LA Knight Talks About Returning To The Company After 10 Years Away

Approaching his 20-year anniversary in professional wrestling, WWE star L.A. Knight – real name Shaun Ricker – finds himself on the verge of a breakout year in WWE, the same company he was released from in August 2014. At the time, Ricker was a development talent on "NXT" under the name Slate Randall and clashed with the then-head trainer, Bill DeMott.

"When I came back [to WWE in 2021], there was residual heat from my first time around," Ricker told Sports Illustrated. "There was a little bit of headbutting between me and the former head coach back then. It's a new head coach [Matt Bloom] in place, but there was still the question of whether I could be a team player."

Though DeMott resigned in March 2015 amid abuse allegations, Rucker's reputation had taken a hit.

"I never saw myself as trouble, but I am a very proud guy so I do speak up," he said. "That's kept me very authentic to myself, but it's also made my path take a lot longer."

Following his WWE release, Ricker became known as Eli Drake in Impact Wrestling, where he was a triple crown champion (winning the King of the Mountain Championship, World Tag Team Championship, and Impact World Championship). After spending time in the NWA, Ricker returned to WWE as L.A. Knight at "NXT" Vengeance Day on February 14, 2021.

"L.A. Knight is the culmination of all my life's work," said Ricker. "You believe in the character when he speaks. The reason you believe in it is because I believe in it. I believe every damn word I'm saying. If I didn't believe it, I wouldn't see it."

If you use any quotes from this article, please credit Sports Illustrated with an h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.