Impact Wrestling Knockouts Champion Mickie James’ return to WWE in the upcoming Women’s Royal Rumble Match was originally planned to be a surprise.
As noted, WWE recently announced 19 competitors for the 30-Woman Rumble Match. James was one of the non-WWE competitors announced, and WWE acknowledged on TV that she is the current Knockouts Champion.
In an update, James appeared on The Ariel Helwani Show this week and said she was “shocked, very shocked” when she got the call from WWE to return at The Rumble. James was surprised as she feels like WWE never went out of their way to do something like this in the past, especially for women’s wrestling.
James revealed that WWE Talent Relations head John Laurinaitis recently called Impact Executive Vice President Scott D’Amore to pitch the idea of James’ return, and D’Amore then called her to see how she felt about the idea. WWE was originally planning to have her be a surprise Rumble entrant, but they wanted to make the big announcement that came on last week’s SmackDown, made by SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair. James said she had no idea the announcement was going to be made just one day before her title defense against Deonna Purrazzo in the Texas Deathmatch main event of Hard To Kill.
It was previously reported that WWE announced the Women’s Rumble entrants ahead of time to generate buzz and ticket sales. Summer Rae, who was also announced to return for the match, also revealed that her return was originally scheduled to be a surprise.
James said the announcement worked out because it led to many people thinking she would drop the title to Purrazzo at Hard To Kill, but she retained and now she gets to work the WWE match while still being Knockouts Champion. James said she’s grateful WWE acknowledged her title reign with Impact because it’s a very rare move by the company.
James hopes she will get to carry the Knockouts Title when she comes out for The Rumble, and hopes WWE fans get to see the “Hardcore Country” version of her character, not the WWE version of Mickie James.
“It felt amazing. It shows a level of respect and gratitude,” she said of the announcement. “It was a cool move from their part and it’s cool to be able to represent Impact.”
James also said she’s maintained a good relationship with everyone at WWE, adding that they have apologized for the trash bag debacle from when she was released back on April 15 of last year along with other budget cuts. She said she previously received personal phone call apologies from Laurinaitis, Vince McMahon, Stephanie McMahon, and Triple H.
The former WWE Women’s Champion said it’s “super cool” to be working The Rumble, and she hopes it leaves the door open for future opportunities.
James also revealed that AEW never reached out to her directly following her WWE release, but people knew she wanted to work with her husband Nick Aldis in the NWA, and she wanted to produce the all-women’s NWA Empowerrr pay-per-view. James also said she wasn’t interested in signing a multi-year contract with anyone at that time due to family life and her various projects.
Stay tuned for more.