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RICKY STARKS TALKS FACING DANHAUSEN ON DYNAMITE, OVERCOMING HIS NECK INJURY, HIS FTW TITLE RUN, POWERHOUSE HOBBS, TWO YEARS IN AEW AND MORE: COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT

By Mike Johnson on 2022-07-27 17:39:00

Just hours before his scheduled FTW title defense against the very unique Danhausen, AEW's Ricky Starks sat down this morning with PWInsider.com about his AEW run, successes, setbacks and much more.  Thanks to Billy Krotchsen for the transcription.

Mike Johnson: Hey, everybody, it's Mike Johnson back in the audio section of PWInsiderElite.com. It is Wednesday, July 27, 2022 and this is the only audio on the site this week guaranteed not to talk about Vince McMahon, because AEW is returning tonight to the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts, the famous fighting town of Worcester for AEW Dynamite. There's a lot of big matches taking place in the show, including the return of Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley against Rush for the AEW interim World Heavyweight Championship, but the FTW Champion is also scheduled, as our guest this time Ricky Starks will be defending against Danhausen and we're going to talk about that and a whole lot more. Sir, first of all, it is early in the morning as we record this, I appreciate the time. How the heck are you?

Ricky Starks: Doing great actually. I'm here at the Boston Hilton Hotel, overlooking the skyline of Boston, which is pretty nice. And I'm really looking forward to this match tonight. I think it's going to be something that people aren't really expecting from me. They think that...I know some people think that I'm terrified of Danhausen, but it's quite the contrary.

Mike Johnson: He is a very unique personality and he's a very unique professional wrestler. In fact, when he first came to AEW after the demise of the old version of Ring of Honor, there were a lot of emails like, 'Why is he here? He doesn't fit the roster.' And I was like, that's exactly why he's there - because he's different from everyone else and different is good, especially in a world like pro wrestling. But I do want to ask you, what were your first reactions when you first, not even encountered Danhausen, but saw him walk in the locker room and saw him coming into the company?

Ricky Starks: I wasn't that surprised, I figured it would only be a matter of time. I met Danhausen on the independents, I've seen the growth with Danhausen, and I kind of figured it was going to go hand in hand with AEW. Tony really looks at the stats and numbers, especially when it comes to the online presence that one person has, so to me it was a no brainer. I'm not surprised that people are big fans of him. Just look at him...you don't really get it, but you kind of do get it all in the same breath.

Mike Johnson: We just passed the two year anniversary about a month or so ago your AEW debut and you've had so many highs and lows already in the company, between the FTW title run, recovery from injury...

Ricky Starks: My neck.

Mike Johnson: Yeah, I was going to say the neck injury, having the opportunity to do commentary on AEW TV. When you look back at those two years, what have the last couple of years and having the AEW platform meant to you and how much do you think you've changed as a performer and as a person having the AEW opportunity under your belt?

Ricky Starks: The past year has been very rocky, has come with a lot of frustrations, a lot of you know, internal thoughts that really have kind of made me step back and try to reassess. Life is not fair, and I would say that first and foremost, neither is pro wrestling. But I am thankful to have the platform that I've had and thankful to have had the chance to do commentary and still be on TV in some type of way but at the end of the day, all of these perspectives and situations that I've been in, I have a unique view on it, right? As opposed to you or someone else that looks on from the outside. But that's not to say that I haven't been appreciative of what I had. I feel as if I'm having to play catch up here. And I know everyone's going to talk about you know, "You have time, be patient." I actually f**king hate that. I really hate people telling you that because that is not true. And that is great advice for a person who is 20, 19, 21. But for someone such as myself, who is, I feel like a complete package right now, you know, you don't hear anyone tell an MJF, "Hey, be patient." Everyone is saying that it's different, and that right there kind of pisses me off. So I think with that type of fire lit underneath me, especially with the stuff that happened with the tag team title scene,  and I have the experience with the commentary and getting back in the ring, I think the rest of this year should be pretty, pretty easy for me if you get what I'm saying.

Mike Johnson: How much of the neck injury and having to work through the recovery shaped your...I don't want to say attitude, because it's the wrong word, but your perception towards, don't tell me to wait and wanting to basically embrace and get everything that you can right now in the moment? Obviously, anytime the neck is an issue, it's a scary thing. But making that comeback, how much of that kind of governed how you look at things going forward?

