Ahead of the history-making NWA EmPowerrr, the legendary Mickie James has opened up about her initial hesitation to join NWA, but recalled why the prospect is so exciting for her.
Speaking with Inside The Ropes‘ Lead Writer Gary Cassidy in an interview for Issue 12 of Inside The Ropes Magazine, James recalled what’s so exciting to her about the prospect of quarterbacking such a monumental show for the NWA, and getting to have creative input on the show as a producer.
“I think the most exciting thing is the ability to really… What I feel is [to have] the chance to really make a difference. You know what I mean? I know that, in every locker room that I’ve been in, I know that my voice has been, in the locker room, heard and respected, and loved, and appreciated. But it’s not always felt that way across the board. Here, I feel like that that opportunity to be given to head up something in a way that it’s never been done before and to have that faith and trust put into me and to be put into the women that I’m choosing to stand alongside, that’s really never happened.”
James noted how having a “female at the table” is something she hopes will be much less rare in the future.
“Obviously, on the men’s side, it happens all the time. There’s that same core group of people that are sitting around the table talking about creative, talking about who’s going to be the champ, talking about all these things. There’s never really been a female at that table, so I feel like now not only am I getting a chance to sit at the table at NWA, but I’m kind of getting the opportunity to make my own table with a core group of women who are badasses, who also deserve to be at that table – to be able to make those decisions for the women together.”
The six-time WWE Women’s Champion said she’s conscious of inclusion being the way forward, and that she doesn’t want women’s wrestling to be an alternative to men’s wrestling – just on a par with it.
“I think that’s the really unique part of it. It’s that it’s more than just an all girls show. It’s so much deeper than that. I’ve been careful because I go like I don’t want it to come off as like, ‘Oh, I hate men’s wrestling,’ because I do not. I love men’s wrestling. I grew up on men’s wrestling. I grew up on Macho Man and Elizabeth and I grew up on Sensational Sherri and Macho Man, it was all these elements that made wrestling so cool for me, but I just think it’s a really cool space as I’ve grown up in the business to be sitting here now, you know what I mean? And the ability to help, hopefully help, so many girls and that’s really what I put my focus on.”
One common misnomer is that Mickie James joined WWE because her husband, Nick Aldis, is a major part of the company – but James revealed how Billy Corgan was just as influential in bringing her on-board.
“It was pretty quick, actually, I mean, Billy is… I think it goes without without saying that my husband and Billy have worked really hard on the NWA this whole time while I’ve been back on the road and it’s been amazing to see, and it’s been amazing the cheer on the sidelines and be like, ‘You guys are really doing something special over here and I’m really proud of you and excited for you,’ especially because WWE never really gave Nick a chance – and I don’t understand because, in my opinion, he checks every box, you know what I mean? So I couldn’t understand it but it is what it is, not everybody goes everywhere. But I think that what they’ve done with the NWA, starting with something like the Ten Pounds of Gold Series, to get people truly excited and emotionally connected to the re-building of something that held such a special place in their heart, and special place in their fandom for wrestling.”
Hardcore Country added that her NWA roots go WAY back, so there is a sense of sentimentality about her switch to the company.
“When you think back to, especially people like myself, it was NWA or Georgia Championship Wrestling, it was that kind of division, or it was WWF. That was really, really it. And then out of that, WCW started to take hold as NWA kind of fell away, but it really was a staple in my household. So when I think back into, like, when I fell in love with wrestling, NWA has always been right there, so it’s kind of this really cool it for me, full circle thing of seeing so much growth and what they’ve done with it and now to be a part of it, and I don’t have to silently cheer on the sidelines and tell them how great I think they’re doing or tell my husband how proud I am of him for working so hard – because he really does. He put hours a day in. It’s just really incredible to see.”
Mickie James also gave a sneak peek behind the curtain in how the deal came about, recalling how she would try not to intrude when Billy Corgan visited her home to discuss NWA business with Nick Aldis.
