Austin Aries vs. Jeff Hardy from TNA Bound For Glory 2012
I remember having a lot of anticipation for this match at the time, basically having a view of it as being TNA’s equivalent of CM Punk vs. John Cena. I was a big supporter of Austin Aries as World Heavyweight Champion. Over the course of his tenure since returning to TNA in 2011, he was almost always in the best match of every PPV, eventually earning the fanfare of the fans and going on to win the World Championship at Destination X 2012. Jeff Hardy was having a slow built return coming off of a rough 2011 with him wanting to earn back the respect of the roster and the fans, paying off by having him become victorious in the 2012 Bound For Glory series. The build to this saw that Aries felt that he could match everything that Hardy had and he wanted what Hardy had that he didn’t in terms of things such as Hardy’s pocketbook, complete with a heel-turn on the go-home show to Bound For Glory which I found to be a questionable move rather than the story they already had set up of Jeff Hardy looking for redemption versus the best wrestler in the promotion at the time plus the little details thrown in. This would be a first time meeting between the two of them in the ring.
Recap by JP Nichols:
Aries appeared to have new gear for this show while Jeff Hardy debuted new theme music, a tradition he tried to keep at Bound For Glory for some time. Both are nice touches to add to the big match feel. The Arizona crowd was much more pro Aries in the initial stages of the match. Aries gets Hardy into the corner. Clean break but Hardy shoves Aries away. Aries gets Hardy down and into a side headlock position. The Hardy fans are making the voices more heard as Aries maintains control. Hardy slaps Aries across the face and Aries backs off to the Hogan ramp. Collar and elbow tie up. Clean break from Hardy and this time Aries shoves him away and mouths off to him. Hardy goes low and puts Aries facefirst into the corners. Aries takes down Hardy with a side headlock takedown while holding the arm down. Hardy gets a headscissors and Aries MISSES his trademark dropkick out of the headstand. Hardy stomps Aries down in the corner. Irish Whip reversal and Aries sends Hardy to the apron. Sunset flip attempt by Hardy over the ropes, Aries rolls through and this time hits the dropkick. He chokes Hardy with his boot on the apron. Over the top rope and Aries double clubs Hardy across the chest. Aries goes for a victory lap.
Aries gets back on the apron with Hardy now back to his feet. Brian Hebner separates them and Aries takes time to pose on the top turnbuckle. Hardy charges but Brian Hebner backs him up. When Aries goes to get in the ring, Hardy kicks the middle rope low blowing Aries. Hardy than scores a high angle vertical suplex for a 2 count. He dropkicks Aries from the apron to the floor. Hardy then MOCKS Aries in the ring before doing a double sledge from the apron to the floor. Hardy rearranges the steps. Aries goes to throw Hardy into the steps but Hardy reverses and sends Aries head first into the steps. Hardy sets up Aries on the floor against the rail. He goes airborne using the steps for Poetry In Motion on Aries on the floor.
Back in the ring for a 2 count for Hardy. Irish whip reversal and Hardy goes for a Whisper In The Wind but Aries dodges it. Aries goes to the middle rope and hits an elbow drop for 2. Aries throws a pair of knees and a back elbow to Hardy’s back. Aries grabs Hardy by the hair and throws strikes at Hardy’s midsection and head. Irish whip into the corner and Hardy throws up a boot. He goes for a middle rope splash but Aries gets his knees up. Cover for a 2 count by Aries. Aries then does a backbreaker shades of Roderick Strong on Hardy. Aries does a grounded abdominal stretch cradled into a pin for a 2 count. Crowd begins a LOUD dueling chant for both competitors. Snapmare by Aries out of the corner and a missile dropkick to the back from the middle rope for 2. Aries sets up for the Brainbuster. Hardy counters with a Sitout Front Suplex. Hardy to the ropes and Aries knees Hardy in the gut. Corkscrew dive over the top rope by Aries for 2. Aries goes for the Last Chancery but Hardy hooks the leg and stops him. He strikes his way out. To the ropes and a kick to Aries. Hardy then busts out an OVERBOMB~! for a 2 count. Aries is loopy as Hardy strikes at him. Into the corner, Aries throws up a boot. He comes off the top and Hardy gets an Atomic Drop/Double Legdrop/Dropkick combination for 2. Hardy runs Aries into the corner twice and this time scores Whisper In The Wind for a 2 count. A light “Hardy sucks” chant begins. Hardy goes for a Twist of Fate and gets shoved into the corner. Hardy sends Aries to the floor and uses the ropes to dropkick Aries into the rail. He goes for a slingshot splash to the floor but nobody in the pool. Aries goes into the ring and hits the Heat Seeking Missile dive sending Hardy into the rail.
