By Victor Parenza (@ParenzaBooks)
I felt vindicated after watching the latest NXT show. The Full Sail crowd during the Aries vs. Almas match was chanting “Austin Aries.” Well some were, and others were strategically yelling “sucks” at the same time. That doesn’t matter, he’s a heel after all. (The cynical man would also point out that it could have been due to Almas not being over whatsoever.)
So what am I getting at? The internet and the NXT home base have been ragging on everything Aries has done since he had his first match at NXT Takeover: Dallas. I’ve seen tweets saying things like:
Why did Aries become crappy once he got to NXT?
I’m here now to defend the Greatest Man that Ever Lived. Aries arrival on NXT television was taped the weekend of the Royal Rumble (and aired the beginning of March). Guess who else debuted at the Royal Rumble? AJ Mother F’n Styles. As in the guy who has been the best thing to happen to WWE TV in quite a few years. Shinsuke Nakamura was soon officially announced to make his NXT in-ring debut at Takeover: Dallas much like Aries. With those two announced everyone was then waiting for the debut of the alleged other new signees, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. Which would happen post-WrestleMania.
All of that being said, it’s easy to see how someone could get lost in the shuffle of all that new, mega-hyped talent being brought in. I don’t think anyone held that fact against Aries. It wasn’t his fault WWE brought all those guys in within months of each other. Nakamura was announced to have his debut match against Sami Zayn in Dallas. We all knew that had the potential to be something special. Aries debut? Against the immortal Baron Corbin. Yikes.
Now if I want to highlight a new talent as a tremendous worker, I don’t debut them against Corbin. Let’s be honest, anyone else on the NXT television roster would have made for a better match. Apollo Crews wasn’t on that show, and he debuted on the following Raw, couldn’t he have put Aries over on the way out? That’s what Corbin did. I understand why they did it though. It made sense within Corbin’s storyline to face Aries. He was sick of all the “bingo hall” guys coming in with all the hype. He put Aries over at least like I mentioned, but for a workhorse like Aries, it didn’t do much to show him off. As for the Nakamura vs. Zayn match? It blew everyone away. In my opinion it is easily the match of the year, hell it even started a new chant that is now on the verge of being run into the ground by the “clever” wrestling fans of arenas everywhere.
So clearly Nakamura overshadowed Aries. There is nothing quite like force of nature that is Nakamura, and he overshadows everyone in his time zone. Clearly this hurt Aries in the eyes of many. It also didn’t help that his match with Corbin was the worst match on the show. Granted, a show I consider one of the best pro wrestling shows match for match I’ve seen.
If it wasn’t for that damn Aries/Corbin match, it could have been a perfect show.
That phrase seemed to be the sentiment of everything I was reading. Which honestly is a true statement, but I would wager though, that that was Baron Corbin’s best match. Obviously his catalog of matches is not impressive in the least. AJ Styles couldn’t have a decent match with this guy. 1996 Shawn Michaels couldn’t have decent match with this guy (probably). You can’t blame Aries for that.
In the back of my mind, I knew that they could eventually use this for an Aries heel turn. Maybe that was the plan all along? They knew Aries would be a huge fan favorite upon his debut, so why go against the grain? And let’s be honest, Aries is a tremendous douche bag heel. Fuel was only thrown on to that fire from the aforementioned lackluster responses Aries was getting at NXT TV tapings. Again, I assume this is due to his lackluster match against Corbin, followed up by simple TV matches at Full Sail. That’s creative’s fault, not Aries. If they gave him a half-hour every match he would blow us away, but the toned down 8-10 minute matches that we get aren’t designed to knock our socks off which is what we were accustomed to with Austin Aries.
He then went on to feud with Nakamura which was a blessing and curse. It was good because he was going to get a chance to let it all hang it in their match, but bad because he was still technically a good guy, and no one is getting cheered over Nakamura these days with the exception of probably Styles. The match itself was really good, but since it was a Nakamura’s second big match, it was naturally compared to the first against Zayn, (I’m guilty of doing it too) and nothing will seem great stacked next to that match.
So Aries put in another “disappointment,” and he lost clean, further hurting his standing with the smarks. Now what? How about a feud with No Way Jose? Or, as I like to call him, Adam Rose 2.0! (In terms of gimmick not in his legal woes.) Aries did finally turn heel on Jose, which I knew would eventually give him legs again. How long that would take, I had no idea?
So we reached Takeover: Brooklyn, the big opening bout against Jose. But wait, what’s this? Brooklyn is nearly 100% pro-Aries? Hell, even the first guy in the Jose conga line is wearing an Aries t-shirt. This made me very happy. Jose isn’t as dreadful as Corbin by any means, but again, he had his best match that night against Aries.
Aries got the tap-out win, and kept the hold applied like the vicious bastard that he is. Holy shit is that KENTA’s music? Uh, I mean Hideo Itami. Like a kid in a candy store, I squealed with excitement. The thought of the Go 2 Sleep being used didn’t even occur to me as Itami made his way to the ring to vanquish that dastardly Aries. After a giant kick to the head, the crowd was chanting “GTS! GTS! GTS!”
The 12 year olds in the crowd couldn’t understand why this nicely dressed Asian man was using CM Punk’s finishing move, but since everyone else was screaming, they decided to join in. The 30 year old me was hyped like Mojo at the thought of an Aries vs. Itami feud, and the GTS was the icing on the cake. This is the one that will work. These guys have history, they know how to work together and produce excellent results. Watch their match on ROH’s Chi-Town Struggle DVD if you don’t believe me- good luck finding it though.
Aries has something to prove, and honestly so does Hideo. Hideo’s coming back from a big-time surgery, and some would say he had an underwhelming run prior to that much like Aries. I feel a lot of the same defense can be used for Hideo, but it can all be swept under the rug for both men if they can deliver like I believe they can. Aries seems to be winning back the NXT faithful at Full Sail, how about you?