At times, longevity can be a double-edged sword. It’s a rare trait deserving of admiration but in the same way, it can also allow a talent to almost go under the radar, so established that their work goes without appreciation. I think with Evolution just days away, Mickie James stands out as a quite obvious example of that truth. On a night filled with moments of vindication and pride, I’d argue that Mickie James stands out as one of the biggest success stories of them all, even if in quite fittingly understated fashion.
To be frank, Mickie’s tale isn’t mine to tell but for some context, she first entered the pro wrestling industry in 1999. She then signed for WWE in 2003 before making her main roster debut in 2005. James’ work opposite Trish Stratus is revered and often cited as a signature moment but due to timing and other factors, Mickie’s genuine range as a performer wasn't always spotlighted much afterwards, falling victim to the same infamous limitations as her division’s peers. Nonetheless, James’ was a key player in her initial WWE run, becoming 6-time champion before departing in 2010.
James plied her trade elsewhere after that, working most famously in TNA and operating as a central figure in the promotion’s knockouts division. By late 2016 though, with the brand split back in place, it was finally time for Mickie James to return to the WWE stage. That journey would first begin at NXT TakeOver: Toronto, with James thriving in a title match opposite Asuka, and leaving as a rather obvious choice for SmackDown’s developing women’s division. That’d come to fruition in January 2017, as James’ La Luchadora shenanigans aligned her with brand champion Alexa Bliss.
It’d be a gross exaggeration to say that Mickie’s contributions had been forgotten, but within WWE’s ‘women’s revolution’ presentation, some names have certainly fallen through the cracks. Considering her aforementioned programme with Trish, I don’t think it’d be accurate to put James in that category but at the same time, her impact did feel slightly underappreciated by the wider audience. However, since returning Mickie has proved her worth, maximizing every minute of TV time and regardless of role or exposure, being an asset throughout.
On SmackDown Live, James’ initial alliance with Bliss would be short-lived but only after she’d returned to the PPV stage, putting on an engaging affair with Becky Lynch. Before long, James would be back at WrestleMania too, taking part in the blue brand’s six-pack challenge before heading to RAW in the Superstar Shakeup. Mickie’s time back on the flagship has been inconsistent at times, not immediately taking center stage and instead operating in the background to begin with. With old ally Alexa in the midst of a lengthy RAW title run though, a position would open up.
After defending her crown in a fatal five-way, Bliss had seemingly cleaned out the division but James quickly re-entered in response, kicking off a title programme that had never actually come to fruition on SmackDown Live. Mickie was right at home with the increased spotlight, proving a great match for Alexa on the microphone, whilst also playing traditional babyface to perfection inside the ropes. It was a simple story: the former champion looking to reclaim the gold with her motivation at an all-time high and frankly, it probably warranted more focus than it actually received.
Since then, James only appeared in the title picture sporadically, instead spending much of 2018 back by Bliss’ side, and furthering an alliance that’s been a good fit for both parties. It’s allowed Mickie to be featured far more consistently while protecting Alexa along the way, almost creating an extra layer of heat that’s only really capable with numbers on the villain’s side. There are moments in which James feels somewhat wasted by the less central role but at the same time, her performance remains admirably consistent and that’s a credit to the job she’s done.
Since returning at the start of 2017, Mickie James hasn't been in the spotlight often but in truth, she hasn't needed to be. Instead, James has helped everyone else, making the most of her minutes and entertaining regardless of the role she’s filled. This comeback run may not have maximized potential in regards to the title picture and such, but Mickie’s work has very much re-established her own place in the division’s history. With a new crop of women in focus, James’ all-round performance remains as good as any, solidifying her initial success and cementing her position among the elite.
This Sunday at Evolution, Mickie James rightly finds herself in the spotlight, now alongside Alicia Fox as they go against the WWE’s legendary female duo of Lita and Trish Stratus. By comparison to her upcoming foes, Mickie’s longevity has altered her legacy in some ways. She hasn't been protected or celebrated in the same way yet because frankly, she’s been busy making the current division better and moreover, proving that she still very much belongs. It may not be obvious yet but in time, this last two years will prove pivotal for James’ standing in history, quite uniquely extending her legacy to a whole new generation and era of talent and fans.
She may not be the obvious focus of her match at Evolution, but that’s a fitting tribute to what Mickie brings, a trusty and reliable talent that doesn't need the spotlight to shine. Thankfully though, she’ll get some regardless on Sunday and honestly, it couldn't be more deserved.