Shortly after the end of the Bound for Glory go home edition of Impact Wrestling last week, fans who tuned in to see the promo cut by Austin Aries were shaking their collective head at his near carbon copy of CM Punk's worked shoot promo from Monday Night Raw in June 2011.
And in typical TNA fashion, this may have been an actual attempt to work the boys backstage into thinking the promo was a shoot. Which just sounds utterly ridiculous considering the business they're all in.
That's according to the latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter (subscription required and recommended), who brings word of the story:
"The Austin Aries interview at the end of Impact was completely different than the scripted version. It was supposed to be a heel turn and he was supposed to give Jeff Hardy a low blow and a brainbuster. The question is whether they are going back to the old WCW days and working the boys. My reaction, an assumption I was told was way off base, is that somebody in power wanted to do a copy of C.M. Punk, which in fact, it was. The question was whether Aries went into business for himself or they were trying to work everyone in the company by pretending Aries went into business for himself."
Meltzer speculates that it's likely this was an attempt at working the boys because hey, we're dealing with Eric Bischoff and that's his thing. And for those watching Bound for Glory and its pre-show on Spike TV, it looked an awful lot like an old World Championship Wrestling (WCW) show.
The problem with all this, of course, is that it accomplishes very little in the way of building any sort of actual trust with your fan base. Pro wrestling fans know more today than they ever did before, including what is and is not "real" on television. If nothing else, it's insulting to be told by the promotion's heavyweight champion that he was just faking everything all along and now he's not going to fake anymore and screw all of you.
Punk's "shoot" promo worked because his gripes were legitimate gripes everyone was already having anyway. He's also a much better promo and his "shooting" isn't what got it over. Fans knew they were being worked but because of how well it was executed, they didn't mind it. With Aries, it came off more like TNA flipping everyone the bird and telling the fans who do bother to tune in they have no respect for them.
Above and beyond all that are the implications for the storyline. Aries was supposed to be turning heel with that promo. But when he showed up for the main event of Bound for Glory against Jeff Hardy, the company's most popular star, Aries was cheered by the crowd in Phoenix, Arizona, as the hero. So not only did he insult fan's intelligence with the shoot style promo that didn't get over, he also didn't do the job he was supposed to by turning heel.
What a disaster all around.
Thankfully, the Aries vs. Hardy match at the pay-per-view was great and hey, it's a good problem to have when one of your best workers is getting cheered more than he should be, right?