WWE officially confirmed the signings of Santino Bros. Wrestling Academy alumni and 2017 Southern California Rookie of the Year Jake Atlas (real name Kenny Marquez) and current AWS Heavyweight Champion Mercedes Martinez (real name Jazmin Benitez) earlier today. Both wrestlers have already reported to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, FL.
Atlas, who is from El Monte, CA, made his professional wrestling debut in August 2016 after training at the Santino Bros. Wrestling Academy in Bell Gardens, CA. After Atlas was named the 2017 Southern California Rookie of the Year, he made headlines outside of wrestling by using that opportunity to come about publicly as gay. He was later featured on a WWE episode of CBS’ Undercover Boss where he was given a brand ambassador contract with the company.
Atlas competed in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s Battle of Los Angeles in September, where he lost in the second round to Dragon Lee. After his performance at Battle of Los Angeles, it was widely expected that Atlas would be drawing interest for most major wrestling promotions. The week following Battle of Los Angeles, Atlas did wrestle in a match for Ring of Honor in Las Vegas, NV, and reportedly was offered a contract but turned it down.
Shortly after his Ring of Honor tryout, Atlas was seen backstage at the first WWE Smackdown on FOX. Shortly after that, he began informing promoters he was unavailable for bookings after the new year. He made his last two wrestling appearances in Southern California earlier this month, wrestling his trainer Joey “Kaos” Munoz at a Santino Bros. event then facing Dom Kubrick and Douglas James at PCW Ultra’s anniversary show.
Atlas signing was first reported on October 20, 2019. He becomes the first wrestler from the Santino Bros. Wrestling Academy to be signed by WWE.
Mercedes Martinez, who is widely regarded as one of the top wrestlers on the independents, has previously wrestled for WWE and their NXT brand on several occasions, including taking part in the first two Mae Young Classics. In the inaugural Mae Young Classic, she made it to the semi-finals where she was defeated by Shayna Baszler.
Martinez began her training under Jason Knight in 2000 and made her professional debut later that year. In 2005 she appeared on the very first Shimmer event, going to a time-limit draw with current NXT assistant head coach and producer Sara Del Rey. In Shimmer she has held their championship on two separate occasions.
On January 26, 2019, Martinez defeated Tyler Bateman for the AWS Heavyweight Championship in South Gate, CA, becoming the first woman to hold a promotion’s highest championship in Southern California in over a decade. She has since made two successful defenses of the title, defeating B-Boy and Nicole Savoy, in a match that was nominated for the 2019 Southern California Match of the Year Award.
Martinez’s signing with WWE was first reported by SoCalUncensored.com on January 7, 2020.
In addition to Atlas and Martinez, WWE announced four other recruits joining the Performance Center. They are Emily Andzulis, Sidney Bateman, Anthony Francis, and Zechariah Smith.