On this week’s Impact Wrestling, Steve Maclin replaced Josh Alexander as the fifth member of Team Impact for their upcoming Hardcore War against Honor No More at No Surrender on February 19.

While I have an existential crisis about the possibility of Alexander actually leaving the promotion and this not just being some elaborate work, I thought it was time to throw some garlands of praise in the direction of Maclin, who has developed into one of Impact’s more underrated acquisitions in recent times.

When Maclin signed last summer, intrigue was my main reaction. He didn’t carry the name value and associated level of expectation of a Good Brothers or a Matt Cardona, nor did he have the surprise factor of a W. Morrissey. He seemed like a guy who the WWE had never seen much in or, more accurately, just had no idea what to do with, and had washed out of their system.

In many ways, that lack of any real exposure meant that signing Maclin was pretty much a free hit for Impact. He was a blank canvas that they could shape and try things with and if it didn’t work, it wasn’t going to be some big bust that they’d bet the house on. Couple that with the fact that Maclin seemed hugely motivated to prove his worth and the potential was obvious.

His start, however, was quite slow. There were a series of squash matches that were fun but also bordering on the repetitive. When they’d done a similar thing with W. Morrissey only a couple of months prior, it left Maclin and his presentation feeling quite generic. This is an observation I noted and made at the time on this very website.

His development from that initially quite generic heel to his current, more complex character has been a slow burn but it’s a journey that’s been rewarding to follow.

An initial program with Petey Williams allowed Maclin to begin his ascent up the card and show off a bit more of his game, both in terms of personality and his in-ring work.

If that had shown the emergence of some green shoots, it was Maclin’s lengthy feud with Trey Miguel that saw those shoots blossom. His army background started to come to the fore, serving as a backdrop to the way he conducts himself and views the rest of the locker room.

Indeed, while the storytelling in the Trey feud was a little more clunky and convoluted than it needed to be, it explained a lot about Maclin. He was neither face nor heel, just a man single-minded in his determination to achieve a particular goal. At that point, it was claiming the X-Division title and nothing would stop him from getting there.

It’s become all too common a refrain in modern wrestling that people want to ‘fight, not wrestle’ but that mantra is embodied by Maclin. His matches are go, go, go from the outset and physical in a way that’s particularly visceral and enjoyable to watch. His offense, notably against Trey at Hard to Kill, looks reckless in a good way – the Scud Missile dive and the spear into the ropes look legitimately dangerous and that’s what keeps you hooked.

Maclin came out of Hard to Kill, judging by the reaction online, a made man. After that show I pondered how they’d book him to keep that momentum rolling and, in my view at least, they’ve nailed it.

His program with Jonathan Gresham was, unsurprisingly, really good. He questioned Gresham’s understanding of the word ‘honor’ after the ROH Champion said he had nothing to do with Honor No More, despite them coming from the same place. To Maclin, an army veteran, honor meant loyalty and honesty and he felt Gresham had neither by disowning his former/current colleagues.

The title match contested under Pure Rules was great, with Maclin big brothering Gresham early on to draw out all the rope breaks before gradually getting worn down by the technically superior man. The rematch, contested under Impact rules, saw Maclin attempt to beat the stuffing out of Gresham before getting over-exuberant and eventually disqualified. The finish there and the beat down that followed left enough meat on the bone for a third match between the two, and also set up Maclin’s involvement in a big match at No Surrender.

Maclin had no dog in the fight with Honor No More but after they attacked him and got in his way, he wanted revenge. For him, there are firm lines that you don’t cross and they did. It’s a black and white dichotomy for him and now Honor No More will feel his wrath. He acknowledged that the Impact guys don’t trust him but as he said, he knows what brotherhood means. He knows how to be a team player and now his team is Impact.

There is a simple complexity to Maclin’s presentation. He’s a no-nonsense ass-kicker who likes to scrap it out, but there’s a lot more to the man on the screen than meets the eye. At the end of his matches, there’ll be a winner and a loser, and a better man who came out on top.

What excites me as a viewer is that he’s been with the promotion six months and there are so many guys on the roster that he’s not even interacted with. Impact has barely scratched the surface with him and to me, that’s a sign of good booking.

Being involved in Hardcore War at No Surrender cements Maclin’s role with Impact and gives him another opportunity to showcase his skills. As he has previously, I expect him to seize that and show that he’s a potential top guy for them.

He’s fascinating to watch and so clearly determined to make a success of this stint with Impact. For me, that makes him one of their most underrated signings of recent times.