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AEW's Ricky Starks Faces a Career Crossroad After Recent Face Turn

Philip LindseyAugust 12, 2022

It took some of pro wrestling’s biggest stars some time to hit their stride and grow into the high-profile names we know today. With that said, it’s not hard to tell when someone has an "it" factor even if they’re still a raw talent. To that end, Ricky Starks has had a palpable aura since he debuted on the June 17, 2020 episode of AEW Dynamite.

However, the 32-year-old has been with the company for two years, and it’s hard not to wonder what's next for him. Starks and his fans have heard the hype and the promise of a bright future. Still, that success hasn’t materialized yet.

If you didn’t follow the New Orleans native during his time as an indie wrestler or with NWA, you were missing out. The inaugural NWA world television champion brought such conviction and charisma to his character work. That energy carried over to his first appearance with AEW as he answered Cody Rhodes’ open challenge for the TNT Championship.

Even though it was a losing effort, the right people took notice because Tony Khan signed him immediately. Starks’ time on commentary for Rampage and as a member of Team Taz was also fruitful, but one can’t help but feel he’s just scratching the surface. There is so much untapped potential there and he’s poised to turn a corner.

His recent face turn came at the right time and it could be just what he needs to catapult up the card. AEW has handled Team Taz’s implosion well so far. Starks’ gutsy title defenses, HOOK’s crowning moment, and Powerhouse Hobb’s betrayal culminated in a tremendous segment at Fight for the Fallen.

Even more, Starks has delivered when given the opportunity, cutting some of his best promos to date.

A Diamond in the Rough

There has been a recurring theme as Starks has poured his heart out over the past few months. It was evident during his feud with Swerve Strickland and Keith Lee and even more so after he lost the FTW title to HOOK.

Viewers can feel his growing impatience and hunger for more as other names step in and enjoy success. He’s ready for the next step, and it’s starting to seem overdue. The Absolute star spoke about it during his appearance on Drive Time with DeRusha.

"I'm hopeful," he said. "You guys played a snippet of my very passionate and from-the-heart promo that I cut after my loss of the FTW Title where, I have felt like a time has been glossed over. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, 'Your time is coming, be patient. Your time is coming. You're the future.' I don't buy into that idea. I don't buy into the idea of 'trusting the process.' I don't buy into the idea of leaving it up to somebody else. I've busted my behind to get to where I'm at and I've done it all on my own merit. The idea that I now have to wait for somebody else to allow me the time or whatnot, I don't agree with it. At this moment, yes, this is my time to show 'you've been missing out for the past two years.' If you haven't gotten on board with Ricky Starks, this is the time now." (h/t Jeremy Lambert of Fightful)

There has been a renewed sense of determination in his recent performances on the microphone and in the ring. The former FTW champion did the most to make Taz’s “unrecognized” title relevant again, but there’s a visible drive to accomplish more.

AEW tag titles may have been a good fit, but he and Hobbs already seemed destined to succeed as singles competitors. Moreover, Starks’ growing popularity made it harder to justify booing him at live shows. It may have been a bitter pill to swallow initially, but it was time for the two to go their separate ways.

This face turn is huge for Starks cause it puts him on the same trajectory as the pillars of the company. It will finally allow him to forge his own path and achieve bigger goals.

A Promising Star on a Crowded Roster

It’s an apt time to put him in the conversation with other homegrown talents like Darby Allin, Jungle Boy, Sammy Guevara, or MJF. Conversely, that raises the question of whether or not he can thrive among them and AEW’s biggest established stars.

His dynamic presence, in-ring ability, and promo work ensure that he could be a fixture on Dynamite and Rampage. There is a demand to see him test himself against the best that the roster has to offer. It’s safe to assume he will flourish when given the chance.

AEW’s loudest critics have expressed concern that the company has become bloated over the past two years. That means there is stiff competition for up-and-coming looking to make an impact.

Nevertheless, Starks appears to have the total package. On a roster where most of its performers wrestle at a high level, he still stands out because of his inventive offense, smooth counters, and trademark pose. His deft character work will also continue to make him an asset.

It will be a full-circle moment for the Absolute dark horse when he finally secures the TNT Championship, but the sky’s the limit. His current turn will be a great litmus test for him but there are plenty of reasons to believe he could win AEW’s top prize eventually.

That prediction may seem premature. However, Starks already has one of the best records in the company, comparisons to The Great One, and the approval of some noteworthy peers. He will be a name to keep an eye on for the rest of 2022 and a potential main event talent for years to come.

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