By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
Welcome to 100.
Or, at least, so my calculations say. With the two-year anniversary of McGuire’s Mondays on the horizon, this installment, according to my very scientific and assuredly accurate record-keeping, is the 100th edition of this weekly column and/or blog post (you’d think by now we’d be able to call it one or the other; maybe we’ll try to get that done by No. 200).
The first piece came in the wake of 2020’s Full Gear at Daily’s Place in Jacksonville. The date was Nov. 7, and the crowd was … sparse. The show took place right in the heart of the pandemic, when at least most people made a reasonable facsimile of an attempt to wear masks and the world was starved for true live events. That night in Jacksonville wasn’t a true live event – AEW capped capacity at 1,000 – but it certainly helped a lot of people who were going stir crazy in their homes to get out and see what the outside world was like.
It was a hell of a night of wrestling. By the end of it, MJF had defeated Chris Jericho to become a member of the Inner Circle, the Young Bucks and FTR had actually, you know, wrestled one another, and Jon Moxley forced Eddie Kingston to say “I quit” (or something like that) to retain his AEW World Championship. The more pressing development of the evening?
The camera caught me singing “Judas” during Chris Jericho’s entrance as my mask was dangling from my ears. Shame on me … on so many levels.
Anyway, I filed a recap of the night and so McGuire’s Mondays began. Within the timeframe of those now-100 editions, check out all that happened:
– Pro wrestling’s White Whale, CM Punk, returned to the ring in what felt like the biggest story in the history of forever. Naturally, nothing gold can stay because almost exactly a year later …
– Pro wrestling’s White Whale, CM Punk, appears to be headed back out of the ring, too. After chomping down on some baked goods, the guy bad-mouthed his co-workers in public, got in a fight, and – if reports are to be believed – is on the verge of accepting a buy-out to leave AEW. Someday, someone’s going to write a book about The Year of Punk and I’ll be damned if it ain’t gonna be must-read.
– Vince McMahon resigned. Or retired. Or was pushed out. Or … whatever. But yeah. He’s not at the head of the WWE table anymore and if there was one thing nobody thought they’d see more than Punk getting back in a ring, it’s Vince McMahon walking away from it. But, it happened. And it wasn’t pretty. We’ll spare the details here because this is a celebration, pal.
– NXT, which was once the hottest wrestling platform in North America, turned into its fluorescent alter-ego, found the number 2.0 and kind of started to suck for a minute. The ship now feels righted(ish) as the bright aesthetic has been kicked aside for the old, trusted black-and-gold, and the wrestling continues to improve as the green talent becomes … less green – even if that does mean The Era Of The Cool is forever gone when it comes to what Triple H recently, hypocritically, called their “developmental.” Sigh.
– New Japan Pro Wrestling and AEW held a joint event, getting past the admitted early tension between the two companies. The problem? It was snake-bitten. Kenny Omega, Bryan Danielson and CM Punk, among others, couldn’t participate and Adam Cole still hasn’t recovered from getting knocked into oblivion. After all the hype and all the hope when it came to a New Japan/AEW working relationship the show felt … less than what we thought it would be? Don’t get me wrong. It was a fantastic night of wrestling, but the earth-shaking, world-changing aspect of what most of us thought it would be wasn’t there. And what’s this I hear about Tony Khan turning down a potential Forbidden Door 2 in Japan? Back to square one, we go.
It’s wild to think those five headlines all occurred in less than two calendar years. Of course, there’s been so much more. Roman Reigns becoming Roman f— Reigns. Cody returning to WWE. Becky Lynch having a baby and coming back. AEW’s Arthur Ashe shows. Matt Cardona being … Matt Cardona.
There hasn’t been a shortage of things to write about in the pro wrestling world over the last 100 (or so) weeks. Putting these things together has reminded me why this rasslin’ stuff is perhaps the most fascinating genre of athletics on the planet. The work/shoot discussions, the injuries, the in-ring stories, the out-of-ring stories, the hurt feelings, the joy, the pain, the unpredictability. Your favorite football team might have the ball with two minutes left in the Super Bowl, and that team might be down by three as they cross the 50-yard line … but do they know what it’s like to take a pizza cutter to the head?
