There were several surprises in SmackDown’s announcement about entrants to the 2022 Women’s Royal Rumble match last night (Jan. 7). The fact WWE touted names like Lita in advance rather than having them shock the crowd in St. Louis on Jan. 29. Nikki Bella upholding the proud wrestling tradition of announcing retirement then booking return dates.
But the biggest was the inclusion reigning Impact Knockouts champion Mickie James. James was announced as such, and color commentator Pat McAfee even referenced the controversy surrounding Mickie’s WWE release last year, saying “she’s gonna have an axe to grind considering the garbage that happened in the past.”
Hardcore Country herself posted about the development on Instagram, touting her title defense against Deonna Purrazzo on Impact’s Hard to Kill PPV. James vowing to keep the belt in Dallas tonight, and bring it back to the Metroplex as the Rumble winner when WrestleMania hits the area this spring.
Impact is also wisely using the news to promote their own product. The company’s website quickly had an article ready about Mickie’s Rumble entry, and Executive Vice-President Scott D’Amore is quoted. He explains that these kind of “forbidden door” moves are part of the promotion’s identity:
“WWE wanted it, Mickie wanted it and Impact Wrestling’s philosophy is always to work with other major promotions to create buzz for the fans. Everything is signed and agreed with WWE and Impact Wrestling — the only question is whether or not Mickie will enter one of WWE’s most historic annual matches as the reigning Knockouts World Champion.
“There’s never been a time like this for wrestling fans. In a 12 month period, Impact Wrestling has worked with NWA, AAA, New Japan, AEW and now WWE. Impact Wrestling is the nexus of the forbidden door era.”
Hard to argue with any of that. We’ll see if the buzz helps Hard To Kill... and how James is booked in the Rumble.