Self Worth Is An Asset: Ricky Starks On Leaving The NWA For Free Agency; Why A Promotion Will Be Getting More Than A Wrestler (Exclusive)

Ricky Starks

Photo Credit: Ricky Starks

A little more a week ago, Ricky Starks announced that he was a free agent in professional wrestling and in an exclusive interview with WrestleZone’s Dominic DeAngelo, The Stroke Daddy tells why he became “absolute” in his decision at betting on himself.

In the first part of the interview, Starks did reflect back on his time with NWA, stating how grateful he was for the unique platform to show the wrestling world who he is as a talent and his abilities as a performer.

“I can’t say enough good things about having opportunity to wrestle there and come to this position in my life where more people know about me than before,” Starks said. “Finally feel just a little bit of like ‘Thank God somebody can recognize that the hard work that I put in.'”

He did take away some valuable experiences while working for the promotion and part of it was working (and reappearing) in front of the same audience for hours at a time.

“These people, they see you from, I don’t know from 5 PM all the way to 10 PM so it’s kind of one thing. It’s like if you saw Sting in concert, the singer, and then you saw him at 1 PM and then you came back to this festival and you saw him at 3 PM and then you came back and you saw him at 6 PM. It’s just like, obviously you have to do something a little bit different each time, just to keep their attention going. So having that and just being able to wrestle in front of a camera.”

After Starks made his announcement last week, NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis gave him well wishes by calling the new free agent a #1 draft pick. Starks was thankful for the compliment and talked about how he enjoyed the chance to show everyone that they were getting way more than expected.

“It’s so cool to have that and to be thought of in that, because honestly NWA never saw me wrestle and they never saw me cut a promo before they hired me. They only saw those vignettes that I did. So it was more of a thing where, ‘Oh, he’s good’ and then I do the second episode after Trevor Murdoch and I cut that promo and they go, ‘Oh, wow. Okay, we didn’t expect that.’ So like I was telling other people when that happened I enjoyed that. I enjoy not being thought of as like anything special because it gives me the opportunity to change that mindset and ultimately, it has to force their hand to put me in the category of people such as, when you talk about good promo people at NWA. You have to include me. Why wouldn’t you include me? I’ve proven it. An unknown has proven how good he is so you have to include me when you speak of the likes of [Nick] Aldis, Eli [Drake] and [Eddie] Kingston. You just have to. If not, it’s a discredit to myself and furthermore, if you don’t even say that I’m good, you have no standing as far as opinions go moving forward, in my head, and that’s the mindset you should adopt.”

Starks detailed his memorable vignette that aired last week revealing his new journey and how it was a way to show his drive, ingenuity and ability to engage an audience.

“That’s the only video so far that has gotten that amount of attention from people. It’s been well received, but it’s just, I don’t think people realize that this is literally just my portfolio that I’m showing you. Like, I can do it, I have the creativity. Imagine if I had a backing of like a AEW or WWE or like New Japan. Someone that has these people, imagine what I could do, not even just for myself.”

Starks continued, “Like I was telling them on Busted Open, ‘Yeah you are a very athletically gifted performer, right, and I can’t do that stuff, but let me ask you – are you producing your own vignettes and videos with some pretty good quality? Are you designing your own merchandise? Are you putting together the packaging for your shirts? Can you talk well in the public to the point where people can come see you or people like you?’ Not everyone’s doing that online. Sure, you post a few videos from your little iPhone and that’s cool and you do that six times a day, but that’s just it.

“I wanted to offer more than just signing a wrestler. You’re signing more than that,” he added.

Starks did make note that NWA offered him guaranteed money and 50% of his merchandise sales, but after a great amount of thought, came to the decision that it was time for him to enjoy taking a risk.

“Honestly man, these past few days and seeing what’s been posted, videos and all that, I think I made the best decision I’ve could’ve made,” he said.

“Here’s the thing – if you get comfortable, you don’t move forward sometimes,” Starks said flat out. “I wouldn’t say I got comfortable cause I was still trying to get more out of it, but it was too familiar for me so I wanted to get out of it. I understand the aspect of this. I understand, I wasn’t fired I wasn’t furloughed. I consciously made the effort not to. NWA wanted to, we just mutually couldn’t agree on stuff. I get the aspect of it, but if I’m not taking a risk than what am I really doing? It’s exciting, yes, and it’s scary, yes but I have been by myself and had to work so hard just by myself in anything that I’ve done that all I have is myself and my support of myself. And I have to constantly push myself and that’s how I’ve gotten to the place where I’m at. And if I don’t believe in myself to make a decision like that, then I’m really wasting my time, I’m wasting your time, I’m wasting everybody’s time. So I made the decision. I’ve slept on it, made the decision, I understand what’s at risk here and sure, I may have to struggle a bit, but the reward and the payoff is worth that to me. And honestly at the end of this day, when I wake up and when I go to sleep, there’s one person I see in the mirror and there’s only one person I have to justify anything to and that’s myself. And I don’t have to expect Dick, Tom or Jane to understand why I did what I did…”

“It was a very difficult, obviously, but looking at it now, I’m glad I did it and I sit in that, proud that I did that. And who knows? We don’t know what happens next. Things can change at a whim.”

As far as promotions go, can Ricky Starks see himself headed to any of the major promotions?

“Yeah, absolutely. I can see myself in either of those places – New Japan, Ring Of Honor, AEW, NXT all of it. It’s just a matter of now I’m not at the point in my life anymore where I’m just happy to be somewhere. I’m just happy to just be getting a contract, I’m done with that. We’re past that. If you offer me a lot of money and we both can make money for each other, then I’m going to take that, but I’m no longer going to take just scraps that are given to me, because everyone talks about ‘self worth,’ sure, my self worth is actually being an asset to somebody, that’s my self worth. A lot of people have self worth just for themselves but you gotta have self-worth that can be an asset to people. This is still in a business of making money for both people. It’s just whatever those companies can offer that I think would work best in my interests when it comes to buying a car for my mom or buying a house for my mom or finally getting out of an apartment and buying my own place, you know? Things like that. So it’s just a matter of where I’m at right now.”

Asked if any promotions have reached out, Stark did say some parties have, but Stroke Daddy tends to heed a phrase from one of today’s modern poets.

“I’ve had some people that reach out, but it’s just a matter of trying to figure out where things go and talking. Sometimes I like to keep things close to the heart as well as far as decisions and moves that I’m making. I’m not one to go online and tell you ‘Oh, I got this coming up in the works’…

“‘Real Gs move in silence like lasagna,'” Starks said, quoting Lil’ Wayne.

(Transcription credit should go to @DominicDeAngelo of WrestleZone)

A whole lot more from this hour-long video conversation between Starks and DeAngelo, including what he thinks of the empty arena atmosphere, watching The Last Ride, and getting charged up by Michael Jordan’s drive in The Last Dance. Watch it all below and be sure to check out Ricky Starks’ website for some fine free agent swag:

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