Mercedes Martinez made a surprise appearance in the 2020 WWE Royal Rumble and had momentum behind her coming out of the weekend.
Martinez signed with WWE in January 2020 after becoming one of the most respected wrestlers throughout her time on the Independent scene.
Speaking to DNC Digital, Mercedez reflected back on the start of her WWE run.
"I had an inkling of what my role was going to be," she said. "I thought in my head, 'I'm going to validate my career by signing this contract and it's the biggest moment in my career ever.' It validates the 20 years I've been in and everything I've put into it and all the sacrifices. In my head...there wasn't a clear direction as to why I got signed. Everyone knows that I'm good, I have talent, and I know what I bring to the table. I got signed and we hit it running. Then, the pandemic hit. For me, the pandemic was a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing for me because I was coming from the Indies with injuries. You get signed and nothing got stopped, it was matches after match. I didn't get a rest. The pandemic put me in a position to heal. Not just physically, it got me a chance to heal emotionally and mentally. Going as hard as I've been going for 20 years, there are really no breaks unless I was injured. It takes a toll on you and messes up everything. In my personal life, everything was wrong. The pandemic helped me in my personal life."
While Martinez' personal life improved, the pandemic did not help her professional life as she stepped away from WWE to protect her health.
"Professionally, it was a curse," she stated. "It hit me really hard. You have COVID-19 happening, no one knows anything about it and I'm asthmatic, I have allergies, if I catch it, am I going to die? My son is immunocompromised because he had 20,000 things wrong with him. I had to put my safety and health first and opt out. Me opting out really hurt my career and momentum. For seven months, you didn't see anything about Mercedes. Coming back, how do I get the momentum that I had coming out of the Royal Rumble? It's really hard. It was trying to figure out the creative, figuring out what worked, being put with the Robert Stone brand wasn't something that I wanted, but you have to be a team player. I had fun with it, but maybe that wasn't the right direction I should've gone, but you go with it because it's an opportunity and you take the best with the opportunities and you do the best you can. As the year with dwindling down, it was like, 'What is my role now?' The pandemic changed everyone's storylines. Those who worked got pushed. I opted out for my own reasons and it hurt my career. Do I regret it? Oh hell no. I don't regret any decisions I made because I'm safe now. I'm healthy. I really think it hindered my career a little because it stopped my momentum. Coming back at Great American Bash, it was like I was ready, but I wasn't, because we were still figuring out the creative side of stuff. I wasn't frustrated or mad. It was just, 'What is the universe trying to tell me? What is my role going forward? Am I going to be a major player or am I going to be brought in now to level up the girls to make sure they're ready for the top spot.' That's where I was going in my head, then I had the match with Rhea Ripley and I needed that to solidify what I can bring to the table."
Martinez would have a regular role on NXT upon returning and was slated to be part of RETRIBUTION, but she wanted to stay true to herself.
She was released by WWE on August 6.
Elsewhere during the interview, Martinez discussed getting knocked out in her final NXT match. You can find her full comments by clicking here.
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