Austin Aries is back on IMPACT Wrestling. He defeated Eli Drake in his comeback to become the IMPACT World Champion. “Sometimes one miscalculation, a combo of lethal moves, a dropkick that caught him right in the old face, the brainbuster which has been one of my trusty finishers for almost all my career and there you have it.” But, as simple as it may seem, Aries was genuinely surprised to become Champion in such a record time, “I was probably as shocked as everyone else”. If he’s more than happy to give a rematch to Drake this Thursday night, he also truly respects the man he defeated in less than a minute. “I think Eli’s definitely a charismatic guy. He definitely has the gift of gab and sometimes people overlook that he’s a pretty good in-ring wrestler.” During a recent IMPACT Wrestling conference call, Austin Aries candidly talked about his return, the philosophy and passion that has moved him over the years and how he could be one of the central figures of IMPACT rebuilding.
The Master of Versatility
As soon as he won the IMPACT Championship, Austin Aries decided to change the rules when he announced he would not be IMPACT World Heavyweight Champion, but World Champion. “I decided to return as a World-class wrestler. That’s why I made sure that people understand that it is the Impact World Championship. For me, weight divisions in wrestling are a little silly because we never adhere to them, we never use them. There’s also this perception that if you’re less than a heavyweight or if you’re not 206 pounds, somehow you can’t be on top of the card. Or you can’t be considered main-event talent. It’s just foolish. You don’t need to be a heavyweight to be in the main event or to be the guy who draws money. I’m hoping to change that perception.”
As a 2-time IMPACT World Champion and a 6-time X-Division Champion, he confessed he has always been torn on the X-Division concept. “Obviously, I was very prominent in the X-Division, I owe a lot of my later success through what I was able to do in the X-Division, including the Option C idea. But for me, the thing I’ve always struggled with is, ‘What is the X-Division? What’s the definition of it?’ If you’re going to implement some kind of weight limit, then you need to do it. Then anyone who’s not 215 is in the X-Division. But then all of a sudden, AJ Styles is in the X-Division, Jeff Hardy’s in the X-Division. Now your top guys would be in the X-Division. In the case of the X-Division, there’s really no definition of what it is other than it is a stylistic type of wrestling, which may be back in its inception made a lot of sense. There’s a lot of history and lineage with the X-Division, and obviously it’s not something that you want to go away, but kind of figuring out exactly what it is in this current state and this day-and-age is important.”
Coming back to IMPACT for a third run
Austin Aries came back to help rebuild IMPACT, and the philosophy of the new team of Executive Vice-Presidents, Scott D’Amore and Don Callis, fitted his decision. “I got to hear their philosophy and what they are trying to do trying to turn things around there. I had a great talk with Scott D’Amore and decided that maybe this was a place I could come in and lend a hand and really help start to rebuilding Impact Wrestling back to some prominence. That was important when I talked to Scott (D’Amore), when I talked to Don (Callis), when I talked with Sonjay (Dutt), that we’re really in line with how they want to go about rebuilding this and really changing philosophies on how the company has relationships with talents”.
Like he stated, the company has changed because wrestling has also changed. “You got to understand that this is a different day in wrestling. You don’t need a professional wrestling company’s platform to necessarily get yourself over. We all have our social medium. People can build their own brands outside of anyone certain company. Also with companies, they don’t necessarily need to have network television to get their product out there. So I think we are looking at this new age of professional wrestling where it can truly be a mutually beneficial relationship without all the restrictions and stuff that we maybe had in the old philosophy and the old mindset. So, when I go there, I see that you have a bunch of guys who see this opportunity to use the Impact Wrestling brand to raise their platform and vice versa. IMPACT can use guys like me to help raise and bring some light on their company. There’s a long road ahead because there is a lot of work to do and nobody is delusional to that. When you’re back there, you see a lot of hungry guys who maybe haven’t had an opportunity to step on a national stage or international stage and everyone’s going out there and trying to kind of make their mark. At this last set of TV tapings, there was definitely a positive energy and a lot of excitement about what’s going on and what the future holds.”
