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Forbidden Door: pros and kahns (mostly pros!)

A fantastic pay-per-view.  My favorite since at least All Out ’23.  Let’s get the bad out the way then get to the good.

Khans

Heat/Investment/Engagement

As we’ll get to later, the matches AEW really put booking effort into bore fruit.  As for much of the rest, an ongoing issue is fans watching and enjoying without being particularly engaged.

Which might be enough for the core audience.  But heated feuds are what draws a wider fanbase.  And are largely missing from AEW.

Takeshita & Okada’s Booking

Kazuchika Okada again had to use every trick in the book to get booed.  But that’s not even close to the problem.  A guy who got one of the biggest reactions on the show without even trying, who then pretends to DJ like a total goof, is.

Crossed the line from funny to corny.

While Konosuke Takeshita smashed a bunch of babyfaces and was left alone in the ring.  And fans cheered the prospect of him climbing the ladder.  If anyone but Mark Briscoe had cut him off they’d have been booed out of the building.  Even Excalibur was forced to acknowledge the crowd support.

Not only are these examples of mis-use, they’re further examples of the crowd being detached from the booking.  We don’t care how you’ve positioned these guys, we like them.

Mercedes Mone

Then there’s the reverse problem.

A sign in the aisle read, ‘Mercedes Mo-meh.’  But even that didn’t prepare us for what was to come.  As we’ll get to below, Stephanie Vaquer had a hell of a showing.  And about half-way through the match she started slamming Mercedes’ head into the mat.  And fans cheered.  Loudly.  Then came chants of ‘Ste-pha-nie!’ Then Mercedes was booed applying a crossface; Vaquer cheered when she broke out.

Then… ‘F*** the Celtics… F*** the Celtics…’

As the announcers, who’d again been forced to acknowledge the crowd, tried to explain it away as an NY/Boston thing.  Which a small part of it was.  But most of it was Mercedes stopping to dance and floss.  While Stephanie just wrestled.  Very well.

Zack/Orange

Dull, not helped by the crowd not caring.

Moxley/Naito

‘Spitting, stalling, posing, back rakes, flat crowd who were up 4 it at start,’ read my notes a few minutes in.  Then Naito spat for the third and fourth times.  Before a sloppy finish saw him win what felt a long time later.

‘Real Injuries’ & Learning from Mistakes

A lesson to learn: Bryan Danielson and Dante Martin played up previous, genuine injuries.  Both times the crowd died.

A lesson not learned: Mark Briscoe tried a splash from a high place and came up short.  Fortunately, this veteran did not break his leg.  Stop being the cool dad Tony.

Selfless vs Selfish

Hiroshi Tanahashi came out first so the Acclaimed could get the big entrance.  And took the clean loss.  That it was for the sake of Max Caster’s lame rap rhyming ‘bitch’ with ‘bitch’ four times in a row (you think I’m exaggerating…).

And so Billy Gunn could save Tana from a post-match beating, when any number of younger wrestlers might have benefitted, is sad.  Keep an eye on your spotlight, Hook.

Prince Nana

Swerve Strickland is cool.  As is Jim Jones.  Despite his age.  So when the former Dipset Capo introduced Swerve to a hyped Long Island crowd, the music kicked in and the champ came out decked in sweet new black and gold gear, the presentation screamed big deal.  This is a top guy.

Then Nana came out and started dancing.  A human womp, womp, womppppp.

Nigel McGuinness

If you’ve ever set eyes on one of my Collision recaps (appreciate it btw), you’ll know how much this pains me.  But Dios Mio did this guy try his best to ruin Danielson/Shingo.

The oft repeated message being that Danielson’s putting his health at risk and needs saving from himself.  We get it!  You’re very clearly wrestling Danielson soon.  Now please stop overshadowing everything.

Pros

Danielson/Shingo

A very good match; great in places.  Undone by crowd indifference outside of ‘yes!’ chants.  Felt very real.

Women’s Wrestling

Easily the best night for the ladies in AEW history.  Two very good matches.  Starting with:

Mina/Toni

Another very entertaining match which had easily the most crowd investment of anything sans main event.  Almost like if you give tv time to two women with personality, and make the match meaningful, they can be as good as the men!

A sizeable chunk of the audience here siding with Mina.  And really, what’s not to like?  She’s fun, attractive, likes to dance and drink.   Could have a nice side hustle selling excess charisma. The woman’s a star.

Wrestling’s not bad either.  Couple very cool and unique ways to attack the knee.  But the timing of her strikes was what stood out here.  On point every time.  Storm exceptionally unselfish in being battered around Long Island for 90% of this.

