The second part of our unique Road to Slammiversary XVI continues here with Austin Aries and Tommy Dreamer. After Sami Callihan and Johnny Impact (to read here), it’s time for the Impact World Champion and The Hardcore Legend to share with you their state of mind as they’re about to put their title or legacy on the line. 

The Belt Collector, aka “A-Double” Austin Aries has told it many times over the last few weeks, this title is his, it’s the symbol of his wrestling destiny. Moose may have said 2018 would be his year, Austin Aries knows this time is more than ever now, even after an 18-year career. He loves the challenge and Moose is a hell of one. ” I’m excited about this matchup. Moose in his mind feels like he’s ready, feels like he’s worked his whole life for this. I disagree and I think this is going to be a good learning experience for a man called Moose to see just how close or how far away it is to actually be in the man, “Mister Impact Wrestling” as he likes to call himself or the World Champion. ” Moose is a huge man, hungry and focused. May the size be a disadvantage for A-Double? “I guess it depends on the perspective. He carries a lot of weight, he’s tearing a lot of excess weight, I’ve actually realized that I wouldn’t be able to overpower him. I’ve actually leaned down a little bit for this fight. I’ve been working on a strategy that I think is going to work to my advantage because I’m going to work on my stamina. I’d like to try to do stuff that a lot of smaller guys do we. Again just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should and I think on Sunday he’s going to make a mistake and again I’m a little quicker, I’m feeling more agile, a little more explosive than I have been in a while and I think that’s going to play to my advantage. We can talk about the physical advantages or disadvantages, but again he’s about 4 years into this and I’m 18 years into this and you can’t substitute experience.”

Most of the build-up of the World Championship match was shaped around this idea of experience. That’s why I tried to ask him, may wrestling be a destiny? “I think there’s been a lot of successful people who have come from different backgrounds and then come into wrestling. But if we’re trying to use it as a comparison, my passion has always been professional wrestling. I never had anything else in my life that this passion for professional wrestling. So when Moose is trying to sit there and sell himself on his passion or call himself ‘Mister Impact Wrestling’ or else, I have to remind him that while his first passion was football before it was wrestling. That’s the difference. Does that mean that he can’t be successful in his own way or someday be a World Champion? Absolutely not. But  it’s just not going to happen at Slammiversary, it’s not going to happen at my expense.”

But Aries and Moose have a common point, they love Impact Wrestling and they want it to be the best show ever. When he came back 6 months ago and became World Champion the same day, Aries has been working on being a “stabilizing force” for the fans who have followed the company for a long time and also followed his path through all the companies he’s worked with. ” I think it was the thing that really completed my impressive package. I was having some success in Australia, I can’t say enough good things about what they’re building there.  Be the champion in the face of that and help that growth was great. Doing that again in England with IPW: UK and Defiant at the same time, that was a cool thing. But with the Impact World title, it just kind of cemented and took it to this next level. If you look at the people who have held it and the history of it, it’s still one of the most important titles in professional wrestling. For me, to be able to come back and accomplish that on top of everything else I was doing, it just kind of brought it all together and it kind of became a thing. This whole Belt Collector thing really took a shape of its own from there. To come back and be trusted as one of the guys who could be responsible for helping bring this company back to where it wants to be also is again a position that I appreciate.” 

Because of that Austin Aries is decided to go out there and tear the house down, with the company’s roster and for the company’s future. He may be 40, be an in-ring veteran, he exudes confidence but at the same time feels the pressure of being in front of a man as tall as Moose and maybe lose the title. By the time media were talking to him, he didn’t know. “I haven’t been in the ring with men his size before and beaten man his size before, so I guess maybe in some ways the pressure is on me. I have way more to lose than to gain, that’s really not a very enviable position to be in. At the end of the night, no matter how sound your strategy is, no matter how confident you are, no matter how hard you trained, any man could be another man. It literally takes three seconds, the right submission at the right time in the right place and it’s done and that’s not lost on me. Moose has all the tools and the skills to do that. If it were to happen, did I think it’d be the biggest upset of my career? I don’t know.” We’ll see tonight who has the benefits of these 3 little seconds…

