Since departing WWE in early 2020, Mike Bennett returned to pro wrestling this past fall. He unsuccessfully challenged NWA Worlds Champion Nick Aldis on the United Wrestling Network’s Prime Time Live! pay-per-view, and recently resurfaced in Ring of Honor where he reunited with his former tag team partner, Matt Taven.
Speaking on the Wrestling Epicenter, Bennett says his decision to go back to ROH came out of a strong, positive feeling for one of his first promotions.
“You know, it just feels right. There are a lot of times in wrestling where you try to figure out where you fit or what is right,” Bennett said. “But, I don’t know, for some reason, Ring of Honor has always just felt right. At this point in time, it feels 100% right!”
While ROH may feel like home again, Bennett recognizes that missing the live audience atmosphere is especially jarring. Even without the crowds, Bennett says he has appreciated being positioned to adapt to this new era of wrestling.
“It is different but I wouldn’t say I hate it. If you asked me if I prefer a crowd, absolutely. There is just a different energy when there is a crowd there that you can’t replicate,” Bennett said. “But, for me, I’ve enjoyed trying to figure out a different way of wrestling. It is more performing right to the camera, right down the barrel of the lens. You can play with things. You’ve really had to use your acting skills more than your athleticism because so much of what you do with your athleticism is heightened by the crowd and how they react. If you jump off the top rope to the floor, it will come off cool on television. Don’t get me wrong. But, it isn’t going to come off as cool as having a crowd going nuts for it where as if it is quiet, you can really focus on what you’re saying to your opponent, how you move around your opponent, what your eyes are doing… Your emotion. For me, the emotion is always the best part about pro wrestling.”
As mentioned, Bennett has reunited with his former tag team partner and stablemate, Matt Taven. Bennett says he wished the Kingdom’s reunion could’ve been done in front of a live crowd, but he still greatly appreciated having that moment.
“Yeah, I feel like that would have been a cool moment with a crowd because we were so emotional about it,” Bennett said. “We are best friends! We do hang out! He officiated my wedding! We are legitimately best friends! That moment literally gives me goosebumps because I felt like I was without my best friend for 5 years. Not only that, coming back to a company that embraced my return after a pretty lousy 3 years.”
Bennett’s ROH return marks the first time in nearly a decade that the Miracle has been without his wife in his corner. Maria Kanellis has accompanied Bennett to the squared circle in numerous promotions, from ROH to Impact Wrestling to WWE. Maria is still involved in Ring of Honor in a backstage capacity, but no longer factors in as an on-screen partner of Bennett. While the change is a bit jarring, Bennett says he wants to see how he can go solo.
“We’re at a point now where we want to see what we can do on our own,” Bennett said. “Like, she’s my wife. She’s always going to be there. So, when the time comes for her to be by my side again with Taven, we will 100% do that. But, Maria is very methodical. She likes to do things that people don’t necessarily see on the screen. She’s very much the puppet master where she’s got her hands in a lot of things behind the scenes. What people are going to realize is the brain Maria has for professional wrestling, she is going to be at the forefront of Ring of Honor moving forward not so much on the screen but behind the screen. I think she’s excited to do that role. I’m still not ready to give up being on the screen – And, I don’t think she’s ready to give that up yet either. But, I think she’s excited to get her hands behind the scenes and see what she’s capable of doing there.”
Bennett looks to be back in ROH for the for foreseeable future. As for what he aims to accomplish, the former ROH Tag Team Champion says he is after something that no specific titles or accolades can get him.
“I could sit here and say World Champion or Tag Team Champion. You don’t get into wrestling to not be a champion! But, for me, personally, I have re-found my life for professional wrestling,” Bennett said. “I want to live that life as a professional wrestler. I don’t want to be a sports entertainer! I don’t want to be carny. I don’t want to be a joke. I want to lace up my boots and make a living for my family as a professional wrestler because it is what I love to do. At the end of the day, like we talked about earlier, when people say, ‘What is this new Mike Bennett character?’ There is no character. I’m talking to you as a father, as a husband, and as a man. I am 35 now and I want to leave a lasting legacy where people say, ‘Oh, Mike Bennett. That’s that guy who really loved his family and was one hell of a professional wrestler!’ That’s what I’m after. I’m not after gold or to be on Mount Rushmore.”