Mickie James was the most surprising name of the 19 WWE announced for the 2022 women's Royal Rumble during last Friday's episode of SmackDown, not only because she no longer works for the promotion, but because she currently reigns as IMPACT Wrestling Knockouts Champion.
Fightful Select reported in the aftermath that people within IMPACT were under the impression that James wasn't contracted exclusively to the promotion, hence her ability to participate in the Rumble.
In an update, Fightful state that the backstage word at least weekend's IMPACT Hard to Kill pay-per-view was that WWE acknowledging James as the IMPACT Knockouts Champion was part of their Rumble agreement. It should be noted, however, that this hadn't been confirmed with Mickie or WWE at the time of publishing.
IMPACT were reportedly pleased with the buzz generated by James' announcement. The promotion then had Mickie's Knockouts Title fight with Deonna Purrazzo close Hard to Kill on 8 January, which lined up nicely with the Rumble announcement.
James was one of seven wrestlers announced for the Rumble who aren't full-time, contracted performers. Joining her were Lita, Nikki and Brie Bella, Michelle McCool, Kelly Kelly, and Summer Rae.