By SEAN McCAFFREY – For SLAM! Wrestling
For those who don’t know by now, I was involved in professional wrestling for ten years, wearing a variety of hats. From booker, writer, agent, camera man, distributor, referee and many other jobs, it wasn’t until I became a promoter that I found my most success.
That said, if it wasn’t for Mercedes Martinez, I would’ve never found that success. With Dave Meltzer reporting here that Mercedes Martinez will be part of the upcoming WWE Network’s Mae Young Classic Tournament, I felt compelled to write this for SLAM! Wrestling.
For those who know me, some of these stories you’ve probably heard by now or even remember it happening at the time. For those who don’t, let me give you a quick background.
I never wanted to be a wrestling promoter. Having been in the business as a booker for the majority of my time in wrestling, I knew it was a high risk, low reward type of job. Creating characters, writing and building angles came easy to me. Doing all the other work was a tireless effort for little wages.
It all started when I was asked to book a women’s wrestling tournament for the New Jersey based National Wrestling Superstars promotion. Instead of payment, I would receive the film rights to the show, which in turn I would sell on my website.
The 2006 NWS Women’s J-Cup, which ironically saw Alexa Thatcher defeat Mercedes Martinez in the finals, was the genesis of WSU.
At the time, I allowed a money-mark named Jac Sabboth to “buy” one of my wrestling interests, the DOI Website and its properties, which included DOIVideo. I put “buy” in quotes, because Sabboth would never make all of monthly payments, and per our contract, he forfeited his money and ownership to me. We eventually put the 2006 NWS Women’s J-Cup DVD up for sale and within days, it was our hottest seller. This is going back 10+ years and thousands of beers ago, so I can’t recall exact numbers, but it outsold shoot interviews (which have now been killed through podcasts and no one buying DVDs anymore) and the men’s wrestling promotion that Sabboth was running at the time.
While losing in the finals of the 2006 J-Cup, Martinez would win the J-Cup in 2008. It’s just another accomplishment in a great career.
Based on the success of the NWS Women’s J-Cup DVD, I talked Sabboth into promoting a female promotion, under his Wrestling Superstars Unleashed banner. Sabboth didn’t see the money in it, which is probably why he had a long history of stiffing people and going broke in the wrestling business. Eventually, I convinced Sabboth to run the show, which he basically did just to shut me up. In turn, I would become the booker.
On March 3, 2007, WSU was born. At the time, Mercedes Martinez was injured and unable to do the show. Instead, I built around a Daffney vs Talia (now known as Velvet Sky) and an Alicia vs Becky Bayless (known as Cookie in TNA) double main event. The show did well and we returned for a second show on 5/5/2007, this time focusing on Alicia vs Luna Vachon. Luna Vachon wound up being a major hit and her match with Alicia became another DVD hit.
Keep in mind – WSU never drew major crowds. I think our best crowd ever was 300 people. We would usually average 150 or so people for shows (and we had shows with less than 100 people paid too) with 95% of profits being made through the DVD market. Granted, this business model would never work today and it was one of the many reasons I would sell the company. I just saw the DVD market dying out and with the advent of the WWE Network, who is going to give me $20 for DVDs a month when they can get everything the WWE has ever done for $10?
July 14, 2007 is when I officially became a promoter. Jac Sabboth, who owned the company, never even attended the shows. With a $2,000 budget, we booked the 7/14/07 show six weeks in advance. On July 10, Jac Sabboth told me he was quitting the wrestling business and shutting everything down. At this time, everything was going through me and I would always bury rival promoters who canceled shows. I would not cancel, but I also didn’t have $2,000 laying around at the time. Thanks to a wrestling fan who knew what was going on, he fronted the budget for the show. On that day, I would run my first show as a “promoter.” Five years later, when I walked away/sold the company, I left knowing I got to see and work with the greatest women’s wrestler ever, in “The Latina Sensation” Mercedes Martinez. Even better, I got to see her set many women’s wrestling records and do many “first-evers” as well.
At this time, if you need a real good back story on what WSU was and what it meant at the time, check out this article from Jon Harder.
When Mercedes Martinez debuted for WSU on 9/22/2007, I obviously knew her for a period of time. I was a fan of her work before working with her, but she was never a friend, like how another WSU Champion, Alicia, was. Needless to say, from working with her for the next five years, I’m proud to say she’s still a friend today and it’s the reason why I’m writing this article for SLAM! Wrestling, despite me doing nothing in wrestling for the last five years. Martinez meant that much to me.
When I started WSU, Martinez was on the shelf, with what I believe was a shoulder injury. (My memory is shaky, but I believe it was a shoulder, which gave her problems through the years.) However, I knew Martinez was a great wrestler and I wanted to have her on my shows. At the time, Martinez was in great demand, but if I could prove to her that I was for real with this WSU venture and that I could give her regular bookings, I knew I could build the company around her.
When Martinez debuted on 9/22/2007, during one of our double-DVD tapings, she debuted injured and only cut some promos. I don’t forget what I paid her exactly, but I know I paid her the same amount as I did when she made her WSU debut as a wrestler and wrestled two matches on the 12/22/07 double DVD tapings. I would never do that for someone else, but that’s how bad I wanted to prove to Mercedes that this company was for real. Her seal of approval meant that much.
At that time, WSU was starting to make some buzz. I treated WSU like an old NWA promotion, because many promoters in the area liked the idea of having a women’s match, but didn’t exactly want to book a women’s division. I would make deals to book WSU title matches on other shows, such as EVOLVE, JAPW, NWS, ACE, NYWC and other promotions. I would even throw in title changes. It was a win-win, the promotion got a women’s match with an already built-in audience. In turn, I would sometimes even pay for the match, at no cost to the promoter. In turn, I got the DVD rights. I would then produce “On the Road” DVDs featuring first-run matches. With all the cross promoting, WSU became one of the biggest promotions in women’s wrestling. We would run more shows and Martinez would eventually win and go on to defend the WSU Championship 50 times in three years.
As time went on, WSU and SHIMMER would be known as the two biggest women’s promotions in America. However, SHIMMER ran two weekends a year, while WSU would have 12+ live events and about 25+ DVD releases a year. The common fan consensus was that Shimmer was the better work-rate promotion and WSU was the promotion with all the storylines and kick-ass characters. I would agree with the fans on this, as SHIMMER’s undercard surpassed ours, work-rate wise, but I could never watch a full SHIMMER show from start-to-finish because, while I liked the wrestling, I grew up on the WWF – I want the characters and storylines.
To this day, I think the work Jessicka Havok and Mercedes Martinez did, to build up their World Title match on 3/3/12 is the best work I’ve ever seen. While I provided a little direction, this feud was ALL THEM. They did all the work and all the promos. If you can find the promos from that time, it 100% holds up and to me, is better than any other promos in the history of women’s wrestling.
December 22, 2007 was a tough day for WSU. While the shows were good, I was losing Alicia, who was the first ever WSU Champion, even wrestling four times in one day to help get the company over. Alicia was going to college and had to put the wrestling on a hold. It was a wise decision. Today, she’s a successful store manager at a top retail store in NYC.
At that time, I didn’t know who I could really run with. I was new to promoting women’s wrestling, and didn’t have any reputation with the wrestlers. For all they knew, I could shut down the promotion tomorrow. It takes time to build up loyalty and prestige with talent for any promoter, unless your name is Vince McMahon. Since Martinez was having her first match back from injury and didn’t know how she would feel after, she wasn’t an option. For that day, I would turn to the former Sunny a.k.a. Tammy Sytch. I figured at the very least, while Sunny wasn’t a wrestler, she would give my promotion some press and buzz. Who would’ve known what kind of mess she would turn into ten years later? Who would’ve known she would hold me up for money just three months later too!
In a schmozz of a match, Sunny would defeat Alicia after a Stone Cold Stunner, after Alicia previously defended the title in a three-way match. After winning the three-way match, fans thought Alicia would leave with the title. Alicia went heel with the idea of taking the title and retiring, but Sunny was “the knight in shining armor” to keep the title in the promotion. It was a feel good moment at Christmas time.
However, three months later, when I decided to go with Nikki Roxx (who went on to be Roxxi Leveaux in TNA, which in turn meant she could no longer work in WSU, as TNA talent wasn’t allowed to work indy shows at that time), Sunny would hold me up for $100 from her agreed on price to drop the title, which again, was another schmozz finish. Sunny couldn’t wrestle, so it happened in a three-way match as well. When Martinez heard what Sunny did, she commented privately that it was messed up. Later on that year, Sunny would then later speak out against women’s wrestling, basically slapping my promotion in the face. Needless to say, I didn’t use her after that, and from what I hear today, Sunny has a successful career making Skype videos.
As stated, Nikki Roxx didn’t last long as champion, because she was signed by what was then the second biggest wrestling promotion in the United States. My idea was to go to Mercedes then, but at the last minute, I decided to give Angel Orsini a chance. I would gamble that Mercedes would hang around and decide to build the company around a Mercedes Martinez WSU Championship title chase. Plus I owed Angel Orsini, after all, she had to carry a terrible match with the green Lacey Von Erich!
What I didn’t know then, which I now know, is that Angel Orsini vs Mercedes Martinez would legitimize WSU as something worth watching. Both of these women would put WSU on the map and would have people who wouldn’t watch women’s wrestling normally, very invested into the company.
The Martinez and Orsini feud would provide many first-evers in women’s wrestling and would set the bar. While WSU was known for a crazy undercard with characters and stories, Orsini and Martinez were heads and shoulders above everything else. I don’t mean to disparage any other woman working for me at that time, but Orsini vs Martinez was the draw, the rest was just gravy.
Over the course of a year, the two brawled in one of the craziest Falls Count Anywhere matches in women’s wrestling history, during their Boonton brawl on 6/21/08. The two would clash over the title again, on 10/10/08, going to a time-limit draw. On 1/10/09, the two made history, in a wild and insane Steel Cage match. That was a nutty day, as over a foot of snow dropped in the NJ area. Still, 75+ brave fans made the trek to see the show, and thousands more would later see the match on DVD and on the streaming ClickWrestle website.
