Austin Aries has had a drama-filled last few years in professional wrestling as he's departed multiple promotions surrounded in controversy. He left WWE in 2017 and was described as being incredibly unpopular backstage.
He then returned to the place he experienced his most success - Impact Wrestling. However, in Aries' last match with that promotion, he no-sold a finish, flipped off the crowd, and seemingly went rogue unbeknownst to his coworkers.
"Well, I just released the second episode of my podcast: The Transparency Report with Daniel Healy. That's my real name, and part of it is separating the character Austin Aries, or whatever everybody thinks he is, from who I actually am as a person, because I'm doing things now outside of wrestling that are important to me. And I think that it's funny that wrestling fans say it's fake, but when it comes to me, it's all real," stated Aries.
"And I talked about this in the second episode. I kind of felt like I've gone through this identity crisis for the last couple of years. I came to Las Vegas… 20 years now, people have been calling me Austin. 22 years, I've been called Daniel. So, I started introducing myself as Austin to everybody because that's how they knew me, and I had to ask myself, 'Who am I?' You start reading all these bad things about you from wrestling fans because of things that happened on screen or on camera and in character. And we can all say that, 'I don't care what other people think. That's not true.' We're human; it affects us.
"So, I had to ask myself, 'Is that who I am? Who am I really?' So part of the journey, like I've been saying, with COVID, it's kind of facilitating this. I've been kind of slowing a little bit. After I left TNA after Bound for Glory, I decided not to resign there. Yes, they offered me a contract after I no-sold, so that should tell you if it was a work or a shoot."
Aries' last Impact match at Bound for Glory was in October 2018. Since then, he's appeared in some indies and had a handful of matches with MLW, but now he appears focused on his role with a stem cell therapy company called Bioxcellerator.
"I've turned down a few different things; I had some conversations. Everything is timing, but the more I was removed from the bubble, the more it has helped me figure out who I am. And working with Bioxcellerator, and those people valued me for me. They respect what I did in wrestling, but they respected me more," stated Austin who is the Director of Athletic Performance for the company.
"That helped me realize I loved the 20 years in what I did in pro wrestling. But I said it at the end of my podcast episode – spoiler – I'm very content to close that 20-year chapter right now in that book. And that doesn't mean I don't open the book up and maybe write another chapter, but right now, I'm actually really excited to start a new book that has nothing to do with wrestling but use that platform to do these other things that also interest me. So, I'll always love the art of pro wrestling, but I think I got really burnt out on the community of it and a lot of the things that come with it."
Aries did appear backstage with Diamond Dallas Page at an AEW event earlier this year in Georgia. But his appearance seemed to be more of a discussion of a partnership between Bioxcellerator and DDPY more than Aries showing an interest in AEW. However, he admits he hasn't completely closed the door on wrestling.
"Let me put this out there: it's changing, and that's part of the appeal why I'm open to coming back. But the pro wrestling I grew up in, in 2000, is a lot different than it is now. The culture, and what's accepted, and the s--t I had to navigate around not being liked by a lot of the people that were in positions of power, that took a toll. I'm very proud of where I've gotten and the things that I achieved without having to kind of sell-out to that and not really changing my moral compass," stated Aries.
"So, my podcast really came out after the #SpeakingOut Movement happened, and my name kind of got thrown out there with the Christy Hemme incident and some other allegations that were thrown out there. And for me, it was kind of the straw to say, 'alright. I always knew if I was ever going to let people in because I'm still kind of carrying kayfabe, and when I'm done, when I feel like I'm content, then I'll open up and I'll really let people in. I put the first two out, and it was really just telling my story of how I got into wrestling, the realities of the culture I was in, what was accepted and not, and what the expectations were."
Aries mentioned the Christy Hemme incident being brought up during the Speaking Out Movement, and that was when Aries intentionally put his crotch in Hemme's face after she botched his introduction in TNA. That happened over seven years ago, and Aries weighed in on people calling him a sexual harasser.
"After that incident in 2013, again, that on-air interaction between me and [Christy Hemme], I got classified as a sexual harasser. And that, for me, was really difficult. It turned me very dark and I really leaned into it. 'If this is what you think of me and who I am, well then, I'll give you that,' because as we know as wrestlers, the most important thing is to listen to the reaction. I don't care if it's good or bad, so I leaned into the bad because it was easy. But that slow and steady rode me personally; it takes a toll," admitted Aries.
"So when those things came out, I had to go and talk to my boss at Bioxcellerator and go, 'Hey, this is coming out but I got this under control. There's no legitimacy to it.' So, I thought it was kind of important to have my voice out there, my story, and now that I've done that, it's out there. You can listen to it, you don't have to listen to it. You can believe it, you can not believe it. I don't really care, but now that I put that out there and it's out there on the record, I can move forward. Now, I can have Sarah on there, we can do that podcast, have you [Ryback] come in, and we can talk about stuff that I really care about.
"Again, right now in this world, to talk about a fake world of pro wrestling to help people forget about problems, that doesn't really resonate with me. There are big problems we got to tackle, so I'm not really super interested in helping people forget about them. So, we'll see. The word 'retirement' will never come out of any pro wrestler's mouth if they have any common sense, because we don't retire. So right now, I'm cool. I got other things I'm focused on. Yes, there are some places I'm keeping an eye on. Yes, there's been some opportunities, and when the time is right, maybe I'll take it."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit The Ryback Show with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Mehdy Labriny contributed to this article.