“The Greatest Man That Ever Lived” is not only a Weezer song but a phrase associated with TNA Impact Wrestling’s Austin Aries.
It’s quite a claim, and coming from the multi-time champion, you can easily see it translates to aspiring to be the best in everything you do.
“The opportunity itself motivates you,” said Aries, who’s made the most of his second go-round in TNA.
“I think when you achieve a certain level of success you kind of have a taste for it. Everything that I’ve accomplished, I want to accomplish it again and maybe do it a third time. I just want to keep doing this as long as I’m happy doing it and being successful, and hopefully that is for a long time.”
Before he resigned with the company in 2011, he was at crossroads in not only his life but career. After more than a decade in the business, he was ready to walk away.
“There are other things that I enjoy in my life and other things that interest me and other passions that I have,” Aries said. “So I think at that point I was questioning if I was getting back everything I was putting in and if it was still making me happy. I kind of reevaluated things at that point, where I think right now I have a great opportunity in TNA. We are doing great things and trying to grow and get bigger. I’m happy to be a part of it.”
When he initially returned to TNA, he believes there weren’t expectations of world championship grandeur. He was in a different place at that point.
“My mind was off from wrestling, so when I walked in there I thought, ‘Hey, this is an opportunity to come in, make a little money and see what happens,’” Aries said. “I didn’t put a lot of pressure on myself. I wasn’t saying, ‘This is your last shot.’ I was at peace of trying something else, but this kind of fell in my lap. Maybe since I didn’t have all that pressure and was able to let loose and perform the way I know I can...I could be myself and not worry about saying the right things or the wrong things. I just went out there and had fun. Luckily for me it worked out, and the opportunities kept getting bigger and better, and I kept taking advantage of them.”
The consummate performer had a monumental run in TNA so far by securing the tag team, X Division and world titles. He joins a select few as a Triple Crown winner. To think this may not have happened if fate intervened while he was exploring his options outside the ring.
“At the time I was narrowing them down,” Aries said. “There were vegetarian culinary schools in the country in New York and one in Austin, Texas. Those were the most prominent ones. I was kind of between those and in the process of being able to do something with that. Something with food, cooking, fitness and nutrition, which are passions of mine, and I could see myself going into. I was also looking to get my personal training degree and get certified.
“The funny thing was I was actually taking the test online down to the last four or five essay questions. Then TNA called me. It got put on the backburner, and I think if I ever go back and finish that test I can. I never saw it through at the very end because my life took a left turn, and I decided to go this route for now…You always have to trust the path and yourself. You may not understand why things are happening, but you have to trust the path and stay true to who you are. Then you will end up in the right spot eventually.”
The TNA star also enjoys music and is currently working on a side project with his band. For Aries, it’s another creative outlet.
“I’m the front man and do some singing. At least I try to,” he said. “We are in the process writing, and I set a high bar for myself in everything I do.”
The entertainer says they currently don’t have a name for the band, which is still in the early stages.
“To me that’s like asking what my wrestling name was three weeks into my training before I had my first match,” said Aries. “It’s a work in process. We are focusing on the music right now, and the name is not important to worry about. We are just worrying about getting some good music out, and then we can talk about what we should call this little thing we are doing here.”
The dedicated athlete takes his health and nutrition just as serious as his job. Aries, 35, has been a vegetarian for 13 years and a vegan for almost two. He hits the road for shows prepared with pumpkin seeds and protein powder. With such a hectic schedule and constant travel, there is the challenge of maintaining his diet.
“It is difficult only because there is a real naivety to not eating animal products in this country,” said Aries. “It’s not really something people think about or comprehend because people don’t think about what they eat period. People’s thought process with food is I like the way it takes, how much time is it going to cost me to get this and that’s as far as the thought process goes these days.
“So it does get a little challenging at certain establishments when you do ask a waitress or a waiter if they use any dairy in the pizza crust. This happened recently. ‘Well, I don’t think so,’ they said. I said, ‘Thinking so isn’t going to be good enough for me. I need you to find out.’ It turns out they use milk in their pizza dough, which people do not think about, with a little butter on the crust at the end. So it’s about being mindful of asking these questions.
“So as I’ve been on this journey and travel a lot to different parts of this country, I’m a little dismayed by the complete lack of knowledge in certain areas of that lifestyle choice. I think because it’s a choice I think people look at it differently.
“If I reframed it and told them I was allergic to animal products people would have a different reaction to that. In a way I am allergic to animal products, but not because I’m going to break out in a rash 10 minutes after eating it. It’s because at a cellular level it does damage to me and sets me up for a lot of diseases and ailments when I get older. In that context I am allergic to animal products.”
Aries eating habits have inspired his younger brother and sister to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. Others like his best friend in Los Angeles have made his food choices meat-free. As a TNA wrestler, he has heard the scrutiny and criticism surrounding his employer. For Aries, it’s the nature of the beast in any form of entertainment.
