‘Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes’: Behind ‘The Bearded Outlaw’ James Storm

“No, there will never be another Red-Headed Stranger, A Man in Black and Folsom Prison Blues, The Okie from Muskogee Or Hello Darling, Lord, I wonder, who’s gonna fill their shoes?” – George Jones (“Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” 1985)

When I heard that the NWA was going to do weekly studio shows, my mind envisioned the late Harley Race putting a $25,000 bounty on Ric Flair before my brain turned to the realization that “this is going to be perfect for a guy like James Storm.” I received the opportunity to speak with Storm Tuesday morning and The NWA National Champion had plenty to twist the cap off of when it comes to the road behind him and the road ahead.

“The Cowboy” has turned to “The Outlaw” since obtaining the NWA National Title and something that we both agreed upon is how great that belt looks in general. Storm compared its leather to the titles current big time champions in boxing and credits it’s classic feel as to why it’s so cool.

“Classic,” “old school” – choose whatever nostalgic term you deem fit, NWA has the name cache, the look and the mindset to make NWA TV something special for viewers. And James Storm will be one of the cogs that will help make Billy Corgan’s intriguing operation roll.

The weekly studio shows that Billy Corgan announced for September 30 and October 1 will carry that “in your face” feel, a piece to the wrestling puzzle that a good chunk of fans have been missing out on watching some of the mainstream product. By “in your face,” Storm feels that Billy means this—what you see from the wrestlers in promo delivery and persona is what you’re getting from the individual. It’s “bullet points” rather than full blown scripts with direction, and the studio wrestling setting will deliver a different beat to the pulse of wrestling that we’re used to seeing and feeling. And from James’ perspective, being in a studio rather than an arena can play more into the wrestler’s favor too. The focus and the draw is on the person or the story rather than the spectacle.

And that’s what Storm grew up watching. Some of the guys Storm observed as a kid were the Jackie Fargos and Eddie Gilberts of the Memphis days – real guys who would rough you up if you happened to pop off at them. It was only later in his age did he become drawn to the likes of Bret Hart and Curt Hennig. Storm loved the masterful selling of Hennig and when I followed up with what he thinks Hennig would be doing for the wrestling business if he was still with us today, Storm’s certain that talent today would be learning a lot from the Hall of Famer, particularly that important factor of the “one true sport.” Storm sees some talent today just lie there and considers that as fitting the selling bill (no too mention the factor of worrying about time for TV), when in all actuality it’s all in the emotion and body language that makes it a vital part of the in-ring work. He credits Jeff Hardy for still being a fantastic seller and can’t get over how he handles himself when showing such. Plus, good selling plays into the favor of that ever-present “bump card” each wrestler carries with them.

Storm knows all about the “bump card” and has made sure that his has been well-preserved in his back pocket. He hangs his well-traveled cowboy hat on the fact that he was a part of a tag team for so many years and it’s paid off regarding his wrestling renaissance of today. People don’t realize how much having a Chris Harris, a Robert Roode or a Gunner take half the the licks has benefited his longevity. And it’s been paying off both in physique and style as Storm is one of the select few talents who has been going the route of “Benjamin Button” (he coined it as the “R-Truth career”). He’s only gotten more conscientious and dedicated to the intricacies of being ring-ready with a lesser focus on heavy weightlifting.

I mentioned to Storm how guys like him and Aldis bring back that “old school” feel and the NWA National Champion has shown that in his travels. Along with selling, he notices a great deal of the heels today try to be “Billy Badass” rather than act “chicken-shit.” Storm’s mentality for the “chicken-shit heel” is talk a big game when your boys are around you, but don’t be afraid to talk (or run) your way out of it when finally confronted by the babyface.

Storm’s look, background and mentality all lend a major hand to establishing the identity of the NWA, but he also has a healthy experience with how production and camera work goes. He recently helped re-position a camera man during a CWF match because Storm knows where the action takes place (and where the safety lies for ringside talent). Aspects like his time on the small screen in the squared circle atmosphere, both big and small will only serve to benefit the NWA as it makes its way to weekly episodes. And Storm feels that way when it comes to Corgan taking command.

Storm mentioned how Corgan’s stage experience with his Smashing Pumpkins only add to the production knowledge that will present the NWA in the best light (both figuratively and literally) and in addition to that, knows how important individuality is when it comes to the creative process.  Storm said how he noticed that from Billy during both their time under IMPACT’s wing and notices it more with his current NWA baby. Billy’s of the mindset to “try it.” If it works, keep it. If it doesn’t, don’t. His innovative background and experience on stage as a frontman had to help cultivate such creativity.

Music as a matter of fact was one of the reasons I contacted Storm in the first place and before I even mentioned the name Johnny Cash, Storm talked about how important music is to the wrestling persona. Even with certain aspect of his entrance, Outlaw even knows what he wants to do at certain moments of the song. Again, it’s all about trial and error. The devil is in the details.

And just like the wrestlers he grew up watching, Storm is all about that old school country. Guys who have lived their stories such as Cash, Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings. Storm one time saw the legendary George Jones in a restaurant and the two struck up conversation. Jones left and it was only after when Storm caught wind that Jones paid his entire bill. People, memories and one-of-a-kind personalities sure create one hell of a life story. You better believe Storm is on that road. The NWA can only benefit.

Dominic is the daily coverage writer for WrestleZone and writes for MLW doing their weekly Fusion recaps.Follow him on Twitter @DominicDeAngelo.

Want to further connect with James Storm? “The Bearded Outlaw” has a Patreon available in which he gives workout advice, does exclusive Q&A’s, wrestler interviews and hell, he’ll even kick your ass in a video game tournament.

Join James Storm on Patreon

Follow him on Twitter

Follow him on Instagram

RELATED: WATCH: James Storm Defends The National Title, NWA Announces Their Latest Signee