Douglas James discusses training, inspirations and sobriety

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Watching the tides and currents of the independent wrestling scene can be a fascinating pastime. Those of you who share this hobby have probably heard about a young man named Douglas James. He’s been on the scene for a couple of years now, however, it has been in the last few months his career has exploded. He’s been making regular appearances at some of the most highly regarded promotions on the west coast. DEFY and PCW Ultra are only two places he has been appearing with regularity of late. In the last month, it was announced Mr. James signed a new contract with Major League Wrestling (MLW).

Photo / Santino Bros Wrestling Academy

Douglas James was born and raised in New Jersey and he has only been on the west coast for a few years now. His training as a professional wrestler has come from the Santino Bros. Academy, a place that has produced some exceptional talent such as, Jake Atlas, Brody King, Tyler Bateman, and Heather Monroe along with many, many others. They have an eye for talent and Douglas James has proven he is worthy of their exceptional reputation.

It would appear Mr. James is standing on the precipice of taking his career to an all-new level. Gaining recognition and the attention of promotions around the country is not the easiest thing to accomplish. Douglas has done so and there are many eyes watching to see just how high his rising star is going to reach. If Douglas James has anything to say about it, there is no limit to how far he can go with his career, and I couldn’t agree more!

I had the absolute honor of getting a chance to ask this rising star, Douglas James, a few questions. He was more than gracious enough to indulge me –

Philip Jones: You are blowing up right now! You’re somewhat of a regular at DEFY and now you have an MLW contract! How are you feeling about your career trajectory right now?

Douglas James: Honestly, it’s a little bit surreal but at the same time this has always been my goal from day one. So, in a way, it’s just an unbelievable feeling to have your goals and dreams come to fruition. It feels good. It goes further than just how long I have been training. I have been competing and doing athletics since I can remember. I’ve also been a fan of pro wrestling since I was seven. It’s all just paying off now, I am just trying to take it all in and work even harder now.

Philip Jones: One thing that is certain, you have worked very hard to get where you’re at today. Tell us about how and when your training started?

Photo / FSW

Douglas James: I had a little bit of training in New Jersey, but I officially started training in October of 2015 at Santino Bros Wrestling Academy in Bell Gardens, CA. The school changed my life and I feel very fortunate to have found that place. They produce and have produced some incredible talent but since the day I started, I wanted to be the best. I was always first in laps and conditioning and I just constantly and still do, push myself to be the best I can be.

Philip Jones: You are definitely working hard to stay in good shape. Tell us about what you do to stay that way? Did you teach yourself how to do this?

Douglas James: I have been an athlete for what seems like forever. I started having a personal trainer in high school and was a varsity wrestler all four years of high school. It was like a crash course on nutrition and training. I learned a lot and use a lot of it to this day. From there, I went into MMA and competed professionally, as well as kickboxing and jiu-jitsu. Dieting and training was just the norm for me. I try to keep a pretty low carb, high protein diet and work out at least five days a week.

Philip Jones: Most professional wrestlers started out as a fan. Tell us about your time as a fan and when you decided to take it from fandom into the professional realm.

Douglas James: Oh man, I am still a fan, but it’s just different now. I love it. There is just something so special about pro wrestling. For me, it was everything growing up. It was my escape and now it’s my outlet. My dad took me to every WWF event that came into town and my mom used to always get me action figures. So, they enabled my addiction, ha! They’ve always been supportive, even though they were never into it, they always encouraged me to be me and to follow my dreams.

Philip Jones: What was the reaction of your family and friends when you told them you were going to chase your dreams?

Douglas James: I don’t think they were too surprised. I mean, I know my family hated that I did MMA, which I understand, but this is even more of a grind. They have always instilled in me to do my best, follow my heart and follow my dreams. I was actually out to dinner with my family recently, and my brother brought up how I’m actually doing it. I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do. It’s wild. I know they’re proud of me.

Philip Jones: When you were growing up and even today, who are the talents you always looked up to and inspired you?

Douglas James: I always looked up to the smaller guys. The technicians and the underdogs were always my favorite. Shawn Michael’s and Rey Mysterio were my two favorites as a kid. I loved Benoit, Guerrero, Malenko and I have been a big Daniel Bryan fan for years. I just love guys that can go. That’s what I like.

Photo / facebook Douglas James

Philip Jones: Tell us about your move set and how you would describe your style. Do you continually work to add different moves or focus on perfecting the ones you are already doing?

Douglas James: I’d consider myself a hybrid wrestler. I have a background in jiu-jitsu, amateur wrestling, and kickboxing, but I train in Lucha Libre and I feel like I can really do it all. I definitely like to hit hard and have no issue with getting hit hardback. I like to fight and throw down, but I also feel I am one of the fastest wrestlers in the game today and speed kills.

