Since her April release, Mickie James has had ample time to reflect on her latest WWE tenure. Though the superstar is wildly excited about the future, specifically executive producing the August 28 “Empowerrr” all-women’s pay-per-view for National Wrestling Alliance, James admits one major regret from her recent WWE run — a decision she made herself when re-signing with the company in 2016.

“In hindsight, I wish I’d shown up as ‘Hardcore Country’ Mickie James,” the veteran shared during an exclusive interview for The Wrestling Inc. Daily. “I think she would have made a lot of money.”

After leaving WWE in 2010, James spent a highly successful half-decade in Impact Wrestling, where “Hardcore Country” was born. Under the moniker, she became a multiple-time Knockouts champion. That character evolution was put aside, however, when she was reintroduced to WWE fans during an October 2016 confrontation with then-NXT Women’s champion Asuka.

Soon after, James re-signed full-time. Amidst those negotiations, she admits executives asked what she wanted to do upon her return. Though her main roster reemergence came as the masked “La Luchadora,” the fateful choice to revisit her previous WWE incarnation promptly followed.

“I came back as my old-school wrestling, with the bell-bottoms and stuff…a throwback,” James explained, “Which was, honestly, on me because I felt ‘the WWE audience knows her.’”

James acknowledges she never suggested portraying “Hardcore Country” in WWE, saying she wondered if it “might be a big ask” or if management would buy into the character. However, she speculates returning as “the ‘legend’ Mickie James” might have stunted creative potential for her return.

“This is all speculation, but I think they would have more excitement, more stuff to do around that character,” James said of her Impact persona. “I feel the actual excitement of Mickie James coming back was kind of…”

James pauses, as if to wistfully consider her thoughts, then continues.

“I don’t know if that was a huge thing,” she says of the ‘legend’ character limiting her story options, “But that’s on me, because I proposed it.”

Looking back, James seems to feel things might have been quite different had she pushed to reflect her growth during time away from WWE. It “would have been cool,” she notes, if for no other reason than the character more closely reflects who she is.

“I had evolved. Wrestling had evolved. Women’s wrestling had evolved,” James points out.

“It would have made a statement,” the six-time WWE champion says of the prospect of returning with a new image, “I was one of the few people to be able to leave there and then completely reinvent and recreate myself and stay relevant in a whole other space without [WWE].”

You Can Follow Mickie James on Twitter @MickieJames. Her full interview can be found via the embedded players below.

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