AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door 2023 is a night filled with dream matches for the ages, including Bryan Danielson vs. Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay vs. Kenny Omega.
In 2022, the inaugural Forbidden Door event was a massive success for AEW. Headlined by Jon Moxley vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, it generated nearly 130,000 pay-per-view buys and a net revenue of roughly $4.4 million. But Forbidden Door 2023 is shaping up to be an even more successful show.
The addition of Omega, Danielson and CM Punk—none of which were on the show last year—figures to catapult Forbidden Door 2023 to the next level and should result in significantly more interest and PPV buys. The blockbuster event also should lay the framework for several interesting storyline developments on AEW Dynamite, Rampage and its new third brand Collision.
Here are five smart booking decisions AEW—and NJPW—must make at AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door 2023.
Will Ospreay Wins IWGP US Title
Will Ospreay’s NJPW contract expires in February 2024, and the high-flying star has confirmed that he’d prefer not to move to the US, which would be a necessity if he was going to sign with AEW or even WWE.
Ospreay’s best fit is in NJPW, and with Kenny Omega’s long-term AEW future also uncertain as his contract nears its expiration, the best—and most logical—outcome at Forbidden Door is for Ospreay to beat Omega and bring the title back to NJPW. Omega’s clear top priority is AEW, while Ospreay is one of NJPW’s biggest stars.
Omega and Ospreay, arguably the world’s two best in-ring performers, put on an instant classic at Wrestle Kingdom 17 in January. It was there that Omega defeated Ospreay to win the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship in a 35-minute jaw-dropper. It’s only fitting that Omega returns the favor at Forbidden Door, giving Ospreay a huge win on the AEW stage that could solidify him as a main eventer outside the confines of NJPW.
Jungle Boy Goes Full-Blown Heel
AEW has really exhausted all of its options with the babyface version of “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry. It’s not that Perry isn’t a good babyface—he is. It’s just that he seems to have hit a wall as far as where he can go in his current role.
What Perry needs is a dramatic character reset, which should come in the form of a much-needed heel turn. Perry is the somewhat surprising challenger for Sanada, the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, and it’s extremely unlikely that Perry is going to win this match. After all, Sanada even indicated that he isn’t sure who Perry is. Yikes.
That’s precisely why this bout—which should be amazing from an in-ring perspective—should serve as the catalyst for a frustrated Perry to begin a full-blown heel turn following a close loss to Sanada. It makes sense given the circumstances and Perry’s need for a character reset.
Bryan Danielson Topples Kazuchika Okada
When AEW President Tony Khan first announced Forbidden Door, Bryan Danielson vs. Kazuchika Okaha was the highly anticipated potential dream match that left pro wrestling fans salivating. After Danielson missed last year’s event, it’s now a reality.
The questions is: Who will win the match between perhaps the best wrestlers in the world? While Okada is more of a priority as a singles star for NJPW, Danielson needs a marquee singles victory now more than ever. Though Danielson has an impressive win-loss record in AEW, he’s lost most of his big AEW matches, including last month to MJF at Revolution, a four-way match for the ROH title at Full Gear 2022, a 2022 ROH world title match on Dynamite and an AEW world title tournament final to Jon Moxley.
For now, Danielson is a heel member of the Blackpool Combat Club, so his singles push is less of a priority. But he’s 8-1 in 2023, a proven main eventer and one of pro wrestling’s most recognizable names. In other words, Danielson needs a marquee singles victory in AEW, and Okada is one of the biggest names he could possibly beat to get one.
MJF Defeats Hiroshi Tanahashi Clean
MJF is reportedly facing Hiroshi Tanahashi at Forbidden Door because AEW wants to book him against someone he can beat. NJPW apparently doesn’t have a problem with Tanahashi losing, whereas the company would rather its biggest stars not appear in the US only to lose.
NJPW wants to protects its investments in its top stars, so that has led AEW to do MJF vs. Tanahashi, who isn’t seen as one of NJPW’s four biggest names. At Forbidden Door 2022, Tanahashi did the honors by losing to Moxley in the show’s main event, and it appears that he’s at Forbidden Door 2023 to do essentially the exact same thing.
MJF, of course, is AEW’s top star and has continuously teased leaving AEW for AEW. Whether he’s working fans or not remains to be seen, but until MJF confirms he’s put pen to paper and re-signed with AEW, he needs to be a strongly booked world champion.
And just because MJF is a heel, that doesn’t mean he needs to cheat to beat Tanahashi at Forbidden Door.
CM Punk Squashes Satoshi Kojima
For all of the baggage that CM Punk has brough to AEW, there’s a reason why Khan continues to push him: He’s a draw.
Not only did Punk prove to be a huge attraction during his first stint with AEW, but he helped catapult the debut episode of Collision to more than 800,000 viewers. That’s a huge number for a Saturday wrestling show, and it’s just further proof of Punk’s drawing power. So, AEW surely isn’t bringing him back to lose to Satoshi Kojima, right?
While Kojima is a legend in NJPW, he’s over 50 and is no longer a top star. That means that Punk should wipe the floor with him at Forbidden Door, easily squashing him in a matter of minutes to sustain the momentum around his return.
Punk, after all, is the core performer on Collision and essentially an unofficial world champion. He shouldn’t lose until the time is right.