Not long ago, Mickie James seemed ready to bring her legendary in-ring career to a close. She had grown content with the idea of focusing on other passions — family, music and life as a country girl. Then a call from WWE rewrote herstory.
“I’d already started to plan for my exit out of the ring,” the nine-time Women’s champion shared during an exclusive interview for The Wrestling Inc. Daily.
In 2016, James was fresh off a highly successful run with Impact Wrestling, where she became a three-time Knockouts champion and honed her “Hardcore Country” persona. Her schedule filled with indie bookings, she tried to “fish out” interest from WWE to limited response before considering other options.
“I just wanted to go forward and take that next step,” said James. Then the mother of an infant son, she was at a career crossroads, “just juggling so much stuff.” Meanwhile, husband Nick Aldis was blossoming as NWA World Heavyweight Champion.
“I was like, ‘Well, I can just sit back and ‘Mom’ and travel and do my appearances and work on another thing,'” she explained. “Work on horses, work on all these other things I had going on, my music.”
Fate had other plans. WWE offered what James initially thought was a one-off opportunity.
“That was when I got to go back and wrestle Asuka. That was so, so cool,” she shared. A call for a full-time return followed soon after. Of the offer, James says: “I just didn’t see it happening for me!”
Five years later, just back from the first legitimate injury of her career, an in-ring end again seemed near. James considered WWE’s offer to produce for the Women’s division, but wanted to “put a bow” on her two-decades as a grappler first.
“I just wanted something — and it wasn’t even like a championship,” she explained. “I just wanted a moment or a story or the ability to perhaps make somebody on my way out.”
Before anything could be ironed out, James was released by the company in April. Not one to hang her head, the Virginia native quickly took ideas which did not interest her former employer — namely the desire to develop an all-women’s wrestling product told from a female point-of-view — to long-time friend and NWA President William Patrick Corgan.
The result is EMPOWERRR, an all-women’s pay-per-view broadcasting August 28. The event kicks off the NWA’s colossal, weekend-long return to St. Louis’ Chase Ballroom. Setting the stage for the NWA 73 Anniversary show and two days of TV tapings, James is personally curating nearly every aspect of the event, including hand-selecting competitors. She confesses it’s a challenge.
“The talent out there now is even deeper than it ever was before. That’s the biggest thing I’m learning on this side of it, as the Executive Producer,” James gushed.
“The business has evolved, and the synergy around women’s wrestling and the respect for it as a whole has changed,” she continued. “That came from the fans rising up and saying, ‘No, we want to see the women.’”
With EMPOWERRR, which promises legends and stars-of-tomorrow, James looks to meet that demand. For the veteran, though, it is far more than simply a showcase for the NWA’s women’s division, a chance to “make new stars” and grow women’s wrestling as a whole.
It seemingly offers that transition she once hoped others would offer but never did. NWA is allowing James to write what might be the final chapters of her active career…on her own terms.
“I have an opportunity to actually do it, and do it the way I saw it, the way I feel it should go,” she said of EMPOWERRR.
“Now I have the opportunity to either prove them right, or prove myself right,” the superstar concludes. “And I’m going with me; I’m betting on me.”
You Can Follow Mickie James on Twitter @MickieJames.
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