing about chopping KOR. This was probably exactly what you imagined it’d be, but it was really good. The finish came when Brody King murdered Zay with a Ganso Bomb for the win. ***¾

AEWxNJPW Forbidden Door 2024 Zero Hour
Willow Nightingale & Tam Nakano def. Kris Statlander & Momo Watanabe

Willow is so over. The Stat + Stoke act works really well. Everyone was waiting on the Willow hot tag for the first part of the match. Nakano got a nice bridging German on Stat that was really impressive and got a big pop. Momo and Willow had a very nice sequence trading power moves. Nakano got the win with a bridging German on Momo for the three. ***¾

AEWxNJPW Forbidden Door 2024 Zero Hour – Owen Hart Foundation 2024 Women’s Tournament Quarter Final Match
Mariah May def. Saraya

This was a serviceable outing. I’ve been down on Saray’s ring work to the point that her having a match at this average level sure is something. Mariah got the win on a cradle for three, which was a really cold finish to the crowd.**½

AEWxNJPW Forbidden Door 2024 Zero Hour
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi, Titan, and Yota Tsuji) vs. Mistico, Penta El Zero Miedo, & Rey Fenix

Penta’s squeezing every single dime he can out of that Joker gear. I honestly can’t believe this match is free; this would have been such a great show opener in terms of setting the tone of a Forbidden Door show.

This had a slow first eight or so minutes, but picked up significantly. There was a Titan superkick on Fenix where he took a ridiculous bump on the top of his head. Those two stole the show in this match. Mistico got La Mistica on Titan for the win. Our first great match of the night. ****

MJF def. Hechicero

MJF received the worst crowd surfing in wrestling history during his entrance. MJF did his “I’m the beloved face that cheats” schtick early but then it became a match built around Hechicero using his countering & technical skills to target MJF’s arm. MJF eventually got the win with the brainbuster.

This was well worked, but I was expecting a better bout and given more time to shine. I thought it would have let MJF shine more in his return to PPV. This is two return matches for MJF, and both have been solid but not great. I think the pressure is on him to deliver at a higher level. He’s capable of it, but it hasn’t happened yet. ***½

The Elite (Kazuchika Okada, Matthew Jackson, and Nicholas Jackson) def. Scissor Ace (Anthony Bowens, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Max Caster)

This was preceded with a ridiculous hype video babyfacing The Elite; the highlight was blurring out Kenny Omega’s face. If you told me three years ago that we’d get the next step of Tanahashi vs. Okada in a trios match with The Acclaimed, I wouldn’t have believed you.

This was not a fast-paced Young Bucks match at all, as you should probably expect for anything involving 2024 Tanahashi. Tana is getting a near fall with a roll-up and got a really nice pop. Okada got the Rainmaker pretty much immediately after that. Billy Gunn ran down to save Tanahashi from a second Rainmaker.

This wasn’t bad, but it certainly won’t be a highlight of the show. **1/2

Owen Hart Foundation 2024 Men’s Tournament Quarter Final Match
Bryan Danielson def. Shingo Takagi

Of all the matches on this show, this is the one I was the most excited about. These are two of the best ever.

We got a slower-paced match built around Danielson catching his feet on a tope (which I’ll go to my grave swearing he did on purpose) and coming back from that. The crowd was quieter than I thought they should be until Danielson got a surprise jujugitame, which Shingo countered with a sick power slam. Danielson is so great at the babyface comeback specifically – he’s brilliant at selling, finds very natural ways to set it up, and then is always so fiery when it comes to his comeback. Danielson got the win with an armbar submission, though there was confusion about if Aubrey Edwards called for the bell early. Easily the match of the night so far.

Someone, please teach production how to shoot the Busaiku Knee. ****1/2

AEW Women’s World Championship
Toni Storm (c) def. Mina Shirakawa

Once we got past the “who will Mariah side with” and the weirdly sexualized build, we ended up with a pretty damn good match. Mina & Toni just dropped bombs on each other the entire time. This was really hard hitting and well-worked. Toni eventually hit a Storm Zero for the win.

After, Mina & Toni hugged, then all three kissed. That got the biggest pop of the night so far. This is very much what 2024 AEW is. Someone could write a good essay or twelve about this. ****

Zack Sabre Jr. def. Orange Cassidy

This was a really fun technical match with great action throughout. These two are a really good pairing, with Cassidy’s flexibility complimenting ZSJ’s technical ability.

ZSJ won by submission with some ridiculous limb capture hold. ****¼

Hook, Katsuyori Shibata, and Samoa Joe def. The Learning Tree (Big Bill and Chris Jericho) and Jeff Cobb

This was the match I was the least looking forward to by a large margin. Shibata is like guy #5 that shouldn’t really be doing constant comedy but is, and The Learning Tree is the second heel act in the company that’s built around being annoying.

You know what we got? A good match. This reminded me of those early 90s WCW Saturday Night six-man tag matches. This was a lot of fun, with the right amount of schtick from the heels, and a nice finish with Hook getting the pin with a Judas Effect, which was a nice touch. Good on y’all for stepping up. ***½

Jack Perry def. Dante Martin, El Phantasmo, Konosuke Takeshita, Lio Rush, and Mark Briscoe for the AEW TNT Championship in a ladder match

I feel like every review about a multi-man ladder match in 2024 has to be about the status of multi-man ladder matches in 2024. They’re way over-used across wrestling, but especially in the United States. They’re often complete nonsense with no thought given to anything beyond falling off stuff.