On March 7, 2009, Mercedes Martinez would finally see her near year-long chase of the WSU Championship fulfilled, as she defeated Angel Orsini in the first-ever women’s bullrope match. In a prematch stipulation, Martinez put up her hair against Orsini’s title.
A funny story from that day if you will! There was an insane (in a good way) Mercedes Martinez fan named Rob Fury. I’m assuming Fury wasn’t his real last name, but that’s what he called himself. He loved Martinez and she was his favorite wrestler. He even dedicated a fan site to her.
Before the show, I was talking with Mercedes about something and I heard Rob Fury trying to eavesdrop. Missy Sampson, another wrestler that worked for me at the time, was there. Without hesitation, I said something like, “And then we’ll shave your head, and I promise it won’t hurt.” Rob Fury looked like he was going to cry. I feel like such as asshole, as this is akin to bullying, but Rob Fury was trying to eavesdrop!
Anyway, for the whole show, I watched more of Rob Fury than the show itself. He was %@&@*! miserable, waiting for the inevitable. During intermission, we ribbed him again, as I had Missy bring me a pair of scissors for the “head shaving.” I thought he as going to bawl right there.
However, when Martinez defeated Orsini for the belt, later in the night, he erupted like Mount Etna. I want to say that he enjoyed this title change more than anyone else and probably enjoyed it more before he walked into the building. He assumed Martinez was going to win (and really, there was no way Orsini could win, it was just Martinez’s turn, the timing was perfect and this was the culmination) but he had a pit in his stomach the whole match. When Martinez did win, it was real to this guy. As a promoter and for the wrestlers, that’s what you want. Yes, we all know wrestling is “scripted,” but we watch and allow ourselves to suspend our disbelief. When you can get someone to suspend their disbelief and be so invested, like it’s your favorite sports team winning a championship, you know you’re doing your job right.
When Martinez won the WSU Championship on 3/7/09, for the next three years, we cultivated a relationship that lasts to this day. As she got better and grew, so did WSU. I put all my eggs in her nest and she hatched all my ideas (good and bad) to an ultimate perfection.
While she was a locker room leader before, she officially became the locker room leader. As a promoter, you don’t know how important it is to have a wrestler to also care about the promotion as much as you do. At this point, Martinez was in the ninth year of her career, but did miss time because of injuries. She also was carrying a full-time job, and because of the the way women’s wrestling was viewed from many promoters (outside of Afa the Samoan’s WXW, which always emphasized women’s wrestling) she wasn’t working every weekend.
With the WSU Championship, being a star in SHIMMER and becoming a name in Australia (where she would defend the WSU Championship, thus me promoting it as a WORLD Championship), Martinez was handling the biggest workload of her career. More impressive, after working grueling matches every weekend, she would put 40 hours in at a Home Depot in Connecticut.
Mercedes Martinez is a very private person. To this day, she doesn’t even have a social media account and she doesn’t share her “shoot-name” with many people. To legitimize an article like this, you would usually use the wrestler’s real name. However, when it comes to Mercedes Martinez, you just don’t. She’s always kept her wrestling life separate from her private life.
In a world where indy women wrestlers are doing apartment wrestling and selling 8×10 bikini shots to fans for side-cash, Mercedes Martinez always put the sport and love of the game above everything else, for better or for worse. You could argue she would be a bigger name and would have more money in her pocket if she promoted herself better, like any other wrestler in both WWE and the indy scene. Martinez would always value her privacy, which is why I’m going to keep this to Martinez’s career only, as I talk her title reign. Just keep in mind Martinez doesn’t have a social media account. That will come into play at the end of this.
Martinez’s title reign and the conclusion of her championship would also mark my end as a promoter. I always wanted to book Jessicka Havok’s title reign and I think she would’ve been a bigger star if I did (how egotistical does that sound, but I believe it) but if you believe in the Jerry Seinfeld “leave on top” approach, when I sold the company after Martinez’s run, I felt I did just that.
Ironically, WSU, which still runs shows today, features Martinez as champion as of this writing. In fact, Martinez is also the SHIMMER Champion as well. In other words, five years after I stopped booking/promoting, Martinez holds the two biggest women’s championships on the independent wrestling scene today. It really shows her versatility as well, as she can work both heel and face and hold championships in two promotions that are completely different. As time moves on, I expect her to win the two biggest women’s championships in the next five years – the WWE Raw and Smackdown women’s championships!
Martinez took her role as champion seriously under my tenure. While I would come up with angles and ideas, she would execute them and pitch ideas herself. Programs with Jazz, Awesome Kong, Rain and many others were created under her watch. Let me make this clear – it’s not like Mercedes was telling me “hey, let me beat this person.” I asked her for names, she made the connections, I came up with the angle and I wanted Martinez to roll. Martinez would also get her own bookings and ask to defend the WSU Championship on those shows, to help bolster the prestige of WSU. As a promoter, what more could you want?
