In an appearance on Oral Sessions with Renee Paquette, Ring of Honor’s Maria Kanellis talked about how angry she was after the end of her first WWE stint in 2010. Kanellis used the anger to motivate her in her subsequent runs with Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling and Impact, in order to prove WWE wrong.

“If I’m being honest, I was just so angry with WWE and how things had gone,” Kanellis said. “Just wanting to be respected at that time. Now I’m not angry. But when I was going through things with Ring of Honor and New Japan and Impact, I was angry. It gave me so much motivation. And I’m not saying it was good motivation or bad motivation, but it certainly helped me a lot to say the words I wanted to say at that time. I wanted to prove myself, and that was the thing. Every time I was out there, no matter what company it was, it was like ‘no, I can do this. You told me I can’t, but I can. And now I’m going to.'”

Kanellis would return to WWE in 2017 with her husband Mike Bennett, and would work there for three years before her and Bennett were released in April of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kanellis described that time as being in a pinball machine, and also revealed what led to her and Bennett heading back to Ring of Honor.

“It was almost like a pinball machine or something,” Kanellis said. “It was like ‘okay, I just had a baby. Then eight weeks later we’re released, and now we’re in COVID time.’ It was all this back and forth, and it was trying to just find your center in all of it. You’re mad because you had to stay home all the time, you’re mad because there wasn’t any places to work. So it wasn’t like ‘I’m so angry, I need a job or I’m so motivated to go out there and work house shows.’ You couldn’t do that. So there’s all this energy you have. And for me, I was eight weeks postpartum. It took awhile to really start to settle down. You don’t know what’s going to happen, no one knew what was going to happen with COVID. And so finally, our contracts were up in July. So we were like ‘okay, we’ve got to start figuring out what we’re going to do.’ We started reaching out, and we had already been reached out to by a lot of promotions.

“Mike started going back out there, which was terrifying. It was like ‘okay, he’s going out there. There’s this virus we don’t know enough about, and I’m home with a newborn and a two year old.’ He started going back out there, little by little, but because Ring of Honor did such a good job of protecting everyone, we had this bubble, everyone was tested like three times, you were tested before you left the house, I felt a lot safer. And then the time came where they called me. They were like ‘we have this idea for you.’ I was like ‘okay, I have an idea too. You guys don’t have a women’s division.’ And they said ‘that’s our idea.’ They had the idea of me coming in and produce the women’s division, and I wanted to come in and produce the women’s division. So then it was just timing. Once I knew that was happening, that was like ‘okay, this is what I’m going to focus on.’ But up until then, it was just ping ponging back and forth. I was like ‘okay, what direction are we going to go?’ But I’m so glad that we landed where we did.”

One person from WWE that Kanellis has kept in touch with is Paul Heyman. She credits him, alongside AEW star CM Punk, as teaching her the business when she started out, and still considers Heyman someone who gives great feedback and challenges her.

“It’s funny because I still work with him,” Kanellis said. “I ask him stuff. I want his feedback, I want to know what he thinks. When I started in wrestling, I worked originally down in Ohio Valley Wrestling. Paul was writing the show. He invited me to come early and read the script and see what he had planned out for other people. I was dating (CM) Punk at the time, so it was both of them that I was literally getting an education on wrestling and the history of wrestling. Every part of wrestling, I was learning from both of them.

“I’ve always had a fantastic relationship with Paul. We butt heads, of course we do, but I think that’s what I like. He’s a person that will challenge me on something, and he also thinks like I can conquer mountains. And so I do. I said to him the other day, I said ‘I hope I’m doing a good job. I hope I’m successful.’ And he’s like ‘you already are.’ I was like ‘yeah! I am!'”

If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Oral Sessions with Renee Paquette and provide a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription

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