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Forbidden Door 2024 preview and predictions

*Contains spoilers for the Learning Tree six-man tag*

Ahead of next year’s Fourbidden Door (welcome, Tony!), this third edition is a mix of inter and intra-company clashes.  So we’ll go with traditional ratings and previews for any which are majority-AEW.  Otherwise…

We’ll discuss the build and how ‘open’ the Forbidden Door is for each contest:

  • Kick in the door wavin’ the 4-4
  • Wide Open
  • Ajar
  • Creaking Open
  • Padlocked Shut

And the matches will be ranked according to personal preference, least interesting first.

MJF vs Hechicero

Door rating: Padlocked Shut

MJF’s gimmick is that he craps on Forbidden Door.  Because his character is anti-New Japan and all the stuff ‘smarks’ like.  But his line about wrestling ‘some random guy from Mexico or Japan’ hit a little too close to home.

Because the CMLL talent in particular have been sent at us in waves without anything to distinguish them.  The BCC vs CMLL eight-man a couple weeks back was the least-watched thing on the show.  Lower than Mark Briscoe vs perennial loser Brian Cage or any of the ninety Learning Tree segments.

Because fans at least know who those guys are.

Fact is, even the former champ facing Rush again would be a much bigger match.  This is Forbidden Door for the sake of Forbidden Door.  And continues a flat return for Maxwell.  Who moves from one luchador he’s obviously going to beat, to another.  Because, as with Mercedes, AEW did absolutely nothing to get anything or anyone ready for them.

WINNER: MJF

Samoa Joe, Hook & Katsuyori Shibata vs Chris Jericho, Big Bill & Jeff Cobb

Star quality: 4

Between big shows, the heels have been feuding with Private Party; the babyfaces with Premier Athletes…

‘Just keep doin’ your thing,’ he said, ‘say no more.’

Match quality: 6

Hook’s still limited, Jericho’s on the decline, so establishing these guys as proper trios to protect those two is smart.  How good this gets is down to the other four.

Build: 0

Speaking of four, for the fourth pay-per-view in a row, Chris Jericho is in one of the two least interesting matches on the show.  Apparently there are actually some people out there who like the Learning Tree gimmick.  Godless, hideous people who no doubt throw kittens in rivers and laugh as they drown.

On the flipside, Hook and Joe’s interactions have been fun, the vet drawing out the youngster’s personality as they chat en route to smashing someone’s face in.

And I had to find out who the sixth guy was on Wikipedia.  As any viewer who ‘only’ watched up to the go-home Dynamite would.

Overall Score: 10

Given the renewed emphasis on trios, AEW may forget the FTW title for a bit and have these teams feud over those titles at Wembley.

But best guess is this leads to the belt AEW don’t recognize being defended for the third time in five ppvs: if you want a new babyface champ to look like a star, doing it in front of the biggest crowd all year helps.

WINNER: Samoa Joe, Hook & Katsuyori Shibata

Kazuchika Okada & the Young Bucks vs Hiroshi Tanahashi & the Acclaimed

Star quality: 6

Neither the tag champs or their #1 contenders are hot.  Saying a lot about the division.  The fans who attend shows absolutely love Okada, but,

  1. It doesn’t seem the wider audience care all that much, because he wasn’t introduced to them
  2. He’s supposed to be a heel

When the Young Bucks are heels they’re like nine levels over the top.  They might as well have ‘I’m playing a bad guy’ written on their tees.  And this seems to have rubbed off on the newbie.

Who, between his facials and comedic timing, is wildly entertaining.  He seems to be having a ball and it shows.  Possibly, like his buddy Nakamura, he’s come to the US to make things easier on his battered body.  But while there are tons of laughs to be had with this incarnation, ironically for the Rainmaker, there’s no money…

…bitch 😉.

Build: 3

As part of the nonsensical ‘invasion’ storyline, the Acclaimed vowed to ‘take back their company’ and titles from the EVPs.  And beat them last week to earn a title shot.  But the challengers’ act is so tired.  Scissors, Daddy Ass, everyone loves… to the degree they’ve gone retro to their ‘Yo…yo…yo…’ intro because at least it’s had a little break.

Though AEW did, for once, make decent use of an eliminator.  If folks actually win once in a while those become infinitely more exciting.  And Hiroshi Tanahashi is so self-effacingly likeable that he got me to smile at the Acclaimed’s played out shenanigans.  The ‘Scissor Ace’ is coming.  And he’s coming for his ‘greatest rival,’ Kazuchika Okada.

