FLASHBACK: AUSTIN ARIES INTERVIEW (JANUARY 2008)
TO MARK THE release of The Power Slam Interviews Volume 2, I am posting a series of interviews on powerslamonline.co.uk this week that were originally published in Power Slam, but have not been included in The Power Slam Interviews Volume 2 (or The Power Slam Interviews Volume 1, for that matter).
Should you enjoy the interviews I am uploading here, I’m confident you would appreciate The Power Slam Interviews Volume 2, which contains more than 20 vintage PS interviews — all of which come with a new introduction — along with five previously unpublished interviews and other original content. More information about the book, which is available from Amazon, iBooks and Kobo, can be found here: www.powerslamonline.co.uk/updates/285/The-Power-Slam-Interviews-Volume-2-Now-Available.htm
THIS SHORT INTERVIEW with Austin Aries occurred via telephone in January 2008, just a few days after Aries’ brutal match with Ring Of Honor heavyweight champion Nigel McGuinness at ROH’s Rising Above event on December 29, 2007 at the Manhattan Center in New York City.
Brutal is no exaggeration: McGuinness suffered a concussion and deep cuts to his nose and above his right eye when he was driven headfirst into the guard rail by Aries.
“He basically hit me in the back, and I wasn’t really prepared for it at the time,” recalled McGuinness in an interview with Power Slam in March 2008. “The next thing I remember was being on my knees with my head sort of implanted on the guard rail and blood pouring down my face. I was almost in shock. It was a scary moment.”
McGuinness completed the December 29, 2007 match with Aries, but was in no condition to defend the ROH title as scheduled the next night at ROH’s Final Battle event from the same venue. McGuinness talked in more depth about the contest with Aries and the injuries he suffered in the March 2008 interview, which I will publish on the site this evening.
Back to the Aries interview. There was an atmosphere at a couple of points in our conversation, as you should detect. I provoked the tension with my combative line of questioning. Aries’ reaction was perfectly understandable. He was standing up for himself — letting me know that he wasn’t going to allow himself to be pushed around. I make no apologies. As an interviewer, one occasionally had to goad an interviewee in order to get the best or worst out of him.
Aries was obviously working for ROH at the time of the interview, following a strained and ineffectual tenure in TNA the previous year as Austin Starr. When Aries and I communicated, it didn’t seem like another TNA stint would be in his future. But, of course, he did return to TNA for a highly successful run from 2011-2015.
Actuated by his slick all-round performances in TNA and softening attitudes in Stamford, Connecticut towards ex-TNA and indie talent, Aries entered the WWE system in 2016.
Currently, Austin is preparing for his first WrestleMania: he will battle cruiserweight champion Neville on Sunday at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
The January 2008 Aries interview begins now . . .
RING OF HONOR champion Nigel McGuinness had a hard time in your match on December 29, 2007 in New York City. Concussion, broken nose, cuts to his nose and above his eye: McGuinness took a proper beating.
“I think that match took its toll on both of us. His injuries obviously were visible during the match: he had a big cut over his eye and he lost a lot of blood. I think he was in the hospital for about six hours that night. But he brought the fight to me too: when I woke up the next day, I knew I had been in a war the previous night. That’s what you’ve got to expect when you’re competing for the ROH title.”
Isn’t the object of pro wrestling to make it look real without hurting your opponent?
“Well, I have to disagree . . . The object of pro wrestling is to make the fans suspend their disbelief so they have a good time.
“Pro wrestling is a physical sport. That match was a ROH title match in the Manhattan Center on pay-per-view, so it was going to get a little more physical, a little more real than other matches. We both went in there to put on a great performance and give everything we had. But at no point was there any malicious intent behind what we were doing.
“What happened to Nigel in our match was simply an accident. His head hitting that steel guard rail in the fashion it did wasn’t something I was intending to do — and I don’t think it was something he was intending to do. That’s the nature of the game. No matter how good you are, no matter how many times you do something the right way, accidents happen. I certainly wasn’t out there trying to concuss Nigel.”
Do you make a living from pro wrestling?
“I’ve been making a living out of wrestling for about four years. I mainly work for Ring Of Honor. They run about 50 shows a year. Besides that, I work for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, and I’m going back to Dragon Gate in Japan. Between those three, I’m keeping as busy as I need to be and want to be. I still have time to stay healthy and train.”
Outside ROH, do you arrange your own wrestling schedule?
“Yeah. I control everything: who I work for, the financial details of it, the transportation.”
You returned to TNA at Bound For Glory in October 2006 as Austin Starr. I felt your six-month run with the company was a massive anticlimax: you spent most of your time in comedy matches and scenarios involving Kevin Nash and Bob Backlund.
“[Long pause] Is that a question?”
No. It’s an opinion I would like you to comment on.
“Listen, it seems like a long time since I left that company.”
It’s not that long ago. TNA suspended you in April 2007, you later asked for your contract release, and . . .
“[Interrupting] Yeah. Right on my birthday . . . Now, I’m part of what I think is the greatest wrestling promotion going. I’m not talking about revenue or the size of the fan base; I’m talking about its values and structure. And that’s what I want to focus on.
“TNA was what it was. I don’t have a lot of answers. The wrestling business is very fickle and very complicated. As a fan, the answers to the questions, the solutions, may seem very simple. But, in reality, there’s so many things going on behind the scenes that it’s complex.
“At the end of the day, we all have to find in ourselves what makes us happy. And that’s what I’m doing now as a part of Ring Of Honor. There’s a reason why Austin Starr was what he was: I didn’t have control over what I was doing. As far as I’m concerned, Austin Starr is dead.”
What can you tell us about the Ring Of Honor contract you signed upon your return to the promotion in June 2007?
“I do know they provide access to health insurance. Other than that, my deal is for two years, it guarantees me a certain number of dates per year, and it protects ROH from me going somewhere else.”
In other words, you cannot work for WWE or TNA for the duration of the contract?
“Basically, yeah. I can’t work for any company that would be a direct competitor to ROH on television or pay-per-view.”
Who would you like to wrestle in 2008?
“I’d like to get in the ring with Nigel McGuinness again. I’d like to get back in the ring with CIMA: I had a good match with him over in Japan. I’d like to wrestle a lot of the guys: Bryan Danielson, and the guys I haven’t been in the ring with yet.”
You held the ROH title from December 26, 2004 to June 18, 2005. Are you keen to lay your hands on the championship again?
“Of course. It’s the symbol of the top guy in the company. For what we do and our style, it says a lot when you’re holding that title. And when you’re the champion, it raises your game because you don’t have any choice: as the one in the spotlight, you’re expected to deliver every night.”
Your ROH reign was a test, all right. You were the one chosen to end Samoa Joe’s celebrated 21-month title run. That was some act to follow.
“I got thrown in the fire. At the time, I hadn’t been in ROH that long, and I hadn’t been on that kind of platform for that long . . . I had things going for and against me. Obviously, what Joe did for the title set the standard and tone for what that belt meant. There was going to be some sort of drop off when he lost the belt because nobody was going to be able to live up to what he did.
“What I had going for me was that I’m a completely different wrestler from Samoa Joe. So, everyone knew I was going to be a different type of champion. I went out there to carve out my own niche and do it my own way. I learned a lot from the experience.”
Your successor as ROH champion was C.M. Punk. He’s finally tasting success in WWE now, following a number of creative setbacks.
“I always felt he would, if he were given the chance. He’s extremely talented and passionate and knowledgeable about the business. He’s worked really hard to get where he’s at. I’m happy for him.”