Fans of the current WWE product recognize Joey Mercury as the silent half of J&J Security, the two goons hired to protect world heavyweight champion Seth Rollins from top contenders such as Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Randy Orton.
More times than not, he is tossed around the squared circle with his associate Jamie Noble, a punching bag for the biggest names in sports entertainment.
That was not always the case, though.
There was a time when Mercury was recognized as one of the most promising and entertaining in-ring performers in the industry.
Whether he was teaming with former TNA star Christian York on the Indys, infuriating WWE fans alongside Johnny Nitro and Melina or pledging his allegiance to The Straight Edge Society, he enjoyed success at every level of competition.
A survivor who overcame addiction with the help of friends, he bounced back and now finds himself enjoying the highest-profile run of his career as part of The Authority.
Let's celebrate the career of one of the sneakiest and most underhanded characters on the WWE roster with this look back at Mercury's defining matches and moments.
Hitting The Road
Like any young star hungry and determined to make a name for himself in the industry, Mercury worked the independent scene, honing his craft in small arenas and halls around the country in hopes of catching the attention of a major promoter.
As Joey Matthews, the young star experienced a great deal of his early success while working with longtime friend and tag team partner Christian York. Whether they competed side-by-side or against each other, they gained rave reviews for their work up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
It was not out of the ordinary to pick up an issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated during the second half of the 1990s and read about Matthews and York tearing it up in the Arena Reports section of the magazine. While there was not a wealth of ways to watch independent wrestling at the time, fans were more than aware of the two competitors making a name for themselves on the East Coast.
When Matthews and York arrived in OMEGA, a critically acclaimed promotion owned and operated by a young Matt and Jeff Hardy, their exposure increased significantly. If the matches they had against each other there did not bring eyes to their work, their partnership in Maryland Championship Wrestling under The Bad Street Boys moniker certainly did.
But all of the success they enjoyed and the buzz that surrounded them only prepared them for their first real shot at mainstream recognition at the dawn of the new millennium, when they joined Paul Heyman and the hardcore revolution known as Extreme Championship Wrestling.
While ECW looked to be a stepping stone for Matthews and York to bigger and better things, the fact of the matter is that they were unlucky enough to arrive in late 2000, a tumultuous time for the promotion. The financial side of the company was a mess, and owner Heyman was struggling to right a shipwreck of Titanic proportions.
Still, that did not deter Matthews and his partner from working extremely hard to prove to any prospective employers they could deliver on a big stage.
They worked regularly with the likes of Danny Doring and Roadkill and Johnny Swinger and Simon Diamond, but their greatest opportunity came when they competed against Jerry Lynn and the hated Cyrus at the final ECW pay-per-view event, Guilty as Charged.
Very much presented as the company's answer to The Hardy Boyz, they were young, good looking guys who could be trusted to pop the crowd and open the show with a quality tag bout. Nothing more, nothing less.
Unfortunately, ECW closed its doors in early 2001, leaving the team with nowhere to go but back to the independents.
There, Matthews would enjoy some solo success, especially when working with the upstart Ring of Honor promotion as part of the Special K faction. But it was not enough to keep him satisfied, so he continued seeking bigger and better things by acquiring as much experience and ring time as possible, whether that came in Maryland or at the Ohio Valley Wrestling training center.
By 2004, he would become all too familiar with OVW, but for reasons that would benefit him greatly going forward.
WWE, Part 1
In 2004, Joey Matthews finally got the call he had dreamed of when he was signed by WWE and assigned to the developmental territory in Louisville, Kentucky. Returning to OVW, where he had put some work in a few years prior, he was almost immediately paired with Tough Enough Season 2 winner John Hennigan and manager Melina Perez.
He would become known as Joey Mercury, and with Hennigan (now Johnny Nitro) and Perez (just Melina), they would form the trio MNM and instantly become one of the most buzzworthy acts in the industry.
So good was the act that they spent only a year in developmental, fine-tuning their in-ring performances before being called up to the main roster in the spring of 2005.
MNM debuted in April, interrupting an edition of Carlito's Cabana and confronting then-WWE tag team champion Rey Mysterio.
Just sharing the ring with him was a big enough deal, but by the time they knocked off the future Hall of Famer and his tag team partner Eddie Guerrero the next week and captured the tag team titles, fans everywhere had no choice but to sit up and take notice of the trio's immediate impact.
Mercury, Nitro and Melina would become one of the cornerstones of Thursday nights, rising to stardom through successful titles defenses and feuds with the likes of Charlie Haas and Hardcore Holly and the new Legion of Doom (Animal and Heidenreich).
It was not until the team entered a brief program with Mysterio and world heavyweight champion Batista late in the year that the trust management had in the group became apparent.
Not only were they being given a tremendous amount of television time, but they were involved in a program with the biggest star on the SmackDown brand. The two teams traded the tag titles back and forth before Mercury and Nitro benefited from interference by Mark Henry to ultimately win the feud.
Entering 2006, there was no denying the fact that MNM was one of the few breakout acts the company had successfully called up from developmental.
Unfortunately, their success would not last.
In May, Mercury's demons reared their ugly head for the first time, and MNM dropped the tag titles to Paul London and Brian Kendrick at Judgment Day.
He reappeared later in the year, reforming the team and working almost primarily against The Hardy Boyz.
Their bout at the dreadful ECW December to Dismember pay-per-view in late 2006 saved the show from being an ungodly awful show, while their rematch at the Royal Rumble in January 2007 was even better.
It was in December, though, that Mercury's career was threatened.
During a Fatal 4-Way ladder match for the WWE Tag Team Championship, Mercury was on the receiving end of a seesaw spot involving Jeff Hardy that saw one of the ladders come up and catch him in the face, immediately breaking his nose, lacerating his face and fracturing his orbital bone.
It was an incredibly scary moment, but one from which he thankfully recovered.
For the second time in his career, Mercury's struggles with substance abuse stunted his growth as a performer. In March 2007, just before WrestleMania 23, he was released from his contract with WWE. It would be a long and winding road back, but thanks to the help of friends and family, he would recover and return to the business that he had devoted his adult life to.
The Straight Edge Society
In the spring and summer of 2010, CM Punk was the hottest villain on the planet, regardless of the form of entertainment. A self-proclaimed Straight Edge Savior, Punk preached the importance of living a drug- and addiction-free lifestyle.
But he did not do it alone. He had disciples in the form of Luke Gallows and the lovely yet dangerous Serena. And he gained one more when Joey Mercury returned to WWE programming, his head shaved and looking as healthy as ever.
Now known as "Joseph" Mercury, he assisted Punk in his feuds with The Big Show and Rey Mysterio.
Sadly, WWE Creative had taken a months-long storyline written by Punk himself and completely ruined it by the time the fall rolled around, to the point that the entire angle fell apart.
Despite being the most over heels on the show, capable of creating riot-like situations at house shows and infuriating crowds thanks to the fine line it walked at times, it evaporated, leaving Mercury in limbo.
That he had suffered a serious pectoral tear only hurt more.
But as Mercury had done throughout his career, he bounced back and found a new role for himself in the industry.
Joey Mercury: Teacher
When he returned from his pectoral injury, Mercury reported to developmental, where he began to train the stars of the future. From there, he became a producer for WWE, working backstage at Raw, SmackDown and live events with the main-roster stars.
It was his job to critique, to instruct and to help them come up with the best spots and finishes for their contests.
In a 2014 "Where Are They Now" article on WWE.com, Shield members Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns discussed just how important Mercury has been to their development as Superstars in Vince McMahon's sports entertainment empire.
Ambrose, in particular, had high praise for the former tag team champion: "Joey can make a bad match good, a good match great and a great match classic. You would come to the back and think you had an awesome match, and he would be like, ‘Well, that was OK, you worked hard, but let me tell you how it could have been better."
Reigns, on the other hand, referred to him as the fourth member of The Shield: "He’s like a fourth member. Anytime 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."
Mercury earned the trust of the wrestlers and, eventually, management. And with The Authority angle gaining steam and Triple H looking for two stooges to add to the story, he recruited Mercury and his fellow Ruthless Aggression-era star Jamie Noble to fill those roles.
Since then, Mercury has seen his television time increase rapidly as bodyguard to lead villain Seth Rollins. While he and Noble typically are beaten up, down and all around the squared circle, they are involved in the biggest storyline of their careers.
It is far too early to decide what Joey Mercury's legacy in the world of professional wrestling will be. At only 35 years old, he has many productive years in front of him, whether in front of or behind the cameras.
With a great mind for the business, he will undoubtedly have a hand in crafting the biggest stars in the industry over the next decade as he continues to work in his role as backstage producer. Three of his star pupils (Reigns, Ambrose and Rollins) are among the biggest Superstars on the planet, proving just how effective and successful he is in that role.
But there is still time for him to achieve more inside the squared circle. No older than former heavyweight champion Sheamus, it is not out of the realm of possibility that we'll see him capture another tag title or two, especially with J&J Security receiving more and more screen time with every passing week.
His greatest achievement is what he accomplished away from the ring, overcoming the same addictions that have led to the premature passing of so many professional wrestlers to bounce back and live a fruitful and inspirational life, a true success story and role model in an industry not necessarily known for them.
Whatever Mercury's in-ring legacy winds up being, he should be most proud of that.