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Karlee Perez Recalls Her “Mentor” Dusty Rhodes, Says WWE Should Offer Acting Classes


Karlee Perez Recalls Her “Mentor” Dusty Rhodes, Says WWE Should Offer Acting Classes

On a recent episode of The Wrestling Inc. Daily podcast, Wrestling Inc. Managing Editor Nick Hausman sat down with former WWE NXT and Lucha Underground star Karlee Perez f.k.a Maxine and Catrina respectively. Perez opened up about her ambitions to have a career outside of the wrestling business revealing that she is executive producing three projects right now.

“One of the main reasons I left WWE was just to pursue careers outside of it,” Perez admitted. “They do tend to have a control over a lot of what you do. So it was one of the main reasons I asked for my release, but I did fall in love with entertainment and being in front of the camera and the audience. I learned a lot from my mentor Dusty Rhodes. Before he passed, he was one of my main coaches in FCW when I was with WWE and going through the promo classes and the acting classes and developing characters, that’s how I really fell in love with this side of the business.

“As much as I love the wrestling business, I wanted to just keep growing, and sticking with it. You are correct, it is difficult to transition from one to another because people can box you into certain roles. Then going on to Lucha, they had it open for me. I was lucky enough to develop and make a character that the fans really enjoyed, and to me, I was able to, as the Catrina character, really show my talent on that side of the things and not just in the ring.

“It’s something I stuck with, and I’m here in Los Angeles. And I’m doing it not just on the front of the camera but I’m now currently executive producing three projects behind the camera as well. During the pandemic, I was able to get a lot done.”

Perez discussed more on how WWE Hall of Famer Dusty Rhodes has influenced her during her days in FCW. She noted that she still carries a picture of him because of how much he has helped her during her career.

“My favorite time in wrestling and in FCW was our promo days, and Dusty was head of talent at that time in FCW and helping develop characters and helping talent find who they were and what they can bring to the wrestling world,” Perez recalled. “He really, really pushed me, and he’s the one that told me I had this untapped talent when it came to developing characters and cutting promos. And I really wasn’t sure of myself at the time, and Dusty would always tell me, ‘fake it till you make it.’

“And he literally would push me to, eventually, become comfortable to what I was doing and performing and become confident in the characters I was portraying. He really, really had a lot to do with where I’m at now in my career and life. Even walking away from that business at the time, eventually going into Lucha but he had a lot to do with that. So I’m forever thankful to him. His picture hangs in my car. So he’s there with me during another journey so to say.”

Hausman noted that Perez had been taking acting classes while in WWE and wondered if that was a common occurrence. Perez said it wasn’t and stated that she felt that the business was lacking a focus on characters, which is something Lucha Underground provided.

“No, I didn’t find it very common because, look, it’s a lot of work,” Perez noted. “When you’re in that business, you’re giving your life to that business, and it’s looked down upon to do other things when you’re in the business. You’re supposed to live, breathe, eat [and] sleep that business, but I wanted to expand, and I felt what was lacking in the business and what still is lacking in the business was the characters weren’t there anymore.

“People were so busy trying to do everything inside the ring and get all these moves and all this stuff crammed in, but you don’t get a chance to fall in love with their character and make them actually feel. And then they were switching people out so much that all of a sudden a new character, new week [and] new gimmick, and you’re not giving anybody a chance to actually dive into something.

“And that’s what Lucha gave me, a chance to dive into a character, and I didn’t get that in WWE. All those classes helped me figure that out and pull back those layers. I have all the respect in the world for the performers. I just happen to learn how to wrestle, but I always found myself as a character for the wrestling business not so much a wrestler.”

Hausman pointed out that all WWE Superstars should receive acting classes since they are performing on live TV. Perez agreed and called wrestling “physical theater” and said that WWE should provide acting classes for their talent.

“I definitely think that,” Perez said. “It’s a theater. It’s a very physical theater. It’s a performance. We’re on stage, and you would have those types of classes provided to you on any other sort of theater performing on stage. So I do feel like it’s a whole other side that’s important that I don’t think enough people dive into, or they should offer it. They should provide it.”

Perez has not been involved in the wrestling industry since her days in Lucha Underground. She discussed whether she would come back to the wrestling business in the future.

“I think there’s probably opportunities coming. I’ve been in talks with some different companies and different people, opportunities coming in the wrestling side,” Perez revealed. “I have no problem going back and expanding even more on the wrestling side as long as I’m able to do what I would still be doing, which only helps both sides. I can bring in different people [and] different crowds to the wrestling side. Who knows? [People] who maybe liked me in this film or this television show and they didn’t know about the wrestling side. So, it’s cool to kind of combine both of them.”

Karlee Perez stars in the new action movie Seized which is now available via iTunes and Amazon. Karlee’s full interview aired as part of a recent episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it’s released Monday – Friday afternoon by clicking here.