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KELLER'S TAKE
KELLER: The pros and cons of Austin Aries walking out of Bound for Glory as TNA Hvt. champion Sunday night

Oct 14, 2012 - 4:04:11 PM
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By Wade Keller, PWTorch editor

By the end of the night, either Austin Aries will walk out of Bound for Glory as Impact Wrestling Champion or Jeff Hardy will. Which is the right decision?

AUSTIN ARIES: PRO

Aries's character has been all over the place in recent weeks since winning the title. He won over fans with his confident/cocky "I don't care" anti-authority gimmick. The fans essentially turned him. Then, he turned on his own fans. A couple episodes ago on Impact he said if a fan touched him, he'd punch them, just as Bully Ray had just threatened to do. He also referred to his future fans as lemmings blindly following him. While saying he wanted the type of popularity worldwide that Jeff Hardy has, he also insulted them by saying Hardy's fans blindly follow him like lemmings and he wanted the same thing. It was a mixed message from one week to the next whether this unusually self-confident, uninhibited champion was so cool you had to cheer him or so full of himself you couldn't stand him.

Then the last five minutes of Impact happened last Thursday. Aries came out and cleared it all up. He said since he became champion, TNA management had been trying to mold him in their vision, giving him talking points, telling him how to act to best represent the company. He said, without saying it explicity, that that's why he's been all over the place in recent weeks. He said on Thursday he's done with all of that and he's just going to be himself.

It was an interesting promo and made me curious to see where he landed as an act. Yes, Thursday's promo was a C.M. Punk rip-off in a way, doing the anti-management break-from-script schtick that can so easily get tiresome. Yet, like with Punk, if not more so, that is who Austin Aries is. He really is difficult to deal with behind the scenes. His colleagues find his arrogance and excess of self-confidence off-putting, and sometimes they wonder if it's overcompensation for insecurities or just a bone-headed sense of social manners. In any case, it's worked against him in multiple promotions. Perhaps more than Punk, he is someone who doesn't want to take instructions or directions and does believe he's best in the world.

As difficult as that can be to work with, maybe there's something there yet to be fully realized, and only by sticking with him as champion will TNA find out the potential of that act.

If they stick with him, he's a fresh act that hasn't been dumbed down or defined down by years of doing jobs or overexposure. He also virtually guarantees a very good to great main event for TNA if matched against a good opponent. That might not be the case with other top options, and it wasn't the case with the capable but hardly dazzling Robert Roode.

AUSTIN ARIES: CON

Well, look above. He's hard to work with and unpredictable. His character has been all over the place, and it's only a hunch on my part that it might have been part of a master plan. If Aries was trying to get himself over a babyface by ripping on the fans who might choose to cheer for him, maybe his wrestling IQ is just too low to be relied upon to be a strong solid face or heel. Is he willing to do what's necessary to either be likable and admirable as a babyface (that can be achieved without compromising whatever integrity he insists on having as an act) or be consistently despicable and jeer-worthy as a heel, rather than the ironic heel who is really feeding off of being cheered against his caste? If Aries can't pick one role or the other in the tried and true pro wrestling formula and find a way to be original within one role or the other, then he's probably not worth featuring as a centerpiece act.

Also, I hate to say this, but Aries might just be too short. I thought he was an excellent X Division champion, the type of centerpiece act to build the division around. As soon as he gained any traction, though, he got elevated in a surprise win over Roode for the World Heavyweight Title. In the Heavyweight division, Aries just might seem even to the open-minded fan a little too small to be believable in that role, given his personality. He carries himself like a mix of Steve Austin and C.M. Punk with a touch of Randy Orton's self-centered arrogance. That doesn't work as an undersized wrestler in a heavyweight division.

Aries is small enough to be a sympathetic underdog babyface, but he's not sympathetic and he will never carry himself like a humble underdog. Aries isn't big enough to be a brash cocky bully heel, either, so if he manages to hold his own against larger heavyweights, he becomes sympathetic for battling against the odds. Yet his personality isn't the type that makes you want to cheer him for that reason. So his act is the exact worse fit for being undersized. That's why he's best left in the X Division being a cocky heel beating up people his size.

(Wade Keller founded Pro Wrestling Torch 25 years ago as a print newsletter, which is still published weekly and distributed worldwide today to thousands of fans. Send your thoughts on this to kellerwade@gmail.com or react on the website in the reader comment area below.)


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