In May 2013, Austin Aries cornered Christy Hemme on an episode of IMPACT, climbed to the second rope, and his crotch ended up in Hemme's face. The moment was not scripted as Aries decided to "be a heel" after Hemme messed up his ring introduction by announcing him and Bobby Roode as Bad Influence (Kazarian & Christopher Daniels).
Aries was accused of sexual harassment and issued a "severe fine" by IMPACT.
Speaking to Chris Van Vliet, Aries opened up about what happened and the fallout from the incident.
"That's one of the biggest things that, to this day, really still bothers me. To have your name attached to something like sexual harassment is a big deal," he began.
Aries first discussed his thought process as to why he backed Hemme into the corner and climbed to the second rope.
"The ring announcer, she's eye candy -- I'm not saying this as Dan, my real name, saying this about Christy, the person. I'm saying this in the context for the show -- she's there to be 'hot girl, announcing names.' I'm the top, former World Champion bad guy with my partner, former World Champion bad guy. She has basically just shit on us, disrespected us, and felt no need to correct herself. She giggled it off, she was probably nervous. I'm thinking I'm gonna get in her face, and make her do it right. Once she does her job, she dismissed us, I dismiss her," he said. "I back her into the corner and I go, 'Do it again right.' She says my name and I stand on the second rope and do my pose I try to give her as much clearance as possible. I didn't think about heights. I didn't think it through. I wasn't acknowledging her. I assume she would vanish if she didn't want to be there. That's not what happened, she was like, 'what the fuck?' She tapped my leg, I hopped off and stayed in character and that was it. I didn't think much of it. I was like, 'We got some heat.'"
Aries noted that when he got to the back, no one said anything. It wasn't until the next day that Aries was confronted about the situation. After talking to the office, Aries called Hemme to clear the air.
"I called her, we talked for 20-minutes and I explained where I was at. I apologized if she felt whatever and I wished she would have come and said something to me. She told me what her mindset was. Initially, she wasn't (upset) but as the day went on and people were coming up to her, she started thinking more about it. I told her I didn't have any issue with her professionally. It was cool, we ended the conversation on good terms and it was all good," he said. "I talked to Al Snow and was like, 'We're good, I talked to Christy and everything is cool.' He just said, 'Dixie thinks you should make an apology.' 'For what?' Suspending disbelief, we're telling [fans] 'that wasn't real' or 'he's sorry for doing something as a bad guy that made you not like him.' I handled it the way I needed to. I talked to her, we're cool. I don't care what people online think."
Aries thought the issue was dead after talking to Hemme. However, a tweet by Hemme caused more outrage.
"She put some tweet out responding to some fan who was like, 'Did you like when he did that?' and she was like, 'No, it was inappropriate or unacceptable.' Well, that's what she would say in-character. Of course, it's not acceptable. It's not supposed to be acceptable. I was being a bad guy. I told her, 'Your tweet saying it was unacceptable, started all this. You can put a tweet out to end all this. You can say 'he called, it's all good,' and this goes away. She was saying, 'they don't want me to say anything.' Now you're protecting your interests and you're letting things be said that aren't true. That's not fucking cool. First of all, you screwed up at your job. That wasn't the first time, or second, or third. Now, instead of taking ownership of that -- Okay, I made a bad decision. I could have done a million other ways to be an asshole. Bad judgment. But I'm not going to cop to sexually harassing someone. That's fucking bullshit," exclaimed Aries.
With allegations of sexual harassment being levied against him, IMPACT wanted Aries to issue an apology for his actions. Aries fought against doing an apology at first, but eventually realized it was what he needed to do. However, he wanted to do it his way and not have someone put words in his mouth.
"That noise gets loud enough and now Viacom hears about it. They ask Spike what the fuck is happening with their wrestling company. The wrestling company is like, 'what is all this shit?' They gotta make it go away and fix it. They want me to make an apology. I do the normal shit I do, pain in the ass. I sat with Al for 25-minutes, preaching my case. At the end, 'I should probably make this apology, right? It's the easiest thing.' I go, 'Alright, I'll write something up.' And he goes, 'Actually, I think Dixie put something together for you.' I was like, she can give me the courtesy of calling me then. She can give me the respect and hear me out before she puts words in my mouth and apologizes for me. I read the apology, it was something like, 'I want to apologize for my bad behavior against Christy Hemme.' It was so bad. It was terrible. I waited for the phone call and didn't get it. I got a call from Bruce Prichard. We had a conversation and I reiterated, 'Hey, now things like sexual harassment are being thrown out there. That's no joke. For me to make an apology, why are we letting outside pressure tell us how to police our business? We can make a joint statement,'" explained Aries.
Aries continued by noting that he was not comfortable apologizing for sexual harassment because Hemme "never said it was. Is it because she's an attractive female and I'm a guy so the connotation is 'oh, I must want to fuck her.' That's what's implied, right? There was nothing sexual with what I did."
Things reached a breaking point when Spike TV executive David Schwarz said the company "does not tolerate sexual harassment" in an interview. At that moment, a gag order was put on Aries by his attorney and Dixie Carter and IMPACT issued a punishment.
"I crafted a long apology statement, sent to my lawyer, their lawyer, and I got a call from Dixie. 'Don't worry, it's all gonna go away, we're gonna clear your name.' The next morning, TMZ reported I was severely fined and apologized profusely to Christy Hemme," recalled Aries.
In April 2014, Hemme was added to the IMPACT creative team. Aries left IMPACT in 2015, saying during the interview that he decided not to return in part due to how the incident with Hemme was handled.
Elsewhere during the interview, Aries discussed the Bound For Glory 2019 incident, which led to his second departure from IMPACT. You can read his full comments by clicking here.
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