Thursday, February 19, 2015

Austin Aries - A Man With All The Options

The word impact is described as having a strong effect on someone or something. And for over a decade, making an impact has become a way of life for the men and women that make up IMPACT Wrestling. In this new TNAsylum exclusive series, we'll take a look at some of the most impactful moments from TNA's past and present product, all in an attempt to preview what has yet to come.

In this inaugural edition of INSTANT IMPACT, we'll take a look at how Austin Aries' utilizing all his options enabled him to become the TNA World Heavyweight Champion in 2012, and how history seems destined to repeat itself a mere three years later.

For 301 days, Austin Aries was the TNA X-Division Champion—long enough for him to become the longest reigning champion in the history of that title. However, that alone didn't satisfy The Greatest Man That Ever Lived. He possessed an appetite for more, so that's exactly what IMPACT General Manager Hulk Hogan offered him... at a price.

Hogan offered Aries a match with Bobby Roode for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, but first, he'd have to vacate his X-Division Championship. And after mulling it over for a week, Aries accepted the offer, with the caveat that the X-Division Champion receive the same offer leading into the Destination X event every year.

The buildup to Roode vs. Aries was tense. Two alpha males, two egomaniacs fighting for the top prize in their company. Roode's life had centered around retaining his championship at all costs, much like Aries' had with his championship previously. And Roode, like Aries, had managed to become the longest reigning champion in his title's history as well.

So, while Austin Aries happened to be wearing the white hat in this rivalry, it wasn't to say he didn't have plenty of similarities to the man he was facing. Despite that, Roode would be condescending towards Aries, and his "little X-Division" in general.

He'd even attack the injured Chris Sabin, claiming that all X-Division wrestlers were pathetic for risking it all every night and always coming away empty handed. But come Destination X, would Austin Aries suffer the same fate?

Since returning to IMPACT Wrestling a year prior, Austin Aries went into Destination X 2012 unpinned, unsubmitted—undefeated. He had knocked down every obstacle put in front of him, from Samoa Joe to Bully Ray. But now, was his biggest test to date, and quite possibly Bobby Roode's biggest test as TNA World Heavyweight Champion.

Roode had faced icons like Sting, some of the best in the world like AJ Styles, and a man he toured the world over with in James Storm, but he'd never faced an opponent quite like Austin Aries: a total package, a man who can wrestle any style necessary and a man willing to stoop to any low to win a match.

So emanating live from the IMPACT Zone in Orlando, Florida, for the first time, it was Bobby Roode vs. Austin Aries for the grandest prize in TNA Wrestling.

The bell sounded and the two would soon lock up. Roode forced Aries into the corner, prompting referee Brian Hebner to call for a break. Roode reluctantly backed off as they stared each other down. Another lock up would result in Roode applying a headlock, with Aries forcing Roode into the ropes, forcing another break. Coming out of said break, Aries confidently slapped the chest of Roode, which the champion didn't take kindly to.

One more collar and elbow tie up, and Roode grabbed the advantage once more by cranking the arm of the challenger. Aries would eventually reverse into the same thing, as Jeremy Borash spoke of Roode's dedication to his craft on commentary. He spoke to how Roode went from one of the best tag team wrestlers in the world, to one of the best in the world period.

Roode escaped Aries' grasp by whipping A Double into the ropes, shooting him across to the other side and downing him with a shoulder block. Upon Aries' recovery, the two exchanged leap frogs, leading to a trip that sent Roode to the canvas momentarily. Aries took advantage, side rolling to a cover and near fall. To follow, he applied an STF, into a headlock, before Roode took control with an armbar. He'd mockingly slap Aries in the head as we went back to square one.

Following one more lock up, Aries grabbed the waist of Roode and rolled him onto the mat, before a taunt of his own. Aries smugly laid atop the turnbuckle, and Roode pursued, only for Aries to slam Roode's arm against the top rope. Aries then sling-shotted his way back into the ring, and dropped an elbow to Roode's chest for a two count.

Aries applied a side headlock takedown, but The It Factor answered with a leg scissors to Aries' head. Aries kipped out, with the same sequence occuring, only with A Double escaping with a handstand escape, followed with a dropkick. Roode scurried to the floor for a breather, but Aries refused, leaping off the top rope for a double sledge to the upper back of the champion.

Aries tossed Roode back into the ring, and went to the top again for a missile dropkick, that Roode avoided. Roode now put the boots to Aries, choking him with the bottom rope before relenting for the referee's count. He would, though, maintain the upperhand as he pounded away at Aries in the corner with punches and kicks. Nothing pretty, but damn sure effective.

Out of the corner, Aries ate a fisherman's suplex and a knee to the temple into an unsuccessful cover. Roode reverted to the basics with a headlock, but Aries powered out with elbows to the abdomen. Off the ropes, though, Aries was sent back to the mat with an elbow to the throat.

Roode's gameplan was becoming abundantly clear at this stage of the match: ground and pound Aries. The self-proclaimed leader of the selfish generation bodyslammed his challenger, then missed with a knee off the top rope, due to Aries moving out of harm's way.

Aries now went on the attack, kicking Roode's knees before nailing an atomic drop. A dropkick to the knee would allow Aries' to lock in his signature submission: the Last Chancery. Unfortunately for him, he failed to lock it in and Roode reached the ropes with ease.

