Mickie James has been a staple in the wrestling industry since she made her debut on the independent circuit as “Valet.” Under the name “Alexis Laree,” like other wrestlers during the training process, she trained at several developmental facilities prior to making a stop at Impact Wrestling, formerly known as TNA and NWA, founded by WWE Hall of Famer Jeff Jarrett in 2002. James would gain national recognition as part of a group entitled “The Gathering.” After a few appearances with the group, she had a storyline with the group. She would start her career breaking down barriers for women wrestlers. She is the only woman to be a part of the promotion’s “Clockwork Orange, House of Fun” matches.
In 2005, Mickie James made her debut in the WWE under her real name as a part of a storyline with Hall of Famer Trish Stratus. The James’ gimmick at the time was centered around being Trish’s biggest fan turned stalker, and many think it is one of the greatest storylines in the history of the women’s division. James would earn her first Women’s Championship by defeating arguably her greatest nemesis Trish Stratus at Wrestlemania 22 at the Allstate Arena in Chicago. The feud with Trish would go back and forth until June 26 of 2006, on an episode on Raw that featured James defeating Stratus and retaining the Women’s Championship.
James would end up losing it on August 14, 2006, to another Hall of Famer and mentor of her in Lita, which is ironic because twelve years ago, Mickie was Lita’s opponent at Survival Series in 2006. This would be Lita’s last match, and now they will be facing each other at the All-Women’s Pay Per View “Evolution” on October 28th of this year. After Trish retired at WWE Unforgiven on September 17, 2006, Lita and James would meet in a women’s championship match, which James would drop the title to Lita at a pay-per-view called Cyber Sunday.
James would then turn into a babyface during a storyline that would end with her winning her second WWE Women’s Championship, as she defeated her mentor Lita on her last night as a full-time performer in the WWE at Survivor Series. Following Lita’s exit, Mickie would transition into a storyline with Melina, a newcomer to the women’s division, after she was named the number one contender for Mickie’s Women’s Title. Mickie would go on to defeat Melina in their first title match but fell to her in their second. They would rekindle this feud later that year and lead to a triple threat match involving Mickie’s close friend Victoria, which she pinned to capture her third title, only to lose it again to Melina, giving Mickie the shortest Women’s Championship reign in WWE history.
James would lose her next two title opportunities to Melina and Beth Phoenix but was able to redeem herself later that year against Phoenix, allowing her to obtain her fourth championship reign at Judgment Day in 2008, only to lose it in Phoenix in a mix-tag team match involving Kofi Kingston and Santino Marella. After this, James had numerous run-ins with Maryse, who she beat to become the second woman to win the Divas championship. Other opponents she would face during this storyline included Gail Kim, Beth Phoenix, Alicia Fox, and Jillian Hall. She would later be traded from Raw to Smackdown for the first time.
She would begin the now-infamous “Piggy James” storyline featuring Michelle McCool and Layla, which formed the tag team, “Laycool.” During this storyline, Laycool teamed up and bullied James throughout the segment, which also featured serval title matches between James and Michelle. Each performer beat each other on different occasions for the Women’s Champion, ultimately giving James her fifth championship.
In 2010, the WWE released James, and according to James, it was because they wanted to move in a different direction with the division. Upon her release, James would return to the indie scene but be brought back in as a guest trainer at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, for a week, training NXT‘s female wrestlers in 2013. She would again return to the indie scene with another stop at TNA (Impact Wrestling) from 2010-2016. During her second run in TNA, she was able to win the Knockout Championship as she became the first female to hold the WWE Women’s Championship, the WWE Divas Championship, and the TNA Knockouts Championship. Her run with TNA would end in 2013, but she would make a return to the company on January 30, 2015, until July 29th in which she had the opportunity to work with her fiancé at the time and now husband, Nick Aldis or “Magnus” in the wrestling world, in an intergender tag team match where they beat James, Storm, and Serena.
On July 7, 2015, James signed with Global Force Wrestling, where she had a couple of run-ins with ODB, Lei’D Tapa, Christina Von Eerie, Nikki Storm, Toni Storm, and Kimber Lee before making her return to WWE in October of 2016. After a six-year hiatus and she would return to the WWE’s development Brand NXT to face rising star Asuka, who would go on to beat James. Later that year, she signed a multi-year deal with WWE and made her main roster on Smackdown in January 2017, helping Alexa Bless defeat, Becky Lynch, in a steel cage match after revealing herself as the woman in the “La Luchadora” gimmick and establishing herself as a heel again. While helping Alexia in the process, that partnership would quickly turn as both were featured in a storyline where Alexa makes fun of Mickie’s age resulting in two title matches between the two performers, but Mickie was defeated both times by Alexa Bless.
