The revolution is televised.
AEW has taken the wrestling world by storm, and it continues to crash through barriers and forbidden doors we hadn’t even considered possible nearly three years ago. Within it though exists another storm – another revolution – one that I personally have been so genuinely happy to watch grow and flourish under the brightest of lights and the rowdiest of crowds. When Mikey Rukus produced his amazingly catchy and appropriate entrance theme, I wonder if he knew just how much those words and that man would mean to the landscape of professional wrestling only one year later. I wonder if he saw what we are being blessed enough to see today week after week.
I like to think he did. I’m honestly not sure how one could sit back and watch him work Dynamite, listen to his commentary on special episodes of Dark, or digest his next level promo work week in and week out and NOT believe Ricky Starks is an absolute star. He exudes a confidence and genuine belief in himself and those around him that I dare say is exceedingly rare and uniquely special. When he graces our screen, dressed to the nines in fancies envied by even the fanciest of them all (looking at you Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky), or moves in the ring as if floating to the beat of his own bass drum, he tells a story unmatched. He makes us believe.
There is no doubt that his self-awareness guides him along his path, but the belief he has in himself sets the standard. I think to an extent, many of us eventually have to bet on ourselves. For one thing or another, we come to a fork in the road when we must ask ourselves what we want for the rest of our lives. What do we deserve? Do we want to throw all of our chips in the middle of the table and let fate decide what doors may open or do we want to live the rest of our lives wondering what might have been, if only?
Ricky pushed his chips to the middle of the table. He bet on himself in every way possible, believing the whole way that fate was on his side and that he was meant to be performing in front of the masses. He didn’t stop. In the wrestling business, “making it” is as subjective today as it ever has been, but there are no guarantees, even with all the talent and drive in the world. It takes hard work. It takes unique dedication. Sometimes it even takes a little bit of luck. More than that though, I think that on these statement journeys we navigate through life – ones that can and will define us as human beings – it takes a belief in oneself that is nothing short of absolute.
Ricky Starks sees himself as absolute in such a way that is undeniable. It’s been apparent since that June evening last year in the midst of a worldwide pandemic that left the status of the wrestling world, and world in general, very much in question. He grabbed an opportunity with a company still in its early hours, in front of no fans, against a dominant champion who would push him to his limits, and he made us see him – I mean really see him. There were no guarantees. There were no promises. Just Ricky Starks and Cody Rhodes, face to face in the middle of the ring at Daily’s Place in Jacksonville. No crowds cheering. No pomp and circumstance. No build of typical fantastical AEW/Cody fashion that has become the beautiful gold standard. And still they made magic.
One doesn’t walk into such uncertainty and opportunity and do what Ricky did without believing he is absolute, without believing his destiny is absolute, and without knowing unequivocally that everything he had done to manufacture that moment in time was anything but absolute. I take such inspiration from his journey to get to All Elite Wrestling and his unflinching confidence in himself along the way. One doesn’t have to be famous to be absolute. We can all be that. We just have to believe.
That’s the true magic of this thing of ours, isn’t it? That’s why so many children flock to shows all over the world and screens in houses far and wide. They see superheroes on their favorite shows every week. I remember that feeling so well. To be quite honest, that feeling is not much different now, as a grown woman. Perhaps I don’t see superheroes as I did when I was six, but superheroes aren’t necessarily anything other than what we make them anyway. None of these people are saving the world with powers created or given, but some are changing it every single time they enter the ring or talk on a mic. Maybe not for the masses, but for a few or even one, the change is real.
Some make us see through action, others through their stories. Others still with how they carry themselves and treat those who have less. Some believe in themselves so deeply and obviously that others can feel and try to emulate those same things themselves. When winking, bantering, smiling, and setting the world on fire on screen, Ricky sends bits of himself to all of us. Every time. It’s why I will forever die on the hill that wrestling is as real as anything else in this world. It makes us feel things. Because of people like Ricky Starks, wrestling gives us life in moments we need it. It’s absolute.
As Ricky steps into the next phase of his AEW career, a machine blocks his path. It makes for what could easily be his greatest challenge yet. Brian Cage has no weaknesses and is fueled by anger and revenge. He holds a visible and unarguable size and strength advantage. So, what does Ricky have to bring to war other than numbers? Well, he has everything I’ve just outlined and more. When you carry the title of wrestling outlaws, and you believe in your soul that there is no one like you, you need for nothing else.
He arrived with nothing to lose, stands today with everything to gain, and looks to a future with zero limits. All because he is absolute.
I’ve heard time and time again that Ricky Starks reminds many in the industry of The Rock. I’m not gonna lie, it’s difficult to argue that. I see it a little differently though. I find pieces of a different transcendent superstar within AEW’s revolution within a revolution. I see an eclectic brilliance. A renegade versatility to be envied. An underrated superstar blossoming into even more right before our eyes. I see the one and only, Prince.
Once you see it, it’s impossible to ignore. You could argue that for as great as Prince and his career was, he’s still largely underrated, as many of the greatest are. Ricky Starks is still young. I don’t know what sits ahead on the horizon for him to achieve and conquer, but I do know it will be something to behold. He’s carving a path in a business where doing so is hard work. With talent, poise, and confidence that is absolute, I just hope the world is ready. I am.
As much as I’m sure The Rock comparisons are flattering and my Prince comparison is well-intentioned, there is only one Ricky Starks. There is only one revolution, and did you hear?
The revolution is televised.