Source: The Ross Report

On episode 114 of The Ross Report, 'Good Ol' JR' Jim Ross interviewed NXT's Austin Aries. 'The Greatest Man That Ever Lived' discussed his current contract status with WWE, whether deciding to leave TNA was difficult, whether being on NXT's roster is a step back for him as a professional wrestling veteran, and TNA's future.

According to Aries, he is under contract with WWE's NXT brand, but he is free to take some independent bookings.

"I'm under contract [with WWE]. I signed the contract not too long ago [and] officially got all the T's crossed and the I's dotted, as they say. And, yeah, officially under contract with WWE for the NXT brand currently and the unique thing about my contract, I still have the opportunity to take bookings outside of WWE, so that allows me some flexibility there too."

Aries admitted that deciding to leave TNA for NXT was a relatively easy decision.

"As far as how hard or easy the decision [to leave TNA] was, it was actually a pretty easy decision for me. TNA had a very competitive offer to me and I appreciated how they valued me as part of their company, but I just felt for where I'm at, there wasn't much left for me to do there and I wanted a new challenge." Aries added, "I think I knew before my [TNA] contract was up that I wanted to take a break from there and see what other opportunities were there for me. I felt like I accomplished pretty much everything I wanted to there. I knew the situation the company was in, and, I felt that, at the time, it would be in my best interest to explore all my other options, knowing what was there for me if I decided I wanted to return, so it wasn't too difficult of a decision. It just made sense at the time."

Aries claimed that he never viewed being offered a spot on the NXT roster instead of a WWE main roster spot as a slight on his abilities and was happy to just get his foot in the door.

"I guess there's a part of me who looks at what they're doing with NXT and I don't necessarily think it's this big step down that some people perceive it [as]. I do understand that they are developing talent down there, but they're also touring the country. They're sell out thousand-seat arenas and it's a third brand." Aries explained, "the NXT brand, it's still their developmental brand, but there [are] workers of all different levels there. And I always felt, 'hey, any way you can get your foot in the door, if you believe in yourself, you believe in your passion and commitment to the [professional wrestling] business, then you take any opportunity you can get and you blow that door wide open'. And so, if this was my opportunity, yeah, I've been doing this 16 years, but I'm not naive to think that I can't grow and learn as a performer, so I felt, 'here's an opportunity for me to grow and learn as a performer, get in the system, and maybe help some guys who aren't as far along in their careers as I am and, really just everyone's scratching each other's back in a good situation for everybody', so I'm excited where I'm at. I'm excited for the future and excited to be part of WWE."

Aries admitted that he parted ways with TNA on good terms and making a return to the company is always possible, though he insinuated that he hopes to parlay his NXT gig into a role on WWE's main roster.

"The cool thing is I left there in a way that the door's always open for me to come back at some point if that were to make sense and I tried to leave there in a professional way. It was all amicable." Aries said, "I"ve always felt that wherever I go, I have to carry myself like I'm a main event guy and like I'm a star. And wherever I am is the place to be, so to speak, so right now my job is to bolster the NXT brand. I do that by getting myself over as a star. I do that by helping elevate the guys that are lower on the card or younger in their careers. And if I do my job well there, then who knows what doors that opens? And then I'll take that next challenge and try to do the same thing."

Aries stated that the mass exodus of top tier talent in TNA creates an opportunity for the promotion to change and go in new directions.

"Hopefully, it's a critical year [for TNA] from the standpoint of them kind of reinventing themselves and finding out what makes them unique, and sticking with that, and building off it." Aries acknowledged, "I don't know that TNA is going to go anywhere until Dixie [Carter] decides that she no longer wants to be a part of it, but I think that what you're seeing is, and it really started with AJ [Styles], and [Samoa] Joe, and myself, and now with Bobby [Roode] and Eric [Young]. A lot of the pillars of that place, you can throw Kurt Angle in there, Sting. I mean, a lot of the people that really were the pillars of that promotion have moved on. It gives them an opportunity to start creating new stars, to bring new guys in, reallocate their payroll and their funds to help the company from a business standpoint. There's so much potential there. There's a lot of talent there. It's just a matter of whether they can put it all together and get out of their own way sometimes."

To listen to the podcast, click here. If you use any of the quotes that appear in this article, please credit The Ross Report with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.

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