BY JUSTIN BARRASSO SI.com
The two promotions will join together in June after ongoing discussions of a potential partnership came to fruition.
The forbidden door is now open.
Tony Khan announced on tonight’s Dynamite that AEW and New Japan Pro-Wrestling will hold their first-ever joint pay-per-view, AEW x NJPW: Forbidden Door, on June 26 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
“This is for wrestling fans,” said Khan, AEW’s President and CEO, who spoke with Sports Illustrated before the announcement. “There are many dream matches that can take place now that the ‘forbidden door’ is finally open.”
Since the launch of AEW in 2019, there has been constant speculation about a partnership with New Japan. AEW features former New Japan stars like Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks, as well as former NJPW champions in Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley. There have been appearances from New Japan icons on AEW programming, like when Moxley wrestled Yuji Nagata on Dynamite last May, and Moxley’s pay-per-view match against Satoshi Kojima in September at All Out. New Japan stars like KENTA, Minoru Suzuki, and Tomohiro Ishii have all appeared on AEW programming, and the next step for growth between the two powerhouse companies is co-producing a pay-per-view.
“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,” said Khan. “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.”
Takami Ohbari, president and CEO of NJPW, also shared his enthusiasm about bringing captivating and compelling content to wrestling fans across the globe, especially as his company celebrates its 50-year 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,” said Ohbari, who will also air the pay-per-view live with Japanese commentary on the NJPW World streaming service. “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.”
Ohbari noted there is a great deal of mutual respect between the two companies, especially for the manner in which AEW has established itself. AEW does not have a half-century of success like New Japan, but it has developed into a major entity in a short period of time—and it has not gone unnoticed that Khan has exceeded all of his promises about engaging with other top promotions.
“AEW has undergone tremendous growth in a very short timeframe,” said Ohbari. “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.”
New Japan has held working relationships previously with promotions in the United States, most recently with Ring of Honor. It co-produced the G1 Supercard at Madison Square Garden in 2019, which ended with Kazuchika Okada winning the IWGP heavyweight title in dramatic fashion on American soil.