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AEW and Ricky Starks Headed to Fresno. Is Hollywood Next for ‘Absolute’?

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Ricky Starks heads to the ring to face Chris Jericho. Starks takes on Jake Hager on Wednesday at Fresno's Save Mart Center. (AEW)
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This past month has been good for Ricky Starks’ burgeoning career.

He faced AEW World champion MJF on a high-profile TV match, bested only by cheating.

He then took on future Hall of Famer Chris Jericho and pinned the legend on AEW’s flagship show “Dynamite” live on Jan. 4.

Starks — nicknamed “Absolute” — continues his feud with the Jericho Appreciation Society — Jericho’s faction — when he takes on Jake Hager, live this Wednesday at the Save Mart Center. Bell time is 4 p.m.

Conquering AEW is his near-term goals. Conquering Hollywood could be next. His five year plan?

“I see myself making a lot of money. I see myself on top of the wrestling world and I see myself, you know, doing some some movies here and there. Maybe some DC or Marvel movies. Who knows?” Starks said.

Ricky Starks will wrestle his first match in Fresno on Wednesday, Jan. 18. (AEW)

From Fan to AEW

Starks said he did not play high school sports growing up, but was a huge wrestling fan.

“I just grew up watching wrestling when I was younger. And so when I was seven, I basically told my mom I was going to do it. And then, you know, once I got older, I went and found a place to go and start training here in Austin,” Starks said.

Veteran wrestler George de la Isla trained Starks, and he wrestled around the independent scene.

“It’s been fun, but definitely a hard road to get there,” Starks said.

He also studied in college to be a physical therapist assistant.

After spending years on the indie scene, he received an email from AEW, asking him to participate in a TV match, an open challenge from then-TNT champion Cody Rhodes.

“I had the match with Cody. I didn’t know if it was good or not,” Starks said.

This was during the pandemic in 2020. AEW was forced to tape its matches in advance. It turns out, yes, Starks’ match was good. He received a full-time contract after the match aired.

The first person Starks called was his mother.

“(Signing) was amazing. It was a culmination of hard work meeting at once, but not in terms of like feeling like this was it, like working hard was over. More like I can take a deep breath finally, especially during the pandemic. Yeah, that was insane,” Starks said.

Starks has kept up his friendship with Rhodes, even though Rhodes left for WWE earlier this year.

“He helps me out and you know, we’re friends,” Starks said. “When you have that type of relationship, it’s kind of hard to just not be friends. It’s more.”

Returning from Neck Injury

Starks recent success is after a neck injury that put him out of wrestling for four months in 2021.

“Certain people’s bodies are more durable than others. And I like to think that I’m one of those people. So, yeah, I say I’m blessed,” Starks said.

He said physical therapy helped him recover from a broken neck without surgery.

“Even when I first came back, there were some things where I don’t know if I have the strength in my neck back 100% to do these things. That was all just a mental game of trying to get over, you know, especially for being out for so long,” Starks said.

“I know sometimes it can get disheartening to do these types of physical therapy and going through it and not feeling like you’re actually improving on things. But it’s well worth it in my head just to stick to it. I used to work at a physical therapy clinic, so I kind of know like the mindset that some of these people go through when they’re coming back from bad injuries,” Starks said.

Ricky Starks (backed up by Action Andretti) engaged in a verbal battle last Wednesday with the Jericho Appreciation Society. (AEW)

Starks vs. Hager on Wednesday

This will be Starks’ first visit to Fresno ever. He plans to fly from his Austin home the morning of the show.

“Usually when I land, I like to go to the gym, get situated in that regard, get situated at the hotel. And once I do that, then I head over to the venue, try to eat, obviously as much as I can in the mornings,” Starks said.

When the show starts, he calls it “a tornado.”

He looks forward to wrestling on the West Coast, where the show will end earlier (around 7 p.m.) and he can get back to the hotel earlier.

But, don’t expect a Roddy Piperesque night from Starks.

“I try to stay out of trouble as much. I don’t want to mess up anything that’s going to fit in my life right now,” Starks said.

After scoring his win against Jericho on Jan. 4, Starks was gang-attacked by the Jericho Appreciation Society. The beatdown concluded with Jake Hager — a former WWE World champion (as Jack Swagger) and collegiate star — power bombing Starks through a table.

Wednesday, Starks will look for revenge on Hager. They engaged in a verbal battle at the Jan. 11 “Dynamite.”

Fighting Jericho’s faction is a positive career move, Starks said.

“To me is pretty important just because it gets more eyes on who I am as a competitor and also … it’s kind of been an up-and-down battle, so to speak, in the past few years. So I think it’s great to finally test my challenge against somebody like Chris Jericho in that regard,” Starks said.

Starks said he wants to get Jericho in the ring again.

“Going through this whole bout with Jericho coming out at the end of it, a lot better rested than I was, you know, going into it is what I’m aiming for here,” Starks said.

David Taub has spent most of his career in journalism behind the scenes working as a TV assignment editor and radio producer. For more than a decade, he has worked in the Fresno market with such stops at KSEE-24, KMJ and Power Talk 96.7. Taub also worked the production and support side of some of TV sports biggest events including the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and NASCAR to name a few. Taub graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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