Finally. It's finally happened. Those of us who are familiar with this man's work have all been waiting patiently for it to happen and now, it has come to fruition. Austin Aries has arrived to the main roster of WWE as a singles competitor and it couldn't have happened a moment too soon. More specifically, Aries has arrived to the Cruiserweight division, and he has done so in the biggest way possible. For the past few months since suffering a devastating eye injury at the hands of Shinsuke Nakamura during an NXT live event, Aries has been running his mouth at the commentary table for Cruiserweight matches on Raw and 205 Live. The vignettes regarding Aries' in-ring return and inclusion into the Cruiserweight division have been airing for the past month or so. Now, after defeating four other men on the March 14th episode of 205 Live in only his second match back from injury, Aries is set to challenge Neville for his Cruiserweight Championship at WrestleMania in Aries' biggest match of his career. Considering Aries' career thus far, that says a lot.
Aries spent decades developing his craft on the independent scene and everywhere he's gone, he has flourished. He's one of only two men to ever hold the ROH World Championship twice. He is the fifth man to ever win TNA's prestigious Triple Crown after having won the X Division Championship, TNA World Tag Team Championship, and the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. All of these accomplishments are what brought WWE to his doorstep. Lo and behold, he signed a WWE contract and this time last year, he made his NXT debut. Now, a year later, he's set to cement his legacy by appearing in a match on the Grandest Stage of Them All. Despite all of his numerous accolades, Aries has yet to become a well known household name. With his Mania match vastly approaching, here are a few facts about the self-proclaimed Greatest Man That Ever Lived to get you pumped for his big match at WrestleMania.
15 He's a Wrestling Vet
Considering how young Austin Aries looks for his age, it's easy to forget or even neglect to realize that the man is 38 years old and pushing on towards a nearly 20 year career in the business. Make no mistake about it, Austin Aries is a full fledged veteran in this business. It was in the year 2000 when Aries first started training to become a wrestler. He learned under the tutelage of Eddie Sharkey, who has an impressive pedigree of training future Hall of Famers like The Road Warriors, Jesse "The Body" Ventura, Madusa, Rick Rude, and Bob Backlund. Later that year in November, Aries would have his first match against one "Sheriff" Johnny Emerald. Aries would start making quick waves in the industry in 2004 after coming just a hair short of defeating Christopher Daniels in the finals of the 2004 ECWA Super Tournament. The showcase helped garner him some attention from Ring of Honor, who would sign him that same year.
14 He's Engaged to Thea Trinidad
Thea Trinidad is a professional wrestler who has been gaining a multitude of attention in the media as of late thanks to her portrayal as AJ Lee in the upcoming docudrama inspired by the life of fellow wrestler Paige and set to be produced by The Rock. Trinidad has been wrestling all over the world ever since 2010 and had a significant run with TNA, joining in 2011 around the time that Austin Aries returned to the company (which is likely how the two met) and stuck around until 2013. In between this time frame, she won the TNA Knockouts Tag Team Championship with Sarita as part of the stable Mexican America and also developed a close-knit relationship with Austin Aries. To this day, the two remain as close as ever and are currently engaged to be married.
13 He's a Vegan
The average wrestling fan probably doesn't care what Austin Aries does or doesn't eat in his spare time, but anyone who is hoping for a main event caliber run from the man may need to be concerned that he is a vegan. After all, when Vince McMahon found out that Daniel Bryan was a vegan, it appalled the Chairman so much that it turned him off of The American Dragon for years before he came around long to give the guy a main event spot at Mania. It's a small concern that we shouldn't have to worry too much about for Aries, but considering the petty decisions that Vince has made in the past regarding his own wrestlers, Aries may wanna keep his vegan tendencies a secret from Vince.
12 His Past WWE Work
In January 2016, the wrestling world was set ablaze with excitement when WWE announced that indy darling Austin Aries would be signing with the company for the first time. However, not a lot of people know that Aries was signed by WWE once before. In 2012, WWE (or more accurately, THQ) signed Aries not as a wrestler, but as a voice actor for their WWE 12 game. Anyone who has played the game's Road to WrestleMania story mode may have recognized the voice of the main playable character, Jacob Cass. That voice belonged to A Double himself. One glance at Austin Aries' IMDB page also tells us that he worked for WWE for previous Smackdown vs Raw games, 2011 and 2010; most likely as part of some motion capture work. Now, he's back in WWE to do what he does best: wrestle.
11 The Meaning of His Tattoo
Those who have watched Aries for a long time may have noticed the tattoo on his upper left arm. Those not familiar with Zodiac signs may not know what it is and have been curious to know what the tattoo actually means. For those still scratching their heads over the conundrum, this symbol actually represents a number of things. One is the Chinese character of the Ram. Another meaning is that it is the Chinese translation for Aries, which is his ring name (obviously) and his Zodiac sign.