“A lot of people don’t realise, I’ve known Billy since TNA, Total Nonstop Action, in the Nashville Fairgrounds, first ever pay-per-view, first and second ever pay-per-view for the battle royal for who’s going to win the contract. And BB won it. [Mickie glares at camera while sipping her coffee] I’m just kidding, I love BB. But way back then, prior to even being signed with TNA at the time, their very first pay-per-views with Jeff and Jerry Jarrett, I’ve known Billy that long and Billy is my friend and we’ve crossed paths and we’ve talked about it. And even when he would come over to the house and do business with Nick and I’m just like, ‘OK, well, I’ll skedaddle. I’ll make you some Beyond Meat sausages,’ or something – but I’ve always respected his opinion and he’s always been open to hearing it. Then I would go and let them do their work but he’s always been my friend for a very, very long time and I think that he was watching what was happening with me on the sidelines and he’s not a super talkative, talkative person but, whenever we’d have those conversations, he’s like,’I just don’t understand.’ And I go, ‘I don’t understand either’ but I think when the opportunity presented itself, I think that he’s like, you know, ‘I believe in you and I believe in your vision, and I’d like to stand behind you to support you in this, but I think it’s only going to really work if you do it and you do it how you see it’.”
Speaking to the actual benefits of the deal itself, Mickie James revealed her gratitude at being given legitimacy via NWA – but says the partnership just feels natural.
“You’ve got to realise it is his company and his umbrella. To give me that NWA umbrella, which automatically gives me legitimacy, it has the history of the NWA, the respect of the NWA and everybody that already has this this notion that when you say those three letters of what they feel about the company and then to say, ‘OK, well, we’re going to step up and do that, but we’re also going to put myself in charge,’ it just was really, really special. It makes me feel good because you go through these ebbs and flows, and you start to doubt yourself or all these other things, the way you get your mind twisted. So it’s just cool that my friend said, ‘Hey, I think you should still do this thing. Like, I don’t think you should not do it. In fact, come do it with us.’ And I was like, ‘OK, yeah, I’ll do it with you guys.’ It was natural. My husband’s there and I’ve watched what they’re doing anyway. And I don’t know, it just felt natural.”
— Gary Cassidy (@TheGaryCassidy) August 21, 2021
Mickie James did, of course, have reservations – as is only natural – about joining the company as she said she didn’t want to detract from the word husband Nick Aldis has done there.
“That was one of my reservations for going there. I was very open to Billy and to Nick about this is like, I was nervous to go there because of that very reason of like, ‘Oh, of course she’s going to NWA, her husband’s there,’ and I didn’t want to step on or take away from all this hard work that Nick has literally done, with Billy, and poured all this energy and all this focus into this. He’s worked so hard and I think that when I went back to WWE, Nick really started making some real cool strides and he really started to get the respect back, but of his own merit of like not being like, “Oh, it’s Mickie’s husband, Nick.” And like these little things after we had Donovan which, as people do, they’re silly, they’re ridiculous, but I’ve always thought Nick was a world champion, I’ve always thought he was a star – obviously, I could be biased in this, we have a child – but even bigger from here.”
With regards to the actual creation of the EmPowerrr card, Mickie James was very thorough in compiling the roster.
“I’ve gone through this email thing that I’ve set up, and I’ve literally watched every single wrestling match that has been sent to me, and watched everybody’s reel and watched their promos and looked at that. And I’ve had my friend Brent, who is a good friend of mine, Brent Tarring, look at them with me and kind of go through and like, help me like. So I’m looking at the card and going down, but I’m personally looking at all of these things. And just… That doesn’t happen very often. But my point is, is that I’ve been very open about – if you wanted to if you’d like to do business with me, I’d never force anybody’s hand, but if you’d like to, if you’re interested, then I’m absolutely interested in doing business with you because, for me, the end goal is this pay-per-view to blow it out the water and be… Because this is not this is not just a one time thing. This is just the first step. You know what I mean? Like, I see this going so much bigger than one pay-per-view. This is going to turn into something that’s really, really magical. And that’s why I thought it was really important that we all come together for the one night and I hope that we all come together. That would be really cool. And if we don’t, well, you might get left.”
Well, a wrestling collaboration between Mickie James and Billy Corgan is obviously incredibly exciting – but what about a potential music collaboration?
“That… Oh, my God, that’s so funny! You know, I would never say never. But also it’s funny because Billy, I actually asked him for the first time to help me, or like take a listen to my last single that just went out, this Grown Ass Woman song, but honestly, I’ve known him for so long and he’s asked me countless times like, ‘Oh, well, if you ever need any help. Oh, if you well if you want want some help in your music and stuff,’ And I always felt weird about it because I go like, well, he’s my friend. I don’t look at Billy Corgan like… He’s just Billy, he’s Billy. But yeah! You never know!”
Thanks so much to Mickie James for taking the time! You can read our full interview with Mickie James in this month’s Inside The Ropes Magazine or, for something a little different, check out our 20 Questions with Mickie James.