A bad day at work for most people is getting in late, missing a deadline, or being yelled at by the boss.
For “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived” Austin Aries, a bad day at work means falling 20 feet to the floor from atop TNA’s Ultimate X structure.
I spoke with “A Double” in the days leading up to TNA’s “Bound for Glory” event and had a chance to ask him about the dangers of the Ultimate X match, his journey to the top of TNA, and life as a vegan pro wrestler…
Gordon Holmes: TNA’s “Bound for Glory” is coming up, it’s TNA’s signature event. Do you approach it any differently?
Austin Aries: It’s the biggest show of the year, but I approach it no differently. I try to steal the show every time. And I plan on doing it again.
Holmes: You’ll be participating in the thrilling Ultimate X match which is a bout that is exclusive to TNA. For those who are unfamiliar with TNA, could you break down the rules?
Aries: Basically there are four trusses that extend from the corner posts of the ring about 20 feet up in the air. Attached to those trusses are two ring ropes in the shape of an X. And attached to the middle of that X is the X Division championship. Whoever can scale up and hook the belt and have it in their hands is the winner.
Holmes: Twenty feet in the air? Not for me. That sounds dangerous.
Aries: It’s very dangerous. There are increased risks for serious injury when you have to scale ropes that high above the ring. One slip or one missed step and bad things can happen. But, that adds to the excitement and the unpredictability.
Holmes: I did some research on you on the Internet…and I know that anything you find on the Internet is true.
Aries: Of course.
Holmes: It said that you’re not a huge fan of matches that involve ladders or this Ultimate X set-up.
Aries: It’s not my forte. I consider myself to be a professional wrestler. I’m not really much of a stunt man. Some of these high-wire acts, climbing ladders, that takes me out of my comfort zone a little bit. But, I’ve been in an Ultimate X match before and I won it. So, I’m undefeated. And I don’t have a choice in the matter, so I’m going to put my best foot forward and hopefully make it two in a row.
Holmes: You’ll be competing against Manik, Chris Sabin, and Jeff Hardy. (NOTE: Samoa Joe was added to the match after this interview took place.) Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this Jeff Hardy’s first-ever Ultimate X match?
Aries: This will be his first. That’s correct. But anyone who’s followed his career knows he’s no stranger to the daredevil style of wrestling. He takes high risks. I think he’ll be right in his element, probably more so than I am.
Holmes: Now, I don’t want you to tip your hand too much here, but what advice would you give to him as a first timer?
Aries: Oh, take lots of huge risks. The bigger the risk, the higher the reward. And hopefully I can capitalize if one of them doesn’t pay off for him. (Laughs)
Holmes: I think you might have some kind of ulterior motive there…
Aries: (Laughs) Me? Never.
Holmes: The main event of “Bound for Glory” will feature Bully Ray defending the TNA championship against AJ Styles. What are your thoughts on that bout?
Aries: Well, it’d be a lot better if Austin Aries was in there somewhere.
Holmes: Of course.
Aries: But, that’s not the case. There’s a lot at stake in that match. You have Bully Ray who’s had his hands on that title for quite some time. And you’ve got AJ Styles who’s at odds with the ownership here. It should be an interesting clash with a lot at stake. It’s really a toss up.
Holmes: AJ is having his differences with TNA owner Dixie Carter. She’s had a bit of an attitude change lately.
Aries: I’m all for it, personally. If it’s going to usher in an era of people being honest and open and being their true selves. Then I’ll fit in quite well. Everyone who knows me knows I’m not afraid to speak my mind. I’d love the opportunity to stand in the ring with the new Dixie Carter and clear the air.
Holmes: TNA seems to be undergoing somewhat of a shift lately with some big names leaving the company and other rumored problems. As a performer is it hard to block that out?
Aries: A lot of reports about problems with the company are from journalists who are trying to get clicks on their website. It seems like there’s a certain core of pundits who like to take any news with TNA and make it negative. The fact is, the things going on in TNA, whether you’re talking about talents that are coming and going, that’s all part of a growing business.
