To keep it brief, I’m using this blog to write about wrestling now. Mostly All Elite Wrestling but also including New Japan Pro Wrestling, Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling, Stardom, the indies, probably not Impact, and never WWE unless they do something completely baffling and stupid I feel the need to write about.
Starting with Sunday’s Pay-per-view, the ever-anticipated crossover between AEW and NJPW entitled the Forbidden Door. Numerous injuries have made the build to this card a mess but the show ended up being one of AEW’s best pay-per-views. The credit has to go to particularly how it was paced and the quality of the wrestling. Even the lowest points of the show had pretty good wrestling and excellent pacing. I haven’t decided on a rating system, but I’m sticking with the Wrestling Observer style of _____ out of five, whatever that blank should be. I suppose books would make sense, stick to what I know, but I’ll think on it for now. Here is how I describe my ratings.
Below 🍕 = hated it
🍕 = did not like it.
🍕🍕 = it was okay
🍕🍕🍕 = liked it
🍕🍕🍕🍕 = really liked it
🍕🍕🍕🍕🍕 = loved it, it was amazing.
The Factory’s QT Marshall & Aaron Solow vs. Yoshi-Hashi & Hiroki Goto
Ever since Cody left it feels like QT Marshall is in a position exactly where he’s supposed to be, and to be fair, I’ve actually enjoyed most of his matches since he dropped the whole Tony Soprano Bowling League tough guy trying to be a top guy act. Hiroki Goto and Yoshi-Hashi and Solo are both solid wrestlers. This match was fun as a simple match to start your night of wrestling but not quite the main card. It wasn’t anything special but neither was it outright bad. There was one scary weird flip/dive to the outside by QT but he was caught pretty well and didn’t seem to be hurt.
“Murderhawk Monster” Lance Archer vs. Nick Comoroto
This felt like a waste of time. This was a look at my phone kind of match. Comoroto has a great look but I find so many of his matches really kind of boring. This seemed like a match just have because Lance Archer is in the G1 Climax tournament. Lancer Archer is great but I’ve completely lost interest in him mostly, but then again I said the same thing right before the Hangman Page championship match and that was awesome. Lance Archer is one of those kind of wrestlers that he could have a great match next week and I’d be like, “I’m all in on this guy again” but the problem is his catchphrase is “Everybody dies” but everybody mostly does not. Towards the end I was starting to get sucked into the action but it wasn’t enough.
Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Desperado vs. Swerve in Our Glory
Nice little story being told here about Keith Lee and Swerve Strickland, done much better than most tag teams break-up stories where after the first setback it goes straight to the team ending with one turning on the other. Right now, there is just trust issues which I am enjoying. The match itself contains four wrestlers I think are a lot of fun. Yoshinobu in the beginning not backing down from Lee was entertaining as hell. Despy and Swerve is a match I’d really like to see down the line higher on the card but what they showcased was a great but small taste of what those two could do together. Despy and Kanemaru had some great tandem offense on Keith Lee but the hot tag to Swerve had him coming in showing that unique offense only Swerve can do.
The Gunn Club & Max Caster vs. NJPW LA Doji – The DKC, Kevin Knight, Alex Coughlin and Yuya Uemura
Max Caster’s raps have leaned far more into entertaining than cringe lately and I enjoyed this one a lot. As far as the LA Dojo is concerned, Kevin Knight was the stand-out MVP on his side but the DKC really needs to step it up cause he was just kinda there in this match. Danhausen’s interruption at the very beginning was kind of baffling but it served its purpose to give the LA Dojo was offense and some heat. Alex Coughlin also stood out as great in the match but it was so strange to see Max Caster fight from underneath like a babyface. I haven’t always been impressed with Max Caster’s in ring work but it feels like lately with these trios and singles matches without Bowens he has kind of had to step up. Yuya Uemura I was already familiar with so I don’t want to downplay his part in the match. He was excellent but being unfamiliar with Coughlin and Knight their work really stood out. The DKC however was kind of lackluster. Surely a face turn for the Acclaimed is in their near future. The fact that Billy Gunn is still in as great a shape and good in the ring as he is is kind of amazing, but with four on two the LA Dojo probably should have won.
Now onto the main card.
Before that though, it must be said at times I’ve found Kevin Kelly kind of annoying as the main English commentator for NJPW but he was excellent tonight and will honestly carry a lot of good will into listening to his commentary on the next NJPW show I watch. His dynamic with Taz and Excalibur gelled so well and hearing him with Tony Schiavone was surreal. I didn’t miss Jim Ross at all, and although Jim has been better ever since CM Punk joined the company I feel AEW has grown passed the need for good ol’ JR but I understand not everyone will agree with that.
Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara, & Minoru Suzuki vs. Eddie Kingston, Shota Umino, & Wheeler Yuta.
No Suzuki incident, Chicago is such a great wrestling crowd. The MVPs of this match was Jon Moxley’s two adopted sons, Shota Umino and Wheeler Yuta. The amount of offense Jericho let Shota have on him tells me he sees a lot in the son of the Red Shoes. One day when he’s older, Shota will actually beat Jericho and it’ll be one of those career-defining wins for the man Moxley calls ‘Shooter.” The crowd was going nuts for Wheeler Yuta and he was going full throttle in this match. The only person not cooking in this match was Sammy, who was kinda doing a paint-by-numbers kinda offense. Even Suzuki, who at this point doesn’t have to try very hard to still get a passable match but the devil grandpa turned it up tonight and was really going with Eddie Kingston. Eddie is his usual amazing self, All Japan style offense, one of the best sellers in the game, despite having Blood and Guts on Wednesday he went all out. I love Eddie Kingston. I’d really like to see more of Shota in AEW for a longer period. Give him an excursion, NJPW! The heels obviously win, as they should, for advantage in Wednesday’s Blood and Guts match but I absolutely loved this match.
FTR vs. Roppongi Vice vs. Great-O-Khan and Jeff Cobb – Ring of Honor World Tag Team Championship and the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.
I love Khan’s whole aesthetic and Jeff Cobb is a good wrestler but I felt like Cobb in 2020 / most of 2021 was much greater than his output has been lately, or at least in this feud. On the main card, I felt like this was the weakest match on the show. I love the injury spot, especially playing into the anxiety of injuries going into the show by taking Dax out only for him to return to have the comeback spot for FTR. Gave time for Khan on the Cobb to get some heat with Cash Wheeler, Wheeler time to showcase what he can do without Dax, and forcing Cash to tag in Roppongi Vice. Still, some of it was kinda eh and maybe went on a little too long and the winner was kind of a forgone conclusion. Still. I am happy about 7-star FTR and it was a good match, just wasn’t a great match.
Malakai Black vs. The Bastard Pac vs. Clark Connor vs. Miro – The All-Atlantic Championship match.
Easily in the top three matches of the night. I knew nothing about Clark Connors coming in and they worked me and the audience so well in that regard. With Ishii out I thought Clark was gonna be a geek in this match, getting his ass kicked throughout and used to take the pin and that is how they worked it in the beginning until the second half of the match. Clark turned it up to 11 with a comeback no one saw coming that immediately made him the underdog people wanted to cheer for, and the audience in the United Center and me at home certainly did. Miro dominated the early going in the match, and was awesome throughout making me so happy for his return. This match made me really want to see a Miro vs. House of Black feud in the future, as well as another Miro vs. Pac match. I was actively hollering DO IT when Pac went for the Black Arrow on both Clark Connors and Malakai Black. As the Bastard is one of my favorites I was so happy to see him win the All-Atlantic championship, even if the name,e is a bit silly.
Bullet Club (Young Bucks + El Phantasmo) vs. Dude with Attitudes (Darby Allin, Sting, and Shingo Takagi).