10 Crotch To Face Fine
On the May 9th, 2013 episode of TNA Impact, Austin Aries and Bobby Roode were set to take part in a tag team match. However, announcer Christy Hemme instead announced that it was Kazarian and Christopher Daniels coming down the ramp, despite the fact that Aries' music was playing and that the duo coming out was clearly not Bad Influence. An annoyed Austin Aries, playing up to his heel persona, stormed down to the ring, backed Hemme into a corner, and demanded she announce the Dirty Heels correctly. Once she did, he stood to pose on the turnbuckle while she was still in the corner, practically shoving his crotch in her face. Some have speculated that this was a planned stunt on behalf of TNA (after all, for as long as Hemme has been working with the company, surely she knows who's who by now), but the fact that Hemme expressed that the segment was "unacceptable" on social media and Aries later revealed he was fined severely for the incident suggests otherwise. Planned or not, Aries behavior went way passed the mark of PG and WWE likely want to shove this moment under the rug in case it ever gets brought up.
9 Longest Reigning X Division Champion
Nowadays, while WWE have no problem acknowledging their wrestler's past work on the indies and companies like Ring of Honor or New Japan, they are still a bit shy when it comes to mentioning TNA Impact Wrestling. Though Impact is still merely a blip on the wrestling radar and a shadow of its former glory, WWE still refuse to risk giving Impact anymore acknowledgement than they think the company deserves. This is why WWE have never mentioned any of the incredible accomplishments someone like AJ Styles made in the company and why they will continue to do the same for guys like Austin Aries. Aries especially made some huge strides in Impact Wrestling. As previously mentioned at the start of the article, he is a Triple Crown winner in the company, the fifth man to do so. One of the championships he's won happens to be the X-Division Championship. Not only is he a record six time X-Division Champion (the second most in the title's history, with Chris Sabin outlasting him by a mere two), but he held the title longer than anyone else. His first run with the title lasted an astounding 301 days, only ending after vacating for the sake of cashing in Option C. Option C was a premise in TNA where the X-Division title holder going into the Destination X pay-per-view can give away their title in exchange for a shot at the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Aries was the first to do so and went on to beat Bobby Roode for the title at the PPV in 2011.
8 Generation Next Stable
When Roderick Strong debuted in NXT in 2016, he immediately aligned himself with Austin Aries. Those not familiar with Ring of Honor may not have understood their connection, but the two have history dating back all the way to 2004. That's when they were both in a stable together alongside Chris Sabin, Alex Shelley, Jack Evans, and Matt Sydal (Evan Bourne) called Generation Next. Sabin and Shelley originally kickstarted the faction, but later on when the members kicked them out, Aries was appointed the leader. The faction found much success together. Aries' affiliation with the team helped him win the ROH World Championship after unseating Samoa Joe of his 21 month reign. Then, him and Strong won the ROH Tag Team Championship. Their success would prove to be the end of the group as Aries soon declared that since everyone in the group made themselves into top singles stars, there was no longer a need for a stable. In a couple years, they all went from being the future of the business to being the business.
7 ROH Head Trainer
Austin Aries' time in ROH as a wrestler has been well documented, but not many people know that he spent some time in the company as a head trainer for the company's wrestling school in 2006. He got the job as a replacement when the former head trainer left the company. Who was the former ROH head trainer? CM Punk, who defeated Austin Aries for the ROH Championship and at the end of the summer, flocked away to bigger prospers in WWE. With Punk's departure, ROH decided that Aries was skilled enough to be appointed as their wrestling school's new head trainer, a role he filled proudly for a until he left ROH in 2006 to work full time for TNA. In that time, one of his trainees was Rhett Titus, who went on to win the ROH Tag Team Championships with Kenny King as part of the All Night Express. Aries once admitted on Jim Ross' podcast that of all the students he trained at the ROH Dojo, Titus will always stand out in his mind.
6 His TNA Debut
While his TNA run from 2011 until 2015 is highly praised by those who watched it, few remember (or even know) that Aries had originally spent some time with the company during its early beginnings. In the summer of 2005, Aries made his TNA debut under some unique circumstances. At a time where the internet community still felt foreign to the majority of wrestling companies, TNA used the internet and their working relationship with Ring of Honor to their advantage. They announced that they would let their fans vote from a list of ROH superstars (all of which never appeared in TNA beforehand) to decide who would face Christopher Daniels for The Fallen Angel's X-Division Championship. On the list were Jay Lethal, Roderick Strong, Matt Sydal, and Aries himself. Aries won the vote by a landslide and wrestled Daniels for his title at Sacrifice later that August. Though Aries did not win the title, he won over the stamp of approval from many TNA fans. His showcase helped him garner a full time contract with TNA.
5 Austin Starr
In 2006, Kevin Nash started working with the X-Division both behind the scenes and in front of the camera to help the young high flyers develop characters that were as captivating as their in-ring work. At Bound for Glory 2006, Aries re-debuted with the company under the repackaging of Austin Starr. As Starr, Aries was a flamboyant Hollywood personality in the vain of guys like "Superstar" Billy Graham, Jesse "The Body" Ventura, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, and even Huggy Bear. As for his debut, it wasn't off to a great start. Though he did win the Kevin Nash X-Division Gauntlet Battle Royal the night of his debut, his win was treated as a joke as all he received was a bowling trophy and a hug from Nash himself. If nothing else, for better or worse, the Starr character made Aries a heat magnet. In a pre-PC world, Starr often was hit by homophobic slurs from the crowd on a weekly basis. While the character itself was dead in the water from the start and didn't have potential for anything above lower midcard, he did what he could with the character.
4 His 2007 Release/Suspension From TNA
Those not familiar with his pre-2011 time in TNA are also likely not aware of the controversies surrounding his 2007 release in TNA. It all came after suffering his second suspension in the company. His first came a year earlier when he and Roderick Strong missed a TNA show in fear of traveling during a snowstorm. Because of this, both were suspended for two months, Aries returning under the guise of Austin Starr. Then, in 2007, he had a heated issue with backstage management when he was forced to cut pre-taped promos on what should've been Aries' day off. He went along and cut the promos, but he was still given a 90 day suspension after being pegged for having a bad attitude. Due to his frustrations with the company, Aries requested to be released from his contract during his suspension and his request was granted.
3 His 2nd TNA Release
Ever since he asked for his release again in 2015, Austin Aries has been extremely vocal about his time there and dissatisfaction with the company. In one interview on Jim Ross' podcast, Aries admitted that leaving TNA was a "pretty easy decision" to make for him because he had accomplished everything that he wanted to accomplish with the company. Aries also humbly added that he simply left because he wanted to explore new things and see if there are any other opportunities out there that he has yet to conquer in the wrestling world. In a more frank interview with Bust Open Radio, in regards to both his World Heavyweight Championship reign and the end of his TNA run, Aries bluntly said "someone dropped the ball and it wasn't me."
2 Tough Enough Reject
It took Aries years before he finally made it onto WWE soil as early as 2010, but in a very different way than most would expect. Nowadays, WWE are more than willing to bring in indie talent as new additions to their roster, but in 2010, there was a snowball's chance in Hell at getting in for most underground wrestlers. Their only hope of getting to WWE was through making the cut of Tough Enough, which Aries actually auditioned for and failed to make the cut for the 5th season roster. Aries isn't bitter about it though. In fact, he doesn't even blame WWE. He understands that he was cut by the talent agency who screened his audition tape, not WWE. He auditioned for a tv show more so than trying out for a WWE contract. He turned sour lemons into lemonade by not only continuing to grind hard on the indie scene, but making a bonafide storyline out of not making Tough Enough. He went to Dragon Gate USA, claimed his Tough Enough cut had killed his motivation to wrestle, and put his career on the line for one of their titles. Despite losing his title match, he refused to leave the company and instead turned heel. Though that is in true heel fashion, this could have very well been Aries' final wrestling storyline as he seriously considered retiring at this point.
1 Almost Retired in 2010
In the summer of 2010, Austin Aries left the primary wrestling companies he was working in at the time (Dragon Gate and Evolve) to pursue opportunities outside of wrestling. Aries later admitted to the V2 Journal that he had full intentions on retiring at the time. After wrestling 10 years in the business at this point, he came to the conclusion that he was putting a lot more work and effort into the wrestling business than the business was giving him back in return. He was afraid that he'd look back at his career 10-20 years down the line and realize that he had become Randy the Ram, the broken down protagonist of Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler. At this point, Aries was more than happy and accepting of the fact that he may have to step away from the business. For a short time, he did just that. He stopped taking bookings and cleared his schedule. Then, suddenly, TNA gave him a call. They gave him a call to work an X-Division match on a tv taping. Aries expected to take one last big pay day, but that turned into another match on pay-per-view, which turned into a full contract with promises of a big run for Aries. And in a manner of months, Aries won the X-Division Championship and regained his love for the business. So every time you Impact detractors want to make fun of TNA again, just remember that TNA are the reason that The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived returned to wrestling.