AEW & NJPW fans rejoiced this past Wednesday as AEW President Tony Khan introduced NJPW President Takami Ohbari to the Dynamite crowd, before Adam Cole revealed the first ever joint pay-per view event between the two promotions, “Forbidden Door”, set for June 26th in Chicago, Illinois’ United Center.
Since the formation of AEW in January of 2019, speculation has been rife regarding a potential partnership between the two promotions, with a number of NJPW stars stepping through the ‘forbidden door’ and appearing on AEW television. This includes the likes of KENTA, Tomohiro Ishii, and Minoru Suzuki, and fans of both promotions have long awaited the day when both companies would officially come together to produce their own joint event.
Speaking with Sports Illustrated before the official announcement was made, Tony Khan shared his excitement for the upcoming supershow, and stated that this one is for the “wrestling fans”.
“This is for wrestling fans. There are many dream matches that can take place now that the ‘forbidden door’ is finally open.”-Tony Khan
Khan continued, discussing the long trust building process the two companies have gone through since the inception of All Elite Wrestling, and how that journey has led the two promotions to where they are now.
“It would have been unfathomable to collaborate on a pay-per-view when AEW first started, but a lot has changed since then in the world of wrestling. I believe we’ve earned their trust. We started working closely together last year. The more we’ve collaborated, the better the relationship has become and the more trust we’ve built. It’s culminating at this huge event on pay-per-view with the stars of AEW and the stars of New Japan Pro-Wrestling colliding at Forbidden Door.”-Tony Khan
New Japan Pro Wrestling’s President & CEO, Takami Ohbari, also shared his enthusiasm for the event, highlighting their need to give back to the fans worldwide that have supported them throughout the pandemic, especially whilst they celebrate their 50th anniversary.
“The theme of our 50th anniversary year has been not just to celebrate alongside our fans, but to give something back to everyone who has supported us over the decades. Especially as we bounce back from the effects of the global pandemic, I feel we really have to go the extra mile. It’s on us to make those dream matches and situations come true, to bring the power of professional wrestling to the people, and emerge into a bright new era. At this point in time, with AEW and their tremendous talent getting increasing notice around the world, including among Japanese fans, they make the ideal partner for us to do just that and to unite fans worldwide.”-Takami Ohbari
Ohbari also noted that whilst AEW doesn’t have the half-century of success and experience that New Japan does, there is a great deal of respect between the two promotions, with Ohbari being impressed with how far AEW has developed in such a short amount of time.
“AEW has undergone tremendous growth in a very short timeframe. From a fan’s perspective that has a lot to do with meeting the ‘unmet needs’ of the consumer. Creative matchmaking and exciting wrestling have been able to satisfy fans who had been left disillusioned by the American wrestling landscape. From a business standpoint, for a new entrant into the field to be able to leverage a fresh identity and sculpt such an effective media strategy, it is very impressive.”-Takami Ohbari
New Japan Pro Wrestling has a storied history of working relationships in the United States throughout their lifespan. They held large-scale events with World Championship Wrestling dating as far back as 1991, with talent shared between the two promotions, including legends such as The Great Muta & Jushin Thunder Liger. New Japan more recently were involved in a working relationship with Ring of Honor, coproducing G1 Supercard at Madison Square Garden in 2019, which saw Kazuchika Okada winning the IWGP Heavyweight Title on American soil.
These past working relationships may be used as the template for the evolving relationship between AEW & NJPW, and Tony Khan goes onto further elaborate on the history of the two promotions, as well as the potential for fans to witness new, exciting, never-before-seen match ups.
“It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. Many of our top stars in AEW have wrestled in New Japan and held titles there. A lot of the biggest names from New Japan have never been to AEW, and there are a lot of great wrestlers here that have been in the ring with Okada, Tetsuya Naito, Kota Ibushi, and Hiroshi Tanahashi, and so many others. I’m excited for fans to see matches they’ve always wanted to see.”-Tony Khan
Whilst many are understandably excited for the possible dream matches between AEW& NJPW talent, some have called into question how AEW’s women’s division will be utilised on the show, with NJPW featuring solely male competitors.
Whilst NJPW does not employ female talent, their parent company Bushiroad also own World Wonder Ring Stardom, home to some of the world’s greatest women’s wrestlers, including the likes of Syuri, Mayu Iwatani, and Utami Hayashishita.
There is always the possibility that AEW’s own women’s division will simply take part in matches featuring only AEW talent, although Takami Ohbari made sure not to rule out potential Stardom involvement in the future.
“This is an AEW-NJPW event, but the key phrase here is, ‘Never say never.’ Really nothing is off the table, and who knows what the future may hold for AEW and Stardom.”-Takami Ohbari
The show is sure to excite wrestling fans across the world, with possible dream matches involving the likes of Bryan Danielson & Zack Sabre Jr, CM Punk & Kenta, and Shingo Takagi & Hangman Page all having the potential to happen in the United Center. Should Stardom’s spectacular competitors ever get the chance to compete against the women of AEW, the list of dream matches will only further increase.
We look forward to hearing more regarding the details of “Forbidden Door”, and can’t wait to see what Khan and Ohbari have lined up for the joint show in June.