AEW's Ricky Starks joined Aubrey Edwards and Tony Schiavone on AEW Unrestricted to talk about his experience so far in AEW having spending his time in NWA previously. Starks compared AEW and NWA before expressing his frustration over not being able to have conversations with people in the indies about the business like he can in AEW.
"Working for them was great, obviously, because I had a lot of leeway to make things happen, but at the same time, I think they were too heavy on the nostalgia, and I think that kind of dipped in a bit," Starks said. "But working for AEW, the biggest difference is that we have so many people that come from WWE or WCW, so you can pull from each and get their advice just because there's so much experience there. To me, if you have that much experience, and this is what I've always wanted a my entire career.
"I would get so frustrated so angry when no one would want to talk to me in the locker rooms or when I would ask them questions, and it seemed like I was a bother. I just want knowledge of how everything works in the business. So to have that now has been such a great point that I am through the moon. I'm like kid in a candy shop because it's so easy to just pick like literally I could ask anyone and they would give me an answer in their own way."
Starks discussed with Schiavone on coming up with his finisher "Roshambo." Starks said Taz came up the name that wasn't to his satisfaction, but Schiavone assured Starks that it was good before Starks apologized to Schiavone for not dapping him up.
"I think I wanted to ask Tony. I was trying to come up with a new name for the finisher, but I think Tony you were busy this day," Starks recalled. "I was trying to figure out like what sounded good on commentary. Taz came up with the name that I didn't care for too much. Then I was like, 'I need to ask someone else just in case.' You're the second opinion.
"Well, I like it," Schiavone stated. "I like Roshambo.
"Taz called it low shambo by the way," Starks added.
"That's okay. Taz can call anything he wants," Schiavone said. "I don't want to get stretched or choked out on set.
"I got your back Tony," Starks assured. "I want to apologize publicly. I didn't give you a dap man. For some reason, I thought that was way too quick."
Starks also talked about him being at an AEW show before just to hang out with friends that day. He said he had met AEW Executive Vice President Cody Rhodes before on the indies, and he and Rhodes exchanged numbers that day.
"I actually came to the show, the AEW show here in Austin back in February just to come and see my friends there," Starks revealed. "I saw Cody again. I knew Cody from a few years before that when he was on the indies, and he remembered me and we chatted a bit. Then he invited me to the after party at the hotel, and then I got introduced to like QT, Charlie everyone else. So that was it. That was the extent of that situation. It was just just me hanging out and whatnot, and then before Cody left, he was like, 'we'll stay in touch or whatnot' and exchanged phone numbers."
Starks then discussed how his debut on AEW came together. He admitted that he thought his appearance would be a one-off and that he could use the opportunity to raise his price on the indies.
"And then afterwards, the whole NWA situation happened, and I left and didn't know what was going on," Starks admitted, "And I remember watching AEW Dynamite where that challenge was put out there and then the following tweet which clarified this was open to anyone, and I promise to you, promise to God that I was watching that and I was like, 'oh my God, this is how I get in. This is how things start to go.' I'll never forget. The next day, I was at the gym and mid-set, I could get the image of me coming out, challenging for the title. I was visualizing all this. I was cutting this promo on them, and then we had this great match and that was the end of it.
I want to say that following Monday, I got a text and they were like, 'hey, would you want to come in and challenge Cody for the title?' And I said, 'absolutely. Absolutely, I would love to,' and then literally within the day or two, I got a flight info and the hotel info. And I was on my way, and in my head this was just a one-off. So I had a plan for it. I was like, 'alright, I'll do this match. Then I'll just up my price on the indies. Then just keep that momentum building until I get to whatever next thing maybe for me."
Starks spoke on the reaction to the match from Rhodes who was elated afterwards. He said he cried when he was offered an AEW contract because it validated the hard work he had put in for over 10 years.
"We have the match, and it's history from there. I remember coming to the back, and I wasn't sure how the reception was just because, one, that was the first time I've ever wrestled with no crowd with those types of stakes," Starks noted. "I just remember coming to the back, and everything was very pleasant. It's like good job, but for some reason, I couldn't find Cody, and I think he had walked off her somewhere, but he came back. He was just like, oh, so good. Thank you.' I was like, 'oh s--t.' I wasn't used to that type of reaction from people afterwards. I'm always like, 'oh, good stuff,' and we go about our day.
"That night, I went into the the after party and hung out, and then I went home thinking that was it. Then the following week, Tony contacted me. It was pretty much a wrap from there. I remember him telling me like, 'we want to offer you something.' I just started crying because that is about 10 years of hard work that I've done, just me. I've never had anyone help me out. I'm was never any type of clique or anything like that. I've literally had to do things on my own and that was a big culmination of that, and it felt good to finally be proud of myself no less of working towards something and getting to a certain point."
Schiavone revealed that he had went to Gorilla position after the TNT Title match to talk to AEW President Tony Khan. He said he told Khan how good Starks was, and he praised Starks for his performance as well as his presentation.
"I do want to tell you that your match you had with Cody earned you that spot," Schiavone told Starks. "I remember calling the match, and then I remember, first thing I did, I went to the Gorilla position. I told Tony, I said, 'that kid is really really good,' and I think I came back and I told you, 'congratulations on your match' because it was tremendous from the promo that we had that you cut that was on the big screen to the match, it was very apparent that you're very talented.
"So a lot of things have to come together for you to get a job like this. I know Aubrey knows because we're in this in different ways in the same boat. We're in the right place at the right time and things happen right, but that match was sensational."
Starks also revealed that the promo package that was put together was not planned. He told the backstory on how everything was put together behind the scenes. He admitted that he had to take a moment for himself to grasp what was going on around him.
"I don't think a lot of people understand I wasn't supposed to have any type of promo package," Starks revealed. "I came in a day early, and we filmed some b-roll stuff with Dylan. And we just did the interview, the sit-down interview, and I just did my regular talking, but Dylan liked it so much that he actually pitched it to Tony and Jess. And he cut up a package that was essentially that promo, and then it got greenlit. So I wasn't even supposed to have that. I was just gonna come out, and that would be the end of it.
"After seeing the titantron, the music and the whole thing and after the match, I do remember talking to you Tony, but I remember like having to go off by myself before I came back and started interacting. I just had to take a moment because I loved it. I loved the match. I thought there was a lot of chemistry there. I thought it was what it should have been, and I think that was something different than most people had seen on AEW television in a bit.
"I remember just walking off and having to take to a moment. 'Wow, that felt great. That was that was awesome for my first match in maybe four months, five months.' I felt good for once about myself. This was a moment in my life where I was like, 'oh my God. That was right on point,' and that's a very rare feeling to have, but that's a very great feeling to have in these types of situations."
Starks also admitted that having someone do that for him was a unique situation since he's used to having to do things himself. He disclosed that he told Rhodes before their match that they would have a match of the year candidate. He felt he needed to be honest and confident in himself in that moment.
"It's insane just insane because I'm not used to that. I'm not used to people actually trying to put my best assets forward," Starks admitted. "I've had to do everything myself to just get myself that over if that makes sense with the vignettes and all of that, so for Dylan to just go out of his way to put together s package and say, 'hey you're good. This is a good promo. Let's pitch it,' and to get the music and to get the titantron, I was just like, 'this is crazy to me,' but the funny thing is, I told Cody in the back, I said, 'hey man, I don't want to come off cocky, but for once I'm going to be straight with myself and say I think this match is going to be match of the year candidate.' I'll never forget.
"He gave like this chuckle. He goes, 'oh, OK,' and I meant that because that's how I felt. You know what I'm saying? I meant that 100%. If you don't, then what's the point?"
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit AEW Unrestricted with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.