As Lucha Undergrounds Big Ryck, Rycklon Stephens recently took some time to participate in an interview. Stephens reveals his past with the WWE as Ezekiel Jackson, his present with Lucha Underground and his future in professional wrestling. He opens up about how he’s been nominated as a humanitarian and training under Steve Kern and Tom Prichard prepared him for wrestling and how to always appreciate what you have. Check out the complete interview below.
Prior to competing in ECW, not much is documented about Big Ryck’s background. Was wrestling always something you wanted to pursue?
“I became a fan when I was 8 years old in Guyana, South America. I just never thought I was going to have the size to become a professional wrestler. My family didn’t have the genes and then I saw that my body was responding to the training so I thought this was a possibility that I thought I’d train first before I decided to pursue it.”
You’ve recently been nominated as a Humanitarian. How has that come about? Who assisted with your recognition of this award?
“I started the foundation in 2012/2013. It’s always been a brainchild of mine and I wished I had the time and resources to make it bigger but I’m still working on it. But the need for it to be noble for it is beside the everyday normalcy that’s what it’s all about. I was raised in New York and raised in Guyana and I’d always saw myself wanting to be a WWE champion which I had become so I had seen myself beyond the typical young Guyanese man where I lived in some of the roughest neighborhoods in New York and I saw myself being beyond just another guy in the street and I would love to use my platform form as an entertainer to encourage young people to see you can become better.
We can’t be caught up in yourself and caught up in your fame or your money or whatever but to me it’s always been that hey, I’m thankful that I was blessed to receive and travel and see the world and live my dream and now how can I help somebody else get some kind of experience that they didn’t think they would ever have so that’s what the foundation is all about.”
Anyone that follows Big Ryck on Twitter will see biblical passages. Do you find them inspirational or reflect how you’re feeling at a given time?
“I think it is more so. I’ve been tweeting the daily scripture that I get on my phone and I wake up in the morning and read what is sent through. I feel like you know it may be a blessing to somebody else also but it’s also its also whether or not I have a close relationship to something I read or I’d write something else like my favorite scripture which I have tattooed on my arm a couple of weeks ago and that this one is close to the heart and sometimes I’ll get tweets saying hey man, I really needed that today and if one person out of the couple of thousand that read it get inspired by it then I’m happy.”
During Big Ryck’s time in the WWE, you captured the ECW title. What were the long term plans with you and the title?
“For me your told from the past you expect that once you get a lower title that it’s a stepping stone and I was expecting that at the time that I was going to be challenging for at the time the IC title, US title and then eventually one of the world titles. It was definitely for me looking like a positive for the future. There wasn’t anything that said we’re going to sit down and have a conversation, hey, this is what we’re going to do with you or this is what you’re going to do.
They only do that to certain people. There are a few guys whose whole career is outlined for them but there are some of the mid-level guys, lower level guys you show up work and perform and do what you’re supposed to do and hope that you keep getting the recognition and the respect of the fans whether they love you or hate you. It wasn’t there was any discussion about hey we put the ECW title on you and this is the next step. It wasn’t as if it was written in stone it’s just that for me that I got this let’s see if they see something in me what can I do next and I’ll let it go wherever.”
Injuries plagued you during the end of your tenure with the WWE. Would you think that they would be a contributing factor to why some promotions don’t elevate some talent?
“I think if they see money in you that there is a short term or a long term they’ll utilize you for the best for whatever you can give them because there are a lot of high-level guys that have been injured. There have been a lot of guys who have been injured that they have been able to hold titles on like Cena. He’s torn his neck, torn his hammy, torn his pec, and he’s been the guy for the last ten years. If they give you a title it’s about if you can produce it then you’ve produced and they’re still hanging on you. I don’t think that it drops you completely.”
For a period of time, fans didn’t see active competition. What were you up to during that time?
“My contract (with the WWE) ended in April 2014 so I had a three week run with TNA where I came in as heel for Dixie Carter and I got a chance to team up with Snitsky, Rhyno and EC3 against the ECW Originals, Tommy Dreamer, Bully Ray, Devon, Al Snow and it was just another feather in my cap I had a chance to perform with other guys that I would have never had a chance to perform within the WWE. I did that for 3 weeks. Then Lucha Underground came calling and we did the contract in August and here we are now, I’m Big Ryck.”
Tom Pritchard, Steve Kern & Homicide have three very different styles. How did their training help Big Ryck, and what can you say you learned from each?
“With Homicide, I’m going to link in the other trainer that was there in Laython who was down in IWF a tremendous 6’7 300-pound guy that could do all the Lucha stuff. All the stuff they were doing was strong-style. So when you train with Low Ki, Homicide all the videos that you were watching were Japanese. It took this tape home and watch it and there would be Dr. Death and Stan Hansen. For them, it was a very strong style and very foundational. If you can’t throw a good clothesline then don’t throw a clothesline. If you can’t throw a good punch then don’t throw a punch. It was important to do stuff correctly at that time.
