Earlier this year, during the a paid promotional spot on IMPACT Wrestling’s weekly show, the owner of All Elite Wrestling (AEW) Tony Khan answered the question “When is New Japan coming to AEW?” by stating that all he had to do was open “The Forbidden Door” (which, he said was himself), and that the door had been opened.
And Khan certainly did open the door. Shortly after the promotional spot, New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) KENTA showed up to join Kenny Omega in a tag match against Jon Moxley and Lance Archer, essentially blowing The Forbidden Door open wide. Omega himself has proven to be a “belt collector” among numerous promotions, though he’s an EVP of AEW.
In the middle of two-year contracts with IMPACT, The Good Brothers (Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson) have appeared on eight episodes of AEW Dynamite and three episodes of NJPW Strong, this year.
NJPW signees move freely through The Forbidden Door rather regularly. Yuji Nagata showed up with Ren Narita on the May 12 episode of AEW Dynamite, facing Moxley (with Eddie Kingston close by) for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship. After winning the IWGP US Heavyweight title from Moxley at Fyter Fest 2021, Lance Archer defended the title against NJPW’s Hikuleo, who brought legend King Haku with. All said, the NJPW title has been defended five times on AEW—three times by Moxley and twice by Archer.
IMPACT’s partnership with NJPW has resulted in plenty of movement between the promotions, including debuts at IMPACT from David Finlay, Juice Robinson, El Phantasmo, and the recent debut of Satoshi Kojima. Bullet Club member Jay White shocked the fans when he showed up to Slammiversary to stare down Kenny Omega.
Between the partnerships and appearances, at least seven current or former Bullet Club members have moved through The Forbidden Door, and countless members of the NJPW roster have done the same.
When it comes the women of AEW, IMPACT, and NWA, the movement is not as regular.
In February, AEW held the AEW Women’s World Championship Eliminator Tournament, featuring joshi talent that had not yet been seen on AEW. Though the women not signed by AEW were primarily freelancers, the exposure for joshi wrestling was an incredible start to what could have been AEW removing the women’s Forbidden Door off the hinges.
Since then, the women’s Forbidden Door has only been slightly cracked at AEW. Before being officially signed with the promotion, Thunder Rosa and Serena Deeb were hot crossovers that defended the NWA World Women’s Championship a total of seven times on AEW programming, but only twice since Khan mentioned the Door. Deeb eventually dropped the NWA World Women’s title to current holder Kamille at NWA When Our Shadows Fall, in June.
At IMPACT and NWA, legend Mickie James is building a door of her own with the upcoming all-women’s pay-per-view EmPowerrr. Chelsea Green, who has appeared on ROH as well as IMPACT, has been made official for the event. NWA’s Melina will challenge Deonna Purrazzo for the IMPACT Knockouts Championship. And as of August 5, AEW’s Leyla Hirsch will challenge NWA’s Kamille for the NWA World Women’s title.
Besides Hirsch, the only AEW-signed female talent that seems to be moving freely around is Deeb and Thunder Rosa. After being out with an injury from February until May, Deeb has moved between NWA and AEW programming. Thunder Rosa has moved between NWA, IMPACT, and AEW, but has been busy with her own indie promotion since her AEW signing was announced.
And, of course, both men and women from the indies unsigned seem to be moving freely from promotion to promotion, as well. Wrestlers like Alex Gracia and Jennacide have appeared as freelancers for multiple brands.
So, assuming that The Forbidden Door isn’t just for NJPW and/or Bullet Club members, and includes female talent, why haven’t we seen more women from all brands compete against each other?
In an interview with talkSPORT, former Impact Knockouts Champion and current IMPACT roster member Jordynne Grace expressed those same frustrations with lack of crossover opportunity for women.
“Honestly, I was super excited when it first got announced, but as the months have dragged on with only a few things happening and never really happening for the women, I’ve been more disappointed than anything else, really,” Grace told talkSPORT. “Because I thought the forbidden door was definitely going to [be] wide-open instead of having to knock and only a few people get in at a time [laughs]. But you know, that’s the nature of the business, right?”
When asked what she thought the reason was the women were not crossing over much, Grace told talkSPORT she had “absolutely no idea”:
“I have absolutely no idea. I’m sure it has a lot to do with politics and who can go over there etc, you know how it is. People don’t want their people to lose, so on and so forth.“
Grace isn’t the only who has absolutely no idea why the crossover isn’t happening. One could say women’s wrestling fans are perplexed at the lack of movement.
If the argument is contractual obligations, both IMPACT and AEW work together on multiple fronts for the men on their rosters, and do so often. The promotions oten boast that they make sure each contract fits the wrestler’s best interest, allowing them to work freely between companies, even.
Roster and card crowding is also a reason that has been frequently used, but IMPACT and AEW has certainly made room for Bullet Club members. Don’t get me wrong, I personally love a Bullet Club reunion, but at times it feels as if the ones pulling the strings are just Bullet Club superfans, and hell with the rest.
You could even make the argument that opening the Women’s Forbidden Door would be a much-needed improvement on the AEW women’s title front. If a good chunk of the AEW women’s roster is overseas, injured, or just non-existent, then it would make sense to use their partnership to add in some new faces.
Instead of the AEW Women’s World title being defended once since Dr. Britt Baker won it from Hikaru Shida in May, it could be defended more often on AEW, and the other promotions. Heck, adding IMPACT Knockouts title and NWA World Women’s title defenses to all weekly programming would enhance each brand’s women’s title scene.
Opening the women’s Forbidden Door is smart for business. On the August 5 episode of Dynamite, Hirsch beat Allie to earn her show at Kamille’s NWA title, and Kamille showed up to eye-up for opponent. The size difference between the 4-foot-11 Hirsch and 5-foot-10 Kamille, the differences in wrestling style, and the important implications of the title match had fans not only wishing for EmPowerrr to be sooner, but roaring for more crossover.
Though women’s wrestling fans (and female wrestlers) are forever grateful for EmPowerrr and Mickie James’ dedication to the cause, it shouldn’t take an all-women’s pay-per-view to blow the door wide open for women. Too often we see the talking heads of arguably nearly all promotions claim to care for and support women’s wrestling, but fail to show it when even the fans argue the case.
Hirsch vs. Kamille not only holds the potential to be an incredible match with seemingly impossible odds for the AEW-signee, but also holds the potential to be what it takes to fully open the women’s Forbidden Door, if only the promotions would listen to the fans.
Give us Dr. Britt Baker vs. Deonna Purrazzo in a title-vs.-title match. Reinstate the NWA World Women’s Tag Team Championships (or create the AEW equivalent) and make them face Decay. Abadon vs. Susan. Kylie Rae vs. Tay Conti. Nyla Rose vs. Jordynne Grace. The list could go on and on.
The reality is that it’s not about fantasy booking for a good chunk of wrestlers. It’s about opportunities. It’s about the management of each promotion involved agreeing that equality, equity, and inclusion are important, and building their cards around that philosophy.
Need more booking ideas? Creative running sluggish? Title holder injured? Looking for more women’s matches on your card? Open the women’s Forbidden Door. It’s as easy as that.
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2 Comments Add yours
Great write up and you summarize my own frustrations with the lack of women’s crossovers since AEW and Impact started working together. I had so much optimism when it started. Would we see Deonna Purazzo or Jordynne Grace face the likes of Britt Baker or Hikaru Shida?
It has just become something for Kenny Omega fans to follow rather than provide wider possibilities. There may also be some possible snobbery among a minority of AEW fans who deem other promotions and talent beneath theirs (ironic given that some wrestlers from these other promotions have signed with them), as it’s now the second largest wrestling promotion. I would like to think this isn’t a widespread view which doesn’t reflect AEW’s fans widely, but is just a few negative vocal individuals on social media.
Hopefully EmPowerrr will be the catalyst for a new working model in women’s wrestling. That’s why it’s so important it does well. Mickie James also said that very often there’s not enough women in leadership positions or behind the camera in wrestling companies. So it’s as much a stuctural issue too. But piece by piece things could change. Kamille showing up on Dynamite was a great surprise and the confrontation with Leyla Hirsch built intrigue. ROH is relaunching its women’s division with a tournament boasting some incredible talent. I am sure some will sign with the company, so that provides even more possibilities. Certainly helps that Mickie is on very friendly terms with Maria Kanellis and Gail Kim.
I mainly want to see crossover between Impact and AEW but I’ll be watching Empowerr. There is just so much potential for the women in these crossovers and not as much is being done.