TNA Turning Point will go down tonight, featuring a main event of Austin Aries taking on TNA World Heavyweight Champion Jeff Hardy.
While talking about the most competitive sport in the world with Mr. Hollywood Wallace, we pondered about numerous subjects. Among them was a potential matchup between Austin Aries and Shawn Michaels, two brash superstars with the chops between the ropes to back it up.
We pitted the breakout years of the two wrestlers, deciding upon Aries' amazing run this year, and Michaels' emergence in 1992.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Cageside Conundrum.
Hollywood: In one corner, is one of the brightest stars in wrestling today. This man is a recently deposed TNA World Heavyweight Champion who is; nonetheless, enjoying his breakout year in the sport. Please welcome, the present day Austin Aries!
And in the other corner, a longtime stalwart of the WWF and AWA tag team scene who has recently introduced his best friend and partner to the business end of a barber shop window. He is primarily known for his high flying antics, but shows a developing penchant for mat wrestling and is rapidly developing into a feared striker. Give it up for the 1992 edition of Shawn Michaels!
Howell: Now, Aries has a bit of legacy during his time in smaller promotions, but his time in TNA has cemented him as one of the best in the game today. He has always remained a bit dastardly, not allowing fans to talk during his promos and such, but he recently just showed an even darker side after locking horns with Jeff Hardy.
Coincidentally, Michaels was in the same place in 1992. While he had made a bit of a name in the tag team divisions of both AWA and WWE, he had yet to make a lasting impact. 1992 was the start of it all for him. His personality quickly swung from the happy-go-lucky buddy of Marty Jannetty to the ego-maniac known as "The Heartbreak Kid."
With these two in similar situations, how do you think they stack up?
Hollywood: Let's check the tale of the tape. Michaels is the bigger athlete at 6'1", 225 lbs. compared to Aries' 5'9", 210 lbs. That said, any fan of early 90's WWF knows that HBK was consistently touted as the smallest guy on the roster.
Conversely, Aries seems right at home since his crossover into the heavyweight scene in TNA. In addition the former TNA Champion employs a power game that belies his physical stature. His Brainbuster alone defies any sense that he is a small man.
Michaels, despite his comparative bulk (especially around the midsection), subsists on a steady diet of agility and bravado. He does his best to exploit the speed advantage he enjoys over his opponents while successfully nullifying their raw power.
I think this perception of Michaels as small mainly comes from the landscape he existed in. The early 90's were a time when men such as British Bulldog, The Warlord, and Big Bossman were par for the course. Now true bigmen, such as "The Freak" Rob Terry are outliers, especially in TNA.
Howell: I do believe guys this size are the future of professional wrestling. While they may not pack as big of a punch, their blinding speed makes their strikes hard to defend against.
For Michaels, I believe he'll need to use whatever power advantage he has over Aries.
That said, Aries is deceptively strong, despite the shorter stature. He puts guys like Roode and Hardy up with ease for the Brainbuster.
What will play a factor in this match is experience. Comparatively, 1992 Michaels did not have as much singles experience as 2012 Aries, who has worked in so many promotions as a singles competitor.
Do you think that will at all have an effect on this matchup?
Hollywood: Great question!
Aries clearly has the singles experience edge, but lets not discount the accomplishments of the Heartbreak Kid. British Bulldog was on the roll of a lifetime after beating Bret Hart for the Intercontinental Title at SummerSlam. He defended that belt with aplomb until Michaels stopped him cold on Saturday Night's Main Event in October, winning his first singles title.
How did he accomplish this feat? By turning the Bulldog's size and power against him and letting the bigger man wear himself out. Eventually, Bulldog's back blew and Shawn got the upset pinfall.
I think that kind of performance, on national TV, says a lot for how quickly Shawn caught on to the singles scene.
Howell: A win over a monster like British Bulldog is a good feather in the cap of Michaels.
Let's begin to wrap this up and talk about the paths to victory for each man. What will Aries have to do to down Michaels and vice versa?
Hollywood: Aries will have to push the pace and attempt to drag Shawn into deep water. At this point HBK isn't the 60 minute man he would one day become. This is evidenced by his loss to the more seasoned Bret Hart in his first ever WWF title shot at Survivor Series '92.
Howell: I agree. HBK's cardio is not used to the pace of going steady for 60 minutes, but more 5 minute bursts before tagging out.
Now, what will HBK need to do against Aries?
Hollywood: The big question here is if HBK's striking is dangerous enough, at this point, to back up his tough talk. The Superkick is dangerous, but it has yet to be tuned into "Sweet Chin Music".
Howell: So, with all that said, let's have the Hollywood Wallace final prediction.
Hollywood: HBK's greatest win in 1992 was British Bulldog. His toughest loss was to Bret Hart. I believe that Aries lies in between those two at this time. The question is, where? I will give Aries the benefit of the doubt and say he is more Hitman than Bulldog at this point and with his savvy and experience he'll outlast this incarnation of HBK.
Howell: HBK is one of the greatest of all-time. Austin Aries is one of the best today. In this matchup, HBK wasn't quite a "Showstopper."
I'll have to take Aries here, too. His experience in all different styles of fighting found in TNA, ROH, and Dragon Gate gives him too much experience against too many of the greats. Having faced guys like Daniel Bryan in the past, and facing high-level guys like Jeff Hardy still, my nod goes to Austin Aries.
Now, if we had a few more years on HBK, it would be an entirely different story...
We leave it up to you, Cagesiders. Who would you take in this fantasy clash of the bold and the brash?