AEWxNJPW Forbidden Door

Chicago, IL- 6.26.2022

Commentary is provided by Kevin Kelly, Excalibur & Taz.

The Buy-In

Bishamon (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. The Factory (QT Marshall & Aaron Solo)

We couldn’t find anyone better for the guys who won the IWGP Tag Titles at this year’s Wrestle Kingdom? To the Factory’s credit, they made Bishamon’s offense look great. What didn’t look great was Marshall’s Sasuke Special. Kevin Kelly openly burying him on commentary is lovely. They isolated Goto after a top rope double stomp from Solo. It didn’t last long, as Goto reversed a suplex from Solo and took Marshall out with a lariat. Solo saved Marshall from being pinned after YOSHI-HASHI’s Head Hunter and took both of Bishamon out with a tope con hilo. Marshall’s back hand enzuigiri looked much better. Marshall got two on YOSHI-HASHI with a Diamond Cutter, then missed a 450 splash. YOSHI-HASHI took out Solo with a superkick, and then superkicked Marshall into Goto’s Ushigoroshi. Bishamon then took out Solo with Shoto for the pin at 8:55. There was a moment when I noticed Bishamon got pumped after they pummeled on Solo and Marshall’s backs and the crowd cheered loudly for them. It then occurred to me that this is the first time they’re wrestling in front of cheering fans in over two years. The crowd took to Bishamon, and this was a solid introduction for them to the AEW crowd. **¾

Lance Archer vs. Nick Comoroto

It drives me nuts that AEW doesn’t do more squashes. Hook defeating DKC in a minute on Rampage was great. QT Marshall having an even match with Hook at Revolution was not great. This was along the lines of the second match – Comoroto did not need to go six minutes with Archer. Who does this benefit? Is that something any fan would want to see? Archer has the G1 coming up, let him destroy Comoroto and go forth. He won with the Blackout in 6:08. This match didn’t need to happen. ¾*

Swerve In Our Glory (Keith Lee & Shane Strickland) vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru)

After Lee intimidated Kanemaru successfully, Desperado and Strickland picked up the pace. Desperado locked on Numero Dos as Strickland was coming down from the apron, and you can see Strickland decide to do a bottom rope springboard dropkick instead of a top rope dropkick due to the damage suffered. Strickland accidentally kicks Lee in his knee when Desperado moves out of the way. Kanemaru tosses Desperado out of the ring and attacks Lee, as Kevin Kelly reminds us Ishii’s injury that kept him out of the “Forbidden Door” is due to Kanemaru attacking his knee in their singles match back on the 19th. I love Kevin Kelly for that. Lee is able to kick Desperado across the ring and tags Strickland who knocks Kanemaru off the apron and uppercuts Desperado’s neck. Strickland rolls him up into a brainbuster for a nearfall. Desperado escapes the JML Driver and drops Strickland with a spinebuster. Suzuki-gun double team Strickland, but when Desperado attempts Pinche Loco, Strickland counters into a backbreaker and rolls up into an Ace Crusher on Desperado. Suzuki-gun get Lee and Strickland in stereo leg submissions, but Lee saves them both by goozling Desperado off of Strickland and throwing him onto Kanemaru. Kanemaru spits his whiskey into Lee’s eyes and rolls him up, but Lee still manages to kick out. Strickland hops off Lee’s back and hits the House Call to Kanemaru head. Strickland double stomps Desperado off the apron and to the floor, and Lee pins Kanemaru with Ground Zero at 12:08. This was a total blast. Suzuki-gun going after both Lee and Stickland’s legs worked for me, and the fans biting on Kanemaru’s whiskey spray surprised me. The finish was particularly awesome, and makes it clear Swerve In Our Glory should be tag champs someday soon. ***½

Alex Coughlin, The DKC, Kevin Knight & Yuya Uemura vs. Max Caster & The Gunn Club (Austin Gunn, Billy Gunn & Colten Gunn)

People LOVE the Ass Boys and The Acclaimed. The LA DOJO team put in a good performance, but had a huge uphill battle in getting the crowd to care about what they did in particular. As far as Chicago was concerned, they could’ve been facing anyone. Knight’s awesome offense getting no love hurt my feelings. His Mad Splash combo with Uemura landing an elbow drop at the same time particularly ruled. Billy Gunn made them look tiny as he ran roughshod on all of them. He dropped DKC with a Fame Asser, then tagged Caster who hit the Mic Drop to win the match for his team at 5:35. The fans got to see their favorites, and Knight got to shine – I can get behind that. I don’t think the Dojo kids left a lasting impression, but that’s due to the nature of the match more than anything else. **¼

