Originally published at Tony Khan speaks about Ricky Starks' growth, what Dustin Rhodes means to AEW
If any of the quotes from the following podcasts or video interviews are used, please credit those sources and provide an H/T and link back to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions.
** Sports Guys Talking Wrestling has an interview up with AEW President Tony Khan. He touched the growth of Ricky Starks in the company and is expecting big things in the future from Starks.
Oh man, well Ricky Starks has come so far in just a few years with AEW as the company’s grown. I think Ricky Starks has come a really long way since he debuted and he’s become a very popular wrestler. He was a real rulebreaker when he first arrived in AEW but the fans have really taken to Ricky Starks. He’s so charismatic, he’s such a great wrestler and the fans really like him and I think Ricky Starks has a great future in AEW and what a great match it was just a few weeks ago at Winter Is Coming when he challenged MJF for the world championship and I expect a lot of bright things to come from Ricky Starks and what a huge match he has just hours from now, Chris Jericho versus Ricky Starks to kick off this new era of AEW on TBS on Wednesday night Dynamite coming up very soon.
Dustin Rhodes has stated that 2023 will be his last year as an active in-ring performer. Tony thinks Dustin could continue wrestling at a high standard for years to come and spoke about how much he respects Rhodes.
Dustin Rhodes is one of the best pro wrestlers in my lifetime. I’ve been looking up to Dustin Rhodes since I first started watching pro wrestling, he’s one of the first wrestlers I ever saw and throughout his career, he’s maintained a really high standard of excellence, physical fitness right now is at a premium. I think Dustin, right now, these last ten years is in much better shape than he was in the decade prior to that which is unusual and his staying power, his longevity is also really unusual. To have somebody doing some of their best wrestling at this advanced age, it’s unusual. I think Dustin could continue on for many, many years and wrestle at a very high standard for a long time to come. I respect the hell out of Dustin Rhodes. I can tell you [show host] also respect the hell out of him. He’s just a tremendous, tremendous wrestler and I think he’s somebody that really, really, for AEW, since the very beginning has been very important on-screen and off-screen.
** In his latest piece for Tokyo Sports, Jushin Thunder Liger previewed matches that are taking place at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 17. One of the bouts he focused in on was Keiji Muto, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shota Umino versus Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & BUSHI). Liger mentioned that Tanahashi should start thinking about how he’ll close his career. One thing Liger wants to happen is for Shota to shine and not just be a body in the match. Below is an excerpt from the write-up:
On 1.4, Keiji Muto’s last match in New Japan is set. With Umino’s name in here, the word ‘generational change’ comes into this card and it looks tighter, doesn’t it? We know that Muto is going to retire, so he is becoming a thing of the past, isn’t he? And Tanahashi has been the head of New Japan for a long time. But it’s time to move on. Considering his age, they should be thinking, I’m next.
But Keiji Muto is stubborn, you know? He takes all the good stuff. That’s why I hope Umino can show something that won’t be outdone by him. I don’t want him to end up being just one of the six-man tag team. And if we look at Muto’s last match in New Japan, we are almost the same age, and we have been eating out of the same pot for a long time… What comes to mind here is something Antonio Inoki said to me. He said, ‘Even if a river splits into many rivers, it still goes out to the sea.’ Muto went to various organizations, but in the end, he came back to New Japan Pro-Wrestling, and I think again how great Mr. Inoki is. The fact that this match is happening makes me feel the weight of Inoki’s words. 1.4 has a great card, but I think people will say, ‘Antonio Inoki is really great.’ From Naito and SANADA’s point of view, it’s like, we’re going to crush Keiji Muto and send him off. So, in that sense, I think they are going for the one and only Muto. And Muto will definitely try to say, he’s not retired, he can still do this much. He could do that. He has a retirement match coming up on February 21, the next month, at the same Tokyo Dome. So for him, it’s the best promotion for his retirement match. He’s really thinking about a lot of things, I think.
