Maria Kanellis Says Former WWE Gimmick Shielded Her From Backstage Sexism

Maria Kanellis wrestled in WWE under the name Maria from 2005 until 2010, originally getting her start in the wrestling business as part of one of the Diva Searches WWE did back in the Ruthless Aggression era. Kanelils did not find championship success in her first run with the company, however, she did compete in two different WrestleManias, most notably teaming with Ashley against Beth Phoenix and Melina at WrestleMania 24. In her run with WWE, Kanellis did not play the smartest woman in the world, and apparently, that did not stop onscreen. While on an Interview With James, Kanellis described how her gimmick was able to help her backstage when the cameras were not rolling.


"I liked playing my character pretty much full-time," Kanellis said. "At that time, there was a lot of sexism, there was a lot of things that were kind of flying around and if I was the dumb girl, then people kind of left me alone and for me, it was almost like some shield against everyone else and their crazy."

Maria returned to WWE in 2016 alongside her husband, Mike Bennett, who wrestled under the name Mike Kanellis during his tenure with WWE. The pairing did not find much success other than a few 24/7 title wins between the two of them, with Maria becoming the first woman in WWE history to win a championship while pregnant. Mike and Maria were released from WWE on April 15th, 2020, following their about four-year run with the company and have not returned since. Mike is currently one-half of the Impact World Tag Team Champions, and both are part of the Honor No More faction.


If you use any quotes from this article, please credit "Interview With James" with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.