No it isn’t a misprint or a communication error. It’s not a hoax or a prank. Blink once, blink twice, rub your eyes if you have to (gently of course). Now look at the headline again. Are you smiling? You should be.
At Destination X the 34 year old realised a life long dream and shook the professional wrestling world to its very core. Not just because he beat Bobby Roode, the man with the longest TNA World Championship reign in history, but because of who he is and how he did it. It has long been considered amongst WRESTLING fans that if you want to watch the modern day product you are going to have to put up with a lot of pain with not much joy in return. Gone are the days, it seems, that wrestling takes priority over selling merchandise to children or telling people who or what is trending worldwide.
Occasionally you will tune in and see some good old fashioned rasslin’ but that will soon be undone by some moron on commentary giving the ending of the match away (Taz). Maybe you might be lucky enough to witness ring psychology being utilised with guys selling bumps but then that will undoubtedly be ruined by another moron on commentary trying to put himself over by burying the in ring talent (Michael Cole). Truth is if you are a true wrestling fan nowadays you have to put up with a lot, a whole lot in hope not expectation of witnessing something worthwhile.
I am willing to admit right now that I have only a passing interest when it comes to TNA. I have friends that watch it religiously and keep me in the loop but I only really tune in for the PPV’s. Usually I’m looking to see something funny from Eric Young, the next attempt from Kurt Angle to kill himself in the ring and to see the ever improving Bully Ray live up to his name and torment poor Christy Hemme. AJ Styles will always try to steal the show no matter where he is in the card but in the past year there has been only one man who has consistently delivered match after match after match no matter who he was in the ring with and no matter what role he was asked to play. Austin Aries.
On July 10th 2011 at Destination X he earned a TNA contract by beating Jack Evans, Low-Ki and Zema Ion and two months later at No Surrender he would beat Brian Kendrick for the X Division title and put that floundering division on his back. Month after month he would proudly defend his title against all comers. The division may only have consisted of four men but watching Aries compete and listen to him talk you would never have known it.
Of course in a four man division no matter how good you are you are going to have to move up and so along came Bully Ray. It wasn’t just the lack of competition in the X Division that moved Aries up though it was the fact that no matter where he was on the card he stole the show. Time and time again Aries was the stand out performer. This in a company that boasts AJ Styles, Kurt Angle and Bobby Roode.
The challenge from the Bully came and went and not even a particularly hard fall into the barricade during their match at Sacrifice could stop the Double A rocket. When Chris Sabin momentarily returned from injury even he couldn’t stop the record breaking reign from the champ. There comes a time in every great mid card championship reign where you need to make a point of stepping up to the World Title challenge and so Austin decided that almost a full calender year after reclaiming his job he so harshly lost in the first place he would undertake said challenge. The man with the longest X Division Championship reign would go up against the man with the longest TNA World Championship reign and this may be the jaded wrestling fan in me but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would see what I saw.
It may have been the cold remedy, scratch that, man flu remedy that I was pounding like boilermakers during spring break but it took until Austin Aries was sitting in the confetti with the title over his shoulder for me to realise what I had just seen. I had to rewind it and watch it again until my brain would believe what my eyes were telling it.
When you think about it though, why shouldn’t Austin Aries be at the top of TNA’s ladder. His all round game is second to none. He understands in ring psychology better than most and can interact with the crowd and bring them into the match better than anyone I’ve seen. He can chain wrestle with anybody as well as fly through the air. He may be small in size but he can get almost anyone he wants up for the brainbuster and if he wants he can lay a slap on your chest that will stop your heart. It’s not just the technical prowess and all round skill set but he has an incredible grasp of the subtle nuances that separate the good professional wrestlers from the greatest. For me watching Aries wrestle is like watching birds fly in V formation. It’s ingrained in their DNA. Just as they instinctively know how to fly that way Aries instinctively knows how to steal the show.
Sure there will be those who sit in their billion dollar ivory tower who look down their nose at him and sneer things like “look how small he is” and “he wears a cape to the ring”. Yes he does wear a cape and I’m here to tell you he rocks that cape. In fact he rocks that cape so damn hard that I’m going to get myself one and I will wear it proudly whether I’m shopping in the local supermarket, chatting up girls in the pub or playing football at the park. I can see myself now rising manfully in the box to meet a corner my cape twinkling gloriously in the light.
It’s that kind of pride that keeps the jaded wrestling fan tuning in time after time. We are all just hoping for that feeling we get when we have seen something truly magnificent, something that will stay with us forever and years later when we think back on those moments we still get goosebumps. For me the night Eddie Guerrero won the WWE title from Brock Lesnar and Wrestlemania XX when Eddie and Chris Benoit are hugging in the ring with the ticker tape all around them still make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. There are are other moments too and seeing Austin Aries as champ will proudly sit amongst them.
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This article was first posted on July 14, 2012