Match quality: 6

Anthony Bowens had better be on his game.  Since The Pres can’t do a lot these days but knows exactly what and when.  The Bucks will make him look good and anything he does with Okada will get a reaction.

Whose talent lies in longer, dramatic Title Bouts.  And this won’t be that.  So what it really needs is the ‘spot monkey’ Young Bucks.  They’ve toned down their act as heels.  But they need to inject speed and energy into this to prevent it becoming flat.

Overall Score: 15

Who wins?

Could go for heat and have the Bucks sneak one over their challengers.  But seems like a match you end with the crowd happy.  After being selfless the last two years, it’d be nice for Tanahashi to get it.  Could also continue the Acclaimed’s momentum, which makes the most sense.

If the Bucks or Acclaimed pin the other, it indicates the opposite side will do so for the belts.  And given Bowens saying they were strategizing about dates, suggests picking All In.  You’d be pretty dumb not doing so if given your choice.

WINNER: Hiroshi Tanahashi & the Acclaimed

TNT Title Ladder Match

Entrants: Jack Perry, Dante Martin, Konosuke Takeshita, Mark Briscoe, Lio Rush, El Phantasmo

Star quality: 4

Jack Perry is easily the highest profile guy in this match.  And he’s barely been on tv.  If you watch Collision, you’ve seen a decent bit of Lio Rush and Dante.  If you don’t, they don’t exist.

And It’s hard to tell if Takeshita’s in the dog house after that recent interview.  Because he was being booked awfully anyway.  The only guy who’s had tv and promo time on Dynamite is Mark Briscoe.

Build: 0

AEW announced qualifying matches without a bracket or participants.  No-one beat anyone who doesn’t always lose anyway.  Then they were all chucked in a blender of six and eight-man tags.  Aside from Jack Perry, who it seems they’re making MJF circa 2020 via wrestling infrequently as a chickenshit heel.

In short – no-one here regularly appears on tv and wins wrestling matches.

And the only whiff of story is Rush/Dante.  The history of which AEW seem to believe themselves above disclosing.  But what if I don’t recall?  What if I’m a new viewer?  After everyone’s finished laughing at the latter notion, Tony Khan has three words for you:

Google it, mutha*****!

And that’s what I had to do to find out who the sixth guy was.

Match quality: 8

For the second time in three shows, we have ourselves a ladder match.  Not only is that too many for it to feel special; these guys have a tough act to follow in Bucks/FTR.

Though they are helped by a hell of a lineup.  Rush and Martin will zoom and fly, Takeshita will aid them in this endeavour.  Briscoe’s reaching the jumping from high places phase of his career.  But connects with the crowd like no-one else in this match.  Yep, the guy with the most relatable character and best promos is the most popular; not the guy who’s the best wrestler.

We’ve yet to see enough of this Jack Perry to know whether he’ll join the risk takers or play opportunistic heel.  El-P has a rep for being very good.  If I’d known he was in this match prior to Thursday, I’d have checked him out so I could say more than that.

As for the winner, Mark Briscoe’s currently the ROH champ; Dante’s here for the spots.  Rush seems unlikely but Tony Khan’s a fan.  Takeshita can’t be ruled out to try to rehab him.

Overall Score: 12

But this just screams Jack Perry.  It would give his whole clique belts and before said plans were derailed, putting the TNT title on an aging babyface who didn’t need it was to transfer a little credibility to whichever heel knocked him off.

His backstage promos have been good.  He carries himself well.  And after he helped the EVPs win the last ladder match, it makes sense that they return the favor.

WINNER: Jack Perry

Orange Cassidy vs Zack Sabre Jr.

Door rating: Ajar

A nod to last year’s International title four-way.  Where Orange emerged victorious but the Shibata/Sabre exchanges stole the show.

Though the ones between he and Cassidy ten days ago were pretty damn good.  The Brit’s manipulative wizardry preventing Orange getting the pockets, the pair evenly matched while rapidly chain-wrestling in and out of holds and rollups.  All silky smooth.  Expertly blending Zack’s ultra-serious snap-your-arm approach with Cassidy’s character-based comedy.  We can expect more of the same here.

Having not originally been a fan of Zack’s, his clash with Danielson last year was my favorite singles of 2024.

And it behooves both companies to have the Brit win.  New Japan need all the help they can get after multiple talent plunders; AEW need to ensure their Japanese partners have enough hot acts to sustain the Forbidden Door concept.

Sabre is yet to win on pay-per-view, even losing to Bryan Danielson’s replacement at the inaugural show.  And Cassidy losing fits with the story that he’s down after being abandoned by his friends.  Possibly suggesting an interference finish involving TMDK, Kris Statlander or Trent Beretta.  So that we can continue to enjoy that scorching feud.

