In his first interview where he shared specific details of his exit from WWE, Austin Aries said that he was released by the promotion -- and that he never asked to be let go.
Aries delved deep into various circumstances of his WWE tenure, including his departure, during an appearance on the latest episode of Chris Jericho's podcast, Talk Is Jericho.
The year of 2017 was a whirlwind for Aries, who began the year on the inactive list and as part of the commentary team for 205 Live. From there, Aries transitioned to challenge Neville for the Cruiserweight Title, a program that began leading into WrestleMania and continued into midsummer with Aries never unseating the champion. By July, Aries was done with WWE.
"Plain and simple, I was told that they had nothing for me creatively," Aries said. "I was set to start, I had just started rehabbing some nagging injuries on my neck. Finishing up the program with Neville, they didn't really have anything solid for me creatively so, speaking with the doctors, that it was a good time to give me a little time off, let me rehab, let me get some strength back—I had lost some size—and I was looking forward to that, and then I just got a call actually the day after I started doing that and said, there was nothing for me creatively. And that was really it."
Aries went on to say that he never asked for his release. At the time, Fightful.com spoke to multiple WWE sources who said he had.
"The bottom line is, I appreciate the opportunities that I was given there. I didn't want to leave. I didn't ask to be released," he said. "It never crossed my mind. I never had that conversation with anybody. I was more than happy to spend the time getting healthy and figure out what they had for me next."
It's worth noting that Fightful.com has been told by those within WWE that he had indicated the didn't want to be with the company any more, which was reiterated when we reached out in regards to this story. When asked, a source said "there must have been a major miscommunication then, because he didn't seem happy at all."
A former world champion for both TNA and Ring of Honor, Aries had 15 years' experience in wrestling under his belt when he came to WWE in January of 2016. After making his in-ring televised debut at NXT Takeover in Dallas, Aries' in-ring tenure at NXT ended abruptly when his orbital socket was broken via a Shinsuke Nakamura kick in a house show match. While Aries recovered from that injury, he transitioned to the commentary desk as part of the initial broadcasting team for 205 Live.
Aries told Jericho he was willing to stick with WWE in any one of a variety of roles, viewing himself moreso as a "utility guy" than a main-event performer.
"I was happy to do whatever. Hey, I'll go to NXT. Put me as a mouthpiece. You can do anything with me. I'm open. I'm at a point in my career—I've won championships and I've done all these things and it's cool—I realize that I take pride in being a utility guy."
Aries apparently left WWE on good terms, noting that during his 90-day notice -- during which he was still getting paid by WWE -- the company continued to allow him access to the Performance Center in Orlando to rehab his nagging neck injury.