Such is the world of pro wrestling in the year 2022. It’s this weird, wild universe of human beings who are probably more sensitive than anyone really knows, yet could, would, and will risk limbs and life to entertain people like you and me. And that’s just the deliberately entertaining side of things. Just imagine how much less fun this stuff would be if we didn’t have access to the knowledge behind all the nonsense that happens behind the curtain.
See, that’s the thing. I’ve railed against us fans having too much information at our fingertips when it comes to the way pro wrestling consumption has evolved and over the course of these 100 McGuire’s Mondays, I’ve never believed more than I do now that less is more when it comes to anything we can find out that happens away from the bright lights. Naturally, I’m part of the problem, because no, I’m not going to stop reading, and yes, if you tell me a scoop is about to break, I’ll be the first one refreshing my Twitter account ad nauseam until that information trickles out.
But what’s funny to me, when I take stock of the things I wrote about and the opinions I shared in this space throughout the previous 99 columns, I’m reminded of what got me back into wrestling in the first place and then, consequently, led me to begin writing these things each Monday. What was it?
Like most every wrestling fan I know, I had a lull. I started as a kid, fell in love with it, was ashamed to love it because it was definitely not cool to like when I was in elementary or middle school, and then I drifted away through most of high school and all of college. I got a job, life stuff happened, and then, ironically, started reading this website’s Raw recaps without even really knowing who was wrestling and what was going on. I loved the personal touch of the reviews and, long story short, it led me to seek out as much information as I could find about everything going on in any corner of the wrestling world.
It wasn’t about the winners of the matches or who won what titles; rather, it was learning about why matches were considered good by some and bad by others. I wanted to understand what constituted a bad wrestler and what constituted a good worker. I wanted to know plans for stories, what one arch could mean for a future element of the overall narrative. It was intoxicating, really. I soaked everything up and I loved every second of it.
Since then, things have changed. Everyone seems so … angry? Unimpressed? Disagreeable? Pick any one of those words and you wouldn’t be wrong. It just feels like there’s more dialogue about what’s wrong with every promotion, wrestler and company owner than there is about a really good 20-minute match. Then, when the really good 20-minute match is discussed, that quickly turns to why another match 42 years ago was better. Then the pissing match fully commences and even if anyone anywhere actually enjoyed something, so many of us would never know it because we’re too busy defending, asserting, opining and flat-out arguing.
That’s not to say there’s no value in arguing. Debate is healthy, this I believe. Yet in a world so driven by division, pro wrestling has become less an escape and more a hill on which to die. Sensitivities are strained. The block button on Twitter feels like salvation, when in reality, it’s defeat – an exemplification of how far apart so many of us are from one another. It seems right to eliminate any and everyone who’s sexist, racist, and a bigot, but immediately ending discourse because you don’t think Bret Hart was as good of a worker as someone else thinks he was? I’m not so sure about that.
Still, I’ve been more exposed to it than ever while culling the depths of the World Wide Internet for this column each Monday, and at best, it’s unfortunate; at worst, it’s abusive – abusive not just from a person-to-person standpoint, but also abusive of the platform all us wrestling fans were given when Al Gore invented the Internet. That’s because this platform is not best used to bicker; it’s best used to inform, and in order to be informed, one must listen.
So, it’s with that in mind that I raise a glass of whiskey to No. 100 in hopes that by the time 200 comes around, we can all be a little nicer and a little more accepting, that we can lay down some swords and that we can listen just a little bit more intently than we tend to these days. The pro wrestling community is one unto its own. It’s a beautiful frustration and an unfair mistress. To be able to write about it for 100 Mondays has been a thrill, a pleasure, an honor.
So, cheers to you, pro wrestling. And cheers opening our minds while softening our hearts.