The not-that-surprising debut of Austin Aries at the Friday, Jan. 22 WWE NXT show in Orlando is just the latest example of how Triple H's "don't call it developmental" promotion is altering the pro wrestling landscape.
In addition to just the fact that he signed up with the brand, early indications are good that Aries gets that:
If it wasn't #great enough, for $9.99, the @WWENetwork is now the greatest deal that ever lived. @wwe @WWENXT #TGMTEL #AmbitionAndVision— Austin Healy Aries (@AustinAries) January 23, 2016
We've heard reports that, in terms of net dollars, NXT contracts are not the most lucrative ones on the market. In the secretive world of pro graps and independent contractors, we'll likely never know. But even if it is true, Hunter is still offering a very interesting opportunity for guys with established names - especially ones coming into the last years of full-time in-ring competition like the 37 year old Aries.
NXT needs names that can sell tickets for their increasingly frequent house shows, as well as get the hardcore fanbase buzzing for big matches on WWE Network. It's much easier to do both with a few names like Samoa Joe or Rhyno sprinkled into the mix of prospects.
Ideally, WWE would like to have more Sami Zayns or Nevilles - approximately 30 years old AND with an established fan base. But those don't grow on trees, and there is some competition for their services from New Japan, Lucha Underground, Ring of Honor (ROH) and TNA.
For an act like the Young Bucks, who can command top per appearance fees wherever they go, are willing to hustle for dates but not necessarily on a main roster WWE-type schedule, there's more money on the independent scene.
For Austin Aries, who's done all that, has done pretty much everything but work for the McMahons, taking a pay cut to work out of the Performance Center is going to help him get his name out to even more fans - and therefore command more money per appearance should they decide to go back the indies to wrap up their career.
Plus, they're making a connection with the biggest company in the history of their industry and artform. Guys like Drake Wuertz and Jimmy Jacobs (who was reportedly an influence in the Aries deal) are working a steady job in behind-the-scenes and support roles for WWE; ones that won't add wear and tear to their bodies or from which they can be fired for starting to look their age. Vince McMahon will someday pass on, but his company isn't likely to disappear in my lifetime.
He hasn't appeared on television yet, but you can already buy A-Double merch on WWE Shop. He's already hawking the Network. It's a proverbial win/win.
And for fans who already know what the self-proclaimed Greatest Man Who Ever Lived brings to the game, or those who aren't familiar with his work, we get another talented performer in the hottest brand in the business. One of only two men to twice hold ROH's World title, a TNA Triple Crown champion, Aries can go in the ring
and brings a devilishly charming character with him, as a face or a heel.
We'll see what Aries and Hunter have up their sleeves for us next. So far, though, it's pretty clear that what they've done thus far is best for both of their business.