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AEW x NJPW: Forbidden Door reactions: Tanahashi is a star

AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door was a historic night full of entertaining matches from top to bottom. My one big takeaway from the event is that Hiroshi Tanahashi is a star. If you are a NJPW fan, then you’re probably rolling your eyes at that statement and saying, “No shit, dumbass!” Well, this PPV introduced a slew of fresh names to new eyes, and that was the beauty of the show.

Let’s roll through what stood out the most from Jan. 26’s show, including three New Japan stars who made this NJPW novice want to see more. To be clear, every single wrestler did well to bring excitement. There were no duds on this card. These are the wrestlers that in particular that left me wanting more the most.

Drum roll, please.

That clip of Tony Schiavone’s half-assed motorboating will never go out of style.

Hiroshi Tanahashi

The Ace is indeed an ace. After the tag team bout on Dynamite, I wasn’t all that impressed. Don’t get me wrong. The match was fine and Tanahashi had his moments, but nothing jumped out at me as special. I was hoping a proper singles bout might be a better showcase, and, boy oh boy, was it ever. Tanahashi did not disappoint in the main event of Forbidden Door.

Tanahashi’s heart, fighting spirit, and beautiful hair were on full display. Those characteristics meshed together to show off the ‘it’ factor. Tanahashi had the crowd rocking behind his effort to win the AEW Interim World Championship. That was exemplified by the scene when Moxley crushed Tanahashi down with hammering elbows and cinched tight a rear naked choke. Tanahashi was fading, then the power of the fans cheering brought him back to life. It reminded me of those classic Hulk Hogan comebacks. Tanahashi wasn’t able to triumph in victory on this evening, however, he left a lasting impression to make me a fan.

Will Ospreay

Ospreay seems like the full package. From the little I’ve seen of Ospreay on AEW programs, he can cut promos, he has a good look, he is full of athletic creativity, and he has the sports entertainment expressions down well to sell moments. Ospreay has the ability to be an AEW pillar should he desire to make the move. The excellence of Ospreay also made me more interested in the surprise appearance of Katsuyori Shibata.

Without knowing the background context between Ospreay and Shibata, I can tell that it would be a huge match worth finding a way to watch.

Speaking of matches I would like to see posthaste, give me more Eddie Kingston versus Minoru Suzuki. That is the fight I’m most eager for coming out of Forbidden Door. This chop exchange fired me up with desire for a singles slugfest.

El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru

The tag team of Desperado & Kanemaru were on point against Keith Lee & Swerve Strickland. Kanemaru got my attention early by bringing a bottle of whiskey to the ring. That booze bottle paid off later by spitting the liquor in Lee’s eyes as a cheating scheme. I really enjoyed their tactical offense to strategically attack the legs of their opponents. That was especially smart against a high-flyer like Swerve and a powerhouse like Lee. Desperado & Kanemaru were so effective that they had me believing they would win.

Desperado & Kanemaru are a tag team that I would like to see as a special attraction in AEW. They could probably have money matches against FTR, the Young Bucks, the Lucha Bros, and the list goes on.

We can’t leave the AEW stallions out of the conversation for standouts from Forbidden Door. After all, it takes two to tango.

Sting

It’s Sting! Need I say more? I do? Okay. I’ll abide.

Sting started with a surprise flying crossbody off the tunnel.

The Icon never let up throughout the match. Beating his chest to power up after a Superkick Party put a smile on my face.

Sting’s super Stinger routine remains awesome. It fits fine for these occasions, because he’s not in the main event scene. Sting can exist as he does in his own ecosystem kicking ass and creating memorable moments.

Jon Moxley

Moxley was the dance partner for Tanahashi, and he went hard. Moxley put on the type of gutsy performance with gusto to come across as a man at the top of his game. He did as advertised bringing violence, pain, and torture. Moxley is so strong right now that only a small handful of AEW competitors stand a chance at winning. I’m thinking CM Punk, Hangman Page, and Bryan Danielson are the names in that select club who could match the level of Moxley at this moment. That exclusivity is what creates the big fight aura that should follow Moxley whenever he competes.

Lance Archer & Nick Comoroto

The two hosses fought each other on the pre-show. It was an unannounced match that I assumed would be a squash for Archer. Not so fast, my friend. Archer and Comoroto had a full match of hoss fight magnitude. They were clubbering and clobbering for maximum satisfaction. Part of the appeal was surpassing the assumption of low expectations for a quick match. Archer and Comoroto stepped up to maximize their minutes. Hoss fight aficionados will enjoy this one and say, “Give me more.” I hope Comoroto is rewarded with a full match against Claudio Castagnoli, the man formerly known as Cesaro.

Show Grade: A

Even though the road to Forbidden Door was a mediocre build, AEW and NJPW delivered when the time came to shine under the bright lights. Every single match was of high quality and riveting entertainment. The crossover novelty was enjoyable and effective in highlighting stars for the world to see. Shout out to the live fans for tremendous energy all night long. They truly enhanced the viewing experience.

Who were your standouts from Forbidden Door? Which NJPW wrestlers were fresh to you and left a lasting impression?

Get the full results for AEW x NJPW: Forbidden Door here and also check out the match recommendations from Claire Elizabeth.