Joey Mercury is an unsung hero in the wrestling industry who has been hailed by many greats as a talent maximizer who takes your best assets and makes them better. With a promising career on the rise with WWE, it all came crashing down on December 17th, 2006.
The term ‘broken face’ is one that has been heard recently on WWE programming. Nia Jax has let the fans know time and time again that it was her that left Becky Lynch with a broken face and unable to compete at 2018’s Survivor Series pay-per-view. Whilst Becky copped a nasty punch to the face that left her on the sidelines for some time, a ‘broken face’ may have been an excessive term. This was not the case at 2006’s Armageddon pay-per-view where a horrific ladder spot-gone-wrong saw Joey Mercury’s face pour out blood and get shattered in numerous places. However bad the injury was, nothing compares to how his life played out outside of the ring.
“I’m fortunate to be above ground.”
Joey Mercury was a promising young talent who debuted on SmackDown! in 2005 as apart of the memorable heel team with Johnny Nitro and Melina known as MNM (Mercury, Nitro, Melina).
MNM made an impact right off the bat, winning the WWE Tag Team Championships in their debut against none other than Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio. They were named Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Tag Team of The Year on their debut year on SmackDown! and held the WWE Tag Team Championships a total of three times.
MNM, a gimmick of self-entitled Hollywood Stars who quite literally wanted the red carpet rolled out for them as they made their entrance— worked incredibly well for the dynamic trio. Sadly, MNM were short-lived and early 2007 would be the last time they’d compete in a WWE ring together.
On December 17, 2006’s Armageddon pay-per-view, a Fatal 4-Way Ladder Match took place between MNM, Dave Taylor and William Regal, Paul London and Brian Kendrick and The Hardy Boyz for the tag team championships. Ladder matches, in general, are dangerous and the risk element is quite large. At one part in the match, The Hardyz and MNM found each other huddled in one of the corners of the ring with ladders at their disposal. A few moments later, Matt Hardy was holding both Nitro and Mercury’s faces down staring at a later that would eventually catapult up at them thanks to a Jeff Hardy leg drop which created a see-saw effect on the ladder.
The spot went horribly wrong. Johnny Nitro escaped largely unscathed. Joey Mercury wasn’t so lucky. His face absorbed all of the blow. As Mercury rolled to the outside, almost instantly his face started leaking blood like a faucet and his face swelled up. He was taken to hospital as Nitro continued the match on his behalf.
“I’ve shattered my nose around the bridge area,” said a very severely injured Mercury in a WWE.com interview soon after the match. “I have four fractures on the inside of my nose; I have 5 stitches on the inside of my nose and my cheek and 15 stitches on the outside of my nose and cheek. My left eye is swollen shut and I have continual internal bleeding from my nose and my eye.”
The sheer force of the blow easily could have knocked most people out unconscious. Mercury reveals though that he remained conscious through the whole graphic ordeal.
“I remember everything,” Joey said. “I never lost consciousness and I never passed out.”
Mercury shed further light on the feeling he endured. “I have nothing to compare it to; I’ve never been hit that hard in the face before,” he said. “I’d have to say it felt like a hundred-pound steel ladder connecting with my face at one-hundred miles per hour; or going head first through a windshield of a car without a seatbelt on; maybe getting hit in the face with a baseball bat swung by Sammy Sosa.”
The famous saying “The show must go on” was no different here, and Joey concluded the interview with an old-fashioned kayfabe statement.
“Had I not been forced to leave the match due to a severe amount of blood loss, MNM would be the WWE Tag Team Champions. Again, we made it clear that MNM is the greatest tag team in the modern era – not The Hardys!”
“Physically, he was able to recover and perform. Mentally, Joey Mercury diminished.”
Joey Mercury did end up returning to the ring a few weeks after the incident. Physically, he was able to recover and perform. Mentally, Joey diminished. To cope with the pain, Joey used painkillers. He soon became addicted. Mercury had demons from a very young age and had a lot of trouble staying clean. When painkillers were introduced to him along with an abundance of bad habits he already had, it was a recipe for disaster.
