McGuire’s Mondays: Alex Coughlin’s retirement, AEW’s rankings system, and the arduous build to WrestleMania XL


By Colin McGuire, Staffer

I wasn’t here last week and these days, missing a week in the pro wrestling world feels like missing a light year’s worth of storyline development, manufactured outrage, and questionable controversies. So, let’s not waste any time getting into getting reacquainted.

Adios, Alex

I say that very, very respectfully, of course. For those who missed it, New Japan rising star Alex Coughlin very quietly announced over the weekend that he’s done with wrestling. It all came in the form of what was formerly known as a tweet as he politely told a fan to eff off … before walking that back in lieu of needing to sell the last of his merch as he leaves pro wrestling behind (which, to be fair, was a pretty great turnaround).

I liked watching Coughlin. A lot. If you aren’t too familiar with him, check out some pandemic-era episodes of New Japan Strong when he was just beginning to come together as a product of the LA Dojo, having trained under Katsuyori Shibata. Coughlin was young and green, but man did he set himself apart due to his sheer strength (and, perhaps, that mustache). To think that he began training in 2018 and came as far as he did as quickly as he did is a testament to his work ethic. To know that he’s hanging it up at the ripe young age of 30 is a word that goes above and beyond sad.

The reason that I keep coming across for his goodbye is that a neck injury forced him to walk away from pro wrestling for good; anymore, I tend to believe little of what I read in the wrestling media until a wrestler him or herself comes out and says things themselves, so perhaps we’ll never be sure of the exact details surrounding his departure. All I know is that I’m sad to see him go.

New Japan has lost a lot of its prominent talent in recent memory, but Coughlin’s departure has to be one of the low-key hardest to swallow if only because of the promise he showed in such a short amount of time. Here’s hoping he can find happiness and health in whatever he does next. In the meantime, check out his performance in an eight-man tag at 2022’s Forbidden Door. It was the largest stage he ever got on in America and he did not disappoint.

Here’s a tip of the cap to you, Mr. Coughlin. You will be missed.

Ranking, Schmankings

Well, that was fun.

I’m old enough to remember when AEW announced it was bringing its rankings system back and everyone was pumped. I’m also old enough to remember rumblings that the reason they went away in the first place was because that rat bastard CM Punk, in one of his oh-so-many-unforgivable sins, convinced AEW owner Tony Khan to axe them. And, finally, I’m currently old enough to remember that even with CM Punk gone, the return of the ratings lasted about as long as an AEW Dark main event.

This whole thing is worthy of bitching about in a column of its own, but why bother? AEW doesn’t take itself seriously enough to follow through with its rules so why should I? Instead, I’ll just say this: The reappearance and subsequent disappearance of the rankings system in AEW is revealing in that it plays right into the hands of those who criticize the product for its lack of coherence or storytelling.

Yes, I know. We aren’t allowed to say those things because someone once advocated for video packages setting up matches and to this day, that notion is often mocked by AEW loyalists. I’m also very aware of all the long-form storytelling arguments out there when it comes to how great AEW is in that department. But to me, implementing a ranking system is a simple, fundamental way to keep stories in tact and order among challengers and champions. And yet, the minds behind AEW still didn’t want to take the time to adhere to those very basic principles because … wow, wouldn’t it be great if we just booked Bryan Danielson against Shibata on a random Saturday night?

To that, I say, well, yes. It might be great to book Danielson vs. Shibata on a random Saturday night. But if that’s your company and that’s your idea of what booking pro wrestling shows is, at least cop to it. Let’s not kid ourselves and get overly offended if someone or a group of someones calls it out.

Case in point: The most recent AEW rankings I can find came out on February 10 of this year. The No. 1 contenders for the tag team titles were Ricky Starks and Big Bill. The No. 3 team? Top Flight. Who got the tag match at the March 3 PPV? The Young Bucks. Isn’t there a way to tell the story of Sting and Darby Allin – the champions at the time of the rankings – going through the top five teams before getting to the Bucks? Or, conversely, isn’t there a way for the Bucks to go through the top five teams before getting that title match?

Eh. Perhaps I’m asking too much. Either way, can we all just stop blaming CM Punk for the bad things that has happened to AEW now?

Forty Times The Fun (maybe)

We are less than two weeks away from WrestleMania 40 and I can confidently say … thank God for that. While the main event picture has been a lot of fun to watch unfold over the last couple months, Roman Reigns and Cody Rhodes’s exchange on the most recent Smackdown was unquestionably the worst segment of the run thus far. Roman continues to disrespect Cody. Cody continues to feel just a tiny bit more smug than he should as the underdog babyface. And, in the case of Friday, that was about it, save for appearances by the usual suspects to end the show.

The Rock is slated to appear on Raw next Monday, and I’m sure he’ll be entertaining in the way The Rock has been entertaining during this latest run (which is to say, results may vary), but I can’t be alone in thinking the squeeze is almost out of juice. Kudos to everyone involved – and especially WWE for pivoting at a time when it was smart to pivot – but let’s move this thing along already.

Will The Rock turn on Roman and cost him his record-setting title reign to kick off a Rock vs. Roman program that will culminate in a year? Will Seth turn on Cody and get back to doing what he does best, which is be a bad guy in the annals of professional wrestling? Will Cody actually not come away victorious at this year’s WrestleMania, accentuating the cries from all the Cody Crybabies that have stepped up in recent weeks? Or, simply, will Cody finish the story?

Nobody outside of the booking minds knows the answers to those questions right now, but I can also say that I’m more than ready to find out what they are. If they had to carry this thing out another month, I’m not sure I could make it. As such, here’s hoping they find a way to bring this thing home strong and stick the landing on a story that everyone is almost dying to see resolved.

Plus, we all know that there are wrestlers on that roster eager to get their TV time back once Mr. Johnson decides to venture back to Hollywood, right? Do it for the kids, Rock. Do it for the kids.

For The Women

This is the last Monday of Women’s History Month and that’s worth noting in the pro wrestling world, if only because historically, women in pro wrestling have never received their proper due. It’s also worth noting because, as you’ve seen me write many times in this space before, it turns out that the pro wrestling culture hasn’t been kind to females through the years and the revelations/allegations surrounding Vince McMahon in recent months have been sickening, disheartening, disgusting … the list goes on.

And so, as this column winds down this week, it might not be a bad idea to take a second to recognize all the greatness in women’s wrestling today. Not only have so many women shattered ceilings in bust through doors in only the last decade alone, but now that we know precisely how much bullshit they needed to endure to get there, it’s worthwhile to pause and think about how inspiring women’s success in the pro wrestling world has been, is now, and will continue to be as it evolves through time.

So, cheers to you, women in wrestling, for persevering through unspeakable circumstances. And cheers to celebrating women for longer than a mere 31 days.


Readers Comments (1)

  1. >as he politely told a fan to eff off … before walking that back in lieu of needing to sell the last of his merch as he leaves pro wrestling behind (which, to be fair, was a pretty great turnaround).<>and the revelations/allegations surrounding Vince McMahon in recent months have been sickening, disheartening, disgusting … <<

    McMahon has been accused of MANY sexual assaults, including a RAPE, many times over the years, and the people who kept watching and pretended they didn't know that are full of crap. The urge to do the virtue signaling nowadays has gotten to the level of being pathetic.

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