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By Mike Johnson on 2021-01-20 09:57:00

Tonight on WWE NXT on the USA Network, respected and long traveled women's wrestling veteran Mercedes Martinez teams with Toni Storm in the first ever match of the first-ever Women's Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.  Yesterday, Martinez sat down with to reflect on the moment, what fans can expect, her unique path to WWE, advice for others on their own path, why she chose to return to WWE NXT and much more.

Mike Johnson: Hey everybody, it's Mike Johnson back in the audio section of We are about 24 hours away from a history-making episode of WWE NXT on the USA Network because for the first time, the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic will have a women's component, and we are on the line with the woman who will be teaming with Toni Storm in the first round of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Classic and that is longtime journeyman turned WWE star Mercedes Martinez, who has been on a path of destruction since returning to the NXT brand in recent weeks and months. How are you doing and the easy first question is, how excited are you about taking part in the first ever women's Dusty Tag Classic?

Mercedes Martinez: Oh I'm excited, I'm's great to be back , I must say, it really is. 2021 will be a very, very good year and what better way to start it off then by trying to make history in the first ever women's Dusty Rhodes Classic.

Mike Johnson: So you're going to be teaming with Toni Storm - that is a very interesting mix of personalities and in-ring style. What's it like trying to find the chemistry and the ying and the yang of a new tag team partner, especially when this is such a high level tag team bout?

Mercedes Martinez: It pretty much comes down to making sure we have the same game plan so we know where the focus is and that's making sure we win. Different know, they say sometimes opposites attract...people can't count us out. We are a powerhouse team and we might surprise a lot of people and actually gel very well and put some things together. The ultimate goal is...any tag team that's just kind of thrown together is you've gotta have that game plan, you gotta have the same goal in mind and when you have that together, you're pretty much a force to be reckoned with.

Mike Johnson: So you were first trained by Jason Knight. I'm from New York and when it comes to people who gave so much to pro wrestling and literally sent ripple effects out into the world, giving so many people chances and opportunities that they turned into full-time careers he's one of the unsung heroes.  What's the best advice Jason gave you and what do you think he would think about your run in NXT thus far?

Mercedes Martinez: One of the best advices that I've gotten from Jason was to never give up. I think when I started training with Jason I was pretty much 1 out of 2 female wrestlers there and we always had to wrestle with the guys. And the guys really put punishment on us. He wanted to make sure that if this is a career you wanted to be a part of you have to take your licks and give it as well, just don't give up if this is what you want to do. I think I proved that in 20 years, that no matter how far I got in my career I still wanted to reach my goal and I never gave up on my goal but I never compromised who I was in my morals or my ethics and I got to where I had to be right now. Things happen for a reason and the universe told me I had to be part of NXT last year and here I am wreaking havoc in 021. 

Mike Johnson: So we did see you on the main roster on Monday Night Raw before you returned to NXT. There's been a lot of rumors and innuendo about the set of circumstances that led to you coming back. Would you care to go on record and kind of give your perspective on what that process was and how all that happened? 

Mercedes Martinez: I can. I can dive into that and let people know kind of what was going on (laughs). I was given an opportunity, and I took the opportunity not knowing what the outcome would be, you've got to make the best of anything you can, but I think when that opportunity came, it just wasn’t for me.  When you hit this pinnacle of your career, as I did, hitting 20 years, and you want to make the most of your career, but make it part of a legacy, what you want to be for your career...I just think being part of that group, it’s no hidden fact that it was me, I don’t hide the fact, but I don’t mention it, only because it was a very small part of what the bigger picture is. It’s kind of one of those things where it’s, you know what? "This is where Mercedes is, but maybe it doesn’t fit her mold, maybe doesn’t fit the career, the trajectory that I want my career, my legacy to be." It was no hard feelings, I just think we had both two different plans, I wanted one thing to go one way, and they had a different outlook and maybe they were still working on their outlook. It's just something that I just said, "Hey, I know where I want my career and this is probably not it." I don't give any hard feelings and I wish nothing but success to all those that are a part of the group and I wish them the best, I really, really, really do, but I just think it wasn't meant for me, it was probably meant for somebody else and I want to make my legacy a little different and that's why I'm back on NXT and going put my mark on the women's division there.

