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Melina

REAL NAME: MELINA NAVA PEREZ
NICKNAMES: Kyra, Melina Perez, Melina
SIZE: 5-foot-4, 122-pounds
BORN: March 9, 1979 in Los Angeles, California

Melina Perez was a former Miss California beauty contest winner and model for Nike before she was bitten by the wrestling bug in 2000.

The Latina had grown up watching wrestling with her brothers and became a big fan of Sherri Martel. Looking to make her own mark in the business, Perez began training at Empire Wrestling Federation's (EFW) School of Hard Knocks in San Bernardino, California, and was said to be a natural. She wrestled on the indy circuit as Kyra, most notably for EFW and Ultimate Pro Wrestling.

Perez auditioned for WWE's Tough Enough III competition, and although she failed to be chosen as one of the 13 finalists, was praised and encouraged by Al Snow.

Then-talent scout Tom Pritchard took notice of her in January 2002, and had her work out with WWE performers when the crew were out on the West Coast. Her dream was realized in 2003 when WWE signed her to a developmental contract.

"I was always told I was too short, too fat, too small, too ugly or not good enough. People would tell me every negative comment under the moon, and that I would never make it," Perez wrote in her WWE.com exclusive blog. "I kept going. I knew in my heart that I could make it, and that I was meant for this. My love for wrestling and my determination got me through everything I had to endure."

She debuted in WWE's developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling in March 2004, and would go on to form MNM there with Johnny Nitro and Joey Matthews, who later became Joey Mercury when he debuted on Raw. Perez made a couple brief appearances on Raw in late 2004, taking part in a Diva lingerie show and a limbo contest.

Perez, who later became simply known as "Melina," was called up permanently in April 2005, and debuted on SmackDown with MNM when they interrupted Rey Mysterio on Carlito's first Cabana interview segment. They attacked Mysterio, then one half of the WWE Tag Team Champions, and the following week, challenged him and his partner Eddie Guerrero to a match.

There was no holding back Guerrero after he watched Nitro and Mercury spay paint "MNM" on his car, and the battle was joined. MNM, however, managed to beat the champions; in other words, in MNM's first match on TV, they won the Tag Team belts. Melina too would make her successful in-ring debut a couple months afterwards, defeating Michelle McCool on SmackDown and Torie Wilson at the Great American Bash. But not all was rosy at the Bash for it was there that MNM dropped the straps to the new Legion of Doom, John Heidenreich and Road Warrior Animal.

That prompted Melina to bring aboard Jillian Hall, and with the push still on, MNM won back their titles three months later on SmackDown in a four-way against L.O.D., the Mexicools (Super Crazy and Psicosis), and William Regal and Paul Burchill. A month after that and Melina had her first shot at the Women's belt, although she lost to Champion Trish Stratus at Survivor Series.

MNM's second title reign didn't even last two months, as Batista and Mysterio won the belts in spite of Melina's attempt to trade sex for Batista's promise to not compete. He took the sex, but went ahead with the match anyway. (Note to Melina: "Gratitude is merely a lively expectation of favours to come." -- Sir Humphrey Appleby.) But she made up for her tactical error by enlisting the help of Mark Henry, who interfered in the rematch two weeks later, which allowed MNM to close out 2005 with the Tag Team belts back around their waists for the third time.

They would hold onto the titles until late May 2006, when Paul London and Brian Kendrick won the gold at Judgment Day. During the latter stages of the match, Mercury accidentally struck Nitro, which allowed their opponents to gain the win. It led to Melina and Nitro attacking Mercury for costing them the belts, which effectively broke up the team. All this came about amid rumours Nitro and Mercury weren't getting along off-screen.

Later that same night, Melina slapped SmackDown General Manager Teddy Long and both she and Nitro were "fired." But eight days later, they reappeared on the Raw brand. Nitro got a quick singles push, winning the Intercontinental Championship in a three-way against Shelton Benjamin and Carlito at Vengeance.

Melina made some waves herself, getting between the Ric Flair-Mick Foley feud. She proved to be not so much Foley's friend as his Delilah. First, she cost him his "I Quit" match against Flair at SummerSlam when Foley gave up in an attempt to protect her from a crazed, barbed wire bat toting Flair. And then the next night on Raw, Foley joined Vince McMahon's "Kiss My Ass" club to save her job, only to watch her turn on him and fire him instead.

Nitro and Jeff Hardy exchanged the Intercontinental belt in October, and by late November, MNM were reunited when Mercury returned from a legitimate six month rehab treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. Together again, they challenged the Hardy Boyz. The feud, however, was cut short by an accident at December 2006's Armageddon, where a ladder smashed into Mercury's unprotected face.

Although they would reunite again, Melina started getting more attention as a singles competitor. She rose up to become the Women's Divison's number one contender in early 2007, and on a February episode of Raw, defeated Mickie James to capture her first WWE Women's Championship. She then started feuding with Playboy Centerfold Ashley Massaro, and beat her at WrestleMania 23.

Melina lost and then won back the title from James at the same live event in France, and soon joined Victoria to take on James and Candice Michelle. Michelle, however, would defeat Melina for the title at Vengeance.

Even without the title, Melina would be a thorn in the sides of the babyfaces as she teamed with Hall, Beth Phoenix, and later, Layla El. For months she appeared in various multi-girl TV tag matches, and at WrestleMania 24, she and Phoenix defeated Massaro and Maria Kanellis.

The heels took the fight again at Backlash when Phoenix's team beat James', but in a rematch the next night, they lost on Raw. Melina's relationship with Phoenix soured soon after, starting when Melina tried to interfere on Phoenix's behalf in a title match against James, but ended up accidentally hitting her with her boot, allowing James to pick up the duke. When Phoenix walked out on Melina during a tag match the next week and annihilated her backstage, it began a face turn for Melina. Ironically, it was Melina's turn to lose an "I Quit" match, submitting to Phoenix at One Night Stand. The feud broke off less than a month later in June, when Melina broke her heel in a match and was forced to the sidelines until late November.

When she returned to action, Melina paired with the babyfaces in multi-tag matches, and near year's end, she won a shot at Phoenix's title. At the same time, WWE introduced Phoenix's "stalker" Rosa Mendes, who would go on to attack Melina after her matches. But that wasn't enough to stop Melina from winning her third Women's title when she beat Phoenix at Royal Rumble.

Melina continued successfully defending her belt, and after losing the "Miss WrestleMania" Battle Royal at WrestleMania 25, she was drafted back to SmackDown. There, she teamed with Gail Kim in a feud with McCool and Alicia Fox. McCool ended up getting the better of Melina, and would go on to take her title at The Bash.

---compiled by Richard Kamchen

MELINA LINKS

  • Melina Photo Gallery
  • August 5, 2011: WWE releases five wrestlers
  • August 4, 2011: Melina's enjoying life's experiences
  • September 13, 2009: Montreal rocks along with Melina and John Morrison
  • May 29, 2005: Melina wants to do it all