Mickie James on Giving Women in Pro Wrestling Their Due at NWA ‘EmPowerrr’
When Mickie James was let go by WWE in April, the veteran did not take her bow and go home. Instead, the decorated star teamed with Smashing Pumpkins rocker and National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) owner Billy Corgan for a historic collaboration. James is set to executive produce an all-women’s pay-per-view, EmPowerrr, on August 28.
Although under the NWA banner, the legendary female competitor has been making like Willy Wonka, issuing invitations to performers across the independent scene and other promotions. The card features All Elite Wrestling’s Leyla Hirsch vying for the NWA women’s championship against the imposing Kamille. Impact Wrestling Knockout’s champ Deonna Purrazzo squares off with Melina in a dream match.
“Coming out of the gate with an all-women’s pay-per-view is a really powerful thing,” James says. “It has been done in other promotions, but it hasn’t been done again. I think every promotion is going to step up and start doing more with their women after this show. If that is the door I’ve opened up for this female talent, then awesome.”
Here, James previews the big show and shares what it means to see her vision realized.
You’ve really gotten a chance to see the talent out there. What has that been like?
Mickie James: It has been exciting and eye-opening. There is an immense amount of talent out there that has yet to be seen. This is a really cool place for me to help and find new stars, especially for the NWA locker room, and develop our female division in a unique way. I put out an open invitation for people to send their information because I was looking for some diamonds in the rough. I’ve gotten so many submissions. I wish I can book everybody, but I can’t because it’s a one-night show. It’s going to grow into so much more. I was looking at how many options there are and how much we can actually do. Now I’m in a position to live out the vision I hoped to do.
Before you were released from WWE, you spent a little time in behind-the-scenes roles. What did you take from that experience?
I don’t know if I had a seat at the table. I was more in a position where I was able to sit in on some of those [creative] meetings and perhaps give my opinion — but it was very rare where I spoke up unless it was pertaining to me. I was feeling it out for a producer or agent role. I would honestly express my opinion to someone I loved and trusted, if it was something I felt like I should speak up about, but I was more in the learning phase of how it operates.
This show is really your baby. How hard has it been juggling everything?
This has definitely consumed all of my time. Even my husband [Nick Aldis], who is the NWA champion, says, “I really need you to step away and take a break for a second.” I have not stopped because I take it very seriously, because I do recognize that I hung my hat on this for a while. Whether it cost me or didn’t cost me, I’ve been afforded this opportunity. I have a chance and a platform to prove the fight I was hanging my hat on was worth the fight. I hope it is a difference-maker across the board and that everyone steps up and takes notice. When I first walked away, I was frustrated because I was fighting so hard. I didn’t know if people even realized I was fighting or if they even cared. [I hope to] feel like they do care and that it was not all for nothing.
There are many underlying stories heading into the event, like veteran Debbie Malenko participating in the Invitational Cup Gauntlet.
I don’t believe in barriers whether it’s age or story or anything. I think it’s solely based on talent. Debbie has such a remarkable story. She was pretty much next in line to be one of the top female stars before a terrible injury. She left the business and had a family. In her generation, once you had kids, you were done. That was it. Now at 50, she is like, “I can still do this and go. I gave up on this dream because I was told once I do these things wrestling is over.” I’ve dealt with ageism even though I was 38 at the time, with the diaper and the walker skits and things like that. To be able to go, “This is a 50-year-old woman.” [Jennifer Lopez] is the most beautiful woman in the world, on the cover of magazines.
Male counterparts can wrestle into their sixties and be champions and go on and nobody blinks an eye. It was a huge statement to put her in there for many reasons. It’s nice when you can see a talent like Debbie with someone like Tootie Lynn, who is getting her first shot at really being a breakout star and making a name for herself. That is pretty cool. Even with my own career, all it took was that one person to believe in you and give you that opportunity.
You’re facing Kylie Rae at the NWA 73 the next night. Why did you make the conscious decision not to wrestle at EmPowerrr?
I know this is not on par with a lot of promoters, who will book a card to put themselves over their favorite wrestler. That is not what this is about. I want to put on one of the best female wrestling shows you’ve ever seen. I can not do that if I’m splitting hairs worrying about my match that night. That changes the energy around the pay-per-view. That makes it about me and not about women’s wrestling. I have agreed to allow Mr. Corgan to pick my opponent for the next night at NWA 73 because I want my energy and focus and my attention completely wrapped around EmPowerrr. We all know there will be hiccups, but I want it to come off in a way that I will be so proud of the girls.
NWA EmPowerrr, August 28, 8/7c, FITE TV and Pay-Per-View
NWA 73, August 29, 8/7c, FITE TV and Pay-Per-View