When NWA Powerrr launched last year, it received rave reviews, and deservedly so. The mixture of strong characters, a unique presentation, and a distinctive in-ring product have made it “must-see” every week. Many of the plaudits have gone to NWA World Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis, lead commentator Joe Galli, and even The Rock “N” Roll Express. The NWA brand had given new platforms for existing stars, highlighted other underutilised talents, and even reinvigorated performers who had perhaps been daubed with the brush of failure.
However, NWA Powerrr has also yielded a crop of new stars, taking a few names from unknown status to rising stars within the wrestling industry. One such name is “Stroke Daddy” Ricky Starks, who made an almost immediate impact with the show launching and has quickly risen up the ranks, winning the NWA Television Championship in the process. Starks most well-known exposure prior to this was as part of a documentary for Onnit that featured WWE legend The Undertaker in a rare out-of-character appearance, but he has used the spotlight provided by the success of NWA Powerrr to showcase his tremendous charisma on the microphone, and his unique and unpredictable arsenal of offensive manoeuvres to great effect.
SteelChair Magazine’s Tom Mimnagh had the opportunity to speak to Starks before his most recent match with Zicky Dice, and in this on-on-one interview, Starks talks about his rise to new heights within the NWA, his style and influences in the ring, his plans for the future and much more.
You recently won the NWA World Television Championship, beating Trevor Murdoch in a great match at the Hard Times PPV, and it’s a title with a great history and lineage. What does holding that championship mean to you?
It means a lot, in the sense that I am the first person to hold that belt of this generation. It’s very cool to not only join the ranks of the Hall of Famers that have held this title but also to be the first person and a pioneer of sorts in this new age, this new generation. It’s great to be able to create new memories for the people who watched as kids. It’s a really prestigious honour to hold this title and to take on the responsibility of making this one of the top titles in the NWA.
Were you a big wrestling fan growing up, and if so were there any wrestlers who had a big influence on your style as a performer?
For sure, I’ve been watching wrestling since I was about three-years-old. There’s no-one I would say who really influenced my style, but of course, I have my favourites. For the most part, it’s just been a case of loving wrestling since I was a kid and just telling myself, ”Hey, when I grow up, I’m doing this.” And then growing up and actually doing it.
The Ricky Starks character is very strong, and you have a very unique swagger, so I wondered whether there were any particular inspirations for the character?
Not really, it’s mostly just my own personality. People really think it’s a gimmick or a character, and in a sense, it is not, and it’s just more of an extended part of myself. You’ll find a lot of people from New Orleans who have similar personality traits, so if you wanted to say there was an influence on my character, I would definitely say the people of New Orleans.
As Television Champion, you’ve taken on a host of different challengers so far, and the NWA has a very diverse and varied roster. Is there anyone you’ve not faced so far that would like to from the NWA roster?
From the current NWA roster, I would say Caleb Konley. I definitely like his style in the ring, and I feel like we bring different styles to the table. Sometimes I feel like you can get a good gauge on what would be a good mix as far as chemistry goes, and I think that would be a good one.
I personally would love to see that, and I think that would be a fantastic match.
That’s what I’m saying, right? Give me something more than the [6.05]time limit matches…
Although it makes for very fast matches, do you find the 6.05-time limit hampers you being able to do a bit more with those matches?
I wouldn’t say it hampers me, and don’t get me wrong, I like it, but there are pros and cons to it, of course. But sometimes, I think when things are going good, it can mean an abrupt stop because you hit the 6.05. I like having long matches too and giving people that benefit. I also like short matches, but when it’s going really good, and you have to stop, it can be frustrating.
I can imagine it is frustrating when you get on a roll. We’ve seen you have longer matches as well, and hopefully, we see more of those in the future as well. Within the NWA, you seem to be that perfect example of NWA’s balance between old school and new school because obviously, the presentation is very old school, but then there are important elements of the company like yourself, which perhaps brings in younger fans. Would you agree with that?
Definitely. I feel like I am the bridge in many ways, and that is needed. When you’re bringing something as prestigious as the NWA back to the foreground, and in 2020, there will be some push back and some things that don’t connect with what people have become used to. I think it’s about being able to be in a position to say, “Hey guys, all the new school people, all the old school people look at what we got going on,” and I can be that bridge, and that is definitely where I am at with that.
You had a very memorable match with NWA World Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis not so long ago on Powerrr. How was it working with Nick?
Nick is a great guy. He is very cerebral in the way that he wrestles and very tactical, but at the same time, I have experienced quite a few wrestling styles in my career so far, and I have this innate ability to try and understand and predict someone’s next step. So wrestling Nick, with both of those things in mind, became this perfect storm. He is such a absolutely talented dude, to the point I am just always amazed every time I see him go out there, no matter who he is wrestling. I think he should get a lot more credit than he does currently.
Definitely. His in-ring work is excellent, but people are finally now starting to recognise what a great talker he is too, especially with the platform that he has on Powerrr. Speaking of Powerrr, the tapings feature a number of weeks of television being recorded at once, can you give our readers a bit of an insight into what a day of taping looks like for Ricky Starks?
Well, it starts at 10 am and doesn’t finish till 12 am…
Oh wow! That is a long day!
Yeah, it is difficult in that sense, but after the first two sets of tapings, I was able to figure it out and get acclimated pretty quickly. They are long days, and obviously, the fans don’t come in till around 5 or 6 pm, and when that show is over, around 10 pm, we then have stuff to do afterwards as well. It’s a long day, but your body gets used to it pretty quickly.
Just moving away from the NWA for a moment, The Onnit documentary: True Wrestling shows yourself and Aaron Solow sitting down with The Undertaker, while he explains the importance of telling stories as opposed to doing crazy bumps. What was that experience like?
It was great for the fact it was The Undertaker, who is my favourite wrestler. He’s one of the greatest of all time, and getting to sit under that tree of knowledge…you really can’t put a price on that. You really can’t explain it to anyone who doesn’t understand it from that perspective. He is a very humble and knowledgeable person who I learned a lot from. Even the advice he was giving me was a lot of things I was already doing just because I had studied his matches, so that was really cool.
Watching NWA, it seems like you’ve really taken that advice on board because you’re certainly capable of doing plenty of athletic manoeuvres. However, you always seem to have a good balance of letting your character tell a story and impressive looking moves. Is this a conscious effort on your part?
The thing with that piece of advice, that was more of an affirmation point than anything. I had some of the structure of what he was saying in place, and after talking to him and getting a little more clarity, I was able to piece everything together. So I think what you see now is a product of his advice, both the things he taught me and the things I got from studying him.
Going back to the NWA briefly, we spoke to Joe Galli (NWA Powerrr lead commentator) not long ago, and we asked him the same question. How do you find having Billy Corgan as a boss, and is it a bit surreal?
For me, it really isn’t. I don’t look at Billy as anything other than this really laid back dude, and a great boss. I love The Smashing Pumpkins for sure, but for me, I like to normalise everything in my head, and I try and treat Billy as I would anyone else. I know he’s my boss, but I treat him like a friend. I try and normalise the situation, so I can be normal around him like I am with everyone else.
Finally, just one more question, what is next for Ricky Starks?
Oh man, that is a big question. I haven’t really had time to sit down and think about it too much. I definitely want to do more stuff within the NWA, and my next goal is to become the NWA World Heavyweight Champion, that is a goal for sure, and I can put that out there right now. Beyond that, I want to help take this brand to the next level, and whether that means landing on a TV deal or we open up our own streaming service, I don’t know, but something big for sure.
NWA Powerrr airs on Tuesdays at 6:05 p.m. ET (11 PM GMT) on YouTube, and is available worldwide both live and On-Demand via the NWA YouTube channel.