Why Tanahashi Should’ve Won the AEW World Championship

All Elite Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling broke ground and rocked the Chicago, Illinois crowd with their first joint pay per view, Forbidden Door. The ppv featured two NJPW titles on the line and one AEW  title up for grabs. Will Ospreay retained the IWGP United States title against Orange Cassidy, and “Switchblade” Jay White also kept the IWGP World Heavyweight title in a fatal four way against Adam Cole, “Hangman” Adam Page and Kazuchika Okada. CM Punk’s injury left a power vacuum in All Elite Wrestling. “The Best in the World” temporarily vacated the AEW World Championship, and a match for the interim championship was decided for Forbidden Door. 

Mox and the Ace

Punk’s absence kicked off a chain of events for both promotions. Jon Moxley defeated Kyle O’Reilly on June 8 to earn his shot at participating in the interim championship match at Forbidden Door. Days later, on June 12, Tanahashi bested Hirooki Goto at Dominion 6. 12 for the right to face Moxley for AEW’s top title. Finally, Moxley had Tanahashi right where he wanted him. Moxley has called out “The Ace” twice in the past. In July 2021, Moxley cut a promo confronting Tanahashi in absentia, taunting him to stop running and face him at last. Moxley called Tanahashi out again in April 2022 at NJPW Windy City Riot, challenging him for a match at NJPW Capitol Collision. Moxley only partially got his wish, as that match, for the United States title, was a fatal four way in which Juice Robinson and Will Ospreay also participated. 

The Dream Match

The dream one-on-one match between the two finally arrived at Forbidden Door. Moxley and Tanahashi are a study in contrasts. The Apollonian “Ace” is known as the consummate babyface, whose thrilling athleticism and unimpeachably heroic popular persona have been difficult for other NJPW stars, like Kota Ibushi, to duplicate. Moxley, on the other hand, was the renegade of the popular World Wrestling Entertainment faction The Shield. Moxley’s roots in the gritty independent scene are never far behind him, and his style is that of a volatile brawler. The match between the two brought a killer instinct out of Tanahashi, as both opponents drew blood in an intense bout for the AEW title. By its conclusion, Moxley had secured the AEW World Championship for a second time.

Playing It Safe

In their first joint excursion, both NJPW and AEW played it safe. The championships up for grabs at the event are safe in the hands of pro wrestlers from the promotions attached to the titles. However, shattering the forbidden door itself is no safe venture. NJPW is no stranger to collaborating internationally with other wrestling promotions, having had a working partnership with Ring of Honor in the past. Meanwhile, AEW has also broken ground in interpromotional collaboration with the freedom it allows its talent to appear at independent bookings. 

However, in this instance both promotions wasted a chance to create yet more synergy. If Tanahashi had taken the AEW World Championship, a future face off with Moxley would have been assured. Another collision between the starkly contrasting opponents could happen on either NJPW or AEW ground, but the stakes would be much higher if Tanahashi was carrying an AEW title. For the younger promotion AEW to have NJPW’s most renowned active performer carrying their title would also have been a move that would cement AEW’s prestige. 


The rivalry between Tanahashi and Moxley has been conducted largely in absentia. When their long awaited one-on-one match arrived at Forbidden Door was an intense, bloody spectacle that made good on expectations despite a result that played it safe.