Philip Jones: With your career gaining momentum you’re doing a lot of traveling. How do you handle jetting off on the weekends and living out of suitcases? When you travel are you a reader? Listen to music? Podcasts? What would we find you doing during all that time at airports and long flights?

Douglas James: You know, I try not to complain #1, because like I’ve said, this is what I’ve always wanted to do. It does get hard, but when I’m not doing it, I don’t know what to do with myself. I generally listen to music and watch wrestling on YouTube, or I write down ideas that come with being a wrestler. My brain is always going. I’m also really good at being able to sleep anywhere, so luckily, I usually sleep on flights. I’m basically a time traveler.

Philip Jones: When you look back at everything you’ve already accomplished in your career what are the high points that stand out for you?

Douglas James: There are definitely a few, I mean my debut will always be something special, just because I worked very hard just to get to that point, and I ended up wrestling three times my first time out. Winning my first title against B-Boy in San Diego was a special one. It helped me be acknowledged as not just a rookie in SoCal. Winning the PCW Ultra Lightweight title was wild. The crowd did not expect me to win, so it was a great moment. I had a falling out with PCW Ultra about a year and a half ago and then in November, I dislocated my hip. I ended up recovering like a mad man and made a surprise return to PCW Ultra in January. The ovation still gives me goosebumps to this day. It was incredible. Having the DEFY crowd chant for me to please come back was really special. I love that place. Lastly, making my MLW debut in Dallas, was truly a lifetime of hard work paying off. It really is just the start though. I’m in the prime of my life.

Photo / Mike Nolan

Philip Jones: Are there any promotions or specific professional wrestlers with whom you have not worked with that you are hoping to have an opportunity to work with in the near future?

Douglas James: I want to go to NOAH in Japan. I would love to work in the UK. I just want to be all over the world and bring my style all over. I feel like I can’t be denied.

Philip Jones: As someone who has been making the rounds you’ve probably had a lot of opportunities to work with talents who is perhaps better known in their region, but maybe not on a national level. Who are some professional wrestlers you’ve worked with or seen who you think are not getting the notice they deserve?

Douglas James: There’s a lot man. I feel like Adrian Quest, Danny Limelight, Matt Vandagriff, Anthony Gangone, Travis Williams, are a few of a lot of guys that can wrestle anyone, anywhere at any time, but those guys are my personal favorites.

Philip Jones: So, when Douglas James isn’t working a show or in the gym, what would we typically find him doing?

Douglas James: This is kind of funny, because it made me realize how eventful I am. I love wrestling, so thinking about it and training to be in the best shape possible kind of consumes me. I am pretty obsessed about it, but other than that, I love amusement parks, going to the movies, going down rabbit holes on the internet. I also love good food, so I’m always all about that.

Philip Jones: If you weren’t a professional wrestler, what do you imagine your life would look like?

Photo / DOA Pro Wrestling

Douglas James: That is a good question. I’m so tunnel vision, it’s hard to imagine this not my life now, but I probably would have gone back and finished college. Maybe be a personal trainer to celebrities, which is still something I am looking at getting myself into.

Philip Jones: You are billed as being from New Jersey and that you are living in California these days. How did you land on the West Coast?

Douglas James: Well, my older brother lives out here in Los Angeles and was for a few years before I moved out here. I always wanted to live out here for whatever reason, and I was in dire need of a change. He owned a food truck at the time, that was doing really well, so I made the move and started working for him and started training jiu-jitsu under Eddie Bravo at 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu.

Philip Jones: What has been your biggest blooper in the ring?

Douglas James: I have probably a few. I split my lip in half, slipping face-first on cement vs. Joey Janela and Lio Rush, but my biggest blunder would have to be dislocating my hip in the ring. That hurt more than I could explain, but to me, it was also embarrassing to have to get carted out of the ring.

Philip Jones: I like to play a word association game. I name a person you’ve faced before and you give me a word that you associate with that person.

Philip                                                  Douglas’ Response
Artemis Spencer                                   Nicest wrestler I have ever met
Tyler Bateman                                      Murderer
Chris Bey                                             The Future
Eli Everfly                                            Death Defying SOB
Scorpio Sky                                         The Best
Willie Mack                                          Underrated
Shane Strickland                                  Amazing

Photo / West Smith Dragon Lee vs. Douglas James

Philip Jones: The first time I saw you perform live was at Washington Hall here in Seattle. You’ve worked with DEFY several times now. Are we going to see you in our neck of the woods now that you have your MLW contract? What do you think of our wrestling scene here? There is little question you’re well-loved by the fans!

Douglas James: Oh man, I absolutely love being at DEFY. There is just an atmosphere there that is indescribable. My MLW contract allows me to wrestle on the independents as much as I like, as long as dates do not conflict, so I plan on being there for a very long time. There are so many talented people and the crowd is incredible. I want to test myself with all the top dogs out there and anyone wanting a fight. Let’s go!

Philip Jones: Have you ever felt like giving up? How did you pull through and stay when that has happened?

Douglas James: I would be lying if I said that I never had moments of giving up. Wrestling is hard, man. When you love something so much and when you have passion, it can go the other way and get frustrating. Patience is a big factor in pro wrestling. We all have our own journeys. Not everyone’s story is the same as another, and I had to learn that through this process, and there is no quit in me. I have “never say die” tattooed on my arm for a reason. I won’t stop until I am the best on the planet. I can’t be denied.

Philip Jones: What would you tell someone who approached you and said they wanted to be a professional wrestler like you? Do you have a word from the wise to people who are interested in this line of work?

Douglas James: I would say #1 get in shape. You don’t have to have abs or be a bodybuilder, but having conditioning is the most important. Find a reputable school with good trainers. Engulf yourself in it. Watch all types of wrestling. Keep your mouth shut, ears open and when it gets hard, remind yourself of why you wanted to do this in the first place.

Photo / LA Lucha

Philip Jones: Tell us something about yourself that not many people know, that you feel comfortable sharing.

Douglas James: It is pretty personal, but I got sober over a year ago. It changed my life. I look at it like I retired early like Barry Sanders. No going back for me. The only reason I mention it, is because I hope I can be a positive influence in this world. Life is good if you let it. We only have one life, and there is no time like now to live it to the fullest.

Philip Jones: A year of sobriety under your belt is no insignificant accomplishment. Addiction usually sneaks upon us and we don’t realize what is happening until it’s become a problem. At what point did you start to realize maybe this was becoming a problem for you?

Douglas James: For everyone it is different, and that was something that took me years to understand. I wasn’t the guy at the bar that got 86’d or told never to come back. I actually rarely went to bars. For me, it wasn’t working. I was trying to control my emotions in the wrong way, and I had to learn the hard way that wasn’t the way to do it. Basically, one day I woke up nearly losing everything and realized if I didn’t change my life, I would be this way forever.

Philip Jones: What has helped you stay sober for over a year now? Do you think sobriety has helped you as a performer?

Douglas James: For me, being clear-headed, focused and driven has lead me to success. I needed to feel the bottom before I could appreciate being at the top. I don’t know exactly why everything is paying off now, but I know my sobriety plays a huge role in it.

Philip Jones: With the pressure of being a performer, dealing with pain both physical and mental, being a professional wrestler isn’t easy and addiction is one of the challenges that many in the professional wrestling world have faced. What would you say to someone in the business who felt like they were struggling with addiction?

Photo / Rudos Photography

Douglas James:  I would say you have to be honest with yourself and why you’re doing whatever it is that you are doing. This stuff hurts. As you said, it hurts both physically and mentally, but if you’re at a point where you are hurting yourself, making bad decisions and whatever else, it’s time to check yourself. People are more responsive then you would think, so reach out and tell someone. Be transparent, be you and don’t be scared of bettering your life.

Philip Jones: You have entered a world that is a huge commitment, traveling, major lifestyle accommodations and isn’t the easiest line of work someone could choose. Tell us about your support network.

Douglas James: I am just so fortunate. Like I have mentioned before, my family is the most supportive. I don’t know where I would be without them. Danny Limelight is one of my best friends and he’s always had my back. I have a few good friends in wrestling and that’s kind of about it. I keep my circle pretty small and I like it that way. I am just very lucky to be doing what I am doing with the support of so many people.

* * * *

After I had the opportunity to interview Douglas James I could tell this young man is someone amazing. Not only does he work hard but he has a drive-in him that is above and beyond what most people of ambition possess. It has served him well. You can see it in the ring. You can see his hard work and drive in every match. There is no such thing as a slack day for Mr. James.

He has been a regular at the last couple DEFY shows here in Seattle, and has won over the crowds at Washington Hall, DEFY’s venue. I had the opportunity to discuss Douglas James with local producer at DEFY, Matt Farmer, who, in my opinion, has a keen eye for talent.

Philip Jones: When did Douglas James first end up on your radar?

Matt Farmer: Douglas came on my radar about 3 years ago. He came out of the Santino Bros school so he immediately had my attention, as they have such a great reputation for teaching their students proper fundamentals.

Philip Jones: What is it you see in Douglas James that makes him stand out as a talent?