Tommy Dreamer came back to Impact Wrestling at Redemption last April to help a friend. At Slammiversary XVI, Dreamer is back to try to kick the madness out of the same friend. Eddie Edwards is totally unhinged and The (true) Innovator if Violence is taking no pride in giving him a lesson tonight in a House of Hardcore match. “I was probably one of the biggest Eddie Edwards fans and of his talent. Hwas on a course for greatness, he sidestepped what could have been a massive serious injury with Sami Callihan hitting him in the face with the baseball bat and he became obsessed with Sami. I was just trying to help him and he was just so obsessed. He tried to hit a chair shot on the head of Sami Callihan in a match that we had. I was like ‘Dude, it’s over, move on, go towards the title”. But he just became obsessed with him to the ridiculous point of accusing me of sleeping with his wife. This has become very personal. Just trying to help him, he messed with me on my own House of Hardcore event. Sami really reminded me of myself and Raven. I was just trying to be the helping hand, but it kind of backfired on me. I’ll show Eddie at Slammiversary why I’m the Innovator of Violence.”

When Edwards claimed this week he wants to show he’s the “real” Innovator of Violence, Dreamer was pretty puzzled by his “change of mind”. “We have now seen a different side of him. If he grows a goatee maybe that’ll help him and if his ass gets a little bigger,  maybe that’ll help him become the next Tommy Dreamer. I don’t know if Eddie Edwards wants to start looking like me but there’s been a definite evolution.  I saw a lot of me in him, like what Terry Funk said he saw in me. But it happened and a different side of Eddie ignited.”

Despite this feud and all that it represents on a personal level, Tommy Dreamer is happy to be back on Impact. He may have his own promotion, work for Lucha Underground and other companies, he’s there because he’s a man of words. “I learned a lot of lessons in my life. Everyone talks about ECW and the greatness of what was ECW and it was. But none of us ever knew that Paul Heyman was in bed with the WWE the entire time, I saw those effects. I had to live with those effects for a very long time. Impact Wrestling, I worked there on there through a lot of different regimes, but once politics or BS started getting involved, I just left. I’ve been friends with Scott D’Amore and Don Callis for a long time, I have no issues whatsoever with them and I’m not a very hard person to deal with. I’ve wanted people to deal with me how I deal with them, I’m a man of my word and I expect to always be that way. I balance that with just handshake agreements because I’m a man of my word and I’ve proven that for a long, long time. I’ve always lived up to my stipulations. I feel it’s important to be a man of your word, that’s just me, that’s how I am.” 

(Tommy Dreamer said many, many interesting things on his longevity, hardcore wrestling and more, but we’ll keep that for another day…)

(Click on the pic to enlarge)

Slammiversary XVI Full Card

Impact World Championship Match: Austin Aries (c) vs. Moose

Impact Knockouts Championship Match: Su Yung (c) vs. Madison Rayne

Impact X Division Championship Match: Matt Sydal (c) vs. Brian Cage

House of Hardcore Match: Tommy Dreamer vs. Eddie Edwards

Mask vs. Hair Match: Pentagon Jr. vs. Sami Callihan

Four-Way Match: Johnny Impact vs. Taiji Ishimori vs. Fénix vs. Petey Williams

5150 Street Fight: LAX OG’s (Hernandez & Homicide w/ The King) vs. LAX (Santana & Ortiz w/ Konnan)

Knockouts Match: Tessa Blanchard vs. Allie

All pics courtesy of Impact Wrestling. Photomontage by @frenchnygma exclusively for @steelchairmag.

By Steph Franchomme

News, Reviews, Social Media Editor, Impact Wrestling Reviewer, Interviewer Well, call me The Boss... And French...