Maria Kanellis-Bennett knew her in-ring career was coming to an end at WrestleMania 35, a pre-show battle royal won by Carmella, but that sentiment was emerging all day in New Jersey.
Kanellis, who now works for Ring of Honor, tells Cageside Seats’ Shakiel Mahjouri how her family’s treatment on the day of WrestleMania 35 picked away at her love for the craft.
“It was the whole day,” she explains. “It used to be that when you got to the building at WrestleMania, you knew exactly where your family was going to go. You were able to show them why you’ve been away all year. Why you haven’t been coming home. Why you missed Christmas or Thanksgiving or birthdays, whatever. You were able to really just give your family a VIP treatment. And they didn’t have that. It was all about the sponsors. They had their area and then whatever else. But for the wrestlers themselves, there was no place for our families to go. I was like, I don’t like this. I don’t like this attitude towards my family. My daughter was actually stuck outside with my mother-in-law and my nanny for 45 minutes before I was able to even get them into the building because it was so far away to get security down there. What ended up happening is my the person doing my makeup had to go and get my family.
“It made me sad to think that wrestlers were no longer the ones that were special. It was the sponsors and the free giveaways to the VIPs. They all had rooms. But the talent’s family, the families that have sacrificed the most, had nowhere to go. And then when they did get in the building, they didn’t have a backstage area. They had seats like up in the stands and they couldn’t even really see that well. It was cold and there was just nowhere for them to go. I want to give all the fans such a great experience throughout the entire year, but for my family, I want to give them that VIP treatment at WrestleMania and I wasn’t able to.”
For Kanellis, who shares two children with husband Mike Bennett, family has always been priority number one.
“I always had the same kind of perspective. Family is always first, always first. It didn’t matter when I would come home. If I was just in the main event on RAW, I would come home if my parents needed something. I remember one time pushing a car in my heels after getting home. My dad needed help with one of his old Mopars because he restores old cars,” she explains. “My family never treated me like I was special. I was just their daughter. So family has always come first. I’ve just gotten a lot more vocal about that.
“The reason I was fired the first time from WWE was because I asked for too much. I asked for more money. I asked to be paid as much as the guys were being paid. So really, my views haven’t changed that much. What’s changed is the way I put information out there now. I have a lot bigger platform now with Twitter and Instagram and all these things than I did the first time around with just Twitter.”
The world of professional wrestling is chock-full of bizarre media opportunities and Kanellis touches on one of her more memorable interviews.
“YouShoot, oh, my gosh, I got in so much trouble,” she laughs. “I’m an honest person and I think at times like that is just a little too much. I have a statement for my husband all the time. ‘I’m not mean. I’m just honest.’ And I think maybe I take it a little too extreme from time to time. But it is so funny like so funny. Now I can’t watch it back. I see that person and I’m like, no, no, no, no, not there anymore. Like I’m such a happy, motivated, driven person for my own life that I don’t have time for nonsense. But like that’s why I can’t watch it. But at the time it was so much fun.”
Click here for more exclusive interviews.