Maria Kanellis joined Oral Sessions with Renee Paquette, and was asked if she felt had been given the respect she deserved for her sixteen year career. Kanellis feels she perhaps hasn’t gotten her due, but that it’s alright with her because she’s more focused on getting others to succeed.

“Mike (Bennett) and I always joke that we’re not the cool kids,” Kanellis laughed. “I feel that’s part of it, but that’s okay to me. I never really cared about that. I never really cared about being popular. For me, it’s about putting the best product out there, but also supporting as many humans as I possibly can. And sometimes when you’re doing that, you piss people off, and sometimes when you’re doing that, you go in a direction people are afraid of. That’s okay to me.

“I grew up with a father that was very loud and very harsh at times. Nobody scares me like my father did when I was a kid. So to go off against these different roadblocks, or these ‘no’s’, or whatever, that doesn’t affect me. So I’m willing to do it because I know there’s a bigger purpose behind it, and I enjoy creating those opportunities. So if I don’t get the credit, it’s okay because I see other people succeeding and that’s really important to me.”

Kanellis also talked about dealing with her husband Mike Bennett’s recovery from painkiller addiction, and how that, coupled with having two children, led to her focusing less on herself emotionally and mentally. She has started to focus more on herself and has come to the realization that she needed to cope with the struggles.

“The first part of his recovery, I shut off,” Kanellis said. “I was just like ‘okay, we’re going to get you through this and you’re going to live. We’re not going to lose our jobs.’ A lot of that. Plus, I was pregnant. He told me he had this painkiller addiction, and then two weeks later, I found out I was pregnant. I was like, ‘oh s**t. What am I going to do?’ So I had to really shut my brain and my emotions down completely, and just power through. But I think now is actually the first time we see what effects his addiction and his recovery had on me. So that’s something that’s part of the reason I’m so dedicated to Tag Me In, and the mental health initiative. It’s because you don’t know when those things are going to creep up on you. All of a sudden, I’m like, ‘holy s**t, I need to deal with me now. Alright, what did this mean for my life and my career?’

“I spent four years of my life taking care of an addict, and I didn’t realize I was taking care of an addict. And ‘those were some of the best years of my life’, as people like to say. I don’t think they were, but I was in my early 30’s at that point. And then it was baby, and then baby, and I didn’t really think about me. And now I am, and it’s weird how that hits you. It’s like you go on a trip with all the kids, and you bring everything for them, and you’re like, ‘oh s**t, I don’t even have any underwear.’ And that I think happened for many years. So now, I’m dealing with it. But it helps me to work, it helps me to stat telling this story of ‘yeah, it’s okay. After helping someone with their own addictions, their own recovery, their own mental health, it’s okay to start focusing on yourself and to take care of yourself.’ I’ve been trying to do more and more of that.”

Kanellis also talked about her goals in wrestling, which includes seeing a major wrestling show put together but all the major companies working together right now. She also once again brought up the subject of unionization, something she’d like to see and something she believes can be done.

“We’re talking consistently about unity in the wrestling industry right now,” Kanellis said. “And we’ve seen so much crossover between different companies. And we’ve seen now that everybody is friendly and everybody does want to work together. I’d like to see more of that, and I’d like to see a show that was based on that. I don’t know how it gets done. I would like a festival that is based on the idea of unity and all coming together. Just make it a huge party of wrestlers, and music, and atmosphere, and just celebrate wrestling… I was just on a call with Gail and Mickie talking about Tag Me In, and we were talking about how we can work together more. We’re going to try and consistently try to figure out those ideas of working together more.

“I’m also still a crusader of getting a union at some point. And now everybody’s going to take that and go ‘you can’t do that!’ Unions can have levels, and I truly believe that. And I truly believe that every company does not need to be a part of it in order for it to work for everyone. I think that, to have that insurance and that assurance that we’re all being taken care of would be nice. I think it’s necessary at some point. Again, it’s not across the board, it’s just the idea of having those practices in place.”

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