Raj Giri of WrestlingINC.com recently interviewed the "First Lady of ROH" Maria Kanellis. In part two of the interview below, Kanellis discusses signing with ROH, turning down TNA, problems in WWE and much more.
Click here for part one of the interview, where Kanellis discussed getting her break in the business, working for WWE, her WWE release and more.
WrestlingINC: When you first got released, did you think that you were done with the business or did it motivate you to get more involved.
Maria Kanellis: With wrestling, at first, I didn't want anything to do with it. At first, I was angry. And at first, I don't know -- I was very disappointed in a company that I gave so much of my life to. Then, all of a sudden, just because I didn't want to be the girl that just continues to resign a contract that doesn't help my life -- I just didn't want to be that girl anymore. I just thought I was done with wrestling.
Then, of course, you start getting that itch. Then, you miss it. Then, you want more. So, what started as me just doing signings at wrestling shows, ended up with me starting to talk wrestling more and more. I blame it all on Mike, actually. He's the one that made me start talking about wrestling again, truly. ... When I started talking about wrestling more and then I got asked to do After Buzz TV for Maria Menounos' network, that's when I knew I was never going to get away from it.
WrestlingINC: When did you meet [boyfriend] Mike Bennett? Was it after you got released?
Maria: It was after I got released, but we had done shows together because we could have met at one of the shows because he's been to a million try outs. I just never met him. I don't know where the click didn't happen or what. But, I met him at a show, it was in March of last year. I met him there and I was dating someone and he was dating someone. So, nothing could really happen. But, I literally said to one of his friends that I could really get myself in a lot of trouble with him.
So, the whole night, I made sure I was standing next to him or sitting across from him. I made fun of how he ate his cheese sticks and low and behold, in May of last year, I get a direct message on Twitter about the fact that he wanted to help me with his cheese stick. That's how we started talking again. It was so weird. It was just meant to be, I knew it the moment I met him.
WrestlingINC: Later that year, you made your debut with ROH. What are your thoughts on ROH as a company? It seems as though if you want to watch "real" wrestling with good matches and performers being given real pushes -- I think you see it more there than other places.
Maria: There are so many opportunities at Ring Of Honor. If you do a good job, you get to do more. If you do a crappy job, then you don't. [Laughs.] I love that. I love that excellent work is rewarded. I love that hard work is important in Ring Of Honor. It's really the most important thing is working hard. I've been a fan of Ring Of Honor for a long time. I probably went to my first Ring Of Honor show in maybe 2006 or 2007.
I'm a fan, I've been a fan of the product for a long time. It came up as a very strange thing in the beginning. But, they were just like, 'Hey, would you want to come and be at a pay-per-view?' I said, 'Sure, I would love to.' Then, I ended up being with Mike and I was in town, and I was like, 'You know what? I'll just go to the show with him.' All of a sudden, I'm on the show all of the time. [Laughs.] It's just a very strange thing.
WrestlingINC: When you made your appearance at "ROH Final Battle" last year, did you think it was going to be a one time thing or did you get the feeling that you were going to be more involved?
Maria: I had a feeling I was going to be there more than once.
WrestlingINC: Since you've left WWE, it seems like their Diva's division has deteriorated. You see more women quitting than in the past. Did you see a gradual disinterest in the division while you were there?
Maria: I just want to say that AJ's doing a tremendous job. She's absolutely amazing. She was given the ball and she's just running like hell with it. I don't think she's the only girl that could do it. I think that Beth [Phoenix] could definitely do something with it. I think there are a couple of other girls like Natalya that could run with the story.
But, when I was there, I just remember that me and Michelle [McCool] -- and Melina -- we all were fighting so hard to keep that Diva's division together. We were working so hard to make it bigger and better. And Beth was, too. We were all a very cohesive unit on that one subject.
After I left, it was me and then it was Mickie [James]. Soon after Mickie, it was Michelle and she left on her own. Then, soon after than, it was Melina and then Jillian. Maryse just recently left. Then it was the Bella Twins. Gail Kim -- oh, my gosh. Maxine... I didn't really know her I was really there. And, I think that every one of the girls that I've mentioned had something else in their life that made them realize that since WWE wasn't going to allow them the time or the place to do something that they're passionate about, they were going to go out and fulfill that passion elsewhere.
Mickie had music. Jillian had recently gotten married. Michelle got married. Melina got released, but you go down the list -- The Bella Twins have all these opportunities in acting. Maryse has modeling, she been a huge star in Canada. But, you go down the list and WWE could have used all these talents that these girls have and make their product even better. But, they want to ignore that these women are tremendous and can be tremendously successful and use their mainstream impact within the company. I find that extremely stupid.
Who in their right mind does not use the extra eyes that could be on these girls within their own company? It's an ego trip and I am not a fan of ego trips. So, what I'm hoping that they do with AJ is the same thing they continue to do in the future with other girls.
WrestlingINC: You never know, it's hard to tell. You always see those false pushes given.
Maria: Exactly. I knew they were going to do it. As soon as Kelly Kelly was out of the picture a little bit, I said, 'I bet you they were going to push someone else a bit and drop the ball.' Then, they started pushing AJ. That's what they do every single time. Who knows what's going to happen with Kelly? She's extremely happy with her boyfriend and they might be making bigger plans in the future.
WrestlingINC: I guess it's not just a problem with women. There's a lot of men that are given these pushes and then they're taken away. Then, no new stars are ever created.
Maria: They say it's lonely on top and it is lonely on top. But, there are so many balls dropped with guys like Carlito. When you see him in the ring -- and I've seen him in the ring on the indies millions of times -- it's like, 'Oh, my God. This guy could be making so much money for WWE.' But, they didn't. He did make tons of money. His t-shirts were one of the top sellers for a long time. Why not go with that?
They could have continued on that road with him for a long time, but they just didn't. As a business plan, it just seems very strange.
Dolph Ziggler should be on every single show, three times per show. He is tremendous. It's just so silly to me. [Laughs.] If I were to build a company, I would make every single person the biggest star possible because you are only as strong as your weakest link. That's it. Everybody would learn media, everybody would learn how to do everything. So, no matter what happened, there would be people that were just amazing!
WrestlingINC: Yeah, the popularity of the business keeps falling, and one of the reasons is they don't create enough new stars. The same guys have been on top for ten years.
Maria: You're not seeing new stars. You're not taking full advantage of the opportunities that are created. Such as; Celebrity Apprentice. It doesn't matter what kinds of things I asked for, like the rights to my music or asking for a better contract or whatever. If I owned the company, I would have given me whatever. If you are going to have one of your stars seen by 10 million people a week and then there also going to be on your show as well. Plus, they're going to be on all the major media outlets out there? Please. I would take full advantage.
Plus, I think it's a trust thing. I only do things that represent me in a very smart, intelligent way. Or a sexy way. That's it. I don't do things that would ever hurt my career. So, I don't think that they trusted me enough to do that. If they would have, then it would have been a completely different story. That's just one example. There are a million examples. There really is.
I've heard of people wanting outside endorsement deals that would have paid them lots of money, but they didn't want their superstars to do it. For what reason? I have no idea. I know that there are conflicts between different major companies and what they own, etc. All of that kind of stuff. I understand that. But there is a way around these things. There really is. So, I just don't understand it.
WrestlingINC: What are your thoughts on TNA?
Maria: I don't watch it. I've heard that the girls over there are tremendous. I think that Lisa/Victoria/Tara [laughs] is one of the greatest female wrestlers of all time. One of the greatest wrestlers of all time. Right now, she is the best that is out there. The only people that I probably could compare her to is Sara Del Rey and Beth Phoenix. Those are the only other two that I think are on that level of amazingness. But, I don't watch the show very often.
They have approached me, but I love my spot at Ring Of Honor. I can't imagine leaving. [Laughs.]
WrestlingINC: When they approached you, what did you say to them?
Maria: I just said, 'Not at this time.' You never know what the future holds but just not at this time.
WrestlingINC: [Radio announcer] Mark Madden recently insulted you on Twitter. Where did that beef come from?
Maria: He recently said that Ring Of Honor was failing. It would be one thing if it was based on facts. It wasn't based on facts, it was based on opinions. If you're going to say, 'This is my opinion,' -- that's one thing. But if you're going to say it's facts and you're going to act like a sportscaster that is giving facts about one thing -- that's a different thing completely than it is going out and giving your opinion and pretend like they're facts.
Then, you give our audience these lies! Making stuff up and saying that there are no stars. I think it's hilarious though, because this is the same guy who said Daniel Bryan couldn't make any money. [Laughs.] How many "Yes!" shirts do you need to see in an audience to see that the man did make some money? Maybe you should go back and realize that you're not always the best when it comes to having these opinions or these fake facts.
I don't care about that kind of stuff but I do care when you start attacking people that I'm close with and when you start to teach Ring Of Honor fans that this is what's really happening when it's not. We're drawing. We're hitting more and more networks. We're trying new things. There are different champions and new story lines. Our pay-per-view was one of the best pay-per-views we've ever had. And we had all those problems before.
We're trying and we're out there and doing it. It's not like we're just sitting on our tails, saying, 'Oh, well. This is just going to fall apart.' No, we're working our butts off. I hate when people are just like, 'Oh, it's going to fall. Blah, blah, blah.'
Then, he comments about seeing me naked? I mean, really. I've seen what he writes on his Twitter and he's not worth my time. I surround myself with very positive people. People that are on the move and people that are intelligent. He doesn't even know what the word analytical means and that means he's not worth my time. That's the thing that I thought was the funniest. He says it was analytical, but you weren't solving any problems. It wasn't analytical. It was an opinionated rant on a company just because you don't like Jim Cornette.
So, he wants to say that it's this fact-y, analytically thing, but -- really -- it's just someone being bitter because they don't like someone else. I can talk now! He wants to make it out like, 'WWE stars, they would never...' No, they can't! I couldn't before, I can talk now. I can say whatever I want now. WWE stars have plenty to say about what's out there about their product. But, they can't. It's against their contract.
It wasn't that I was stooping to anybody's level, but I saw an opportunity to have a media battle with somebody that I knew would get more followers and more people hearing about Ring Of Honor and changing people's mind. So, he can think that he's so smart, but, maybe he should get a dictionary and learn what words mean.
WrestlingINC: Fair enough. [Laughs.] Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Well, do you have any final message for the readers of our site?
Maria: Definitely. Thank you so much to everybody. I'm loving everything that I'm doing with Ring Of Honor. Please, follow up with the Ring Of Honor website. Go to Youtube, you can watch all the shows two weeks after they've already been on television. Go to your Sinclair Broadcasting Systems and find out where you can watch Ring Of Honor.
My Twitter is @MariaLKanellis. My Facebook is OfficialMariaKanellis. You can watch videos of me and Mike Bennet and that's at ProdigySuperstar on Youtube. I think that's it for now, but I'm sure there will be more in the future.
I'm really just excited for this time in my life in wrestling. Because, I'm starting to find a place that I really love and that's within Ring Of Honor and within the ring. So, I'm excited to share it with everybody. Thank you so much.