Does he feel a kind of pressure being the new face of the company? “I don’t know if I felt pressure so much, I think it kind of continued to motivate me and reinvigorate me coming off of where I was when I didn’t really have a lot of the creative freedoms and I wasn’t really allowed to be myself. To have a company like this really entrusting me and say “hey we want Austin Aries for Austin Aries”, we believe in what you do, we believe in how you want to do business and to be a central figure to try to help this company turn things around, I have a lot of pride in that. I’ve always felt that I probably work better under pressure so I think for me it was just about going out there. The Impact Zone can be an interesting barometer, fans I wasn’t sure exactly how I’d be received but the reception was good. I was happy, welcomed back with open arms, so I’m excited and grateful for the opportunity.”
In this current run, I wanted to know who he was interested in squaring off with. And the ones he never wrestled are the ones he’s the most interested in. “My match with Eli Drake was so short I’d sure love to get back in there with him again and make sure that we have a proper match so that he has no excuses and I can feel like I really earned this Championship. You have guys like Johnny Impact, who’s obviously well-travelled, but we’ve never been in the ring together. Alberto El Patron, the guy who’s kind of been everywhere and but yet we’ve never had the opportunity to step in the ring. Some younger guys too that are making their way up, I kind of have my eye on them, maybe if I get the opportunity to step in the room with those too.” And when it comes to wrestlers he would like to see join the IMPACT locker room, he quotes “The Villain” Marty Scurll and Matt Riddle as interesting weapons of choice.
The freedom to be “The Belt Collector”
Even if Austin Aries is now the face of IMPACT, he’s not currently on a long-term contract with the company. He’s currently holding 4 titles, Defiant Championship in the UK, IPW: UK World Championship, WSW Heavyweight Champion in Australia and IMPACT World Championship in the USA. The freedom to wrestle and collect belts everywhere in the world is what matters the most to him right now. “I am not under any kind of long-term contract with Impact Wrestling. We came to an agreement for a certain number of dates that would run a certain length of time but there are really no restrictions on me, which is the beautiful thing of this opportunity. They want me to keep doing what I am doing which is basically just travelling around. I’m going around to all these promotions and trying to collect titles. That, for me, was the opportunity that was appealing to me. There’s a lot of opportunity out there and it’s important for me to keep my flexibility and to keep those options and not really have those restrictions.”
However, “A Double” is decided to use his experience to push IMPACT to the next level. “What I hope people understand is that for me to come back to this company, and I’ve been there through different regime changes and I’ve had my trials and tribulations, for me to come back here now should signal that things are different. I do take it seriously to be someone who can usher in some change. And really for me being allowed to come in and still be an independent contractor, I think that’s really important. The wrestling industry is changing right now and I think IMPACT wants to be on the cutting edge and usher in a new philosophy on how companies work with talent.”
When he left WWE last year, Aries was amazed to find out how strong and how vibrant the pro wrestling scene was across the globe. “There is a fan base that wants to see an alternative to what they’ve been given and there are enough quality promotions who are trying to do something the right way around the world. This is really maybe the first time whereas an independent wrestler you can go out and make a great living. For someone like myself who values a certain sense of freedom and artistic expression, I couldn’t be happier right now with the landscape of professional wrestling and being someone who’s trying to bridge a lot of those places together”. Something he can easily find in the UK. “I’ve always enjoyed going over the UK. I think that we have some of the most passionate wrestling fans in the world. Right now in the UK, it’s probably about as strong as I’ve seen it in quite some time, as far as the talent level or the number of companies being successfully run and profitable.”
At 39, Austin Aries is deciding to run his career on his own terms. Following his own passion, his own philosophy of being a World Class Wrestler every fan around the world could rely on when it comes to watching what Pro Wrestling may give out.