IMPACT world champion Austin Aries made headlines for his recent attack on former NFL player DeAngelo Williams. Aries defends his Impact title this Sunday at Slammiversary against former NFL offensive lineman Moose, who will have Williams in his corner.
Aries continues to break barriers and create new opportunities for success in wrestling, and he spoke with Sports Illustrated about his current title reign, as well as his regrets from his time in WWE and his recent Ring of Honor pay per view victory over Kenny King.
Justin Barrasso: You are a three-time Impact world champion. Every title reign is slightly different, but you have done everything possible to make each of your runs with the belt feel special. What makes you one of the most elite world champions in wrestling?
Austin Aries: Intelligence, skill, passion, versatility, and consistency.
JB: Your opponent at Slammiversary, Moose, is a tremendous athlete. He’ll have former NFL running back DeAngelo Williams backing him up in a match that should be very different from your last pay per view main event against Pentagon and Fenix at Redemption. In a current climate that is overflowing with wrestling, why should viewers invest time and money to watch your main event with Moose?
AA: Well after what happened, I don’t think DeAngelo will be in Moose’s corner. I think he understands that he doesn’t belong in or around my ring, so this should be a one-on-one matchup. There’s so much great wrestling going on right now, and Impact is picking up momentum and creating a buzz by offering something differently in the wrestling landscape. But this match determines where Impact goes from here. If Moose becomes champion it would kill that momentum. He has great potential, but he’s not ready to step up to my level.
And being world champion goes beyond the ring; it’s being the face and ambassador of the company. He has no experience with what that entails and the responsibility that comes with carrying a promotion on his back. I’m at the top of my game and consistently proving it across the board on different continents in different promotions. To continue the world tour of success and influence, I need to keep my Impact world championship at Slammiversary.
JB: There are still questions regarding your run with WWE. Was there ever an opportunity for you to wrestle outside the cruiserweight division? Do you regret the missed chance at wrestling the likes of Roman Reigns, John Cena, AJ Styles, Seth Rollins, and Brock Lesnar?
AA: I was totally open to any opportunities they had—any division, any brand. As for regret, more than anything else, my regret lies in that the WWE Universe never really got the real Austin Aries. Outside of commentary, they missed out on the chance to hear and see me be me, and do what I do best. And of course a number of great matches, including the names mentioned.
JB: You just competed at Ring of Honor’s Best in the World pay per view, defeating Kenny King. Is it hard for you to believe that the Impact world champ can compete on other promotion’s pay per views? And would you like to defend the Impact title against Ring of Honor champ Jay Lethal?
AA: Since I’ve been back and seeing how the landscape of professional wrestling is changing and that people are starting to understand the benefits of working together, I feel I’m in a unique position to try and bridge the gap between the two companies. Defending the Impact title against Jay Lethal would be phenomenal. In fact, I want to defend the title against Kenny King. I’m about making history and doing things that haven’t been done before. I want to set a new tone and precedence for pro wrestling.
JB: Your vegan lifestyle, which is perfectly captured in your book Food Fight, is not easy with all of your constant traveling. Do you have memorable stories from the road in terms of being served the wrong food? And do you have any advice for readers looking to eat healthier?
AA: I’ve been relatively lucky in that I don’t have any stories that stand out, primarily because I bring my own food with me, which leads me to my advice for readers. The more you control where your food comes from instead of relying on restaurants, fast food joints, convenience stores and other processed sources, the better off you’re going to be. When I’m traveling I use HappyCow.net, Yelp, or Google to find healthy stores and establishments so I can stock up on some vegan food for my trip.
JB: You are a collector of wrestling title belts. What are your pro wrestling goals for the remainder of 2017?
AA: I just want to continue to enjoy every moment. I think sometimes we get so caught up in all we’re trying to accomplish, so focused on the end game, that we forget to enjoy the journey we’re on to get there.
This year has allowed me to enjoy my career, but also my life outside the ring. I want to continue doing meaningful things, both professionally and personally, whether that’s be one of the leaders of a change in pro wrestling where guys can retain freedoms and control over their careers and lives while also making a great living, to promoting my plant-based lifestyle and the importance of being educated in our food choices and what you put into your body.
I also want to take a bunch more trips and vacations, spend time by the water working on my tan, eat delicious vegan food, and hang with beautiful vegan women, or the other way around. Yeah, life is pretty rough right now.
JB: What can fans expect from you at Slammiversary?
AA: I always like to say expect the unexpected. There’s going to be an energy and excitement that they haven’t seen from an Impact pay per view or show in some time.
I’ve been to the venue [The Rebel Complex in Toronto]. It’s a very unique music and entertainment venue with a really cool feel and great set up that should lend itself to creating a special atmosphere for the fans. Everyone already wants to come out and leave it all in the ring and put on their best performance, but when you can feed off that energy, it just amps up the performance and makes it even more special.
However you can watch, be it live or on pay per view, nobody will be disappointed, except for the people who are going be disappointed that the night will end with me still as the Impact world champion.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @JustinBarrasso.