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During a series of WWE NXT tapings Thursday night, it was announced that Mickie James would be taking on Asuka for the NXT Women’s Championship at NXT Takeover Toronto. This was huge news given it was an opponent no one saw coming for Asuka.

James has had years of pro-wrestling behind her and is one of the best female wrestlers around. Her body of work in both WWE and TNA speak for themselves. The accolades she has racked up prove her legend in wrestling.

For someone of James’ calibre to face the unstoppable Asuka, speaks volumes of the build-up for James’ WWE comeback plus testing the current NXT Women’s Champion.

James is not afraid to push the envelope and isn’t shy to take her opponents to the limit.

Ask former rivals such as Trish Stratus – who had some battles with James back in the 2000s. In addition to her athletic ability, James embodies her characters like a chameleon changes colours. James’ characters range from cute and spunky to wild and crazy. That rounds out the former Women’s Champion, who has earned her stripes.

Whether or not James can stop Asuka’s dominance at Takeover remains to be seen. But an opponent such as James is not to be taken lightly. For those who are unfamiliar with her or may just need a little refreshing of the memory, here are five things you need to know about the former WWE Diva.

#1 TNA Career

James would have three runs in TNA – the first one was in 2002 after its inception and her last one was in 2015. During her first stint with the company, she performed as Alexis Laree.

In 2003 she joined the stable called The Gathering, which was headed by Raven. During this time, James is remembered for her participation in Raven’s quest to defeat champion Jeff Jarrett.

Whether it was taking part in the Clockwork Orange House of Fun matches or going through tables, James was a team player in The Gathering. Alexis Laree was James’ darkest character.

Her second run came in 2010 after her release from WWE. In 2011 she won the TNA Knockout’s Championship, which makes her the only woman to have held the WWE Women’s Championship, the WWE Divas Championship and the TNA Knockouts Championship. James won the Knockout’s Championship three times during her times with TNA.

James’ third stint in TNA was largely known for the controversial story line with James Storm. Storm shoved James onto a train track after her refusal to join The Revolution. I did say that James isn’t a stranger to controversy.

2. She Made Her ‘Monday Night Raw’ Debut in October 2005

Mickie James vs Alexa Bliss WWE Stars

World Wrestling Entertainment signed Mickie James in 2003. For two years, she wrestled at their Ohio Valley Wrestling promotion, but she finally made her debut on Monday Night Raw on October 10th, 2005.

During her first Raw episode, Mickie James, who was now using her real name, played a hardcore fan of Trish Stratus, the WWE Women’s Champion. The two of them competed in a tag team for a bit, and the storyline involved James becoming increasingly obsessed with Stratus. They kissed under the mistletoe during a Christmas episode, and a few months later, James confessed her love for Stratus. Stratus was not into any of this, and when Stratus finally rejected James, that caused James to turn heel. This all lead up to a match between the two at WrestleMania 22, and James was able to defeat Stratus and become Women’s Champion for the first time. That James/Stratus feud came to an end with James retaining her championship in a rematch, but she would later lose the belt to Lita.

Mickie James and Lita then feuded for a bit, with James becoming a face again and with James beating Lita at Survivor Series; this was Lita’s final match prior to her retirement.

Next, James feuded with Melina, losing the title to her and then failing to win it back during a Falls Count Anywhere match. Two months later, James won the title back from Melania, only to immediately lose it again. The following year, James defeated Beth Phoenix to win the title for the fourth time; James teamed up with Kofi Kingston against Beth Phoenix and Marella, but at SummerSlam, James lost her title.

After WrestleMania 25 in 2009, Mickie James feuded with Maryse, eventually defeating her to become Divas Champion for the first time. She held this title for a few months before losing it to Jillian Hall, and James was subsequently traded from Raw to SmackDown.

Not long after James made her SmackDown debut, she became involved in an incredibly bizarre storyline in which she is ruthlessly mocked and bullied by Michelle McCool and Layla, who repeatedly call her “Piggy James.” James faced McCool for the title a few months later but lost due to the interference of Layla. At Royal Rumble in 2010, James defeated McCool in just 20 seconds to win the title, but McCool won it back in her rematch.

Mickie James’ final WWE storyline saw her teaming up with Kelly Kelly, Eve Torres, Beth Phoenix, and Gail Kim against Michelle McCool, Maryse, Layla, Vickie Guerrero and Alicia Fox. James’ team was victorious during her last appearance on Raw, but on her final SmackDown show, James was defeated by Beth Phoenix and Layla. This was the last time James was seen on SmackDown until last week.

After leaving the WWE, James wrestled in the independent circuit and then returned to TNA. In November 2016, she came back to the WWE to face Asuka at NXT TakeOver: Toronto, but Asuka defeated her and retained the title.

#3 Mickie James Championship material

Mickie James WWE wrestling star

Mickie James Winning first of her nine Championships

Between both WWE and TNA, Mickie James has had nine Championships to her name. In addition to three Knockouts Championships, James has held the Women’s Championship five times and the Divas Championship once. She was the second woman in WWE to have held both the Women’s and Divas Championship, with the first being Michelle McCool.

In 2009, James was listed as #1 on Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Women’s 50. She was also voted in as Woman of the Year twice by PWI readers. All the Championships and accolades precede James as she heads on to Toronto next month to take on Asuka.

#4 Mickie James Epic Rivalry

Mickie James WWE wrestler

Mickie James’ first WWE feud was explosive

Perhaps one of James’ most memorable rivalries was with Trish Stratus in her first WWE feud. She took on the character of a fan who was a stalker of Stratus.

The feud would last eight months, which led James to her first Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 22. While James has done wild stunts as Alexis Laree in TNA, she would bring the wild and crazy to her character in WWE.

During the feud, James would turn heel after kissing Stratus, who had enough of James. In the weeks leading up to it, Stratus grew uncomfortable with James’ enamoured Behav behaviour would push the envelope. James’ actions would lead to the explosive battles the two would have.

#5 Mickie James Controversy

Mickie James WWE Legend
James is no stranger to controversy, but luckily it hasn’t hurt her career at all. James’ feud with Stratus would cause controversy in and out of the ring. After the kiss backstage, James would take it further inside the ring.

At WrestleMania 22, James would touch Stratus inappropriately followed with vulgar gestures. It has since been edited off the PPV.

As stated previously, in 2015 James found herself in the infamous segment with James Storm in her third return to TNA. Even though the controversy was done to write James off of television due to becoming a full-time mother, fans were outraged at how James was treated to such a storyline.

#6. Mickie James Is Also Performs Country Music

Not only is James an accomplished female wrestler, she is also a mother and a country singer.

James started a career in country music in 2010. Her first album contains the song “Hardcore Country”, which is her theme song in TNA and Independent shows. James recorded two albums and performed concerts while in TNA.

She has also been the opening act for country stars such as Montgomery Gentry and Rascal Flatts. James has a guest appearance on the song “Is Everybody Doing OK” with Cowboy Troy.

She released her first album, Strangers & Angels, in May 2010. Later that year, she released a single called “Hardcore Country,” which made use of her Total Nonstop Action entrance theme.

The first album was independently released, and for her second album, James decided to raise funds on Kickstarter. She set the goal at $5,000 but ended up with over $16,000. The album, Somebody’s Gonna Pay, was released in 2013. One of the music videos for this album actually features an appearance by Trish Stratus, the WWE superstar who James had her first major storyline with.

A few weeks after her match against Asuka at NXT TakeOver: Toronto, James released a new single, “Shooting Blanks.”

7. Mickie James Was John Cena’s Girlfriend Before Nikki Bella Replaced Her

John Cena relationship with Mickie James
Coming back to SmackDown Live must be at least a little awkward for Mickie James, and she’ll be working alongside her ex-fiance, Kenny Dykstra, her ex-boyfriend, John Cena, and Cena’s new girlfriend, Nikki Bella.

Mickie James was once engaged to fellow wrestler Kenny Dykstra, and Dykstra says that the two of them broke up because he discovered Mickie was cheating on him with John Cena. Cena and James hooked up for a while before Cena ended the relationship, and James being upset about this breakup is reportedly why she was transferred from Raw to SmackDown in 2009, according to Wrestling Inc.

This all came to light because Kenny Dykstra made the information public.

“She wanted to date [John Cena], he said no, she flipped out backstage which led to her demise,” he said. “…When they were together she got the title, TV roles. When he dumped her she became Piggy James, then fired.”

Mickie James recently said it was unfortunate that Kenny Dykstra had made all this drama public and said that some of it wasn’t true.

John Cena has dated Mickie James

“As far as that whole thing with Ken it was a shame that he went out and said the things that he did and did that, because I feel that a lot of it was a lie and it was mostly just kind of to help his book sales or whatever the case may be,” she said. “But you know, it is what it is and you know, I’m a grown up.”

James also said that she does not think it will be awkward to be working around John Cena, Nikki Bella and Kenny Dykstra, saying that they’re all adults and that they have moved on.

#8. Mickie James Is Married to Magnus

James has a son with former TNA star Magnus, whom she married in 2015. She gave birth in 2014 and took time off from wrestling to be with her son.

Years after all the drama with John Cena, Mickie James fell in love with fellow pro-wrestler Nick Aldis, who wrestles under the name Magnus. He is a former TNA superstar, and he is now signed with Global Force Wrestling.

The two were engaged in December 2014 and married in December 2015. They have one son: Donovan Patrick Aldis.James’ relationship with Magnus was worked into a TNA storyline in 2015.

In 2016, James reflected on the experience of becoming pregnant while working as a professional wrestler.

“At a point you accept it and embrace it,” she said. “It is kind of scary because you’re watching your body transform. And the whole time your thinking, ‘am I going to be able to get it back to where it was?’ Especially because our business is so cosmetic as it is. Especially females. It’s all about looks.”