November 25, 2015. The last time Austin Aries appeared in Impact Wrestling.

Lured by the bright lights of Stanford, Connecticut, Aries left the place that had made him a star and went in search for the recognition and exposure a man of his talents deserves. Whilst that eventually fizzled out, his tenure in both NXT and the main roster were full of highlights. Excellent matches with Baron Corbin and Shinsuke Nakamura in WWE’s development territory spring to mind, whilst his feud with Neville was one of the more underrated of last year.

Since he left WWE, there was a burning hope inside me that Austin would return to Impact. Austin would return home. And this week that hope was fulfilled.

Emerging from the back eating a banana, Austin interrupted Eli Drake and Chris Adonis, challenged the champion and dismissed him in just 53 seconds. From drifting aimlessly in the indies, Austin is back and he is now a two-time Impact World Champion.

I’m not a fool. There have been issues with Aries’ conduct in the past and they can’t be overlooked, but neither this simple fact – when he’s on, he’s in a very select group of professional wrestlers. He perfectly straddles the boundary between face and heel (to the extent those two terms still have cache in this industry), possesses great charisma and is a main-event calibre performer. He immediately freshens up the world title scene and is a PPV performer – give him a spotlight and he’ll deliver matches that will get people talking about you for the right reasons. People like that are thin on the ground in Impact Wrestling.

Aries’ first Impact World title reign was the culmination of one of the most complete and satisfying bits of storytelling in the promotion’s history. Fending off all comers for the X-Division title, he stepped up, challenged Bobby Roode and came out on top. Moments and stories like that are the reason I’m still a wrestling fan.

To tell, the truth that match from 2012 is the reason I’m still a fan of Impact Wrestling and the reason I’m writing this weekly column. Aries gave me a character I could invest in, a character I could turn on every week and watch compete. He may not hold that position for me anymore, but I’m grateful he’s back. He gives them something to build around. A new champion for a new administration.

Welcome home Austin, I’ve missed you.

As for Eli Drake, it’s a case of what could have been. A self-confessed Eli Drake fan, I had high hopes for him last summer. Those hopes weren’t fulfilled, partly owing to the constant presence of Chris Adonis at ringside, and partly owing to management never giving him the chance to fully assert himself. His time might come again, but for the moment some time away from the main event scene will do him good.

The Week in Review

  • As reboots go, and this company’s had their far few, this was rock-solid. The new graphics and opening package made things feel different, as did the four-sided ring. Starting with a match always helps, and every segment this week had a purpose. Not much more they could have done.
  • Interestingly viewership was up again this week. Clocking in at 319,000 viewers, it was the highest in six months and is a platform they have to build on.
  • Fallah Bahh is the guy. Fun, midcard acts are what this company has lacked for a very long time and he now fills that brief. Not every wrestler in the company has to have main event potential, but he has charisma, is consistent and always does things you don’t expect. This week’s match with Matt Sydal was a great TV match and the sort they need of.
  • I dug the whole Laurel Van Ness/Kiera Hogan/Allie angle. It was a great way to introduce a new act to the Impact fans, set-up a match for next week and also set the groundwork for another title match between Van Ness and Allie. Simple but effective.
  • I hated the billing of the main event as an ‘All star tag-match’ but it was good fun and Moose picking up the pin was interesting. He really doesn’t get enough credit for his work and it seems to me that this might be the time they finally give him a big push.
  • It would be remiss to close this column without dedicating a few words to Jeremy Borash. It was announced this week that JB will be swapping Impact for the confines of NXT. A thoroughly affable guy, JB literally did everything for Impact and is a bigger loss than any in-ring personnel. His commitment to the company since day one is commendable and I wish him every success. Replacing him will be a very tough task indeed.

Well, until next time…