Martinez was also a role model for the younger girls. Martinez would help train wrestlers, give advice and work with them on their matches. There was a period of time where while Martinez was the locker room leader, not only did she worry about her match and carrying the show, she was also the unofficial agent of every other match on the show. I never was a trained professional wrestler. While I know what’s good, there are fine details and advice that only a wrestler could impart to a fellow wrestler. Martinez had no problem doing that and helped make everyone better on the roster.
Trust me, if you ever ask about Martinez to anyone who has ever known her, you will never hear one cross word. And if you do, that person is lying.
Jana would be the first title-contending opponent for Mercedes, the first of 50 title defenses for Martinez. Jana was a local NJ wrestler who I always thought was underappreciated from fans and rival promoters alike. It’s why I put Jana in the WSU HOF before I left, because she always deserved better out of her career. Like Mercedes, she was a huge help in WSU and made any idea look good.
Mercedes Martinez and Angel Orsini would later make history again, as on 6/6/2009, Orsini and Martinez had the first ever Women’s IronWOMAN match. The two would set a record for the longest match in women’s wrestling history, as Martinez won the bout, 1 fall to 0, at the 70 minute mark. History was accomplished. Martinez would later surpass that record by going 72 minutes with Lexus two years later. To me, this was a classic and at the time, was the highest selling DVD for the company. I can not thank Martinez and Orsini enough for that great feud that provided so much history and magic for women’s wrestling.
It was also around this time that a Miss April, who you may now know as AJ Lee, got signed by the WWE. AJ was the WSU Tag Champion (with Brittney Savage) at the time. She had to vacate the championship, as she was starting with the WWE. From time-to-time, I get AJ Lee questions on Twitter, especially since she half-mentioned WSU, without using the name, in her new autobiography.
Very quickly on AJ – I had nothing to do with her success and didn’t see it coming. Granted, she was very green when she worked for me. She picked up the character development under the WWE system. All I did was book her. I saw talent, but I didn’t see her as WWE talent. It worked for her and I’m glad for her success, although I do think my payday was better than what she said in her book. Who knows, it’s eight years ago!
With Miss April/AJ Lee gone to the WWE, I needed a replacement and figure out a solution to the WSU Tag Team Championship match. Enter the returning Alicia, who just finished with college. With Orsini becoming a major player and knowing that I was going to give Martinez a long title run, I knew Martinez vs Alicia would be great box office for WSU once we got there.
After blowing off the Orsini/Martinez feud in a few multiple person matches, it was time to move on and get fresh again. Enter the returning Nikki Roxx. My memory is shaky here. Either she just quit/left TNA or TNA was allowing talent to do indy shows. I never booked talent through the TNA office, as I knew everyone and booked them directly. I want to say Roxx’s TNA deal was up at this point. However, whatever the case, I knew I could book Roxx again and Roxx and Martinez would give me great matches.
I know this is a stretch, but if you look at their careers, Roxx and Martinez had a Steamboat/Flair dynamic. They never had a bad match and had a long storied feud together. I’m not just talking WSU either, as the two shined where ever they worked.
On 8/22/09, Martinez would beat Roxx in an excellent match at the 35-minute mark. At this time, WSU was getting better in-ring, as the young girls were growing and through Martinez, we brought in better talent to help out, such as Rain. Rain was someone who I always had a funny relationship with. I respect (still do) her. The only argument we would always have was about money, but she stuck to her guns. She was worth it too, because I never felt ripped off after paying for a Rain match. After the Nikki Roxx feud, we moved to Rain, who would become a top heel for the company. Rain, formerly known as Peyton Banks in TNA, was another great hand. While I never understood the “Rain” name, she was such a character and a good worker. She deserved better from the business.
In fact, while thinking about it, Rain messed up my pay scale, which was bad for me, but good for the wrestlers. That Rain was smart, she knew what she was worth and had an idea of how I was doing. In fact, I had to bump up paydays for a few other girls, Martinez included, to keep things fair and even. But it was all worth it and the wrestlers always delivered. Rain has since left the business too, as she was involved in a bad car accident. She has since recovered and is currently training wrestlers and doing gym-stuff. I can’t tell you anything about the gym as the only gym I know is Jim Beam!
In other WSU trivia, Jessicka Havok won the tag championships, with Hailey Hatred, on the same day Rain debuted and Martinez and Roxx had their classic. Havok would go on to win the TNA Women’s Championship in later years.
However, a month later, due to a real-life interpromotional feud that WSU was having with JAPW, which started when JAPW booker Ray Sager left JAPW to work for WSU, Hatred decided to go with JAPW, while Havok stayed with WSU. I needed to switch the tag belts. Knowing that Rain would be the next big feud for Mercedes, but it wasn’t ready to do that match yet, I killed time and Martinez and long-time rival Angel Orsini won the tag team titles. It was a good burst for DVD sales and booking a top feud as champions has always worked short-term in pro wrestling history. It also gave me time to build up a heel tag team, which would be Cindy Rogers and Jana, to take the tag titles from them and form one of the best WSU factions in WSU history, in Brittney Savage’s Cosmo Club.
Not to get too far ahead, but that was always the deal. Build up heels over time and figure out when to do the feud with Martinez. I always knew the the next three top feuds for Martinez at any given time. I even told Martinez and Havok when Havok would win the WSU Championship a year before it happened. WSU ran so smoothly and according to plan because of Mercedes Martinez.