Aries forearmed Roode in the corner, and then scraped his face against the top rope. Roode whipped Aries across the ring, Aries didn't fall for it, lifting Roode up and over onto the apron. Aries knocked Roode onto the floor with a kick, but hit guardrail when going for his patented suicide dive.

A confident champion rolled Aries back into the ring, he stalked and nailed the challenger with a spear. The ensuing pinfall only received a two count. Roode then tried driving the wind out of Aries, with stomps to the solar plexus. If he couldn't breath, he surely couldn't fly, one would think. Continuing those efforts, Roode hit a suplex slam and attempted another cover.

Roode positioned Aries for a suplex, but transitioned into leg scissors across the stomach instead. Aries battled out with elbows, but the sound ring psychology of the champion was slowly taking its toll on the man looking to dethrone him.

Aries fell victim to a knee to the gut, sending him right back down to the canvas. Next, Roode drove Aries into the corner and utilized some open hand chops to do just a little more damage to the weakened Aries. To follow, he whipped him into the opposite corner.

"Give up! You're not in my league!" Roode screamed at Aries.

Roode's attack on Aries continued, until he ate an elbow to the face. It didn't matter, though, as Roode quickly dropped him again with a Samoan Drop. One more cover, one more kickout. Roode was simply manhandling Aries. He controlled the midsection of the challenger and thwarted any attempted offense. Eventually, Aries escaped with elbows to the skull. Next, a knee to the gut turned into a roll-up for Aries. 1, 2, kickout.

Off the rollup, Aries walked into a nasty clothesline that turned him inside out, leading to another near fall. Exhaustion and frustration was setting in, even for two of the most well-conditioned athletes on the planet.

Roode taunted Aries, but it was only motivating The Greatest Man That Ever Lived. Kicks, punches, they only ignited a fire in the challenger. The pace of the match ratcheted up as they traded forearms to the face. They then exchanged slaps to the chest, before going back to the forearms.

Aries ate a kick to the midsection, but both men bounced off the ropes before Aries nailed a discus elbow. Aries charged Roode, but was lifted up and over onto the apron. Aries responded with a shoulder block to the champion, leaped back over the top rope and finally a clothesline of Bobby Roode to the outside.

With no hesitation, Aries attempted his suicide dive for a second time. And this time, he nailed it. The look in the eyes of Austin Aries painted a vivid picture. He knew he was on the brink of the biggest win of his career.

Roode now in the ring, Aries ascending to the top rope: Aries hit the missile dropkick on the second try as well. However, there was no such luck with the corner dropkick. Roode would reverse into a bodyslam and one more near fall.

Aries thwarted a second spear and opted for the Last Chancery instead. This time it was locked in, too, but Roode somehow reversed into his Crossface armbar. Aries, though, rolled through back into the initial submission. With no other options available, Roode gouged the eyes of the challenger, forcing him to relinquish his hold.

Roode positioned Aries up top, he prepped for a superplex, but Aries instead boxed the ears. Roode collapsed to the canvas, allowing Aries to attempt the 450 Splash, but nobody was home. Aries landed on his feet, and walked right into a spinebuster. Cover: 1, 2, not enough!

Another crossface from Roode was rolled into a cover, but this only got a two count as well. Aries was then sent into the steel ring post shoulder first, to set up a Crossface once more. Numerous roll-throughs would fail Aries, but a rope break would not. Roode would free Aries of the hold at four, before grabbing his world championship belt and heading back into the ring.

Brian Heber wouldn't allow the title to be used, but as he put the belt away, Roode nailed a low blow: 1, 2, no! Roode argued with the referee, and Aries used the distraction to nail his corner dropkick. Next, the Brain Buster, but Roode countered and shoved Aries into Hebner.

Roode grabbed his title once more, and this time busted Aries in the head with it: a revived referee counted 1, 2, kickout! Roode was in disbelief, but quickly went for a suplex. Aries reversed into an unsuccessful rollup, though. Aries sidestepped an oncoming Roode in the corner, and failed with a rollup. Instead, he punted Roode's head and hit the Brain Buster!

1, 2, 3: Austin Aries was your new TNA World Heavyweight Champion!


Austin Aries' reign as TNA World Heavyweight Champion lasted 98 days, before it came to an end at the hands of Jeff Hardy at Bound for Glory 2012. By this point, Aries' character had taken a villanous turn, therefore early in 2013, he and Roode would form a tag team known as the Dirty Heels.

The Dirty Heels would have a short reign as TNA World Tag Team Champions, before they quickly headed their seperate ways. They'd again cross paths at LockDown 2014, when they both were a part of Team Dixie, though ultimately lost the match.

Now, fast forward to this past week on Friday Night IMPACT, and Aries and Roode collided yet again. Both now faces, and both vying to become TNA World Heavyweight Champion once more.

Roode recaptured the title at the end of 2014, only for his best friend Eric Young to screw him out of it. Meanwhile, Austin Aries is once again the man who holds all the cards. He recently won the Feast or Fired briefcase with a world championship opportunity inside.

While Roode won the match, he'd be Piledriven—once in the ring, once on the stage—by EY. On the flip side, Austin Aries will be competing in the 20-man gauntlet for the number one contendership to Lashley's championship. And even if he doesn't win, he still remains the wildcard in TNA's chaotic World Heavyweight Championship scene.