TNA Wrestling has probably gotten more people talking this week than in a long time. Unfortunately it’s not for a good reason. Austin Aries has come under fire for actions against Christy Hemme and while TNA says it has been handled, the question of when has become an even bigger story.
If you haven’t heard or watched Impact Wrestling last week the incident took place as Christy Hemme was announcing Aries and Bobby Roode. Hemme made a botch and called them the wrong names. Aries got upset and backed Hemme into a corner ending his temper tantrum by standing up over her with his crotch closing in on her face. To say it was awkward moment would be an understatement.
“Pretty nuts some of the junk people get the balls to say over the net, knowing they couldn’t to you r face. Eh, anyway time to sack out,” and “Hey! Hey, I said! Look at me! Yo, over here! I’m right here people! Give me attention! Please. I desperately beg you to notice me! #Pathetic,” and “Wow….just wow, #Victim Nation.”
Former WCW announcer and Wrestlezone.com writer Mark Madden penned an editorial in which he called for Aries to be fired. Mutual friend Chavo Guerrero supported Aries on Twitter and accused Madden of creating controversy. Has Chavo ever said anything intelligent on Twitter? Anyway, the story blew up and appeared to be resolved.
Dave Meltzer broke down the timeline in his Wrestling Observer newsletter with quotes from Spike TV Senior Vice President of Communication.
“We have a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment. We discussed (it) with our partner. (He’s) being disciplined. I’m trying to get more information on what action is being taken. Dixie Carter took this very personally. He will be disciplined.”
Dixie Carter also sent out a statement saying that “TNA has zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior. The incident with Austin Aries was taken very seriously and handled immediately.” TMZ.com later confirmed that Aries was fined a “substantial amount”. TMZ also reported that “Aries — real name Daniel Solwold, Jr. — reached out to Hemme and privately apologized, acknowledging he crossed the line.” All sounds good right? Well there are a few holes to this story.
For one, what is the definition of immediately? TMZ.com didn’t release that story until Wednesday, six days after the incident. Carter was noticeably slower than usual to jump on Twitter and issue her statement. Hemme was tweeting and deleting hours later while Aries was also sending out tweets. Meltzer also pointed out on a podcast that he felt he got a runaround whenever he asked officials about it. So what really happened?
I don’t think TNA had any plans to act at all on this. I think it was external pressure that wound up driving this thing, specifically Mark Madden. Aries has been known to have a temper and a bit of a bully at times, so this isn’t something I’d call out of character. Quite frankly I think he should have been fired in this age of bully sensitivity but it’s hardly my call. A substantial fine doesn’t sound that substantial when nobody is giving me a number.
I am a former ring announcer with ECW back in 96-98. It is hard to understand how easy mistakes can be made until you are out there. You may leave the meetings with what you think is the right information but sometimes things change in the back, you aren’t notified, and mistakes happened. I made a few and even in the crazy world of ECW I never wound up with a crotch in my face. In other words this was unacceptable.
I remember one botch in particular at a television taping at the Monaca Golden Dome. Taz was scheduled to come out and squash two guys. He came in the ring, did his thing, and the referee tells me that to announce that one of the guys had been disqualified. I did and Taz got in my face and yelled that he was the winner. I kind of had a feeling that Taz was working so it didn’t bother me at all. I got word later that I made a mistake and was supposed to announce Taz as the winner and not any kind of disqualification. I felt awful to say the least! Here we are at a television taping and I got a finish wrong. Well I get back to the locker room at intermission and I walk into a room to see Paul Heyman about the second half. He’s sitting with all people, Taz. Paul asks me what happened. Now I could have taken two paths here. One, I could have just sucked it up and said I made a mistake and was sorry. Two, I could have told the truth in that the referee told me to call it a DQ so I just followed his orders. I was going to go with the first option instead of stooging anyone out. Before a word came out of my mouth Taz jumped in and told Paul that the ref had told me to call the DQ and I did nothing wrong. Paul said okay and it was done. Imagine that! A botched ring announcement is handled with more professionalism and class in the crazy world of ECW than the corporate structure of TNA.
I have seen some people give Hemme a hard time about the mistake. Honestly and I don’t know this, I am not so quick to blame her. Watch her during introductions. She looks at the camera and not at the aisle. I am sure that was something she was instructed to do. Quite possibly she was told before she went out there or by someone else that Aries and Roode were coming out second. It’s a mistake and there are lessons learned here, but is it really the end of the world? I mean we aren’t talking about a referee not counting the finish correctly here. We are talking about a freaking ring introduction! How and why anyone would get that hot over a botched ring intro is beyond my comprehension.
The mistake made by TNA was much bigger than any botched ring introduction.