I recently spoke with journalist, actress and WrestleMania 28 wrestler Maria Menounos. Maria also stars on the reality show "Chasing Maria Menounos" with her boyfriend Kevin Undergaro, which airs Tuesdays at 10pm ET/PT on Oxygen. On this Tuesday's episode, Maria gets an invitation to wrestle at WWE SummerSlam, and her family isn't exactly thrilled.
Here is the interview in its entirety:
* * *
Wrestling INC: You've been a wrestling fan for a very long time. When did you first start watching wrestling?
Maria: I started watching when I was a kid with my dad. Growing up we were diehard wrestling fans, so it stuck with me my whole life. And then of course I met Kevin, my boyfriend, who you get to see on the show. He's a big wrestling fan. So then we all were kind of just fans together.
Wrestling INC: Who were some of your favorite wrestlers growing up?
Maria: Oh, man. I mean, everyone. Obviously the normal favorites like Macho Man and Hulk Hogan, the Bushwackers and Ravishing Rick Rude. Jake the Snake, who I was just there watching him get inducted this year. The Ultimate Warrior, I loved so many. Bret Hart.
Wrestling INC: You inducted Bob Backlund into the Hall of Fame last year. Now, when you were 17 you produced a movie and he actually starred in that. Is that correct?
Maria: Yeah, he did. That's how I met him.
Wrestling INC: How did that come about?
Maria: Well Kevin was always a big Bob Backlund fan, and he brought him to MTV when he was head writer for this show Singled Out. So he brought him there and they became friends. When he made his movie, he wrote a part in there for Bob. So that's how it all went down, and I met him. Of course, I was obsessed with him and thought he was amazing. He's a really really interesting and special guy.
Wrestling INC: And what was it like to induct him last year into the Hall of Fame?
Maria: It was really amazing. We've been friends for so many years now, like I said, since I was a teenager. And we helped him when he was running for congress. He came to my pageants back in the day when I was competing. We've been in each other's lives for so long, and when he asked me I was so honored and flattered. It was really emotional. It was a really really big night.
Wrestling INC: You were also at the Hall of Fame this year and The Ultimate Warrior was inducted. What were some of your memories of the Warrior and did you get to meet him at the Hall of Fame?
Maria: I didn't get to talk to him because by the time I finished the red carpet I was back in my seat watching the show. I was sitting behind his family actually, directly behind his family. And I was just watching them cry and be so emotional and just watching this very special night for him. Who would have known? It was an awful tragedy. I remember the night I found out I was, I think it was a Tuesday night, we had just watched our show with some friends, we were having some wine and I got a Tweet that I saw from Triple H that he had passed and I was in absolute shock. Unfortunately it was true.
Wrestling INC: You've wrestled several times in WWE, in 2009 when you guest hosted RAW, you wrestled later that night. Did you have any training at all before you wrestled that first match on RAW?
Maria: I hope, Raj, you thought I was good enough and it looked like I trained. [laughs] I had trained prior to it. They didn't really believe me that I wanted to wrestle, I think. They figured oh, she's a celebrity. She's probably going to throw an elbow or something. And I trained really hard and it all kind of came together that night, which was so cool.
Wrestling INC: You also wrestled at that Tribute to the Troops, and then at WrestleMania 28 and worked with Beth Phoenix for all of those matches. What was it like working with her and wrestling at WrestleMania 28?
Maria: She is such an incredible talent. As a fan, Beth Phoenix is unbelievably talented. So, to even be able to be in the same ring as her was an honor and a privilege. So my experiences were incredible.
Wrestling INC: You've wrestled at WrestleMania, you've acted in movies, appeared in TV shows, and now you have a reality show. How did that reality show come about?
Maria: We've been asked for a long time to kind of get to it and do this and we've always said no. Eventually, the right kind of package came together and we had a good story to tell, or an interesting story to tell, and so we went forward with it. The fact that Kevin and I have been together for 16 years, we're not married, we don't have kids, my Greek immigrant parents live with us. They're very traditional and hounding us for all of those traditional things. We live this kind of Hollywood fairy tale, but we're not really Hollywood. There are a lot of different elements in there that were interesting not only to the network and the producers, but for us to share too. And this journey of when do you do all of these traditional things? How do you fit them in when you go wrestle at WrestleMania and do cool things? I feel like I am so blessed to be in this business and I want to get the most out of it. I want to experience everything I possibly can. I want to go to the moon. I want to do all of these things and I feel like… I struggle with when to settle down and do all that stuff.
Wrestling INC: What was Kevin's reaction to the reality show? Did he have to be talked into it or was he game?
Maria: We made it a family decision together with my parents. It was kind of like, we're either all in or we're not. For him, he's lived such a private life behind closed doors and kind of like the wizard behind the curtain, working so hard on my career and our businesses, kind of just shied away from the cameras. He never walked the red carpets with me or anything like that. And now he's front and center talking about his fertility issues and all kinds of things. Like I said, it's like once you make your decision, you do it.
Wrestling INC: This Tuesday's episode takes place before last year's SummerSlam and features WWE inviting you to wrestle at the event [she teamed with Natalya to face Brie Bella and Eva Marie]. In one of the clips on the episode, you talked to your boss about wrestling at the show. What was the reaction to that and what is the reaction in general whenever you have done these wrestling appearances?
Maria: It's always tough to get your bosses to sign off on something like that because it doesn't really help them that much to see me get hurt and then be out of commission here. So that's always a big decision for them. I always use the whole angle of well, it's such a big audience. Maybe we'll get more viewers here and we tried to make it mutually beneficial to both parties. But it's always a tough thing for anyone to kind of get behind, you know? Especially when it's not a full time thing. Luckily I'm able to get it by.
Wrestling INC: And what else can fans expect from Tuesday's episode?
Maria: I definitely get beat [in the match]. I spent two, almost two and a half weeks, definitely two weeks, at the chiropractor everyday after that to try and get my neck and back together. So it's definitely an intense match. You'll get to see a little bit of training. You'll get to see a little bit of the resistance that I deal with when I want to go do this.
Wrestling INC: That match has actually never been shown on television, right? That match against Brie Bella and Eva Marie.
Maria: Exactly. I think they might have shown a highlight of it during SummerSlam last year, but I think that's it.
Wrestling INC: Do you have any plans to wrestle again?
Maria: Oh yeah. I don't plan on retiring yet.
Wrestling INC: I know you're short on time. I want to thank you again for taking the time to speak with us and I definitely invite all of our readers to check out Chasing Maria Menounos this Tuesday.
Maria: Thank you so much. I really appreciate your support.