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August 2, 2016

Marti Bell’s American Dream

It’s a very unique time for the world of professional wrestling, as the women’s wrestling revolution is taking center stage, often with show stealing performances in some of the the biggest promotions in the world. One of the most unique athletes in this unique evolution of the sports entertainment genre is TNA Knockout, Marti Bell. With her trademark afro to compliment her well rounded skills, Marti has become one of the most dynamic female stars in just a few short years. Ironically, as much as she is on the forefront of a new era of the industry, Marti’s story is very much a classic example of the American dream.

Despite being born in New York, Marti moved with her family back to their original hometown in the Dominican Republic when she was just a few months old, and she spent her early years on the island.

“I am a first generation American, all of my grandparents and both of my parents were both born in the Dominican Republic, with my parents still currently residing there. I was born in NYC and moved back to the Dominican Republic until I was seven. My grandmother was the first to move to New York and she left her life behind in the Dominican to make a better future for her children, eventually bringing all five of her kids to live with her in States. I moved in 1996 to live with my grandmother, who I lived with until I was 18,” she said.

Speaking Spanish as her first language, Marti didn’t know English when she began watching pro wrestling with her family, but she had an intrinsic connection to the drama that unfolded on screen.

“I vaguely remember watching wrestling with my dad when I lived in the Dominican Republic, and then when I moved to New York, I watched wrestling with my three cousins Richard, Christian, and Massiel. The four of us formed a wrestling club and we would get together Mondays and Thursdays to watch wrestling as well as the pay-per-views. Wrestling spoke to me because even though I couldn’t speak the language, I could still understand the stories. I wanted to do that for other people who were in the same shoes as me,” she said.

As Marti wanted to connect with fans the way that the sport had connected with her, she sought to join the pro ranks to chase the dream of wrestling stardom. Living in New York City at the time, Bell chose to learn from one of the best, WWE Hall of Famer, Johnny Rodz, a grappler that is responsible for training several major stars in the industry. As she walked into the world famous Gleason’s Gym, through the same doors as legends such as Jake LaMotta, Muhammad Ali, and Mike Tyson, Marti knew that her desire to be successful in professional wrestling would be tested.

“I began as a valet in 2008 and eventually began my training August of 2009, having my first match that November. Training was rough – I was one of two girls who consistently showed up to training, so I found myself training with the boys. Some of them respected me as a wrestler and really wanted to help me succeed. They would push me and make me do the same things they were doing. Others thought I wouldn’t last, or that I wouldn’t make it and paid me no mind.”

Despite the tedious process of learning to land on the canvas and the toll it took, Bell made it through the training program and learned many valuable lessons along the way.

“The first and most important thing you learn in wrestling is respect. And this manifests itself in so many different ways. From walking into a room and shaking everyone’s hand, to listening with your mouth shut when someone is speaking to you, learning the signature moves of people you work with so you’re not doing the same thing they’re doing etc. I also learned how hard this business is. We’d start a class with 20 people and by the end, there would only be a few of us sticking it out. But I also learned what an amazing, and fun business this can be,” Marti said.

As the Caribbean competitor began to polish her skills, she worked for several independent promotions and found success, winning multiple championships in the Women Superstars Uncensored promotion, as well as wrestling for the Shimmer and Shine groups. Her work ethic in the squared circle was noticed by TNA writer, Dave Lagana and she was invited for a few tryouts in 2013. Her efforts earned her an invitation the following year to wrestle for the original Knockouts pay-per-view special. Nearly six years of hard work inside the ring ropes paid off when Marti was offered a TNA contract in March of 2015, the young girl that began watching the sport before she knew the language was now going to work on national television. As an addition to achieving the dream of a major contract, her best friend, Jade debuted along with her as members of The Doll House on Impact.

“Coming into a new environment is always intimidating, especially knowing my career was about to go to new heights I had only dreamed about. Having one of my closest friends at my side definitely made the transition smoother. We had so many questions and so much was unknown to us, but knowing that we had each other there for support and then being able to work together could not have been better. Right now, the current Knockouts are some of my closest friends, girls I’ve either admired for so long, or considered some of my closest friends for the last six years. It is unreal the comradely and support I have at TNA. I have been able to grow, not only as a performer, but also as a person in my last year and a half of working at TNA,” she said.

Outside of the ring, Marti met and bonded with independent standout Matt Justice. A former WWE developmental star, Justice owns the Boro Barbell gym in Streetsboro, Ohio where he and Marti give others the opportunity to achieve their own fitness goals. When she’s not slamming opponents on the mat, Bell enjoys time with her Pit bull, Sandman and advocates for pet adoption. Always wanting to pursue sports, Marti plays softball and volleyball regularly, and enjoys reading a variety of books in her spare time. However, she’s still focused on adding more accomplishments to her resume and continues to build her stellar career.

“There is so much that I still want to do in wrestling. I want to continue to travel, not just within the US but throughout the world. I would love to wrestle in Mexico and Australia, as well as go back to UK. The Knockouts championship of course is a goal of mine I hope to accomplish within the next few years. I just mainly want to have a long, healthy career,” she said.

Polite, pretty, talented, and determined are all words that can be used to describe Marti Bell. But perhaps the elements that is most remarkable about her story is the journey that she took on her way to make it to national television. Her grandma, known as “Abuelita” to her family, came to America to provide the future generations of her family with more opportunities, and Marti has certainly come far from when she stepped into Gleason’s gym in 2008. So, while Marti is a part of a new era of sports entertainment, her story to achieve that status is a great example of the classic American dream.

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