Ricky Starks has taken AEW by storm, from being a promising young star to a full-fledged superstar – sharing the ring with the likes of Sting, and winning the FTW Championship.
Ricky, I appreciate the commitment to fashion, to even just talk to me today.
That’s almost worse for me to hear that this is you with no effort, but anyway! You’re one of the hottest stars in AEW right now, but you’ve had a very interesting journey. I want to ask you about that near two-year run in NWA where I guess a lot of people first saw you and first got to grips with you. How important was that?
That was two years?! I could have sworn it was shorter than that!
I think it was like a year and a half, but it was like 2018 to to mid 2020.
Yeah, for sure. You know, obviously, that you said you had a career path in mind that led you to the open challenge with Cody. How did it come about?
So you do the match with Cody, how long is it before you get signed?
What was going through your mind to get that offer in the middle of a time when typically people aren’t being offered the job of their lives?
Then Team Taz happens. Tell us about that.
So the thing with Team Taz is that I had met Taz and, dude, the first time I saw him, he was like, “You know, you’re very unique in your style,” and this and that. And of course, I already knew of Cage, and so Taz had basically asked me if I wanted to join the group. And I said, “Absolutely, I would love to” – just because I think when people look at me, they don’t expect me to be of the personality of someone like Taz or of the personality of someone like Cage, these two badass dudes who are brooding and menacing in their own right. And I think people look at me and they go, “Oh, just a little pretty guy who, you know, he is what he is”. But I mean, I can still whoop anyone’s ass, I have no fear of anyone. So I thought it was a fit that worked out so well.
And what’s it been like working with Taz?
Man, it’s incredible, like there’s things that he tells me that I would have never thought of, he sits me down and gives me advice and the small little nuggets of knowledge that he has. So, I can’t put a value on it. He’s helped me out in my career aspects for in-ring stuff and then the business side of things as well. So it’s been great. Like, I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.
So, you do the Cody match, you get signed, you’re in Team Taz then you’re working with Moxley, Darby Allin. It’s not “one day” – you’re straight in! I know you’re a confident guy so I assume you had visions of it happening at some point, but how do you handle being in that exposed spot straight away?
You know what? I don’t think anyone’s ever ready for anything, ever. You just prepare yourself and work hard until a situation like that comes up.
Honestly, I thought that it was very, very telling of the company and their trust in me to put me in those situations so quickly. I am a guy that only works under pressure. I like having that feeling of there being a ton of pressure, whether that’s what I apply to myself or whether that’s something that is a tangible thing, I like that. And that’s where I’m able to really hit my stride and succeed.
So to work with people like Darby and Moxley and then go on to wrestle Sting, like that’s insane. But it was a challenge that I loved and I think I knocked it out of the park.
I mean, you and Darby had – and have – such good chemistry together. How good is it to have someone where you just work so well together?
Yeah. You know, I can’t stand Darby as a person – still annoys me. And I think it’s the face paint, the half-face paint. But I can’t deny the fact that that dude has something that obviously everyone else can feel and sometimes you can’t. There’s an aura that you really can’t, like, pinpoint or really describe. He has that and on top of that, the chemistry that I have with him is undeniable as well.
I think that the reason is our mindsets are pretty much one in the same. And to be straight up with you, me and Darby aren’t that far off as far as being the same person, just on total opposite ends of the world. Two guys that came from the Indies that really weren’t popular, that really weren’t given a chance at certain companies and whatnot and knew that their value was always that of much more than what these companies were willing to offer or what they saw. And so I think with that in mind, that’s where the chemistry kind of plays in.
We mentioned Covid, and AEW’s journey has been unique with the talent around ringside, then having up to 1,000 fans in, then we’re – fingers crossed – back to normal now. I know no crowds can either hinder or help certain talents. How was that process for you?
I mentioned this earlier that I think I was meant to wrestle in large crowds, not that I don’t mind the intimate settings of like the 50, 1,000 or the 1,500, things like that. But I think having these people back is such a great thing.
I knew that this day would come. I knew that we would have fans back. It was a matter of having the patience for it because sometimes you go out there and you’re wrestling in front of other wrestlers and it’s cold and you don’t always feel it. But that is what it is. It’s an interaction between people who love wrestling and people who want to give the people their money’s worth. And that is what I’ve been since day one. So, dude, I can’t… I get goosebumps even just hearing the roar of the crowd before a show because it’s so cool.
Now, I know you’ve spoken about being a wrestling fan growing up, so tell me about the moment Sting walks through those doors and makes his AEW debut. What was that like? And do you remember being told you were going to be working with Sting?
Honestly, it kind of was just sprung on me at the very last minute, I think, when he came in and then things started to fall into place. That’s when I was like, “Oh, this is pretty cool.” To be straight up with you, I wasn’t a big WCW fan growing up. I primarily watched WWF. But obviously Sting was a huge, and still is a huge name even outside of that WCW banner.
It wasn’t lost on me, the magnitude of what was happening, being in charge of this guy’s first match in six years and coming back from that, I can’t fathom it, man, that’s the hard part is hard to fathom these things because who would have thought? I would have never thought that when I was younger – ever.
I mean, because you guys do this match at Revolution, it’s cinematic, and I guess, a little bit of pressure there from the standpoint that Sting had only been cleared now to do this. How was that experience of doing a cinematic match and being Sting’s first match in six years?
Well, let’s go ahead and give it a title. It’s a good headline to say – this was the best cinematic match ever.
By far. And there’s no-one who can argue with me on that. It was the best cinematic match that you will ever see and it cannot be topped. It was a crazy experience because we were filming until 4am and it was raining and it was cold and we were in a big abandoned textile factory, basically, and every one of us went hard as hell. We made sure that we combed over every piece of idea, scenes, things like that, that we could have. To have that was interesting to put his trust in us, that was very, very cool, that was a huge honour.
So, you’re the FTW Champion. I asked Tony Khan about it a few months ago as it seems like it should be featured when it is. Do you think, when Rampage starts, that’s going to be a chance for more you guys to do more with the title and to explore that a little bit more?