Tony Khan discusses the challenges of booking AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door.
After it launched in 2021, AEW gradually built a working relationship with New Japan Pro-Wrestling. This collaboration grew stronger in the early months of 2022, and the two companies co-promoted the historic AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door pay-per-view on June 26. The path to the buzzworthy show was filled with plenty of obstacles; among other setbacks, AEW World Champion CM Punk went down with an injury early in the build. Still, the show turned out to be a financial and critical success.
During an appearance on Grapsody for a new interview, Khan reflected on the Forbidden Door pay-per-view. He made it clear that he was happy with the way the show turned out, though he wished the company could have done of the stuff he initially had planned. Still, the AEW president emphasized that the final product was perfect and called it the most successful debut of any AEW franchise.
"The show was so awesome, I wouldn’t change a thing. It was so great, I do wish we would have been able to do some of the stuff we hadn’t done, but the show ended up perfect and what a great event for AEW. It’s the most successful debut of any AEW franchise in every conceivable way," Khan said.
Khan previously stated that Forbidden Door drew over $5 million on pay-per-view, and its gate (over $1.1 million) was the second-biggest number in AEW history behind Double or Nothing 2022. As Khan explained in the interview, this success was even more remarkable, given the numerous AEW had to make heading into the show. He described how working with NJPW was an adjustment because he had to collaborate them in order to get their stars on AEW TV. Khan also pointed out that being in their position must have been challenging, as NJPW had their own shows to focus on.
"All the changes going into Forbidden Door, it was challenging, but keeping cool and really making sure we had a great card and working with New Japan, I don’t think they’ve had the same experience in terms of producing American pay-per-views, and what you have to do in terms of getting people on the show. I made no secret that there was a point of, ‘We need to get the guys over here and get them on TV and start building the matches.’ It’s challenging because I can’t imagine how hard it would be for me to build a pay-per-view in another country while I’m trying to run my promotion here. For them, it was really hard, but they were great about it. When we got Tanahashi and Will Ospreay over, they did great things for us on the show and great numbers. That shows the kind of star power they have, and I think their top stars really are needle movers, and they’ve been great for us," he said.
Khan went on to describe how having CM Punk go down with an injury ahead of Forbidden Door was challenging because it affected his plans for both Punk and FTR, which affected other aspects of the build. He noted that the map for the show was drawn out differently, but he wasn't able to produce this vision due to the changes the company had to make to the card.
"That was a challenge coming out of it, realizing CM Punk had broken his foot because we had plans for CM Punk and FTR as a trio and plans going into Forbidden Door, there was a lot of stuff there. A lot of the build around Tanahashi and build around FTR with United Empire and Aussie Open and the involvement of Will Ospreay and how that led to Orange Cassidy and Best Friends. The whole map was drawn out differently and it was really cool, it just didn’t happen the way I thought it could’ve if people hadn’t gotten hurt. There’s nothing you can do about that," Khan said.
In the same interview, Khan discussed Cody Rhodes' departure from AEW. Check out his comments here.
Khan previously shared his thoughts on potentially doing a joint show with NJPW in Japan. More information is available here.
Khan also commented on the upcoming changes to AEW's presentation. Click here to see what he had to say.