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Aries Rising: Why The New Japan Four May Have Just Helped Austin Aries in the WWE

If recent reports prove to be true, one of the biggest new stars for WWE in the next few months may not be one of the New Japan Four, but instead a diminutive yet charismatic showman whose last memorable stint came from successful runs in TNA, “The Common Denominator of Greatness”, former TNA and ROH World Champion Austin Aries. And his success could actually be a product of perfect timing.

For those not familiar with Austin Aries, the 37-year old 16-year veteran was a wunderkind on the indy circuit for years, trained by legendary “Trainer of Champions” Eddie Sharkey, the man responsible for launching the careers of such wrestling icons as the Bob Backlund, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, The Road Warriors, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Jerry Lynn and Sean Waltman (X-Pac). He spent the majority of his years from 2000 to 2011 wrestling in Ring of Honor and Dragon Gate USA (with a failed stint in TNA as Austin Starr), where he captured the ROH World Championship, as well as being the company’s head trainer. He returned to TNA in 2011 and became an instant star with the company, finally capturing the TNA World Heavyweight Championship in 2012. Smaller in stature than many of wrestling’s average workers (Aries is billed at 5’9”), Aries won over the audiences with his daredevil aerial style combined with lethal technical wrestling and an even more deadly wit and charisma. His run in TNA ended awkwardly in June of 2015 during his tag team run with Bobby Roode in the Dirty Heels, when he found himself on the end of the same cost cutting measures that lead to TNA’s dismissal of such stars as AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Magnus and James Storm. Apart from a few returns to special events for ROH in the summer of 2015, Aries has barely been heard from in the past few months.

But around the same time that James Storm made his NXT debut in the fall, Aries was spotted and confirmed at Full Sail University and backstage at a series of NXT tapings in November of 2015. With Storm and Samoa Joe working with NXT, people were salivating that some of TNA’s brightest (yet often underutilized) stars were invading WWE’s developmental. When Storm returned to TNA for their debut on POP Network in early January, followed shortly after by the Monday Night Wars level of internet excitement over the New Japan Four – AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows – potentially coming to WWE, the Aries story all but faded to the back pages of the dirt sheets. An after thought. The only Austin people were still discussing in the new days of 2016 was a certain beer swilling Texan S.O.B. that may or may not have one last match at Wrestlemania 32.

But if the reports coming out of Pittsburgh this week prove to be true, then that may all be about to change. And while it won’t clamour the same Twitter hashtag apocalypse as the impending debuts of the NJ4, the silent thunder may actually prove to be benefit the person who garnered all that attention just a few short months ago. PWInsider reported today that Aries was in Pittsburgh, home of WWE’s main medical teams, to undergo his pre-signing physicals. With an NXT special event on Saturday and new tapings arriving shortly, we may finally see Austin Aries in a WWE ring (by way of NXT).

If Storm HAD stuck around and Aries had debuted before the arrival of Styles & co., chances are he’d have fallen as flat as Storm’s run did. Nothing against Storm, but his IWC Twitter buzz didn’t result in major ratings increases for NXT (although Storm not officially signing, putting off any long term creative ideas surely had something to do with that), and Aries could have had a similar fate. A lot of internet buzz that ultimately the WWE Universe (the majority who watch nothing but) would cry as simply overhype for another indy star.

But now that WWE is entrenched in setting up the debuts of Styles, Nakamura and the Bullet Club duo, all eyes are once again off Aries. He no longer is one of the leaders of a new “invasion” of TNA stars, but now the quiet lone wolf sliding in under the cover of darkness. The other four will be held to high standards by the WWE Universe, as the most recognizable of the four may actually be Doc Gallows (from his days in CM Punk‘s Straight Edge Society or his role as the mentally challenged bell ring warrior Festus), due to the hype that WWE drummed up. Aries can simply arrive in NXT and do what other indy stars like Apollo Crews, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Neville and NXT Champion Finn Balor have done. Win over the WWE Universe – and in the process the WWE Brass – by showing them that Champion material is made of hard work and not just the hype of the day.


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