Ricky Starks focused the entire winter of 2022 on improving his performance and making AEW’s main event. After having just five matches scheduled between August and October following his loss of the FTW title to Hook at Fight for the Fallen, Starks had a relatively light fall schedule.

However, in November, “Stroke Daddy” defeated Lance Archer, Bryan Cage, and “All Ego” Ethan Page to win the World Title Eliminator Tournament and the Dynamite Diamond Ring Battle Royal, giving him the opportunity to not only wrestle MJF for the AEW.

Due to some deception from the reigning champion, Maxwell Jacob Friedman lost to him in their bout, and fans are left wondering why Tony Khan spent so much time on television promoting Starks and awarding him victories at two major events only for him to lose at Winter is Coming.

What gives, then? Does Khan have another strategy for the former NWA Television Champion, or is Starks returning to Dark and Dark Elevation? Thankfully, Chris Jericho made a surprise appearance during Starks’ first promo following his AEW World Championship defeat, and he set up a very intriguing possibility for the first new feud of 2023.

Ricky Starks books a massive bout for AEW’s first 2023 show.

The leader of the JAS came down to the ring and shot his shot at securing a new member for his faction after losing to Claudio Castagnoli at Ring of Honor Final Battle after cutting an extensive promo declaring that he would knock down any performer lined up in front of him on the way to the AEW World Championship.

Jericho yelled, “Ricky, Ricky, Ricky.” “I’ve been keeping an eye on you for a very long time, Ricky Starks. And when I last saw you, you were absolutely correct—you did come this close to taking home the World Championship. But I’ll tell you this: You are a million-dollar talent; you are not a Dollar Store replica of anyone. And you will win the global championship at some point, I promise.

Ricky Starks

But you’re simply not prepared yet. And Ricky Starks, I don’t want you to be a one-hit-wonder. I said it last week, and I’ll say it again: after discussing it with Danny and Sammy, two of my closest friends and confidants, we believe you have what it takes to be a star in AEW. But all you really need is a little bit of Chris Jericho, a little bit of influence.

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We discussed it and decided that Ricky Starks should become a member of the Jericho Appreciation Society. To his credit, Starks made an effort to amuse Jericho for a moment, but it was fleeting.

“Wow, the All-Powerful Jericho complimented me, I adore it! Hey, it’s my time,” said Starks. What do you enjoy best about Chris? I appreciate your ability to maintain relevance. I appreciate how involved you are all the time. Hell, you used to get here looking like an air fryer a few months ago, but now you’re lean, mean, and shredded. I personally appreciate the way you look like a divorced parent who is single and on his sixth marriage.

“And even if the invitation to join your little boy band is incredibly alluring, I’m going to say h*ll no; I’m not going to join JAS. Do you believe I desire a leash around my neck and membership in club vampire? No, no, no, h*ll, you lost to Action Andretti last week, and your stock has somewhat declined. The J in JAS may just as easily stand for jobbers if you ask me.

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On the January 4th episode of Dynamite, after criticizing Sammy Guevara and Daniel Garcia and challenging “The Ocho” to a match, Starks was attacked by Jake Hager and his hat inside the ring and ganged up on by the rest of the JAS. Only Andretti came out of the shadows to save his fellow babyface and once more layout Jericho.

Could this conflict be the one to definitively establish Starks as a star performer deserving of a shot at the TNT Championship and perhaps even more? Or will he be captured by the clout vampire and discover that his time spent working with Jericho has zero impact on his future professional trajectory? In any case, it appears like Starks won’t have to disappear just yet because he has affairs to take care of that are definitely Dynamite-worthy.

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