Last week I had the opportunity to speak with World Wrestling Entertainment and TNA Impact Wrestling star, and now country music singer, Mickie James, exclusively for the Daily Mirror.
James, who was over in the United Kingdom on a whistle-stop tour to promote her new country album ‘Somebody’s Gonna Pay’, spoke candidly with me about her musical ambitions, her time in both wrestling promotions, and her storied rivalry and ongoing relationship with WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus.
It really was fascinating to hear from one of the most successful female grapplers of recent generations. Read the full Mirror.co.uk interview below.
On TV screens each week as part of Impact Wrestling, reigning three-time Knockouts Champion Mickie James exudes confidence. Strutting to the ring to the sound of her own voice singing her distinctive ‘Hardcore Country’ entrance theme, the arrogant star has, of late, been proudly calling herself the “heart-breaking, history-making Knockouts champion of the century”.
Away from the bright lights of the squared circle, however, James is anything but the arrogant diva that she portrays on television, as I discovered when I spoke to her following her album launch in London this past weekend.
TNA star James has just completed a whistle-stop tour of Europe to promote her new country music album Somebody’s Gonna Pay. The London launch party offered fans and wrestling journalists the chance to celebrate the release of the new record alongside the singer.
“The launch went amazing … it was my first opportunity to share my music and the album with the fans over here,” she said. “I have wanted the chance to come over to the UK for a while to do this, and everyone has been so supportive.”
Fan support has played a big role in James’ recent musical offering – the record was funded, in large part, by a Kickstarter campaign which saw fans raising a total of $16,500 towards the album’s production, more than three times the target originally set by James.
“We started that campaign before we even went into the studio in the first place,” says the singer.
“I was apprehensive at first as I didn’t know what the reaction would be, but my management talked me into it. Then when I saw all of the various ‘thank you’ options that you could offer to supporters it really reeled me in. I was originally just going to do a six-track EP, but I actually got signed to my label [Entertainment One] because of that campaign. Thanks to all of the people who supported it, there are already talks of a third album.”
Many of the fans that supported James’ Kickstarter campaign have had their copy of the album for several months, and will be able to vouch for the variety of styles on offer on the record – which is not surprising considering the range of musical styles she credits as influences.
“I grew up listening to all music, not just country. I’m a big fan of Snoop Dogg, he was super-hot when I was in high school, but I also listen to a lot of Tim McGraw. So much music has connected with me during my life,” she said.
“The new album is not really traditional country, it’s got more of a Southern rock and Blues feel to it. There’s also all-out rock with the ‘I’m Gone Song’ which we’ve been closing shows with.”
It’s been a week of performing for James, both outside and inside the squared circle. Last weekend, James travelled to Ayr in Scotland with fellow TNA star Robbie E, and faced off against British grappler Nikki Storm at a Pro Wrestling Elite show.
“I have a lot of respect for Nikki, she genuinely and passionately loves this business. As for Robbie E, he’s ridiculous, but in a good way! I’ve known Robbie for a long time, since he was around 16 years old and new to the business. He’s great, I love him.”
Regular viewers of Impact Wrestling will have observed a sizeable change in the Mickie James character over the past three months. After winning the Knockouts title from Velvet Sky by exploiting a knee injury back in May, the champion has taken on an arrogant demeanour, combining her championship success with the acclaim for her new album. It’s made James a compelling character to watch.
“I’m having a blast right now!” says James. “I’ve had a lot of good feedback from fans, even if they do want to punch me in the nose when they watch me.
“I’ve been myself for the past eight years, just with the volume turned up. [In WWE] it was the people that turned me babyface. I think they could tell that I have a lot of fun performing. When I fell in love with wrestling, it was because of the crazy over-the-top characters like Macho Man Randy Savage, who could talk for ten minutes about nothing and you’d still want to hear more, and Sensational Sherri.
“I actually got to work one show with Sherri in Maryland years back, and then I saw her at her WWE Hall of Fame induction and she said some kind things about my work. She’s the one person I’d have liked to have wrestled if I’d had the chance.”
James’ current shift in character is likely bringing back fond memories for long-standing wrestling fans of when the performer first burst on to the mainstream stage back in 2005 as an ‘obsessed fan’ of then-WWE Womens champion Trish Stratus. The two engaged in a memorable feud spanning the better part of a year, including a superb singles encounter at WrestleMania 22 which saw James win her first Women’s title and receive a hugely-positive response from the large Chicago crowd.
“The crowd reaction that night was really unexpected – I thought I’d get booed out of the building” recalls James of the encounter. “There were some incredible moments from that stint, which was helped by the character development, no one had really done that before.
“People beg for something different [in wrestling], not just your average cookie-cutter type of deal, and I think the build of our story resonated with a lot of people. It’s really where this current journey that I’m on began.”
James and Stratus would have a number of in-ring clashes before Trish’s retirement in late 2006. Stratus was recently inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in New York City’s Madison Square Garden, and publicly thanked many of her past opponents, including James, on the night.
“Trish really is amazing both as a person and a performer, and my matches with her paved the way for my career” says James. “For her to take the time, on her night, to acknowledge and thank others from that era … it just shows the type of beautiful person that she is. I love her, she’s so genuine and so true.”
So what’s next for James, the only female competitor in wrestling’s history to have held the WWE Women’s, WWE Divas and TNA Knockouts championships?
“I’m really hoping that this album will lead on to a third, and also I plan to hold on to my Knockouts title for as long as I can,” says James. “But as for what’s next? I stopped trying to plan a long time ago – whatever’s meant to happen for me in the future will happen.”
Mickie James is currently the reigning TNA Knockouts champion and catch be seen on TNA Impact Wrestling each week. Her new album, Somebody’s Gonna Pay, is out now. For more information visit mickiejames.com.