Aries goes back in the ring as Brian Hebner begins the 10 count. Aries then goes for a second Heat Seeking Missile and hits it. He rolls Hardy into the ring for a 2 count as Aries is now cut, potentially from hitting the guardrail. Another quick cover for 2 and Aries gets Hardy in Last Chancery position preceded by a pair of knees to the head. Hardy gets to the ropes and Aries breaks the hold before the 5 count. Aries throws Hardy onto the Hogan ramp. Aries positions Hardy for a Brainbuster. Hardy counters and goes for a Twist of Fate. Aries shoves Hardy into the ropes and clotheslines Hardy into the ropes, Hardy not going back in the ring. Aries drapes Hardy across the middle rope and hits a neckbreaker, sending the back of Hardy’s head crashing into the lip of the ramp. That looked like no fun for Jeff whatsoever.
Missile dropkick by Aries sending Hardy into the opposite corner. Aries sets up the IED but Hardy gets the boot up. Mid-ring exchange of strikes. Hardy gets the Twist of Fate but only for a 2 count. Hardy goes all the way to the top as the crowd boos. Aries gets the ropes crotching Hardy. Aries goes up top and scores a jumping top rope FRANKENSTEINER~! Hardy goes to the opposite corner as Aries scores the IED. He grabs Hardy and Brainbuster, but only a 2 count. Aries puts Hardy up on the top rope in a tree of woe position. Aries goes for a Double Stomp out of that position but Hardy ducks. Hardy uses the ropes and catches Aries in a stunner essentially. He then hits a second Twist of Fate followed by a Swanton Bomb for the 3 count in about 23 minutes.
So the negatives of the match first, and none involve the in-ring quality of the match. I understand the idea of this match going into it was that Jeff Hardy was having his redemption story. However, I find the idea of Jeff winning here to be very short-sighted. For starters, Austin Aries had an incredible run in TNA up to this point (and following) by earning fanfare through how much he delivered in the ring and his own charisma. That was on display here in front of the Arizona crowd by the way they took to him over arguably the biggest name in the company. Had Aries gotten the win here, I feel that that would have truly helped solidify him as *the* guy in the company and would have given him a lot of momentum heading into TNA’s 2013 as Champion, not to mention it would have given more oomph into his title reign that already was forced to play second fiddle at times due to factors such as Aces & 8’s and Claire Lynch. In addition, in a few months, TNA would be going to the UK and due to Jeff Hardy’s personal matters, they did a story to lay him out, preventing the World Championship from being present in the UK (TNA’s biggest shows of the year in terms of attendance.) Granted there were other routes they could have chosen to avoid that (such as allowing Christopher Daniels to win the Championship in January 2013,) but they went the route that they did and eventually Bully Ray would be the one to dethrone Hardy in Texas at Lockdown 2013.
With all that being said, the match was very, very good and is by far the best Bound For Glory main event of the ten Bound For Glorys to take place. Aries was working on a higher level than the already high standard that he set for himself in TNA. He went into the bag of tricks to pull out a few things that he had not done before and completely absorbed the reception that he received from the very energetic Arizona crowd. Jeff Hardy really turned himself around in 2012 after a rocky road upon his return to TNA in 2010 and gave arguably his strongest performance at the time of his latest stint in TNA (ironically doing the same in his first run in 2005 and in the 2010 main event if you separate Jeff 2010-2011 and 2012-present in this TNA run.) These two had great chemistry together and it would lead to more great matches together with them down the line. This was the one that started that and it lived up to the title of the main event of TNA’s biggest show of the year. High recommendation to check out the match.