The long road to Wrestlemania


Illustration by Crystal Jeffers

Jesse Castro,
Staff Writer

Melissa Estrada’s love for wrestling did not happen overnight; it began in a household with two older brothers who would practice their favorite wrestling moves on her.

“My brother thought he killed me with an F-5 once,” Estrada said. The F-5 is the signature move of famous wrestler Brock Lesnar, who picks up opponents on his shoulders, spins and drops them, face first, onto the floor. Wrestling with her brothers as a young girl fueled her love for the sport and gave her the drive to pursue a career in professional wrestling.

“I watched it with my brothers since I was young,” Estrada explained. “My parents used to take us to events and it’s something I’ve always been in love with. My neighbors even gave me Wrestlemania tickets as a graduation gift.” Estrada was one of the thousands of fans who attended Wrestlemania 31 in March 2015 when it came to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Estrada wants to inspire kids and teens in the same way she was when she was younger. Her ultimate goal is to join World Wrestling Entertainment, which averages around 3 million viewers each week with shows like Raw and Smackdown, according to Wrestling News World.

“It kept me out of trouble,” Estrada said. “When I was 15 and my friends were out being wild, I’d just stay home and watch wrestling. I studied the moves and enjoyed it so much.”

A Cal State East Bay freshman, Estrada balances a life of studies with training to become a professional wrestler. Estrada has studied kinesiology at CSUEB since last fall and on the weekend of her eighteenth birthday last December, she dedicated her time outside of school to train at U.S. Karate School of the Arts in Hayward. She is just three months away from entering the ring for her first official match.

“It’s nerve-racking to say the least, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Estrada.

Estrada trains for two hours nearly every Saturday and Sunday with CSUEB Alumni Jason “Styles” Rogers, who trained the current WWE NXT Women’s Champion Bayley in 2008. NXT is a professional wrestling development branch of World Wrestling Entertainment that showcases up-and-coming wrestlers who are in the transition between independent and professional wrestling.

“It takes a lot of commitment,” Estrada said after an afternoon training session on Valentine’s Day. “You have to give up parts of your personal life when it comes to following your dreams.”

At the start of her training, Estrada learned to roll, fall and bump, which are safe movements that allow wrestlers to avoid injury when they take on an opponent. These skills create a foundation for wrestlers before they begin intensive training in high spots and suplexes. High spots involve moves like a clothesline or a back elbow which are meant to hit the upper chest or face of an opponent, while suplexes involve grappling, lifting and tossing an opponent.

Although the outcomes to matches are predetermined, the moves are not necessarily rehearsed. Wrestlers might not even speak to one another about a match until minutes before they enter the ring, which means the performance and instincts of wrestlers are a key factor in making each match exciting and believable for the audience.

“Students have to learn how to control their bodies throughout a match,” said Rogers. “Melissa has progressed quite a bit since she started.”

Estrada still has a long road ahead of her before she can make her debut among wrestlers like NXT Women’s Champion Bayley or Divas Champion Charlotte, but her journey begins here in the East Bay. After she finishes her training, Estrada will continue to wrestle on the local independent circuits, like California Lucha Libre or Los Banos Pro Wrestling, which are not affiliated with any larger professional wrestling organizations like WWE, Impact or Extreme Championship Wrestling.

Estrada will craft her in-ring persona while she wrestles on the independent circuits where she hopes her skills and style will get recognition from WWE. Although she hasn’t decided what her persona will be, Estrada is confident she has what it takes to be a great wrestler.

“You can teach someone all the moves, but you can’t teach heart and passion,” said Estrada.