Red's Pro-Wrestling Digest no.118: AEWxNJPW Forbidden Door Review


It's finally time for Forbidden Door. Last year's edition was one of the best shows I've ever seen, top to bottom. Perhaps I've been slow to get to this one because of that high bar that I feared wouldn't be met again? Nah, it's just because I am always busy as hell and am behind on shit eternally as a result.

Speaking of, I skipped the preshow. Lots of high-level talent on that stream, but...time! That and I was told it was a pretty safe skip by enough people so...

It doesn't matter that Tanahashi is slowly going the way of Muta, because he's still Hiroshi Fucking Tanahashi. The real issue here was trying to get him to work an American style for MJF. It was a slightly above average style clash meant largely to resolidify the champ as top heel and, to be honest, you're better off watching this as a highlight reel online than as a full experience as a result.

Hiroshi got a visual victory before the ref bump, ring shot finish that saw the champ retain.

CM Punk took on the dude that LOVES bread next. Kojima was far from anyone's choice for an opponent for the returning straightedge douche, but the dude is a fun worker so I was sure it'd be fun if nothing else.

It was.

Old school attitude with Punk leaning into the heel response and the former IWGP, GHC, NWA, and Triple Crown Champ had a nice buzz behind him that he leaned into nicely enough, too. Kojima was also MLW World Heavyweight Champ once too, for those that care about that company.

Pretty good stuff in all, borderline great even, closing with a GTS finish. This worked far better than the open because CM Punk worked a more Japan leaning style match.

Respect shown after.

The International Championship was on the line in a four-way match up third. Sabre, New Japan TV Champ, Garcia, PWG World Champ, and Shibata, ROH Pure Champ, challenged Orange Cassidy in this one! This took the energy of the last one, had nonstop action, working well at showcasing everyone involved, and ended up being a fantastic defense when the dust settled. 

Sabre and Shibata repeatedly telling Red Death to fuck off was pure entertainment. Their sequences were the support beam of the entire bout, in fact, though there were several standout moments throughout.

Everyone looked good by the end, which saw the taped together champ keep hold of his IN belt after taking advantage of a Shibata PK for the steal!

After, Sabre talked shit and then The Wrestler shook hands with Orange.

The Power Rangers Champion, SANADA, defended in match four against the caveman sometimes known as Jungle Boy next. I'd prefer Cavernario replace Perry in most of Jack's matches. An upgrade, for sure. Jungle did actually do decent here, at least, though the pacing was a bit off early on.

The Paradise Lock dude is the champ of New Japan. Sigh. I am behind on the company, but I want him as the champ about as much as I wanted EVIL. Why not let SHINGO burn down the house for the better part of a year. I just don't think SANADA is that level. I mean, DDT has loads of dudes equally his level making a portion of what he does.

Oh well.

Just two dudes I think are mid having a great match. Me and Punk share something in common, clearly. I'm sure some of y'all think I'm a douche, that is. Predictable outcome, but in all this was indeed great and closed with SANADA landing a shining wizard for a nearfall and a moonsault to close it.

Jack attacked Hook after to some nice heat. Taz really sold this.

Ten-man insanity? Ten-man insanity it is, because next we saw the next chapter in the BCC/Elite program with some quality additions around the edges.

Adam Page teamed with the Bucks, Ishii, and Eddie Kingston to take on Soup, Mox and his apprentice, Yuta, and Claudio. I mean, on paper that's exactly the crazy kind of thing I'd book on a videogame come to life. It was guaranteed to be required viewing, right?


A MOTYC with lots of fire, with Eddie and Mox's emotion driven chop war and the return of the fuck off attitude from early as they went at it taking center stage early on. In fact, it felt like a better version of the awesome Shibata/Sabre sequences from earlier on. And that's saying something. It helps that Claudio was the man to break up up, with a cheap shot.

The Blackpool Combat Club, I still think they need a new name by the way, as a heel unit is quality television and I am all for it. On PPV, it's arguably even better and it made Eddie one of the biggest faces of the night. He took that buzz and added a lot to the fire, by the way. He was hot here!

Everyone played their roles well, in fact, and the entire ten-man easily for one of the best contests you'll find anywhere in 2023. An awesome clash with a great crowd. If you missed this one, run to it now!

The sole women's match of the evening, outside of Athena's victory earlier on the YouTube lead-in, was sadly below expectations. It was good, and I appreciated Willow taking the control spot so often, but it just didn't land as well as it could've and felt far closer to a Dynamite match than a PPV one alongside some MOTYC material.

Omega versus Ospreay did it again! One of the best matches I've ever seen and an easy fucking five star rating for this one. This is another chapter of excellence from both men, adding to already deep catalogs, and a showcase of fighting spirit and absolute insanity. It wont matter how high your expectations are walking in, because this will meet or blow them away regardless. If you missed it, WATCH IT NOW! The finish especially should resonate well with fans of the art.

Will would take the strap in this 40-minute epic.

Sadly, the next one felt more like Dynamite content on PPV again. Naito would win the six-man but was attacked after for his trouble. Sting made the save. Some good spots throughout and I enjoyed some of the sequences for sure, but It was really just the wrong match for the setting.

The fire would be relit to full force one more time before we'd end the show, with The Rainmaker and The American Dragon's dream match taking the main event role. Like the Will/Kenny match before it, Danielson/Okada was simply a battle of titans of the sport. Two icons, both with mountains of fans considering them GOATs, going at it for about 30-minutes or so. It's hard to complain about that.

While not MOTN, Kaz versus Bryan was the third MOTYC of the evening and a very suitable close this year's NJPWxAEW show. Okada tapped out in a dramatic scene to finish this one! Statement stuff!!

Forbidden Door 2023 had a few matches that didn't hit the same peaks as the rest, but not a thing was bad and there were loads of jawdroppers. It's hard to compare events, but I do think last year's bested this one by a hair but I'd add that Omega versus Ospreay is the best thing from either event. If you missed this show, it's certainly one of the best top to bottom shows you could watch from the year. If you don't have a lot of time, pick around a bit and I hope this review helps you do so.

Thanks, as always, for reading. You rock, wolfpac!

Match Ratings

AEW World Heavyweight Title: MJF(c) vs Tanahashi **3/4

Owen Tournament Match: Punk vs Kojima ***1/2

AEW International Title: Orange(c) vs Shibata vs Garcia vs Sabre ****

IWGP World Heavyweight Title: SANADA(c) vs Perry ***3/4

The Elite, Kingston, Ishii vs BCC, Takeshita, Umino ****1/2

AEW Women's World Title: Storm(c) vs Willow ***

IWGP US Heavyweight Title: Omega(c) vs Ospreay *****

JAS, Suzuki vs Sting, Naito, Allin ***1/2

Okada vs Danielson ****1/2

Overall Rating: 90%

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