By the end of 2017, the women had already competed in the inaugural Elimination Chamber Match, and in January of 2018, it was announced that the women of the WWE would be competing in the first-ever 30 women Royal Rumble, which was followed by 4 four matches featuring women at WrestleMania. The Women’s division has been breaking barriers ever since and ever since Mickie’s Debut back in 2005, James has been significant in some of the WWE’s most groundbreaking moments as it pertains to the Women’s movement, including when Stephanie McMahon and Triple H announced that on October 28th WWE would host an all-women’s pay-per-view called, “Evolution.”
In addition to her many WWE accolades, Mickie is also a country musician. She will be attending the American Music Awards in Los Angeles on October 9, and she will also be hosting the Native American Music Awards in New York on October 13.
Mickie and I had the opportunity to speak when Raw invaded Dallas, Texas, on September 17, 2018. James has been a pioneer in women’s wrestling for the past 16 plus years, and I wanted to get her to take on how it is evolved over the years.
Can you talk about her progression over the years as a performer?
I think it is incredible, especially being that this wasn’t her dream. I think she was totally content with the life she was living at the time. I feel like Reid’s death was really the catalyst in her decision to go full force and pursue a career in wrestling after his passing. Obviously, Ric flair’s shoes are such big shoes to fill. He is considered the greatest of all time by many and certainly one of the greatest of all time, in my opinion, like Shawn Michaels, and the list goes on. I think that was certainly the catalyst for her desire to try to be the best. She recognizes that she’s going to be constantly compared to her father, and she wants to be at least perceived somewhat on that same level. Obviously, she’s done well for herself thus far.
Earlier this year, Bayley talked about your locker room leadership and that she wanted the opportunity to hear your thoughts about the evolution of the wrestling business. What does that mean to you since you are a veteran in the business?
It’s incredible. I think it’s humbling, and it’s an incredible honor. I think that it has always been prominent in the male locker room. They have always had the tiers of veteran leadership from the individuals who have been there for 12 years to mentoring the upcoming talent. Now, to have that in the female locker room provides strong leadership to younger female talent who are now just coming up. Hopefully, I can encourage them through our life experiences not to make some of the same mistakes that we’ve made in the past. Both inside and outside of the ring, it’s a massive benefit for them because a lot of the time, they learn by trial and error. Hopefully, if you have someone who’s already been there, done that, then you could learn from those mistakes or learn from all the successes they have had in the business. You can be so successful if you use those lessons in your own career. So, to answer your question, I am incredibly honored, and I love Bayley so much. She is such a good person, super sweet, and she loves wrestling. Like, loves it within her deepest part of her soul. She’s great, always very complimentary, and very respectful in the locker room.
Back in the early 2000s, there weren’t all women Pay Per Views. What were some of the emotions that you felt when the match with Lita was announced?
Most people know that Lita has been, as far as my wrestling career is concerned, a big influence even before I came to the WWE. We met when I was working the independent scene in North Carolina. She’s always been so kind to me and helped me out a lot. For example, she pulled me aside back then when I was working my way up and gave me advice on what to do and what not to do in the ring. This was even before I got hired and kept coming in for tryouts. Telling my boss, “maybe you should look at this girl,” and she didn’t have to do that! Then also obviously allowing me to pitch ideas that ended up getting me on television and working with Trish Stratus. I’d always looked forward to being able to work with Lita. We didn’t really get a chance to work together until she was getting ready to retire.
So, our big stint of finally being able to be in the ring together was when she was on her way out, which was bittersweet for me. I’d always wanted to work a program with her, and she’s saying goodbye as I’m getting to the height of my career. I think we have some unfinished business because of the way she left, and I think for her to have been able to come back and provide the girls with her focus when she was announcing, helping produce, and doing things backstage. Lita has so much knowledge she really paved the way both in the ring and how she’s made money. She was able to separate herself. Before Lita, women weren’t doing moonsaults, hurricanrana, and other highflying maneuvers. I think she really changed the game in the women’s division. I’m excited to work with her and to give these young girls maybe a little competition.
It is also rumored that Tag Team Championships will be added to the Women’s Division at Evolution. Since you were a part of the TNA promotion, Tag Team Championships implemented in the women’s division, what are your thoughts about the WWE Women’s division being strengthened?
