Wrestling and country and western music are two things that may not necessarily go hand-in-hand, however Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Knockout wrestler Mickie James not only pursues both, but has been able to successfully cross over the two forms of entertainment.
James has been in the professional wrestling industry for over 10 years and is a six-time Women’s Champion in the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and two-time champion with TNA.
As for her music career, the 32-year-old released her first country album, Strangers & Angels last year and later released her debut single from the album, ‘Hardcore Country’ which she also uses as her theme music in TNA.
Sportsvibe.co.uk caught up with James to find out what it’s like bringing the worlds of professional wrestling and country and western together.
Q. How did you first get into wrestling?
My dad and I watched wrestling together when I was younger and that was kind of our thing. When I came out of high school I really didn’t have a lot of direction and I was doing some work at a bar when a friend of mine, who knew I was an avid wrestling fan, suggested I checked out a wrestling school his friend owned.
I did and I haven’t really looked back since. At first they wanted me to be a valet for the male wrestlers and I said absolutely not!
Q. You’re going to be back in the UK in January for your second Maximum Impact Tour. Are you looking forward to the 2012 Tour?
Of course! I’m very excited about it. We had a lot of fun on last year’s tour and got the chance to visit some great cities and people. I love wrestling in front of the UK fans.
Q. Last year was your first tour of the UK with TNA. How did it compare to when you toured with WWE?
I think that the biggest difference is that the fans are different. With the TNA shows, a lot of the same fans are over-lap and come not just to see one or two of the shows when we’re here, but they’ll come and watch all of the shows. There are some fans that I’ve remembered from when I was in the WWE that have been to TNA shows.
Also one of the nicest things when we travel with TNA is that we get some time to actually see some of the country and the towns and cities we are performing in. That’s not something that happens with the WWE. I remember once we had a 15-show tour in 17 days and the two days we weren’t performing was when we flew over to the UK and when we were flying back home –which is crazy. I think in January we are over here for 14 days and have eight shows so it’s nice to get a bit of down time.
Q. With TNA starting to take flagship show IMPACT! on the road in the United States, do you think it will be long before we see an episode of IMPACT! Or even a PPV filmed in the UK?
I think it would be cool to film an episode of IMPACT! over here at Wembley or the M.E.N. Another idea would be to have an episode called “TNA on Tour” and the fans will get to see a selection of matches from all of the shows we did on the tour; for example, a match from Dublin, a match from Manchester and another match from London.
We could also film when we’re on the buses, planes and trains as well as when we’re visiting attractions like Big Ben. We also have the perfect person in place to film those types of things in JB (Jeremy Borash).
Q. In TNA at the moment there a few British wrestlers including female wrestler Winter. Are there any other female British wrestlers we should be looking out for?
I think it is always a cool idea to have people representing different parts of the globe. Winter (Katarina Waters) is British but she also speaks fluent German as she grew up in Germany. I think its great because when we come back over to the UK and to Germany, the fans feel more a part of the shows and the fans over here want to see the British guys and girls doing well.
There’s a British female tag team I’ve worked with a few times in Ohio Valley Wrestling called the Blossom twins, Holly and Hannah. I asked them if they had sent their stuff into WWE or TNA as I could see them doing a great angle against the Bella twins.
Q. Away from the wrestling you are also a country and western singer. Do you get much time to perform gigs?
Here and there but not as much as I’d like to. It’s also one of those things where I’m still making my name as an artist but I’ve done a few concerts and have had some cool opportunities to open for some mainstream country and western singers.
Stylistically I’m not the type of country music you would hear on the radio I’m more of a Lynyrd Skynyrd meets Kid Rock meets Sheryl Crow. I’ve had some amazing reactions from fans all over the world and when my first album was released on iTunes it was number nine over here.
Q. There are a number of other wrestlers that have ventured into the world of music including Jeff Hardy and Chris Jericho. Have you heard much of their music?
Chris Jericho and his band FOZZY have done extremely well for themselves and I understand they do really well of here in the UK and sell out a lot of their shows. I’ve haven’t had the opportunity to see FOZZY or Jeff Hardy perform a gig but I would love to go.
I think it is great to get involved in people’s outside interests. Everybody embraces things differently and it’s not an easy venture to break the mould of people only knowing you for being a wrestler. Some critics assume wrestlers can’t sing but you never know until you witness it for yourself and sometimes it takes a little while to get the respect from the fans.
Q. There has also been a number of people from the music industry that have ventured into wrestling including the Insane Clown Posse and Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins.
I love Billy and I was a massive Smashing Pumpkins fan prior to knowing he was a wrestling fan. I remember he was at one of the TNA PPV’s when I was first with the company in 2003. I’ve spoken to Billy a few times and not only am I a fan of his work but he is a fan of mine and has been a great help with my music career.
Q. How have you found the crossover between wrestling and music?
From my own experiences, wrestling fans have come to my concerts because they know me from wrestling, but they have never heard any of my music. By the time I come back they’ll know all the words to my songs. They originally come to the show to get a photo and an autograph after the gig and they would like to come and see what all the fuss is about for themselves as they’ve seen it on YouTube. To be honest I’ve built a lot of hardcore fans that way.
Catch Mickie James in action on Challenge TV FREEview 46, Sky 125 and Virgin Media 139 as they air Bound For Glory at 10pm on Wednesday October 19th
Connect with Sportsvibe by joining our social media network. Join the debate to get your voice heard and stay informed with up-to-the-minute news, videos, competitions and articles from the world of sport.