Mike Johnson: And you probably have a different perspective, given you've been in the business as long as you have, but with the Dusty Tag Classic you are still getting to break ground. In that first round you're going be facing Kayden Carter and Kacy Catanzaro, who you just wrestled upon your return to NXT. Thoughts on your opposition for tomorrow. 

Mercedes Martinez: I always say, "Never take your opponents lightly. Never underestimate them." I've wrestled Kacy...she might have been one of those little spitfires, you know like a little pitbull or a Chihuahua that wants to be at you, and I think that her and Kayden being  a tag team, they have that tag team, they've been together, they know their stuff, they know what they have to do. I've been in the ring with them when I tagged with the Robert Stone Brand with Aliyah, so I know what they're about, but they don't know what me and Toni are about. They don't know that maybe we can gel, no one  knows that hidden factor and I think that's going prove to be the deciding factor in our match. As long as me and Toni are on the same mind frame and on the same game plan, we will come out victorious with our personalities and what we bring to the ring.  No matter how long people are together, sometimes you just need that right moment and that right opportunity to pull off the win. 

Mike Johnson: You mentioned opportunity - we're coming up on the anniversary in just a few days of your Royal Rumble debut. Given everything that you had done in your career on the independents and internationally before you came to work for WWE, what did that moment mean to you when you were waiting for the countdown clock to hit zero so that you could make your Rumble debut?

Mercedes Martinez: Man, I was nervous, excited (laughs). I didn't know if I should cry. There's so many emotions before you walk, it definitely was a moment. I remember Shane Helms telling me, "Take in the moment, because this is a moment that you may or may not get again," and that's really what I did as soon as I knew that countdown was coming and my music hit, I literally just walked out, soaked up the moment, took my time and then wreaked havoc in the ring before I got thrown out at some point (laughs). 

Mike Johnson: We've seen you at odds with Io Shirai over the last month or so. What will it mean to you when you finally have that one on one chance against Io Shirai down the line for NXT?

Mercedes Martinez: I think when we finally get together and she better have that title, even if she doesn't, but it'll make it much more sweeter when I beat her and just prove to the world that Mercedes Martinez is what she says she is - the best in the world and 20 years doesn't mean anything if I can't prove it on the main stage. That's what this year is going to bring - the year that Mercedes brings about the legacy that she wants to bring and winning that title from Io is the culmination of 20 years in the making, proving not only was I the best on the independent scene, but I am going to be the best here in NXT and I'm the woman to beat. Regardless of who's been there longer than me or whoever, it comes down to experience and making the best of the opportunity and 2021, Io has a target on her back but I'm the one who's going to nail that bullseye right in the middle and she doesn't know what's coming. She knows everybody else but she doesn't know Mercedes Martinez just yet.

Mike Johnson: All right, one last question for you - you have had such a unique, winding path to WWE NXT, what's your advice to the women who are still out there grinding trying to find their place and trying to make sure that the moment happens and it fits right? What is your advice to them so that they can find their way to where you are and do it on their own terms?

Mercedes Martinez: I've always believed you stay true to who you are and to your morals and ethics. Opportunities are there, they will always be there, you just gotta make sure that you own your legacy, you own your path - whatever path you take, you own it and never give up. If this is something you truly, truly want to do, you gotta put the work in. I didn't bust my ass for 20 years just to throw it all away. There's been trials and tribulations, setbacks, but I kept going because I knew what I wanted and I knew one day it was going to pay off, I just didn't know when. The universe will tell you that, if you take the opportunity and you think it's the right fit for your path for your career then you take it. If it wasn't a good opportunity, then you learn from it, you have to give and you have to take. This is a hard business, it really is, and you just gotta put the time, the patience and the dedication. Motivation will always be there but you gotta be dedicated to your craft, just don't give up. It really is that simple - just don't give up on your passion if this is something you really want to do.

Mike Johnson: Well we're going to see what Mercedes Martinez gets to do on WWE NXT in the first round of the first ever women's Dusty Rhodes Classic. For all things Mercedes Martinez, you can check her out on Twitter @RealMMartinez and I want to say it was my pleasure to have the pride of Brass City, CT sitting down with us for a bit and if you got any final words on why they should watch NXT tomorrow night, I'd like to give you the forum to close this out.

Mercedes Martinez: You gotta watch NXT tomorrow night. Why? Because you get to see Mercedes Martinez firsthand destroy the women's division.

Mike Johnson: All right, plain and simple, there you go. Until next time here on, I'm Mike Johnson, thank you so much for your support. 

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