Mercedes Martinez opened up about being gay in the world of pro wrestling, saying that she once had to hide her true identity to get ahead.
While it’s commonplace for wrestling companies to celebrate Pride Month nowadays, this wasn’t always the case. In an interview with Busted Open Radio, Mercedes Martinez opened up about finding her identity in wrestling and how it took her a long time to feel comfortable with who she was.
“It took a really long time, to be honest. 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.”
However, Mercedes Martinez said that former WWE Women’s Champion Jazz inspired her to be herself, and that was the beginning of a change in her career.
“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.”
Continuing, Mercedes Martinez revealed that her first tryout with WWE led her to realize she didn’t want to sign with the company at that time, and she focused on independent promotions like SHIMMER instead. She later went on to work for WWE in early 2020 and was released 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. 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.”
Mercedes Martinez also spoke about her experience as a gay woman in wrestling, saying that there was a time she felt she had to hide that part of her identity in order to perform safely and get ahead in the business. Thankfully, those days are long over, and Mercedes Martinez is now able to be open about who she is.
“Being in this business, you couldn’t be openly out. 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.”
After her release from WWE, Mercedes Martinez returned to AEW, where she became the Ring of Honor Women’s Champion after she defeated Deonna Purrazzo on the May 4th episode of Dynamite.