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The absolute truth about the promo that Ricky Starks cut on MJF in the middle of the ring this week on AEW Dynamite is that it was the best segment on AEW television this year.
Sure, there are a lot of contenders that could attempt to lay claim to that crown, but like Starks did to MJF ahead of their title match at Winter is Coming next week, this promo eviscerated them all.
How? Balance. The promo walked a fine line of being fiery and ruthless and tip-toed sympathy and callousness, all while selling the main event of a major television show. “The balance is that it’s all real and natural to me,” Starks said in exclusive comments about the promo to the Torch.
You could feel that, couldn’t you? When Starks passionately discussed his work ethic, you could greatly sense his authenticity and it created an investment and a bond that words on a piece of paper couldn’t produce on its own. Starks wove his story into the fabric of the audience’s minds and put them on the journey toward the world championship with him. That’s business, folks. It was fun to watch and a definitive step forward for Starks as a character, but it will draw eyeballs next week – and ultimately, that’s the goal of any good promo.
Speaking of character, Starks stayed in it. What a concept! There were some meta references to real life things, but nothing that would make a member of the audience furrow their brow and wonder just what the hell he was talking about. Starks balanced his use of the meta stories and used them to enhance the narrative in the ring, rather than solely lean on them to be the narrative themselves. “I wrote it down and memorized it, then said ‘f**k it’ and did it from the heart,” Starks said to the Torch.
Yeah, we could tell. It was easy to get that sense due to Starks intently watching MJF talk him down and taking the body blows left and right like a boxer on the ropes. When the comeback explosion began it felt right. It wasn’t something that was forced, but like primed material on the tip of Starks’ tongue just waiting for the right moment to be spit out.
Within the raised voice, threats, and passion there was a calm aura around Starks during his shining moment on Wednesday night. Starks was in control and looked like a guy perfectly in command of what the job at hand was out there. Pressure? None, according to Starks. “No pressure,” Starks told the Torch. “I carried the Danhausen and Hook segment, then cut a promo after my match with them, so it was the same. Twice I’ve been put in that situation.”
Folks, that’s confidence. It’s also the sound of a talent bursting at the seams, ready to handle more. Starks spoke of taking responsibility from MJF during his promo. After what Starks showed, Tony Khan should be ready to load him up with it coming out of Winter is Coming – win or lose.
The name of the game for AEW is business. They are a wrestling company and Tony Khan likes good wrestling matches just like the rest of us, but the focus undoubtedly is on making money. That means cultivating new fans, more viewers on a weekly basis, and creating new stars.
Starks checked those boxes. This week’s episode of AEW Dynamite was viewed by an average of 840,000 people. A slight uptick from last week, but down from the near million that the show drew coming out of All Out in September. Because of Starks’ work on the microphone, that number will grow with next week’s show. There is intrigue in MJF vs. Ricky Starks now. Can Starks overcome the odds and net a victory? Can he channel the work ethic and dedication he valiantly talked about and displayed and turn himself into a championship fighter? The audience wants to find out and wants to get behind him for doing so. That’s money.
Tony Khan should want to manage an environment in AEW where if talent performs like a top star, that talent will be fed opportunities to become one. Ricky Starks deserves to be fed. He delivered in every way Khan needed him to last night. Now, it’s time for Khan to deliver right back.