AEW Dark has become a melting pot of independent wrestling talent vying for an opportunity to compete on the big stage. For 10 year+ veteran Aaron Solow, the chance to wrestle in the same company as his inspiration, Chris Jericho, was simply too good to pass up. But en route to AEW, Solow has made waves, teaming with current roster member Ricky Starks and sharing a ring with Jyushin ‘Thunder’ Liger in the Japanese legend’s final match in the US. Liam Wyatt sat down with Solow to discuss his career to date, his goals and much more!
Just how difficult has 2020 been for an independent pro wrestler, particularly on the west coast?
I don’t know if this is just particular to the West Coast, but I mean independent wrestling, it’s you know, there’s very few promotions running. So it really sucks in general just because for those doing only independents, they haven’t wrestled in months. And I’m sure there’s some people to this day who haven’t even wrestled since the pandemic started for whatever reason, whether it’s anxiety of going and being around people, the whole pandemic just really turned the whole world upside down, not even just wrestling.
So for people that are unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe yourself and your wrestling style?
So for my in-ring style, it’s funny because I think a lot of people look at me and assume high flyer and if you’ve watched any of my matches, it’s extremely rare that I ever come off the ropes. I’ve never done a springboard in my life! So high flyer is definitely not the one, I would say. But I do a little bit of everything, so I don’t think I could pick just one (style). I would just say that I’m pretty much an all-around guy. I feel like when it comes to skills, my mat, my chain wrestling is there. When it comes to technique and all that stuff, I feel like all of it is there. So I don’t think I could pick just one. I would just say pretty good all-around guy.
Were you inspired by anyone in particular?
Yes, so anybody who’s ever heard me talk inspiration, it’s always the exact same story – I got into wrestling because of Tatanka. So I believe it’s 1993, WrestleMania 9, Tatanka and Shawn Michaels wrestle each other. I’m about five or six years old at this time and red hair – I’ve never seen red hair on a person like Tatanka red – so I was just infatuated with it as a kid and Tatanka was my favourite. As I got older and Chris Jericho started coming on WCW, I loved Jericho and to this day, Jericho’s my favourite wrestler, so those two would be my inspirations for sure.
That’s interesting that you mention Chris Jericho. How have you found working in the same environment as him over the last couple of months?
It’s very like, I don’t even really know how to explain it, it’s just very cool and very surreal at the same time. Because you do independents and sometimes there’s name guys on the show, sometimes there’s not, and you’re kind of hoping that somebody who can help you get to the next level is there. I’ve been very fortunate in doing stuff with AEW during this pandemic and Chris Jericho has been great, just really amazing. He watched a match of mine and talked to me about it afterwards, and at the time, as it’s happening, I’m just like, ‘Wow, this is really cool’. I really appreciated getting feedback from someone who I think is the best ever to do it. And then I’ll be getting ready for bed and I’ll think ‘I just had a conversation about myself with Chris Jericho’, you know what I mean? I feel like the professional in me is pretty mellow and it’s a cool experience, but the fanboy can’t believe it!
So how did you actually get started in wrestling?
So this is actually going to link back to Chris Jericho. I always loved wrestling as a kid but in high school, I kind of fell off of it, I didn’t watch it at all with the exception of the odd show here and there. Jericho’s book, his first book, ‘A Lions Tale’, came out and after I was done reading it, I was like, man.. I was going to community college and there was nothing I wanted to do, as far as a major. I was reaching the end of my general education and I remember talking to a counsellor who gave me a list and was like, ‘you need to pick something here that you want to do for the rest of your life’ – I remember looking at that list and thinking there’s not one thing there that I want to do with my life. Anyways, I’d somehow started watching wrestling again, and I’m reading Jericho’s book and Jericho started training at eighteen. I’m twenty at this point so I’m like ‘Oh God, I’m too old. I can’t start. There’s no way.’ Then in the book, he mentions Lance Storm quite a bit. So I Googled Lance Storm and found out that Lance was twenty one when he started and I was like, ‘Lance Storm had a pretty good wrestling career, like I’m very familiar with him’. And so as I Googled Lance Storm, his school came up. So after I finished the book, I emailed Lance Storm straight away, he responded to me and I ended up going to the Storm Wrestling Academy in September of 2008. And that’s where I first touched a ring, Lance started me from the ground up.
That sounds like a phenomenal place to start your wrestling journey.
Yeah, it was great. It was a great experience.
Moving forward to your time on the indies, would you say that you have a home promotion per se?