“It just kind of thing that is going to be the way it is for TNA, especially with the wrestling media,” he said. “It seems they always want to scrutinize and put the negative spin on everything that comes about. I suppose they know the other company isn’t going anywhere, so they feel they can take a shot at this company. Then when, they are hoping, it all falls apart they can say, ‘Ha ha, I told you.’ That’s how it feels sometimes to me. I know what’s going on. I’m tuned in pretty well. I actually know the inner workings of what’s going on. It’s what I have really not any of the people that write about it don’t.
“All of the fans don’t, so I’m kind of not even worried about it too much. There are ebbs and flows in every business, and you just manage it. I focus on what I can handle, and I can control, and that’s going out there and the performance I put on. There are things I can do behind the camera and behind the curtain. I think every guy in that locker room feels the same.
“You don’t want to worry about things that are outside your control. All we can do and go out there to put on a great show and get more eyes on the product so it can grow and get bigger. The more people that know about Impact Wrestling on Spike TV the better off we’re going to be. That’s the name of the game right now is getting eyes on the product.”
The introduction of Hulk Hogan a few years ago did give TNA some initial buzz, but his stint with the organization has gotten mixed reviews from the general public to say the least. Aries describes his dealings with him as nothing but professional.
“He genuinely wanted to help the product in any ways he could,” Aries said. “Beyond that I don’t know what other people’s thoughts were within the company. I know that there are some people out there who don’t understand what his role was in the company and what he was there to do.
“It’s a personal opinion what people do what to see and don’t want to see and what they think. That stuff I can’t worry about, but every time I worked with Hulk inside and outside of work I saw he is a wrestling junky. He really loves wrestling. He watches everything. He is always breaking it down and critiquing it. He really cares about it. I don’t know if people really understand that. Even after 30 whatever years of being on top and the most iconic man in the business this guy still sits down and has a passion for it.”
Aries shares that enthusiasm for pro wrestling and looks to continue to live up to his solid reputation in the squared circle. His next big challenge occurs on Sunday, Oct. 20 at TNA’s Bound for Glory, the promotion’s biggest pay-per-view of the year. Aries faces X Division champion Manik, Chris Sabin and Jeff Hardy in an Ultimate X match for the title.
“I’m not a huge fan of those types of matches,” Aries said. ‘When I was in Terry Fox’s garage training my first day with Eddie Sharkey, we skipped the chapter where you pull out the ladder and scaled to the top, hanging 20 feet above the ring. We never got to that, so I do feel a little undertrained for those types of matches. They are not really my forte. Whatever the fans feel about it as far as the excitement, there is unpredictability in these types of matches. I feel a little nervous going in, but I have a job to do, and that is the rip that X Division title off the axis 20 feet above the ring.
“That being said, knowing the process and things I will have to attempt and do to accomplish that are a little uneasy and unnerving. Strategy-wise, I try to let the other guys do the dumbest stuff and hopefully hurt themselves enough where I can take advantage.
“I will try to be a little more cerebral as much as you can be in these types of matches. The risks are so much greater, and the consequences are greater. There are a lot of moving parts. Jeff Hardy is in the match, which it was his idea for the match and that’s his specialty. Manik would say he has some Spider-man like qualities in the way he can move. He should be comfortable in there.
“You have Chris Sabin, who nobody knows what is in his head right now. He has the post championship boo-boo face right now. He is coming off with surgery on both his knees. I’m sure he’s not too happy to have to potentially fall from heights because I think that is actually where his injury happened, in these types of matches. It’s going to be a crazy match, and fans will definitely get their money’s worth.”
• Follow Austin Aries on Twitter @AustinAries.
• Ultimate X: Austin Aries vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Manik vs. Chris Sabin (with Velvet Sky) will highlight TNA’s Bound for Glory pay-per-view at 8 p.m. EST Sunday, Oct. 20 from the Viejas Arena in San Diego.
The PPV is headlined by AJ Styles challenging Bully Ray (with Brooke Tessmacher) for the TNA championship.
TNA Knockouts champ ODB vs. Gail Kim vs. Brooke Tessmacher.
Kurt Angle vs. EGO’s Bobby Roode.
Sting vs. Magnus and more.
A gauntlet tag team match with EGO’s Bad Influence (Christopher Daniels and Kazarian), Chavo Guerrero Jr. and Hernandez, Joseph Park and Eric Young, and The BroMans during the Bound for Glory preshow on Spike TV. The winners get a title shot against TNA tag champs Cowboy James Storm and Gunner later on the pay-per-view.
Spike TV’s Countdown to Bound for Glory special is 7 p.m. EST before the pay-per-view gets underway.
The Bound For Glory Weekend also includes the popular Fan Interaction and the induction of Kurt Angle into the TNA Hall of Fame.
For full details on the spectacular, visit www.tnabfg.com.
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