IMPACT Wrestling went through a complete resurgence in 2020, becoming an “overnight success” at Slammiversary after three years of hard work. From seemingly partnering with AEW, to new signings and television deals to new faces, the company has gone from strength to strength.
One man who has been in it for the long haul, though, despite only being 23 years old, is former X-Division Champion and Super-X Cup Winner, ‘The Inevitable’ Ace Austin. Inside The Ropes‘ Lead Writer Gary Cassidy sat down with the X-Division Star of the Year for 2020 to chat all about his career thus far, and whether Ace Austin could become the youngest ever IMPACT World Champion.
Congratulations on your recent Super X-Cup win! However, I want to start bring you crashing back down to earth, then we can only go upwards for the rest of the interview. As a long-time IMPACT fan and someone who’s watched you along the way, I look back at 2020 thinking one of the biggest missed opportunities might be that Ace Austin didn’t become IMPACT World Champion. I listened to yourself and Tommy Dreamer having a chat over on his podcast about how there had been plans for you to become champion. Is there any frustration that you haven’t become World Champion yet, or are you just completely confident in what you’re doing and know your time will come?
You’ve got to take the good with the bad. I have to say that, it feels like my biggest career failure so far, almost – but “The Inevitable” was born out of that. The confidence that I have in my ability is where that “inevitable” phrase comes from, because I have zero doubt in my mind that, that might not have been the day, but it’s never over. I’m not a quitter, so I’ve still got time and I’m confident that I’m going to make that happen.
I know you turn 24 later this month and then there’s a 170-day countdown for you to become THE youngest IMPACT World Champion ever. Is that something that’s on your mind?
I know that! I didn’t know the number. What was the number? 170 days?
Tessa Blanchard was 24 years and 170 days, so roughly 24 and a half…
24 and a half… I did look that up! All right, so… 170 days.
I want to go back… I feel like saying to the start of your career shouldn’t be that long ago, but it is! But I want to go back to your more heavily “magician” influenced character – which I loved, but if you mention to someone “There’s a magician in TNA” they would have imagined the OPPOSITE of what you were. Was that a stigma you were aware of, and was magic a big part of your life growing up?
No, the magician element was it was totally accidental. It was not intended at all. I’m not a magician, I don’t really know any magic tricks. It was a Gambit thing.
I mean, not at first. So, when I originally came up with the character idea, it was when I was a young kid and it was because, when I used to play the video games, I always put this tattoo on my character – I don’t know why, I just always felt compelled to put the cards on my character’s shoulder. [Ace lifts his sleeve to show his perfectly-described tattoo]
From doing that, year after year, in these video games, it was just like… I just thought about this “Ace” idea, this “Ace” character. That seed always stayed implanted in my brain and then, as I got older and eventually I started training, it was like I was able to connect those dots. Purple and blue were just my favorite colors. I had the “ace up the sleeve” idea. I thought it was clever, I thought it would be good character stuff. So, I just ran with that and then fans would would say, “Oh, I love the Gambit thing.” And I was always like, “What?” I didn’t even think about it. And then like, “Obviously, OK. Yeah, totally. It totally does scream that.”
As I got further into my career and I found the big trenchcoat, I was like, “Oh man, this is kind of perfect. I have to do this.” And then when I discovered the stick, the wand, I was like, “I have got to go full Gambit.” So I did. I think it was a cool nod because superheroes are probably my biggest influence, really, so I thought it was kind of a perfect way to be able to show myself through. The best way to be a pro wrestler is to put yourself into what you do, it’s the best way to be authentic.
But then people that didn’t think “Gambit” thought “magician” so it kind of just like spiraled into this whole thing, and then I did magic gags just for fun, just for the certain situations – but, yeah, that’s definitely a stigma I really try to stay away from as much as possible now, because it’s exactly that, you know, you tell somebody magician and they think it’s probably kind of lame, like a pro wrestling sense.
Well, it speaks volumes for your character work because you had me fooled! I thought you actually were a magician outside of wrestling! I know you’re into skateboarding and parkour, but I thought magic was in there too. Knowing you’re a parkour enthusiast and an avid skateboarder, I can think of a couple names I’d like to see you up against in my dream IMPACT vs AEW match, in Angelico and Darby Allin, but I need to ask – are there any others you want to face from AEW?
Those are certainly appealing. I actually wrestled Darby Allin in Rhode Island for an indie company called XWA, and that was awesome! It was really, really amazing. And this is probably two years ago now that happened. I see a lot of fans on Twitter throwing out Sammy Guevara. People want to see that match, which is a match I haven’t had, so of course that’s tempting as well. Surprisingly, I haven’t ever wrestled Brian Cage. It’s certainly a match I’d be interested in. PAC too! Some people compare me to PAC.
That would be one hell of an athletic encounter! I’m exhausted just thinking of that one. Obviously those AEW dream matches are being thrown around by everyone, and rightly so as it’s all incredibly exciting, but my main question on that was actually linked to the first question and those “opportunities” to become the face of IMPACT. Everything looked geared towards you winning at Slammiversary I thought, then we have all the huge names returning to IMPACT, then you prove you can keep up with them and the AEW stuff happens. What your reaction was when you found out about it? Was it, “What an opportunity” or was it, “Oh, no, not more competition and more people standing in the way of me making it to the very top?
