Looking Ahead To Forbidden Door

Note from author: This article was originally published on May 23, 2024 and was updated on June 5, 2024.

The women’s representation at the first two AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door PPVs were, let’s say, resourceful (rather than token). The first Forbidden Door in 2022 featured two ex-Stardom talents in Thunder Rosa and Toni Storm. And in 2023, Toni Storm defended her AEW World Title against Willow Nightingale who happened to be the NJPW STRONG Champion. Looking ahead to 2024 however, there’s a few reasons to believe the women can and should be leaned upon more heavily this time around.

New Japan Lull

At previous Forbidden Door PPVs, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada, Will Ospreay, and Switchblade Jay White were big featured names for the NJPW side. In 2024 however, that the latter three of all those names are on the AEW side of the ledger, and will all due respect to “Ace”, his in-ring performances need a lot of smoke and mirrors at this point in his career. Add to this the fact that the current IWGP World Heavyweight Champion is Jon Moxley. You can cite names like Zack Sabre Jr and Tetsuya Naito but compared to past Forbidden Doors, it’s going to take a lot of finessing to make this show not feel propped up by AEW’s superior roster. We do seem to be getting some CMLL involvement so that will help.

Door Kicked In

Now that the human iron curtain that was Rossy Ogawa is gone from STARDOM, that particular Forbidden Door has instantly turned into a turnstile. Add to this that STARDOM is no longer a sister company to NJPW, both operating within Bushi Road but STARDOM is now underneath the NJPW umbrella. And Bushi Road has expressed their fondness for the AEW x NJPW partnership. This is all to say that the barriers to an AEW x STARDOM partnership that previously existed are now gone.

Forbidden Door 3 will undoubtably be an awesome card. It somehow, both years, seemed to exceed expectations and I think this year will do that again, just with more female talent thanks to Stardom’s involvement, AEW bolstering it’s women’s division over the past year, and, low key, CMLL’s involvement.

Caveat

So I wanted to look at the probable/semi-confirmed matches we’ll get at Forbidden Door as well as fantasy book a couple of my own, but I exercised one constraint: No big returns or debuts. So no Jamie Hayter or Britt Baker. No Kamille or Megan Bayne. With that, let’s start with one that feels all but confirmed…

AEW World Title: Toni Storm vs Mina Shirakawa

At Stardom’s American Dream PPV on Wrestlemania weekend, Toni Storm interrupted Mina and Mariah’s post match celebration and told Mina Shirakawa that “the Forbidden Door is always open” to which Mina said she was “going to knock that door down”. This is happening. More recently, Toni Storm (with Mariah May at her bosom) sent a pre-recorded video to play at a Stardom show, saying she wanted to face Mina Shirakawa.

You don’t need to have followed Mina’s meteoric rise from her gruesome injury at the hands (or knee) of Saya Kamitani to defeating her for the White belt. You don’t need to have followed Mariah’s insane nine month run as apart of Club Venus. You don’t need to have followed anything from Stardom to appreciate this storyline. We’ve gotten tons of storyline beats on the Mina/Mariah side of this love triangle on AEW. And of course Timeless Toni Storm continues to be one of the most over acts in wrestling producing some of the very best video promos I’ve ever seen in pro wrestling. The one question I have about this match is:

Should the AEW World Title be on the line?

Mina Shirakawa’s star power merits her fighting for AEW’s top prize. But let’s face it, nobody believes that Tony Khan is going to put the AEW World Title on a Stardom wrestler. Even if it turns out that Mina has signed with AEW (which honestly feels like a realistic possibility), I just can’t see it. This match should be all about the real top prize:

Who will Mariah May choose?

The end game of the All About Mariah storyline, in my opinion, is for Mariah May to attempt to usurp Toni Storm as AEW World Champion and the main headliner of The Division. I think the time is right for the turn. Toni’s reign has going on 200+ days and without mentioning any returns or debuts, she’s essentially beat everyone. And Mariah May’s home country is hosting the next PPV, ALL IN. As an aside: If you consider how inconspicuously Mariah May was introduced in AEW just 7 months ago; To go from that to fighting for the World Title in Wembley Stadium at ALL IN would be an impressive piece of business.

