LA Knight

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LA Knight
Ricker as Eli Drake in 2017
Birth nameShaun Ricker
Born (1982-11-01) November 1, 1982 (age 41)
Hagerstown, Maryland U.S.
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)Deuce
Dick Rick
Dick Rick Leykis
El Hijo de Trump
Eli Drake
LA Knight
Max Dupri
Shaun Ricker
Slate Randall
Billed height6 ft 1 in (185 cm)[1]
Billed weight240 lb (109 kg)[1]
Billed fromHagerstown, Maryland
Los Angeles, California
Trained byCody Hawk
DebutFebruary 15, 2003

Shaun Edward Ricker (born November 1, 1982) is an American professional wrestler. He is currently signed to WWE, where he performs on the SmackDown brand under the ring name LA Knight.

Ricker began his wrestling career on the independent circuit in 2003. He joined Championship Wrestling from Hollywood (CW) in 2010, when the promotion was affiliated with the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). After leaving in 2013, he signed a developmental contract with WWE and performed in its developmental territory NXT under the ring name Slate Randall, before being released in 2014. He signed with Impact Wrestling in 2015 under the Eli Drake name and soon found breakout success, becoming a one-time Impact World Champion, one-time TNA King of the Mountain Champion, and one-time Impact World Tag Team Champion alongside Scott Steiner. He also won Impact's Feast or Fired briefcase twice.

After leaving Impact in 2019, Ricker signed with the rebooted NWA, where he became a one-time NWA World Tag Team Champion alongside James Storm. He left the NWA in 2021 to rejoin WWE, where he returned to NXT and was renamed LA Knight. During his time in NXT, he won the Million Dollar Championship after defeating Cameron Grimes. He moved up to the main roster in 2022 and was given a manager role, portraying a talent agent named Max Dupri who led the Maximum Male Models group. He betrayed the group a few months later and reverted back to his LA Knight persona, subsequently resuming his in-ring wrestling career. He suddenly accumulated an enormous level of fan support due to his promo delivery skills and character work despite being booked to lose most of his matches, a trend which was slowly reversed in response to the increasingly fervent support he received from fans.

Outside of wrestling, Ricker appeared as a cast member on Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's 2013 reality show The Hero, had a small role in a 2015 episode of the comedy series Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and provided the motion capture for other WWE wrestlers in many of the WWE 2K series of video games.

Early life[edit]

Shaun Edward Ricker[2] was born and raised in Hagerstown, Maryland.[3][4] He has two older siblings and started watching professional wrestling at the age of three.[4][5] He graduated from North Hagerstown High School.[6]

Professional wrestling career[edit]

Early career (2003–2010)[edit]

Ricker moved to Cincinnati after high school and began training at the age of 20 on March 17, 2003, supporting himself with work at a lumber mill and a Ruby Tuesday restaurant.[4] He began working regularly for the Heartland Wrestling Association (HWA) later that year under the ring name Deuce.[5][7] On November 9, 2004, Deuce won the HWA Television Championship, and dropped it on January 4, 2005.[8]

National Wrestling Alliance (2009–2012)[edit]

Ricker wrestling as Slate Randall in February 2014

NWA Championship Wrestling from Hollywood (2010–2013)[edit]

In December 2010, Ricker moved to work for NWA Championship Wrestling from Hollywood. He joined forces with Brian Cage, forming The Natural Selection tag team and winning the NWA Heritage Tag Team Championship from The RockNES Monsters on December 8.[9] After holding the titles for over 200 days, The Natural Selection lost them to The Tribe when Cage missed the event, causing the match to become a handicap match.[9] Ricker then feuded with Cage for several months, staying even on victories until he defeated Cage to end their feud in late 2012.[7]

On December 24, Ricker unsuccessfully challenged Adam Pearce for the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship.[7] However, he won the Percy Pringle III Cup, where the winner earned a shot at any championship at any time and place.[10] On May 5, 2013, Ricker won the 30-Man Red Carpet Rumble for the CWFH Heritage Heavyweight Championship in homage to his late friend and manager Percy Pringle.[11] That same night, he successfully defended the title against Ryan Taylor.[11]

Ricker would lose the championship to Scorpio Sky in a Loser Leaves Hollywood match later that night; this match was scheduled to air on June 2, on tape delay, but was never aired due to the controversial finish.[11] After the cameras went off, Ricker got on the microphone and thanked all of the fans for coming out, saying it would be the last time he would be seen in a ring for Championship Wrestling from Hollywood. All of the wrestlers came out from the back and gave Ricker a standing ovation. However, he made one more final television appearance, defeating Sky's fellow Experience members Big Duke and Xtian Cole.[7]

WWE (2013–2014)[edit]

In May 2013, Ricker was one of many independent wrestlers undergoing the necessary medical testing required to be signed by WWE before he reported to the WWE Performance Center.[5][12] He had previously made sporadic appearances in WWE over the years; he teamed with Jon Moxley in a losing effort against Big Show in a dark handicap match in May 2006,[4] teamed with Gene Snitsky in a losing effort against Cryme Tyme (JTG and Shad Gaspard) on ECW in 2008,[4] and played a security guard during a segment featuring CM Punk and Kevin Nash on Raw in August 2011.[13]

Upon signing to WWE, Ricker was given the ring name Slate Randall and made his debut by defeating Yoshi Tatsu in a dark match during an October 2013 taping of NXT.[7] Following that victory, he competed as an enhancement talent for NXT, losing to names such as Baron Corbin, Mojo Rawley, and Mason Ryan.[7] He was released from his WWE contract on August 1, 2014.[14]

Return to the independent circuit (2014–2019)[edit]

After his release from WWE, Ricker returned to wrestling on the independent circuit and began competing under the ring name Eli Drake. On September 5, at Full Impact Pro's Fallout, he participated in a trios tournament along with Mason Ryan and Michael Tarver, but they were defeated by the Full Impact Puerto Ricans (Lince Dorado, Jay Cruz, and Jay Rios) in the semifinals.[15] On November 21, Ricker defeated Kenny King at FSW Luck of the Draw.[16]

Drake lost a fatal four way at Maverick Pro Wrestling's event on May 11, 2019.[17] On August 17, he made his debut for World Wrestling Council in Puerto Rico at WWC Aniversario, wrestling Carlito Colon.[18]

Total Nonstop Action Wrestling / Impact Wrestling (2015–2019)[edit]

The Rising (2015–2016)[edit]

On February 16, 2015, Drake participated in TNA One Night Only's TNA Gut Check tournament, defeating Crazzy Steve to qualify for a five-way elimination match won by Tevita Fifita.[19] On the March 27 episode of Impact Wrestling, he joined Drew Galloway and Micah to form The Rising, defeating The Beat Down Clan in his debut.[20] On the July 1 episode of Impact Wrestling, The Beat Down Clan defeated The Rising in a 4-on-3 handicap match, forcing The Rising to dissolve.[21] On the July 15 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake turned heel when he cost Galloway a match against TNA World Heavyweight Champion Ethan Carter III.[22] At No Surrender on August 5, Drake defeated Galloway.[23] On August 19 at Turning Point, Drake was defeated by Galloway in a No Disqualification match.[24] At Bound for Glory on October 4, Drake competed in the Bound For Gold Gauntlet, which was won by Tyrus.[25] Drake participated in the TNA World Title Series as a member of group Future 4, along with Jessie Godderz, Micah and Crimson, advancing the round of 16 along with Godderz, where he lost in the round of 16 to Mahabali Shera, being eliminated from the tournament.[26] On January 5, 2016, the first live edition of Impact Wrestling on Pop, Drake and Jessie Godderz started feuding with Kurt Angle and Drew Galloway,[27] leading to a match at TNA One Night Only Live three days later, which The Wolves won.[28]

On January 26, 2016, Drake won the Feast or Fired match and the briefcase that contained a title shot for the future TNA King Of The Mountain Championship.[29] On the February 9 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake was attacked by Grado, who had been fired after his Feast or Fired briefcase contained the pink slip. Later that night, Drake interrupted him backstage, telling him "he better shut up about whatever he thinks he knows" and attacked Grado again, having him escorted out of the building through the tunnel.[30] On the following episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake lost to Grado, who was masked as Odarg the Great.[31] On the March 15 episode of Impact Wrestling, he faced Grado in a ladder match with Grado's career on the line, but was defeated.[32]

Fact of Life and Namer of Dummies (2016–2017)[edit]

Drake (left) formed an alliance with Chris Adonis in 2017

On the May 31 episode of Impact on Pop, Drake cashed in his Feast or Fired briefcase for his shot at the TNA King of the Mountain Championship, defeating Bram, who was just viciously attacked by Lashley, winning his first title in TNA.[33] On June 12 at Slammiversary, Drake retained the title against Bram.[34] On the June 28 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake hosted a Fact of Life segment, inviting James Storm as his guest and proceeded to insult him; Storm eventually hit Drake with the Last Call, igniting a feud between the two.[35] On the July 5 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake defended the King of the Mountain Championship against Storm, but intentionally disqualified himself to save the title.[36] However, on the August 4 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake lost the championship to Storm.[37] Drake then entered the Impact Grand Championship tournament, defeating Jessie Godderz in the first round,[38] but lost to Aron Rex in the semi-finals.[39] On October 2 at Bound for Glory, Drake won the Bound for Gold Gauntlet by last eliminating Tyrus.[40] On the October 6 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake started a feud against Ethan Carter III, after his Fact of Life segment.[41] On the October 27 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake and Rex defeated EC3 and Jessie Godderz.[42] On the November 10 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake cashed in his Bound for Gold opportunity, but failed to win the TNA World Heavyweight Championship from Eddie Edwards.[43] On the November 24 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake faced EC3 in a title shot vs. voice match where if Ethan lost, he would lose his heavyweight title shot, and if Drake lost, he would not be able to talk for the rest of 2016; EC3 won by submission.[44]

On the January 5, 2017, episode of Impact Wrestling, Eli Drake had a confrontation against The Broken Hardys during his returning Fact of Life segment.[45] At One Night Only: Live! the next day, Drake and Tyrus unsuccessfully challenged the Hardys for the TNA World Tag Team Championship.[46] Tyrus helped Drake take the red case during the Race for the Case on the January 19 episode of Impact Wrestling.[47] On the February 2 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake cashed in his Race for the Case briefcase for a match against Ethan Carter III, but lost. After the match, he and Tyrus attacked EC3, but were assaulted by the Death Crew Council.[48] On the following episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake abandoned Tyrus during their handicap match against The Death Crew Council, causing them to lose.[49] A match was scheduled between Drake and Tyrus two weeks later, which ended in a disqualification victory for Tyrus. After the match, Drake proposed more money to Tyrus for keeping him as a bodyguard, which Tyrus accepted.[50] On the March 16 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake and Tyrus were defeated by Garza Jr. and Laredo Kid after Drake unintentionally hit Tyrus, causing the loss.[51] On the April 13 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake and Tyrus, alongside Bram and Lashley as Team Josh Mathews, were defeated by Team Jeremy Borash (Alberto El Patron, Chris Adonis, Magnus and Matt Morgan).[52]

On the May 4 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake lost to Alberto El Patron, failing to be the #1 contender for the GFW Global Championship.[53] The following week, with help from Tyrus and Chris Adonis, he attacked Impact Grand Champion Moose after his match against Marshe Rockett.[54] On the June 1 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake failed to win the Impact Grand Championship from Moose.[55] At Slammiversary on July 2, Drake and Adonis lost to Moose and DeAngelo Williams.[56]

Impact Global Champion (2017–2018)[edit]

Drake as the Impact Global Champion at Bound for Glory in November 2017

On the August 24 episode of Impact!, Drake won a 20-man gauntlet match, from the second entrant position, to win the vacant GFW Global Championship for the first time; it was later renamed to the Impact Global Championship. This was Drake's first world title reign from a major wrestling promotion in his career.[57] Drake would defend the title against Matt Sydal on Impact,[58] and against Cody Hall in Japan for Pro Wrestling Noah.[59] He would soon begin feuding with Johnny Impact for the title, as Drake retained the title against Impact on September 28 at Victory Road after repeated interference from Adonis and a low blow.[60] At Bound for Glory on November 5, Drake retained the title against Impact in a rematch after the returning Alberto El Patron hit Impact with a steel chair.[61] On January 25, 2018, Drake would retain the title against Impact and El Patron in a Six Sides of Steel match at Genesis.[62] He lost his renamed Impact World Championship on the February 1 episode of Impact Wrestling against the returning Austin Aries, ending his reign at 146 days.[63][64] On the February 15 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake failed to regain the title from Aries.[65]

