Indie Watch is our regular series that looks at all of the amazing talents working the independent circuits around the world. Some are veterans revitalizing their careers, some are indie prospects hitting their peaks, while others are names to be on the watch for! This edition looks at West Coast indie star Douglas James. A rising prospect for years, he’s on a career resurgence following some dark times and now looks more poised than ever to show why he’s “Relentless”.
January 18, 2019 is a night “Relentless” Douglas James will never forget. After a sleepless night and intense preparation each week he cleared the ring to a huge pop in Wilmington, California from the rabid and loyal PCW ULTRA fans. It was his first match back after being out two months with a dislocated hip, but it was a decision in July, a phone call home, a book, and the new perspective that changed his life.
Renewed, Restored, “Relentless” Douglas James
Douglas James was a wrestling fan as long as he can remember, “I loved it all, but I grew up going to WWE events. I remember my dad took me to my first house show a few months before WrestleMania 12 and bought me a Shawn Michaels shirt. I’m pretty sure it was an XL and went down to my knees, but I loved it. Shawn Michaels was my guy growing up. I remember exactly where I was when he won at WrestleMania 12,” although he was also a Bret Hart fan. “They were my heroes growing up. Wrestling was everything to me and I had just gotten into it a year prior when he (Michaels) won the Royal Rumble in 1995 and I quickly fell in love with it. I remember wearing that shirt on my couch in the living room watching that Iron Man match in awe. I just got lost in it. My mom stayed up and watched it with me it was just a special moment for a little kid to experience.”
He knew then wrestling was what he wanted to do, but had to fight through the mental challenges and negative self-talk that can arrive with a decision like that, “There was never any vision of doing anything else, but for some reason or another, it took me a while to gain enough confidence to follow my dreams. I’ve always been a smaller dude even though I looked up to Rey Mysterio too and those cruiserweights, I just didn’t think it was doable. I grew up in a family where both my parents have their Master’s Degrees, and I guess I thought a more professional career was what I needed, but school was not for me.”
Originally from Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, Douglas James needed a new experience and moved out to California while working with his brother. While the weather was better things were going the same for Douglas James. He was competing in MMA and working on a Food Truck but after two years he was over it. After a fight was cancelled he realized, “I didn’t want to live a life of regret. I trained all summer for a fight to be cancelled 2 days before the weigh-ins, and that was it for me.” It was time for him to live out his “Boyhood dream” and become a professional wrestler. “A few weeks later I signed up to Santino Bros,” he continues, “I didn’t know anything about wrestling out here (Southern California). I got very lucky. Funny story, I was a big Kid Kaos (Joey Kaos is the owner of Santino Bros) fan back in XPW I used to get all the tapes and what not, but I thought Joey was Kaos’ brother. His long curly dark hair confused me. So, it’s great to have a mentor in someone I grew up idolizing. I still idolize him. He’s the man.”
Despite adjustments he was ready, “Pro Wrestling is its own animal, but I think the fact that I was an athlete my whole life, came into training in shape and was a fan forever, really helped me catch on quick. I think the biggest mistake, is that people sign up to a wrestling school but have no previous experience in anything that takes a real strong work ethic and the ability to be coachable. I was just ears open – mouth shut, and worked my ass off to become a wrestler.”
He began his training with Ring of Honor’s Brody King, and indie stars Jake Atlas, and Heather Monroe, and made his pro debut in 2015 as Dylan James, “It was awesome. It was at this Mexican festival in LA and it was a lot of fun.” He wrestled Eli Everfly, Bad Dude Tito and in a Battle Royal on the same day. “Eli is great and helped me out a lot in training and in that match. Then my next match was on TV at Championship Wrestling from Hollywood. Things happened pretty quickly.”
James was named 2015 SoCal Rookie of the Year and 2016 would prove just as pivotal. PCW ULTRA’s ownership was attending SBW shows and liked what they saw in DJ and Brody King, “We got invited to the first show and I ended up getting booked on their 2nd show and was on pretty much every show for a while. They believed in me and saw my potential. I learned a lot. I got to wrestle some of the best wrestlers in the world from Zack Sabre Jr, Lio Rush, Joey Janela, Jordan Devlin, Shane Strickland and even had Ricky Steamboat as a ref. There really is nothing like the crowd at PCW Ultra and the fans got behind me pretty quickly.”
James won his first Championship against a SoCal legend with FCW in San Diego. “I think for me the first one was really special. The match with B-Boy in San Diego in June of 2016 really helped get my name out there in the area. It helped give me more confidence that I was on the right path and that I was capable of having good, solid matches with people who have been successful in this business for years. B-Boy was the Champion and we had a rematch that November in a 2 out of 3 Falls Match and this time we were the Main Event. I ended up hurting my ankle pretty severely in the first 10 minutes of the match. There was no way I was not going to end the match and we ended up going 30 more minutes with 4 falls total. (1 double count out). It was just special for many reasons. I’ll always be grateful for that opportunity. He was the Socal wrestler of the year, and I was just named the (2015) SoCal rookie of the year. B-Boy pushed me more than anyone else had at that point and the crowd really got behind me. It’s where the Go DJ Go DJ Go chants started.” He was over.
Part of James rapid start was a trip to Mexico and competing in the same place another hero did, “I think I was only about a year or so in wrestling, so to be able to be at The Crash in front of a few thousand people was such an amazing experience. It was the 2nd time I’ve ever been to Mexico. The first time, I went to Tijuana with my family and I remember my parents bought me like 3 different Rey Mysterio masks from street vendors. I still have them somewhere to this date, so being able to say the next time I went there, I got to wrestle in the same arena where he started, was kinda mind-blowing.” He will be making his way back to Auditorio De Tijuana May 31st making his debut with Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide.
Similar to his WrestleMania dream match opponent Daniel Bryan, James is capable of flying around but is intelligent with his attack. He doesn’t waste moves and uses his aerial game tactically. James can strike with anyone as we saw in Championship Wrestling from Hollywood (CWFH) last year in his vicious feud with Bad Dude Tito which actually culminated in a catch wrestling match at their Training Center. That match was an example of the versatility that he possesses. Then in June 2017, he would validate the confidence PCW ULTRA had in winning their Light Heavyweight Title against Mr. 450. Three months later he would win the Santino Bros Wrestling (SBW) Submission Championship, a Title he would wear for over 400 days.
2018 would have more twists and turns than any before. Despite being in a self-professed “Dark Place” he still held the PCW Title, SBW Submission, and would eventually collect FIST Combat Gold after a classic Time-Limit Draw with “Uptown” Andy Brown in May. In his “favorite match,” he would win the Title he still retains on September 22, 2018, against Ray Rosas, when he won the AWS Lightweight Title in a best-of-three, falls classic. “We were the Main Event and the show was long. We went on at about 11:30 or so and the crowd was definitely tired, but everything just clicked. We ended up going 30 minutes and the crowd was on their feet at the end. It was a special moment for me.” He was riding high until the night after Halloween.
Douglas James injured his hip against Luchasaurus at Bar Wrestling November 1, 2018, and what seemed like a nightmare scenario was turned positive, “I was actually thinking about doing a daily vlog to document my recovery. I really had no idea how long I’d be out for and I wanted to keep my name out there as much as possible. I was approached one day about doing a mini-documentary by Jeff Santone, who does production for PCW Ultra and CWFH, and I was down. It was a pretty easy process and rather cathartic being able to talk about what had happened. It wasn’t just the injury for me, it was months before that where I got through some personal problems and not too long after ended up getting injured. It helped motivate me, but as long as it felt being away, it really wasn’t that long at all.” James said his conditioning played a role, but something else made the difference, “I healed pretty fast, but I really do believe that where I was at mentally helped me get back faster than expected. A positive mind frame goes a long way and the power of belief. I was supposed to be on crutches for a month, maybe more and I was walking after 2 weeks.”
“Who you allow into the circle of your life will make the difference in the quality of your life.” From Zen and the Art of Happiness
However, a Summer night in San Diego would be the building block in Douglas James recovery, “I don’t think I have ever said it publically, but I got sober 9 months ago. It changed my life in more ways than I can explain.” What made you decide to change? “It was a few things to be honest, some with wrestling, but a lot to do with my personal life and how I viewed myself. My PWG debut didn’t go as well as I hoped for, which happens, but I didn’t react well to it. A few months after the WWE contacted me in regards to a tryout last year at the end of June, but then a week later emailed me saying sorry, all the spots are full, but I never contacted them in the first place. For whatever reason, it really triggered me, along with a slew of other things and was just a perfect storm for a disaster. I was already self-medicating at this point and I was becoming my own worst enemy. I was constantly depressed, full of anxiety, and just overall had a pretty negative outlook on just about everything. I knew I needed to change my life for a while at this point.”
The changing for many people is the most difficult part and that included Douglas James, “There is a lot of fear in changing. Will it work? Am I going to be like this forever? Fear of the unknown, but I was already living in fear, and full of anxiety. Deep down, I knew this wasn’t me. One day, I kind of woke up from my fog and realized that if I don’t get it together, I might ruin my whole life. I was actually on my way to San Diego to have a cage match when I made the decision. I got to the venue and called my dad. Long story short, I got sober a few days later. It takes hard work to look at yourself and acknowledge our defects and take responsibility for yourself. It is no one’s fault but your own.”
He accepted responsibility first, and then looked inward, “I did a lot of soul searching, a lot of internal work, a lot of meditating, and a lot of praying. I legitimately turned my life around a full 180. I am always working on myself. Every day I am looking to grow as a person, but I can honestly say that today, I have never been happier. Never been happier with who I am as a person. I am just grateful every day for the life I have. I truly am blessed. My fiancé keeps me grounded and having her in my life has changed my perspective on what truly is important. And we met while I was hurt and because of it we started talking, so I guess the injury wasn’t all that bad. I don’t sweat the small things or focus on things I can’t control. I read this small book, called Zen and The Art of Happiness. It helped me switch gears in terms of my reactions to the actions of the world.”
“The best way for you to get that new experience is to change your response to what happens.” From Zen and the Art of Happiness
2019 saw Douglas James return to ULTRA and attempts to regain Titles he held prior to the injury and new ones. He defeated Mike Camden to retain the AWS gold earlier this year and made a major statement the last weekend in April fighting through pain to win the Two-Night Limitless Tournament. His star is brighter than ever and looks to make 2019 his best yet. His increased commitment to personal development changed his perspective on his injury as a whole, “I guess at the time the uncertainty was scary, and obviously the pain was brutal, but it could have been a lot worse. It gave me more confidence in myself and allowed me to reevaluate some things. I’m a few months since returning and I really am in the best shape of my life and I’ve legitimately never felt better. I’m actually grateful for the injury.”
Check out our full list of previous Indie Watches, showcasing emerging talent from around the world!
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