What a blast of a match. It was so sad that Hiromu couldn’t be in this match cause he would have elevated it, but on the other hand, I don’t think much of Hikuleo so he may have brought it down. Although, the way the match was set up, I’m not even sure Hikuleo could of brought it down. I just want to remind everyone that Sting is 63 years old in this match and he killed simply by no selling a bunch of moves. The Pop Sting received when he no-sold the superkicks of the Young Bucks showed just how beloved Sting still is. El Phantasmo basically worked as a third Buck in this match keeping pacing with Matt and Nick’s obnoxious yet quick-paced style. Even when Sting messed up a small spot in the middle it didn’t take away anything about this match. Probably 4th in my match of the night.
Toni Storm vs. Thunder Rosa (c) for the AEW Women’s Championship
There was a part of me that thought, with Toni beating Britt Baker clean and Thunder Rosa taking bookings in other places where she might have to lose I thought Toni was gonna be crowned the new AEW women’s champion and I wouldn’t be mad about it. Honestly, this could easily go at the top of a list of best AEW women’s matches in 2022 with the perhaps come competition with Thunder Rosa vs. Serena Deeb. Thunder Rosa’s offense looked more fluid than it was earlier in the year, perhaps she really was banged up a bit when she won the title. As the only women’s match on the card, they really brought their A-game with hard hits and great wrestling. There is definitely a women’s title reign in Toni Storm sooner rather than later and Thunder Rosa is looking like a strong champion again. Toni kicking out of Thunder Rosa’s finisher only for Rosa to use one out of Dustin Rhodes’s playbook to finish this match was an awesome touch.
Orange Cassidy vs. Will Ospreay (c) for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship
Easily my match of the night. I can’t stand Ospreay but I can’t deny he is an amazing wrestler. As if anyone could doubt OC can go, he proved them wrong here keeping up with Ospreay’s high-octane offense with a mix of OC’s silliness that ol’ Billy was keen to play along with which was a lot of fun. They started slow, slow for Ospreay that is, then built up the speed of the match as time went on. This was the kind of match that everyone knew Will was most likely winning but Orange had me convinced multiple near falls that had me thinking we’d see a match between Orange Cassidy and Juice Robinson in the future. It was slightly disappointing after the news leaked that Orange didn’t come out to Jane but Tony Khan explained in the press conference he didn’t have full clearance yet. I loved the sequence of OC smashing Ospreay’s head into the rail camera, tricking him into a moonsaulting only for Orange to roll out of the way. Will then to continue to do standing moonsaults to get OC, in the end, to try the top rope maneuver again only for it to be a ruse for Orange to get his knees up. Orange came out of this match, even in a loss, looking like a megastar, and with so many of their top guys having injuries, Tony Khan would do well to take advantage of that and book Orange in a strong feud this summer. Orange Cassidy doing Kawada kicks alone would make this a five and then the aftermatch only sealed the deal when Aussie Open and Ospreay went to beat down Orange after the win only for Roppongi Vice to try to make the save despite already having a match. Then something I never thought I’d hear watching an AEW pay-per-view Katsuyori Shibata’s music hit and he hit the ring in defense of Orange Cassidy. Shibata and Orange Cassidy in the ring, Orange putting the sunglasses on Shibata and giving the thumbs up. Amazing.
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Claudio Castagnoli
Seeing Claudio in AEW and letting loose against Zack Sabre Jr was wild but it wasn’t much of a technical wrestling match. Still, it was awesome to see. Claudio went in there like a canon only for Zack to slow him down and mock Claudio in the smarmy way he does. The whole time I kept thinking “Oh man, Eddie Kingston is going to be pissed off.” Claudio showed off why everyone who knows him and works with him says he’s an overall outstanding wrestler. His backbreakers looked brutal, and those fast-paced uppercuts in the corner look devastating. It was a fantastic debut for Claudio in AEW but I’m still craving that Danielson/ZSJ match badly and hope we get it soon like at say a Wrestle Kingdom. Sabre holding the triangle on Claudio’s arm as they got outside the ring was a move that looked like it wasn’t supposed to happen but turned into an incredible scene as Claudio carried ZSJ back into the ring with the crazy strength Claudio has. I didn’t believe for a second Claudio was going to lose in his debut but it was still an outstanding match. I was kind of hoping he’d retire the swing as a finisher, it doesn’t seem very Blackpool Combat Club to me, but it’s still a lot of fun.
Adam Cole vs. Hangman Page vs, Kazuchika Okada vs. Jay White (c)
This match would have probably been better off as two singles match, or one triple threat without Adam Cole considering his injuries but I’m not going to take anything away from Adam Cole. I’ve been kind of tired of him lately but I felt this fourway he showcased offense that was less same offense every match like what happens in all his single matches. I feel bad for saying that considering his injury in the match but I’m not going to lie and say I’m not tired of him though I still think he’s a great wrestler. Hangman Page continues to prove why he should be considered the Ace of AEW. Okada continues to prove why he’s considered one of the greatest wrestlers to ever step in the ring. Finally, Jay White proves why he was considered to step up in place of Kenny Omega when he left NJPW. In my opinion, Jay White is a better heel and better wrestler than Maxwell Jacob Friedman. I don’t know if that is a hot take or not but I do know because of him wrestling in Impact and crowds that aren’t allowed to cheer people have forgotten how great he is. I kept expecting Jay White to be the one to betray Adam Cole but the fact that Cole beat him to was a great touch. A trope I love about multi man matches, triple threat, fourway, or otherwise are alliances being formed than those alliances breaking down when someone sees an advantage. On the second watch, I noticed Jay White constantly looking back at Adam Cole waiting to expect the betrayal only for it finally come when he let his guard down. Knowing the finish the second time around made me appreciate the match much more even though the first time it seemed very abrupt and anti-climactic. I didn’t need Jim Ross on commentary pointing out that it was anti-climactic but I maintain that AEW has grown past the need for Jim Ross at all. I loved Kevin Kelly on commentary bringing up Tanahashi seeing greatness in Hangman Page. On top of that, when Adam Cole got concussed he chose to end the match rather than continue to let Adam work hurt. I’m still not sure exactly when it happened, usually it seems pretty obvious but I hope Cole has a speedy and healthy recovery. Still, there was not a single rainmaker in this match and that kind of brought it down for me but the lead-up to the end was incredibly exciting.. An Okada/Hangman or a Jay White/Hangman singles match could contend for Matches of the Year and I want them to happen. The tease of the Bucks trying to go to check on Hangman and Kyle yelling at them to check on Cole was heartbreaking and dramatic in the best way.
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jon Moxley for the Interim AEW World Championship.
Hiroshi Tanahashi is such a perfect babyface he got the Chicago crowd to cheer GO ACE over one of the biggest babyfaces and most beloved wrestlers in AEW, Jon Moxley. Tanahashi matching Moxley’s aggression was good in-ring storytelling considering his stances in the past about having honorable matches. They fit the NJPW style slow build transitioning to breakneck speed style of the match into a much shorter match length. Moxley was a safe bet to win as the Interim AEW champ and with the year he is having I hope he beats CM Punk for the belt when he comes back. Moxley using the cloverleaf, a regular of Tanahashi’s moveset, was a great touch. The match was much slower than the others on the card but not in a bad way. It built up the tension between the two combatants, with Moxley embracing his role as leaning heel in the match when the crowd began to root mostly for Tanahashi. Moxley doing the Danielson stomps to the face only for Tanahashi to return the favor was excellent. I laughed out loud when Moxley bladed after a sling blade of all moves but I appreciated the blood nonetheless. Sorry for the weak of stomach but the crimson mask on Moxley made it even cooler of a match. I feel Tanahashi and Okada are excellent at the 2.99999999 kick-out that really works the nerves into the false finishes. This is the kind of match that ages well and is more enjoyable the more times you watch it. When I finished it the second time, I immediately wanted to watch a third time. That aside, the aftermath of the match was not needed or at least done in the wrong order. Have Moxley and Tanahashi do their bows of respect that happened after the pay-per-view and then do the setup for Blood and Guts. Still it’s a five.