Ricky Starks Talks Choosing AEW Over Re-Signing With NWA

Things haven't always come easy for "Absolute" Ricky Starks. In an appearance on Oral Sessions with Renee Paquette, the AEW star detailed some of his hardships, including his family being forced to move from New Orleans after Hurricane Catrina.

"It was insane actually," Starks recalled. "My sister was pregnant at the time. I remember she had just had her baby shower, the storm hit. So me, my mom and my brother, we drove up to Vegas, I want to say a few days before the storm crashed in. Unfortunately though, since she (Stark's sister) had her baby shower, she lost all of that. And then we got to Vegas and it was really nice. They set up whole, like a big warehouse where you could go in and get different items for the baby. So she was never without at the time.

"But I just remember her husband drove back to grab all the stuff that he could. He came back in a UHaul with nothing but trash bags. And he opened it up and the stench of just mildew, it was just burned into my brain. And then having to go to school, during that time period, a lot of the kids were making fun of the people who were having interviews on TV and them crying for help. It was a very strange period for me, because I can remember being in class, they played it over the intercom, of the interviews of people who were stuck on their house, things like that. And kids were laughing. Most of the time, during lunch, I wouldn't go and sit in the cafeteria. I'd always be in the library. I was in such a space like 'dude, my whole life is turned upside down in that sense.'

Just how much did Starks and his family lose do to Hurricane Katrina? While they were able to save some stuff, Starks revealed they had to essentially start over.

"Essentially (everything)," Starks said in regards to what they lost. "Everything was just wiped out clean. You know it was more of a rebuilding stage at that point. My mom and my brother, we had our stuff. We had our belongings for the most part. But there's some stuff that we lost that was irreplaceable. So Katrina's a very, I wouldn't say touchy subject for me, but it's a very weird subject because sometimes it elicits feelings that I kind of just had subdued a bit, in a positive way. But just very bizarre time. And to think about it, that happened and we lived there. It was crazy."

One of the things that helped Starks through the time period was wrestling. He revealed he got into it thanks to his older brother and that besides his family, wrestling was his true love in life.

"I was five years old," Starks said, recalling when he became a fan. "I know that because my brother at the time was a wrestling fan. I'm the youngest. My sister is the oldest, my brother's the middle child, and then there's me. So me and my sister are similar in personalities, my brother is very shy and quiet. But yeah he introduced me to wrestling at five and it just kept on. And I remember being eight or nine and I told my mom 'when I grow up, I'm going to be a wrestler. And I'm going to have a bunch of kids and you're going to have to watch them.' I stuck to half of that promise.

"The love of that started at a very early age for me and it just kind of progressed. I've never did sports, I never watched anything else, I just watched wrestling. I had no choice but to make it work cause it's really the only thing I've known. And honestly the only thing I've ever really loved, outside of my family. This is like, when I tell you, I'm a Pisces, I'm a very emotional person and I wear it right here. I get so hyped and emotional over wrestling because that's been the focus point. When I was in Vegas after the Katrina stuff, and I was miserable and depressed basically, all I had was wrestling. Playing video games and wrestling."

Prior to coming to AEW, Starks was best known working for the NWA, where he was a former Television Champion. He detailed his experiences working with NWA promoter and Smashing Pumpkins lead singer Billy Corgan.

"It's very interesting, I'll tell you that," Starks said. "Billy is a very interesting person, just because he doesn't really talk to you. The only time he ever talked to me was, we were tearing down after a show and he came over to talk to me. And he goes 'you know, you're kind of like me in a way. You're an asshole, but people like you. People like us because we're assholes and we're funny.' And he told this story how he basically called out this girl at a show of his, but his delivery of it was so funny that the crowd laughed.

"So that was the only time we had an in depth conversation, where he was like 'yeah, you're like me. You're an asshole, but you're funny. And I feel like we're going to go far.' Other than that though, if you needed something from him, he does talk to you and he will communicate in that sense. But, on the surface of things, he just kind of sticks to himself unless your in that little circle of his."

Paquette then asked Starks for the differences between working with Corgan and AEW President Tony Khan. For Starks, it's in how approachable Khan is compared to other bosses, which still catches him off guard.

"I still operate as if I'm not supposed to be, like he's (Khan) not supposed to be so accessible to me," Starks said. "I think it is, I've heard stories of how Vince is and I've heard stories of how these other CEO's are. And it's kind of been tapped into my brain and that's how I've approached Tony. Under the pretense of that's how he is. And it isn't.

"So there's times I go up to him and say 'hey man, I'm sorry to bother you.' And he's like ' you're not bothering me, you're not bothering me. It's fine.' I'm still trying to figure out the boundaries there, just because I'm so, in my head, how I think a CEO is, it's not the case with Tony."

Starks was signed with AEW following an open challenge match against TNT Champion Cody Rhodes. Prior to that however, Starks had no idea if the match would lead to a contract or not.

"No," Starks said when asked if he knew he'd be signed. "Here's the weird thing. So Cody did a promo Wednesday night about how he was going to have an open challenge, then on Twitter he said this was open to everybody. Literally Thursday I was at the gym and I had this vision of me walking out, cutting this promo on him, doing this match, ect. And I had this same vision again on Friday. On Sunday I got a text from someone at AEW asking if I wanted to have this match. I was like 'hell yeah.' At this point I didn't re-sign with NWA. The way they were going I didn't want to be a part of it and it didn't really fit with what I had in my mind.

"And keep in mind, at this point when I got the text from AEW, I never reached out to them to try and get on. I stopped by in Austin when they came for a show just to see my friends. I wasn't trying to get a job or anything, cause I wanted to do it on my own merit. That's how my whole career has been. I've done everything myself, and I like that. So I got that text, got the ticket, flew in on a Tuesday, we filmed something early Wednesday that was going to be used for b-roll stuff. But as we're doing it, the guy, Dylan, says 'dude this is so good.' And he chopped it up and made a quick promo package that he showed Tony. Tony was like 'oh yeah, let's put it up there.' Otherwise I wasn't going to have a promo when I came out."

Once he saw the whole package, Starks knew he would be a hit. Even still, he expected an AEW contract to come after the pandemic, not during it.

"When I tell you, I got the promo and I saw my entrance and I heard the theme song, I've never experienced that before ever," Starks recalled. "And the match was great, I loved it. And I literally went home that day thinking 'okay so now I can raise my price on the indies and be good. And then eventually once the pandemic is over, AEW will see 'oh this guy is pretty popular. Let's reach out to him.' That's how I had it. Obviously it didn't go that way in the end, which is great. But it's so weird to think about that I essentially manifested it, all the way through."

If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Oral Sessions with Renee Paquette and provide a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription