The “Forbidden Door” that All Elite Wrestling kicked open this past December has been the story of the year in professional wrestling. We’ve seen companies from all over the wrestling landscape begin to swap talent and share story lines in a way that mainstream wrestling has not seen in decades.
One partnership we were unsure that we would see, was the one between AEW and New Japan Pro Wrestling. This is due to the very ugly break-up that took place between New Japan and the founding fathers of AEW: Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes, and The Young Bucks. The four All Elite Executive Vice Presidents left NJPW to form the new company, a decision that the Japanese-based promotion did not take lightly.
After a very contentious first couple of years, 2021 has seen not just the healing of wounds from both sides, but the beginning of a full-blown working relationship. The now-former IWGP United States Champion Jon Moxley, who has contracts with both AEW & NJPW, has defended the New Japan title all over the world for the better part of the last two years. Most notably, on AEW Dynamite.
While the title has been defended on AEW soil, the competitors Moxley has defended the title against does not just include in-house talent. The title has been defended against contracted superstars from Impact Wrestling (Karl Anderson) and NJPW (Yuji Ngata).
This past Wednesday, the relationship seemingly grew even stronger, as the IWGP U.S Championship was not only defended on AEW, but changed hands in the main event.
As we reported yesterday, former U.S Champ Lance Archer ended Moxley’s historic title reign in a brutal Texas Deathmatch. Even from companies that have a strong working relationship, it is unusual to see a company’s title change hands on a different company’s show. So it is not hyperbole to say that a New Japan Belt changing hands on an AEW show is a landmark moment in the history of the partnership.
The process of how a decision of that magnitude is made has been a topic of discussion on social media. Is the decision solely in the hands of New Japan, given that it’s their championship? Does AEW make the call since it’s two of their talent competing on their show? Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter shed some light on the situation when answering the question on his Twitter:
We won’t have to wait long to see the next chapter in this budding partnership between AEW and NJPW, as the new IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion Lance Archer will defend the title against Bullet Club member Hikuleo next week on Dynamite.