Could Mariah choose Toni over Mina? Personally I’d like to see this storyline progress and not get drawn out any longer. But if there’s a way to tell that story and build intrigue I’d love to hear it. But the time just feels right for Mariah’s plan to finally play out.

NJPW Strong Title: Mercedes Moné vs Stephanie Vaquer

From Mercedes Moné’s point of view, the story writes itself; At NJPW Resurgence, Mercedes Moné was supposed to defeat Willow Nightingale for the title I affectionately call Big Lilac, the NJPW Strong Championship. Since returning from a career threatening injury, Mercedes has avenged half of that equation in defeating Willow. Now she just has to win Big Lilac from Stephanie Vaquer. Vaquer, incidentally, is very person Mercedes beat at Resurgence to earn the title shot against Willow. So not only would Vaquer be looking to avenge that loss to Mercedes but in addition to the three belts she currently holds, probably wouldn’t mind winning the TBS Title to make it an even four.

Who’s Stephanie Vaquer?

CMLL’s Stephanie Vaquer rules. Besides being the holder of the aforementioned NJPW Strong Title, she also holds the CMLL Women’s World Title and is one-half of the CMLL Women’s Tag Team Champs. She’s 31, Chilean, and has been wrestling for over a decade. Besides being snug and tight in the ring, my favourite thing about her is she brings a bit of that Scott Steiner Energy™ where you watch every bit of offence she sells worried that her opponent is about to receive a receipt for something they did wrong. There’s no history of her doing this that I know of, mind you. But she just somehow exudes that frightening energy. I don’t know what her contract status is with CMLL but I trust that after Forbidden Door, AEW fans (like the greedy little pigs we are) will be petitioning Tony Khan to sign her.

Mercedes Multi-Belts?

Absolutely. Assuming this match is either for Big Lilac or it’s title-for-title with the TBS Title, I’m assuming that NJPW sees this as their chance to finally put this Championship around the waist of the woman it was made for: Mercedes Moné.

IWGP World Title: Mayu Iwatani vs Athena

Mayu Iwatani is someone I’d dearly love to see on this card. I got wise to her only within the last couple years but if you don’t know her, she’s a top 10 in-ring performer in the world on the level of Bryan Danielson. Her match at Stardom Allstar Grand Queendom against Sareee is right up there with Ospreay vs Danielson for 2024 Match Of The Year.

So who might Mayu face at Forbidden Door? I’d love to see her face Kris Statlander, Queen Aminata, Thunder Rosa, Hikaru Shida or Willow Nightingale. But no one would be more intriguing to me than ROH World Champion Athena. Athena and Iwatani are both able to deliver the kind of matches that have you asking, “They know wrestling is a work, right?” Plus just from a booking perspective it’s so interesting: Is NJPW gonna let their IWGP Women’s Champion for over a year lose? Is Tony Khan going to let Athena, who’s been on a 543 day ROH World title reign lose?

I’ll be honest, I don’t even care who wins. I mean, I’d be fascinated to see which way it’d go but I’d be so into every second of the action. I’m doubtful that we get it though. Just throwing it out there.

AEW x stardom Clusterfuck

One of the highlights of Super Card Of Honor (hell, Wrestlemania weekend as a whole) was the Stardom Trios exhibition match in which Mina Shirakawa, Maika & Mei Seira took on Tam Nakano, AZM & Saya Kamitani. Whether you want to do a trios, 8-woman, 10-woman, or a Casino Battle Royal; You’re spoiled for choice when half that equation comes from Stardom’s roster. There’s so many awesome wrestlers we haven’t seen yet walk through the forbidden door like Starlight Kid, Syuri, Natsupoi, Thekla, Hazuki, Saki Kashima, Suzu Suzuki, and of course Fukigen Death.

It might be a case of less is more however as having all these new faces show up doesn’t give any of them a chance to be spotlighted. And each of them truly deserves for fans to know what they’re about and get invested. But if given the option, I’m greedy and would love to see as many Stardom wrestlers at Forbidden Door as possible.

We’ll see what AEW, NJPW, and Stardom decide to do. You can let me know if you have a match that you’d like to see in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter (@aew_one). Thanks for reading and, as always, remember to let the women in your life know how much you appreciate them! 🙂

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