Two summers ago, TNA’s World Champion was at the Minnesota State Fair handing out free Harlequin romance novels while shirtless and wearing a cowboy hat.
What an amazing two years it has been for Austin Aries.
At Destination X, most fans assumed that Robert Roode would hold the world title until Bound for Glory to take on his old partner James Storm. TNA decided to shake things up though, and at their pay-per-view that spotlights the X-Division, Aries came through, and for now stands at the top of the company.
Yes, it’s definitely possible that Roode could get the title right back and set sail for a course with Storm.
For now though, let’s just appreciate how far Aries has come.
Not so long ago, Aries was wrestling in Ring of Honor, even holding their world title. But he went as far as he could with the company and left in 2010. He wanted a shot at the big time, to make the money he felt he’d deserved after putting his body on the line for so long.
After not making the casting for WWE’s Tough Enough, he seemed dejected and contemplated retirement. His career prospects looked bleak. It was hard to not feel sympathy for the talented wrestler who never got a decent shot in the big leagues.
Then seemingly out of nowhere in 2011, he re-joined Impact Wrestling.
Aries’ last run in the company was largely forgettable when he portrayed Austin Starr. He was putting on good matches, but the gimmick just didn’t seem to be working. He was suspended for three months at one point, and decided to quit instead of waiting it out.
After that troubled last run, it was surprising to see him come back at all.
When he came back though, he immediately showed why he belonged.
Aries showed more charisma than the rest of the X-Division roster, and was quickly rewarded with the division’s title. Week after week he was one of the highlights of the show, even when he didn’t have a strong storyline to support him.
Though he was a heel, fans latched onto his act, and it was hard to keep him a bad guy when a large part of the crowd cheered for him anyway.
It’s incredible to think that TNA Management has let great X-Division talents like Amazing Red, Generation Me, Jay Lethal, and Alex Shelley just slip away. Yet somehow they finally got it right and recognized Aries’ talent and invested in him.
Now they’re watching it pay off.
Things had been looking bleak for smaller wrestlers. But at Destination X, TNA made a statement.
It’s too soon to say whether this will be a lasting change in the company. But it’s refreshing to see guys like Roode and Aries have the top spot on the card, when for years the audience was subjected to former WWE stars taking the main events.
Aries still makes a fraction of what guys like RVD, Hardy and Angle make, but TNA finally did something right by investing in their future and creating a guy that fans can see as homegrown talent.
Life can be pretty random. Had TNA not taken another chance on Aries, he could have a completely different career right now. He may even have a normal job.
Instead, he’s a world champion.
The world has enough romance novels. We need more talented wrestlers. Let’s hope that Aries stays in the wrestling spotlight for some time.