Shaun 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. He is also known for his time in Impact Wrestling, where he performed under the ring name Eli Drake.
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 then-developmental territory NXT under the ring name Slate Randall, before being released in 2014. He signed with Impact Wrestling in 2015 and soon found breakout success, becoming a one-time Impact Global 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. 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 and accumulating an enormous level of fan support.
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.
Shaun Ricker was born in Hagerstown, Maryland, on November 1, 1982. The youngest of three children, he started watching professional wrestling at the age of three. Ricker is a graduate of North Hagerstown High School.
Professional wrestling career
Early career (2003–2010)
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 wood mill and a Ruby Tuesday restaurant. He began working regularly for the Heartland Wrestling Association (HWA) later that year under the ring name Deuce. On November 9, 2004, Deuce won the HWA Television Championship and dropped it on January 4, 2005.
National Wrestling Alliance (2009–2012)
NWA Championship Wrestling from Hollywood (2010–2013)
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 on December 8, from The RockNES Monsters. After holding the titles for over 200 days, the Natural Selection lost them to The Tribe due to Cage missing the event and becoming a handicap match. Ricker then feuded with Cage for several months, staying even on victories until late 2012, when Ricker defeated Cage.
On December 24, Ricker unsuccessfully challenged Adam Pearce for the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship. However, he won the Percy Pringle III Cup, where the winner earned a shot at any championship, any time, any place.. 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. That same night, he successfully defended the title against Ryan Taylor.
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. 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.
Ricker made his first WWE appearance for a dark match on May 5, 2006, where he and Jon Moxley faced Big Show in a handicap match. His next appearance came in 2008 for a dark match on ECW, where he and Gene Snitsky lost to Cryme Tyme (JTG and Shad Gaspard). On August 15, 2011, he was one of the security guards during a segment between CM Punk and Kevin Nash on Raw.
In May 2013, Ricker was one of many independent wrestlers undergoing the necessary medical testing required to be signed to WWE. He reported to the WWE Performance Center. Ricker, using the new ring name Slate Randall, defeated Yoshi Tatsu in a dark match during the October television tapings of NXT. Following that win, he only competed as an enhancement talent for NXT, losing to names such as Mason Ryan, Baron Corbin, and Mojo Rawley. On August 1, 2014, he was released from his WWE contract.
Return to the independent circuit (2014–2019)
After his release from WWE, Ricker returned to wrestling on the independent circuit. On September 5, at Full Impact Pro’s Fallout, he (along with Mason Ryan and Michael Tarver) participated in a trios tournament, but they were defeated by the Full Impact Puerto Ricans (Lince Dorado, Jay Cruz, and Jay Rios) in the semifinals. On November 21, Ricker defeated Kenny King at FSW Luck of the Draw.
In his first match following the Impact Wrestling controversy, Drake lost a fatal four way at Maverick Pro Wrestling’s May 11, 2019, event. On August 17, Drake made his debut for World Wrestling Council in Puerto Rico at WWC Aniversario, wrestling Carlito Colon.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling / Impact Wrestling (2015–2019)
The Rising (2015–2016)
On February 16, 2015, Ricker 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. On the March 27 episode of Impact Wrestling, Ricker, under the name Eli Drake, joined Drew Galloway and Micah to form The Rising and defeat The Beat Down Clan. 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. 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. At No Surrender on August 5, Drake defeated Galloway. On August 19 at Turning Point, Drake was defeated by Galloway in a No Disqualification match. At Bound for Glory on October 4, Drake competed in the Bound For Gold Gauntlet, which was won by Tyrus. 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. 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, leading to a match at TNA One Night Only Live three days later, which The Wolves won.
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. 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. On the following episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake lost to Grado, who was masked as Odarg the Great. 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.
Fact of Life and Namer of Dummies (2016–2017)
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. On June 12 at Slammiversary, Drake retained the title against Bram. 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. 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. However, on the August 4 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake lost the championship to Storm. Drake then entered the Impact Grand Championship tournament, defeating Jessie Godderz in the first round, but lost to Aron Rex in the semi-finals. On October 2 at Bound for Glory, Drake won the Bound for Gold Gauntlet by last eliminating Tyrus. On the October 6 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake started a feud against Ethan Carter III, after his Fact of Life segment. On the October 27 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake and Rex defeated EC3 and Jessie Godderz. 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. 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.
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. At One Night Only: Live! the next day, Drake and Tyrus unsuccessfully challenged the Hardys for the TNA World Tag Team Championship. Tyrus helped Drake take the red case during the Race for the Case on the January 19 episode of Impact Wrestling. 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. On the following episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake abandoned Tyrus during their handicap match against The Death Crew Council, causing them to lose. 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. 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. 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).
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. The following week, with help from Tyrus and Chris Adonis, he attacked Impact Grand Champion Moose after his match against Marshe Rockett. On the June 1 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake failed to win the Impact Grand Championship from Moose. At Slammiversary on July 2, Drake and Adonis lost to Moose and DeAngelo Williams.
Impact Global Champion (2017–2018)
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. Drake would defend the title against Matt Sydal on Impact, and against Cody Hall in Japan for Pro Wrestling Noah. 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. 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. On January 25, 2018, Drake would retain the title against Impact and El Patron in a Six Sides of Steel match at Genesis. 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. On the February 15 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake failed to regain the title from Aries.
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. 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.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. On the April 26 episode of Impact!, Drake and Steiner defeated LAX in a rematch to retain the Tag Team Championship. Two weeks later, Drake cashed in his World Championship briefcase against Pentagón Jr., but failed to win the title. On the May 17 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake and Steiner lost the titles against D&E (DJZ and Andrew Everett). After some tensions between the two partners, on May 31 at Under Pressure, Drake won a match against Steiner after a chair shot.
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. The following week at House of Hardcore, Drake lost to Moose. On June 25, Eli Drake signed a new contract with Impact Wrestling. 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. 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. Drake issued various open challenges by this time, including one at Bound for Glory. 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.
Feuding with hardcore wrestlers and departure (2018–2019)
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. 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. 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. On the January 3 episode of Impact Wrestling, Drake was confronted and attacked by Dreamer and Raven. At Impact Wrestling Homecoming three days later, Drake defeated Abyss in a Monster’s Ball match.
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. Two weeks later, Eli saved Edwards from the Desi Hit Squad. 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. Two weeks later, Drake and Edwards challenged the Lucha Bros for the Impact World Tag Team Championship, but failed to win the titles. 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. Following this, Impact tried to lock him into a non-compete clause due to breach of contract. On June 4, Drake released a statement speaking positively about his time at Impact and announced that he was now a free agent.
National Wrestling Alliance (2019–2021)
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). 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. On November 10 at UWN Primetime Live, Drake and Storm would drop the titles to Aron Stevens and JR Kratos. 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.
Return to WWE
On February 14, 2021, it was reported that Ricker had re-signed with WWE. At NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day later that night, he debuted as a heel, where it was revealed his new ring name would be LA Knight. He made his in-ring debut on the March 17 episode of NXT, defeating August Grey. On the first night of TakeOver: Stand & Deliver on April 7, Knight participated in a Gauntlet Eliminator for a future NXT North American Championship match, but lost. Knight then aligned himself with Ted DiBiase, and at TakeOver: In Your House on June 13, he defeated Cameron Grimes in a ladder match to win the re-introduced Million Dollar Championship. Knight later turned on DiBiase, attacking him during the title ceremony, before being driven off by Grimes. At The Great American Bash on July 6, Knight defeated Grimes and as per the stipulation of the rematch, Grimes became Knight’s personal butler. On the August 10 episode of NXT, Knight agreed to defend the championship against Grimes at NXT TakeOver 36 under the condition that if Knight won, DiBiase would replace Grimes as Knight’s personal butler. At the event on August 22, Knight lost the title to Grimes following interference from DiBiase, ending his reign at 70 days.
On the September 14 episode of NXT, Knight lost to the debuting Bron Breakker, and later that night, failed to win a fatal four-way match for the vacant NXT Championship. In October, Knight began a feud with Grayson Waller. On the November 23 episode of NXT, a double turn took place; Waller turned heel by berating the fans, and Knight turned face by displaying fighting spirit attitude, and before his match with Joe Gacy, Knight was attacked by Waller. At WarGames on December 5, Knight teamed with Johnny Gargano, Pete Dunne, and Tommaso Ciampa as Team Black & Gold, where they were defeated by Team 2.0 (Breakker, Carmelo Hayes, Grayson Waller, and Tony D’Angelo) in a WarGames match. On March 8 at Roadblock, Knight faced Waller in a Last Man Standing match, which he lost. The following week on NXT, he unsuccessfully challenged Dolph Ziggler for the NXT Championship. After this, Knight started a brief feud with Gunther when the latter took offense at Knight getting an NXT Championship match 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. At the event on April 2, Knight wrestled in his final match with NXT, where he was defeated by Gunther.
Main roster (2022–present)
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). In a dark segment before the April 15 episode of SmackDown, Knight appeared as a villainous manager by announcing his new stable, “Knight Model Management”, and became the manager of Mace and Mansoor. 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. On July 1 episode of SmackDown, Dupri announced Mace and Mansoor, under the tweaked names “ma.çé” and “mån.sôör”, as Maximum Male Models, and was joined by his storyline sister Maxxine Dupri (formerly known as Sofia Cromwell from NXT). Dupri ended his relationship with Maximum Male Models on the September 30 episode of SmackDown. The following week, he beat down Mace and Mansoor and reverted to his LA Knight persona.
After a brief feud with Ricochet, Knight became involved in a feud with Bray Wyatt, culminating in a Mountain Dew Pitch Black match between the two at the Royal Rumble on January 28, 2023, which Knight lost. Over the next few months, Knight’s popularity with fans began increasing despite being a heel. On the March 31 episode of SmackDown, he competed in the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, but was eliminated by Bronson Reed. On the June 2 episode of SmackDown, Knight defeated Montez Ford to qualify for the men’s Money in the Bank ladder match. At the namesake event, Knight failed to win as the match was won by Damian Priest. Knight participated in the United States Championship Invitational tournament but lost at the semifinal stage.