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Maria Kanellis

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Maria Kanellis
Maria Kanellis 2016.jpg
Kanellis in April 2016
Birth name Mary Louis Kanellis
Born (1982-02-25) February 25, 1982 (age 35)[1]
Ottawa, Illinois,
United States[2][3]
Residence Ottawa, Illinois, United States[4]
Alma mater Northern Illinois University
Johnson & Wales University
Spouse(s) Mike Bennett (m. 2014)
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Maria[4]
Maria Kanellis[5]
Maria Kanellis-Bennett
Billed height 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)[6]
Billed weight 120 lb (54 kg)[1]
Billed from Chicago, Illinois[4]
Trained by Ohio Valley Wrestling[3]
Dave Finlay
Debut 2004[1]

Mary Louis Kanellis[7][8] (born February 25, 1982)[1] is an American professional wrestler, valet, actress and singer currently signed to WWE, performing on the SmackDown brand as the manager of her real-life husband Mike Kanellis, but is inactive because of her pregnancy.[9]

Kanellis has wrestled for Ring of Honor (ROH), World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), where she is a former TNA Knockouts Champion. Kanellis's career began as a contestant on the reality show Outback Jack in 2004; in the same year, she placed fifth in the Raw Diva Search, later hired by WWE as a backstage interviewer. Kanellis began competing in the ring as a wrestler in 2005, she released her debut album Sevin Sins on April 13, 2010 on iTunes.

Early life[edit]

Kanellis was born in Ottawa, Illinois,[3] she has two younger siblings; a brother and sister named Bill and Janny, respectively.[6][10][11] Kanellis grew up with an interest in playing sports, particularly volleyball, basketball, and softball, she graduated from Ottawa Township High School in 2000, and then went on to study at Northern Illinois University.[12] Before her career in wrestling began, Kanellis regularly competed in beauty pageants.[10]

Professional wrestling career[edit]

World Wrestling Entertainment[edit]

Diva Search and beginnings (2004–2005)[edit]

Maria competed in the Diva Search in 2004,[10] deciding to enter the contest after seeing an advertisement while watching Raw.[13] Even though she only placed fifth in the contest, she was hired by the company,[3] she stood out in the contest by giving fellow contestant Carmella DeCesare the finger after being eliminated from the contest.[3] Maria began making appearances in Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW), WWE's then-developmental territory,[3] she contributed booking ideas, and her work at OVW earned her a spot on the Raw brand roster.[3] Maria was brought on to Raw as a ditzy backstage interviewer and the host of WWE KissCam in November 2004,[14] her gimmick involved her asking wrong questions, irritating and amusing the roster.[3][10]

In 2005, Maria began wrestling and was defeated in her first official match on the January 10, 2005 episode of Raw by Christy Hemme in a Lingerie Pillow Fight.[3][10] On the March 14 episode of Raw, one of Maria's fillings legitimately fell out after she was slapped by Trish Stratus.[3] She also competed in a Fulfill Your Fantasy Diva Battle Royal at Taboo Tuesday for the WWE Women's Championship, but was the first to be eliminated.[15] On November 14, Maria competed in a non-title Diva Battle Royal at the Eddie Guerrero tribute Raw show, where she was one of the last three women left but was eliminated by Melina and Trish Stratus.[16]

On the November 28 episode of Raw, Maria interviewed then-Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff, and asked him whether or not he thought he was going to be fired. He then booked her in a match with Kurt Angle out of spite, and Maria was laid out with the Angle Slam,[17] as a result, one week later, Maria testified in the trial against Bischoff, who was being fired because of his controversial actions as General Manager.[18]

Various relationships (2006–2008)[edit]

Maria in November 2006

On the January 2, 2006 episode of Raw, Maria was attacked and stripped of her clothes by Vince's Devils (Victoria, Torrie Wilson, and Candice Michelle), but she was saved by Ashley Massaro. During a commercial break that night, Vince McMahon announced a Gauntlet Bra & Panties Match for New Year's Revolution between all five girls.[19] At the event, Maria was the first to enter the Gauntlet match and eliminated Michelle and Wilson before being eliminated by Victoria, the match was ultimately won by Massaro.[15]

Maria teamed with John Cena to take on Edge and Lita in the main event on the February 6 episode of Raw.[3][10][18] Maria scored the victory after a spear meant for Cena hit Lita,[20] on the April 10 episode of Raw, Maria received title match for Mickie James's WWE Women's Championship, but lost. On October 16, Maria won a Fatal Four-Way Bra and Panties match against Victoria, Candice, and Wilson to advance to the semi-finals in a Women's Championship Tournament.[21] Maria, however, lost in the semi-finals to Lita.[22]

On the January 1, 2007 episode of Raw, Maria attempted to interview Kevin Federline, but was instead slapped by Melina, this led to a match between the two later that night, which Melina won. At New Year's Revolution, Maria and Candice ran to the ring during the Women's Championship match between Victoria and Mickie James to stop Melina from interfering, helping James retain the title;[23] in the following weeks she faced Melina in two tag team matches, where she won one.[24][25]

Maria began an on-screen romance with Santino Marella in June 2007, on the November 5 episode of Raw, Marella was confronted by the returning Stone Cold Steve Austin for criticizing his movie, The Condemned. As a part of the storyline, the argument ended as Marella received a Stone Cold Stunner from Austin.