WINNER: Zack Sabre Jr.

Mina Shirakawa vs Toni Storm (AEW Women’s Title)

Door rating: Ajar

Ear to the street: Mina isn’t Stardom’s strongest grappler.  But she is good, and it’s easy to see why she was chosen for this role.

She has chemistry with Mariah May, vats of charisma and speaks good enough English to be the star of a good segment ten days ago.  Helpful when the champ simply refuses to enhance feuds if it interrupts her busy schedule of comedy, innuendo and jammed-in catchphrases.

In a messy program which somehow has a lot going for it.  Mina finally being ‘introduced’ toward the back end of the feud in a nice package.  After earlier appearing unannounced to party with her girl.  And rather than being confronted on national tv by a jealous Storm, was challenged via video on a Stardom show.

Video AEW viewers have never seen.

What AEW have shown is Toni’s relationship with Mariah.  Though not through subtle, episodic changes.  She just kinda started liking her one day after being rude to her for the most part.  It’s not especially rewarding stuff.

But between the personalities and will she/won’t she, it is intriguing.  Storm slowly more desperate to retain her protégé, even entering her in the Owen.  Which is the key to this split: Toni having brought on her own downfall.  Since Mariah’s the best bet to win the thing and face the champ at Wembley.

But a split here leaves a long time to keep the fire burning.  And May’s lined up to face a heel in the first round.  The split is coming: Storm’s repeatedly stepped up to defend her honor.  And wrestling doesn’t have a whole lot of ‘feel good’ endings to relationships.  Because then there’s no match.  So Toni’s selfless acts will be thrown back in her face.  Like a shoe.

Everything suggests Mariah choosing Mina.  Or at least did before Wednesday*.

Just not yet.

As for this match, any intrigue lies solely in May’s decision.  Since the title’s on the line, Toni’s obviously going to win.  If Stardom Toni Storm shows up, it could be very good.

*(Though in addition to her other talents, Mariah’s head’s seemingly made of f****** cement, since she’s wrestling on the pre-show.  In one of those traits which make AEW angles hard to take seriously.)

WINNER: Toni Storm

Mercedes Mone vs Stephanie Vaquer (NJPW Strong Women’s Title & TBS Title)

Door rating: Creaking Open

This is the pro wrestling to Toni/Mina’s sports entertainment.  Mercedes feels Stephanie has her title; Vaquer thinks this is exceptionally arrogant.  Positioning herself as hitting the mats while Mercedes hits the red carpets.

It’s not exactly marquee, being kind you’d call its promotion minimalist.  And the roles seem backward. But it’s nice at last to see women coming through the Forbidden Door.  Since AEW could benefit from an influx of quality females.  Since Mercedes was out of interesting opponents after her first pay-per-view.

Particularly as her in-ring start has been very promising – a top-class clash with Willow; then carrying Skye Blue to one of her best AEW performances.  Her third match against Zeuxis was a little clunky as she stretched her wings to lucha.

But that shouldn’t be an issue here.  Because, say it with me Sheiky, I’m ‘A PRO-FESH-IONAL!’  So I did a little research.  And Stephanie’s good.  Her strikes and kicks are crisp, she’s fast, her technique’s good, everything’s very solid.

She’s not pouring charisma, but has a poise and presence.  A nice contrast with Sasha’s flamboyance.  And they had a good one last they met.  Though the atmosphere might be a little flat.  Since Vaquer’s not really been introduced and Mone’s not scorching hot.

As for a winner, well, AEW are in the Mercedes Mone business and New Japan wanted to be.

WINNER: Mercedes Mone

Will Ospreay vs Swerve Strickland (AEW Title)

Star quality: 8

This match is a nod to Forbidden Door’s diminishing allure.  A long way from Hiroshi Tanahashi being thrown out there because the show had depth and he could lose.  If the show does well, it will be because of this.

AEW almost never have world title matches where the champ might lose.  Moxley had it the best part of a year; Kenny Omega the only real threat, who in turn spent another defending it against Orange Cassidy and Christian Cage.

For the first time in ages, the title feels like the ‘biggest prize in the game.’

It’s also been nice having no TNT champ and no International title match to build to.  Allowing a little breathing space for this.  AEW providing the two things Swerve so badly needs if he’s going to be a success: viable challengers and space to stand out.

At least until they undercut a good chunk of the above paragraph on a crammed final Dynamite.

Build: 7

After the Roderick Strong dumbf***ery every title feud seemingly must have, we were able to move on to the guy who actually won the gauntlet.

