Sunday night, at TNA's Destination X pay-per-view, Austin Aries completed a one-year journey that culminated in him defeating Bobby Roode to become the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion.
For nine months, Aries served as the centerpiece of the X-Division as its champion, defeating all comers and garnering a tremendous fan following and reputation as one of the sport's greatest in-ring workers. All of his sacrifice and dedication has now paid off in the form of the most prestigious prize Impact Wrestling has to offer.
Aries' win signifies a changing of the guard within TNA. Where as AJ Styles and Samoa Joe were the only two Superstars, in the entire 10-year history of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, to truly escape the supposedly nonexistent boundaries of the X-Division and go on to win the company's top prize, Aries proves that size truly does not matter.
At only 5'9", and 211 pounds, Austin Aries is the smallest heavyweight champion in either TNA or WWE since Rey Mysterio. But as Aries has proven over the course of the last year, size means nothing if you have the talent and charisma necessary to capture the attention of the audience.
Self-billed as "The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived," Aries proved himself between the ropes and on the microphone, immediately standing out as one of the most intense and entertaining performers on any roster in the sport.
The new champion also provided an example of the way things used to be in the sport. He worked his way to the top from the ground up. He fought for a contract...earned his employer's respect...won the TNA X-Division Championship...stole the show on multiple occasions...proved his worth in a brutal fight against Bully Ray.
Each accomplishment took him up another rung of the ladder leading to the top of TNA.
With his win at Destination X, Austin Aries has been given the proverbial ball and told to run with it. His matches will no longer sneak up on fans or critics. He will not be applauded for stealing the show from the undercard of pay-per-view events.
No, Aries will be expected to be the best wrestler on the card, in the best match on the card and the man people pay their money to see at live events and on the monthly PPVs.
Luckily for TNA, they have chosen a man who has proven to have incredible determination to be the best he can be.
It remains to be seen if Aries can be the spark that finally leads to increased exposure for TNA. Will he spike ratings immediately? Probably not. Will his win lead to increased live event attendance? I would not bet on it. But Aries' title win creates a new star the company can build on in the immediate and distant future.
And in a professional wrestling world that has been far too focused on the same, old, overexposed performers for far too long, that's not a bad thing for a company constantly on the brink.