No, actually, no, I don’t. So shortly after Lance’s school, I moved back to California and South San Francisco with my parents and there is a wrestling promotion called Big Time Wrestling in Newark, California. That was my home promotion for about the first two years I was active but I literally did Big Time Wrestling and only Big Time Wrestling for the first two years of my wrestling career, and they ran once every other month. So I was training very consistently but I wasn’t wrestling, really, if that makes any sense? So they were my home promotion but after that, I had met Davey Richards and moved to St. Louis to train with him and from there, I’m just kind of been going rogue. I’ve never had a home promotion after that fact.
You’re pretty well travelled as a result, how many countries have you wrestled in?
Yes, so I have wrestled in seven countries (including the US) so America, Canada, Mexico, Ireland, England, New Zealand and Australia.
How have you found wrestling in front of international audiences and what differences are there?
So here in the States, it’s kind of like a crapshoot as far as if the crowd is going to be hot or not – it depends on the promotion. I’d say when I would do Wrestle Circus, which is in Austin, Texas, that place was amazing. The crowd was into everything, whether the card was twenty five matches long or whatever – they were hot the entire time, they were such an awesome crowd. But then you can go to another show in a random town and it can be packed, but nobody’s saying or doing anything. So in the States, it’s very hit or miss.
But man, when I went over to England, I went there while independent wrestling was still super, super hot. The first match that I did was actually in Ireland for OTT. I teamed with Ricky Starks and to this day – we actually just talked about it the other week – that’s still my favourite crowd, hands down. And what I do love about the English crowd is there’s always a lot of singing going on in the chants – I love that. The first time I heard it I was like, what the heck are they doing? You know, that’s pretty cool like, I wish that was everywhere! But it’s also cool to know that when I go to England, I want them to sing to me.
You mentioned tagging with Ricky Starks (as Extra Talent-ed), how did that pairing come about?
So I mentioned that I had lived in St. Louis, well Ricky lived in St. Louis for a brief period as well. When I was out there, we met each other and we pretty much got along almost right off the bat. We didn’t talk too much while I was there, but we kept in touch and he was one of the few people that really kept in touch with me, because then I moved to Florida, he moved back to Texas. Then years later, I was like ‘I need to get out of Florida’, so I ended up moving to Austin, Texas, where he’s living. I had talked to him about how there’s so many singles wrestlers right now and why don’t we try to tag, just because the ladder to climb for tag team wrestling is much shorter than it is for singles wrestlers, to get noticed anyway. So that’s how that came about and we tagged for maybe two and a half years. We never officially broke up, it was just that I moved back to California, he stayed in Austin and then the pandemic hit..
He’s referenced the team a few times whilst commenting on AEW Dark, so it’s canon at this stage! What have you made of his progress in AEW thus far?
I think he’s doing great, I’m really happy for him! He definitely works hard, like works really, really hard so I’m happy for all the success and everything he’s getting. He’s so new there that he hasn’t even really scratched the surface yet so if you’re enjoying what he’s doing now, he’s not even evolved to his peak yet.
Do you think there is any chance that you’ll be drafted into Team Taz alongside him?
You know, I wish I could tell you, but I honestly have no idea!
You were an alternate for WWE’s original Cruiserweight Classic tournament. What was that experience like?
It was cool and it really sucked at the same time. So it was cool because there was 20 of us chosen, when you include the alternates, but myself and four other guys, we didn’t get used at all. We were there just in case and it was a really weird thing because we were only going to get in if somebody got injured and of course, you don’t want to wish that upon anybody. So it was just like ‘I guess we’re just sitting here and watching all this’. It sucked to watch and it be right there where you were kind of a part of it, but not really a part of it.
Last year, you wrestled for New Japan USA and had the privilege of tagging with the legendary Jyushin ‘Thunder’ Liger. How did that feel?
I couldn’t believe it! I was told before it was announced and part of me just didn’t believe it, I thought it was a joke. I was like ‘I’m not contracted to New Japan, why would it be me?’ And then it came about and I was like, ‘Oh, crap. This is real. This is really happening.’ So it was really cool and I was really honoured because with New Japan, everything’s a lot about respect and trust, and for them to trust me – a non-contracted guy – with Liger of all people, I took that responsibility very seriously and I was super appreciative of it.
That must have been one of his last matches?
Yeah, it was his last match in the United States. That’s what it was being billed as.
Is New Japan or New Japan USA a company you’d be keen to work with in the future?
Yeah, I’d love to. New Japan’s a great alternative if you love the sport of wrestling more than the entertainment aspect. There definitely is entertainment in New Japan but what I love about wrestling is the movement of it. I love watching somebody that’s so crisp and so good and that’s what New Japan is – everybody there, they’re just so crisp, so good and such perfection.
This year you’ve been doing some work with AEW on Dark. How did that situation come about?
So how that came about was, I had reached out and didn’t hear anything, and then later they were like, ‘Hey, do you still want to do this?’ And I said ‘absolutely!’ So then I went over there and then went over there again. And then I didn’t go over there for a while, then it just kind of started happening again! I’m just very fortunate that I’m one of the few people that’s able to wrestle safely during this pandemic and on such a big stage.
It must be somewhat bittersweet as the opportunity has come amidst such a challenging backdrop?
Yeah, of course. I think about that too. Somebody had asked me when I had the match with Scorpio Sky, which was my first one with AEW, and they’re like, how was it? I’ve always wanted to wrestle Scorpio Sky, I’ve always thought so highly of him and after working with him, I think even higher. But it was very weird because it was like, ‘This is a match I’ve always wanted, on a very big stage, and there were maybe four people in the crowd watching it.
I remember Suge D (Pineapple Pete) said something similar, that it’s incredible to have reached that level but so odd to have no live crowd there to see it.
Yeah, it was odd at first but now, because I’ve had however many matches with them (AEW), I think it’s going to be a very weird adjustment to when people come back, because now I’m used to there not being a crowd.
Watching the wrestlers in the crowd at AEW, you always get the sense that people are having a good time. What is the atmosphere backstage like at AEW?
It’s so great, everybody there is so helpful. When we have matches, we have coaches or producers, and so when I had the match with Scorpio Sky, Christopher Daniels was the producer, so he’s in charge of our match. But what that meant was that Sky and I figured things out and Daniels would then add input to make it better. So we did the match and then went to the back and I was asking how it was? So Chris would talk to me and then Jerry Lynn, who had zero responsibility for us, watched it and he gave us feedback. And then the next producer did and the next producer did, it’s very much a team effort there, which is great. And it seems like everybody genuinely wants everybody to succeed.
Over the past few months, we’ve seen several talents from Dark begin to pick up wins or even get signed outright. Does that make things more competitive for the independent talent there?
When I go there as one of the independent guys, I always want to do something in my performance where I’m ‘the one’. When they go, ‘Hey, out of the indie guys, who stood out to you?’, I’m always trying to think about what is it that I can do to be that person that they’re talking about. I don’t know if anybody else that goes there thinks like that, I’m sure they do. But I would say there’s obviously some type of competition but at the same time, I want to see these people succeed as well. So I don’t know if that’s just how I feel about it or how everybody feels, but I do believe that there’s, of course, some level of competition there.
You mentioned having wanted to wrestle Scorpio Sky. Who else is on your AEW opponent wish list?
I mean, obviously, Jericho, because that’s just my favourite of all time. I would love to wrestle Cody. I would love to wrestle Trent as well. And those three really stick out to me. Fenix in a singles, I’d wrestled him in a tag match at Wrestle Circus with Ricky. But those are the four that stick out to me right now and I’m sure as soon as we get off this call, I’m going to think of like three other people!
What are your goals moving forward?
My goal is to be announced as one of the contracted guys for AEW. For sure, that’s obviously goal number one, because then it could lead up to other things, you know what I mean? It can lead to title matches, it can lead to pay per view matches and things like that. But it’s funny because I was just having this conversation, when I was a kid, all I ever wanted was an Intercontinental Title and a match at WrestleMania. As a kid, I always thought the Intercontinental title was the main title because of the people who were holding it. But now, as an adult, it sounds even more childish but my two goals are a wrestling figure and to be in a video game. That would be really cool because then even people, like a lot of my close friends are not wrestling fans and have no clue what it is that I do – they just watch it when I’m on – but I think everybody understands when you have a wrestling figure of yourself or you’re in a game that what you do must be pretty cool.
Finally, for new fans, which of your matches in particular would you recommend people seek out?
I would say most recently would be the Scorpio Sky and Matt Sydal matches from Dark. As far as other independent stuff, there was one match I had with Ray Rosas that I really liked from Bar Wrestling, that one I really enjoyed. In all these matches, something I think of as a cool little accomplishment for myself, like the match I had with Sky – that’s my first time wrestling him. The match with Sydal was the first time we’d ever touched in ring. That Ray Rosas match I mentioned was the first time we’d ever touched also. I find once you’ve had a few matches with somebody, it’s easy – you can figure it out. But I like the challenge of ‘Man, we’re going to have a good one and we’ve never touched before’, you know what I mean? So that’s why I’m proud of those ones.
Our thanks to Aaron for taking the time to chat with Inside The Ropes. For more info, you can follow Aaron on Twitter, Instagram and even pick up some merch via his Pro Wrestling Tees store!