Holmes: So everything is business as usual?
Aries: I think there’s almost a certain group of people who root for the company to go out of business just so they can say, “I told you so.” Unfortunately for those people, I think TNA is going to be here for a long time to come.
Holmes: In my notes here I wrote “Planning vs. Something Hot.” And by that I mean, a company knows well in advance what they want to build to. What they want to main event a big show like “Bound for Glory.” But, sometimes something catches fire that they don’t expect. I’m thinking specifically of last summer when you seemed to come out of nowhere and grab everyone’s attention.
Aries: Oh yeah.
Holmes: You were having phenomenal matches, the crowd was loving you. Now, my question is; where do you find the balance between building a story and seeing it through and catching lightning in a bottle when the opportunity arises?
Aries: I think if you catch something like that and something is organically happening like that and there’s an authenticity to it I think you have to run with it for as long as you can. I think I started to run a little bit and before I got going full steam things kind of came to a halt. You can’t foresee those kinds of things. If you have something unique like that you have to harness that and use it for all you can.
Holmes: Thursdays are a tough night to get me in front of a TV. But I was doing everything I could to catch Impact during that time. It’s a shame it ended the way it did.
Aries: You’re not the only one that feels that way. If you listened to the crowd reaction at “Bound for Glory,” a lot of people thought, “Well Jeff Hardy is the most popular guy in the company. There’s no way Austin is going to walk into Phoenix and have the same crowd response.” I strongly disagreed with those sentiments. The crowd was very pro-Austin Aries. I had overwhelming support. But people try to predict things that you can’t predict. I guess right now I’m on a mission to recapture that. And it’s on me to do that. I created it the first time. It was nothing that was given to me. It was something I earned with my work in the ring and my time in front of the camera. And you know what? Those are the things I can control.
Holmes: You’re a vegan?
Aries: Yes, I was a vegetarian since 2000 and went completely plant-based about two years ago.
Holmes: I’m always interested when someone makes that’s decision because there is such a wide variety of reasons why people decide to go that way. What inspired you?
Aries: Health reasons. I started to learn more about the food I eat and where it was coming from. I think at its core, eating living creatures isn’t very appetizing to me. I ask people, “Do you crave dogs or cats?” They’ll say, “That’s disgusting.” OK, then how are pigs and cows different? And as I started to learn more about the corporate industry that we’re surrounded by I became very passionate about speaking out about the kind of food that we’re being peddled. I think we’ve been very misled in this country. We haven’t been given the right information when it comes to the food we’re being told to put into our body.
Holmes: Pro wrestling is a very visual industry.
Holmes: It helps to have a muscular physique. Do you have trouble maintaining your mass?
Aries: Nope. There are proteins in all kinds of foods. And actually plants, if you look percentage wise, are some of the highest protein foods. The idea that we need huge quantities of animal protein is something that was taught to us by the USDA and the FDA. And they’re the entities that sell us that and profit off of it.
Holmes: Now Mr. Aries, I don’t want to call you a hypocrite, but you just gave advice to Jeff Hardy that would actually be bad for him. Do you have a smidge in common with the FDA?
Aries: (Laughs) I suppose. But I’m not playing with people’s lives here.
Holmes: Alright, let’s talk to the people who’ve never seen TNA before. Let’s talk to people who might be on the fence. Why is “Bound for Glory” going to be worth their time?
Aries: We’re trying to bring pro wrestling back. We’re putting an emphasis on what happens in the ring while also having compelling characters and stories. “Bound for Glory” is our biggest show of the year. That’s where we’re going to pull out all the stops. If you haven’t given “Impact Wrestling” a try, I think as a wrestling fan it’s an absolute must. Give us a shot and you’ll see we have the most talented performers in the whole world.
Holmes: And we’re going to see a new X Division champion?
Aries: That the plan. I never go into a match expecting to lose.
Don’t miss TNA – ‘Bound for Glory’ this Sunday, October 20, 2013 at 8 pm ET on Pay Per View.
Watch Full Episodes of ‘Impact Wrestling’ Online
Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes