Things have been going deceptively well for Q.T. Marshall and The Factory in AEW.
He's won his last three matches, one as a solo performer and twice in multi-man competition, had a match at Forbidden Door against the Bishamon team of Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI, and even added another wrestler to his stable in Cole Karter, the indie babyface-turned member of the D'Angelo Family-turned indie babyface once more who took a swim with the fishes and emerged anew a member of a similarly themed-faction.
Sidebar: I know some of the boys in the back aren't super high on Cole Karter's arrival in AEW, but you've gotta hand it to TK; he leaned into the meta and came out the other end with something pretty darn clever.
And yet, there's been one thing missing from The Factory since it officially branched off from the American Nightmare: Championship gold.
That's right, while Anthony Ogogo came close in his America vs. UK bout with Cody Rhodes at Double or Nothing 2021, as a win certainly would have catapulted him into the championship picture, he never officially challenged for the title, and neither did Nick Comoroto, Aaron Solo, or Karter for that matter either. No, the closest thing The Factory came to winning a championship in AEW was when Marshall was tagging with Dustin Rhodes as the Natural Nightmares, and that was before he decided to go heel and split off into his own team.
Needless to say, if Marshall and Co. wanted to get more eyes on their faction, they were going to need more than just an NXT washout – another NXT washout, really – to pad out their ranks and take a legitimate shot at winning a few matches on Dynamite or even just Rampage.
Enter Ricky Starks, the Team Taz-less former FTW Champion who has become the apple of Marshall's eye.
QT Marshall and the Factory made an offer to Ricky Starks, that he did refuse.
Tune into TNT NOW for #AEWRampage LIVE from Grand Rapids! pic.twitter.com/Wj9msE1ngr
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) August 6, 2022
AEW fans, does Ricky Starks really seem like a blue-collar guy?
Normally, when one member of a heel faction turns on another, the turned-on one becomes a babyface. Now granted, that logic is kind of suspect in real life, as one bad guy attacking another bad guy does not a good guy typically make, but in the less morally complex world of professional wrestling, where good and bad can change on something as simple as a friend offering a helping hand – see “Hangman” Adam Page and The Young Bucks – that approach to the process is relatively tried and true.
So, with Powerhouse Hobbs very much still a bad guy and the other former member of Team Taz, Hook, still coded that way too, that would make the next chapter of Ricky Starks' run a face turn almost by default.
You'd think that, wouldn't you, but not if Q.T. Marshall has his say. No, when Hobbs turned his back on Starks, Marshall saw an opportunity to not only keep the “Absolute” from coming out of the right entrance tunnel anytime soon but to put him in league with the rest of his Factory mates, which actually includes his former indie tag team partner Aaron Solo.
The only problem? Starks just isn't a blue-collar sort of guy.
No, Starks is extra – he dances to Beyonce, pelvic thrusts inside of the ring, and wears some of the more interesting outfits to the ring of any wrestler in AEW or any other promotion today. Marshall, to his credit, tried to help Starks out with his fashion, as he photoshopped on a few of his The Factory logos onto one of Starks' outfits for good measure.
@starkmanjones – Looks good on you! #TheFactory @AEW pic.twitter.com/lVreZZJ1cU
— QT Marshall (@QTMarshall) August 6, 2022
Needless to say, this didn't exactly go over particularly well with Starks, who called Marshall's watermark “honestly one of the worst logos this company has put on display” and basically left it at that, but in modern wrestling, nothing is ever really over. No, in a week absolutely loaded with wrestling content produced by “A-E-Dubs,” as Mance Warner would call it, the decision to give this storyline a minute of TV time signifies that maybe this isn't the end of the interactions. No, maybe Starks will take genuinely join The Factory as a way to get back at Hobbs, Hook, and his former teammates. Or, more realistically, maybe Starks will take Marshall up on his offer, use The Factory's resources to cause some trouble, and then fully embrace his new status as a heck-raising babyface a la old-school tweeners like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. If anything, such a turn could be just what the booker man ordered to finally make Starks one of AEW's biggest stars once and for all.