Professional wrestling is built on the stories told in and out of the ring. These often come in the form of rivalries, pitting opposing forces against one another in pursuit of bragging rights, championships, and success. In this first installment of Rivalry Rewind, revisit one of the most important women’s wrestling feuds of the mid-2000s between Trish Stratus and Mickie James.
There are few women’s wrestlers as synonymous with the early-to-mid 2000s as Trish Stratus. During this period, she was steadfast in delivering “Stratusfaction,” etching her reputation as one of the most important women’s stars in WWE and professional wrestling at large. From late 2001 to her retirement in September of 2006, she held the WWE Women’s Championship a record-setting seven times. Along the way, she battled numerous rivals, including Molly Holly, Victoria, and Lita. However, it was her historic feud with Mickie James that saw her encounter extreme fanaticism and experience unbridled hatred.
Turn back the clock to the beginning of 2005. At this point, Trish Stratus was an established star. In addition to being a multi-time WWE Women’s Champion, she was the centerpiece of the women’s division at that time. Simply put, there was little stopping the momentum of the blonde-haired, blue-eyed star from Toronto, Ontario Canada. In the fall of that year, she would meet her most enigmatic foe yet. This is where Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James began.
The Debut of Mickie James
On the October 15, 2005 episode of Monday Night RAW, Trish Stratus successfully defended the WWE Women’s Title against Victoria. Post-match. Victoria viciously attacked the champion, trapping her in a Boston crab. Suddenly, a mysterious woman stormed the ring, attacking Victoria in the corner. Victoria fled while the mystery woman in question, a wide smile and all, handed the Women’s Title to Stratus.
Later in the night, the woman approached Stratus and Ashley Massaro backstage. She introduced herself as Mickie James, the newest women’s signee to the company. Stratus recognized James’ name, to which James revealed she was a huge fan of the Women’s Champion, having written to her several times. James took her leave, but not before giving Stratus a big hug, maintaining a sense of eagerness all the while.
Granted, this didn’t seem like cause for concern. To the average wrestling fan, Mickie James was simply an avid fan, if not more enthusiastic than most, elated over meeting her favorite wrestler in Trish Stratus. However, as the weeks rolled on, it became apparent that there was something more sinister to the newcomer. Slowly, but surely, Stratus would realize she was in for one of the most chaotic fights in her career.
Trish Stratus Has An Admirer
From that point forward, Mickie James would regularly be seen with Trish Stratus and Ashley Massaro, teaming with them in in-ring competition. Early on, it was evident that James was a capable wrestler, able to hold her own with established WWE Superstars. However, James seemed more preoccupied with Stratus, attempting to impress her idol by executing techniques the champion had adopted. James’ infatuation with Stratus would only become more unhinged.
Later that October, various women’s stars took part in a RAW Halloween costume contest. For the most part, costumes were fairly standard, ranging from Victoria in a baseball uniform to Massaro as a dark angel, wings and all. However, James elected to dress as her idol, donning Stratus-like ring gear and even brandishing her own makeshift title. This unnerved the Wonder Woman-dressed Stratus, who was even more put off by James berating fans in attendance, demanding they vote for Stratus. Needless to say, James’ fan support was bordering on obsession.
The following December, James received the opportunity of a lifetime, when she defeated Victoria to become the number one contender for the WWE Women’s Championship. Unsurprisingly, James’ compulsion with Stratus continued, even planting a surprise kiss on her idol under a holiday mistletoe. While Stratus attempted to be firm but fair with James, Massaro was less so, openly pointing out the latter’s obsession on multiple occasions. As a regular viewer, it was difficult to argue with Massaro’s perspective.
The First Encounter
In January of 2006, Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James for the WWE Women’s Title at New Year’s Revolution was set; this would be their first of multiple singles encounters. Despite a strong, albeit unhinged, showing by James, Stratus came out victorious to retain her title. James seemed nonplussed with the loss, though her dark side began to peer through as Massaro attempted to get Stratus to listen to reason. Later that month, at the Royal Rumble event, James was set to battle Massaro. However, this match had an interesting wrinkle in the form of Stratus as the special guest referee. With slight hesitation, Stratus counted to three for James, awarding her the victory. In short, James couldn’t have been happier, especially following her confession of love to Stratus earlier in the night.
This happiness would come to a screeching halt on RAW the night after. In the middle of the ring, James was brought to tears as, in front of Stratus, she was called a “psycho” by Massaro and the fans in attendance. To compound matters, Stratus politely told James she needed time apart from her. James appeared sad, though she took it well on the surface. On March 18, 2006, during Saturday Night’s Main Event, James and Stratus teamed up one last time to defeat the duo of Victoria and Candice Michelle.
Mickie James Turns on Trish Stratus
Post-match, James took to the mic, accepting Stratus’s request for time apart. James went in for one last kiss and embrace, much to the chagrin of Stratus. However, matters would quickly turn violent, as James laid out Stratus with a Mick Kick before planting her with the Stratusfaction. The woman that became the object of Stratus’s affections became her vehicle of hatred. James was tired of her affections not being reciprocated. In her words, “Do you love me now, Trish Stratus? You broke my heart, but now I’m going to break you!”
From there, the road was set for another singles match: Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James for the WWE Women’s Championship. This time, it would be on the grand stage of WrestleMania 22 on April 2. However, the road wasn’t without its bumps in the road. James began to focus on mind games, including kidnapping Massaro and using her as live bait to lure out Stratus and even building a demented shrine adorn with images of the Women’s Champion. Unlike their last title encounter, James stepped into WrestleMania with malice.
Mickie James Wins Gold
This WrestleMania 22 match is, to this day, considered to be one of the best women’s bouts in WWE history. Mickie James battled Trish Stratus, and this time, the challenger came prepared. As Stratus focused on straightforward offense, physically punishing James, the challenger focused on slowly dismantling the champion. All the while, the crowd in the Allstate Arena remained invested, even cheering for James at multiple points, despite her being this story’s villain. Stratus put forth a champion’s showcase, but on this night, a final Mick Kick sealed the deal. In her biggest match, at that point in her career, James became the WWE Women’s Champion.
This historic feud didn’t conclude at WrestleMania 22, however. In fact, it went into the summer. From there, Trish Stratus and Mickie James took separate paths, with Stratus entering a romance angle with Carlito and James continuing to defend the WWE Women’s Championship until August, when she dropped the title to Lita. Ironically enough, these three women became linked in the retirements of Lita and Stratus. While Stratus wrestled her retirement match against Lita, defeating her at Unforgiven in September, Lita lost her own retirement match to James at Survivor Series later that November, James winning her second Women’s Title in the process. By the time Stratus retired, she and James developed on-screen mutual respect.
Trish Stratus and Mickie James Reunite
Not unlike Stratus before her, James became an instrumental part of the WWE women’s division in the years that followed. In fact, by the time she first departed the company in 2010, James was a one-time Divas Champion and five-time Women’s Champion. From Katie Lea to Beth Phoenix to Michelle McCool, James took on all comers, serving as the division’s woman to beat. James’ reputation followed her to Total Nonstop Action Wrestling in 2010, winning the TNA Women’s Knockout Championship three times. James would eventually return to WWE, where she added more pages to the extensive book that was her rivalry with Stratus.
Enter the first-ever Women’s Royal Rumble in January of 2018. At this point, Mickie James was a full-time competitor for WWE. She entered the match at number 26. Meanwhile, Trish Stratus, one of the surprise guests in the match, entered last at 30. Toward the end of the match, the two former rivals had a friendly standoff, the crowd in the Wells Fargo Center eating the moment up for all it was worth. This encounter would end with Stratus eliminating James courtesy of a Chick Kick.
Several months later, in October of 2018, World Wrestling Entertainment held its first-ever all-women’s pay-per-view, WWE Evolution. In the official opening match, Trish Stratus teamed with another notable rival, Lita, to take on Mickie James and Alicia Fox. In this encounter consisting of long-time veterans, it was the duo of Stratus and Lita that emerged victorious. While not the most straightforward story, it served as another page in the aforementioned book.
Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James: In Closing
Looking back on the history of WWE, there are perhaps no two women’s wrestlers more vital to their respective eras than Trish Stratus and Mickie James. Not only did they consistently improve their game, bringing out the best in their opponents, but they became incredibly decorated. Their feud that took shape in 2005 was instrumental, to say the least. It allowed James to build a name for herself out of the gate. Furthermore, it provided Stratus with perhaps the most interesting storyline of her career, not to mention an opponent she could put on classics with. This rivalry’s importance to women’s wrestling can’t be understated.
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