Aron Rex — the man formally known as Damien Sandow and born Aaron Steven Haddad — was done with pro wrestling after his WWE release earlier this year.
He planned to do a couple of appearances as a way to thank the fans who had supported him over the years. Since the audience played a pivotal role in the opportunities he was given in WWE, he felt like he owed them.
Then John Gaburick, TNA Impact Wrestling vice president of creative and talent relations, reached out and the seeds for the arrival of Aron Rex were planted. Sandow went down for a visit to TNA and quickly realized was not done with the business after all.
“I went down there and was treated very well,” said Rex, who is gearing up for his first Bound for Glory pay-per-view Sunday, Oct. 2 at 8/7CT.
“This goes from an administrative standpoint to a locker room standpoint — across the board. It’s funny — when you hear rumors, you have a certain perception. You come in with what is said, but nothing could have been further from the truth. The rumor was that there was low morale. It has been a long time since I’ve had that much fun in a wrestling ring — and out of it too since I got to see a lot of my old friends and others I’ve met briefly before. The overall sense of team is there. It kind of reinvigorated me.
“The fire for the wrestling was teetering out,” Rex continues. “That locker room added a few more logs on the fire. Is it what I thought I’d be doing? No. Am I completely happy that I am? Yes, 100 percent. Since leaving WWE, my life has only gotten busier with all the stuff I’m doing in L.A. and all the wrestling commitments. The schedule with TNA is great. It just works out.”
Not one for the conventional, Rex is excited by the direction the company is going in creatively. In his eyes, TNA is playing by their own rules.
“Look at some of the stuff these guys are doing and the product itself,” he said. “In the last couple of months, people are taking chances. The performers and writers are taking a chance, going out on a limb and it’s paying off. Look at the ratings. Look at the numbers. There is kind of a movement going on.”
Rex believes the creation of the Impact Grand Championship reflects this movement. The new addition to TNA is scheduled to face Drew Galloway at Bound for Glory to decide the first title holder.
“This is a match with three-minute rounds, and should there not be a winner, it goes to the judges,” Rex said. “It’s a different style match. It’s a different style of psychology, and it is working. There are people who have tried to do similar concepts, but it didn’t work. This is a concept you aren’t sure if people would get it, but after the second night the audience knew what it was. It’s something new and different. I look at it similar in a sense to the WCW Television championship, with the 10 or 15-minute time limit.
“Our audience is more sophisticated now,” Rex continues. “This is accommodating them and the evolution of our industry. Look at what Matt Hardy is doing. It’s some of the best work he has done his entire career. This guy right now is revolutionizing the business and breaking new ground. Matt Hardy is not only a top guy, but he is a pioneer. The mind he has and his passion for the industry is incredible. You can mark my words when I say this pay-per-view is really going to be unlike anything that has taken place in that company. There are a lot of people who want to be proven right. It’s going to be explosive. The same can be said for EC3, Bobby Lashley and really anyone on the roster. We all have something to prove and want to prove ourselves right. That goes on every level.”
TNA has provided a number of its athletes the opportunity to reinvent themselves beyond who — and what — they were prior. Rex strives to make the most of his chance to paint on a clean canvas with the company’s support.
“The freedom I was given with what I wanted to say on the first night that to me was mind-blowing,” he said. “My whole thing was I really don’t have any major issues with places I’ve worked for in the past. People have given me a platform, and that goes for an independent promoter to people I have worked for on TV. I’m grateful for that. Everyone who has given me a platform to perform, it’s the coolest thing in the world, but as a performer I know what I’m capable of.
“TNA gave me the trust even though we haven’t worked together really to out there and speak my mind. I will be forever grateful for that. I’ve never had the ‘Machine’ behind me. To me, it was always a fight. It was a fight I loved, but there is this freedom to be me and the way I see fit. What more can you ask for? The short time I’ve spent in TNA has been one of the most positive experiences I’ve ever had.”
Cody Rhodes is a WWE alum also set for his big TNA PPV debut at Bound for Glory.
“Cody, his name sells himself,” Rex said. “He has won titles and done well. The son of Dusty Rhodes, and he is no doubt an asset. What he contributes is up to him. We’ll see. He has been on TV for years and is capable of having great matches. We’ll see if he brings it here.”
Since TNA transition to Pop TV, the company has been able to turn the tide with its string of solid shows one jaded fan at a time. Good word of mouth helps, but the process of winning back viewers old and new doesn’t happen overnight. However, the company seems up to the challenge including Billy Corgan, the new TNA president. Rex has enjoyed collaborating with the Smashing Pumpkins front man.
“You forget he is one of the biggest rock stars in the history of the world,” he said.
“When you are talking wrestling with him, he knows his stuff. When we are talking WrestleMania III with Adrian Adonis and Roddy Piper, I think, ‘Wow, this is Billy Corgan I am talking about this with.’ It’s mind blowing. The passion that he has and the business savvy he brings is what the company needs. It’s already starting to show. I challenge anyone to talk wrestling with Billy Corgan and for him to not impress. I’m really confident in him and have a lot of faith in him.”
In addition to pro wrestling, Rex has been doing plays in Los Angeles, taking acting classes and signing with Optimism Entertainment to manage that portion of his career. Rex also lends his time to charity work.
He says he’s fulfilled in all facets of his life.
“I liked helping Kosair Shriners in Louisville, Kentucky,” Rex says. “It is my belief that if you can help a child, they can pass the generosity on eventually. With the elderly, they are the generation before us. I lost my grandmother in February this year. She had six kids and all my aunts and uncles and my mother and father took care of her. That’s great, but there are a lot of people who don’t have that. This woman had a better quality of life than most people. There are a lot of people who struggle.
“A friend of mine whose grandmother had Alzheimer’s, and to see how they endure after 10 years — and it only gets worse — that affected me in terms of thinking the elderly are a portion of society nobody wants to talk about. Given what they’ve done for us, it’s important we take care of them. That’s our way of saying thank you. That’s all our responsibility.”
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