As 2009 closed, Martinez would defend the WSU World Championship against premier talent, such as former TNA Women’s champions Angelina Love and Awesome Kong. I really wish I could’ve had Kong full-time during that period of time. I think I could’ve done a lot with her, but WSU really was small potatoes for her, as she was a top star on national TV.
What also helped WSU was that even if women were on TNA TV, they had no problems doing jobs for Martinez in WSU. Martinez was the real deal. She earned it. I don’t think I would have the same situation if it wasn’t someone at the level of Martinez.
Martinez would beat Kong on 12/12/09 to close 2009. To be honest, it wasn’t the best match, as Kong was going through back issues. Again, I wish I could’ve done a real program with these two. It would’ve been better than the Gail Kim vs Kong feud in TNA, in my opinion.
As 2010 rolled around, Gabe Sapolsky, formerly of ROH, repaired our shaky relationship through a mutual friend in Sal Hamaoui. Deep down, I think Gabe is a good guy, but just neurotic. Then again, what promoter isn’t? From there, we started a WSU/EVOLVE relationship, where I believe Martinez defended the championship five-plus times there. The idea was to have Martinez squash people to build to a Martinez/Kong match. Martinez would squash up and comer Niya, on 1/16/10.
Funny story about that show – I couldn’t make it because of NYC traffic. I was stuck. Traffic wouldn’t move. Trains wouldn’t move. You couldn’t get out of the city. However, Martinez did everything herself, which was the common trend anyway. This is no secret to anyone that worked for me – I enjoyed my beer. Don’t get me wrong, it was a lot of work to run WSU. We promoted so many matches, had a TV show on In A Sec TV, had a national DVD deal, pushed DVDs and streaming Video on Demand, as well as getting ready for our first internet live PPV. Plus we also cultivated a relationship with Pro Wrestling Illustrated, which honored Martinez with an award as the top independent women’s wrestler of the year. However, come the day of the show, all the work was done. That’s when it was Martinez’s time to run the locker room and run the show.
I know I’m talking a lot about myself here, but I’m trying to give you my perspective too and how much Martinez meant. I had such a great staff at that time, with Bison Bravado, Ray Sager, Rob Sternberg, El Shoes, the crew from ACE (RIP Morgan Jr.), the crew from NYWC and others. However, it was Martinez that did everything in the locker room and made sure everything in between the ropes worked, and not just for her match. Come the day of the show, all I had to do was show up with my cooler of beer and pay envelopes. I would do my little fake Paul Heyman locker room speech for two seconds and then turn the place over to whom it belonged – in Mercedes Martinez.
Fans may not understand this, but maybe they do now, with the business being so exposed. Independent promoters will. Mercedes Martinez was like having a better clone of yourself on show day. That’s not even including the countless interviews and other work she did to promote the show, sacrificing sleep to help push events. While Martinez was never a person to be on social media (and at this time, social media was in its infancy, as MySpace was the rage, Facebook and Twitter would come in the last 18 months of her reign) she did whatever she could in the wrestling media to get the word out.
This wasn’t one of the better ones, but Rob Sternberg helped raise WSU’s profile with his videos and landing us the In A Sec TV show. The biggest knock on WSU from our critics was something I couldn’t do anything about, our production values. Just another reason why I sold, as I couldn’t afford to invest thousands in new cameras for the Blu-ray/HD era.
Mercedes Martinez and Rain would headline the Three-Year Anniversary show for the WSU World Championship, as Martinez racked wins around the northeast in-between this big match. Just a little more on Rain – Rain didn’t live local, so I had to fly her in. She was worth it, but she was another one I knew I could’ve done more with if she lived local. While Martinez was winning great feuds against Roxx, Orsini and Portia Perez (On the Road), people bought Rain as the person to unseat her. Again, I never understood the “Rain” name, (I never interfered with someone’s character, I just added to it, I let the wrestlers for the most part create their own identity, although I did create a few gimmicks from scratch), Rain always made her character work. She was a good hand and a good promo.
In a common trend, each Martinez title defense led to that DVD being the biggest selling DVD in WSU history. She was growing the company. I had a few critics and a money mark complain that one year was too long. If they only knew what I had in store! It just made no business sense to take the championship away from Martinez, because she was a draw, carried the company and was doing something else no one else was doing. While I know Samoa Joe had a near two-year run with the ROH title and defended it regularly, my goal was to get Martinez to surpass both the length of reign and title defenses. She would eventually do both.
Martinez would defeat Rain, in another great match of her title tenure, with Molly Holly as the special referee. After the show, Molly Holly remarked to me that she loved what WSU was doing and that Martinez was special.
After a big program, I always liked to have Martinez finish some B-programs, while building up the next A opponent. Alicia, who would be back for a full year when she finally got her match with Martinez for the title, would be the next major program. In the meantime, Martinez would defeat the previously undefeated Amber O’Neal, in a streak title match on 4/2/10. The next night, she defeated the trainwreck known as Melissa Coates. Amber was always a good character. She knew how to make money for herself during her career.
