Home AEW News and Notes: Getting further down the road to ‘Forbidden Door’

AEW News and Notes: Getting further down the road to ‘Forbidden Door’

Ray Petree

aew logo Last night, AEW made its debut in Des Moines, Iowa, at the Wells Fargo Arena for Wednesday night Dynamite — continuing the road to “Forbidden Door.”

The episode opened with AEW’s World Champion, Swerve Strickland, promoting his match against Will Ospreay at Forbidden Door. Swerve’s friendly warning to Ospreay was interrupted by the Elite (The Young Bucks, Kazuchika Okada, and Jack Perry), who announced that that they will give “team AEW” an opportunity to avenge their loss at Double or Nothing, in a Blood & Guts match on the July 24 episode of AEW Dynamite. Historically, Blood & Guts is a five-on-five man affair — so the Elite will need one more wrestler to complete their team. Matthew and Nicholas Jackson try to persuade AEW’s World Champion to be their fifth man, but negotiations fail. Strickland comically dismisses them, prompting the Acclaimed to rush to the champion’s aid. It was a rousing introduction for Dynamite, which seamlessly segued into Jack Perry’s match against the “Natural” Dustin Rhodes.

Strickland’s presence continued to be felt throughout this episode, who sat ringside during the main event — where Will Ospreay defended his AEW International Championship against the winner of last week’s four-way qualifying match, Rey Fenix. The show concluded with a rousing interaction between the champion and challenger, where tempers flared after Ospreay stole Strickland’s championship belt — briefly envisioning a future where Ospreay is a double-champion. Strickland left Ospreay with a warning:

“You’re lucky we’re still friends, because anybody else who’d do this — I’d put them in the grave.”

While the 100 odd minutes between these two segments were par for Dynamite’s course (which is trending upwards), it finally feels as though Tony Khan is weaving his central narrative through the lens of his champion, Swerve Strickland — a concern I’ve had since Strickland beat Samoa Joe for the title at AEW Dynasty. There are two more episodes of Dynamite left before Forbidden Door, so I am thrilled to see where this burgeoning rivalry leads Strickland and Ospreay. As for the rest of the show:

Hits and Misses

HIT: Mark Briscoe Promo

For me, Mark Briscoe’s promo; flanked by Kyle O’Reilly, Renee Pacquette, and Orange Cassidy; just narrowly missed out as the highlight of the show. Mark Briscoe spent the better part of the past two decades as one half of the baddest tag-team alive, with his late brother Jay Briscoe. Unfortunately, his brother’s passing has, oftentimes, meant Mark was left in the wrestling ether. Mark’s contributions to AEW, no matter how infrequent they’ve been, have never been lackluster. While I am happy that he’s leading the Ring of Honor brand as their ROH Champion, it’s segments like this where I wish we saw more of Mark Briscoe.

MISS: Building Towards Blood & Guts 

Over the last three years, Tony Khan has carefully cultivated a shared continuity between Anarchy in the Arena and Blood & Guts — in which the former builds towards the latter. For fans of mass multi-man matches or even WCW’s “WarGames”, these are marquee main events. The problem lies in the predictability of the outcome. The winners of Anarchy in the Arena in 2022 and 2023 both ultimately lost in Blood & Guts. While Team AEW’s roster for Blood & Guts may be drastically different than it was in Anarchy in the Arena, the participants appear insignificant when the result seems so obvious.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t reiterate how much I enjoyed the back and forth between Swerve Strickland and the Elite. The Young Buck’s attempt to recruit Swerve Strickland brought prestige to the championship and the man holding the belt.

MISS: MJF and Rush’s Brawl 

Wrestling brawls leak out into the audience and/or the backstage area so often, that it’s lost all of its luster. When MJF interrupted Rush, whose foot was firmly planted on the neck of an enhancement talent, I was hoping we’d hear MJF verbally assault Rush. Instead, he physically assaulted him: in the ring, outside the ring, in the audience, down the ramp, and backstage. Finally, the two were pulled apart. Could this exchange have benefited from a little more nuance? Probably so. Would all brawls benefit if they were a little more infrequent? I can confidently say, yes.

HIT: Owen Hart Cup Participants 

Last Saturday on Collision, Toni Storm declared that Mariah May will be entering the Owen Hart Cup Tournament, for a shot at Storm’s AEW Women’s World Championship at All In.

This week on Dynamite, former IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, “The Dragon” Shingo Takagi and AEW’s own PAC both declared they will be entering the Owen Hart Cup Tournament as well. Mariah May will join Willow Nightingale and Kris Statlander in the women’s bracket, while PAC and Takagi join Bryan Danielson in the men’s.

With five vacancies left in each bracket, my anticipation for this year’s Owen Hart Cup Tournament has reached a fever pitch. In years past, the winners simply received a beautifully ornate, decorative belt, awarded to them by Dr. Martha Hart. The added wrinkle of a guaranteed shot at the Men’s and Women’s World Championships, in London at All In, has greatly altered the complexion of this tournament for the better. I can’t wait to see who the final five wrestlers in each bracket will be.

MISS: Jericho’s Learning Tree Gimmick  

I wanted to enjoy this segment. I love Private Party, Bryan Keith, and Big Bill. I even enjoy Keith and Bill’s contributions to the gimmick. I just hate Chris Jericho’s delivery. I’ll admit, watching Jericho demonstrate how to climb the ropes was pretty entertaining.

The quandary lies in the gimmick itself. If the fans boo Jericho, then there’s a perception that he’s receiving the intended response. The only way for the Learning Tree to go away, is if the television ratings drop so sharply everytime Jericho is on-screen that it financially isn’t viable. For Tony Khan, I don’t think anything isn’t “financially viable.”

HIT: Will Ospreay vs. Rey Fenix 

I said last week that this match will “exceed my wildest expectations.” It did exactly that.

Both wrestlers’ repertoires, athletic ability, accuracy, and dramatic flair uniquely compliment each other’s — resulting in the kind of match that fans dream of seeing on “free” television. If I ascribed myself to a five-star rating system, it would garner consideration for five stars. It was a breathtaking exhibition, gently reminding us how great Rey Fenix is and why Will Ospreay has become one of AEW’s central protagonists.


Quite a few matches have been announced for both Friday night Rampage and Saturday night Collision. Most notably, PAC versus Jay Lethal and Toni Storm will be in action against Alex Windsor on Friday night. For fans of New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Rocky Romero will wrestle Shota Umino on Rampage as well.

Saturday night is the one year anniversary of Collision. To commemorate the milestone, the Bang Bang Gang (Juice Robinson and the Gunns) will wrestle the House of Black in a Trios Match, in a non-title match. Also, the Blackpool Combat Club will wrestle New Japan’s TMDK, Rocky Romero, and Lio Rush.