Matt Farmer: His intensity. He came into the industry with a strong background in jiu-jitsu and MMA. He brought a level of intensity many young wrestlers do not have. When he returned from his injury last year he came back with a vengeance and really turned it up!

Philip Jones: How is Douglas to work with?

Matt Farmer: Really easy. Usually, great wrestlers are, it’s the ones who need a lot of work who possess the problems!

Philip Jones: What do you see in Mr. James’ future?

Matt Farmer: Sky is the limit for Douglas James. He’s on a great trajectory now. He’s going to get a lot of opportunities with DEFY, and with recent matches Artemis Spencer, Travis Williams, and Dragon Lee, he’s setting himself up for a bright future in DEFY.

Photo / MLW Douglas James

As you can see for yourself, Douglas James is not only a spectacular talent, he is also an incredible human being. With over a year of sobriety, he has taken on the harrowing ordeal of addiction. Anyone whose life has been touched by the struggles of addiction knows it is an insidious and challenging problem to tackle. It doesn’t go away because someone stops drinking or using. It is persistent as life throws us curve balls and obstacles one must learn to cope in different ways. It requires a great deal of emotional fortitude to face these issues head-on. It is clear Mr. James has not only faced this challenge but he makes the choice every day to remain sober, pursue his dreams and work harder than ever to make those dreams come true.

We don’t often see talent like his. While there are many talented people in the world of professional wrestling, there are simply some people who stand out among the crowd. Douglas James stands out, and there is little doubt what we are seeing today will one day be looked upon as being the beginning of what is destined to be a career with few equals.

Have a look at what some of his peers have to say about Douglas James.

Quotes:

I was most impressed with Douglas’ athleticism and creativity when we wrestled two years ago. Since then he has just gotten better and better with an attitude and with a work ethic like his, big things will come.” – Ravenous Randy Myers, Weirdo Hero, and Professional Wrestler

He’s one of the hardest working dudes on the independent scene right now and is one hell of an athlete. Looking forward to getting in the ring with him again!” – “Golden Boy” Travis Williams, Professional Wrestler

Doug is one of the most intense, aggressive wrestlers you’ll ever meet. He doesn’t have an ounce of “back down” in him!” –Royce Isaacs, Professional Wrestler

He’s one of the toughest competitors I’ve ever been in the ring with. His drive is unmatched, work ethic is impeccable and he’s going to take over the business through his hard work, passion for everything he does, and his heart.” – Chris Bey, Professional Wrestler

Douglas James is my best friend and one of, if not, the hardest workers in the room. He is passionate, smart and strives to always have the best matches but also uses that expertise to help others. Proud to call him a rival and a brother.” – Danny “LimeLight” Rivera, Professional Wrestler

I like to say Douglas is in a class of his own. He’s one of the fastest graduates at our school and the fact that he’s been through what he has and conquered it all to get where he’s at is outstanding. It makes for a very incredible human being and a dangerous one. There’s no stopping him and I think he knows that.” – Eli Everfly, Professional Wrestler

I’ve known DJ for 3 years now. Just this past year, me and him, have become close. He’s a good dude, always supportive. He’s a really determined human being. Whatever he has set his mind on, or goal he has, he pursues it, such as his change in his body and now working with MLW. He’s a humble dude. Happy to train with him, wrestle him, and happy for him and everything he’s accomplishing!” – Matt Vandargriff, Professional Wrestler

Here is a video selection of his work:

Santino Bros Wrestling: Douglas James vs. Brody King:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QM947qcJ2_M

Bar Wrestling: Brian Cage vs. Douglas James:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srnTGHLdVck

DEFY: PCW Ultra Light Heavyweight Championship Match: Douglas James vs. Randy Myers:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aqm4bwt1qSI&t=14s

Santino Bros Wrestling: Douglas James vs. Slice Boogie:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjgOxKaDbso

Santino Bros Wrestling DEATHMATCH: Eli Everfly vs. Douglas James:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjhpzskDjis

Bar Wrestling: B Boy vs. Douglas James:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84kWqN4-FX0

DOA: Douglas James vs. Schaff:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TOV8fsPInSo

FSW: Chris Bey vs. Douglas James:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpfeco4ua5k

Bumps and Brewses: Scorpio Sky vs. Douglas James:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vitWJptztpo

Baja Stars: Alexander Hammerstone vs. Douglas James vs. Danny “Limelight” Rivera:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dd7naF2aIcs

Santino Bros Wrestling: Tyler Bateman vs. Douglas James:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-xAT3s4NuI

PCW Ultra: Douglas James vs. Lio Rush vs. Joey Janela:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZvz7t6bk1k

TJ Perkins vs. Douglas James:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXgKZmGqNSw