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By Mike Johnson on 2021-02-14 18:09:00

WWE has signed former Impact Wrestling World Champion Eli Drake (real name Shaun Ricker, 38) to a deal for the WWE NXT brand, has confirmed.   He is at tonight's Takeover and at one point today was scheduled to appear on the Kickoff show.  He will not be retaining the Eli Drake name.

Drake was most recently signed to The National Wrestling Alliance but was quietly released from his deal late last year.    

Originally trained by Cody Hawk, Drake first began to make waves as Shawn Ricker working on the West Coast, including a run for Dave Marquez's Championship Wrestling from Hollywood where he was managed by the late Percy Pringle.   He broke through on The Rock's TNT reality series Hero, which led to being signed to the WWE developmental system.  He worked under the NXT banner from October 2013 through May 2014.

After being released from WWE, Drake debuted for Impact Wrestling in February 2015.   Over the course of his Impact run, Drake held the Impact World Title as well as the Impact Tag Team title with Scott Steiner and the now-defunct King of the Mountain Championship.  With a great gift for gab, Drake had been a strong performer for the company over the course of his run. 

Impact announced in April 2019 that they were terminating Drake from his contract two months before it was slated to expire.  At the time, reported, "Sources tell Impact management was upset with comments Drake had made about the company on recent interviews and had already been unhappy with him after he refused to wrestle Tessa Blanchard at the United We Stand event that took place this last Thursday in Rahway, NJ.  Drake had been very vocal online about not wanting to do it, so much that it appeared to be a storyline explaining the change to Joey Ryan replacing him.  Instead, it was very much a real situation."

While there were concerns at the time this could lead to a legal battle between the two sides, by June 2019, Drake issued a statement thanking Impact for his time there and moved on, later becoming the first person announced as signing an exclusive deal with the NWA under Billy Corgan's ownership.  He and James Storm would go on to win the NWA Tag Team Titles.  While the NWA paused production once the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, Drake remained under an exclusive deal until late last year.

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