On the March 15 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake won a briefcase during the Feast or Fired containing an opportunity for an Impact World Tag Team Championship match, which he did not want as he no longer had a tag team partner.[66] Then, he challenged Moose for his World Championship briefcase on the April 5 episode of Impact Wrestling, which he won, thanks to an intervention of Ohio Versus Everything.[67] At Redemption on April 22, Drake and his tag team partner Scott Steiner defeated The Latin American Xchange to become the new Impact World Tag Team Champions.[68] On the April 26 episode of Impact!, Drake and Steiner defeated LAX in a rematch to retain the Tag Team Championship.[69] Two weeks later, Drake cashed in his World Championship briefcase against Pentagón Jr., but failed to win the title.[70] On the May 17 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake and Steiner lost the titles against D&E (DJZ and Andrew Everett).[71] After some tensions between the two partners, on May 31 at Under Pressure, Drake won a match against Steiner after a chair shot.[72]

On the June 7 episode of Impact Wrestling, during his Fact of Life segment, Drake ranked Moose number one in his top five dummies in Impact. Moose confronted Drake later and challenged him for a match to determine the number one contender to the Impact World Championship at Slammiversary XVI. Drake accepted the challenge and attacked Moose.[73] The following week at House of Hardcore, Drake lost to Moose.[74] On June 25, Eli Drake signed a new contract with Impact Wrestling.[75] On the July 12 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake flirted with Grado's girlfriend, Katarina, during a backstage segment. This led to a match between Drake and Grado later that night, which was won by Drake. After the match, he tried again to flirt with Katarina, but Drake was stopped by Joe Hendry.[76] On the August 2 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake aligned himself with the Cult of Lee (Trevor Lee and Caleb Konley) and defeated Hendry and Grado.[77] Drake issued various open challenges by this time, including one at Bound for Glory.[78] At the event on October 14, Drake defeated James Ellsworth. After the match, Drake asked for a new challenger, a "Hall of Fame material" which resulted in Abyss, the newest Impact Wrestling Hall of Fame member, showing up and hitting him with a chokeslam through a table.[79]

Feuding with hardcore wrestlers and departure (2018–2019)[edit]

On the October 18 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake "sued" Impact Wrestling management for "unsafe working environment" after the attack of Abyss at Bound for Glory.[80] On the November 8 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake betrayed his lawyer Joseph Park after a low-blow. The following week, Drake criticized hardcore wrestling before being confronted by Tommy Dreamer.[81] Two weeks later, Drake lost to Dreamer via count-out after walking away from the match. However, the match was restarted by Impact Wrestling management, and become a No Disqualification match, which Drake won.[82] On the January 3 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake was confronted and attacked by Dreamer and Raven.[83] At Impact Wrestling Homecoming three days later, Drake defeated Abyss in a Monster's Ball match.[84]

On the January 11, 2019, episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake confronted Eddie Edwards, talking down about his hardcore style. On the February 22 episode of Impact Wrestling, Edwards defeated Drake with a roll-up.[85] Two weeks later, Eli saved Edwards from the Desi Hit Squad.[86] Now having formed a tag team, on the April 5 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake and Edwards defeated LAX with the help of the Lucha Bros.[87] Two weeks later, Drake and Edwards challenged the Lucha Bros for the Impact World Tag Team Championship, but failed to win the titles.[88] During this time, a match was booked between Drake and Tessa Blanchard at United We Stand. However, he legitimately refused to partake in the match and criticized intergender wrestling, and was replaced in the match by Joey Ryan. After his comments, as well as statements he had made disparaging Impact's booking of him, Drake was fired via email on April 7, ending his four-year tenure with the promotion. Following this, Impact tried to lock him into a non-compete clause due to breach of contract.[89][90][91][92] On June 4, Drake released a statement speaking positively about his time at Impact and announced that he was now a free agent.[93]

National Wrestling Alliance (2019–2021)[edit]

On June 28, 2019, Drake appeared at the Ring of Honor event Best in the World, being revealed as the mystery partner of Nick Aldis and the newest person to sign an exclusive deal with the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA).[94] At Hard Times on January 24, 2020, Drake and James Storm defeated The Rock 'n' Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson) and The Wild Cards (Royce Isaacs and Thom Latimer) in a triple threat tag team match to win the NWA Tag Team Championship.[95] On November 10 at UWN Primetime Live, Drake and Storm would drop the titles to Aron Stevens and JR Kratos.[96] On February 14, 2021, it was announced that Ricker had been quietly released from the NWA in late 2020 after only signing a new deal with the company a few months beforehand.[97]

Return to WWE[edit]

NXT (2021–2022)[edit]

On February 14, 2021, it was reported that Ricker had re-signed with WWE.[97] At NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day later that night, he debuted as a heel under the new ring name LA Knight.[98] He made his in-ring debut on the March 17 episode of NXT,[99] defeating August Grey.[100] On the first night of TakeOver: Stand & Deliver on April 7, he participated in a Gauntlet Eliminator for a future NXT North American Championship match but was eliminated.[101]

Knight aligned himself with Ted DiBiase on the May 25 episode of NXT after attacking Cameron Grimes during their segment.[102] This culminated in a ladder match between the two for the re-introduced Million Dollar Championship at TakeOver: In Your House on June 13,[103] which was won by Knight.[104] During the championship ceremony on the following episode of NXT, Knight turned on DiBiase, attacking him before being driven off by Grimes.[105] On the June 29 episode of NXT, Grimes challenged Knight for the title at The Great American Bash, which he accepted on the condition that if Grimes lost, he would become Knight's personal butler.[106][107] At The Great American Bash on July 6, Knight retained the title against Grimes, who became Knight's butler per the stipulation.[108] On the August 10 episode of NXT, Knight agreed to defend the championship against Grimes at NXT TakeOver 36 on the condition that DiBiase would replace Grimes as Knight's butler if Knight won.[109][110] At the event on August 22, Knight lost the title to Grimes following interference from DiBiase, ending his reign at 70 days.[111]

On the September 14 episode of NXT, Knight lost to the debuting Bron Breakker.[112] Later that night, he failed to win a fatal four-way match for the vacant NXT Championship.[113] In October, he began a feud with Grayson Waller. On the November 23 episode of NXT, Waller turned heel by berating the fans and Knight turned face by confronting him; before his match with Joe Gacy, he was attacked by Waller.[114] At WarGames on December 5, Knight teamed with Johnny Gargano, Pete Dunne, and Tommaso Ciampa as Team Black & Gold,[115] where they were defeated by Team 2.0 (Breakker, Carmelo Hayes, Grayson Waller, and Tony D'Angelo) in a WarGames match.[116] On March 8 at Roadblock, Knight faced Waller in a Last Man Standing match,[117] which he lost.[118] The following week on NXT, he unsuccessfully challenged Dolph Ziggler for the NXT Championship.[119] After this, he started a brief feud with Gunther, who had taken offense at Knight getting an NXT Championship match simply by calling out Ziggler. The next week, Knight confronted Gunther after his match with Duke Hudson and challenged him to a match at NXT Stand & Deliver on April 2,[120] in which he was defeated by Gunther in what would be his final NXT match before being promoted to the main roster.[121]

Main roster beginnings (2022–2023)[edit]

Knight made his first main roster appearance on the January 24, 2022 episode of Raw, participating in a backstage segment with The Dirty Dawgs (Dolph Ziggler and Robert Roode).[122] In a dark segment before the April 15 episode of SmackDown, Knight appeared as a heel manager by announcing his new stable, "Knight Model Management", and became the manager of Mace and Mansoor.[123][124] The angle went to television on the May 20 episode of SmackDown, when he made his televised debut on the brand under the ring name Max Dupri, adopting the character of a talent agent.[125] On the July 1 episode of SmackDown, Dupri announced Mace and Mansoor, under the tweaked names "ma.çé" and "mån.sôör", as Maximum Male Models.[126] Later that month, he was joined by his storyline sister Maxxine Dupri.[127] Dupri ended his relationship with Maximum Male Models on the September 30 episode of SmackDown.[128] The following week, he beat down Mace and Mansoor and reverted to his LA Knight persona.[129]

After a brief feud with Ricochet,[130] Knight became involved in a feud with Bray Wyatt in November and lost to him in a Mountain Dew Pitch Black match at the Royal Rumble on January 28, 2023; this was Wyatt's final match before his unexpected death eight months later.[131][132][133]

Rise in popularity and various storylines (2023–present)[edit]