** Back in 2018, Max Caster partook in a WWE tryout. During his appearance on The AJ Awesome Show, he talked about that tryout and how there were athletes from outside of wrestling who were having trouble keeping up. This came up as Caster was talking about how difficult wrestling is.
Well it’s a really tough sport. Pro wrestling is the toughest sport imaginable. You know, you could have NFL athletes come in and try and do a wrestling match and they can’t make it through. I did a tryout at WWE and we had world-class athletes. I’m a professional wrestler. I played high school football, but nothing in college, no pros and we had professional athletes in there and they couldn’t handle the first day. People walked out. So it’s a tough sport. But it is all about being patient, persevering… But, it’s a hard sport but it’s very rewarding because it’s one of the only sports where you can look around and take time and see all the people and feel what they’re feeling. Big arenas, stadiums, you can take a second, look around and you can take the temperature of the room.
** On an ‘Ask Me Anything’ edition of Something to Wrestle with, Bruce Prichard commented on the new WWE headquarters that is in downtown Stamford, Connecticut.
We’re not in the new (WWE HQ) building yet… Yeah (it’s been a process). COVID kind of stopped things down. People stopped working, for about a year so, definitely but, I think what the difference will be (between the old office & new office) is it’ll be bigger, I’ll have a balcony… Yeah, pretty neat. I’ll be able to walk outside, throw myself over the edge.
Elsewhere during the show, he said there were multiple times when he was close to quitting the wrestling business or directly said he was quitting but Vince McMahon would convince him to stay. There was one instance when Prichard was not seeing eye-to-eye with WWE’s Human Resources Executive, Lisa Wolfe, and McMahon personally called Wolfe and told her to leave Prichard alone.
But yeah, I’ve had a few of those (moments where I’ve thought about stepping away from wrestling). I’ve quit, and had Vince [McMahon] just not accept it and, ‘No.’ ‘No, no, you don’t understand. I quit, I’m done, this is it. It’s my last day, I’m done.’ ‘Get in the car.’ ‘I don’t wanna get in the car. I wanna go home.’ ‘Just get in the car.’ Go into the city and come back and one big happy family again. So yeah, too many to even think of but I think the worst was when we had a Human Resources person that wanted to be the CEO, C.O.O., Chairman, she wanted to be everything that started with a ‘C’ and she was one thing that started with a ‘C’. But, she was horrible and she was trying to isolate Vince from everybody and nobody could talk to Vince if you didn’t talk to her first. Yeah (Lisa Wolfe is who I’m referring to) and you had to rehearse everything… and it wasn’t how it worked… It wasn’t how it worked period because okay, hey, we’re writing TV, doing creative, booking, all this stuff. Vince and I are talking all the time. I can’t not wait for you to talk to him and she thought I should and I just threw my hands and when she blocked me, after about the fourth or fifth time, I said, ‘I can’t, I can’t do this’ and I quit and just, you know, ‘Sorry man. You can’t quit.’ He got me in that damn car and made the phone call, called Lisa and basically told her to leave me alone.
When Prichard thinks about the positions he’s held in wrestling, he does enjoy the behind-the-scenes role more. He did enjoy being a talent while in IMPACT Wrestling because all he had to focus on was one thing.
That’s a good question. People always ask me, ‘Hey, do you miss performing?’ And, ‘You miss being in front of the camera?’ And the answer to that is yes, of course I do. I enjoy performing, I like to perform. I’m a Goddamn performer. But, I enjoy the role behind the scenes probably the most because then, you’re not just doing one character, you’re not just doing one part of the show, you’re doing all of it. So you get to be all the characters, you get to be everybody and you get to put yourself in their situations and how would this play out and creative for everybody so, being behind the scenes and just creating in general is my absolute favorite thing to do. I think from a selfish standpoint, when I was at IMPACT the last time, they brought me in under the premise of just being a talent. For the short few weeks that was of just being a talent, that was fun because I didn’t have to worry about anybody else and only gotta think about my one part in the show and that worked out for me. That was good, that was fun.
