Maria Kanellis-Bennett peels back the curtain on her most recent WWE run with husband Mike Bennett.
A segment of the pro-wrestling fanbase is under the impression that Kanellis and Bennett “played the system” by collecting WWE paycheques with the intention of working as little as possible while under contract from 2017 to 2020. In an exclusive interview with Cageside Seats’ Shakiel Mahjouri, Kanellis addresses the various accusations of her latest run with the pro-wrestling juggernaught.
First, the current Ring of Honor (ROH) Board of Director’s member addresses how her latest WWE run started and allegations that WWE paid for Bennett’s rehab.
“Let’s start from the beginning. When Mike and I were picked up from WWE, it was in March [of 2017]. So we were picked up in March and we were promised the world. We didn’t want to leave Impact. We were happy,” Kanellis says. “They [Impact] offered us more money and the exact same money that WWE had offered us initially. So what WWE did is they offered us a little bit more and they told us we didn’t have to move. I was fine with moving but, whatever, moving is expensive. So they sat us. They told us that we were possibly going to be on Raw after WrestleMania. It didn’t happen. They sat us at home. So here we are with all these promises being made and we’re sitting at home now for four months before they even decided to start talking to us. It was ridiculous. And so we’re already feeling very much like, ‘Why the hell did we make this decision to come to WWE?’
“We get down to Florida for the Mae Young Classic and Mike tells me he has this addiction. Nobody knew at that time. It was on a Saturday morning that he told me he had this addiction. We were supposed to be going to Disney World. He had spent all our money and I didn’t know. So we couldn’t afford to go to Disney that day. He was afraid he was going to die because he didn’t have any painkillers. So we didn’t tell anybody. We sat in a hotel room all weekend and I made sure he didn’t die. He had the whatever patch on his shoulder. You can actually see the Band-Aid over it in his match against Sami [Zayn]. We didn’t tell WWE because we were afraid that because they hadn’t used us, they were going to just release us. So we didn’t say anything. I rehabbed Mike. I’m the one that made sure he was taking his blood pressure medication. There was something else they gave him. It’s basically to make it so you can get out of being addicted to this.”
It was during this tumultuous period in their life and relationship that Kannelis found out she was pregnant with the couple’s first child.
“So then two weeks later, we found out I was pregnant,” she shares. “Now, we weren’t trying. We had tried when we were in Impact, but we hadn’t been trying. I was under the belief that it wasn’t even possible at that point because we had tried before and it wasn’t happening. Just so happened that we got pregnant at that time. Now, I was devastated. I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t even really talking to Mike. I was only taking care of him. I didn’t even know if we were going to stay together at that point because he had lied to me for four-and-a-half years.
“WWE had no idea that Mike had this addiction and was in recovery. I find out I’m pregnant and it was early. I didn’t know if we’d even keep the baby because a lot of times if there’s going to be a miscarriage, it happens within those first few weeks. So we held onto that information. And then Miz and Maryse announced they were pregnant. The very next day we told WWE. When we had our conversation with them, I said, ‘I can stay on the road, I can work. My doctor said I am a very low-risk pregnancy. I’m healthy, so I could stay on the road as long as possible.’ [WWE replied,] ‘No, no, no. Stay home. Stay home.’ OK, fine.”
Kanellis elaborates on how Bennett was well into recovery by the time that he hit the road full-time with WWE. She asserts that WWE played to part financially in the rehabilitation process.
“It was right around that time that Mike came out that he had an addiction and he was in recovery. Now, he had already been recovering for weeks. I had already been through the gamut of watching his cellphone and keeping his iPads and everything so that he couldn’t go to a dealer. He was also starting on the road full-time. So this is where people screw it up. They say he went to rehab. He didn’t go to rehab. He was on the road full-time with WWE. He was afraid that he was going to lose his job if he told them. He already went through rehab by the time he told them and that rehab was me, no one else. I was the one cleaning him up when he was sick and making sure that he didn’t die. So then we found out I was pregnant and then he told WWE about his addiction. So in no way did we go into it believing, ‘Oh, WWE should pay for this.’ No is a very sh—ty course of events. It was incredibly difficult. There were times I didn’t think my marriage was going to last. There were times that I was afraid that I was going to get fired.”
“So then fast forward. We start conversations with WWE, our contract was up in June of 2019,” the former Diva’s Search alum explains. “We started talks and I was like, ‘OK, guys. I am going to get pregnant again, are you OK with that, because if you’re not, that’s fine. We just want to let you guys know just in case you want to change my deal. Like, if you want to have me be backstage. If you want me to just not re-sign, I’ll go somewhere else. But we’re going to have another baby because we want two kids that are close together and we want them to have each other when we go on the road.’ That’s just what we wanted to do. That was our family planning — P.S. my family planning is nobody’s business. But because it was asked, I am answering you this.
“We told WWE. We had many conversations with them, ‘I’ll take less money, I’ll go on to pay-per-appearance,’ whatever. I was accepting of anything. But what I did know is I was not going to postpone my life because of WWE. Great opportunity, but I’ve already done it. I’ve already been to WWE. So they come around with the contract. It’s more money and it’s not a pay-per-appearance deal. Nothing. I was like, ‘Guys, that’s great, but I’m going to have a baby. I want to get pregnant again. Are you guys OK with this?’ [WWE said], ‘Yes. Vince loves kids.’ That was the exact line. ‘Vince loves kids.’ OK, let’s go ahead and try. Try to get pregnant, got pregnant. We signed our contracts, found out I was pregnant two weeks later. So while we were negotiating we were trying to get pregnant. They signed us anyways. OK, not my fault.”
Kanellis accuses WWE of spreading rumors that she and Bennett were untruthful about their second pregnancy.
“From there, I started getting direct messages from different news outlets. ‘Oh, did you not tell them blah blah, blah.’ Those rumors are coming directly from WWE and they are just trying to make us look bad so that when they release us they can feel better about it?” she suggests. “But we give them every opportunity to restructure my contract or not pay me as much. They came with more money. That’s not my fault. And so those are the facts.
“Mike was on the road every single weekend during his recovery. He didn’t go to WWE recovery. They didn’t pay for his recovery. If they had, Mike would have ended up paying 50 percent of it back anyways through his contract. A little-known fact. Linda McMahon actually spoke about it during a congressional Congress interrogation, I guess you would call it. So you guys can look it up if you want facts. Those are the facts that even if they had, Mike would have paid for fifty percent of it anyways. But they did not,” she insists. “If you look it up, you can find out that WWE was on the road every single weekend that I was pregnant. He did not go to rehab. He did not go away.”
Kanellis also challenges the assertion from some that she is ungrateful for an education scholarship that WWE presented her. A scholarship, she adds, that is grossly overestimated by some critics.
“WWE did not pay for all of my schooling,” she says. “They paid $2,000. I still have $70,000 in student loans. So all of these rumors and lies that people want to spin, be careful because the truth is much different. They gave me a scholarship and I appreciate the scholarship, but it was for $2,000. That doesn’t cover going to Johnson & Wales University. It just doesn’t. If you look it up, you can find the facts of how much it was that they gave me.
“So I answered the question. It’s up to the fans to actually listen and do the research. It’s a simple Google search. If you want to see these things and actually reason them out, the information is out there. And I’m sorry that this world has gotten so full of misinformation. But again, most of these things, the facts matter. And so look them up,” she concludes. “But I feel like it’s important for people to understand that there are facts behind it.”
Click here for more exclusive interviews.