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The IInspiration Find Success in Impact After ‘Very Scary’ Release From WWE

Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
 2021-11-30

Only two and a half years ago, Jessica McKay and Cassie Lee stood triumphantly inside a WWE ring at WrestleMania 35.

In front of a packed house at MetLife Stadium, the duo pulled off a genuinely surprising victory when McKay pinned Bayley to crown new women’s tag team champions.

“Hearing the crowd erupt when Jess got the pin, it took over my whole entire body,” says Lee, who was Peyton Royce for six years in WWE. “I was in tears, and for a second, I was so excited that I forgot we won. It was that amazing.”

Then known as The IIconics, the memory is still vivid in their minds. It is also forever captured in time by a photograph snapped as Lee and McKay embraced in victory.

“When Cassie got in the ring and hugged me, that’s the moment for me,” says McKay, who worked in WWE from 2015 until earlier this year as Billie Kay. “Whenever I think of WrestleMania, that’s the exact moment that comes to mind.”

The IIconics are no longer with WWE, but that moment still serves as an inspiration for McKay and Lee to create even more everlasting memories. Known now, fittingly, as The IInspiration, the two talented, charismatic pro wrestlers/entertainers are finding success on their podcast, Off Her Chops, and as the reigning women’s tag champs in Impact Wrestling. They are adding to that growing portfolio with their latest venture—signing with BrandArmy, a new app that allows creators to engage and interact directly with their fan base.

“We are fortunate to have so many supporters on Instagram, but it’s hard to get to know each of them individually,” Lee says. “This is a more intimate environment, and that’s what we love about this platform.”

Designed to be a subscription-based platform with safe-for-work content, BrandArmy allows The IInspiration another means of supplemental income while building a closer relationship with their followers.

“There are so many extra ways to connect with our audience,” McKay says. “We’re meeting people from all over, and it’s so fascinating to have conversations with people from across the world.”

Another appealing element to BrandArmy is the chance for The IInspiration to extend their reach outside of the walls of WWE and of pro wrestling more generally. Leaving WWE can be a frightening proposition, but after receiving their releases this spring, Lee and McKay currently have an opportunity to redefine success for women post-WWE.

“It was a very scary time when we were let go, especially since we were not U.S. citizens,” says Lee, who, like McKay, is from Australia. “Every decision we made impacted our future, so that creates a very daunting time. WWE has an incredible platform and amazing brand, but our success is now in our hands. We’re building something bigger different, something that belongs to us.”

In addition to BrandArmy and their podcast, The IInspiration’s growing empire also includes adding prestige to Impact’s Knockout tag team titles.

“We’re so grateful to be champions of the best women’s tag division in the world,” McKay says. “When we were free agents, the more Cassie and I discussed our options, the more Impact felt like the natural decision for us. We wanted to be with a company with a certain production level and roster. That is Impact. It’s been a great journey so far, and it’s just getting started.”

McKay and Lee both extended gratitude to their legions of fans, noting that they hope their new branding opportunity allows them a chance to further connect with those who support them.

“We’re so lucky to have supporters that continue to follow us,” McKay says. “People want us to succeed and support us in every single endeavor we do, and that’s something we don’t take lightly. So we are going to continue building, continue entertaining and continue to make our supporters proud.”

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Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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