In the last several weeks, we have seen the appearance of KENTA on AEW Dynamite, The Good Brothers and Kenny Omega on Impact Wrestling as well as scathing promos and trash-talking from the likes of Jay White, Tama Tonga, Don Callis, The Young Bucks, and even Tony Khan himself.
TJP has been going between Impact and NJPW LA Dojo, NWA Women’s Champion Serena Deeb and Thunder Rosa are regularly appearing for AEW, and MLW stars like Tom Lawlor, Team Filthy and others have been mainstays on New Japan Strong with Rocky Romero popping up on MLW TV in return.
One thing is crystal clear, and that is talents have been given the green light to work other places while under contract elsewhere. The “Forbidden Door” having been kicked in has been a major buzzworthy soundbite as of late, but what if that door was never really shut to begin with? What if the “Forbidden Door” has been a work this entire time, building up heat and gaining momentum along the way?
Let’s play Devil’s Advocate here and look at some of the things that have happened over the last year or so. We knew the moment when New Japan of America was announced, the plan was for them to have a more consistent United States touring schedule, but was an AEW and Impact partnership a part of that plan as well? Did the COVID-19 pandemic kick these plans into high gear and force these promotions to come up with something of this magnitude and make it work much faster than originally planned or did all of this come about because of the pandemic?
All of this really started with the contracts of Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, and The Good Brothers. They all had a clause written into their contracts stating they could work dates for New Japan while working for AEW and Impact, respectively. New Japan has been known to have distrust in Impact for their mishandling of Kazuchika Okada’s booking during his excursion as a Young Lion. So how did The Good Brothers manage to get a clause to work dates for New Japan without some sort of agreement between the two companies first? This was in March around the time the pandemic began to hit the US in a major way.
Tama Tonga had Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows on the Tama’s Island podcast just after their WWE release. Reminiscing about the good times, telling road stories from New Japan days and how they wanted to work together again. The Good Brothers said they were going to shock the wrestling world when they could finally make their announcement at the end of their 90-day no-compete clause from WWE. Fast forward to the Impact and AEW partnership, suddenly there is heat with Tama and NJPW BULLET CLUB over The Elite’s use of the BULLET CLUB name and logo on Dynamite and Impact TV. Would New Japan allow The Elite—a group of people they supposedly have a strong dislike for because of the nature of their departure from the company—to use one of their biggest trademarks on AEW television with zero legal action? The only person to have heat was Tama himself when he would cut promos on AEW and The Elite while on his podcast, not from New Japan the company. No legal action being taken tells me there was an agreement of some sort on the table or that would have never happened.
Around mid-2020, Okada was talking to the Japanese press about a desire to have several wrestling companies come together and work with one another. To put on a massive show to help bring the world together during its time of uncertainty amid the pandemic. And even Kota Ibushi and Omega have even had some back and forth on Twitter alluding to a potential future match, pitting longtime friends and current New Japan and AEW champions in a battle of the top stars.
By this time, everyone who is a wrestling fan knows there is a partnership between these companies regarding talent exchanges and possibly more in the future. The real question is, when did this arrangement begin to take place and how close was it to the start of All Elite Wrestling?
This is all clearly speculation from what I have noticed in different articles, quotes from wrestlers on social media and podcasts, Twitter, and things that are said during or between shows. I truly do not know what is going on or how long it has been in the works if anything I mentioned even comes close to being true. Maybe the heat between The Elite and New Japan was less of a shoot than fans were led to believe and they “kayfabed” us, simply for the sake of having an ace up their sleeve if times became tough ratings-wise. I do however feel that something like this was at the very least discussed as a possibility between the heads of Impact, AEW, and New Japan well before the pandemic and when the pandemic showed no signs of letting up, these companies devised a plan that would be financially beneficial for all parties. Loss of live gate dollars could be greatly reduced if they could bring in large numbers of viewers on both live television and PPV buys.
As famously quoted from the Simpsons, “I, for one, welcome our new pro wrestling overlords” and hope that a newer version of the bygone National Wrestling Alliance on the horizon.