Mercedes Martinez On How The Pandemic Affected Her WWE Run

Former WWE star Mercedes Martinez joined Oral Sessions with Renee Paquette to talk about her year plus run with WWE. Mercedes Martinez began her WWE tenure in the WWE Performance Center, and despite being a twenty year veteran who had worked for WWE in the past, Martinez felt like she was a beginner when she first walked in.

"I felt like I was a rookie," Martinez said. "I really did, considering I'd been in this business 20 years. But to be in a locker room and be actually contracted? It was a whole new thing. From the Mae Young (Classic), I knew how the inner workings were. I had been an extra and I had been with WWE on and off, not with a contract, just constantly with them throughout my career. But this was different. This was me going to work. It was like 'where do I go? Where do I put my stuff?' It felt like it didn't know what I was doing. It literally felt like I was walking into my first day of school, like 'okay, what do I do here?' And that's what it felt like. I didn't have a locker yet, so it's like 'so where do I put my stuff guys? I've been here before, I know where I'm supposed to be, but I'm not an extra talent this time. This is where I belong. So what do I do now?' It was just crazy."

One thing Martinez had to adjust to was the training schedule at the PC, as she was already used to doing TV tapings. She ultimately decided to do extra training, in order to show she was a team player and to get acclimated to the WWE style.

"More the training schedule," Martinez said. "The TV stuff I was used to, because I was used to doing TV. It wasn't new for me, the camera's and all that. That was easy to do. It was more or less the training schedule, getting up at 7 o'clock in the morning to bump in the ring was crazy. But your day is done by 11 o'clock, cause with the training and the gym, and then it's like you have this whole day free. So that was a mind trip of itself, because I'm not used to that. Going in, it was something different for me. I didn't have to train everyday, and what people don't realize is yeah, I've been in the business twenty years, but I wanted to. I wanted to be there, I wanted to train, I wanted to have the whole NXT experience of the PC. Not that it was required of me, because it wasn't. They knew I could bump, they knew I could train, they knew I was going to do my own gym stuff. It was more or less 'I wanted to come and I wanted to be here, so put me in a group. Put me in the training. Where do I go? Where do I go?'

"So it was me always constantly calling coach and saying 'hey, can I come to your gym class today? Because I'm bored. I need to train.' He was like 'yeah, just show up.' So it was literally just like that. If I wanted to be there, I'd show up. I tried to make myself accessible and make myself feel the experience that everyone else is feeling, so I could understand they were coming from. I didn't want to feel like a superstar, let's put it that way. I really didn't want to come in and say 'hey, I'm the veteran. I'm the veteran of the indies, but this is your house. Let me come and learn your style, let me come in and learn your ways so I can be acclimated to you guys. I'm very humble, very low key. Let me just be with you guys and build those relationships with everybody, and learn your stuff and just take it all in.' That's what I really wanted, and that's what I did at first."

Mercedes Martinez was ultimately released from WWE earlier this year, and has since begun working the independents again, as well as Impact Wrestling. She admitted that her WWE run was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic starting shortly after she signed, and that personal issues involving her marriage, her son and a death in the family left her in a bad state of mind.

"I didn't move to Orlando when I got signed initially," Martinez said. "I was still over in Clearwater/Largo area. So I was just showing up for TV only, just because of my personal life. I was married, I had a child, he was in school; my priorities were him. So I was just showing up just for TV days. So if I could make it to the training center, I would, but they also understood that I had a life that I couldn't just uproot like that. There's a lot of factors in. When the pandemic hit,  it was almost like 'let me just move.' My marriage was falling apart, it's a known fact that I was going through a divorce. So that was my chance to say 'let me pick up and let me just go to Orlando and put all my efforts into that.' So during the pandemic, I had just moved to the Orlando and the beginning of the pandemic. Maybe three weeks in, everything gets shut down and now I'm in a new city with nothing around, no child. And I'm just like 'well, here we go.'

"It went from getting signed in January, go go go living in Clearwater, and then all of a sudden the pandemic hit, I had just moved to Orlando, I'm going through a divorce, my grandma passed away. Everything just happened. When I say everything happened, it happened. In November 2019, I was overseas, came back home and it was like 'alright, I just got signed. No one knows yet.' And my marriage fell apart around that time. Then my grandmother passed away right after Christmas, and I had to go fly home to Connecticut and deal with that. And literally when I flew home, dealt with that, came back, I had to report to the PC. And I wasn't even living in Orlando yet, I was still living over in the Clearwater area. By the time I got my apartment, it was February of 2020, I had only been with WWE for a month, my marriage fell apart, didn't know when I was going to see my child. Then the pandemic hit in March. And everything just stopped. Mentally I was fucked. It was 'what do I do?' When I say the pandemic is a curse and a blessing, it was a curse for my career at that time. It was a blessing because now I can deal with everything personally. I can deal with my emotions, I can deal with my breakup and the divorce, and hopefully seeing my child through all this, because he's immunocompromised."

In addition to her son, Mercedes Martinez revealed she too is immunocompromised, which caused her to miss several months of WWE while she figured out what to do. She revealed WWE called her many times to ask when she would return, and upon returning, Martinez found herself now ready yet mentally, which she believes affected her career in a negative way.

"So we didn't know what was going on with all this," Martinez said. "So I asked out, because I'm immunocompromised. I'm vaccinated now, but I didn't know what COVID could do to me. I have asthmatic, I need an inhaler as well as an nebulizer if I can't breathe. And my son is the same way, he has to be on machines if needs be for his breathing. So I asked out for about seven months, and for that seven months it was just being at home and trying to figure out what to do with everything. Trying to finish the divorce, trying to see my child, trying to figure it out with WWE, trying to get training done because you couldn't train anywhere. I was a mess. I was physically and mentally a mess until I figured out that I had to get my shit together, because I can't hide anymore. Six, seven months is enough.

"WWE is calling me. 'Hey, when do you think you can come back?' I'm like 'I don't know. I'm going through a lot of shit right now.' It's a blessing, it's a curse. You look at it this way. They want you to be on TV, but if you're not mentally ready for TV, you can't give them you're all. And I'm like 'I'm just not ready mentally. Physically? Maybe I'm physically ready.' But when you're mentally fucked and your whole world just fell apart, you don't know what to do. You don't know if you can perform at the level they want you to perform. And that's what I felt coming back. When I did come back, I felt like I wasn't ready. But I knew to keep my job and keep my spot, I had to go. And I wasn't ready. I wasn't ready when I came back in September, October maybe? I just wasn't ready. I was just going through the motions, and they understood that. But I think negatively, it affected my career in that aspect."

If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Oral Sessions with Renee Paquette and provide a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription