**WARNING: This article contains a potential spoiler**
Pro wrestling star Austin Aries is set to make his return tonight on Impact Wrestling along with former X-Division stars Jimmy Rave and Kid Kash.
Aries, who performed with the company from 2005-2007 under the name Austin Starr, will participate in a three-way match with Rave and Kash, ultimately winning a “contract” with the company as well as a match at the upcoming Destination X pay-per-view.
Fans of Aries will immediately note that his career at this point seems to be in a “slump” of sorts. Aries, the first and only wrestler to hold the coveted ROH World Championship twice, parted ways with Ring of Honor (ROH) Wrestling in October 2010, losing the title to Tyler “Seth Rollins” Black in February of the same year.
The seven months in between saw Aries participating in feuds with ROH mainstay Delirious and legend Jerry Lynn. Occasionally Aries would serve as a manager of sorts, or just a rabble-rouser interrupting matches and the like.
Once released from ROH, Aries moved on to wrestle for Gabe Sapolsky’s EVOLVE and DragonGate USA (DGUSA) promotions. Somewhere in this period of time Aries auditioned for WWE Tough Enough, and was ultimately not chosen for the cast. He talks about that a bit in a video on his YouTube channel.
From there, he leaped into action with EVOLVE and DGUSA. It was during WrestleMania 27 weekend on April 2 at the Mercury Rising 2011 that Aries teased leaving the company if he couldn’t win the Open the Freedom Gate Championship from Champion YAMATO.
A lot of hype surrounding Aries’ future in pro wrestling went into building up the match and the PPV. Aries claimed that he had to find his purpose in pro wrestling, and without that purpose or the Open the Freedom Gate Championship, there was no reason for him to be in DGUSA.
It was at this PPV that I witnessed Aries’ stellar work rate and breathtaking athleticism live and in person for the first time ever.
Aries lost to YAMATO at the Mercury Rising 2011 PPV and was set to have his final match in DGUSA against Jimmy Jacobs the next day at the Open the Ultimate Gate PPV. He lost to Jacobs that day and joined the Blood Warriors heel faction, citing that he stated he’d leave the company if he “couldn’t find his purpose,” not if he didn’t win the championship.
The in-between time saw Aries wrestle in a few independent organizations and shows, including NWA Hollywood (in an excellent series with Scorpio Sky) and the ECWA Super 8 Tournament.
Fast-forward to earlier this month and you would’ve missed the report of Aries’ departure from EVOLVE and DGUSA, which claimed the wrestler wanted to focus his attention on opportunities outside of professional wrestling.
All of this leads us up to tonight’s Impact Wrestling, where Aries will “earn” a “contract” with TNA.
Let it be known to all those unaware that Austin Aries is the real deal when it comes to pro wrestling. The man has incredible talent, oozes charisma and has definitely evolved as a performer by huge leaps and bounds since his first stint in TNA nine years ago.
It was during the tail end of his second run as ROH World Champion that I became invested in the company’s product, drawn particularly to Aries’ braggadocio and flamboyantly garish outfits. Athletically speaking, Aries held his own against all of his opponents and made the title worth a hot dog because he was indeed the man to beat.
This Austin Aries was way on the other end of the spectrum opposite the Austin Starr that wrestled for TNA, and he was also by far a more well-rounded character that oozed confidence, cockiness and charisma.
Numerous fans, including myself, were very upset when Aries mentioned on Twitter that he didn’t make the cut for the WWE Tough Enough cast (check the February 18 and April 5 tweets). But as he mentioned in the YouTube video posted earlier in this piece, he didn’t fit in with the direction the WWE wanted to go with their show.
I agree that he was probably over-qualified to appear on the show.
However, there is some redemption for Aries to be found in his return to a much older, wiser and financially stable TNA Wrestling.
With only five stars in the dying X-Division—Kazarian, Brian Kendrick, Jeremy and Max Buck and Amazing Red—Aries has all the tools necessary to be a key element in exorcising the demon that’s eating away at the life of the division.
It is unfortunate that everything circling around Aries in the division is messier than Matt Hardy in a pudding eating contest.
For a shining star like Aries, who has an incredible amount of talent and whose treatment by the hands of the top two pro wrestling companies has left fans mind boggled, much more is warranted than the brief stint, cameo, “we need you this month, next month goodbye” treatment TNA is prone to give returnees to the company.
We must also take into account the state of the X-Division, which is right now honestly light years south from being even a shell of what it once was.
TNA literally has three weeks and three days to promote the hell out of its July 10 Destination X PPV. With rampant speculation that the show will be an all X-Division PPV (the same was speculated about last year’s offering as well), will they really be able to logically rebuild the division and hype the PPV in three weeks and five days?
Austin Aries is strolling casually into this situation. His return received no hype, his character was not developed or reintroduced to fans at all (neither was Jimmy Rave or Kid Kash) and from the spoilers it seems that this was the only “X-Division” match scheduled to air this Thursday on Spike TV.
What the spoilers don’t report are the taped backstage segments, so it is very likely that Aries’ return was indeed hyped and pushed through promos, interviews, whatever. TNA could very well do the right thing by Austin Aries.
Should we be expected to hold our breath, eagerly anticipating this momentous event? TNA’s track record is not all that spectacular when it comes to firing, re-hiring, firing again and re-RE-hiring talent.
On the other hand, could this be the moment in Aries’ career where he finds his “purpose?"
What if Aries plays a key role in the revitalization of the Division? What if his presence in TNA is similar to that of Christian’s in the WWE, where a stint outside of the company allowed him the time to garner the experience needed to develop his character and present it in a completely new and reinvigorated way?
In my opinion, Aries is just that damn good to help carry the X-Division and bring some real prominence back to the title and the company’s premiere division.
This by no means states or implies that his fellow X-Division athletes aren’t capable or worthy of that distinction. As it stands now, the X-Division is in sore need of more talented stars than the five mentioned earlier in the piece, and no man in the division can do it all by himself.
Rather, it notes that Aries’ character—unlike his X-Division counterparts already present in the company— has had the time and space to mature into a ready-made superstar that can enter into a program without being burdened by the stench and weight of a failed month-long push and lackluster character development.
Don't take my word for it; watch the show tonight and see for yourself.
When it is all said and done, I am still not convinced that TNA is behind the revitalization of the X-Division, nor am I impressed with what seems to be their buildup for the Destination X PPV.
Judging from the spoilers I’ve read for next week’s show, I’m not even sure what they have planned to hype the show in the next three weeks. From those same spoilers, I’m not even crystal clear on where they’re going to go after the PPV is over with their X-Division stars and veterans.
What I can say is that with Aries in the mix of all of this, TNA has a prime opportunity to capitalize off of the redemption of their X-Division and Aries. That by itself is something to be excited about as we await tonight’s episode of Impact Wrestling.
Aries' presence alone isn't enough to completely crush the cries of TNA's discontent dissidents, but his charisma, athleticism and marketability are enough to make the disenfranchised fans pause for a moment to catch their breath, stolen by the man's incredible in-ring abilities.
So if you’ve ever been a TNA “hater,” I would recommend that you attempt to tune into Impact Wrestling tonight just to see Austin Aries in action against the very talented Kid Kash and Jimmy Rave.
The show may be horrible, the PPV may be a bust and you may never watch any of TNA’s programming ever again. If you watch the show tonight, at least you can say you witnessed Austin Aries work his ass off to not only find his purpose, but to also give the company yet another reason to pump much-needed resources and life-sustaining blood back into the division that made them better than their competition.
Here’s to the redemption of Austin Aries, the X-Division and TNA Wrestling.