In one of the most shocking moments of 2018, Austin Aries "walked out" on IMPACT Wrestling following his World Title loss to Johnny Impact (John Morrison) at Bound For Glory.
After the loss to Morrison, Aries immediately popped up, spit at Morrison, and flipped off IMPACT announcer/executive Don Callis. The moment shocked fans, who were unsure if the incident was real or a work. It was later reported that Aries' contract expired after Bound For Glory, but IMPACT was reportedly hoping to turn the incident into a "loose cannon" angle with Aries. The moment had extra drama due to the alleged real-life heat between Aries and Morrison due to Aries calling Morrison's wife Taya Valkyrie "husky."
Speaking to Chris Van Vliet, Aries discussed in-depth everything that led up to his final appearance in IMPACT.
"The part where I got up and walked off, and fucked everyone off and shit; I didn't go into business for myself. There were other people that were aware that was going to happen. There was a plan for me to return. It was my idea, an idea I pitched for a reason and that those people knew of. (It was approved) by the people that needed to approve it and needed to know," said Aries.
When asked if Morrison knew, Aries stated, "I'm not sure. I don't know if I told him. It didn't matter for him. I do believe he knew," before later saying, "I'm pretty sure John knew. I said, 'Post-match, 1, 2, 3 -- 4, 5, 6, I'm gonna get up and I'm gonna fuck everybody off and walk to the back and you can sit there like 'What the fuck.'' That wasn't supposed to be 'end scene.'"
Aries revealed that he had plans to continue with IMPACT after the match, but a lack of communication on IMPACT's part led to the two parties being unable to come to an agreement. The communication issues began the week of the match, when the finish was changed.
"The original finish for the match was me (going) over. They called and told me that months before," Aries recalled. "I had been signing three (to) six-month deals, staying in that honeymoon phase. I told them, 'I don't want to work for you, I'll work with you.' I wanted to keep my flexibility. I was able to get more traction in other companies working as their champion because I wasn't under a deal where [other companies] had to deal with [IMPACT]. They had such a bad reputation that it was a God send for these other companies to go, 'I can have you on [our show] and only have to deal with you? Yeah, it's good.' I'm spreading good will for the company. People know what they get with me. I'm as professional as they come. I do what I say, I show up, I perform. I said, 'I will take less money to keep my flexibility because I can do more for you and for me by having that flexibility. When I lock myself in and become another salary, I'm not interested in that. And that number is not one you want to pay.' I was signing these short deals and I never planned on going anywhere as long as things were cool, which means communicating."
He continued, "They called me before and said, 'We want to keep [the title] on you, keep the continuity, offer you a long term deal.' I mentioned in the call, 'there would be nothing wrong with giving [the title] to John, kinda like the Pentagon run, to freshen it up. The guy looks like $1 million, you're trying to get a TV deal, he's on Survivor, he'd look good on a poster. Give it to him for a little bit and if you want to put it back on me and heat me up for Sami, we can do that.'"
Aries revealed that the long-term plan was for a babyface Sami Callihan to take the title from him.
Believing he would be going over against Morrison, Aries built the match like he would be winning, noting that he didn't want to be a liar on television. Aries would constantly say he was going to "beat" Morrison. Had he known he would be losing, he would have changed his verbiage.
The week of the event, plans changed.
"Less than a week or so before the event, I was doing some media, and intuition kicks in. I made a phone call to make sure everything was still as planned. 'Actually, champ. We think we're gonna do a title switch at the pay-per-view.' I was like, 'motherfuckers.' I don't give a fuck about dropping the belt. I do care about the fact that you're deciding this after we did eight weeks of TV and now you just made me a liar. Secondly, I wasn't led into this whole change of plans. Communication was an important part of our process. I'm put off by what's becoming a lack of transparency and communication, which was most important in our relationship," he said.
"They send me an extension. Instead of the long-term deal like they said, they send it last minute when I'm flying over. It's an old negotiating tactic, wait until the 48th hour, put him in a corner and now I gotta make a decision. Unfortunately, this time, I wasn't blinking. I sent something back and said, 'draw something up that gets us through TV because I'm not gonna sign on for the same terms for another three-six months. We waited all this time and all this shit changed.' My intention was -- I have no problem dropping the title -- but I need to create a moment for [John]. When I think of a title, I want to pick what I think is my opponent's weakness and I want to strengthen it. With John, this guy has everything. But is he mean? If I go spit in his wife's face, what's he going to do? Is he going to fight me? Is he tough? I've never seen that side. Let me see if I can pull that out."
When challenged on if he created a moment for himself or for Morrison, Aries believed he did a bit of both.
"In the week after that moment, I left with more value than I walked into the match with. As a guy who just lost clean, I left with more buzz and value as a loser. A rematch immediately had value. I wasn't trying to shit on John's moment. I wanted to create a moment. People say I ruined his moment, I actually created one. It was our moment," he stated.
Though Aries' contract had expired after Bound For Glory, he was hopeful the two sides could work out an agreement to continue. However, negotiations fell apart over creative differences.
"We have disagreements on television creative and what they wanted me to do and what the follow-up was. I just didn't think it was beneficial for me, for the guys they had behind me, I didn't think it was well thought out. I didn't think they had a very good plan and I didn't feel obligated to sign anything to do those television (dates) if I didn't feel comfortable," Aries stated. "I said, 'Listen, if I lose the title, I shouldn't show up a week later anyway and talk more shit. I need to disappear for awhile. The show could probably use some freshening up. Just get me off TV for a bit. Just keep me off for a month, at least two weeks.' We're going into this without having a contract in place. Effectively, when the match is done, I don't have anything. My idea was, I want to leave with some buzz and controversy. I wanna do something that gets people's attention."
Aries revealed he pitched the idea of being on the creative team but was turned down due to a potential "conflict of interest." He also pitched the idea of returning at IMPACT Homecoming in January 2019, wanting to jump the guardrail after Morrison's match against Brian Cage to attack Morrison before being arrested. That idea was also turned down.
"I look at it like this, the plan was for me to comeback. Let's figure out this contract deal and the real way for me to comeback. We have a month now. And they dropped the ball," he said. "They waited until the last minute to put the same offer in front of me that had been in front of me before. With everything that had gone down, my counter was 'let me be in creative.' No offense, but I did more in a week with a tweet than you did in eight weeks with TV. I'm just here to help, I'm not a decision maker, I'm an ideas guy. They passed on that. Around December, I declined on the contract. With all due respect to the talent there, nothing they've done as a company since (I left) has made me regret my decision. If anything, I made the right one. In a lot of ways, I think I was holding some of that shit together. "
Aries ended by saying he felt he had to protect himself due to the position IMPACT put him in and that he was willing to play the role of an "asshole" because that's what people believe anyway. He also wanted to create buzz for all parties upon his exit, which he believes he did.
Following his time in IMPACT, Aries worked various Independent dates before signing on with Major League Wrestling.
If you use any of the quotes above, please give a h/t and link back to Fightful for the transcription.