Joey was released in March, 2007, only three months after the terrifying ladder match injury. To the outside public, this could easily be deemed as a harsh outcome for Joey Mercury. “The guy had his face split open and 90 days later he’s released!?” One could easily think this way very harsh. The reality of the matter was it was a much-needed wake-up call that potentially saved his life.
Mercury had spent half of 2006 in rehab for drug problems. This was before the horrible injury. It really makes it easy to understand how that injury derailed his career beyond the physical nature of it.
Mercury opened up about just how much his life was in trouble with CANOE — SLAM! Sports.
“I went to rehab in 2006 and missed five to six months of work due to my drug and alcohol problems.”
An incredibly raw and honest Joey Mercury admitted that he wasn’t completely straight with WWE throughout this time and that he pushed to return too early despite not being in a good place mentally.
“I was lying to them because I wanted to get back so soon.”
It was not long after he returned that the Armageddon pay-per-view took place. “I wish it didn’t happen.” Joey said about the injury. “If it didn’t happen, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten hooked on painkillers.”
“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.”
Alcohol, cocaine, crack, and heroin usage was among the demons, and after adding painkillers to that, Mercury says that his life became “a mess.”
“I didn’t want to tell anyone that I had a problem,” he says. “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.”
Mercury went on to explain the reason for his release. “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.”
“I had to be sent home.”
Vince McMahon’s concern for Joey Mercury and his well-being led to his release from WWE in 2007.
“Vince sat me down and said, ‘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.’
“The WWE gave me every opportunity to get better and I’m the one who fucked up.”
Mercury, in reflection, agreed with Vince. “I was going to die.”
“I just turned 28, so in hindsight I’m glad they [released me], but at the time, no — I just wanted to keep on living the way I was living.”
Joey concluded the interview with a dark revelation.
“I’ve overdosed three times and I’ve wrecked ten cars — I’m fortunate to be above ground.”
It’s a tragic story. The visual of Mercury’s face at Armageddon 2006 was nothing compared to how his life played out afterward.
The three time Tag Team Champion has overcome a lot in his life, with the toughest of challenges coming at a very young age.
Today, he is very respected in the business, has a great mind for wrestling and has gifted his wealth of knowledge to wrestlers as a producer and trainer. He’s also currently a big part of Ring of Honor’s creative team.
It goes to show just how respected Joey Mercury is that talent only a few years younger have gone on record to call him a mentor. Particularly Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins of The Shield have publically praised Mercury for his impact on each of them.
WWE.com put together a ‘Where Are They Now?’ piece in 2014 about Joey Mercury a few months before his J&J Security run where he and Jamie Noble contributed greatly to Seth Rollins’ first World Championship reign. The timing of the piece was fascinating. Rollins gave great praise for the man he would align himself with merely a few months later.
“He is a mastermind when it comes to wrestling psychology, and the ins and outs of being in the ring,” Seth Rollins explained. “He loves teaching people how to do things and do them better. He’s a talent maximizer. He takes your best assets and makes them better. He takes the things you’re terrible at and helps you improve.”
Fellow Shield member Dean Ambrose was equally full of positive praise for Joey Mercury. “There’ll be a dozen Hall of Famers who thank Joey Mercury first and foremost in their acceptance speech.”
Roman Reigns echoed his Shield brothers sentiments. “He’s like a fourth member,” Roman Reigns admitted. “Any time Joey’s around, it could be a five-star match, but he’ll nitpick us. That’s what makes us better. He keeps us honest.”
“He’s definitely a hero to us,” Ambrose added. “At this point, if he tells me a way to do something, I do it that way first, because he’s right 99 percent of the time.”
Joey Mercury is an unsung hero of the wrestling industry. His in-ring career may not have lasted as long as he wanted or had the impact he desired, but someone with wrestling wisdom like him will find their place in the business for decades to come.