Ricky Starks: I think it has changed my viewpoint a lot. Obviously the neck injury was something that was scary just because I could have had it all ended and taken away from me before I even came off the starting line, you get what I mean? And the thought of that is so scary to me. Because here's a guy who really didn't get a chance to really show what he can do and then now it's over, you know. So with that being in my mind, I do think a lot of the way that I move in the ring or the way that I'm progressing and things like that. I'm not saying I need to be rushed at all, because I'm thankful and appreciative that Tony's taking the time but in the other note, how much more does one person have to wait? You know, I'm not saying this to Tony. I'm just saying in a general sense. There has to be a point where you have to just fire on all cylinders, and you're already ready to go. So the neck injury does cross my mind quite a bit because I don't want to get hurt again. And I do protect myself and I do take care of myself. And we're now at a point where I feel like I'm the old Ricky before the neck injury. I feel like that with a bit of, some improved trinkets on, so I try not to let it take too much of my time in terms of thinking about it. But I'd be lying to you if I said that I'm okay and that I've moved on from it.

Mike Johnson: I think that's a normal human reaction to a situation like that because a major injury like that, you know, even if you heal 100%, mentally that scar doesn't go away emotionally, that scar doesn't go away. And so it's going to it's going to govern what you do going forward. As we mentioned, you're wrestling Danhausen tonight. You've had the FTW Championship, a belt that originated many years ago in the original ECW with Taz, quite some time. What is the the FTW Championship run meant to you and what's it like dealing with Taz who always has an opinion on everything? 

Ricky Starks: (laughs) Well you of all people would know the answer to that. Honestly, I've been the champion for well over a year and I think that's a true testament to not only myself because I know there's a lot of things about the title and, you know, whatever people may think, I would like to say it right here, I have done more for that title than anyone else has done in this company, and the things that I have done for the title so far is greatly beyond expectations of what people had in this company, you know? So if that isn't a true testament of hey, this guy took a title, you know, he brought it back to prominence and gave it new life for the newer fans to go back and look into the history of this title. I don't know how much more I can do to prove to people the type of talent that I am and the type of you know, self worth and dollar size I have on me. It's been great, it's been really fun to have the title and to do the most with it at times that haven't felt like an albatross around my neck, but for the most part, and I'm being honest, for the most part, I have taken great pride in carrying the FTW title in doing for it what I saw in my vision of what it was, and that was a conversation that I had with Taz back in Jacksonville. I said, "If I'm going to be champion, you need to let me be the FTW champion that Ricky Starks sees fit." And so with that type of freedom, I think Taz, I would assume and I would hope that Taz has been very proud of the fact that I've done good by him with that title. So yeah, the train keeps rolling. You know, I really think that the FTW is a great thing that I have had just because of the type of work that...I've made this title feel more important than some of the other titles on our show, anybody can quote that, because that's just a fact.

Mike Johnson: One of the unique things about professional wrestling is everyone wants every single person in that locker room that you work in to do well, but you want to do better than every other person. So there there's like that friendly competition. Over the weekend, we saw the latest Ring of Honor Death Before Dishonor pay per view, which if anybody didn't see it, go see the main event, it was absolutely awesome with the Briscoes and FTR. But I was curious, what are your thoughts on Tony Khan bringing back Ring of Honor and you know, do you think the Ring of Honor existing, even if it's just for now, some of the talents popping up on AEW programming and the pay per views? Do you think that puts a little bit of extra pressure on the AEW locker room to continue to step it up even more, which sounds crazy given the output of what an AEW TV show looks like every week?

Ricky Starks: Even before they came back and started running their their own stand alone shows, me personally, I'm not too bothered by it. And that sounds a bit cocky. But hey, that's what we're in. I'm not bothered by it just because that world exists within its own little bubble and the bubble that I'm in, which is AEW, I'm just focused on that and focused on making the most of what I have. I've been with the company for 2 years now and the past year, I've really had a rocky stop and start stop and start. So I can't allow myself to be worried and focused about you know, Ring of Honor, or another company that we may have or whatnot. So while I do think it's great for us to have to make some money, to me when it comes to talent side and the competition side, I'm already gunning way past all of that.

Mike Johnson: Obviously your gift for gab has been a big part of the Ricky Starks that we see on camera and you've got great poise. What was it like figuring that out for yourself and perfecting the Ricky Starks that we see on AEW programming every week?

Ricky Starks: I feel like... I had heard a comment recently, a fan tweeted to me that you know, you finally found that confidence on the microphone. I was wanting to so quick tell him, did I finally find my confidence or did I finally find more time to actually speak? (laughs) I think having the ability to talk and present myself has always been my favorite thing to do. And I think as time has gone on, and as I've experienced life more I think that's an attitude, you know, I navigate myself on the microphone on these pre tapes or backstage things like that. So I think it's fun for me to finally be like, Yo, this is what I did. This is who I am all along. I know it seems like no one really knows that. I promise you there's not much of like I'm not changing my voice, you know, completely. It's just who I've been. And I've only been able to express that a little bit more, because of the freedom of the platforms that we've had, which is like the AEW Road To, that's been great. Or, you know, having a promo on Dynamite and coming up there talking so fast, because I already know that they're on my *ss about time or something like that. It's been fun. It's been challenging and annoying, but that's that's the way of live TV and pro wrestling. But I think it's cool for me to  have that difference, because if you go back and watch my promos from when I first started to here, they're night and day difference, but that's only because I've actually had experience and I've gone through things in life and within AEW to aid in that.

Mike Johnson: We'd be remiss not to mention your alliance with Powerhouse Hobbs,. What it was like figuring out the chemistry with him and also Hook and Taz and the whole deal but specifically the team that you and Powerhouse Hobbs, I think it's clicked so well. We've just see you guys in the three way for the AEW World Tag Team Championships. But to me, it almost feels like that duo has been together forever, which is obviously not the case. What was it like figuring out the chemistry and finding that bond on camera and off with Hobbs?

Ricky Starks: You know, the chemistry was out there. We are really good friends and I think that helps. And that's kind of the basis of what you see on TV is really what you see outside of that, which I think that has helped us out tremendously, tremendously. Me, Hobbs, Hook, we all get along and we all have a very good friendship with each other that most people don't see. And that's the thing. It's a matter of getting the time to really show that stuff. And in the past month we've had time to really show it and I think that has only helped us out. And it's cool to see people talk about the chemistry that me and him have because I don't feel like we're forcing anything. I don't feel like we're a bunch of corny guys that try to say hey, we're the best of friends! No, we're just two guys that just naturally flow. And I helped him out quite a bit with the promos and make sure that he gets his time in and try...I'm not saying I'm the best promo but at least I know a little something when it comes to how somebody should present themselves. So I tried to help out with Hobbs with that but man that's my homie. He's been great.

Mike Johnson: I promised everybody we wouldn't talk about Vince McMahon and we won't but we can't end the conversation without talking about Tony Kahn when it comes to AEW. Obviously, someone who's in his position is in the hot seat. Everyone's going to have an opinion on everything that he does and their thoughts on it right, wrong or indifferent. But you get to work with Tony hand in hand every week. Thoughts on him as a boss and maybe how he's changed over the last couple of years in your perception as AEW continues to grow and entrench its roots?

Ricky Starks: You gotta realize, he has in hand in a lot of things. He's constantly pulled in a million directions. But when it comes to AEW and the wrestling side, he is always willing to talk to you and encouraging, he is a very encouraging person. And I personally have seen the growth of him from the Jacksonville days to here and it's gotten, I would assume his workload has gotten increasingly more heavy and that he is managing as best as he can to make sure that we have a television show every week. When it comes to me needing to talk to him, open communication there, I can easily get through to him. I don't have to go through hoops and hurdles and things like that. But that's because I have you know, I've been, I've endeared myself to him in terms of someone he can trust and someone that's not going to give him any issues. So I think that helps with that. But as we move and we have to transform ourselves due to the climate of professional wrestling, I think he is doing the best he can, I really do. And I think with the whole Vince McMahon stuff and the new regime and all that coming in, I think you'll see another side of him really turn it up to where the competition is on. And I don't see him doing anything less than that.

Mike Johnson: Well, the competition is going to be on tonight when you wrestle Danhausen live on AEW Dynamite tonight on TBS 8pm Eastern. Before we go, let's do the hardest question last - why should everyone make sure they're watching AEW Dynamite tonight?

Ricky Starks: Well one reason is the guy on the phone right now, me - Ricky Starks. I think you should watch because I'm a can't miss talent, but also tonight's going to have some fun, really special surprises that I think people are going to really enjoy. Obviously me retaining the FTW title is not going to surprise anybody, but the other matches that we're going to have, Danielson/Garcia, we have Sammy and Dante, there's a lot of surprises within those I think people should really tune in for, so as much of a cocky person as I am, I'm also a modest guy so you don't tune in for me at least you can tune in for those other four gentlemen. I'll just leave it at that.

Mike Johnson: All right, everyone. Well, you could check out those other four gentlemen tonight on AEW Dynamite. And you can follow our guest at this time Ricky Starks on Twitter @StarkmanJones. His Instagram, @StarkyBaby. I want to thank everybody for listening and hope you enjoy your break from all the chaos that's happening elsewhere in pro wrestling.  Ricky it's been a pleasure talking to you. I hope we get you back on here soon to talk a little bit more. I wanted to chat New Orleans with you but we'll leave that for another time. But we wish you nothing but the best, not just tonight with Danhausen but personally and professionally. And we appreciate watching your growth and your journey in AEW and beyond and we look forward to chatting with you again and we're looking forward to seeing you get out of the FTW match unscathed, uncursed and completely healthy.

Ricky Starks: Thank you, man, it was great talking to you.

AEW Dynamite airs tonight at 8 PM EST on TBS.

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