Before a good finish saw her snatch away victory via Storm Zero.  All added to by Mariah May’s facials.  Poor thing couldn’t enjoy a second of this.  And the way she motioned for them to hug at the end was very amusing.  And ‘hug it out’ they did.

It’s cool to mix it up once in a while and not have everything end in a blood feud.  And all three were total babyfaces here.  Which only makes the turn more effective and less predictable.

Vaquer/Mone

Another excellent match.  Gun to head, probably preferred Mina/Toni, but I’m very easily swayed by hot crowds.  And that had more atmosphere.  This was very different to the above.  Nice sprinkling of lucha.  Mercedes’ wrestling certainly can’t be critiqued.

Though as the boos rained down, her act didn’t change, and perfectly fit the situation.  Which says a lot.

Stephanie Vaquer

God damn, this woman’s ass…tonishingly good.  Three moments tonight made me audibly ‘woah!’ And one was Vaquer’s Fenix-esque rope-hopping into an armdrag.  As noted already, Mercedes made her own bed.  But Vaquer’s ring skills and plethora of cool attacks didn’t help.

A crowd ready to be turned.  But someone needed to spin them.

Britt Baker

And if it hadn’t been Stephanie, it would have been Britt Baker.  The ‘Original’ returning to a goosebumps pop with just perfect timing considering the crowd turn.  Though it did leave Vaquer as an afterthought.

New Japan

Their guys beat big AEW names and they’re getting their own Forbidden Door in the form of Wrestle Dynasty.  Among President Tanahashi’s priorities was not being portrayed as less than other companies: a good start which bodes well for the future of this event.

New Japan Mox

Came out by himself, with a title, without BCC gear, to a huge pop.  Needs a title to chase, a purpose and a return to being a lone wolf in AEW.

Booking

AEW gave two matches on this card real tv time and build.  Both were easily the most heated.  On a pleasantly surprising show booking-wise.  Ooh, clean finish.  Ooh, clean finish.  The referees were competent.  Mox tried and Red Shoes had none of it.  And fans chanted his name.  Which, yes, is partly because of his rep.  But also shows fans hate that crap.

Wrestlers felt like they’d moved up or down the pecking order based on the match outcomes.  Winners can move on, stories to tell with losers like Orange and Ospreay.  More.  Please.

TNT Ladder Match

Fun, creative and outside of that Briscoe spot, not too dangerous.

Jack Perry

Man does this dude know his character.  And clearly thinks about how said character would perform in a match.  An opportunist who always takes the easiest path to victory: now that’s a heel!

Anthony Bowens & Nick Jackson

Easily the best exchanges in an otherwise meh match.  Can someone toss Bowens a rubber ring before Max Caster’s ‘tache steers the SS Acclaimed into Billy Gunn’s ego?

Swerve/Ospreay

‘Fast, smooth, lots of room for the sort of quick-hit breathtaking sequences fans lust after,’ it said in the preview.  A colossal understatement.

The second ‘woah!’ moment tonight came here.  Then the third.  First, when an exchange saw both land on their feet out of ranas.  Then when Ospreay landed flawlessly, flawlessly, on his feet after a barricade edition.

As if we’d leapt from the Stone Age of the IWGP to the future.

A match with urgency, rapidity, big moves: Ospreay hitting the finishers he’d promised, Swerve first kicking out then showing he had counters.  Love it; if a boxer told his opponent what he was going to do, his opponent would be ready.

Capped when Will did indeed call for that tiger driver.  And the champ countered through into a Hidden Blade of his own.  With a grace and fluidity we mere mortals can’t dream of mustering.

And it might all have been spoiled.  First ref bump of the night, Don Callis out, screwdriver handed over.  Ospreay’s facials perfect as he slowly realized what he’d nearly done.  Before we got right back to it: House Call, Stomp, Ospreay out, crowd nuts.  Strickland’s killer instinct seeing him snap the Blade arm, another House Call, Ospreay out again!

Not a shred of indifference in these fans.  For a match dramatic in its stakes and outcome in a way Ospreay/Danielson just wasn’t.  That was an exhibition.  This was for the gold.

Ospreay (big red mark on his face courtesy Swerve’s boots), stumbling valiantly into a last-gasp Blade attempt, Strickland catching him in his arms like a child he was about to smother, third House Call, JML, win.

A mostly clean win (Ospreay got a visual pin during the ref bump) in a match Swerve left as a stronger champion.  Consoling a devastated Ospreay, the ‘agony of defeat’ all over his face.  Meaning he came out stronger too.  He’s not a ‘loser.’  He’s someone worthy of our sympathy, who came up just a little short this time, who we can now rally behind.

‘Maybe someday if we’re all lucky, we’ll see a return match,’ said Jim Ross.  A perfect summation for a perfect wrestling match.  The best this year.


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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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