It has been 10 years since James Durbin rocked the American Idol stage. Finishing fourth in the competition, the Californian inspired audiences by persevering despite Tourette’s and Asperger’s obstacles. Durbin also stood out for his outward pro wrestling fandom. One that was jump started as a teenager when as the star says “WWE got the ‘F’ out.”
“The first match I remember seeing after school was a Monday Night Raw. It was Jeff Hardy and Rob Van Dam in a ladder match for the intercontinental title. I turned it on and thought, ‘This is for me,’” Durbin said. “I just latched on to it immediately seeing these guys who were taking their individualities and that was their character.
“Seeing a guy like Jeff Hardy, especially a guy like Rob Van Dam. At that time I’m not sure I had the bad Steven Seagal ponytailI, but I would later have it otherwise. Seeing RVD with the airbrush singlets and the five-star frog splash. I really latched on to him, Undertaker, [Chris] Jericho. I got super addicted.”
The first event the Californian got to witness live was No Way Out 2004 from the historic Cow Palace. The night Eddie Guerrero pulled off the upset victory over Brock Lesnar for the WWE championship. Durbin ended up getting there late because his sister’s friends wanted to catch the end of a NASCAR event.
“I was bummed we missed a good portion of the show. I would collect tapes and DVDs. I got the DVD release so I could see the other matches. I remember I had the first Xbox that had the DVD remote and could pause and zoom into the picture. I found myself. I had a bright orange sign that says ‘Brock Fears Eddie.’ I was in my nWo Wolfpac Scott Hall and Kevin sleeveless red shirt.”
Fast forward to 2011 and Durbin found himself in the limelight on one of television’s biggest shows. The former contestant remembered the moment Hulk Hogan surprised him on stage during a results show.
“He gave me his shirt. At the time he was in TNA. I no idea. I had a hunch Idol would be getting somebody because we were doing a wrestling segment at the Idol mansion,” he said. “They had me do a few liners. ‘Eat your heart out The Miz. Eat your heart out John Cena. Eat your heart out The Rock. Eat your heart out Hulk Hogan. Jimmy Hart helped make [the Hogan appearance] happen.”
In 2012, Durbin was part of the WrestleMania 28 Be A STAR community events in Miami.. The weekend provided a memorable meeting with Rey Mysterio.
“It was just before I got my Rey Mysterio tattoo. We were there and talking. He says, ‘Hey James, want to take a picture?” As we do, he is ready to take another one and he takes his mask off. I was like, ‘Be cool. Don’t be a mark.’ He looks like a buff Pitbull. It was crazy these moments and adolescence growing up and being a self-professed mark and loving Jericho for instance. During Idol he was on Dancing with the Stars, which filmed in the same studio. We became friends and have been friends for 10 years.”
Durbin actually tapped Jericho to be part of his band of the same name’s new album The Beast Awakens. The AEW star is featured on the song “Kings Before You” with Phil Demmel of Machine Head fame.
“I went to see Fozzy in San Francisco and ended up getting on stage with him and AC/DC’s T.N.T. I was writing songs for this album. I asked him if he were to hypothetically sing on a heavy metal, classic rock Dungeons and Dragons type of concept album who would you want to play? He says, ‘definitely the villain, but if no villain roles were available, I would have to say a wizard.’ I told him, ‘I just wrote a wizard song, and it’s in your inbox.’ He listened to it and loved it. It really worked out.”
Through a connection with Wind-Up Records and CFO$, Durbin also got to spend some time with the legendary former WWE composer Jim Johnston at the company’s headquarters. What was planned as a writing session turned into an opportunity for a fan to get insight on some of the biggest songs Johnston created over the years for WWE superstars.
“Our writing session wasn’t getting anywhere so it turned into a show-and-tell of sorts,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for a better experience. I ‘m much happier it turned into that. I’m the same way. I wrote my whole new album The Beast Awakens. That was really something. For the little bit of time we attempted to write, it was interesting to see his method.”
Busy with his musical projects, the father of two doesn’t have as much time to watch as much pro wrestling. He peaks into AEW and enjoyed catching Being the Elite while on tour. Durbin also loosely stays on top of the WWE product. Among his favorites these days are the Good Brothers (Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson) for their “debauchery.” Despite being the casual viewer, Durbin does have his hot takes when it comes to entrance themes.
“Baron Corbin needs new music. I thought Dolph Ziggler needed new music for a long time, especially in the last few years in his Motley Crue mode,” he said. “I think he needs something with a little more drive. I think some of the songs off my new album could work as entrance music.”
The Beast Awakens by Durbin is out now. You can find the full audio and video from Scott’s interview with James below: