Facts About Thunder Rosa That Only Hardcore Fans Will Know

Thunder Rosa, aka Melissa Cervantes, is an AEW Women's Champion and a legitimate pro wrestling badass. A controversial wrestler with a striking presence and a unique look, "la Mera Mera" has seen her fame skyrocket during her brief run in AEW. She was part of one of the best women's matches of all time — a hardcore match PWI rated the best of 2021. 

Rosa is an outspoken performer, a businesswoman, and an advocate for the causes she believes in. She's also a wife and a mother, a social media star, and a multi-time champion in multiple countries. She seemingly came out of nowhere for AEW fans who watched her debut, bringing the NWA World Women's Championship into AEW as she challenged Hikaru Shida; however, her lifelong supporters know the fascinating tale of the Mexican born luchadora billed "from the cemeteries of Tijuana." We've done the research and watched the tapes, and now present to you a few facts about Thunder Rosa that only the most hardcore fans know.

Thunder Rosa was a social worker before she became a pro wrestler

Before she ever thought of becoming the Thunder Rosa we're all familiar with, Melissa Cervantes was a social worker in California. She earned a bachelor's degree in Sociology from the University of California at Berkeley. After she graduated, Thunder Rosa worked with young adults who were dealing with mental health issues and addiction in California's Bay Area. "It gave me a different perspective about life and the opportunities I have. A lot of these kids were born in a situation where they had no control and were victims of their circumstances," she told Soundsphere.

While she worked towards her master's degree, Rosa was introduced to professional wrestling and started attending independent shows with her husband and coworkers. She fell in love with the sport and decided to begin training. After some time, she realized how lucrative it was and chose to go all in on wrestling. As she said to Yahoo News, "Oh, I can pay my bills with wrestling? Okay, nevermind. I'm just gonna do wrestling." Still, Thunder Rosa continues to help kids through charity work to this day. Although she is dealing with an injury as of the time of this writing, she has still taken the time to work with the Salvation Army in San Antonio, recently participating in their annual Shoe-In event.

It took a lawsuit to secure Thunder Rosa's Lucha Underground release

Lucha Underground was a short-lived pro wrestling promotion on the El Rey Network. While it only ran four seasons, it made an impact on wrestling fans for its unique look, fantastic location, and blend of lucha libre talent and telenovela style storylines.

Thunder Rosa made her Lucha Underground debut in their second season, debuting as Kobra Moon and eventually leading her Reptile tribe to trios gold. She has spoken repeatedly about her experiences in Lucha Underground, which she views as a learning experience while still condemning many of the decisions made there. She hated working under a mask, as she told "AEW Unrestricted," and found the veterans disrespectful.

Thunder Rosa had signed a five-year contract with Lucha Underground and appeared on several episodes of the promotion's television program after her debut. Once it was canceled in 2018, she was legally barred from wrestling anywhere else. In 2019, Thunder Rosa joined a class action lawsuit with other Lucha Underground wrestlers. As she said to "AEW Unrestricted," "That was my first experience with contracts because I wasn't even one year in the business, and I didn't have the money to pay a lawyer. So I was just so excited, and I signed that contract and then I was like, oh, I'm stuck." Lucha Underground eventually settled the matter out of court, and Thunder Rosa was able to continue her profession elsewhere.

She has had to step away from championships from two previous employers

Thunder Rosa made her Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling debut in 2019, wrestling five matches in late April and early May and competing for the TJPW TOKYO Princess of Princess title. Though she lost that match, a return trip in 2020 proved more successful, as Rosa won the International Princess Title that year.

Thunder Rosa was scheduled to defend the title in a DDT show in Tampa, Florida against Shoko Nakajima; unfortunately, she was never able to defend that championship. The pandemic saw that show (and just about every other show that year) get canceled and brought Rosa's title reign to an end. Thunder Rosa was forced to vacate the title in October of 2020 because she couldn't travel to Japan to defend it. Via Instagram, she recorded a video message for the Japanese fans, letting them know she was relinquishing the championship but also promising that "Thunder Rosa will return to Tokyo and I will return for what is rightfully mine."

Rosa also relinquished the Warrior Wrestling Women's Championship after she won the AEW Women's Championship, citing "some really huge commitments that are coming in my career..." She held the Warrior Wrestling championship for just over a year before giving it up, defending the belt five times after she beat Kylie Rae for the title in August of 2021.

All Elite Wrestling isn't the first place Thunder Rosa and Britt Baker have crossed paths

Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D., is easily Thunder Rosa's biggest rival. The two have had a well-documented rivalry in and outside of the squared circle, with Baker going so far as to bring an actual sandbag to a promo to turn some backstage rumors into kayfabe reality. Their unsanctioned lights out match on the March 17 edition of "Rampage" was called the match of the year by several outlets and received 4 ¾ stars from Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer.

While their animosity has grown to near nuclear heat recently, AEW is not the birthplace of this rivalry. They met in the ring twice in Ring of Honor, back in 2018. Both matches, held only a few weeks apart, featured the team of Twisted Sisterz (Thunder Rosa and Holidead) facing Britt Baker and Madison Rayne. They split the wins in those matches and planted the seeds for a long-term rivalry that would end up spanning nearly half a decade.

Thunder Rosa's name comes from her heritage and her work prior to wrestling

Thunder Rosa is a unique performer, and that trait extends to her distinctive name and look. Both come from deeply personal stories. Her ring name is a combination of influences. "The reason my name is Thunder Rosa is that I worked in a place called Thunder Road. I used to work with kids from 13 to 18 years old who had mental and drug addiction problems," she told the "Casual Conversations" podcast (h/t Fightful). "So I continue to represent all those kids, again, lost souls, right?"

As for Rosa, she discussed that name in an interview with Chris Van Vliet. She talked about driving home with her husband and a friend after attending an independent wrestling show: "We're like, 'Okay, we got to come up with a name that appeals to Americans but also appeals to your Latino population.' And we were going around and around, and we're like, 'How about Thunder Rosa?' Thunder has the job and then we keep the R –- Rosa, because Latinos — and then we started doing the whole chanting because it's very important that makes sense, 'Thunder Rosa!' So, it just started like that."

Thunder Rosa founded her own pro wrestling promotion with a focus on women's wrestling

Mission Pro Wrestling was founded by Thunder Rosa, her husband, and business partner Jeremiah Wilkerson in 2019, motivated in part by the Speaking Out movement that led to several releases from WWE and an official parliamentary inquiry into the wrestling business in the UK. "From the moment I started volunteering for shows, the guys were like dogs," she said to Texas Monthly. "If this was a real job, I think a lot of people would get fired."

Thunder Rosa made the decision to found Mission Pro as a women's wrestling promotion, but after the Speaking Out movement spread, her husband suggested they do even more. Mission Pro Wrestling was then rebranded, pushing the narrative that they weren't just a place for women's wrestling but also a company that featured women at every level of the company — from the owner to referees, production workers, and commentators. That moved local Texas businesses to offer their support and drove Mission Pro to rapid growth.

Almost three years in, Mission Pro Wrestling is gaining popularity. They have been able to produce several shows already this year and regularly bring in bigger names in independent women's wrestling. Recent shows have featured appearances by the Renegade Twins, Willow Nightingale, and KiLynn King, all of whom have appeared on All Elite Wrestling's "Dynamite."

Thunder Rosa's Taco Vlog features Rosa taking other performers to local taco joints

No stranger to using social media to promote herself or her business ventures, Thunder Rosa has found success as a YouTuber with her Taco Vlog. The premise is a simple one — Thunder Rosa — plus, more often than not, a guest — head to a local taco joint and enjoy the meal while chatting on camera. She's been putting the combination interview and food review videos together for over a year, and has averaged around 6000 views for each vlog — no small feat. As she said to Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful, it's a skill she picked up in Japan where she'd meet sponsors for dinner and get into great conversations: "I think bringing tacos into the conversation, which is cultural for my part, and bringing people into it because some people have never eaten tacos [helps]."

Past guests on the Taco Vlog include Mick Foley, Danhausen, and Lance Archer. Thunder Rosa has been able to use these vlogs to increase her visibility and fame online. That has not only helped in her career, but also launched several other online ventures based around her website while also strengthening her connection to her fans. Per her interview with Sapp, "I think it's really helping me to get to another level and connect with the fans. I didn't think it was gonna be that direct. It's kind of weird."

Thunder Rosa was briefly an MMA fighter

Thunder Rosa has been a successful professional wrestler almost from the start, winning Southern California's Women's Wrestler of the Year from SoCal Uncensored. She has also had success helping others as a social worker, and in her social media ventures, as we've already discussed. Another field she showed interest in was mixed martial arts, and she had a short MMA career after training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

According to Fightful, Cervantes signed an MMA contract with Combate Americas in September of 2019. She would go on to fight Nadine Mandiau in November of that year, and per PWInsider she went a full three rounds despite suffering a cut above her nose during the bout. Mandiau won the fight by unanimous decision. Shortly thereafter, Rosa did an interview with "Wilde On" (h/t Fightful) where she stated, "With my wrestling career on the rise, I have to make a decision if I want to keep fighting or if I want to focus 100% on wrestling. I have to be honest with myself in the decision. I'm not going to stop training MMA. That's one thing that has created an edge and is different from a lot of the girls in the circuit, so I will not stop training MMA ... It's a hard life. You have to take into consideration training and paying for your camp, strength and conditioning, food, physical therapy, all this stuff that adds up."

While she hasn't announced any upcoming MMA fights, Thunder Rosa did provide commentary on an MMA broadcast. According to Wrestling Headlines, Rosa worked the booth for the Combate Global shows that were streamed on Paramount+ in July of 2022. She hasn't necessarily ruled out taking any other MMA fights, but for now wrestling seems to be her top priority.

She has appeared in a ton of promotions as a performer, champion, and trailblazer

Thunder Rosa has gained mass appeal since her debut in All Elite Wrestling, but she's been wrestling on the independent scene and in other promotions for years. According to Cagematch, Rosa made appearances in 34 different wrestling companies in 2019 alone. Not content to just perform, Rosa has also held multiple championships as well; including her current (as of this writing) AEW Women's Championship, she's held singles and tag team championships in 13 different promotions including the AIWF, Inspire Pro Wrestling, SHINE Wrestling, and East Bay Pro Wrestling.

Her victory over Allisyn Kay at NWA's Hard Times show made Rosa the NWA's first Latina champion as well, per Fox 29. Rosa is also the first gaijin (non-Japanese) performer to hold the International Princess title for Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling, which she won by defeating the beloved fired idol, Maki Itoh. Additionally, Rosa recently participated in a tag team match alongside her son Anakin at Midsommar, a show hosted by the Lucha Bros in their Los Angeles based store, Republic of Lucha.

Her straightforward attitude leads to a lot of drama behind the scenes

Thunder Rosa's attitude behind the scenes has had a lot of repercussions. For example, her recent injury has led to rumors that she refused to drop her championship to Toni Storm at the recent All Out show and used the injury as an excuse. She addressed that, as well as another rumor that she hid from Jaymie Hayter after Hayter's nose was broken during a match between the two, on "Busted Open Radio." Per Cageside Seats, Rosa said, "If I could f***ing walk, I can f***ing work ... It's not that I don't want to do a match on Sunday [at All Out], I can't walk."

Later in that interview, Rosa addressed the rumors involving Hayter, saying, "If anyone has a problem with me ... tell me to my face ... I have taken accountability when things have happened. I'm a straightforward person. Some people don't like that and are afraid of that. I'm not. I'm a trained fighter, I don't run away from sh*t."

A Tweet that suggested Thunder Rosa was intentionally trying to make Marina Shafir look bad during their match on the edition of "Dynamite" was liked by both Baker and Shafir, although it seems Shafir and Thunder Rosa have since reconciled their differences. Baker has gone the other direction, referencing the sandbagging a number of times. That has led to Thunder Rosa going so far as to have a t-shirt made of the whole story while denying any wrongdoing to the New York Post. When asked about the incident, Rosa simply said, "I don't like to get into those comments. I have respect for my opponents all the time."

Her makeup is a tribute to the memory of her uncle and all lost souls

Thunder Rosa's iconic half-face paint is iconic at this point in her career. She didn't start using it until a near-career ending concussion, but she's done a few different interviews that hint at different reasons or stories behind the paint.

In her interview with Chris Van Vliet, she says that the makeup was originally suggested by a friend in the Bay Area, who thought it was a great way to attract more Latino customers to the company. "I hate when people make me feel less than because I'm Latina or because I have an accent, and in all honesty, I was running away from my culture," she said. Rosa didn't wear face paint after that until she was injured while performing in Japan. "Then, I got a concussion and I felt like I was going to die," Rosa said. "I was out of work for a whole month, and then my husband was like, 'When you come back, you got to paint your face again because you got to do something different to get over, and I think the face paint is going to make a difference."

The makeup went over well, but it was in a conversation with her uncle about her pro wrestling character that she learned how much it could mean to others. Her uncle told her that when he was a child, he was attending a wrestling show with Rosa's grandfather. Her grandfather died of a heart attack during that show, and he hadn't watched wrestling since. She said, "he told me, 'I hated wrestling for so long and you brought me back to watch wrestling ... So, the reason is, it was in your destiny. It was in your future. You were going to become a professional wrestler because it was in your blood and you're now representing what the real Day of the Dead is, representing those that have passed away in a better way. And every time you get into that ring, you're fighting for them.'"

Thunder Rosa was almost a WWE performer ... as a referee

Given the number of wrestling promotions she's appeared in, it's surprising that she hasn't been on "Raw" or "SmackDown" yet. That's not for lack of trying, though. She told Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful that she actually had a tryout set for WWE in 2019. "I was supposed to go, last September, for a referee tryout. That was like a week before I signed my contract for MMA." She went on to say she had been training to fight for weeks, and taking a week off for the WWE tryout would be too long to pause her training. "I just sent them an email saying 'Thanks for the opportunity, hopefully we can work something out in the future,' and I left it at that."

While Thunder Rosa never officially tried out for WWE, she does have another connection to WWE talent. In an interview with KXST radio (via Ewrestling News), she credits WWE's IYO SKY with her fearlessness in the ring. "I'm not afraid of anybody or anything. IYO SKY, or Io Shirai, who was one of my trainers, that's one of them. She was like, one of the main women that made me not be afraid of heights ... Made me not be afraid of jumping off the top rope. She forces us to get out of our comfort zone."

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