Melissa Coates, ugh. She had that Nicole Bass look, so it was interesting to see Martinez conquer that. I don’t think I booked Coates after that match, because she was such a headache to deal with. It was also easy to stop using her after she nearly hurt everyone she ever wrestled. In fact, I think I had Martinez win this match in two minutes, because I didn’t want to risk my champion getting hurt! Now that I recall, I think I did give Coates a shot later in the year, but she no-showed an event and was rumored to be drinking at a convention earlier in the day. Listen, I drink all the time, but no one is putting their life in my hands at a show either. Either way, I always thought Coates had a screw loose and I’m sure she will bury me now if she reads this! It’s okay though, I got the respect of Mercedes Martinez!
With Alicia being groomed as the next big challenger, I didn’t want a face vs face dynamic, as I thought Alicia, because she was known to these fans for so long, would overshadow Martinez. It was time for an Alicia heel turn. After dropping the tag titles with Orsini to Rogers and Jana on 4/17/10, Martinez would rack up wins and defend the WSU World Title against Sumie Sakai and Brittney Savage. It was during this EVOLVE match on 5/1/10 that I knew I could build around Brittney Savage. More on her to come.
On 6/12/10, we did the Alicia heel turn on Mercedes, where it came off more that Alicia wanted her title back more than hating on Martinez. To get to this, Alicia won the J-Cup and King of Queen Tournament in April. Alicia was promoted as the “icon” of WSU, because she really was that. Without Alicia’s contributions, I would’ve never had a chance to promote this Martinez run.
On 6/26/10, Martinez beat Alicia in another epic match. This is what made and makes Martinez great. She was able to make every opponent look like they had a chance of winning. Sure, once the reign got running, it was a good shot Martinez wasn’t going to lose the title on the road, rather than at a WSU only event, but she did a good job of making the B-opponents look like they had a shot. In any of her A programs, every opponent looked like they had a shot, especially a green at the time Brittney Savage, who again, I’ll get into more below.
On August 6, 2010, Martinez would defeat Mickie James in another great match. The promoter was my on-again/off-again friend Jac Sabboth, who was making his 86780678678967896th return to the wrestling business. Even better? He paid Mickie James. He still wonders how I talked him into that!
At this time, WSU secured an iPPV deal with GFL. I was building to Mercedes vs Jazz, as Jazz, the former WWF Women’s Champion, returned to pro wrestling. We were featuring Jazz pretty regularly, so she was an opponent people bought that could dethrone Martinez.
In the mean time, Martinez racked up wins against Cindy Rogers, Jana and Alicia, using these wins to promote other programs. The Belle Saints would be involved in some of these finishes. Speaking of, Marti Belle, of the Belle Saints, formerly of TNA, will also be part of the WWE Women’s Tournament! Good luck to her as well!
On 11/6/2010, Martinez headlined the first ever WSU iPPV. It was a long day, as not only did we do a live PPV that night, we also shot another DVD, as Martinez would beat Rain in the main event in the appropriately named DVD, “Martinez vs Rain II.” That was also something we were trying to do at the time, make the matches feel real. Just like UFC, I would just name PPVs after “big fights.”
The next “A” program for Martinez would be the recently released from WWE Serena Deeb, who was part of CM Punk’s Straight Edge Society. However, while building up Serena, I needed a great main event for the next PPV. It was time to blow off Martinez/Orsini once and for all.
Ever since losing the WSU World Title, Orsini was doing a gimmick akin to Taz’s FTW Title, as she created her “All Guts, No Glory” Championship. The orange leather was homage to that. On 1/22/11, Martinez would defeat Orsini in a ladder match to win both championships, thus uniting the World title. I will admit, we did this match too early, but I had nothing else that was “PPV main event” worthy at the time. For Martinez, it was just another historic win and another great match. Whether it be straight wrestling or a gimmick match, Martinez could handle anything and you could see her confidence building.
On 3/5/11, in another PPV event (from here on out, every A program was on PPV and really, credit to Rob Sternberg who made these shows happen), Martinez defeated Serena Deeb. Alicia, who had a “Money in the Bank” type of deal, tried to cash in afterwards. However, Jessicka Havok would interfere, costing Alicia a chance at the title. Only Martinez, Havok and myself knew it at the time, but this was the start of getting the title onto the next rising star.
As usual, it was time to build up the next “A” program. While Alicia was being used to elevate Jessicka Havok as the killer main event heel, Martinez racked up various wins, beating Ariel and then winning the 2011 King & Queens Women’s Tournament. Putting Martinez over in the tournament was questioned by fans at the time, but I needed DVD sales, and it was the right decision for business.
The next big PPV was “The Uncensored Rumble IV.” Brittney Savage, as I talked about, was being built up for the title. She had her own faction, the Cosmo Club (members included Rogers/Jana/Rick Cataldo). Savage, who was green when I had ideas to build her up, really came into her own, which I credit Alicia with. When Savage’s program with Martinez was finished, I thought Savage really grew leaps and bounds. If anything, she wasn’t the best worker in the company, but she was one of the best and biggest characters. She really took the opportunity and ran with it, which helps when Martinez is leading the way.