He was asked if there were stories that clicked unexpectedly and turned into something more than what was originally planned. He named the Kane and Undertaker story along with Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin’s dynamic.
I think there’s a lot of ‘em (stories that clicked unexpectedly), that’s the funny thing, that you don’t even think of because they became so big. Kane and Undertaker… That was a one-off. That was, ‘Hey, we need a match,’ became a career. I think that the Vince [McMahon]-[Steve] Austin thing was a one-off to get to Mankind. Didn’t think that would take off the way that it did. Wasn’t meant to, wasn’t written that way originally really. So those two really stick out in my head more than anything of wow, nobody saw that one coming.
** While guest appearing on Ryan Satin’s Out of Character podcast, Apollo Crews recalled suffering a patella tendon injury while he was on the independents and a doctor telling him that he may never wrestle again.
It was very, very nerve wracking (suffering injury on the independents) because it was one of those — and I feel like I hear this story from a lot of people (that) get injured and I’m wondering now if this is just a thing that doctors say where it’s like, we know this is gonna have more dramatic impact if we tell you that you may not be able to wrestle again but, I probably shouldn’t even be making a joke of that. But I feel like it was one of those things where that’s what I was told where it’s like, ‘Yeah, you might not be able –’ because it’s a pretty serious injury, the patella tendon and I was still on the indies. Just no insurance, doctor bills, I gotta go to rehab. All I know right now is wrestling and doing something athletic, training. Now I’m stuck on the couch, not being able to do anything so it’s a tough time… I don’t wish anybody to have to experience an injury because it’s tough, but it makes you stronger mentally. I think you come back stronger physically so yeah, that was a worry at that time too. I’m like, ‘Dang, okay, injury, doctor says I can’t wrestle again (Crews laughed). Is this plan done?’ But at that time, again, I was so determined to chase this dream of becoming a WWE superstar. There was just nothing that was gonna stop me.
** While reflecting on his time in TNA/IMPACT Wrestling, Kurt Angle recounted the time when the company put several of their championships on him at the same time. Angle said on his podcast that he did not think that helped the company and does not get why that decision was made.
Honestly, yes (TNA/IMPACT putting a lot of titles on me at the same time was too much). I’m not sure why they wanted to do this. It does nothing for the company. Does everything for me, but nothing for the company. You have all these different wrestlers that are competing in the same company and you have one guy that’s holding all five titles. That’s ridiculous.
** On the ‘Box Of Gimmicks’ edition of Bruce Prichard’s Something to Wrestle with podcast, he discussed Terry Taylor’s time as ‘The Red Rooster’ in WWF. Prichard said Taylor wanted to be like Ric Flair and the point of The Red Rooster persona was to create something fresh. He feels that more people talk about that character more than any other character Taylor has done and had Taylor embraced it, he would’ve been one of the biggest stars.
He [Terry Taylor] was a very cocky, arrogant guy. Very good in the ring, very good in the ring but I think that’s Terry’s biggest fallback was Terry just wanted to be Ric Flair. Terry wanted to dress like Ric, he wanted to work like Ric, wanted to have his gear look like Ric’s, wanted to do promos like Ric. There’s only one Ric Flair. Go be something new, go be yourself, go be something other than a knockoff of something else, which is why Buddy Landel did the ‘Nature Boy’ gimmick, he’s just a cheap imitation of the real ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair. So with Terry’s personality, it was, again, the word ‘cocky’ kept coming up and it was when you look out in the barnyard, who rules the roost? The rooster. The big, f*cking cocky red rooster. The one that impregnates all the hens, the cock of the walk… And again, is something people — when you look at it just on the surface, ‘Oh, The Red Rooster. That’s a stupid gimmick.’ Well if you don’t wanna get into it and delve any deeper than that, okay, that’s your opinion. But when you’re looking for something to take an ordinary wrestler whose gimmick, for lack of a better of a term, was to be another Ric Flair but there already was a Ric Flair and they didn’t do it as good as Ric Flair and no matter how good they did it, it would have always been compared to Ric Flair, or, you create something new for them and you get people talking and I dare say that people still today are talking about the Red Rooster gimmick over any other gimmick Terry Taylor ever did. What was he in WCW? The $100 guy or something where he tried to rip off Ted DiBiase’s gimmick… And then was he the one with the computer?… I mean, again, ripping something off that had already been done by another guy and done much better. So it was the poor man’s version of it. So, to that, The Red Rooster was an attempt to make him stand out of the pack, to make people remember, oh, I remember the guy with his hair all spiked up and red and walking around the ring, strutting around the ring. Guy thinks he’s a damn rooster! He’s so proud of himself, so cocky and he’s so arrogant and he’s talks about how he’s the best and by God, he’s a rooster. I run this here hen house of the WWE! Again, using metaphors and nobody expected him to be an actual chicken. They expected him to take on the characteristics of what a red rooster would be and to give him some personality and infuse that in him and I dare say that had Terry embraced it, said it a million times, said it to Terry, had Terry embraced that, that I think Terry would have been one of the biggest stars and still to this day, he is known for that time as The Red Rooster, good, bad or indifferent. That’s what he’s remembered for. Not the time of the $100 guy or whatever the hell he was in WCW.
** There’s an interview on the Tokyo Sports website with Osaka Pro Wrestling President and former AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion Zeus. As he was speaking about Osaka Pro, he said the promotion is still lacking in terms of attendance numbers. His plan is to hold 50 shows in 2023.
Zeus is the current champion of Osaka Pro and he says he’ll be wrestling for a few more years. His back is not in the best shape and wants to gradually remove himself from being the front man. He said he’s not worried about matching or surpassing NJPW or AJPW, but just wants Osaka Pro to grow.
I’ll still be doing it for a few more years (being an active in-ring performer). I will have to do it. And I’m an (Osaka Pro Wrestling) champion now. But my back is not in good shape, so I don’t know how much longer I can stay at the forefront… I also have to be the President of the company, so I will gradually retire from the front line. Everyone tells me, ‘You can still do it. You can still do it, so keep working hard on the front line.’
How can I improve Osaka Pro Wrestling? That’s all I think about. I don’t think about overtaking New Japan Pro-Wrestling or All Japan Pro-Wrestling at all. I don’t care about other organizations. I just want to improve Osaka Pro Wrestling’s strengths in Osaka. This is all we can do.
He is looking to make ‘SS Hall’ in Osaka a permanent venue for the promotion. He wants the promotion to have its own venue by the year 2030.
I would like to make SS Hall, a smaller venue on the east side of Osaka Castle Park, into a permanent venue. It would be great to have Osaka Pro-Wrestling among the symbol of Osaka, Osaka Castle, and the many commercial facilities and theaters in the park. If this were to happen, Osaka Pro-Wrestling would be recognized as one of the things that represent Osaka.
There is more beyond that. Not to rent a venue, but to have our own venue, around 2030. I hope to have it in Yumeshima, where an I.R. (integrated resort including casinos) will be built. If we can add the Osaka Pro Wrestling venue to it, that would be great.
** Tokyo Sports named Kazuchika Okada their MVP of 2022 for pro wrestling. While chatting to Rolling Stone Japan, Okada expressed that he feels he deserved to win the award. He added that it’s his fifth time winning and does not get as excited about it as he once did. An individual from Tokyo Sports jokingly told Okada that his joy of winning the award seems to be fading.
This is the fifth time I have received the [Tokyo Sports] MVP award, so I don’t really feel special, but I am happy. I was also told by the person from TSPO that my joy seems to be fading away (laughs).
