In an exclusive interview with Daily DDT, Mickie James opens up about facing Asuka for the Raw Women’s Championship, being back in WWE after several years away, returning from injury, who else she wants to work with eventually, and more.
On tonight’s “In Your Face” edition of Monday Night Raw, women’s wrestling trailblazer Mickie James will finally receive a rare one-on-one opportunity for the Raw Women’s Championship.
Her opponent will be none other than Asuka, who she faced in her grand return match months ahead of her SmackDown comeback at NXT TakeOver: Toronto. It was on that night that James challenged her for the NXT Women’s Championship and narrowly fell short of defeat, but only after an incredible performance.
They’ll have the chance to make magic once more on an ultra-important episode of Raw tonight, which will be airing opposite of Monday Night Football. James, in an interview with Daily DDT conducted over the phone last Friday, spoke about her upcoming encounter with Asuka and how she couldn’t have envisioned such a scenario when she originally departed the company a decade ago.
“I’m shocked and I’m grateful,” she said. “Not that I didn’t hope or pray for this moment, but there was a moment where I thought, ‘You know what, I just don’t think it’s in the cards for me.’ Then I was able to come back to WWE and remind everyone who Mickie James is to some sort of level, but I’ve been gone for a year and a half with this year and rehabbing and everything else. Honestly, I can’t believe it.”
In the near-four years James has been back on WWE’s main roster, she has been a part of multiple marquee matches, including a Six-Pack Challenge for the SmackDown Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 33, the main event of Raw in June 2017, and the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble the subsequent January.
All of that, however, pales in comparison to the contest she has coming up with Asuka. She feels it will be the ultimate test to see if she can still hang with one of the best women’s wrestlers in the world today.
“Since coming back, this will probably be the most important match of my career,” James admitted. “I’ve been blessed. I’ve been able to do stuff at WrestleMania and be able to do those things, but for me, ever since I walked back in that door, I wanted to win the women’s championship one more time. At least one more time and I think this is my opportunity to not only remind everyone who Mickie James is but also why I am who am I am and do some of the things that I’ve done and wrestle and beat some of the greatest women’s champions of all-time. Asuka’s no different. I feel like the difference is, this time I know she can be beaten, so I have that in my hat and I’ve had the chance to study her a whole lot more because I’ve been able to watch her grow since then.
“I’ve been so blessed to come back and I feel like I’ve been very humble on this journey and just very excited for every opportunity because I’ve been able to wrestle some really amazing girls, but I haven’t had a chance to really come back and shine on my own,” she continued. “I think Monday is going to be a test for me and it’s going to be an amazing moment no matter what happens. I’ve been looking forward to this and I’m so excited about it. During this last year and a half being off, working hard and being focused, this is the only thing that’s been on my mind that ‘I got to come back and I got to go for gold. That’s all I can do. I’ve got to stay focused.’”
Any momentum James had in the early months of 2019 came to an abrupt halt that spring when she had to take time off for a torn ACL. The injury kept her on the shelf for well over a year and had fans questioning if she’d ever be back in the ring at all.
Thankfully, the future WWE Hall of Famer was able to make a full recovery and return better than she was before. Although doubt sometimes crept in her mind while she was out injured, the time away was beneficial for her and allowed her to recharge her proverbial batteries.
“Once you’re away from the product for so long, you wonder if people are going to even care because the system moves on. Everything keeps moving on,” she said. “It’s not like we don’t have a vast majority of women’s talent out there that would gladly step into that role in a heartbeat and shine. Once you go away for a minute, you wonder if they’ll need you or will the people even care. I think that, fortunately enough for me, the people did care. So, that’s cool.”
James wasn’t seen on Raw during her road to recovery last year, but she did maintain a presence on Main Event via the commentary team. She worked alongside Byron Saxton and Vic Joseph and brought a different kind of energy behind the booth.
It was an experience she enjoyed, though she realized upon doing it for the first time that it was much more difficult than she originally thought.
“It was one of those things where I didn’t realize what I was jumping into there,” James said on her time on the Main Event announce team. “I think what we don’t do is give our commentators and announce team and interviews [enough credit] because their jobs are so difficult. I had done guest commentary before here and there, but never before had I sat in that chair with Byron and Vic and had those guys show me the ropes of how to be a commentator because it’s a whole different role. I had only known wrestling from a fan’s perspective and from a wrestler’s and worker’s perspective of how I watch the matches.
