He was a gifted athlete, an athletic specimen, with a mind that understood the psychology of wrestling like few before him. A highly scouted prospect from the indie scene, before indie scenes were “cool”, who made it to the WWE and struck gold. But a long standing battle with substance abuse continuously kept him down from achieving the greatness a clearer soul would have attained and his path to stardom was cut short, twice. A third chance following his clean up resulted in more of a backstage role, which he embraced and contributed more than people realize. A quiet release at the beginning of the year, and now the indie world is starting to see what a more mature and focused Joey Mercury is capable of doing. He’s taking it one match at a time, but make no mistakes. Joey Mercury is making up for lost time. While 2017 was him getting his feet wet again after being away from a ring full time for seven years. But 2018 will be a year of reckoning for Joey Mercury, as he moves forward more determined than ever.
Joey Mercury got his start as Joey Matthews in 1996 with the Mid Eastern Wrestling Federation (MEWF) in Maryland, as well as working the Carolinas in OMEGA, the indie promotion run by Matt & Jeff Hardy. In 1998, he found his home for the next five years, as a regular star with Maryland Championship Wrestling (MCW), both as a singles performer (former MCW Cruiserweight and Rage Television Champion) as well as a 2x MCW Tag Team Champion with Christian York as the Bad Street Boys. In 2000, Matthews and York joined ECW, where they had tag team battles with the likes of Johnny Swinger & Simon Diamond, Da Baldies and The FBI. They were mentored by Tommy Dreamer in the faction, Young Blood.
Following the demise of ECW, York and Matthews moved to upstart Ring of Honor in 2002, although their partnership didn’t last in ROH. Matthews was moved to a new faction called Special K, that had high spot wrestlers under the premise they were all jacked up on drugs bought by their rich parents. Sadly, this gimmick was far closer to home than most people realized. By 2004, he was working dark matches or as enhancement for WWE and Impact, as well as still working for MCW and ROH. He was eventually signed to a developmental deal with the WWE and sent to their training facilities at Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW). There, he was paired with Tough Enough winner John Hennigan and valet Melina Perez and the trio was packaged as MNM – with Matthews rebranded Joey Mercury and Hennigan renamed Johnny Nitro.
As MNM, they debuted big and large in 2005, right off the get go. In their television debut on Smackdown, they defeated Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio Jr for the WWE Tag Team titles in Madison Square Garden in New York City, holding the belts for three months. MNM reigned as the elite of the WWE Tag Team division, as 3x WWE Tag Team champions in just over two years. In 2006, during the infamous WWE Armageddon Fatal 4-Way Tag match featuring MNM, The Hardy Boyz, William Regal & Dave Taylor and Paul London & Brian Kendrick, Joey Mercury took a brutal ladder shot to the face that resulted in serious damage. And created an addiction to painkillers. Coupled with a near 15 year binge of drug and alcohol dependency, it was a recipe for disaster.
But in March of 2007, Mercury was released for violations due to the WWE Wellness Policy. The great ride came to a grinding halt. And while not stated at the time, it was revealed that Mercury’s release was due to his long standing substance abuse issues. As Mercury told Canoe-Slam! Sports shortly after his release, “I’ve been a drug addict and alcoholic since I was 15 years old, right before I started in wrestling — so that’s the better part of 15 years.” He’d failed WWE Wellness policies before, gone through his suspensions. He even went to WWE sponsored rehab during his first run, but left early, lying to himself and his employers. “I didn’t want to tell anyone that I had a problem,” he told Canoe-Slam! in the same interview. “I didn’t want anyone to think that rehab had failed. I didn’t want it to look bad on me because at that time I was on almost every Raw and Smackdown, getting a lot of work and being in a lot of good spots. Then one day, before a taping, I took some pills that somebody handed me — they weren’t prescribed to me. I knew it was wrong but I took them anyway because that’s the nature of the beast.” In fact, he had been taken off the road before his release, and even pulled aside by Vince McMahon himself, who according to Mercury told him: “We’re not concerned about your work because we know you can pull it together for 30 minutes every night. We’re worried that you’re going to die.”