On June 25, 2011, Martinez defeated Savage to retain the WSU World Title. It wasn’t without controversy. Savage, who was becoming a top heel and was the focused heel at the time, was amazing. Her promos were great and she really grew as the leader of the “Cosmo Club.” This match featured a “Dusty Finish”, where Savage pinned Martinez (which wasn’t seen in two-plus years), although Martinez’s foot was on the rope. Oh the drama!
We did a deal where Savage had the belt, paraded around as champion, before the WSU Commissioner, overturned the result and said the match must continue. However, the reaction was huge and it showed that Savage was a legit main eventer in her own right. She was always someone who worked hard when she knew she was being appreciated. She’s another one who deserved a WWE shot. Now, as a mother, I’m sure her priorities have shifted. Savage was always someone I respected and watching her grow was a real treat. Plus, she’s a New York Rangers fan!
Like Savage, I was always looking to create new stars and build programs for Martinez. On that night, Lexus (Alisha in TNA) would win “The Uncensored Rumble,” earning her a title shot at Martinez. While promoting Lexus as a star, Martinez would finish her feud with Savage on other area shows. Fans earned respect for Savage, which turned her face, by design, which would lead to another main event at the end of the year – the War Games match.
On 8/6/11 Mercedes Martinez made history again. She defeated Lexus in a 73-minute match to retain the WSU World title. As of this writing, it remains the longest women’s match in women’s wrestling history. I don’t know how these two did it. It was dog balls hot, nearly 90 degrees in that building. However, both women ran with the opportunity, and in turn, Lexus would become a star. If I didn’t sell, Lexus was my person after Havok that I would’ve built around.
With Jessicka Havok’s slow year-long build turning her into the top heel of the company, we presented a double main event on our next PPV, on 11/19/11 with the War Games match and the debuting Melina who would wrestle Lexus, after her original opponent, Serena, had to pull out because of injury.
Quick thought on that Lexus/Melina match. Melina, who had a bad reputation from THE INTERNET, was a complete treat to work with. She was excellent. Pure class act. Many WSU fans complained that I stunted Lexus by having her lose to Melina, but with heels going over in the War Games, I wanted a big babyface win. If I stayed around, I would’ve used Melina again. She added so many eyes to our company and Martinez and crew kept them coming back. In fact, WSU for the first time ever, was TRENDING in the Top 10 of Twitter.
Listen, I know social media/twitter trends doesn’t relate to business, but for an indy company it does. It was our most watched show ever. Melina was a huge part of it, as was the main event War Games match, another first in women’s wrestling history. What hurt me the most was all the illegal streams. I know that illegal streams doesn’t 100% equate to lost potential sales, but when I saw 5,000 downloads on a torrent site, even if 10% bought the show rather than downloading it for free, it would make a difference. It was another reason why I sold, you can’t compete with hackers and bootleggers. WSU was never going to be a live event business, it always survived on footage sales.
As talked about earlier, the heel team, the Mid-West Militia, of Havok/Stephanie/Kay defeated Team WSU when Alicia and Savage gave up when Havok put a machete to the throat of Martinez. Havok was officially a main eventer.
The next big show would be the WSU 5 Year Anniversary Show. It would finally feature Martinez, the WSU World Champion against Havok, the WSU Spirit (Intercontinental/secondary title) Champion. It was time.
After a few more title defenses, the day was here. It was March 3, 2012 and time for Martinez to put over the next star after a three-year title reign. When Havok won the WSU World Title, it was a bittersweet moment. I know Martinez could’ve won and I could’ve kept running with her. However, it was just Havok’s time. Her year run to get to this moment couldn’t have gone any better.
In wrestling, sometimes you can see from the entrance if a champion is losing or not. I didn’t have that feeling watching Martinez, as she came to the ring just like any other match. While I do think fans knew Havok was going to win, especially after her other stable mates won the tag titles, Martinez was just so strong.
Since I left the business, Havok had a run in TNA with its women’s championship. She has been rumored to the WWE but her social media account got her heat. Do you know how much the WWE would value Martinez under their employ – she’s never made a public statement ever! I feel bad for Havok that her career is hindered, because a lot of her tweets were in character during this time. To accuse Havok of being anything but a great women’s wrestler is a shame. Again, if you go back to this feud and watch the promos at this time, it was the best thing I’ve ever seen in women’s wrestling. The promo Havok did at the cemetery and all the darkness was great. THAT WAS ALL HER. Havok has a great mind for this business and it pisses me off that she’s being held back/not given a job, because of in-character tweets. She would be a major asset to any promotion.
Havok would defeat Martinez on this night. I remember going to the locker room after the match and seeing how emotional both were. Martinez was more happy for Havok than anyone. Havok, was excited to finally have someone believe in her, and when Martinez believes in you, it’s the ultimate compliment. That’s how much respect Martinez had from her peers.
After that match, we had a double DVD taping on 4/28/12. I needed something to pop DVD sales and title changes usually did that. In probably my most criticized booking decision yet, as both Martinez and Havok hated it, Martinez won the belt back, only to lose it in a triple threat match during the second DVD taping.
Not going to argue with Havok and Martinez here, it wasn’t the best decision. My defense was title changes sell DVDs and it was so cliche for a champion to lose a rematch after a new star wins the belt. I figured, if Martinez was undefeated for three years, why would she lose two straight matches? I don’t think it halted Havok’s growth, but it didn’t help either. That’s on me, not them.
Savage, who won the J-Cup, was inserted in a triple threat match, which Havok won, to regain the title. This part of my plan to promote Havok/Martinez III, which would be my last show with the company. I talked about myself too much in this, but as far as selling, it was just time. I wanted more out of life. It’s a story for a different day.
During my final show, Martinez and Havok headlined in the first ever women’s casket match. It was another epic match, that saw the two destroy a casket during the match. A second casket would be brought out and Lufisto, making her debut, would pop out and beat on Martinez. My logic at the time was that it put Martinez in a feud with Lufisto and away from the title and left Havok to do her own thing, presumably with Savage and/or Alicia. I can’t speak for the people who brought and ran the company after me, but I felt they dropped the ball. In fact, Havok would eventually be stripped of the title and Martinez would be unseen for a long time.
For three years, Martinez represented my company as the pinnacle of women’s wrestling. For five years, I had the pleasure of working with her hand-in-hand. I learned so much about her and from her. A company would be lucky to have her, and a company would thrive to have more than one of her.
When I heard Mercedes Martinez was going to be in the WWE Mae Young Classic, I couldn’t stop smiling. If you could ever live vicariously and be happy for the opposite sex in the most platonic way possible, that is how I feel right now. It’s funny, sometimes my girlfriend goes to bed in one of my old, oversized for her, 2XL WSU “Latina Sensation” T-Shirts. I hope in a short time, I’m going to bed next to her in a WWE Mercedes Martinez T-Shirt. Yes, that sounds weird, but just go with it! It’s not kinky, I swear!
If anyone deserves a run with the WWE, it’s Mercedes Martinez. This is her foot in the door. Five years after working with her, I am not familiar with all the talent in the tournament. I’m hoping Martinez has a chance to show the WWE she can carry someone and also show she can be a star in a big time match.
I don’t watch wrestling the way I used to (I haven’t watched any indy wrestling since leaving and watch WWE in and out) but if there was ever a women’s dream match, Martinez vs Charlotte Flair is it.
To me, Martinez was always a victim of her time. When she was at her best (not to say she’s not now, but when I saw her, no one one was better) the big time (WWE) was doing diva matches and the whole bra and panty %@&@*!. I get the business behind bra and panties matches, but there is so much more to women’s wrestling than that. It really took Ronda Rousey to show the WWE that a female combatant can draw money.
I won’t reveal anything about Martinez’s personal life as she has fought hard to keep it private. I will say, Martinez covers some major demographics though. How long have you heard that the WWE needs a Spanish speaking superstar? It’s never been replaced since Rey Mysterio left. Martinez speaks Spanish. She can work face and heel. I can see her being a big babyface if given the opportunity.
Granted, I’m getting ahead of myself. She’s not signed yet. She’s in the tournament. However, if I know Mercedes Martinez, and I think I do, she will kick that %@&@*! door down. Mercedes Martinez is a main event player who is a great worker and a great promo. She’s also driven, a class act, a positive locker room force and the greatest female athlete I’ve ever seen.
When Greg Oliver gave me this chance to write about Mercedes Martinez, he said, try to go 700-1,000 words. I’ve gone 9,000 and I could do 9000 more. If you’re not familiar with Mercedes Martinez, I hope you go back and watch her WSU matches from then and watch her stuff from today. She’s that good. Knowing that she lives in Florida, at the very least, she would be a major asset to the women’s wrestling training program, which Sara Del Ray has done a great job with.
Martinez, who was always a victim of her time, is still years from the age of 40. (You could look that up on Wikipedia, which is why I say it here.) The WWE is now all about women’s wrestling and no one is the textbook definition of women’s wrestling than Martinez. Martinez isn’t just a wrestler. She’s a friend. She’s a coach. She’s a WARRIOR. In the age where social media can cripple people, she’s denied herself the urge to tweet every inane thought that comes to her. She’s been passed over time and time again for women with tit jobs and for women that came out of magazines. If the WWE is the best wrestling company in the world, and it is, and they want the greatest women wrestler in the world, to quote another all-time great, in John Cena, “THE TIME IS NOW” to sign Mercedes Martinez.
Thank you Mercedes Martinez for giving me some great memories and some of the best times in my life. I hope you finally receive the ultimate prize you so richly deserve. Kick some ass!
I usually end my blogs with “Let’s Go Rangers”, but I leave you with this… “LET’S GO LATINA SENSATION!”
Sean McCaffrey was the Editor-in-Chief of the DOI Newsletter and website from 2002-2011. During that tenure, Sean was the promoter of WSU Wrestling from 2007-2012. Leaving the professional wrestling world after a ten year duration, as a writer, promoter, booker, agent, referee, announcer, commentator and jack-of-all-trades, Sean launched DOINOW.com in October 2014, after a stint at HipHopShortStop.com.