Certainly, in 2022, I felt that if I didn’t win MVP, no one else would. Of course I was happy, but because I had confidence in myself, I did not feel like, I did it! I think my happiness would have been doubled if there were many rivals, but I don’t think that would have been the case in 2022.
** Gino Gambino is returning to the New Japan Pro-Wrestling English commentary team for Wrestle Kingdom 17. He’ll be calling the action with Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton.
** STARDOM Triangle Derby 1 Results (1/3/23) Yokohama Budokan in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
– Pre-Show Three Way: Rina def. Hina and Miyu Amasaki
– Triangle Derby I Block B: Club Venus (Mariah May, Mina Shirakawa & Xia Brookside) def. Rina Amikura, Waka Tsukiyama & Yuko Sakurai
– Triangle Derby I Block A: Prominence (Hiragi Kurumi, Risa Sera & Suzu Suzuki) def. Haruka Umesaki, Ruaka & Starlight Kid
– Triangle Derby I Block A: Oedo Tai (Momo Watanabe, Natsuko Tora & Saki Kashima) def. STARS (Hanan, Mayu Iwatani & Momo Kohgo)
– Triangle Derby I Block B: Himeka, Maika & Lady C def. Natsupoi, Tam Nakano & SAKI
– Triangle Derby I Block B: Neo STARDOM Army (Nanae Takahashi, Yuna Mizumori & Yuu) def. STARS (Hazuki, Koguma & Saya Iida)
– Triangle Derby I Block A: God’s Eye (Ami Sourei, MIRAI & Syuri) vs. Queen’s Quest (AZM, Saya Kamitani & Utami Hayashishita) – Time Limit Draw (15:00)
– Triangle Derby I Block A: Rebel X Enemy (Maika Ozaki, Maya Yukihi & Ram Kaicho) def. Donna del Mondo (Giulia, Mai Sakurai & Thekla)
** All Japan Pro Wrestling Results (1/3/23) Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan
– Dan Tamura & Hikaru Sato def. Rising HAYATO & Ryo Inoue
– Black Menso-re & Mitsuya Nagai def. Masao Hanabatake & Yusuke Kodama
– Naoya Nomura def. Ryuki Honda
– Voodoo Murders (Jun Saito, Rei Saito & Suwama) def. Yoshitatsu, Yuji Nagata & Yuma Anzai via referee’s decision
– All Asia Tag Team Championships: Kendo Kashin & NOSAWA Rongai def. Masao Inoue & Takao Omori (c)
– Hokuto Omori, Minoru Suzuki & Naruki Doi def. Atsuki Aoyagi, Shuji Ishikawa & Yuma Aoyagi
– AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship: Kento Miyahara (c) def. Takuya Nomura
** As Kazuchika Okada is making the media rounds ahead of NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 17, he spoke with ‘ROOMIE KITCHEN’.
** Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated conducted an interview with Hiroshi Tanahashi.
** Pro Wrestling FREEDOMS Results (1/3/23) Shinkiba 1stRING in Tokyo, Japan
– Death Match: Masashi Takeda defeats Jun Kasai
– Brahman Brothers (Brahman Kei & Brahman Shu) def. Gaia Hox & Rekka
– GENTARO, Leo Isaka & Tatsuhito Takaiwa def. Dobunezumi Fukki, Kyu Mogami & Toshiyuki Sakuda
– Drew Parker & Violento Jack def. Jun Masaoka & Rina Yamashita
– King Of FREEDOM World Junior Heavyweight Championship: Kamui (c) def. Takahiro Katori
– King Of FREEDOM Tag Team Championships: Mammoth Sasaki & Takashi Sasaki def. Tomoya Hirata & Toru Sugiura (c)
** January 3rd birthdays: Jim Ross.
If any of the quotes from the following podcasts or video interviews are used, please credit those sources and provide an H/T and link back to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions.