Cassie Lee And Jessica McKay On Oral Sessions: Podcast Recap

Cassie Lee and Jessica McKay were formally known as Peyton Royce and Billie Kay respectively in WWE. They are best known together as The IIconics, where they successfully captured the Women’s Tag Team Championships at WrestleMania 35. The IIconics were unfortunately also part of the April 15th releases by WWE. Cassie and Jessie joined host Renée Paquette to discuss their releases and their time in WWE. They also discuss how their friends and family have helped them through the process, their podcast Off Her Chops, what’s next and more. The highlights can be found below:

Cassie and Jessica discuss losing their WWE names:

Jessica: “I really had to grieve her [Billie Kay]. She’s always been a part of me, now she’s no longer out there, it’s tough man.”

Cassie: “I do [feel the same] If I were to name myself now, I would make myself Peyton, I love the name Peyton. So Jess’ birthday is coming up next month, and I’ve been thinking about what I might get her. Last year I got her and myself name necklaces. I got her Big Bill for Billie and mine said Peyro. I looked at it this morning, it’s such a nice necklace but [sighs] when am I going to wear it? It cost me a pretty penny too.”

Jessica discusses her feelings after being released:

“After it happened I was having all of these feelings that I didn’t have before. My emotions were up and down and I was like what’s going on. I got my phone out and I literally Googled “Can you grieve the loss of a job?” And I was looking at the 7 steps of grieving the loss of a job. I was like I need to figure out what is happening right now so I can grieve through and push on with my life. But I was like I really am grieving now and I need to give myself time to do that. I was so stubborn. I was like OK I’m going to give myself 2 days to sit on the couch and then I’m going to be back on top of the world. Then it turned into a week and then it turned into 2 weeks. Then it turned into a month. I’m like OK stop putting a time on it, you’re going to be fine when you feel better, there’s no time to go through these things properly, you just have to go through it.” [Renee asks if there were ways to deal with this]. “A lot of it I kind of already do it. Things like meditation, journaling, reading, that really helped. I didn’t leave the house for 3 weeks, I was just doing nothing. So just getting out of the house, going for a walk with my puppy and talking to my friends and family. After it happened I called Cass because I was like I can’t talk to anyone, my friends and family are calling me and I am not answering on purpose. I was ashamed, I felt like I had let everyone down. Everyone had sacrificed so much for me to get here, and it was just over. It took me a long time to talk to everyone. Cass was the only one, I hate to say but I am so glad we got released together. Because our journey has been together this whole time. If one of us got released and one of us hadn’t, that would have been 10 times worse. I’m so glad we can go through this together and support each other through this time.”

Cassie talks emotional struggles following the release:

“The first 3 weeks I want to say was so rough. These last couple of weeks I have just been trying to schedule my days. I’ve got no job, nowhere to be. I feel like if I at least structure my days and take it day by day. I do feel good but I do have those days. Like last week I cried myself to sleep one day. It just hits me out of nowhere with these emotions. Now we are getting closer and closer to the end of these 90 days, you just feel those emotions intensify again. So I’m a bit nervous for the next 6 weeks or however long it is. Like Jess said I was embarrassed, and it shouldn’t be that way, we didn’t do anything wrong.”

Jessica recalls how she found out about the release and how her husband helped her:

“I think I was the first one that got called. Just because my tweet was the first one to hit Twitter. So I was just having lunch, I was about to get a spray tan, because it’s Thursday so I spray tan for Friday Night SmackDown. I see my phone ringing and I answer. I didn’t think what was going to happen was going to happen. I was like the schedule has changed. They need me to do something, I thought it was work related. When they said ‘We’re going to release you from your contract.’ I was like holding the phone and I couldn’t say anything, I was speechless. I was like this is a lot, then the phone call wrapped up and ended and I was frozen. I walked out onto the patio and saw my husband. We joke a lot and you know hope there’s always this fake wrestling news. I just said ‘Babe I’m not joking, I just got released.’ His face dropped. Seeing that made my heart break even more. We honestly just spent the next 2 hours crying together on the patio. It was about 4:30 when it happened, so I rang my family about 5:00. I spoke to all of them and they are so loving and supporting. But it was such a shock I wasn’t expecting it at all. But my husband got me doughnuts so that was nice.”

Cassie recalls her account of how she found out and is also thankful that her husband was there for her:

“So I was having a massage in my bedroom. Great timing doesn’t get better. So my husband Ronnie or Shawn or whatever you want to call him walks in and says ‘I think you should look at your phone.’ So I looked at my phone and I saw a text from Jess saying I just got released. I also had a missed call from work. I texted [work] saying call me. I’m like well I’m done. So I tried to call back and there was no answer. I wrapped up that massage real quick, I said ‘I’ll have to rebook you mate.’ Ronnie and I just sat on the couch and waited for the call to come back. Thank gosh he was at home because if this was a Wednesday and I was there by myself oh boy I can’t even imagine dealing with that. He was reassuring me everything is going to be OK. I just felt this overwhelming sensation of relief, like the world lifted off my shoulders. The call lasted no longer than 60 seconds. It was ‘we are invoking our contractual rights to release you.’ I was like OK I saw that coming from the text and the tweets. It wasn’t easy, I felt relief and everything is going to be alright. But I spent the next 24 hours crying, I was like what did I do and what could I have done. I just had to realise that it was nothing I did or didn’t do. I know in myself and I know in Jess we were good employees. We were the first ones at TV, we dressed like professionals and superstars, we were polite, we were respectful. I know we didn’t do anything wrong and we were just victims of budget cuts. That’s something I had to realize and know is the truth. We didn’t do anything wrong.”

Jessica and Cassie discuss the splitting up of The IIconics and how it affected them:

Cassie: “It was when they split us. I had a vision for myself if I was going to be a singles competitor. I don’t think anybody else understood that vision or believed in me. Whereas I knew deep in myself I had so much more to offer than I can. Just because I’m not booked, I’m not on TV, and if I am it’s for 30 seconds or whatever it is. So I kind of realised when I wasn’t being used I was like just push through everyone goes through this phase. I guess that was the end of the phase. My last match was with Asuka. After the match, almost 3 weeks before WrestleMania, I was like I will be OK if this was my last match. I wasn’t happy but I wasn’t considering retiring.”

Jessica: “The split was rough. I didn’t know who I was as a singles competitor. That was very confusing, having Cass not with me anymore. I had to walk to the ring and she wasn’t going to be on my left, so I’m like don’t look to your left, don’t hold your hand out, you’re going to look weird. I was like OK you have to look sexy now. I was thinking I had to be something that I wasn’t. Then I was like I don’t know what I am doing or what I want to do. With the draft I’m grateful that I got to go to SmackDown. I think we needed to be on separate brands, and I don’t think they realised what the doornail effect was of splitting a tag team up, especially us two. When we get to SmackDown, TJ helped me a lot. I said to him ‘You’re my new Cassie.’ Everything I would vent to her I would vent to him. I said ‘I just want to make people laugh and make people smile. That’s all I want to do.’ I was attracted to wrestling from the promos, The Rock and the over the top characters. So when the headshot resume kind of fell into my first promo, I was like there’s something here and I wanted to keep doing this. The writers were on board and I was able to insert myself into all these little bits. I was having so much fun. Working with The Riott Squad, we were having just the best time. I was able to work with all the girls, doing promos with Big E and the Street Profits, was so much fun.”

Cassie and Jessie reveal struggles to get employment due to Green Card issues:

Jessica: “This is a whole thing, we still don’t have our Green Cards. We’re not allowed to work until we get those, or until we can find some sponsorship from someone. We are so excited and have all these ideas, but pump the breaks because we can’t do any of it. This podcast we are doing, we are not making any money off of it. It’s purely to get our name out there and kind of try and stay relevant. It’s tough knowing there’s all these things we can do but can’t do it.”

Cassie: “We are in this holding pattern which we have been in for 4 years. I don’t think people understand it properly. I’m so glad we are talking about this with you because you get it. People are like what do you want to do now, we are like nothing because I can’t legally work in this country. People think you apply for a Green Card and it comes in the mail with a balloon and there you go. No this sh*t takes years. We have been through the ringer with getting things denied and switching the process over due to the pandemic. It’s year after year, we are almost there but that could be a year away. People are like it will work itself out or surely your former employer can help? But no we are in this together, it’s just us doing it by ourselves now. It’s been stressful and that’s another stress on getting released. We were like do we have to leave the country? Do I have to sell my house? Thankfully we can stay here but it’s just that added stress, it’s a lot but thankfully we hope it will work itself out in the next 6-12 months.”

The differences between NXT and the main roster:

Cassie: “It’s night and day. It’s just so different. It’s a different audience, a different creative team and everything is different. Nothing overlaps. NXT was so fun we got to explore who we wanted to be and our debut, we couldn’t have dreamed of anything better. The SmackDown after WrestleMania, we come out, lay out Charlotte it was so cool. Fortunately, we were given a microphone every time we came to the ring, which not many people get the chance to do. So it was really cool to show our personalities right off the bat, who we are. It is different, the product, the brand and the audience. It’s just different. [Renee asks about confusion between brands]

Jessica: So in NXT we were still bitches but I feel like we were stronger maybe. We were booked more like threats in NXT, when we transitioned to the main roster, Vince thought we were so funny on the microphone in that first week. So it became more about us being funny and less threats. For me, that was a little bit for me to realise we weren’t threats. We’re these fun over the top personalities, which I loved. But I miss being perceived as someone who could win a match or win a championship. But last year when we came back after the pandemic, I absolutely loved from when we came back to splitting us up. Because I feel like it was really a mesh of both of those things. We were still ourselves on the microphone, but when we got in the ring it was time for business.”

A funny WrestleMania story:

Cassie: “I totally forgot [to give the commentators a note about my gear]. During the match I got knocked off the apron and I don’t know why but I was like Oh my God I didn’t tell them, let me go over. Because I knew I was going to be on the mat for 5 minutes, I’ve got time. I literally had to crawl all the way to the other side of the ring. I was so loud I was trying to get Paige’s attention. I went ‘Here! It’s Eddie Guerrero inspired.’ She’s like ‘What?’ I don’t think she understood what I was saying, but she just said it later on during the match. I was so thankful that she put 2 and 2 together because I forgot that important note for myself.”

Featured image: Bleacher Report

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