Aubrey Edwards and Tony Schiavone had Ricky Starks as a guest on the AEW Unrestricted podcast, where the three discussed Starks' connections with WWE legends. One connection is more indirect, as many have compared Starks to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Starks has largely downplayed those comparisons, but on AEW Unrestricted, he emphasized that he's trying to be the first Ricky Starks rather than another version of The Rock.
"Absolutely, I get it," Starks stated. "The funny thing is, there was a point very early on where I considered changing my name from Ricky to Rocky because I was getting those comparisons way back when. I think it was the curly hair and we have somewhat of a same structure as far as face goes maybe? I don't know, I don't take it as an offence when people compare him to me.
"If anything, I think it's really cool. Like when they see me, they get [reminded] of someone else that was great. But I'll tell you this though, I choose to be the first Ricky Starks and not a carbon copy of someone else. So, I don't mind standing toe-to-toe or side by side with The Rock, as long as he knows what's up, and I know what's up as far as individuality goes."
One direct connection Starks has with a WWE legend is with The Undertaker. Starks revealed that he and Undertaker trained at the same gym as Undertaker was getting ready for his match against Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 32.
"So just to give you a back story, I used to go to a gym called Onnit here in Austin, and this is whatever year it was where Taker has to wrestle Shane for that 'Mania in Dallas," Starks recalled. "So he was getting ready for that. So, that's how I initially met Taker, was at that gym. We would always work out at the same time, and at that time, Taker was getting ready. He had a guy that worked at Onnit who was filming a documentary for him because he was going to slow down, and he was going to eventually retire maybe that following year. So, he wanted something for his kids to see how the process of getting into it was, and so I met him there. I talked to him, and we kind of kept in contact."
Starks spoke more on the documentary "True Wrestling", where he and tag team partner Aaron Solow got a chance to sit down with Undertaker to discuss all things wrestling. Starks talked about how awestruck he was speaking to Undertaker, since Undertaker is his favorite wrestler of all time.
"Then Brandon, who's doing the documentary, wanted to do a documentary on independents and how things worded. So, he followed us one week through a loop from San Antonio to Laredo, all the way to Mexico, to Monterrey for Riot [Lucha Libre]. And so in this whole documentary, he wanted a segment where we actually sat down with Taker, went to a barbecue joint. I just picked his brain, and I promise you we went to this barbecue joint - BK's - that Taker frequents quite a bit. And we sat there for like three and a half hours. We just talked to him, I was asking all these different questions. I saw how he trained, where he trained at. I asked him about Don Jardine and walking the ropes, like, I'm a huge nerd when it comes to that.
"I remember one time I had the idea of like being 'Spoiler #5 or #4' something crazy on the independents, and told him about that, but it's so bizarre because sitting there with him and talking to him, I gained a lot more insight on how things worked. And him being my favorite wrestler of all time, I couldn't process; I couldn't process it at all, and a lot of people don't realize is that I get a lot of my ideologies in the way that I do things in the ring from Taker. You would look at me and you'll be like, oh, I wouldn't have expected Undertaker to be his favorite. I thought it would be like The Rock or something. But no, Undertaker's literally my favorite wrestler of all time."
Starks also revealed that two years later, in the build-up to Undertaker's match against John Cena at WrestleMania 34, he got to run drills with Undertaker. He said he trained with Undertaker for two days straight, and spoke on the experience.
"That experience was so cool to have because who else can get that? So, we sat on a couch together and he reviewed my match from one of the local independents," Starks revealed. "There's a picture of him just him sitting right here and me sitting right here from behind. Then, a few years later, he needed to get prepared to wrestle Cena, and we went in for like two days straight and I just did nothing but heat drills on him."
In "True Wrestling", Undertaker spoke on the importance of storytelling. Starks said he learned that you could make a story out of anything, citing a moment where he used the topic of the best burger joint as a story to get heat from a crowd.
"Honestly, Taker is really big on story, and the one thing that he reinforced into me is that you can literally make a story out of anything," Starks said. "And that is the God honest truth. Case in point - we had a tag team match in Laredo. There's a group of guys who are big fans of Whataburger, and so there wasn't much of a story to it, but I remember just grabbing the microphone and cutting in a promo and letting people know that I thought In-And-Out Burger was way better than Whataburger. And there are people who are legitimately pissed off about it, and so we just went with it from there. Just the fact that you can make a story out of anything is the best key of advice that I could give to anyone."
Fans were able to send in Twitter questions at the end of the podcast, and one person asked if Starks has received any feedback from Undertaker about his Dynamite debut. Starks said he hasn't, noting that Undertaker is enjoying his retirement with his wife Michelle McCool and their kids.
"No actually, I haven't," Starks admitted. "Taker has been enjoying the retirement life, and he's pretty much removed, obviously, besides his close circle. I haven't had much contact with him since that whole documentary series went out. I definitely sent Michelle some messages to say hi, just to keep in touch, but they've really just been off living their life. There's a cabin I think they have where they just go out and fish, and they just hang out all day off the grid."
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit AEW Unrestricted with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.