When I got signed I got on with Dr. Tom (Pritchard), Dr. Tom was more like making sure it was a show with a lot of stamina and that if we were aware that were all on Broadway. My opponent happened to have been Brodus Clay, 385 lbs and I’m giving up maybe 40 pounds and were fighting in a 90-degree warehouse for an hour but he wanted to make sure that we had that in our back pocket. That we can say we were able to do 1-hour broadway and so when you have a fifteen-minute match you can draw from that and he wanted to be sure that we’re ready to go and say that we’ve done longer than this. He wanted us to understand the show and that we could produce.
Steve Kern is the one that got me to make it real in my head and oh look I’m wrestling, I’m actually beating someone up in a controlled manner. He got in the ring with me on many occasions and was just was there guiding me and yelling at me telling me you are too big to be doing this. Do this like this! He really got in there and he helped me to connect my size with style with my moveset. All three of them combined have come together to create who Ezekiel Jackson was and who Big Ryck is but then there are a lot of guys that I had a chance to go in the ring with that I learned stuff from. Mike Knox used to come down at the time. I had a chance to go at it with John Cena at one time when he helped me to see that oh, I can do this with the big guys, the top guys. Then I was listening to guys like Arn Anderson was the one who really helps me when Ezekiel Jackson was first getting started. I learned some dirty tricks from Norman Smiley and some crazy stuff from Jamie Noble. You want to become a sponge when you’re a professional wrestler. Everyone is going to try and help you and you want to take what can really benefit you. I was just a sponge I made sure I took something from everybody and I was willing to take from everyone that was willing to help me and to show the respect that was there and let them know that I was listening.”
You spent some time with TNA. What can you share about the staff, crew, and environment during the time you were there? Would Big Ryck consider going back?
“It was a couple of weeks of we tried to reach out to you we have something set up and we’d like you to come in but then when I went it in it was basically let’s test you out for these couple of shows. After the shows, there was no phone calls, no emails, nothing. It was just I didn’t know if it was them trying to figure things out or because of their TV deal or what so I wasn’t really stressing because I had spoken to Lucha Underground beforehand and being that it was based out of LA and I didn’t have to travel as much I really was focused on that.”
As Big Rick on Lucha underground your presence is unmistakable. How did working for them come about?
“Chris DeJoseph, the executive producer, lead writer, lead producer reached out and we’d worked together in the WWE so he reached out to me it was just a matter of figuring out the semantics and it was easy going from there. So they reached out for me.”
What can you foresee for Big Ryck on Lucha Underground? Both now and in the future with the promotion?
“I think the sky’s the limit. We shook up wrestling within the first couple of months of being on TV. What is this new thing? What are they doing and can we have more? I think we shook up wrestling to quote Muhammed Ali, ‘shook up the world’ and I think the sky’s the limit for me is the same thing. I won’t do what I do best. I beat people up and I’ll make money doing it. That works for me. We really have a great crew. Everyone shows up and we know what we have to do. We have a lot of freedom that were comfortable with what we’re doing and whether or not you have talent that all minds you get better creative, you get better production better value from people there and you enjoy going to work more. If you see yourself saying hey that’s my idea and then it’s seen you’re motivated to want to do more and keep going week after week and come back better.”
At times, wrestlers don’t find themselves until they are in their 30’s. How would you say Big Ryck has grown in the field now years earlier?
“We’ll know something about wrestling and when you think you’ve figured it out, it changes on you. I can sit and think of time when I was probably 24 or 25 and I’ve figured out somethings and like man, I got it and then a year later oh I didn’t get it and you sit down and listen to Undertaker and Arn Anderson and Triple H and listen to all these guys share words oh I don’t know anything. Once you accept the fact that you’re going and have to keep growing, you can always get better.
Ric Flair can still put on a pair of boots and still tear the house down given the opportunity and he’s what 64 years old and he would probably do something new and people would be like wow, I’ve seen something like that from Ric before. So I think it’s a growing process and you’re always growing. A lot of guys may think they may have it at 18 and every year you’re like you want to keep growing I think I try to grow from show to show and be what did I do last week that I could do better this week or better today. That way your mind grows, your talent gets better and your product gets better.”
Was there anything you’d like to promote or share with readers as it pertains to Big Ryck?
“My website is Rycklon.com. I’ve got some merchandise and some training. My wife’s website is losethenwin.com. We have organic supplements with exceptional results. My whole family is vegetarian or vegan so for me it would be maintaining my size and training as hard as I do and I find that it has been really beneficial.”
UPDATE (October 29, 2015): Rycklon Stephens aka Big Ryck no longer wrestles for Lucha Underground. There were rumors of him retiring from wrestling altogether, though these claims have proven to be false. He is still available for bookings and now flies out of San Francisco. To book firstname.lastname@example.org. Big Ryck can be found on Twitter at @RycklonS.
To read more about Big Ryck and other Lucha Underground stars click here.