Well, for the first time an item on my 30×30 list has become impossible to complete. I had hopes that at some point within a year Mickie James would make it at least as north as New York on a date that I could attend.
Why Mickie James? Wait, let’s back up. You’re probably asking yourself “Who is Mickie James?” Okay, let’s start there.
Mickie James is currently signed to Impact Wrestling competing in their Knockouts Division where she is a two time Knockouts Champion. In the WWE, she held the Diva’s Championship once and the Women’s Champion a total of five times. She is the only woman in the history of professional wrestling to hold all three titles.
Okay, so why? Well, I became acquainted with her during her stint in the WWE in 2009. I had started watching wrestling again after an eighteen year absence while laid up with a broken ankle. All I did all day was watch tv and wrestling was refreshing. It was an entirely different medium of television that I found intriguing and hilarious.
Before we go any further, I need to get this out of the way: Yes, I know it’s scripted. No, they don’t use steroids. Yes, they are real athletes. And if you come to my house to watch wrestling and say any of those things, I will get silent and then calmly ask you to leave my house. If you call it “fake,” you’re just being a dick and I will let you know that in the most dickish way possible. We judge things that we don’t understand or that we deem different. I’m not here to change your opinion about wrestling, but you can like whatever you like and you won’t hear shit from me.
Back to the story at hand. When I was a wee little WWF fan, there was no such thing as women’s wrestling. My role models were the Big Boss Man and the Ultimate Warrior. It was so cool to see that they actually had positive female role models that were athletic, strong, smart, and totally bitchy when they needed to be. It was awesome.
When Mickie James came out for her match, she was bouncy, happy, and the crowd loved her. I was like “Oh man, she’s the kind of person I want to be best friends with.” And then I was like “No, she’s pretty much who I aspire to be. A happy-go-lucky people pleaser with whacky outfits.” And so a Mickie James fan was born.
If you read my entry on Sara del Rey, you’ll remember that I wrote that the Diva’s division is not at all what it used to be. Mickie James was one of the Diva’s that could hold her own in the ring. She competed in an awesome Falls Count Anywhere match with Melina. And if you want to watch fantastic Women’s Championship match between Mickie and Beth Phoenix look no further.
Then the WWE released her from her contract in 2010 and I never saw her wrestle. It needed to be added to this list.
The problem is that Impact Wrestling doesn’t tour as extensively as WWE does. Unlike WWE, Impact let’s her perform at independent shows, but those are mostly in the South.
So I was surprised when she was scheduled to be a part of Northeast Wrestling’s Wrestling Under the Stars in Upstate New York on September 22nd. However, her appearance was cancelled last night. Strangely, I’m thrilled. The rest of August and September are crazy busy for me and it will be nice to not have to drive a total of eight hours alone…and then attend another wrestling show the next day. Besides, she’ll be back.
With all that bummer business out of the way, let’s talk about something positive and stay on topic. No, I am not going to get into Wade Barrett’s imminent return and how he’ll become World Heavyweight Champion and I will pass out. Instead, we’re going to talk about the time I met Sara del Rey.
Having seen Sara wrestle previously at two Chikara shows in September and December of last year, this was long overdue. I’m terrified to meet people, but I’ve done it before and made it out alive. Mick Foley and Chris Jericho have the distinction of being two of the nicest, most engaging people I have ever met. You can now add Sara del Rey to that list.
A few weeks ago, Vincent and I attended another Chikara show. He, as well as many others, insisted that I finally pull the trigger on meeting her. Because I am a giant suck up, we stopped at Target so I could pick up some of her favorite gum (Dessert Delights).
It’s very common at indie wrestling shows for performers to hock their own goods. Self produced DVDs, 8x10s, t-shirts, etc. They’ll interact with fans, take photos, and ask their fellow performers for change for large bills. Sara was out signing before the show, but I was too paralyzed with fear to approach her. I would wait until intermission.
Chikara has the distinction of being one of the few promotions that doesn’t separate gender during matches. And why should they? It’s pretty bad ass that Sara can come out and fight a dude. Even if was Icarus (the most hated man in Chikara wrestling)…
I won’t get into too many details about the match because this is already super long. Here are two highlights:
She put Icarus in the LaBell lock. A move that Daniel Bryan uses in the WWE and calls “The YES! lock.” Obviously when Sara slapped that on, the crowd chanted “YES!” until he broke the hold. What a bunch of marks.
Sara lost. After the match she attacked Icarus, he rolled out of the ring, and she stood in the ring while the crowd chanted “Thank you, Sara!” She has yet to acknowledge that she signed a deal with WWE, but you know it, I know it, everyone knows it.
“It’s too bad she had to lose her last match,” Vincent said during intermission.
“No, it’s not. She had nothing to gain by winning, but that dude will be known as the guy that beat Sara del Rey. She put him over and that’s really cool.”
After a second of contemplation, he responded. “She’s pretty awesome.”
Vincent said he would take the picture of us and go over with me, but I put my big kid pants on and went over myself. “I brought you a present,” I said as I pulled a heap of gum out of my purse.
“You did!? Thank you so much!”
I asked if I could take a picture with her. “Absolutely, sorry I’m so sweaty.” I acknowledged that she put on a hell of a match. “Thanks. I have the same phone, but I guess everyone has an iphone now, huh?” I agreed, but my brain went “OH MY GOD I HAVE THE SAME PHONE AS SARA DEL REY!”
A nice gentleman took the picture for us, I thanked her, wished her luck, and bought her Best of DVD which she signed for me. If I had a Best of DVD, that moment would be on it. (You’re so lame, Dana.)
(Photo Credits: WWE, Chikara, and me)
When my alarm goes off on my phone every morning, I abruptly turn it off, look at my email and then check twitter. For some weird reason my thumb hit on the “Discover” button and I saw something I never thought I would see. Sara del Rey was the number one trending topic on twitter. My first honest thought was that she had died. Awful, I know. What is even more awful is that I considered that to be the case over what had actually happened: She has signed a WWE contract.
This is a huge deal for a number of reasons. Sara Del Rey, born Sara Amato, has spent the last ten years on the independent scene working on her craft in promotions like Ring of Honor, Shimmer, and Chikara. Wrestling didn’t come naturally to her. It was something she worked incredibly hard to be successful at, and something that ten years later, she was still pursuing at the same rate. Is it possible to be proud of someone that you don’t even know?
Anyone that watches WWE knows that the Diva’s Division, which is their annoying name for the Women’s Division, is hilariously flawed. There’s an unbalanced mixed of former models who can’t run the ropes (Kelly Kelly, Alicia Fox, Rosa Mendes) and actual women who can wrestle (Beth Phoenix, Natalya, AJ, Tamina). Last year, they signed former TNA Knockout’s Champion Awesome Kong, now known as Kharma, but they also lost tremendously talented ladies (Mickie James, Melina, Maryse, Gail Kim, Maxine) that have been forced to find homes at Impact Wrestling and back in the Indies. Oh, and yes, only four of them women currently in the division are 30 or over. And only two of those women debuted over the age of 30. At age 31, del Rey is the first woman to be signed over 30. This is another reason why her signing is so shocking. By WWE standards, she is way too old.
My second thought after “OMG SARA DEL REY” was “They’re going to fuck this up.” WWE creative has been struggling with story lines for all of their talent lately. They gave one of their strongest in ring performers, Natalya, a horrific farting gimmick. Beth Phoenix was Diva’s Champion for six months, but was barely seen on television and eventually lost the title to one of the Bella Twins after faking an ankle injury. Yes, they had to have one of their strongest performers fake an injury to get pinned and lose the title, because it was not believable any other way.
I’ve been fortunate enough to see del Rey wrestle at two Chikara shows over the last year. Thankfully, she will be returning to Boston with the promotion later this month so I will have one more chance to see her before she relocates to Tampa and begins her training. Hopefully, I will not be a giant social leper this time and will actually bring her some gum and tell her how inspiring and awesome I think she is without sounding like a total lunatic. Any help with this is greatly appreciated.
So, what happens when your favorite indie wrestler signs a WWE contract? You wear their shirt all day despite how wrinkled and covered with cat hair it is. And you celebrate it. You celebrate the shit out of it, because you’re almost 30 yourself and you realize that you can still work hard to achieve your goals and be rewarded no matter how outlandish and ridiculous they may seem.