Welcome to stardom, AEW’s Ricky Starks


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Screenshot: AEW/TBS

“Starksdom?” I’ll present myself out.

For the core AEW fan, the present state of the corporate has gone from just a little anxious to very thrilling. The corporate continues to pivot to its youthful stars, resetting a basis for what it will likely be for the following few years as a substitute of being explosively within the now from week to week (which was additionally loads of enjoyable too, to be honest). This got here after all the pieces was clearly in flux at finest, chaos at worst, the place the present didn’t actually have a middle apart from Jon Moxley. Guys have been both damage or suspended or fired or misplaced in artistic, and it felt just like the tablecloth had been yanked, however all of the glasses and silverware have been flung into the air, their touchdown spot unknown and unsecured.

It took one other large step final night time, when MJF got here face-to-face together with his first title challenger, one Ricky Starks. Starks has been an enormous silo of potential ever since he debuted. He has the look, his in-ring constantly plus. However he had largely simply been on the periphery of the principle occasion scene at finest. He was excellent amongst Workforce Taz, although letting Taz drive that as a lot as he did. His feud with Powerhouse Hobbs when that faction broke up appeared a bit paint-by-numbers, with Tony Khan seemingly afraid to decide on between the 2 and giving every a win.

Starks’ climb started by way of the event to resolve MJF’s first challenger, culminating in a banger of a match with one other younger(ish) star in Ethan Web page that AEW is attempting to push right into a foundational piece.

Nonetheless, Starks hadn’t fairly had “the second” the place he cemented himself as a essential occasion participant. Proper after he’d received the battle royale to arrange a second match with MJF for the Dynamite Diamond Ring would appear the proper second. Besides Starks had been assigned maybe the hardest process within the firm, which is to get on the mic and promo-off with MJF, the perfect talker the corporate has and perhaps the perfect within the enterprise. MJF has destroyed a pair wrestlers on the mic in current historical past. Wheeler Yuta goes to want months of rehabilitation for his character after MJF saved stuffing him in a locker verbally within the lead-up to their match. Darby Allin and Sammy Guevara are two others who’ve been boat-raced by MJF on the mic, which lessens the end result within the ring only a bit however continues to be a obligatory step.

Starks, alternatively, went Bo Jackson-on-Brian Bosworth:

I wouldn’t ever pretend that speaking live in front of an audience of 8,000-10,000, off the cuff, and especially after actually wrestling a match is ever easy. The elements that make a great promo are simple on paper, tough in practice. You have to sound like you believe every word you’re saying, sound like how the character would actually talk instead of playing at something written down, and give it a little personality. It simply has to be honest. Again, it’s easy to lay that out backstage or here, and quite another to do it live. Starks nailed it

Also a quick note: I think a spear as a finisher is pretty lame, especially for a guy like Starks who isn’t all that big. But when you do it with this kind of flourish… (He speared MJF out of his shoes!)

It was further proof of how the things that really pop on AEW are usually done so through the mic. Or to put it better:

And it’s true. AEW is loaded with guys who can provide a blast of a 15-20 minute match, which is hardly a bad thing. It’s what has endeared the company to its fans. You’re guaranteed two, three, or even four great matches every week. But they can tend to blend together. It becomes the baseline, and the next great match doesn’t spike the EKG that much from the last great match. We should never lose appreciation for the ridiculous quality that AEW has tossed out consistently for its entire existence, but that is the scenery it has created.

AEW’s best moments are those accentuated by a great promo. Perhaps its best storyline to date, Hangman Page overcoming his insecurities and lack of confidence over three to four years and several companies to beat Kenny Omega and win the AEW World Heavyweight Championship, was kicked into fifth gear by Web page’s “Cowboy Shit” promo. Britt Baker’s rise to the highest of the ladies’s division was constructed on her video and interview work throughout the pandemic when she had a damaged leg and wasn’t even wrestling. No matter CM Punk’s last impression on the entire thing, all the pieces he did felt large due to his promo work. Orange Cassidy’s present run as All-Atlantic champion has been an entire kick-your-feet-in-the-air-with-glee not simply because he’s so good within the ring, however all of his backstage work when he’s been enjoying with and poking holes within the regular title-defense promotion. Miro stays the perfect TNT champion due to his video promos that have been both in service of, in defiance of, or outright threatening God (take into consideration that) whereas by no means shedding sight of who actually was in cost, his spouse. Eddie Kingston is likely one of the hottest wrestlers on the roster as a result of all the pieces he does when he talks is so real. The Acclaimed are The Acclaimed.

Starks with the ability to carry himself onto the identical stage as MJF immediately supplied AEW with a feud that may be returned to for years and be the pivot level for the principle occasion scene. They have already got two matches set, and you’ll simply see them splitting the pair and having MJF operating from the rubber match for months if not longer. It can all the time be hanging on the market once they want it. It’s a continuation of AEW having to recenter on new and youthful stars. Punk is gone, Bryan Danielson has mentioned his full-time wrestling days are coming to an in depth very quickly. Kenny Omega all the time hints at not doing this an excessive amount of longer. Chris Jericho is in his 50s.

There’s nonetheless time for AEW to nonetheless be largely constructed across the names it all the time has been, however that’s what makes proper now the proper time to begin making ready for the following technology to be in place to select up the torch with out it ever hitting the ground. Starks has wanted just a little time, transferring from a part of a faction to the pinnacle of it to backstage and video packages to reside promos and the most important matches. Ethan Web page is on the identical trajectory, just a bit behind Starks. MJF is self-explanatory. Hangman Web page is again. Jamie Hayter on the ladies’s facet hasn’t gotten an excessive amount of reside promo time, and so they’re clearly slowly constructing that for her, however she’s now at the highest of the ladies’s division by way of organically simply being nice within the ring (not one thing they’ve achieved an excessive amount of of with the ladies’s division, sadly). There’s seemingly a refined push starting on Willow Nightingale.

It’s not that the avenue of huge debuts and shock appearances is closed, and performers will all the time come and go. AEW acquired a ton of mileage being the salvation heart for wayward wrestlers, however that may’t final eternally. It has to simply be one element.

AEW is locateing itself once more, by way of its youthful technology. That feels much more secure than what got here earlier than, as thrilling because it was.

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