No. Absolutely not. I don’t think I can be outshined. I think that the statements I made at Hard To Kill… That was no promo, it was 100% real. The show shouldn’t be without Ace Austin. I’m too valuable an asset to IMPACT Wrestling for me not to be a figurehead, especially going up against AEW.
You mentioned two words there, being a “valuable asset” – which leads me to a really match you had with a man who’s actually competed in AEW and WWE over the past year, in Matt Cardona. How much pride do you take in being trusted to be the man to usher such a big name into IMPACT, and what was that experience like for you?
It’s moments like that, that are like a real test of your growth as a professional athlete in this industry. Zack Ryder, Matt Cardona, is one of those guys that I watched as a young kid with my brother, he was one of the guys that we liked a lot. So, like… That’s happened to me so often now in my career that those moments are the true test where you have to have that moment inside of yourself where it’s like, “Of course, as a human being, this is so exciting, this is so fulfilling” – but as a professional athlete, as a competitor, you have to glaze that over and you have to be ready for the fight.
Your emotions are going crazy internally but you have to keep calm on the outside.
Exactly, and that’s what makes or breaks you and that’s why I’ve gone so far so fast, because I’m able to flip that switch and be like, “I won’t be outshined by anyone, even my favorite pro wrestlers in the world.”
Well, I loved that because who better to introduce someone to IMPACT? Matt Cardona has wrestled a lot of people who are in IMPACT, but not Ace Austin! And obviously the people I’m talking about are the likes of Eric Young and Rhino, then you look at the veterans like Tommy Dreamer. I want to ask your thoughts on those older talents. People always criticise older talents taking a spot from younger stars – but there is the balance of them being able to deliver priceless advice. As one of THE youngest, what are your thoughts on that?
One of the major reasons that I chose to start my career with IMPACT Wrestling was because I think they do a very good job with that. I think that they use older talents that can still go, it’s not just somebody that’s taking up a spot. It’s somebody that’s another valuable asset, somebody that is adding something to the show, and working with them is amazing. Everybody at IMPACT has been just amazing to work with overall. I don’t feel like there’s anybody that. I’m just like, “It’d be better if they weren’t here.” That’s just the major thing. “Can they still can they still put on that show? Can they still bring that element to the show? I think they all can.
While I think you’re a superb singles star, I’ve loved seeing you alongside Madman Fulton. I’m not sure if this is because, when I interviewed him, he spoke a lot about the influence of Kane, but I see you guys as being very similar to one of my favourite makeshift tag teams of all time in Kane and X-Pac! Is that something that’s deliberate, or that you’re aware of?
I’ve definitely made that connection. I remember that. That’s one of that’s one of the things that I remember, as a kid, watching, was the Kane and X Pac thing. Just some of the old stuff I’ve been watching lately, that’s something that I totally thought of at some point, but I’m glad someone brought that up. Yeah. No, I’m fine with that. X Pac was great!
We mentioned the skateboarding earlier and how you went to the Gambit character. Obviously we can see the parkour influences but there isn’t any very obvious skateboarding stuff. Might we see more skateboarding influences in the future or is it now a case of Darby Allin having that nailed on so much that you avoid the stigma of people thinking you’re trying to be him even though you’ve been skateboarding your whole life?
See, that’s the thing. The reason I didn’t do anything with the skateboard at the beginning… Like “Ace” was always the plan, but I totally wanted to add a skateboard element way back. Then I saw Rob Dyrdek. He teamed with Roddy Piper in a match on Fantasy Factory or whatever. I can’t remember the details, but I remember him dropping in and skateboarding to the ring and it was awesome. And I was like, “Right, I can’t… I can never do that.” When I saw that, “I can’t” because I thought, like, “Oh, people are just going to think of that.” Wrestling fans, they might not have, they probably wouldn’t have, but I don’t think I needed it. I think it was a better decision not to add that element to my character for sure.
Less chance of injury – and that’s something definitely worth minimising the risk of!
Oh yeah. For sure. But now, now especially I wouldn’t do it because Darby is so, so good with what he’s doing. And I don’t need it.
And we mentioned the AEW dream matches, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves because there’s still an abundance of IMPACT talent for Ace Austin to take on. Who’s the one talent you’ve not wrestled yet that you want to get in the squared circle with?
Myself and Rich Swann still have yet to compete in IMPACT Wrestling, and the matches that we’ve had on the Indies, the matches we had on MLW. I think my match with Blake Christian spoke volumes about my abilities and I think my match with Rich Swann, hopefully for the World Championship would be something that the rest of the world can’t ignore.
We’ve got almost 200 days to get that match so you can make history! Simple one to end. What is Ace Austin’s goal going forward?
I’m going to be the youngest World Champion. I’m going to be the youngest World Champion in the history of IMPACT Wrestling.
Thanks so much to Ace Austin for taking the time, and to IMPACT UK & Ireland for facilitating the interview. Fans in the UK & Ireland can catch IMPACT! every week on IMPACT Plus Wednesday on Facebook & YouTube, and catch all IMPACT PPVs via IMPACT Plus and Fite TV worldwide.