Craig Wilson, Earl Marxist, Brian Damage and Russ Morgan
A variation on the ‘Book or Cook‘ topic today as we look at the recent departure from the WWE of Austin Aries.
Today, instead of asking ‘Book or Cook?’, we ask if the WWE were correct to let him go or did they act prematurely in cutting short his run with the company.
Craig: I was certainly surprised when it was announced that the WWE had severed ties with Austin Aries. Although never a huge TNA fan, he always stood out whenever I watched that promotion so it was no surprise when he eventually showed up on WWE TV.
Even less surprisingly, he would go on to have several strong in-ring appearances including, more recently, his programme with Neville. However, it always felt that he was wasted languishing in 205 Live although you could understand the brand’s desire to add a bit of star power.
To quote Conrad Thompson, there’s a lot of “gossip and innuendo” regarding his departure and it remains unclear whether he was let go or requested his release. Rumours abound that he was unhappy with his position in the company and had heat with writers and wrestlers alike.
But that brings us to the main point here – was his release right or wrong?
Earl: Ahhhhh. I’ve been itching to sink my teeth into this one. Aries is billed from the city I call home, so I must say I have a little favoritism towards him. I’ll try to put that aside as I write this.
Aries was cooked. But…I think he was cooked the minute he was called up to 205 Live. The 205 Live show is an interesting concept. It’s this weekly show that apparently “we” asked for. The same cruiserweight action we saw in the CWC on a weekly basis right? But, as we all know, something happened when 205 debuted and it’s still there (albeit slightly getting better). There are varying opinions and I’ll leave you to create your own, but most fans have some kind of “feeling” about what they see with the 205 live product versus the CWC product.
I think a ceiling has been put on the cruiserweights. That’s not a bad thing if handled a certain way. If we got incredibly competitive action with the cruiser title being the focus and ultimate goal, it could be unique to itself. The title could be ceiling if were handled like a legitimate BIG deal. But a short rehash… we got tea (nothing wrong with tea AT ALL). We got flavor of the month challengers (remember Jack Gallagher, Rich Swann, etc). We got a PAINFULLY long feud between two superstars that may have just ended. If you take these things into consideration, I think Aries knew that going to 205 was the death knell. He was brought in to be a role player and NOT a star. This could have done something to him.
I think his feud with Neville was ok at best. It could have been more, but even I felt Aries was miscast as Neville’s foe.Did he try? I think he did. His in ring work didn’t seem to slouch. Sometimes trying hard just does not cut it. The 205 product was not for Aries. The future of the 205 product was not linked to him (tons of other younger talent there and waiting to come up). This COOK was bound to happen. If he didn’t leave, I am sure that, creatively, his character would get pushed back in the fray so the next flavor of the month challenger (Tozawa) could take a turn. I commend Aries for valuing himself and his work, but his future couldn’t go too far in 205. There’s a possibility it could have worked if he stayed in NXT. Perhaps I will see Aries at a local show around my way.
Craig: I think you’re absolutely right. The writing was on the wall when he went to 205 Live. I understand the fact that was adding star power and, if rumours are to believed, I do get that he felt he was being underused and deserved to be pushed higher. Aries is a good talent. He is a very good in-ring performer. He’s not the WWE or Universal Champion and would have looked out of place in that position. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a more realistic role for him on the card. There absolutely was a place for him. Him vs. The Miz? I’d be up for that. Him vs AJ Styles? They are familiar with each other and that would have worked. Have the WWE dropped the ball with him? Absolutely I think they have. But I also think, if rumours are to be believed, that his belief about his level outstripped his actual ability.
Brian: Austin Aries when he was a member of TNA was absolute gold. He was their most must see performer for a period of time. Not only could Aries work a great match, but he was sensational on the microphone. Those qualities just did not translate to the WWE ring. Was he solid? Yes he was indeed…but there is so much more to being a WWE star than a TNA star or an Indie star.
I feel he never quite got “it” in the WWE. The fans weren’t completely into him whether it was in NXT or the main roster. Some of that can be blamed on WWE creative sure, but at some point..Aries needs to shoulder some of that blame. So what if he was placed in the cruiserweight division? You make the best of the situation. Aries was probably miserable about the decision from day one and you could tell because this wasn’t the same Austin Aries that I admired from TNA.
In a way, he reminds me a little like CM Punk and not in a good way. While Punk was beloved by millions…he was the consummate malcontent. He was never really happy with his spot or how he was used. After a while that wears on people and it showed at times in his in ring performances towards the end. I am pretty sure, the WWE didn’t want to deal with another CM Punk like talent.
Russ: Aries size would always be against him in WWE. In TNA, The X-Division was a big deal and the guys in it got over really well. Aries was absolutely wasted on 205 Live. He should have at least won a match against Neville in their feud, but I think the writing was on the wall. Aries was wrongly pigeon-holed as a cruiser weight, which is clearly barmy. There were so many guys he could have feuded with on the main roster. I think this was a missed opportunity by all involved.
Brian: Russ, I think you make a good point about the glaring differences between the WWE Cruiser weights and TNA’s X division. Austin Aries was a true star in TNA…while just a foot note in the WWE. He was a definite talent who would could’ve had great matches with the likes of Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler, the Miz and countless others. His size is/was his downfall I think…pair that with a possible bad attitude and there you go.
Were the WWE right to get rid of Aries? Leave your thoughts below.
You can read all pieces in our Book or Cook series here.