Things really heating up on the 6/12 Dynamite.  The champ front row to take in Will’s win over Fenix.  Which the Brit achieved by mouthing ‘my house’ and launching a Swerve Stomp.

Strickland didn’t like that very much, they got in each other’s faces, and he questioned whether his opponent could take the weight of the world championship.  Ospreay snatching the belt, posing with both it and his International title:

Like, ‘Bruv, I’m dripping two of these, what?’  (May or may not be an actual quote.)

Bringing us to the real pivot point of the program.  After ‘injuring’ Bryan Danielson with it, the Brit won’t use the tiger driver.  This makes the ruthless, threaten-a-baby, hang-you-with-a-chain Strickland believe he was right all along: Will just doesn’t have that killer instinct.

Shown when he only beat Kenny Omega with the help of the pitiless Don Callis.

Ospreay, in return, named a ‘hit list’ of people he went on to beat last summer without his manager.  And a move list of other finishes: stormbreaker, Oscutter, Hidden Blade.  All while questioning Swerve’s ability to perform under pressure.

Just superb stuff.  A brilliantly refreshing, sports-like approach – possibly the first time since Moxley/MJF in 2020 that actual moves have been so critical to a title match.

Then, the pair were made a ‘Can they coexist!?’ tag team for the final Dynamite.  ‘Creativity’ doesn’t come much lower.  And the verbal clash above was easily a good enough capper to go with brief promos/reminders on the final Dynamite.

Though things did end well, Ospreay getting cocky and snatching the belt again.  So Swerve smacked him with a House Call and left him laying.  After ending the tag by snapping someone’s arm as Will looked on, horrified.  The story incorporated really nicely into the match itself:

Match quality: 9

Which is all about killer instinct.  Presumably, the Brit goes through his bevy of finishes and the champ kicks out of each in turn.  The drama heightening each time.  Will he go to the tiger driver?  And while he’s thinking about it – BANG!  House Call, Stomp, over.

Leaving who is actually better as an open question.  Because if Ospreay had only used the tiger driver…

It’s a really cool story which can build over a long period to the Brit developing a killer instinct.  Or doing it his way, learning to win without becoming cold and ruthless.  And would be a perfectly satisfying finish to the match.

The alternative is a distraction.

With the same scenario: Strickland won’t be beat, Callis barks about the tiger driver, Ospreay’s distracted, champ takes advantage of any opportunity, just like he said he would.

They’ve also setup at least two interferers.  We can add MJF to Callis, the former very grumpy after being upstaged by Will Weds. Though if AEW teach fans that they’ll never get satisfying finishes on the rare occasions both guys might win, they’ll regret it.

As for the action itself, Ospreay’s almost effortlessly brilliant.  They’re both great athletes.  Fast, smooth, lots of room for the sort of quick-hit breathtaking sequences fans lust after.  Punctuated by subtle heel Strickland becoming more ruthless; Will becoming more desperate.

Which should make for an active crowd.  It’s almost a live referendum on the debate fans have been having about who should be the face of the company.

Overall Score: 24

Ultimately, if AEW were going to belt Ospreay, we’re so close to Wembley as to make it happening here nonsensical.

Plus, if Swerve loses the first time he faces a strong contender, he looks weak.  Though this is true of Ospreay too.  If babyfaces don’t win when they finally get a shot at ‘the big one,’ there needs to be a good reason.

Essentially, either loser needs a story coming out, a character arc.  Losing here has to matter.

RKO out of nowhere: rapidly coming round to the ideaKenny isn’t ready and Okada’s entering the Owen and facing Swerve.  They went so far out of their way to make us think it’ll be Hangman.

WINNER: Swerve Strickland

Jon Moxley vs Tetsuya Naito (IWGP Title)

Door rating: Wide Open

Word is Mr. ‘Tranquillo’ isn’t quite what he used to be.  His truly stellar clashes now limited to the rare occasions when all-world talents like Ospreay can drag him to the mountain top with them.  His only AEW appearance thus far, in last year’s six-man, didn’t whet the appetite.

But this pair had a well-regarded scrap in April.  And when all’s said and done this is still a top New Japan star facing a top AEW star for a world title either might win.

Now if only Tony Khan and co. would tell us why the bloody hell they’re fighting:

Since Moxley cut a very angry promo on the 6/15 Collision.  He wanted to bury Naito.  To end his career.  Suggesting this feud is exceptionally personal.  Unfortunately, AEW did not in any way explain any of it.

