Jake Atlas, one of the most popular names in the world of pro wrestling, LGBTQ or otherwise, is stepping away from the ring indefinitely citing struggles with mental health.
Atlas, real name Kenny Marquez, announced his decision Tuesday via Twitter, saying he “simply can’t keep going anymore.”
“I’m stepping away from wrestling completely right now,” Atlas said. “At 26 years old, I’ve got my entire life ahead of me and I’m choosing to explore completely different industries to find my passion again.”
Atlas attributed the shift to ongoing struggles with mental health and anxiety that persisted throughout his entire five-year in-ring career. “Unfortunately, it was unhealthy for me the entire time. I just learned how to hide it really well,” Atlas said. “I hope that friends and fans I’ve made alike continue to support me no matter what.”
I’m not concussed or “banged up.” I simply just can’t keep going anymore. Take your mental health seriously, both for yourselves & for each other, because we only have one life to live. Thank you to anyone who did support me for 5 years. I didn’t do much, but what I did was fun.— (@kennymarquez) September 14, 2021
In an interview on Instinct Culture by Denise Salcedo, Atlas described his WWE tenure as “probably the worst mentally I have ever been.” Though WWE paid for his therapy, his mental health struggles led him to ask for his release from the company, which he got last month.
“I understand the narratives that people will want to say by me saying that I wanted to quit,” Atlas said. “You have to understand that my mental health was really bad, not at that given moment. I am strong now but the entire time it was not good. So I felt like I needed to leave for myself, like I needed to put myself first.
“So I just want people to understand and not think that I was ungrateful for having a job because they’ve been releasing left and right. I take my mental health, my sanity and being alive before I take having a job.“
His exit comes just days after making his first in-ring appearances after being released from his WWE contract. Atlas returned to independent wrestling in the main event of EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch Chicago on Sept. 5, defeating EFFY. He also wrestled on Ring of Honor’s Death Before Dishonor pay-per-view event on Sunday.
Atlas confirmed to SoCal Uncensored that he has pulled out of all scheduled appearances, including previously announced matches with Pro Wrestling Guerilla and New Japan Pro Wrestling.
There’s no Kidd Bandit without Jake Atlas. Thank you for your magic. Thank you for being proud and representing.— KIDD BANDIT (@kiddbanditpro) September 14, 2021
You’re my hero. https://t.co/fV3EDUj9LI
An openly gay wrestler who never let his identity overshadow his in-ring prowess, Atlas built himself into a superstar wrestler and vocal LGBTQ advocate in independent promotions across the country before signing with WWE in late 2019.
“Thank you to anyone who did support me for five years. I didn’t do much, but what I did was fun,” Atlas said.
The pro wrestling world expressed gratitude and care for Atlas after the announcement.
“All my love, bro,” said EFFY. “Thanks for letting me be a part of your journey and I hope to see you soon in whatever capacity.”
Out wrestling commentator Joe Dombrowski also shared support.
“Thank you for being a class act, total pro and perfect representative for the LGBTQ+ community,” Dombrowski wrote. “Your contributions have no doubt helped and inspired countless young people hoping to one day walk in those same footsteps.”