Prior to his first appearance on the USA stage, few people had heard of Dennis “the Menace” James. But with chest, delt, trap, and arm thickness reminiscent of his idol Kevin Levrone, and lats so wide he could have gone hang gliding on them, that was about to change. An American born in Germany and living in Thailand, James placed 13th in his first NPC contest, the 1996 Junior USA. He moved up to a sixth and a fourth at the 1997 Junior Nationals and Nationals, respectively. But in 1998, he stormed past contest favorite Melvin Anthony to earn class and overall honors and a pro card. After a dismal 15th in his pro debut at the 1999 Night of Champions, James came back in his sophomore season to notch two thirds, two fourths, a seventh, and missed the top 10 by one spot in his first Olympia.
In 2001, he placed seventh at the Olympia and won the Hungarian Grand Prix. Though he slipped to 10th at the 2002 Olympia, the following year he leapfrogged to fourth and entered his first Olympia posedown. His final pro wins came in 2009, at the Pro Bodybuilding Weekly Championships and the Europa Supershow. James made the majority of the posedowns in the 37 contests he competed in throughout his 12-year career. At the 2010 Olympia, he announced his retirement onstage and received a standing ovation. He finished 11th, the same spot he had placed in his Olympia debut 11 years prior.