It sometimes seems they’d rather maintain an exclusive club who are ‘in the know,’ than have announcers drop a couple lines so we can all understand a feud and just possibly be moved to hand over our hard-earned scrilla.

Nor have they done anything to make Naito feel special: zero packages, the match announcement wasn’t a big deal, it wasn’t talked about afterwards and wasn’t mentioned at all on the following Dynamite.

Can we at least get a Mox promo talking him up?  The dude could get Hitler over.

Speaking of over, Moxley went over last time they were in the US, so Naito should here.

WINNER: Tetsuya Naito

Bryan Danielson vs Shingo Takagi (Owen Cup Quarter Final)

Door rating: Ajar

This has show stealer written all over it.  It doesn’t have any hype or build, Shingo’s personality hasn’t been introduced in any way, so everything is about the quality of the wrestling, just the way Tony likes it.  It basically has to deliver in the ring.

Since Takagi’s only previous AEW appearance came as part of a six-man, we’re going off reputation.  But that reputation is stellar.  And again, I did a little research.  His transitions are smooth.  But what really stood out was the stiffness of his strikes.

As they did on Dynamite Wednesday in a strong showing.

So it’s very easy to believe Danielson marked out (pun intended) Shingo months ago as part of his farewell tour.  Yet again, this one is for those who tune-in to AEW ppvs for top-class wrestling.

For the true hardcores, there’s anticipating two guys they know are awesome getting it on.  For the slightly more casual fan – there’s anticipating a guy they’ve seen little of, but heard so much about.

Though it does leave every other fan S.O.L.  (That’s a growing theme huh?  AEW alienating sizeable chunks of potential audience.)

Another drawback is that unfortunately, AEW have once again jumped right into the kiddy pool when it comes to their tournaments.  So we know Bryan Danielson’s going to win here.  Because not a single other person outside of the Wild Card has a shot in hell of competing for the title at Wembley.

WINNER: Bryan Danielson

_________________________________________________________________________

A Promising Summer Ahead?

Several matches on this show are just ‘there.’  For the hardcore audience it traditionally plays to.  But there are advantages to that.  Both the men’s and women’s world title matches have benefitted from wide lanes.

As if Tony Khan for once decided there were a couple things he wanted to really focus on.  I wrote this week about the possibility of a Hangman/Swerve feud which bridges the Owen, the cage and All In.

Adam Page is the glue that could hold together a hot AEW Summer

 

Throw in Max vs Ospreay and the possible Omega/Okada clash, and we could be set for a hell of a summer.  But only if AEW make a better effort to include fans in their storylines.  Because there’s a hefty downside to targeting Forbidden Door’s niche audience:

  1. It works much better when both products are hot; and they’re cold
  2. You risk leaving people behind

Things change when you include an AEW title match of this calibre.  You have to convince more casual fans interested only in that, that they should splash out for Mox and Naito too.  And AEW didn’t even try.  Literally didn’t explain a thing about the feud.  Just one example of many throughout this preview.

Fans shouldn’t have to do homework to understand what’s going on.  It’s a strategy which would baffle any business.  Hey, where can I find the Kit Kats?  Google it and find out.  My engine’s making funny noises?  Google it and find out.

If a supermarket made us jump through hoops, we’d simply stop going.

Another issue is the road not travelled.

Will Ospreay has hit AEW like a hurricane.  A friendly, bouncy hurricane that calls people ‘bruv’ and rather than dragging up other objects, flies himself.  He’s hot, he’s fresh, he connects with the crowd, his wrestling’s incredible, he seems like the sort of act you have to make world champion.

Which could be accomplished in front of tens of thousands of fellow countrymen, all screaming wildly in a massive stadium.  A potentially star-making endeavour.

Yet it seems Tony Khan is going with Swerve Strickland.  Strickland’s not long been champion, is popular in his own right and hasn’t been featured well, so an early loss here would without doubt damage him.

It’s not an enviable choice Khan is making.  But might be one he looks back on with regret.

Anyway, what are we all looking forward to?  I love seeing ‘new.’  So the women’s matches look pretty good.  Hoping to see Mina and May align sooner or later.  Excited about seeing Shingo and Naito in big matches too.  Despite enjoying the build I’m not gagging to see the world title match.  Possibly because Swerve just isn’t doing it for me.  Though I liked him in that closing seg Wednesday.

Whatever it is you’re looking forward to, thanks for reading, enjoy the show and the weekend.


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Paul Hemming
Paul Hemminghttps://h00kedon.weebly.com/
Paul Hemming got into AEW during the pandemic, lives in Liverpool, England, and is a huge Liverpool fan, Playstation player and history lover.

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