Say what you want about AEW. One thing is for sure much of what it has brought to the table has not only pushed the needle but also has changed the pro wrestling industry for the better. Take for example its annual Forbidden Door pay-per-view. Having cross-promotional matches used to be a rarity. AEW challenged that old school mindset and federation, promotional segregation and by doing so created a seismic shift in the way promotions interact, mention and even work each other creating real dream matches.

This year’s event takes place this Sunday at the UBS Arena in New York. During today’s media call Slam Wrestling asked Tony Khan which match he was most looking forward to on the card.

“Oh, that’s a that’s a very, very loaded unfair question. (laughs) I personally can’t wait to see so many of the matches on the card and I don’t want to give a cop out answer but I think the championship matches are so great up and down on the card,” he said.

Although we admit to twisting his arm just a bit, Khan did give deserved high praise to Will Ospreay saying he has “taken America by storm”.

“Will Ospreay has continued to bring fans in from all over the world. You show his matches to people who’ve never watched wrestling and they will be blown away! He has been great as International Champion. I think he has an unlimited upside,” he said.

Khan was quick to praise Ospreay’s Forbidden Door opponent, AEW World Champion, Swerve Strickland too.

“Then, you have a great World Champion with Swerve Strickland who has come into AEW and gotten better every year and now is at the very top of his game…He defeated one of our best stars and somebody that is one of the most respected wrestlers ever in AEW, Samoa Joe. When you look at what’s Swerve has been able to do against all those great wrestlers time after time, we’ve seen him step up and have these top matches,” he said.

As Khan laid out both men have had the same AEW career trajectory that has resulted in them becoming champions. They were destined to clash some time. Last night on Dynamite their rivalry became personal when Ospreay ripped the AEW World Championship belt out of Swerve’s hands as he was walking away. Swerve paid that disrespect back with a kick to the back of Ospreay’s head laying him out on national television. Spoilers from the Collision taping last night indicates their feud will heat up even more before Sunday’s big show.

“I think that’s going to be such a fantastic match but I could also talk at length about every match on the card. I think there’s so many great things happening including the rivalries between AEW and New Japan but also some of the stars that have arrived from Stardom and CMLL,” said Khan.

Khan is also excited about the AEW Women’s World Championship match which pits Toni Storm against one of Stardom’s best: Mina Shirakawa. In the middle of it all is Mariah May. While in Stardom May was part of Shirakawa’s Club Venus faction. When May moved to AEW she became Storm’s protege. Last night on Dynamite, Mina meant to clobber Storm with a champagne bottle but clocked May by mistake. What could it all mean? We will find out at Forbidden Door.

“She (Mariah) is going to be in both women’s corners…She made her entrance with both Toni and Nina yesterday (on Dynamite). Mariah has been a huge part of this story and what’s become fascinating rivalry and a very different kind of rivalry. I’ve really enjoyed that,” said Khan.

Khan also cannot wait to see TBS Champion Mercedes Mone put her belt on the line against Stephanie Vaquer and her New Japan Strong Women’s Championship in a title-for-title match.

“I am excited to have Stephanie Vaquer and her New Japan Strong Women’s Championship coming here and you talk about the relationships between the companies. We’ve got Stephanie, who is great wrestler for CMLL who is the New Japan strong Women’s Champion, putting it up in a title-for-title match against the face of TBS, the TBS Champion, the ‘CEO’ Mercedes Monet, I think that’s going to be fantastic! I’m very excited for everybody to see Stephanie on a very stacked AEW Collision this Saturday with so many great things on the show, leading into the pay-per-view,” he said.

On the call Khan also spoke about:

Forbidden Door being hosted in Japan:

“It’s a great question. I think we’ve had Forbidden Door all over North America now in some of the great cities. Just the cities you listed, we launched the event in Chicago and then last year we took it to Toronto, and here we are in New York this year. It’s consistently been a huge draw for us….We’re here in New York at UBS arena and we’re poised to top the $1 million gate mark for the third straight year, which means every forbidden door over $1 million gate. It’s been a great success story…We’ve taken it international so far to Toronto but potentially could we expand outside of the continent? I do think so. It’s interesting with the idea of forbidden door in Japan. I do think that there’s a great potential to grow the grow the IP and also as a pay per view event, launch other events in Japan in collaboration with New Japan Pro Wrestling outside of the Forbidden door, which is something I think we’ve really built great excitement and great business case for here on the western hemisphere.”

Will Dr. Britt Baker be returning soon?:

“We are really excited about Britt Baker being close to ready for an AEW return. She’s been out with injury and was not clear to wrestle but I do expect that sometime soon she could return. We absolutely love that and are very excited about getting all of our top stars back. It’s been great having MJF back and so many top stars have been away. It’s going to feel amazing when we’ve got our great back. Baker’s a great example. It would be great to have a doctor back in AEW as well as so many other great former champions including Jamie Hayter, Kenny Omega and Adam Cole and many other great wrestlers. We can’t wait to have back here in AEW…I’m glad that Baker’s going to be cleared to return very soon.”

Will Jim Ross be at Forbidden Door?:

“I have heard from Jim. I had been hopeful he’d be able to make it but Jim’s had some health concerns so I don’t want to say for sure when he’d be able to make a return because I think the most important thing to us is that J.R. gets well. He’s been with us since Day One. He was a part of AEW from the launch. We really value Jim and everything he’s done for AEW since we kick-started the business and definitely would love to have J.R. back on a more regular basis soon and involved when his health permits.”

On whether he is interested in signing Becky Lynch and Dijak?:

“I would prefer not to do my free agent negotiating on the media call. (laughs) It’s not even like an off-the-record conversation. (laughs) You’re all here. (laughs) I think it’s a really exciting time in pro wrestling. When we launched AEW one of the things that I had told the great people at TBS and TNT…about that free agency in pro wrestling has not been nearly at the level of competition that was once in the nineties and then in 2019 we arrived on the scene and I do think that it’s been a fascinating period watching the movement of wrestlers between companies over the past few years. I think it’s been great for the fans and I think it’s been great for the wrestling business. There are some great free agents out there and coming up. These are great names you’re talking about…I do think they’re all great talents to talk about for sure. It’s been a big past year for us in free agency signing and we will continue to be active in free agency.”

The state of AEW’s media rights negotiations:

“It’s a big year for AEW with our media rights renewal coming up and it’s going to affect everybody who works here, our wrestlers, our staff and everybody in the company and the fans of the company too. The deal we make and the distribution, it is a really important time for us. The fact that we’ve gotten here and we’re at this point., I believe we’re in the red zone right now and really approaching the goal line and about to make a big push for the big touchdown. We’ve been chasing this for years. I think it’s really, really exciting that we’re so close.”

Here is the full Forbidden Door card:

  • Swerve Strickland vs. AEW International Champion Will Ospreay for the AEW World Championship
  • Jon Moxley vs. Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship
  • TBS Champion Mercedes Mone vs. NJPW Strong Women’s Champion Stephanie Vaquer in a title vs. title match
  • Ladder match for the vacant TNT Title (Entrants: Konosuke Takeshita, Mark Briscoe, Jack Perry, Dante Martin, Lio Rush, one TBD)
  • Toni Storm vs. Mina Shirakawa for the AEW Women’s Championship
  • Bryan Danielson vs. Shingo Takagi in an Owen Hart Cup tournament match
  • Kazuchika Okada, Matthew Jackson, and Nicholas Jackson vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Max Caster, and Anthony Bowens
  • Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Orange Cassidy
  • MJF vs. Hechicero
  • Samoa Joe, Hook, and Katsuyori Shibata vs. Chris Jericho, Big Bill, and a partner TBA
  • (Pre-show) Willow Nightingale and Tam Nakano vs. Kris Statlander and Momo Watanabe
  • (Pre-show) Mariah May vs. Saraya
  • (Pre-show) Hiromu Takahashi, Titan, and Yota Tsuji vs. Mistico, Penta El Zero Miedo, and Rey Fenix

TOP PHOTO: Tony Khan on Wednesday, January 3, 2024 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. Photo by George Tahinos,