Recently, I had the chance to catch up with Douglas James. In our talk we discussed his injury and come back, his return to PCW Ultra, signing with MLW, his PWG match, why fans in San Diego love him, and more.
Steve: Kind of picking up after our last interview three years ago, sometime after that you signed a contract with PCW (now PCW Ultra) making you exclusive to them in Southern California. How did that come about and what made you decide to go exclusive?
Douglas James: I was with PCW since pretty much the beginning and it was an opportunity to grow with the brand and grow my brand as well. I didn’t get into wrestling for it to be a hobby. As cliché as it sounds, I got into it to be one of the best on the planet. At the time, PCW had my back and was leading me in the right direction. There was zero pressure in signing, but at the time, I felt it was something that could really take me to the next level, which is exactly what I was looking to do.
Steve: I could be wrong, but it felt like when the deal was going on, while PCW did give you some great opponents, like Zack Sabre Jr., you weren’t wrestling a whole lot outside of PCW. Do you think the deal had any impact on your growth as a wrestler?
Douglas James: Yes and no. I really do think things happen for a reason. I was about 2 years or so into wrestling and I just wanted to wrestle. I was having some difficulties in my personal life and I was losing sight of the bigger picture. So, at the time I felt like it was hurting me. I felt I need to wrestle, and maybe I did, but wrestling the best guys from around the world really gave me invaluable experience that most people from Southern California don’t have and especially not within that short period of my career. After I got out of the contract, my stock kind of rose and it seemed like people were even more eager to see me. Looking back I have absolutely no regrets and I think it really did help me in a lot of ways. Personally, I just wish I would have handled things a little differently, but I’m glad everything is how it is right now.
Steve: After the deal with PCW ended, you pretty much disappeared from PCW for a while, but quickly started showing up all throughout Southern California. Did you have any trouble reconnecting with promoters?
Douglas James: Actually no. I was nervous at first, but it really seemed like promoters and fans wanted to see me. I think my experience in high-pressure matches helped not only my resume but helped with my confidence.
Steve: Last year, you made your PWG debut in a match with Jake Atlas, Brody King, and Eli Everfly. I thought the match was fine, but others were down on it. What are your thoughts on the match looking back at it?
Douglas James: I actually just watched the full thing back for the first time a few days ago. Going into it, I thought it was going to change my life. I am proud that we got there and did it together. Sure, I wish it would have been a match that went down in history, but things happen and it is what it is. I hope to be back one day because I’m a much different athlete today than I was then.
Steve: Another place you were working regularly was Bar Wrestling. You had a match with Luchasaurus there and suffered a pretty bad injury. Can you tell me what happened?
Douglas James: He is a big dude. We get into this and fully knowing there are risks no matter what we can control or not. He was supposed to hit a Spanish fly, which is a move that I have taken plenty of times. I’m pretty small, he’s pretty big and it was just off. I basically bailed last minute and went on all fours and he swung his body around and landed on me and my hip popped out. Instant pain. Absolutely the worst pain I have ever felt in my life, but also no one’s fault. Things happen. This isn’t X Box. As scary as it was, it really was possibly the best thing that ever happened to my career.
Steve: Have you felt any residual effects from the injury? Is it something that is still in the back of your mind when you wrestle?
Douglas James: I think it’s like any other major injury, whether it’s a knee or shoulder, it’ll always be something I have to be a little more cautious about. I definitely avoid certain things and stretch a whole lot more than before. I got very lucky though and somehow, some way, I came back better than before the injury. Both mentally and physically.
Steve: So after your injury, your first match back was a surprise appearance at PCW Ultra, where you hadn’t wrestled in 7 months. You got a huge reaction from the crowd. What was it like going back there and were you surprised by the reaction you got?
Douglas James: I went into it thinking it would get a pretty decent reaction, but there is always that voice in the back of your head, like what if they don’t care? What if they forgot about me? That would have been super embarrassing, but it went so much better than expected. Not only was it really great to be back at PCW Ultra and in that locker room. That reaction was something I’ll never ever forget. Might be the biggest pop ill ever get in my career and I’m okay with that. It was everything to me.
Steve: I’ve noticed at PCW Ultra that a lot of the crowd is fans that you don’t see at other shows in the area. What do you think it is that is enabling them to tap into a different audience?
Douglas James: I notice that too nearly at every show. It’ll be someone’s first independent wrestling show and it’s at PCW Ultra. Kind of blows my mind how they are able to tap into this new market. People like to criticize and say the shows aren’t sold out or this or that, but everyone always hates on the top dog. Literally a sea of people that basically every show wishes they had. The crowd is loud from the first match to the last match. I didn’t realize how much I missed being there until I came back. They have a great thing going and its only getting better.
Steve: I believe you are still the longest-reigning PCW Ultra Light champion. Does Jake Atlas need to look over his shoulder for you trying to get the belt back?
Douglas James: Yeah, I think that’s correct and the 4th longest champion in the company’s history. Hey man, Jake is great. He is a stud and he is a superstar. We actually started together and go back a little further than people realize. We both want to be the best. The absolute best. Not 2nd place but the best. At the end of the day, it’s all business and I believe in myself. Nothing would be a better comeback story at PCW Ultra then to win it from, in my opinion, one of the best wrestlers anywhere in the world.
Steve: It was just announced that you have signed with MLW. Can you tell us how that deal came about?
Douglas James: Unexpected is how it happened. I set little goals for myself. I think that mindset is how I came back so quickly after getting injured. I watched MLW and really enjoyed the product and was hoping that is somewhere I could work in the future. It all kind of happened out of nowhere. Not to get too into it, I believe they were interested in me for some time and I got a call. I believe in the product, it is right up my alley, and I think it’s a place I can really thrive and succeed. I’m just living the dream, man.
Steve: Is there anyone in MLW that you are looking forward to facing that you haven’t wrestled before?
Douglas James: I want to wrestle Low Ki. He’s got to be number 1 on my list. Austin Aries. Honestly, I want to face everyone. Prove my worth and prove my value. I’m on a vision quest to be the best.
Steve: MLW now has a partnership with NOAH in Japan too. Is getting to Japan a goal for you?
Douglas James: Whenever someone asks me my goals in wrestling, Japan was always the first thing I’d say. I’ve never been there but it’s the place I want to visit the most in the world and of course be able to wrestle. The idea of possibly being able to wrestle at NOAH is a game-changer for me. I want to prove that I am one of the best junior heavyweights in the world.
Steve: Earlier this year you won the AWS Light Heavyweight title. Afterward, you publicly called out the promoter about not getting paid on time, and haven’t been back. Will you be returning to AWS? Is there still an issue there?
Douglas James: I am currently booked on September 21 to wrestle Andy Brown and we talked. However, I do wish more people would speak out. Its 100% unacceptable to not pay workers. Just don’t run shows if you can’t pay the talent. I really have no issue speaking up about it because it’s something I firmly believe in. If people are coming to a show to see me, buying tickets and buying merchandise, but you can’t pay me, that is a big problem.
Steve: Yeah. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who get into wrestling, who either aren’t good business people or think they can translate running a coffee shop or whatever to running a wrestling promotion. I’m not referring to AWS here, as they’ve been around forever and have had success. I think they are the victim of some bad luck snowballing out of control maybe. But a recent example is Wrestle Circus, they just fell apart for the second time. In the past promotions had to have a license from the athletic commission. Do you think there should be a trade-off of less shows in exchange for a guarantee fans and wrestlers aren’t going to get screwed?
Douglas James: Yeah, it’s a hard one. More shows get lesser experience guys more opportunities to wrestle and more places for anyone to wrestle in general, but there are some shady sharks in the independent wrestling waters. We are all fans of wrestling. Which is why most of us become wrestlers in the first place, but just because you’re a fan doesn’t mean you can be a wrestler, and just because you’re a fan, doesn’t mean you can run a promotion.
Steve: I know you did a camp at the New Japan Los Angeles Dojo. What was your experience like there?
Douglas James: I loved it. Going to Japan is a goal of mine, so seeing the way they do certain things differently was great. I don’t know what it’ll do as far as going there, but I loved the workouts, met some cool people and it gave me more confidence in my abilities. You never stop learning.
Steve: You’ve made several appearances with AAA in Tijuana, Mexico. Have there been talks about doing more shows with them?
Douglas James: I haven’t heard anything yet about going back. Obviously, would love to work the Forum in LA, but we shall see.
Steve: Why do fans in San Diego love you so much?
Douglas James: [Laughs] Good question. It is like they adopted me. I put my all in every match, everywhere I go, and I feel they noticed it earlier than most. I’m so grateful for those fans. The Go DJ Go DJ Go chants started there and people chant them at almost every show I’m on now. It’s wild.
Steve: Last question, Santino Bros. has become the dominate wrestling school in the area, and maybe on the West Coast. Students from the school are having success everywhere. I mean you even see it on WWE television with Ronda Rousey training there. What is it about Santino Bros. Wrestling Academy that you think sets it apart from everyone else?
Douglas James: I think there are a lot of factors. I haven’t been to a lot of schools, so I can only say from my experience but there is a culture at Santinos, that Joey [Kaos], Sylvia [Munoz], Robby [Phoenix] and Los Luchas helped build. We are a community. It is not a school that is going to take your money, show you a few things and send you on your way. It is kind of the opposite. There is a scheduled curriculum and course levels until students are ready to wrestle. It’s a process. My trainers expect us to be at our best always, no matter what. Anyone that comes in and doesn’t work hard either quits or doesn’t make it as a wrestler. There is so much passion inside those walls, it is contagious. I am just so fortunate to be able to call that my home. I can’t thank them enough.
Douglas James will be appearing at PCW Ultra’s No Quarter in Wilmington, CA on August 9, 2019. He will be making his MLW debut on September 7, 2019 in Dallas, TX. You can follow him at @DouglasJamesPro on Instagram and Twitter.