Mike Bennett: “WWE Taught Me What I Didn’t Want In This Industry”

Former WWE and Ring of Honor star Mike Bennett sat down with the Shining Wizards podcast to talk about his career and getting sober. Bennett went in depth on how he wants to use his own experiences to help inspire others.

"Whenever I get fans, or get people that I know that say things like that, there's nothing else in this industry that means more to me," Bennett said. "Because at the end of the day, winning world titles and having a legacy is great, but if you can affect somebody's life personally, what else matters?

"To me, the best feeling I ever get is when fans come up to me and say, 'my story helped me do this' or 'your story helped me do that.'  I've had fans reach out to me and say that just the fact that you (Mike) tweet about it led to a conversation with me and my wife where I came out to her that I had an addiction.

"Those stories, it gives me goosebumps to know that I can have an affect on people like that just by talking and just by being open and honest.  I feel like we're not open enough.  I feel like we demonize people when they talk about their issues or their problems and we tell them they're strange or weird when everybody deals with something.

Bennett continued, "Everyone either knows someone who went through an addiction, everyone has a relative that deals with mental health issues like depression, OCD, or anxiety.  It's something that is so common and so prevalent in this country, but we shy away from it when it gets brought up.

"It's like we can't talk about the fact that huge amounts of people in this country deal with depression, let alone the fact that we just had a pandemic and we were all locked in.  Now we're dealing with horrible suicide rates and horrible mental health problems and we won't talk about it?  Won't be open and honest about it? I don't have a huge platform, but I have enough of a platform that I can say to people that I don't need to put up this false bravado.  I'm human, I have kids and  I'm a husband.  I deal with mental health issues just like everyone else and I can still find a way to live a healthy, successful career.

"If I can do it, so can you.  I think that's important to get out because there are so many people in the entertainment industry that deal with mental health issues. And if we can stop putting on this fake perfect face that everything's perfect when it's not and be like I have bad days and I have good days. Sometimes my bad days are really, really, really bad.  And I need you to know that that's ok.  You just have to figure it out and get through it.  It doesn't make you a bad person and it doesn't make you strange.  It makes you incredibly human."

Bennett, who wrestled in WWE under the name Mike Kanellis, didn't shy away from both the good and the bad from his time with the promotion. Along with his wife Maria Kanellis, Bennett was among a wave of mass cuts from WWE in the spring of last year.

"It's funny man.  I took a lot of good things away from there," Bennet said.  "Everyone always assumes I hated everything about it, and I'm bitter and this and that.  It's the exact opposite. I think people get annoyed because when I get asked the question, I just speak the truth.  I don't try to sugar coat it and I don't try to think in my head 'what should I say so I could eventually go back.'  People ask me a question and I'm brutally honest.  Whether that's good or bad?  I think that's my sobriety talking, but that's just the way I have been for the past four years.  Like, just be honest with it.

"WWE taught me a lot.  I'd be lying if I didn't say that some of the people I met there, that I adore.  I got to wrestle at WrestleMania, I got to be part of one of the biggest wrestling companies in the world and I got to travel the world with that company. It was a lot of fun. I think the biggest thing I took away, which again, some people might take this as a knock – it's not a knock – going to WWE taught me what I didn't want in this industry.  What I didn't want to be.  It changed my love for what I wanted.  It was always WWE or bust.

"I got there and I went, you know what, this isn't for me.  This isn't what I like.  And I think that's ok.  I think that's a positive to take away from it. In WWE, I grew as a man, I grew as a husband and I got clean and sober.  There's a lot to look at in those last three years that I was there and be like, it wasn't all bad.

"My biggest frustration was that once I got clean and sober, I wanted to work, and WWE didn't want me to work.  They didn't want me to do anything.  I would push and push, and I'm like I'm not looking for world titles.  I'm not even looking for a push.  I'm asking you to just put me to work so I can prove to you that I do deserve these things.  They just didn't want to do it."

If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit The Shining Wizard Podcast and provide a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription