In a new interview with Bell to Belles, former WWE NXT star Mercedes Martinez opened up about the highs and lows of her time working with World Wrestling Entertainment. She even went in depth about how the infamous Retribution stable was something she briefly became involved with.

“To be honest, The Retribution pitch was not pitched to me. Well, if we want to get real because I’m a straight shooter and always have been, and don’t like to beat around the bush here. It was a concept of maybe they wanted me as a part of this Retribution. It was, you know how everyone was kind of going in, they had all the extras when it was a big mob of everyone under hoods? You know, that whole big thing?

“When they were finally trying to figure out the core group, I was still fresh off the storyline with Rhea Ripley. We just came off the cage match and, you know, I said, ‘I can’t do anything with Retribution because I don’t know anything about it,” Mercedes said. “I don’t know what the concept is.’ I wanted more information was my deal, I wanted to make sure that if I was going to be part of this stable, I wanted to be sure morally, for me, and mentally that this is something that I want to be behind. Is this going to affect me in my career, is this going to affect my legacy, is it going to affect my life personally? Yeah, it was just like, ‘You just made it to WWE. Like, this is you opportunity to be on the main roster.’ But is it the right opportunity to be on the main roster was the question that was in the back of my head…

“It was a decision that I made right on the spot because I felt that it was decision that had to be made right then and there. So when they revealed us as Retribution, that first time they revealed us on camera, on RAW, where Mia cut her promo, that was pretty much my last day. I was pretty much like, ‘I can’t do this.’ They wanted to change names, which is fine, you can change your name, but I wanted to– my thing was communication,” she noted. “Communication was a big thing for me where they didn’t communicate with me, they didn’t communicate on what the group was about. They didn’t communicate the name changes until we were revealed. And the gear, the masks, everything was just– communication. I’m a big communication person where I want to be prepared for my job, I want to know what’s going on.”

Another issue with her role in Retribution was the detail that she had to constantly wear a face mask as this new character. Martinez explained that as a person with asthma, it was too much of a health hazard to be working with the Retribution mask on.

“We knew we were going to wear masks but I thought it was more for entrance, or for just the aesthetic or whatever, which is fine because I wear face masks in my entrance,” Mercedes said. “Which is perfectly fine, I feel like we should have had some input in it, like, ‘Maybe here’s my face mask, I have two different face masks. Maybe we can make something similar to these two but for this group.’ You know, I tried really hard but I can’t wrestle in [the Retribution] mask. And that’s another issue is that I can’t wrestle in a mask, I have asthma. It’s hard for me to breathe in the first place without a mask, how am I going to wrestle in a mask?

“When something doesn’t feel right, regardless of if you can be on the main roster, you can make all this money and stuff, at the end of the day, I just didn’t feel it in my heart. It really came down to that. I just felt like I really shouldn’t be a part of this group. And people probably think that’s the wrong decision, but for me, it’s the right decision right then and there. Maybe they could have gotten somebody else, but for me and the 20 years I have put in this business, I didn’t want my WWE career to be valued as part of a group. And a name change, and everything changed from what people know me as.”

The 20+ year in-ring veteran says that things ended amicably between her and WWE, noting that they understood her perspective on her character. She says rejecting her role in Retribution wasn’t one of the factors that played into her release from WWE earlier this year.

“We talked, everyone was on the same page and they understood where I was coming from. There was no heat or anything, it was just like, ‘You’re correct, maybe Mercedes is better off as a singles.’ And they understood my concerns with the mask, and they understood everything,” Martinez said. “It wasn’t as if, ‘I’m just going to drop this.’ It was a mutual talk. Everyone was on the same page, and within a couple days of that, they let me know, ‘Yes, we agree. We’re going to send you back to NXT.’ I was like, ‘Thank you so much. If there’s another opportunity on RAW, or SmackDown, or the main roster that you want me to be a part of as Mercedes, then I’m more than willing to do whatever you want. I will be a team player, but morally, in my heart, I have to also be mindful of what I built my career on, and that was being true to oneself.

“So, that’s what I did. I was true to myself, I stuck to my guns. Would it have cost me my main roster run? Probably. But what people don’t realize is, for me, and this is just me and my own personal take– and people can say what they want, I don’t really care,” she stated. “It really comes down to what I want to do and what I worked 20 years for, and that’s for me to be me, Mercedes. This no nonsense, badass persona in the ring, and that is where my WWE career is going to end, as still Mercedes Martinez, the no nonsense, badass persona that everyone loves. That’s how we left it, and, you know, people think that I should have stayed with them, that it was the end of my career. No, it wasn’t the end of my career. There are other obstacles that came to play for me to be out of WWE, but that was definitely not one of them.”

Staying true to herself has been a staple of Mercedes’ personality since she first started performing, and it is a belief she carried up until she departed from WWE.

“Not everyone is in a position to do that. When you’re early in your career and you get a WWE contract, you’re going to be a team player. And I am a team player, I’m very all about the team and supporting everyone, and rising to the occasion. If you need me, I’m here, but at the same time, I also have to think of how many years I’ve put into this business. And how do I want to leave my legacy when I’m done wrestling? And there’s no money in the world that is going to change my mind, it has nothing to do with that. It has to do with, when I lay my head at night, did I do the right decision? Is my conscious clear? Can I look myself in the mirror and say I made the right decision? Of course.”

If you use any quotes from this article Bell to Belles, please credit with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.

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