Six new recruits have reported to the WWE Performance Center, joining the ranks of Superstars in training at the Orlando, Fla., facility. The class includes independent wrestlers, an acrobat and a former NFL player, among others.
Jazmin Benitez, a veteran grappler known worldwide as Mercedes Martinez, is no stranger to the WWE Universe. She made it to the semifinals of the inaugural Mae Young Classic in 2017 and returned for the second edition of the tournament in 2018. She’s also competed on NXT television on several occasions.
The hottest free-agent of the wrestling business is not one anymore. For more than 19 years, Mercedes Martinez had made a name for herself in the business, working for CZW, ROH, SHIMMER, WXW or WSU, among many others. In between the 2 Mae Young Classic tournaments, she made an appearance on the October 26, 2017 episode of NXT, participating in a battle royal which was won by Nikki Cross to determine one of the contenders for the vacant NXT Women’s Championship at NXT TakeOver: WarGames. Martinez would also lose to Ember Moon on the November 15, 2017, edition of NXT. Martinez also appeared at AEW’s All Out. She appeared as the “Joker” in the 2nd Casino Battle Royale.
Emily Andzulis of Powell, Tenn., brings a diverse athletic background with her to Orlando. The 27-year-old is a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and trains in Taekwondo. She competed on Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s “Titan Games,” and was crowned the first female Titan.
“The Pitbull” is in the WWE PC. The 27-year-old worked a WWE tryout back in April of last year, and she has since begun training at the Knoxville JPWA school which is operated by Tom Prichard and Glenn ‘Kane’ Jacobs.
Anthony Francis is a 6-foot-5, 330-pounder with five years of NFL experience under his belt. The former defensive tackle played for the Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins.
On May 2, 2018, Francis signed with the New York Giants. He was released on September 1, 2018, and not signed by any other teams in the 2018-2019 season. At that time, he started to train at the Team 3D Academy in Kissimmee, Fla. “I’m trying to prove that I deserve to be here,” the 29-year-old Francis said. “I’m trying to prove that anything you want in this world you can have if you dedicate yourself. I’m trying to prove that I should be in the pantheon of professional wrestlers.” He was already impressing his trainers at that time with his respectful attitude.
Kenny Marquez, a.k.a. independent wrestling standout Jake Atlas, brings his unique experience in gymnastics and cheerleading to the WWE PC. The 25-year-old California native broke out in promotions like Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and appeared on an episode of “Undercover Boss,” featuring Stephanie McMahon, where Marquez explained to WWE’s Chief Brand Officer that his dream is to become the first openly gay WWE Champion.
Marquez trained at the local Santino Bros. Wrestling Academy, making his in-ring debut on August 6, 2016, under the ring name Jake Atlas. He went on to appear in numerous California promotions including Orange County Championship Wrestling, Empire Wrestling Federation, Baja Star’s USA, All Pro Wrestling, PWG, Gold Rush Pro Wrestling and Championship Wrestling From Hollywood among several other promotions between 2016 and 2017.
During his career, Atlas won titles including Santino Bros. Wrestling’s SBW Championship and All-Pro Wrestling’s Universal Heavyweight and Junior Heavyweight Championships. After the “Celebrity Undercover Boss” episode, Atlas reportedly was hired as an Ambassador for the WWE and worked in the “Be A Star” program in the Boston, Massachusetts area. He received a WWE tryout during December 2018.
Sidney Bateman is a 27-year-old acrobat from St. Louis, Mo. Bateman was a cast member for Cirque du Soleil’s “LUZIA” show, where he specialized in hoop diving.
Sidney “Iking” Bateman received a WWE tryout in April 2019. He took part in a talent exchange between LUZIA by Cirque du Soleil and WWE Performance Center in May 2019.
Zechariah Smith towers over the new recruits at 7 feet tall and 310 pounds. The Oklahoma native played college basketball for Morgan State University before going pro internationally. He also played for the longtime rivals of the Harlem Globetrotters, the Washington Generals.
In June 2019, six collegiate athletes were getting an up-close look at life inside the ring as part of an exclusive tryout opportunity. The group includes five wrestlers and a 7-foot-tall basketball player who was returning for his second visit to the Performance Center, Zechariah Smith. The 7-foot, 310-pounder played centre for the Morgan State Bears before turning pro in international competition.
Sometimes, just sometimes….a voice is needed. Everyone has HER story, this is only a SMALL GLIMPSE into mine. https://t.co/4VFNyZiMyA
— Mercedes Martinez (@RealMMartinez) July 19, 2019
All pics courtesy of WWE