Mercury returned to the indies following his 2007 release, returning home to MCW (where he finally became the MCW Heavyweight Champion) as well as joining one of ROH’s hottest factions, The Age of the Fall, with Jimmy Jacobs, Seth Rollins (then Tyler Black) and Necro Butcher. Mercury spent the time away from the WWE cleaning himself up and beating the demons that had halted him, consciously and subconsciously, for more than a decade in pro wrestling. But just as he was hitting his prime on the indies, at age of 29, he was forced to retire due to a potentially career threatening injury.
Two years later, clean and sober and injury free, Joey Mercury made his return to the WWE, at the behest of his real life friend CM Punk, joining Punk’s Straight Edge Society in 2010. Punk’s real life straight edge lifestyle was a big help to Mercury during his rehabilitation – Punk even bought Mercury’s house after his 2007 WWE release when his addictions had left him broke and his house on the verge of foreclosure. Mercury lasted nearly a year back on the WWE main roster, until he was written out of the storylines due to a pectoral muscle tear. During his own rehabilitation, he was assigned to WWE’s new developmental at Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW). While he was rehabbing, he became a trainer and coach in FCW, where he caught Triple H‘s eye for his new NXT project. “Once he took over the developmental system for WWE, I was a coach at the time, when he came into power over the developmental system, I talked to him and he told me that he wanted me on his team, and that’s where I really got to know him,” Mercury said in an interview with Chad Dukes on a 2014 Big O and Dukes Show podcast in 2014. “I got to work closely with him, and once I got a promotion to be a producer for WWE and being on the road full time, working with him side by side on a daily basis is tremendous.”
His close association with Triple H not only lead to a promotion to a producer on the main roster, but he became a part of The Authority, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon‘s new heel faction, partnered with Jamie Noble in J & J Security. His silent sidekick to Noble’s loud mouth was a cult favourite from 2014 through 2015, during Seth Rollins’ run as WWE Champion. Mercury has had an intertwined effect on Rollins’ career – stablemates in Age of the Fall in Ring of Honor, Mercury went to bat for a young Rollins in FCW when he was about to be fired. He was kept around and the rest is history. Rollins himself, in a recent Table for 3 episode on the WWE Network, refers to Mercury as The Shield’s unofficial fourth member. “Very, actually, integral part of The Shield,” Rollins said on the Shield episode. “A lot of it came from Joey. Remember, he told us… I know y’all remember he told us,” Reigns continued, “he told us, do you know what I mean, ‘you guys are going up together. I know [Ambrose] and [Rollins] worked together a lot. [Reigns] hasn’t really been around those two a whole lot, but y’all have to stick together. Y’all have to let the whole locker room, everybody needs to know that The Shield are like a legit unit, always together, walking the hallways, sit in catering together.’ And we did that.”
But as the Authority angle wound down and J & J Security returned to their backstage positions, Mercury was no longer seen on television. And then, without much fanfare or press, he was released from his backstage position early this year.
But since he returned to the indie circuit, returning to his home at MCW for the Shane Shamrock Memorial Tournament (and winning it), Mercury has returned with a renewed passion and a maturity that he’s never had before in his previous runs, either WWE or indie. He’s become a champion once again, winning his second MCW Heavyweight Championship, and become a regular part of Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore. He’s recently aligned with NWA World Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis (aka Magnus), under the mentorship of former ECW World Heavyweight Champion Shane Douglas. He also reunited with former MNM partner John Morrison for the first time in a decade.
Much like Jimmy Jacobs return to the indies after years within WWE in a backstage, non-ring capacity, Joey Mercury has returned to the squared circle with a new focus, a mature head space, and new lease on life that he took for granted for years during his struggles with addictions. And not only is he having fun, he’s showing why he’s one of the most beloved men in the industry as well. Look out 2018 – cause the Mercury is Rising.