AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door has quickly come up, with a few days left between the two promotions going head-to-head. Since the show’s announcement, there was a lot of speculation about who would be involved or what would happen. Now, those questions are nearly answered. But there’s an interesting narrative developing around the show about whether it’s playing too much into the hardcore audience. While much of that can be chalked up to a bad faith argument, there’s still some value in what that conversation brings to the table when talking about this show.
AEW President and CEO, Tony Khan, is a fan of professional wrestling. He’s made that clear and nearly every step he’s taken with the development of AEW is due to his being such a hardcore fan for most of his life. Examples such as buying Ring of Honor, the Owen Hart Cup, and bringing in classic names like Tony Schiavone or William Regal – all these points to Khan’s fandom that is just as strong as nearly any fan sitting at home watching each week.
Forbidden Door is for those fans. To call that group a “niche” is an undervaluing of their position in the industry. Ticket sales for the event at the United Center exploded and that was before any names were mentioned for the card.
But it will be interesting to see where the bottom line of this show ends. The links between AEW and New Japan are clear, and the fans that have followed The Elite or The Bullet Club or New Japan for years will recognize them. But that doesn’t cover everyone that turns into AEW every week. Many of those fans may not know enough about NJPW to be excited about this card and some of the names on it. Will Ospreay, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Minoru Suzuki, and others are legends in the game. But will they draw in the fans that don’t watch NJPW on the back of the angle that they are booked in matches against AEW names fans recognize? Those metrics will be interesting to see.
There are some aspects of this show that are fighting uphill. For example, AEW Double or Nothing was four weeks ago. AEW has found success in slow-building to its major shows, which has helped moments like Adam Page’s title victory, or the Lucha Brothers finally winning the tag titles mean so much more. Forbidden Door did not have that opportunity because of scheduling, which has impacted the build to the show, truncating that development in a way AEW hasn’t experienced. In many ways, this is a clear example of why a stacked PPV schedule doesn’t work as well in today’s wrestling industry when fans want to see more engrossing storylines.
On top of that, other events have impacted this event. CM Punk’s injured. Kenny Omega is injured. Kazuchika Okada may not be involved in the show due to his wife expecting a child. STARDOM isn’t involved in the card. These are reasons that may keep some from watching the showcase, and many of them are outside AEW’s control.
AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door will be an enjoyable showcase of some of the top talents in both promotions. Will this be the first and last edition of the co-promoted event, probably not? Imagine what AEW and NJPW could do with a long-term build that spans months like other PPVs. The opportunity is there and while asking some questions about the viability of the first Forbidden Door PPV is sound, this also isn’t the time to listen to bad faith conversations that come up in times like these.