On today’s episode of The Wrestling Inc. Daily, Wrestling Inc. Managing Editor Nick Hausman sat down with Maria Kanellis-Bennett to talk about her new role as part of Ring of Honor’s Board of Directors. Hausman noted that while women are seeing more opportunities in the ring there still appears to be a lack of women in backstage positions. Kanellis gave her thoughts on that distinction.
“It does in the sense that there aren’t many of us, but they do exist,” Kanellis noted. “Madison [Rayne] was doing a great job with writing over at Impact. Gail [Kim] is the foundation of the women’s wrestling division over there. I know that Brandi [Rhodes] was starting to do a lot with Heels. There is a movement of creating more roles.
“It started with the commentary positions, and now it’s starting to broaden out. I mean Renee [Paquette] really revolutionized what it was to be a female commentator in this industry, and she broke down barriers in that sense and gave more of a voice that has transitioned to a voice backstage.”
Kanellis went further into detail about her ROH role and spoke on the upcoming ROH Women’s Championship Tournament that she announced recently.
“The biggest thing is giving the fans what they want,” Kanellis said. “Giving them back an experience that they want and one of the biggest things that the fans wanted back was the women’s division, and unfortunately, last year, there was supposed to be a women’s tournament that got canceled. And it was really hard for the women that are a part of the division [and] are still a part of the division because that was the next step.
“The next part of getting a brand new Women’s Championship and having a bigger platform. That was the next step for Ring of Honor, and it didn’t happen. And then it was fighting with COVID restrictions, bringing in more people to have this women’s division and just not rushing it back because we want to do it right. We want there to be opportunities for the women that have been a part of the Ring of Honor family for a while but also for newcomers to come in.
“So now those opportunities are happening, and since January, we’ve been bringing in new talent and having matches with them. I wouldn’t necessarily call them tryout matches, but yes, tryout matches because this is a way of seeing these women live and in person once again. And with Women’s Division Wednesday, now the fans are going to be able to see that as we ramp up for the tournament.”
Hausman then asked Kanellis how involved she is backstage with the division.
“We’ve kind of called me ‘Mama Bear’ or ‘Talent Relations’,” Kanellis stated. “My role is to make space to find these incredible women that are out there on the indies that haven’t had a whole lot of matches to spotlight themselves and to shine that light on them, whether it be through word-of-mouth or matches that I’ve seen.
“A lot of great women are coming out of Texas right now, and they have run shows throughout the pandemic. So there is a lot of footage of those women, but it’s also a matter of word of mouth. We’ve got some incredibly talented coaches in Ring of Honor that have training schools, and so it’s also taking a look at women like that. So I’m very involved. My partner is Bobby Cruise, and on the daily, we are fighting for this thing.”
Paul Heyman has praised Kanellis many times even saying that Kanellis is “the most underrated creative mind in the industry.” Kanellis reacted to Heyman’s praise, and she described if she feels comfortable in her new role.
“That’s very kind of Paul. I think that this is just the next step in my career,” Kanellis said. “I think that after having 17 years in this business, and trying to be a sponge, and listening to some really great mentors, taking all of that knowledge and giving it to other deserving women that are trying to find their place in this industry, so in that sense, in kind of a motherly role, I’ve held that for a while.
“I don’t know if you know this, but my two other children are Matt Taven and Mike Bennett, so I’ve had the role of Mama Bear for a while. Now it’s just on a bigger scale, and this is what I love to do. Everybody always asks me, ‘Did you ever want to win the Divas Championship?’ or ‘Did you ever want to win the Women’s Championship?’ And sure, it was in the back of my mind, but the more important thing for me was to create more opportunities for others.
“So if I was this babyface that was okay with losing back in 2004 – 2006, then there were other opportunities for these great heel competitors to form. People like Michelle McCool and Beth Phoenix using me as the sympathetic babyface really helped bolster the entire division at that time. I like the role of a stepping stool for others.”
You can follow Maria on Twitter @MariaLKanellis. Maria’s full interview with The Wrestling Inc. Daily can be heard below: