Mark Madden has a report up at Wrestlezone concerning the incident between Austin Aries and Christy Hemme that occurred live on TNA Impact Wrestling last Thursday night.
If you haven't seen it, Aries is upset that Hemme says Christopher Daniels' name as he and his tag team partner Bobby Roode come onto the stage to A-Double's entrance theme. The "Greatest Man That Ever Lived" responds by cornering the announcer in a ring corner and posing with his crotch in her face.
While there has been no official word from TNA, Madden has spoken to a Spike TV executive about the incident. David Schwarz, Spike TV's senior VP/communications, is quoted in the piece as saying:
We have a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment. We discussed [the incident] with our partner. [Aries is] being disciplined. I'm trying to get more information on what action is being taken. Dixie Carter took this very personally. He will be disciplined. Again, we have a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment.
I'm not sure specifically how [the discipline] will be handled. To what extent, I don't know. This is certainly something we don't condone and don't tolerate. Such behavior is not welcome.
When Madden suggests that, since Aries actions were public and went out on national television, any punishment for the former TNA World champion should likewise be public, Schwarz said:
I think that a statement of some sort will be coming. That's being worked out. But immediate action will be taken.
From seeing the incident live and watching the replay several times, I don't think there's much doubt that Aries wasn't just "heeling it up". His actions look deliberate and Hemme does not appear to me to be enjoying "playing along".
Bullying is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days, but this seems to at least be that, and a sexual form of it.
Aries is one of the more entertaining guys on the TNA roster right now, but as a company with large corporate partners and aspirations of being a major global entertainment concern, these kind of actions are not going to be viewed favorably by the powers that be.
Dixie Carter hasn't commented, but perhaps an apology a la Jay Briscoe is in order? Or should Aries be suspended or fired?
What do you think, Cagesiders? However you viewed the incident, it doesn't seem to be going away and does not look good for Aries short-term prospects with the #2 wrestling promotion.
Extra information by Keith Harris:
Dave Meltzer had more on this story earlier today on his subscriber only radio show. The fact that an immediate apology wasn't issued by Austin Aries on social media proves that the company was caught completely flatfooted on the issue and didn't expect it to become such a public relations nightmare. Indeed, Meltzer thinks that TNA is "running for cover" and hasn't worked out how to handle the incident yet, given that they haven't responded to any inquiries about whether they were planning to punish Aries for such a public display of sexual harassment.
Meltzer went on to speculate that people within TNA management may even be mad at Christy Hemme for complaining about Aries's behaviour on Twitter, blaming her for the heat the company has received. That tweet has since been taken down by her likely because she came under pressure to do so. Meanwhile, Aries's Twitter account still has the following tweets up making fun of the online reaction to his sexual receipt to Hemme for screwing up:
"Wow......just wow. #VictimNation
Pretty nuts, some of the junk people get the balls to say over the net, knowing they couldn't to your face...Eh, anyway, time to sack out.
Hey! HEY I said! Look at me! Yo, over here! I'm right here people! Give me attention! Please!? I desperately BEG you to notice me!
Indeed, bad habits in the wrestling industry are hard to break and this would seem to be a case where the powers that be instinctively sided with the bigger male star and scapegoated the female victim, at least until the shit started hitting the fan.
An hour ago, almost five days after Aries shoving his crotch in Hemme's face in an unscripted payback, Dixie Carter has released the following statement via Twitter:
"TNA has ZERO tolerance for inappropriate behavior. The incident with Austin Aries was taken very seriously and handled immediately."
I suppose if you believe that you'll believe anything. However, this does seem to be a much stronger indicator that Austin Aries will be punished and won't get away scot free for his moment of madness. After all, keeping Spike TV sweet is much more important than excusing such horseplay with euphemisms as "the boys will be boys".