I hope it is true because I’ve been saying and asking about bringing back the women’s tag team championships. I know I’m not the only one who’s asked about it, but I certainly have been saying we should bring back the women tag team championships. They’ve been retired for so long; it was in the early nineties when they retired Jumping Bob Angels, The Glamour Girls. I don’t know if a lot of people know who these people are, but I’m aware because I have been in the business.
Now they are putting three women’s matches on the show, but aside from a personal issue, the only thing that is valuable to grab hold of is the Raw and Smackdown Women’s Championships. There can only be one person going after those championships at a time, in the reality of things. So, what is it that will give everyone a different way of fighting and getting more camaraderie and storylines? In the same way that they do with the men who have the tag team championships, the Universal Championship. They have a plethora of championships and storylines to be able to go after where the women only have one per show.
I think the tag team championships, even if it’s just one belt that’s then defended on both shows, but you have the Iconics now that are coming up. Think about it like when Layla and Michelle were together, it would have been a great storyline when they were with the company. Or Alicia Fox and I can be the veteran team in the division. It would just give everyone, I think, a different catalyst for things too and ideas from different stories. Storylines could also spawn off from those stories. It would also show how diverse the women’s division could be because tag team wrestling is a whole different dynamic. You would be building towards different moments than there are in singles competition.
If you had to pick one tag team partner from the Attitude Era and the current era, who would they be and why?
People would think that I would probably pick Trish or Lita for the Attitude era, but I am going to say Lisa “Victoria” Marie Varon because she wasn’t the lady to mess with.” She is tough as nails. Lisa was “The Bad Ass” before the term “Bad Ass” was implemented. As for this era, I would pick my friend Alicia Fox. She’s my road partner, travel partner, and my ride or dies.
What other titles would you like to see them implement in the future?
I remember when Trish Stratus won the Hardcore Championship. I would really love to win one of the men’s championships and throw a complete curveball out of nowhere. When they had the clause that anyone could challenge the champion anywhere as long as there was a referee present. In today’s climate, the man can’t really put his hands on a woman, but it would be a different dynamic. I think it will certainly happen at some point that one of the women will win. I hope it’s me, but I think that one of the women will end up winning one of the men’s championships at some point. I think that would be a great storyline. It’s unique, and it would also be a cool story of how a guy is going to get this championship back from a woman.
Wrestlemania 35 is at MetLife Stadium next year, and Toronto is not far from New Jersey. Are you interested in facing Trish at Wrestlemania, and what type of match would you like it to be?
Always! Of course! I feel like I’m very blessed and very fortunate that people are always so kind, and not this is deserved on both sides. I think it just says a lot about the story and how hard we all work, from Trish and me to the writing team to Stephanie and the production team, to make that storyline so impactful at that moment. Now that it has been more than 10 years, it is still noted as one of the greatest female storylines of all time. When I go back, and I look at the match, it was incredible, but there have been some pretty amazing matches since then too.
To say it was the greatest female match of all time, I don’t know that I could say that, but what I could say is it was probably one of the greatest female storylines of all time, due to the connection and passion and emotion that it gave the audience. I think that’s where people lose. It’s like; it’s not about what moves you; go out there and do it. At the end of the day, people will forget the moves. It’s not about that in this business. It is about the emotion and how you make them feel. At the end of that storyline, the reason why they were so connected and the reason why they were so into it is that they felt one way or another. Whether they loved Trish, hated me, or vice versa. The fact is they were genuinely connected in the story and to the characters, which made it special. It obviously stood the test of time. So that says a lot.
It was the first time they did that for the women’s division, and it is the measuring stick of how to connect with the people. I don’t go out there and try to plan these matches. Yes, I want to have a five-star match, but I don’t really care who rates it five stars on the internet. What I care about is the little kid at home that I’ve genuinely made them feel something to the house moms as well. I’m more of an emotional person because that, to me, at the end of the day, is what drives this business. That’s what I connected with as a fan, and that’s what I build on trying to make people connect with me or our characters and storylines.
Did you enjoy the storyline?
I loved it. At the end of the day, that’s the fun part for me. When the lights in the arena turn on, I’m Mickie James all the time. Do you know what I mean? This is my normal, but to be able to go out and play that type of character is so fun and interesting. It allows me to show my artistic side. I was fortunate enough to be able to keep my real name and build a whole bio around Mickie James. For instance, from the songs my character listens to, to the food she eats, the whole gimmick. When the lights come on, I don’t have to question myself or think twice about it; it’s just who I am.
Alexa Bliss will be facing Trish Stratus at “Evolution.” Has she asked you for tips on how to prepare for the match?
She has not asked me for any advice in preparation for her match against Trish. I can tell you she is excited about it, and she is a big fan of Trish Stratus. I also think she is confident in her abilities, and she is a fan enough to know what Trish has done and can do. I can confirm that she has expressed her excitement for the match. She has also expressed her gratitude for me standing beside her and working with her during our storyline. She’s a very sweet girl and a hard worker. She works so hard.
This is my personal opinion. For fans to truly love you, you must get them to really hate you first. When I first debuted in the WWE, I came in as a heel first. Fans did not know what to think because I wasn’t playing your typical heel role, and then I turned into a babyface and was one of the biggest babyfaces.
If you could have one more match with Lisa Marie Varon, what would you want it to be?
Well, Lisa and I have a history. I mean because we’ve seen each other here and she’s a dear friend of mine. I love her so much, and I have so much respect for her. Lisa is incredibly talented and underrated, but far as a match goes, we’ve done the cage match. We’ve done count anywhere and used weapons, but I would have to say a 60 minutes Iron Woman match. The reason why I say Iron Woman match in the sense of like 60 minutes is we would practice these when we were in OBW, which I’m sure she was aware of too because she probably had to do one. I had to do one where you would have to go, and you would have to do an Iron Man match when I was in training in developmental. I know as a performer now that I could still go 60 minutes if I needed to. I know what we’re capable of, and it would be a testament to us, and we can still tell that story. Making people feel a certain way and go 60 minutes while keeping the people involved the whole time. I always look at the challenge as to what that would look like from not only my perception but also as a fan. For me, as a talent, I am a perfectionist, always wanting to be the best.
What are your thoughts on Ronda’s progression thus far?
I think she’s come a long way since she debuted on Wrestlemania. It’s tough because you go from being in the ring with Kurt Angle, Triple H, and Stephanie. Stephanie has so much heat. Fans love her and hate her and want to love to hate her. You’re in there with the best of the best and then go from that platform into the women’s division, which is a whole other animal of the family. In terms of the locker room and on the road together and us always working together to create these moments and matches. While trying to understand that cycle, but I think she’s working hard, and she’s trying hard. It’s a different world for her, and I think it’s a different dynamic in the sense that we’re all competitive, clearly, but we’re also all a family, and we all must work together. You are only as good as the person in there lets you be at the end of the day. Hopefully, they are professional enough to let you do that.
I think that’s probably the biggest difference for her, that and to understand that nobody is out to get her. That is the world she grew up in, understandably to become an Olympian or go into the UFC hall of fame and become a champion. That type of mindset has helped her become a household name and bring women into the limelight. I think that she’s trying hard, and I’m sure that it’s a different world for her to get adapted to, and she recognizes that this is a whole different animal. I think she loves it here in the WWE.
At this point in your career, is there anything that Mickie James wants to achieve as a performer?
I still want to win the women’s championship again or twice, not just tie Trish’s record, but break it. Now that Charlotte has tied it, I want to tie her as well. I have tons of goals, and it would be cool to do a storyline that rivals the way I came in. If I can have one more storyline that is in that echelon with anybody on the roster, I don’t only want to say with Trish. I would love to work with Trish. Again, I’m so honored to be able to work with Lita again. I was in her retirement match, and I worked with Trish on her last match on RAW. Well, not technically. She’s come back a few times, but as a talent at the time.
So, break the Women’s Championship record, headline a Wrestlemania, add a tag team championship in there, and become the great tag team champions of all time with Alicia Fox are all goals of mine that I would like to achieve at this point in my career.
Since we have Alicia Fox with us here, what type of match would you want to be involved with to blow the roof off Wrestlemania?
Mickie James: A Tag Team TLC match. I mean, I would not want to wrestle the next day, but TLC would be great.
Alicia Fox: I’m so lucky to work with Mickie, and last night (September 17th), I felt like that was the greatest match of my whole career. Mickie is my best friend, and I knew everything would be okay because she was right there by my side.
Mickie: It is always a fun ride when you have the people you love right beside you. I think you and I could kill a TLC match with your long legs and do some of the things Edge and Christian and the Hardy Boyz were famous for throughout their career.
Alicia: My favorite thing is putting the match together and creating the moments.
If Donovan came up to you and Nick and said, he wanted to join the family business in the future. What do you think your initial reaction would be?
I will support my son in whatever he wants to do. Obviously, I would explain to him how tough the road is and how unforgiving it can be. Sometimes it’s not just about your body but also your mental state. I would implore him to make sure he gets his degree, and I would encourage him to do all that first once he has done that and grown as an adult, including getting some of those wild, crazy hairs out of his system. Then if that’s what he wanted to do, I would absolutely support him 100 percent.