Main Show

Eddie Kingston, Shota Umino & Wheeler YUTA vs. Minoru Suzuki & The Jericho Appreciation Society (Chris Jericho & Sammy Guevara)

The winning team gets the man advantage in the Blood and Guts match on Wednesday. The fans ate up Suzuki and Kingston’s strike exchange, with Suzuki knocking down Kingston with a stiff forearm shot to end it. Suzuki had the best use of his rope capture armbar in maybe any U.S. match yet – grabbing Kingston’s arm to stop him from chopping Jericho and Guevara. Jericho then took Kingston down with a divorce court. Kingston’s shoulder and elbow were then attacked by his opposition. After catching Guevara mid-air with an exploder suplex, Kingston dropped him with an STO and tagged Umino. Umino wiped out Guevara with Finlay like uppercuts and Suzuki with a basement dropkick. After Umino cannonball senton’d onto Jericho, Guevara landed a shooting star onto a standing Umino, but YUTA and Kingston both landed dives onto Guevara. Kingston hurt his elbow in the process. Kingston blind tagged in when Guevara took out YUTA with a Spanish Fly, and surprised Guevara with a Backdrop Driver. He locked Guevara in a Stretch Plum, and nailed Suzuki with a Backfist to the Future when Suzuki looked to break the hold. Umino kicks out of the Code Breaker and gives Jericho an Avalanche powerslam for two. Guevara takes out YUTA with Feast Your Eyes on the floor. Umino gets another nearfall on Jericho with a tornado DDT. Guevara fails to save Jericho from Umino’s Walls of Jericho, but a headbutt from Suzuki does the trick. Suzuki takes out Kingston with a GSP. As Umino is fighting off Suzuki and Guevara, Jericho surprises him with the Molasses Elbow for the pin at 18:58. I am pleasantly surprised Umino was the focus of the match. He looked tough as nails fighting all of the opposition on his own in the closing moments, and unfortunately, him being pinned hurts both of his partners who are now at a deficit in Wednesday’s big match. Suzuki also slotted his usual offense in interesting, logical places. Very fun match. ***½

IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship & ROH World Tag Team Championship
United Empire (Jeff Cobb & Great-O-Khan) vs. FTR (Cash Wheeler & Dax Harwood) vs. Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Trent Beretta

United Empire have been IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions since 6.12.2022 and this is their first defense. FTR has been ROH World Tag Team Champions since 4.1.2022 and this is their fourth defense. Bobby Cruise does the introductions and Caprice Coleman is on commentary. Harwood hurts his shoulder missing an elbow drop on Romero and is taken backstage by a crew member. The United Empire tags themselves in so they can attack a lone Harwood, attacking his lower back which has kinesio tape on it. Wheeler makes the tough choice when he notices Harwood is gone and tags Beretta. Beretta sends O-Khan flying with a tornado DDT, and Romero sends Cobb to the floor with him via flying Frankensteiner. They quickly take O-Khan back in the ring for a double stomp to the back and Busaiku knee for two after taking out Cobb with a flying knee. Harwood makes his return with tape around his shoulder as the United Empire is double teaming Wheeler. Wheeler shoves Cobb into O-Khan and tags Harwood. Harwood takes out O-Khan with a lariat and impressively German suplexes Cobb thrice. Beretta aids Harwood with a superplex to Cobb. Wheeler tags himself in on the sly so he can follow up with a top rope splash onto Cobb for two. Romero assists Wheeler with a spike piledriver, and then takes out Wheeler with a running Shiranui and pescado. O-Khan pulls down Romero from climbing the turnbuckles as Cobb powerbombs Beretta. Beretta then kicks out of a Claw Bomb/German suplex combo. Harwood pulls O-Khan out to the floor and Romero suicide diveso nto them. Vice hits Strong Zero on Cobb, and Wheeler breaks the pin just in time. Romero tries several pinning combinations on Harwood. As Romero comes off the ropes, however, he runs right into the Big Rig from FTR and is pinned by Harwood at 16:19. We all knew Romero was here to take the L, but just like at Capital Collision, he had a hell of a run at the end to make us believe for a moment his team was actually going to pull it off. The shoulder injury story with Harwood worked, as the crowd was happy for his return, and even happier when FTR added another set of tag gold to their collection. Perhaps they’ll defend on STRONG next month when New Japan is in their home state. ***½

Backstage ,Tony Schiavone interviews Juice Robinson, who insists he is still the real U.S. Champion, and that Ospreay and Cassidy are fighting for the number one contendership. Jay White says when Robinson won the U.S. title, he defeated Jon Moxley, Will Ospreay, and Hiroshi Tanahashi. He looks to follow in his footsteps by defeating his good friend Adam Cole, Adam Page, and Kazuchika Okada at the same time.

