TakeOver: The End... is a big opportunity for Austin Aries, and it's also part of his ongoing big opportunity. The 38 year old has been around for a long-time, but he's being exposed to some fans for the first time thanks to his NXT debut this past January.
On the occasion of his match with Shinsuke Nakamura at tonight's live show from Orlando, Aries spoke to Brian Fritz at The Sporting News about where he's at - 15 years into his pro wrestling career and five months into working for WWE.
The self-proclaimed Greatest Man That Ever Lived discussed his journey to WWE, and how the timing was finally right in terms of the company having an opening for him when his last TNA contract came up. Asked to describe the differences between working for the McMahon empire and past employers, he said:
I think the one thing that stood out initially for me was professionalism and attention to detail. Listen, there's a lot of things that go into running any company including a professional wrestling company or entertainment company. There's a lot of people that work very hard behind the scenes that keep the machine rolling. With WWE being as big as it is, there's even more people who have that job to keep the machine rolling. Everyone I've encountered from the get-go, you could see they took pride in their job. They took it seriously and I think it's because they're held accountable for what they do.
Given some past comments about TNA management, it's not hard to read something into this one as well. But it's also just a statement of fact that there's no other company on Earth doing what WWE does on the scale at which they're doing it.
Other differences about this job about relate to the size of the company. Aries talked with Fritz about being careful not to use aspects of his character that overlapped with what someone already in NXT or WWE was doing, and figuring out how to process the volume of advice and feedback you get with so many experienced people backstage at every show.
Those things contribute to his still finding his footing with the company:
I think in some ways I'm still trying to find that comfort zone. You gotta understand, when you walk into a place, of course, everyone would like to come in and blow the doors off. But you also have to understand that you're being asked sometimes to do a certain job at that time. So for me, I think it was important to come in there, be a team player and do what's asked of me, do it to the best of my abilities and prove that if I was willing to do that, that bigger and better opportunities would keep coming my way.
Though he was pleased with the reaction his debut received at a television taping in Orlando's CFE Arena on Royal Rumble weekend, A-Double points to something a lot of fans have noticed... new veteran arrivals to NXT don't feel as special as they did when Samoa Joe first showed up:
I do think that as we see more and more guys come from other places into NXT and WWE that the novelty is starting to wear off a little bit, the reaction are a little less. It's like anything in life: the more you're exposed to something, the less it means every time you see it.
It's an issue that, again, he doesn't think effected him - and certainly didn't effect his opponent tonight - but will be a factor moving forward for friends and old co-workers like Eric Young or Bobby Roode.
The two men talked the brand split and Aries' WWE future in general. It sounds like he's striving for the main roster and things like a WrestleMania moment, but not counting on them happening - at least during his in-ring career:
I don't know if expect is the right word. As I lay out my goals in front of me, that's what I put on the board but there's so many different factors that play into that I can't say I expect it. I'm going to work toward it. I'm going to do the best I can with everything they put in front of me. 33 is one of my favorite numbers and it'd be pretty fitting if WrestleMania 33 right here in Florida was the one that I broke through at. I still have enough left in the tank so if I don't make it to next years there the year after and the year after that and I don't plan on going anywhere for a long time in the wrestling industry. Once my in-ring days start to wind down, I think there's a lot of other roles I'd love to have the opportunity to try and fill. Hopefully one day I'll be able to cross that off the bucket list.
Be sure to head over to Sporting News for the whole interview, which goes more in depth on all these topics and more.
What do you think of Austin Aries NXT run so far? Do you see him reaching the main roster?