Every WWE Superstar at some point will feel the effects of transitioning from NXT to the main roster. Whether it’s a good outcome or not, it’s part of the company’s system of building up its stars. Before they were let go, Cassie Lee [fka Peyton Royce] and Jessica McKay [fka Billie Kay] of The IIconics remember that same dilemma most Superstars go through after building up their star power on NXT. For them, their journey to the main roster began in 2018 after spending three years on the black and gold brand. Both women explain how different it was going from a smaller and intimate platform to one of North America’s biggest stages.
“It’s night and day. It’s completely different,” Jessica McKay began on this week’s episode of Oral Sessions with Renee Paquette. “It’s a completely different audience and a completely different creative team. Everything is different. Nothing, like, overlaps. NXT was so much fun. We got to explore who we wanted to be. I mean, our debut, we couldn’t have dreamed for anything better than that.”
“So, in NXT, we were kind of like, bit–es, I guess. We were stronger. We looked more like threats,” Cassie Lee added. “Then, we transitioned to the main roster, and Vince [McMahon] thought we were so funny on the microphone that it became more about if we were funny than if we were threats. For me, I needed time to understand and just know that we’re not threats anymore. We were these fun, over-the-top personalities, which I loved. But I missed being perceived as someone who could win a match or win the championships or something like that.
“But, like, when we came back from the pandemic, I absolutely loved from the time we came back from the pandemic till when they split us up. That was my favorite IIconics’ era because it was a good mesh of both of those things; we were still able to be ourselves on the microphone, but when we got in the ring, it was time for business!”
Even though they launched their podcast “Off Her Chops” last month, Lee and McKay are still stuck in a very difficult and legally binding rut when it comes to how they’re going about their green card status here in the states. Since they still have some time left before their 90-day non-compete clause is fully satisfied, they say it’s a challenge to have to pump the brakes to generate new revenue.
“The difficult thing for us is, we still don’t have our green cards, so we’re not allowed to work until we get those or until we find sponsorship anywhere else. We’re so excited; we have all this freedom and so many ideas, but pump the brakes because we can’t do any of it. The podcast, we’re not making any money off of it. It’s purely to get our name out there and stay relevant. It’s been tough just knowing we have all these things we want to do but can’t do it,” Lee commented. “We’re in this holding pattern right now. There’s literally nothing we can do; we’re just waiting. We’ve been in this process for four years, which is basically unheard of. Factors came into it that no one can control, like the pandemic.”
McKay followed up with, “People are like, ‘What are going to do now?’ Well, nothing, because I can’t legally work in the country and people think that you apply for the green card and it comes in the mail. This stuff takes years and we’ve been through the wringer with this, getting stuff denied and switching the process because of the pandemic. It keeps backing up, year after year. We’re almost there, but almost there could still be a year away. We just don’t know. People are like, ‘It’ll work itself out. Surely, your former employer will help.’ No, we’re in this together, just us doing it by ourselves. It’s been stressful and now an added stress after getting released. We were like, ‘Do we have to leave the country?’ We had no idea how it works. Thankfully, we can stay here, but that added stress is a lot. We hope it’s going to work itself out in the next six to twelve months.”
You can listen to Cassie Lee & Jessica Mckay’s full interview here. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Oral Sessions w/Renée Paquette with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.