While AEW star Mercedes Martinez is currently at the apex of her career as Ring of Honor Women’s Champion, the journey to said destination has not been an easy one. In an interview with Busted Open Radio Friday, Martinez talked about her career and how long it took for her to finally feel comfortable in her own skin as a pro wrestler and as a person.

“It took a really long time, to be honest,” Martinez said. “It was hard for me at first, coming from where I was trained from and hiding who I truly was. It was always ‘Hey, I want to wrestle,’ but I couldn’t show myself in the light. In that era, it was the whole T&A aspect of wrestling, it was the Divas. I was always told ‘You have to do that to actually make it in this business.’ I kept myself very reserved, very quiet, very shy and kept myself hidden. It’s that old adage of ‘Keep your ears open and your mouth shut.’ If you want to get far in this business, that’s what you have to do.

“That’s when I met Jazz. She came to my school with Jason Knight, and she was one of the first people that kind of said ‘You have to be who you are. You are a diamond in the rough. You are that person that’s going to trailblaze. You are that person that’s going to make a difference. Don’t let anybody tell you any differently about who you want to be, because there’s a sense of people molding you. People are always going to try to mold you, but you really have to stick to your guns and your true mission.’ And that’s what I did.”

Part of what helped the process for Martinez was her first-ever tryout for WWE in the mid-00s. Martinez would later work for the promotion from 2020 until her release in August of 2021.

“I think it took until my first tryout with WWE when I realized ‘WWE is not where I want to be right now,'” Martinez admitted. “That was around 2007, and that’s where SHIMMER started. I knew at that time, that WWE was not for me, because their mission wasn’t my mission. It was the Divas Era, they wanted to mold you into the cookie-cutter type female. And that’s not what I’m about. I’m about being true to who I am, what I know what I can do and it was always just women’s wrestling.”

Martinez also touched upon the difficulty of being out as a lesbian in the wrestling business, especially towards the start of her career.

“Being in this business, you couldn’t be openly out,” Martinez said. “I’m a lesbian, and I couldn’t be that person. I had to hide that part of me because the locker room was very taboo. The media was ‘No, you can’t do this.’ It came to the point in my career that I had to hide that because for me to advance, you can’t put that out there for fear of safety for me and my family, because that was not socially acceptable in all realms of life. So it was a very humbling experience. But now being here, 41 years going on 42 years old, I know who I am. And ain’t nobody going to tell me any different.”

If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Busted Open Radio and provide a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription

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