A well-decorated athlete in her own right, Mercedes Martinez has captivated fans before and after her arrival on the NXT brand. The powerhouse joined The Bump panel to talk about her accolades.

The panel and she began by looking back at her 2020 Women’s Royal Rumble debut, where she and several other of her NXT colleagues rocked the house during their main roster appearance. She mentions to the panel that she had no idea she was going to be part of it until the night before.

“I found out about the Royal Rumble, literally, the night before,” Mercedes Martinez informed the panel. “They flew me out the night before and just said, ‘Hey. You’re part of the Royal Rumble. You’re just gonna be an alternate.’ I was like, ‘Whoa. That’s awesome!’ It was time for me to make my mark and prove to the world why I am one of the best female wrestlers out there. It was exciting and nerve-wracking. I’m very humbled; if there’s an opportunity that I get to showcase my talent, I take it.”

When she began her training in 2000, Martinez recalls how challenging it was to train under ECW alumni Jason Knight. Like most good trainers, Knight spent countless hours preparing Martinez for this cutthroat industry by having her train with her male classmates. To this day, she attributes her creative offense to what Knight and her fellow classmates taught her.

“It was mentally tough,” she began. “When I was first training, there were no other females at that time. So, I was wrestling the guys, and they didn’t take any precautions with me. They would say, ‘If you want to be in this business, you’ve got to take your licks.’ That’s what it was. I had to prove myself against the guys in the training center. They helped me become who I am. He was one of those guys who said you’ve got to keep persevering and keep standing up for yourself.”

Just two years ago, Martinez and Meiko Satomura found themselves in one of the most grueling yet fan-favorite matchups in the 2018 Mae Young Classic. With Martinez on NXT and Satomura debuting on NXT UK this Thursday, she’s looking forward to crossing paths with the Japanese sensation soon.

“She hits hard! She hits just as hard as I hit,” she chuckled again. “Meiko is a legend herself. She levels up the game and levels up the bar. No matter how much experience I have, someone like her, I’m always learning from. I just want to be under her learning tree. When I was in the ring with Meiko, I learned a lot. She punches and kicks like there’s no tomorrow. My chest is still caved in from all of those kicks. I’m very grateful for the opportunity I had in the ring with her, and I can’t wait to do it again.”

Before becoming the trailblazer that she is now, Martinez created a name for herself in the indies when she was the first to establish a women’s division in New England Championship Wrestling. From there, the risk-taker continued breaking more barriers by becoming an intergender sensation overnight. Looking back, she never envisioned she would play an integral part in paving the way for women’s wrestling in the indies.

“I think in NECW was a very pivotal moment in my career,” she admitted. “It was one of those companies that didn’t have a big women’s division. I was at the forefront of their women’s division earlier on in my career. When Sumie Sakai first came over here from Japan, I was her first opponent ever, and that was my first international exposure with anybody who didn’t speak English. But NECW was definitely a pivotal part of my career. Without them, I don’t think women’s wrestling would be what it is now.

“People forget in the indies there isn’t a lot of women’s wrestling. You have to do a lot of intergender matches. There wasn’t really a women’s company. I think NECW was one of the first that proved that you can have women’s wrestling at the forefront. I just think my stature in my part of my career I wanted to prove athleticism over anything [else]. NECW was one of those companies that really wanted to put that on display earlier on in my career before Shimmer or Shine or all those other companies that I worked for. They were the first ones to ever do it.”

You can watch Mercedes Martinez’s full interview here. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit WWE’s The Bump with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.