Over the next few months, Knight's popularity with fans began increasing despite his poor win record and his onscreen character being a heel.[134][135] On the June 2 episode of SmackDown, Knight defeated Montez Ford to qualify for the men's Money in the Bank ladder match.[136] At the namesake event on July 1, the match was won by Damian Priest, who threw Knight off the ladder to grab the briefcase.[137] He then participated in the United States Championship Invitational tournament but lost at the semifinal stage.[138] On the July 28 episode of SmackDown, Knight was confirmed to be an entrant in the Slim Jim Battle Royal match at SummerSlam on August 5,[139] which he won by last eliminating Sheamus.[140] Two nights later on Raw, after months of performing as a tweener, he turned face when he began a feud with The Miz.[141] At Payback on September 2, he defeated Miz with John Cena as the surprise special guest referee.[142] Two weeks later on the September 15 episode of SmackDown, Knight defeated Miz in a rematch, ending their feud.[143]

On the September 29 episode of SmackDown, Knight assisted Cena against Jimmy Uso and Solo Sikoa of The Bloodline, replacing AJ Styles who had been injured by Jimmy and Solo.[144] At Fastlane on October 8, Knight and Cena defeated Jimmy and Solo after Knight pinned Uso.[145] Two days later, Knight returned to NXT as the special guest referee for the NXT Championship match between Ilja Dragunov and NXT North American Champion Dominik Mysterio.[146] Knight would then enter into a feud with WWE Undisputed Universal Champion Roman Reigns, leading to a title match being announced for Crown Jewel on November 4,[147][148] where Knight lost to Reigns after interference from Jimmy.[149] At SmackDown: New Year's Revolution on January 5, 2024, Knight faced Randy Orton and Styles in a triple threat match to determine who would face Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship at Royal Rumble, which ended in a no contest after The Bloodline took out all three competitors. SmackDown General Manager Nick Aldis then announced that Reigns would defend his title in a fatal-four way match against Knight, Styles, and Orton at the Royal Rumble on January 27,[150] which Reigns won by pinning Styles.[151]

Knight defeated Ivar on the February 12 episode of Raw to qualify for the men's Elimination Chamber match.[152] At the titular event on February 24, Knight was eliminated by Drew McIntyre after Styles interrupted the match and attacked him.[153] On the March 15 episode of SmackDown, Knight challenged Styles to a match at WrestleMania XL, which Styles accepted.[154] On Night 2 of WrestleMania XL on April 7, Knight defeated Styles.[155] The following week on SmackDown, Knight participated in the Undisputed WWE Championship Eliminator Tournament, defeating Bobby Lashley and Santos Escobar in the semifinals.[156] Knight was defeated by Styles in the finals on the April 19 episode of SmackDown, ending their feud.[157]

In May, Knight entered the King of the Ring tournament, defeating Santos Escobar in the first round at a live event in Chattanooga but lost to Tama Tonga in the quarterfinals.[158][159]

Professional wrestling persona and popularity[edit]

Many fans have favorably likened Knight's brash gimmick and promo style to that of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson or "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, complimenting his recognizable catchphrases and considering his charismatic trash-talking character a throwback to the Attitude Era. The same comparison has also been made in a negative fashion, notably by former wrestler Kevin Nash.[160]

Knight began to gain a notable amount of popularity in early 2023; despite his feud with Bray Wyatt being written to re-establish the returning Wyatt as a monster character, Knight's ability to hold his own verbally throughout the feud led fans to start siding with him. In an interview with Chris Van Vliet, he stated that he first noticed how fast his popularity was growing when the crowd cheered loudly as his entrance music began upon walking out to confront Drew McIntyre and Sheamus on SmackDown on March 3, 2023.[161]

Since early 2023, fans and critics alike have been vocal about WWE's poor booking of Knight; this includes his high rate of losses since joining the main roster, not appearing at WrestleMania 39 despite WWE promising an "LA Knight moment" at the event, and losing the 2023 Money in the Bank ladder match after WWE acknowledged him as the clear favorite to win by allowing him more promo time than the other competitors in the weeks leading up to the match. Many former wrestlers and wrestling personalities, such as Konnan[162] and Jim Cornette,[163] have been critical of WWE's poor treatment of Knight and failure to capitalize on him despite his popularity continuing to grow among fans. Triple H, WWE's chief content officer and the head of its creative team, acknowledged Knight's popularity during the Money in the Bank post-show press conference and said that "great things come to those who wait".[164] Cornette named Knight his "Wrestler of the Year" for 2023.[165]