“So to sit back and watch it from a commentator’s perspective, or as a wrestler in a commentator’s position I should say, to be able to give that insight but also to listen to all these other things happening in the headset, it was a task. It’s so difficult,” she said. “But it was really cool and so fun to do. It was cool to jump my feet in those waters and just test them out because I’m all about learning about all different aspects from behind the scenes, the production side, the creative side. It’s all fascinating to me because it’s what makes our product so unique and so desirable. I love it.”
Needless to say, the landscape of the women’s division in WWE is drastically different today than what it was when James was originally around from 2005 through 2010. The talent was there back then, but the opportunities were not, which in turn caused women’s wrestling to not be taken as seriously by the audience or by the powers that be.
To the company’s credit, WWE has showcased women’s wrestling much more frequently in the last five years. In fact, women’s Rumbles and women’s matches main-eventing Raw, SmackDown, and pay-per-views happen so often nowadays that it’s become commonplace for fans, but to James, it will never not be surreal.
“It’s always cool,” she said. “Every time I go out there, I’ve always felt that the ring is what we make our magic happen, so I’m always like, ‘Wow, this is so cool,’ because I’m living my dream. In that same capacity, you can never be complacent in that moment, even if it’s in the main event of Raw. It has to be, ‘Well, we’re in the main event of Raw, so this definitely has to be the match of the night.’ I’m thinking that we have this moment and have this opportunity to shine, we have to show and remind them why we deserve this moment because it’s going to be not just a great match for the girls, it’s going to be the best match of the night.”
James also reminisced on some of her greatest rivals, most notably Trish Stratus. She and Trish clashed in tag team action at the inaugural Evolution two years ago, but if given the opportunity, she’d want to face her in singles competition one last time at an Evolution 2.
“We have a lot of girls and I feel like I haven’t had a lot of singles matches with any of these women,” she said. It’s been all tag matches or Battle Royals or stuff like that. If I was to do only one match, I would say one more time with Trish.”
The former WWE Women’s, Divas, and Impact Knockouts champion added that if there was anyone from the late 2000s era of WWE she’d like to see back in WWE eventually for one more run, it’d be her foe-turned-friend Melina.
“I think still to this day [Melina has the] greatest entrance ever,” James said. “Pretty amazing entrance. Well, mine, so maybe not the greatest entrance, but for females, it was iconic I think. She was so talented. What a hellcat. I loved our matches, she was always so intense. We had the first Falls Count Anywhere match [for the women]. I always loved being in the ring with Beth Phoenix, I’ve always said that. She’s one of my favorite people in and out of the ring and I always loved my matches with her. But I’d love to see Melina come back and do something crazy.”
As for Superstars she hopes to work with for the first time at some point, James was quick to mention Charlotte Flair. Not only is Charlotte one of the best the company has to offer, but James vs. Flair is also a story that writes itself with how many championships they have between them.
Interestingly enough, she threw Mercedes Martinez’ name into the mix as well because of the history they have pre-WWE. That’s a match that could soon happen if rumors of Martinez’s pending move to the main roster wind up being true.
“I haven’t stepped in the ring with Charlotte, not once,” James said about potential opponents for her. “I would also love to work with Mercedes Martinez because I worked with Mercedes a long time ago and I’ve known her a long time. I’m so excited that she’s finally getting a chance to shine because she’s awesome. I would love to work with her. I would love to work with a lot of the girls: Bayley, Sasha [Banks]. I haven’t really been able to work with anyone on a full program besides tag matches and stuff. I’d love to work with Naomi. She’s so athletic and she’s so talented. Her style and my style together would be just awesome together. I think we’d have a great match.”
James has already had such an incredible career, both in wrestling and in music, that it’s tough for her to think of what more she wants to accomplish. Of course, recapturing the Raw Women’s Championship from Asuka is first on her mind, but she teased that the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship may eventually be in her sights as well, assuming she can find a proper partner.
“I’d say if I had more friends, maybe go for the tag titles, but we don’t have friends in wrestling, that’s the thing,” James joked. “No, I’m just so excited for this opportunity, but I think every female would be lying if they weren’t excited about the opportunity or the idea of Evolution 2. I think there’s the opportunity for so many different types of matches even that we have yet to have, both on Raw and SmackDown. All I think we can do is keep raising that bar and keep expecting more out of ourselves and thankfully the fans keep enjoying it.”
Don’t miss Mickie James challenge Asuka for the Raw Women’s Championship tonight on a special “In Your Face” edition of WWE Raw at 8/7c, only on USA Network.