This is all fair. But my brain likes big dumb spots, especially when they’re done with some level of thought. Between Takeshita knocking ladders between moves just so no one can even try to climb them, to Dante Martin’s leg injury being a major storyline in this match, there was some thought here. And there were plenty of big, dumb spots where people went splat. This was a lot of fun. ****¼

NJPW Strong Womens & TBS Championship – Winner Takes All
Mercedes Moné (c) def. Stephanie Vaquer (c) 

This looked like an off night for Moné, with some unsteady work up through the middle of the match leading to the crowd getting heated to chant “Fuck the Celtics” and then one later for the Red Sox. It was hard for me to tell if this was a bored crowd (even though I thought this match was good) or just one working its own angle with Mercedes given her Boston connection. 

But Vaquer shined at an absurd level, hitting one of the absolute sickest dragon screws you’ll ever see. She looked great in this match.

Moné got the win with the Money Maker into a crossface. After that, Britt Baker returned to a massive pop, which was the biggest of the show so far. ****

IWGP World Heavyweight Championship
Tetsuya Naito def. Jon Moxley (c)

Jim Ross joined commentary for this match. I was pretty critical of Ross when he was used for large chunks of shows before 2023, but when he’s invested in a match, he’s still able to do a great call. Tonight he wasn’t setting the world on fire, but he did well enough and still adds a certain gravitas.

I wanted to wait until this match to make this call, but: this crowd is not what Forbidden Door crowds used to be. They were extremely silent during this match, especially when Naito was on offense. In previous years, Naito would have been recognized as a huge star, one of the top guys in New Japan and the world. This year he gets nothing?

It’s tough to tell how much of this is a reflection on AEW’s audience changing, AEW being cooler than a year ago, AEW’s poor ticket sales, the lack of presence of Naito & other non-AEW stars on recent AEW TV, and a middling set of AEW TV building up to the show. There’s lots of issues and it’s hard to assign blame cleanly between them. But this crowd is a symptom of the disease, not the cause. AEW creative has had a lot of issues recently. Hopefully this wakes up some people and things get tightened up, but it’s going to take a lot of time to make up for some of these mistakes.

And it’s not like this match sucked. Both guys were working really hard and taking big bumps. A dead crowd made the finish feel more abrupt than it was, and it was abrupt. A weird counter to a Death Rider and then a less-than-crisp Destino gave Naito the win, but the finish nearly undermined what was an otherwise solid match that was pearls before swine. ***1/2

AEW World Championship
Swerve Strickland (c) def. Will Ospreay 

Hey, the crowd woke up from their nap! We’re proud of you all. Kudos to Will & Swerve for coming out with a hot start. They understood the assignment and fulfilled it. This was essential for this match.

I’d be here all night if I listed the impressive spots in this match. But the Swerve Stomp off the top rope onto Will against the announce table was brutal, and then the piledriver on the barricade right after. This match really worked well in totality.

It was a nice touch when Callis brought the screwdriver out of cold storage as a months-long callback, but I really could have done without the ~~~story~~~ where Will Ospreay was going to shoot murder Prince Nana with a screwdriver but instead stared at him for thirty seconds. Fortunately, that didn’t turn into a full-blown NXT overacting bit, and Ospreay immediately rolled into a House Call, as he should have. But it still hurt the match – it killed the momentum of a really well-worked match.

Swerve got the pin with the Big Pressure after a ton of great near falls. This was a really great match that could have been a legit MOTYC contender if it wasn’t for one unnecessary creative decision. ****1/2

Final Thoughts

Even though the main event broke the Forbidden Door mold in terms of not being AEW vs. someone outside of the company, it turned out to be the right call. Again – is that a bad thing for AEW due to a changing audience costing the company a unique aspect that set it apart from WWE, or AEW recognizing that times have changed and this is what they needed to book for their 2024 audience? It’s two sides of the same coin.

The AEW main event scene feels good right now, and the main event match played that up. With teases of both Garcia & MJF, there’s a clear future for Swerve as the champ.

There are still major concerns about this company. This crowd was cold for a lot of the night, which hurt several matches that were otherwise well worked. There’s no clear sign that any of the “ha ha” characters which have taken over a large chunk of the card are having their direction change. Concerns about weekly attendance won’t be solved by this one strong crowd.

Was putting Swerve over Will the right call? Both guys feel like the two hottest acts on the men’s side. If you asked me four or six weeks ago, I would have unquestionably said Will should have won since he was the hottest guy in the company. But he cooled a little, and Swerve may have heated up a little, so the margin shifted.

I don’t get the feeling that many other people in the company were heated up significantly by this night. Britt got a huge return pop; we’ll see if that remains, though I expect that it should. I don’t think anyone else got more over on this night, with the possible exception of Stephanie Vaquer, who we may not see again for months. I worry Perry may have flattened out, but it’s hard to gauge his reception alone in a multi-man schmozz like the ladder match was.

Still, all in all, this show delivered very high-quality in-ring action with lots of finishes that made sense and should set up future storylines. One can only hope that this is a step in AEW steering out of their creative doldrums of the past few months. Forbidden Door may not quite be what 2022 or 2023 were, but it’s a strong show easily worth your time and money.

Overall rating: 8/10