Over the past week, brave men and women have shared their stories of surviving abuse in the British professional wrestling scene and beyond through #SpeakingOut.
Numerous women have shared stories involving former IMPACT Wrestling World Heavyweight Champion Austin Aries. An anonymous independent wrestler said Aries sexually assaulted her. A woman by the name of Tori shared her friend's story who said Austin climbed into her bed without permission and put his hand on her thigh. Two more women also said Aries previously made inappropriate comments towards them.
The former WWE Superstar issued a statement yesterday and denied the accusations against him, saying, "I am not a sexual predator, I'm not a user, I am not an abuser."
Aries wrote: "I've been reading, listening and reflecting. Our world has changed a lot in my 40+ years on this planet and my 20 years in the world of pro wrestling. Frankly, I'm happy we are collectively addressing some of these long-standing, not-so-secret dirty secrets, and exposing a dark underbelly of not just pro-wrestling, but all of our society. It's long overdue, I welcome it, and I want to help move these discussions forward about abuse of power and our relationships, roles and responsibilities to one another as men and women.
To be able to do that effectively and have any credibility, I have to be transparent and I have to be honest about my own successes and failures in this space. I certainly haven't lived a flawless life. I haven't always said the right thing or made the right choice, whether professionally or personally. But let me be clear: I know who I am and who I'm not. I am not a sexual predator, I'm not a user, I am not an abuser.
Contrary to what some believe, the Austin Aries character that I portray and the man that I am are not one and the same. Now, more than ever, making that distinction is important. Daniel Healy Solwold Jr., the man that I am, condemns abuse of all forms and is here to join others in speaking out. I have nothing to hide. I'm here to listen and I'm here to talk. I want that responsibility, because ultimately that's what will help me become a better person and help me leave this world, and the pro wrestling universe, a better place. I've seen and heard a lot in my two decades involved in pro wrestling that I'm not ok with. As products of our environment, it seems we have an opportunity to finally change that environment for the better. I'm all for it and I'm all in. If I was ever part of the problem, please know the sincerest apology I can offer is to be part of the solution.
Love and Light,