Knight's overall presentation began to improve when he was elevated to main event scene following SummerSlam in August of 2023, as then entered a program with then-reigning Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns and his family in the Bloodline. Following his and John Cena's victory over Jimmy Uso and Solo Sikoa, Knight would unsuccessfully challenge Reigns at both Crown Jewel and Royal Rumble, the latter of which also featured AJ Styles and Randy Orton. In May of 2024, Knight's King of the Ring qualifying match against Santos Escobar was rescheduled from the May 10th episode of SmackDown and bumped to a live event in Chattanooga. This was poorly received by fans, who believed that Knight has had no clear direction since WrestleMania XL, and the choice to keep one of the company's most popular stars off television made no sense.

Other media[edit]

In 2013, Ricker appeared on the TNT reality television show The Hero, which was hosted by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.[2]

In 2015, Ricker appeared in the Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode "Boyle-Linetti Wedding" in a non-speaking role as Mario, a male bodybuilder who is getting married in a gym with Detective Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews) officiating.[166]

In January 2020, Ricker shot scenes for the fourth season of the Netflix dramedy GLOW as a character named DJ Henderson, but the show was cancelled before the season could air.[167][168]

In 2021, Ricker appeared in a CarShield commercial as The Overcharger, a heel wrestler dressed like an automotive repair technician and defiantly bragging about how nobody can stop him from unfairly charging used-vehicle-owning customers for repair work. He is instantly struck down by Ric Flair, the ad campaign's star and pitchman.[169]

As well as voicing "Paragon Jay Pierce" in the MyRise mode of WWE 2K22, he performed the motion capture for other WWE wrestlers in many of the WWE 2K games.[170]

Video games[edit]

LA Knight in video games
Year Title Notes Ref.
2022 WWE 2K22 Included in the "Whole Dam" Pack as DLC
Voice of "Paragon" Jay Pierce in MyRise
[171][172]
2023 WWE 2K23 [173]
2024 WWE 2K24 [174]

Personal life[edit]

Ricker has been in a relationship with fitness model Michelle Yavulla since 2018.[175]It has not been confirmed but speculated they are married.[176] They have two dogs and reside in Orlando, Florida.[177]

On December 23, 2023, Ricker received the Key to the City in his hometown of Hagerstown, Maryland.[6]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

Ricker is a former Impact World Champion

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "WWE Profile Page - LA Knight". ESPN. November 2022. Archived from the original on January 27, 2023. Retrieved January 26, 2023.
  2. ^ a b Schelle, Crystal (June 5, 2013). "Holding out for 'The Hero'". The Herald-Mail. Herald-Mail Media. Archived from the original on May 12, 2023. Retrieved May 11, 2023. Hagerstown native Shaun Ricker believes he might be the next American hero.
  3. ^ "LA Knight". ESPN. November 1, 2022. Archived from the original on October 13, 2023. Retrieved November 10, 2023.
  4. ^ a b c d e Baines, Tim (October 21, 2017). "From shy kid to wrestling champ, Eli Drake makes an Impact". Ottawa Citizen. Postmedia Network. Archived from the original on November 2, 2017. Retrieved May 12, 2023.
  5. ^ a b c Reddick, Jay (January 7, 2018). "Impact Wrestling's Eli Drake longs to tell stories, not do flips". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Publishing. Archived from the original on May 12, 2023. Retrieved May 11, 2023.
  6. ^ a b Greene, Julie E. (December 23, 2023). "Hagerstown native, WWE superstar LA Knight, receives key to city". The Herald-Mail. Herald-Mail Media. Archived from the original on January 18, 2024. Retrieved June 12, 2024.
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  10. ^ Jeremies, Adam. "What is the PP3 Cup Tournament?". Championship Wrestling from Hollywood. Archived from the original on May 11, 2023. Retrieved May 11, 2023.
  11. ^ a b c d Ronquillo, Steven (May 6, 2013). "5/5 CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING FROM HOLLYWOOD 'RED CARPET RUMBLE' LIVE REPORT". PWInsider. Archived from the original on May 12, 2013. Retrieved May 11, 2023.
  12. ^ Pena, Daniel (May 16, 2013). "WWE Signs Independent Wrestler To Developmental Contract, Over Twenty More Signings To Come?". Wrestling Inc. Archived from the original on May 12, 2023. Retrieved May 11, 2023.
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