AEW All-Atlantic Championship
Clark Connors vs. Malakai Black vs. Miro vs. PAC

The winner of this match is the inaugural champion. Connors replaces the injured Tomohiro Ishii. The match is paired off with Black and PAC continuing the rivalry between their respective factions, and the muscle boys Miro and Connors going at it. Miro took out Connors for a while with a bodyslam on the floor. Connors snuck back in to try a German suplex on Black, but ended up in a knee bar. Miro pulled Connors back to the floor by his hair so Black would not get the submission victory, and sent him chest first into the barricades. Connors is spun out into a slam by Miro when he comes back into the ring a few moments later. Miro gutwrench slams Connors before pitching him outside and assisting Black in stomping down PAC. When Connors charges in to attack PAC, PAC simply backdrops him over the top rope. Connors however comes back with a German suplex to Black, and later spears Miro through a table outside of the ring. Connors powerslams Black and spears PAC back inside the ring, earning a two count on PAC with a Trophy Kill as Black saves him at the last moment. Miro tosses Connors and Black outside after a Tower of Doom. He locks PAC in the Accolade after the Machka Kick, but Black’s black mist forces Miro to retreat. As Black attempts an armbar, PAC surprises them both with a 450 splash. He then locks Connors in the Brutalizer for the submission at 15:10. My opinion is definitely colored by Connors getting very little to do. The table spear was pretty sweet, though. I wish Miro had won, but PAC is a great pick for the first champion too. ***¼

BULLET CLUB (The Young Bucks (Nick Jackson & Matt Jackson) & El Phantasmo) vs. Dudes With Attitude (Darby Allin, Sting & Shingo Takagi)

Tony Schiavone joins commentary for this match. This is both Phantasmo and Shingo’s AEW debuts. Hikuleo is in the BULLET CLUB’s corner. Sting surprises them with a dive off one of the entrance tunnels. I’m not a big Sting guy, but I can’t deny him and Shingo hitting a double shoulder block and doing the LIJ fist bump was pretty great. Allin is isolated in the BC corner and gets his back torn to shreds. He tags out to Shingo after dropping Phantasmo with a Code Red. Shingo and Sting ran roughshod over the BULLET CLUB. Hikuleo distracted Rick Knox so Phantasmo could punch Sting in the dick, but while Shingo and Allin fell to double superkicks, Sting absorbed the kicks and clotheslined both Bucks. Takagi saved Allin from being pinned after More Bang For Your Buck and Thunderkiss ‘68. Sting falls to triple superkicks, but avoids the BTE Trigger and drops both Bucks with a tandem reverse DDT. Sting gets revenge on Phantasmo by kicking him in the dick. Allin Coffin Drops onto Hikuleo, and Takagi puts down Phantasmo with boxing elbows and the Pumping Bomber. Last of the Dragon gets Shingo the pin at 13:01. That was just plain fun, and again, super cool to see Sting and Shingo on the same team. Also lovely to see Phantasmo and Sting messing with each other. ***¼

Backstage, Jericho throws a fireball into Shota Umino’s eyes. There’s more fuel to the fire for this week’s Blood and Guts.

AEW Women’s World Championship
Thunder Rosa vs. Toni Storm

Rosa has been champion since 3.16.2022 and this is her fourth defense. This was in a tough spot as the only non-interpromotional match that came after people went nuts for Sting in the previous bout. Rosa controlled the match, attacking Storm’s shoulder until Storm gave her a German suplex on the apron. Storm kicked out of the Fire Thunder Driver, but when Storm’s shoulder was too hurt for the Storm Zero, she whipped Storm down to the mat by her shoulder. The Final Reckoning then got Rosa the pin at 10:42. Totally competent, serviceable title defense, but unfortunately the crowd used the time to conserve their energy and it hurt the atmosphere. **½

IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship
Will Ospreay vs. Orange Cassidy

Ospreay has been champion since 6.12.2022 and this is his first defense. Jim Ross is inexplicably on the call for this one. Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis are in Ospreay’s corner, and none of Cassidy’s Best Friends are beside him. This came into play when Ospreay sent Cassidy out with a big boot and Aussie Open helped Ospreay dropkick Cassidy into the barricades. Juice Robinson is watching the match with Hikuleo and Phantasmo in a sky box, still in possession of the IWGP U.S. Championship belt. Cassidy wears down Cassidy’s back, and but when he slips his hand into Cassidy’s pocket, Cassidy gets angry enough to hip toss his way free. Ospreay counters a DDT by slamming him onto his face, and then knocks him down with a back handspring enzuigiri. Cassidy seems to pass out when Ospreay is getting ready for the Hidden Blade. Cassidy takes down Ospreay with a dropkick to get a respite after some Kawada kicks. Cassidy then gives Ospreay Kawada kicks that fit his pace, baiting him into a superkick and actual Kawada kicks. Cassidy steps out of the way of the OsCutter and hits the Stundog Millionaire. Ospreay does the impossible, kicking out of Cassidy’s Falcon Arrow. Cassidy is also able to evade the Cheeky Nando’s Kick, successfully pull off his tornado DDT, and wipe out Aussie Open with an Asai senton. Cassidy gets a nearfall with a Flying DDT. Cassidy plays possum after knocking Ospreay’s head into one of the corner cameras. Cassidy still succumbs to a standing moonsault, but gets his knees up to block a Phoenix Splash. He gets the Beach Break on Ospreay for an incredibly close nearfall. Ospreay blocks the Orange Punch with an Ace Crusher, then lands the OsCutter for two. Cassidy ducks the Hidden Blade and counters the Hidden Blade with a huracanrana for two. A lariat and the Hidden Blade only get Ospreay two, and as the Chicago crowd goes wild, Ospreay flips them off and drops Cassidy with the Storm Breaker for the pin at 16:43. These two were an amazing pair, with so many great counters and dodges keeping the match exciting and unpredictable.The nearfalls in this were unbelievable, especially when it felt like Cassidy had no chance to win coming into this match. They made me and the crowd believers. I was very much looking forward to this match, but did not expect it to steal the show – it did. ****

Ospreay directs Aussie Open to lay out Orange Cassidy with Coriolis. Roppongi Vice comes to his aid, but Aussie Open takes them out. Just as they are dragging Cassidy back to mid-ring, Katsuyori Shibata’s music hits. He wipes out Aussie Open in the aisleway, and then takes out Ospreay with a pump kick. He elbows down Ospreay in the corner and delivers his signature seated dropkick. Aussie Open save Ospreay from Shibata’s rear naked choke. Cassidy places his sunglasses on Shibata’s face after recovering, which is such a surreal and incredible moment. Seeing Shibata ruled, a lot.

Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Claudio Castagnoli

This was both men’s AEW debuts, with Claudio being a surprise opponent due to Bryan Danielson being injured and unable to compete. This is their first match in over 13 years, last competing in a 30 Minute Iron Man match for wXw. It’s also Sabre’s first U.S. match since July of 2019, and Claudio’s first non-WWE match since August of 2011. Claudio almost had the match won in seconds after blasting Sabre with a running uppercut and delivering the Neutralizer for two. He kept on Sabre until Sabre caught a Swiss Chin Music and put Claudio in a knee bar in the ropes. Sabre then wears down Claudio’s shoulder. Claudio impressively muscles up Sabre on the floor as Sabre has on an armbar, carrying Sabre by one arm up the ring steps, and depositing him in the ring with a one-arm powerbomb. Sabre is able to lock Claudio in a Octopus Hold on the top turnbuckle. Claudio rocks him with an uppercut upon slipping out, and brings Sabre down with a gutwrench slam. Claudio pummels Sabre with uppercuts. He turns a leg bar from Sabre into a sharpshooter, and then into a double stomp. Sabre blocks Swiss Death and wraps his legs around Claudio’s shoulder and neck until he uses his other arm to get to the ropes, and even then, Sabre extends the other arm until Bryce yells at him. Claudio pulls off Swiss Death the second time, and the Ricola Bomb gets him the pin at 18:26. Fewer people are more creative at submission wrestling than Sabre, and his transitions and holds to counter offense were something to behold. His submission work versus Claudio’s power had me very engaged. Claudio was the best surprise possible, and I am really excited to see him mix it up with old friends once more. ***¾

IWGP World Heavyweight Championship
Jay White vs. Kazuchika Okada vs. Adam Cole vs. Adam Page

White has been champion since 6.12.2022 and this is his first defense. Gedo is in his corner. Last time White defended the IWGP World Championship in the U.S., he lost the title to Okada. Cole convinces White to team up against Okada and Page, and they give Page a heck of a double suplex on the entrance ramp. They then stomp down Okada in the ring. Page then runs roughshod over both White and Page, almost pinning Cole with a flying lariat. Cole counters Page’s moonsault mid-air with a superkick. Okada gets White and Cole in the front row and lands a running crossbody that sends them multiple rows deep into chairs. White is able to save Cole from Okada’s Money Clip. White takes down Page with a Complete Shot and German suplex. Cole then finally stabs White in the back after sharing a “Too Sweet”, getting a nearfall on the champion with an Ushigoroshi. White ducks The Boom and gives Cole a sleepwalker suplex. A series of offenses leaves everyone laying. White barely gets his shoulder up to stop a pin from Page’s sit-out powerbomb. Page lands an Orihara moonsault onto Okada and Cole and punches out Gedo. Page takes out White the Dead Eye and Buckshot Lariat, and Okada breaks up the pin just before three. Page takes out Okada with a discus lariat. Cole pulls Page off the apron and sends him head first into a ring post. He looks for the Panama Sunrise on Okada, but Okada blocks with an Air Raid Crash neckbreaker. Cole ducks the Rainmaker and superkicks both Okada and Page who tried to surprise Okada with a Buckshot Lariat. Cole has to superkick Page again, but Okada is able to take down Page with a dropkick and the Landslide. Cole ducks another Rainmaker. White reappears and surprises Okada with the Blade Runner, and then pins Cole at 21:05 to retain. This ended abruptly, allegedly due to Cole suffering a concussion. Commentary even straight up called it “anti-climatic.” That said, I think there is a story you could tell here – even though White took out Okada with his finisher, he wanted to pin Cole to prove a point after Cole turned his back on him during the match. I think they did a very good job balancing the match so that everyone was featured equally, except for maybe White who seemed to go into hiding as a strategy. If you’re able to overlook the ending, this is a good time. ***½

AEW Interim World Championship
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jon Moxley

Obviously, CM Punk being injured and unable to face Tanahashi in a dream match is a bummer, but as a New Japan fan, I was so excited to see we would be getting Tanahashi vs. Moxley instead. The story they’re telling is Tanahashi has been ducking Moxley for three years, and they had really good chemistry in the four-way at “Capital Collision.” Moxley surprisingly decides not to strike Tanahashi as they’re breaking a lock-up against the ropes. Tanahashi then baits Moxley into a dropkick to the knee, and focuses his offense from there on Moxley’s left leg. Moxley surprises Tanahashi with an Ace Crusher out of nowhere for a reprieve. Moxley superplexes Tanahashi and gives him a piledriver before locking on a cloverleaf and then an STF. Tanahashi comes off the ropes with a flying forearm and slams Moxley into a somersault senton off the second turnbuckle. Moxley avoids the Slingblade and sends Tanahashi back first into the barricades. Then he sends Tanahashi crashing through the timekeeper’s table with a uranage slam. When Tanahashi comes back in, Moxley counters his dragonscrew leg whip with a cross armbreaker. Tanahashi holds onto Moxley’s arms as he stomps on his face. He successfully takes down Moxley with a Slingblade, and we see Tanhashi’s stomps have busted open Moxley. Moxley is then wiped out on the floor with Aces High. Tanahashi takes Moxley down with the Twist and Shout twice. Moxley comes back with the Paradigm Shift and elbows to the side of the head. Tanahashi blocks the Death Rider with a Kamigoye. After Aces High, Tanahashi lands the High Fly Flow. At the count of two, Moxley pulls Tanahashi over into the Bulldog Joke. Moxley’s blood is spilling on Tanahashi’s arm as they get to their feet. Tanahashi jackknife pins Moxley to block another Death Rider. Moxley clobbers Tanahashi with a lariat and only gets a one count! After more elbows to the head, Moxley locks Tanahashi in a sleeper hold. He turns that into the Death Rider to get the pin at 18:14. Moxley’s blood added a sense of drama to the match, as I don’t think many people expected Tanahashi to win here. But it worked! The crowd was definitely spent but into the nearfalls. I’d be curious to see this in Japan or in front of a less tired audience, but it was a fun match and Moxley was a suitable replacement for Punk. ***½

The show ends with the two Blood and Guts teams brawling to end the show. This means Dynamite, Rampage, and this PPV all ended with brawls this week. Eddie Kingston refused to be in the ring at the same time as Claudio, harkening back to their issue on the Indies. I am so interested to see how they interact in Blood and Guts.

A lot of people are calling this the best PPV of the year so far, and I would tend to agree. While I think you’ll find better matches elsewhere, I don’t think you’ll find a more consistent card anywhere else in wrestling Especially for such a lackluster build and a card that seemed cursed, this turned out to be something pretty special.

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