After former Playboy cover-girl Ashley Massaro's return in early 2008, Kanellis engaged in backstage segments where Massaro suggested Maria should be on the cover of Playboy.[3][26] As a part of the storyline, Maria defeated Beth Phoenix on February 18, to "earn the right" to be on the cover of the magazine,[3] during her Playboy cover unveiling, Maria's cover was plastered over with images of Marella.[3][13] After Marella offered an ultimatum of posing for the magazine or staying with him as a couple,[27] she then d broke up with him.[3] Maria, along with Ashley were defeated by Phoenix and Melina at WrestleMania XXIV in a Playboy BunnyMania Lumberjill match.[2][3][28] After the match, Maria passionately kissed the Master of Ceremonies, Snoop Dogg,[18][28] the next night on Raw, Maria wrestled Marella, but the match ended by desqualificatio. This ended their feud.

Championship pursuits and various alliances (2008–2010)[edit]

As part of the 2008 WWE supplemental draft, Maria was drafted to the SmackDown brand, she made her debut on the August 1 episode of SmackDown by defeating Victoria.[29][30] On the October 17 episode of SmackDown!, Maria won a "Las Vegas Dice on a Pole" match to become the number one contender for the WWE Divas Championship,[31] but lost for the title against then-champion Michelle McCool.[32]

Maria at the 2008 Tribute to the Troops event

Maria participated in the Raw vs. Smackdown Divas match at Survivor Series, where she eliminated Jillian Hall before her team lost the match,[33] on the December 5 episode of SmackDown!, Maria got an upset victory over the Divas Champion Michelle McCool, but she was defeated by Maryse in a number one contender's match for the title two weeks later.[34][35] At the Armageddon on December 14, Maria was part of the winning team of an Santa's Little Helper tag team match.[36][37] On the December 26 episode of SmackDown!, she served as a special guest referee in the Divas Championship match between Maryse and McCool, where Maryse became the new champion. After the match, McCool turned heel and attacked Maria, injuring her shoulder. Maria returned and attacked McCool during a match, on the January 23, 2009, episode of SmackDown, on the February 13 episode of SmackDown, she defeated McCool following interference from Eve Torres.[38] Over the next several weeks, Maria competed in various tag-team matches against McCool, with Maria winning three out of four matches,[39][40] she also competed at WrestleMania XXV for the "Miss WrestleMania" crown, but was eliminated by Victoria. Throughout June, Maria served as the special guest referee in Diva matches.

Maria made her in-ring return on the July 3 episode of SmackDown, teaming with Melina to defeat LayCool (Michelle McCool and Layla).[41] Soon after, she entered into an on-screen relationship with Dolph Ziggler, despite her being a fan favorite and him being a villainous character,[42][43] at Night of Champions, Maria accompanied Ziggler to his match with Rey Mysterio for Intercontinental Championship.[44] In the following weeks, Melina implied that Ziggler was cheating on Maria, which Maria did not believe.[45] Maria and Ziggler later broke up on the October 10 episode of SmackDown in a backstage segment, after she cost him his match with John Morrison.[46]

Maria then took a brief hiatus from the ring to film the Celebrity Apprentice, but returned on the December 4 episode of SmackDown by helping Mickie James fend off an attack by LayCool. She made her in-ring return the following week, teaming up with James to defeat LayCool, on December 14, Maria won the Slammy Award for Diva of the Year, which was voted for by WWE fans.[47] On the February 12, 2010, episode of SmackDown, Maria began a brief on-screen relationship with Matt Hardy,[48] on February 26, Maria was released from her contract.[49]

Ring of Honor (2011–2015)[edit]

Maria confirmed on her Twitter account that she would be appearing at Ring of Honor's Final Battle pay-per-view on December 23, 2011. She accompanied her real-life boyfriend, Mike Bennett, as a villainess, in a three-way elimination match for the ROH World Television Championship, where he won.[50] On January 7, 2012, tapings of Ring of Honor Wrestling, she was dubbed the "First Lady of ROH".[51]

Maria in the ring during a Ring of Honor show in 2013

At the June 21 tapings of Ring of Honor Wrestling, Kanellis accompanied Bennett and Brutal Bob Evans to the ring, where they lost to Eddie Edwards and Adam Cole. After the match, Kanellis, Bennett and Bob attacked Cole and Edwards, but were stopped by Sara Del Rey, who Edwards had brought in to neutralize Kanellis,[52] at the Boiling Point on August 11, Maria and Bennett lost to Del Rey and Edwards in an mixed tag team match.[53] In September 2012, Kanellis and Bennett became involved in a storyline with Mike Mondo after he kissed Kanellis during one of Bennett's matches, on Glory by Honor in October, Bennett defeated Mondo to end the feud. On December 16 at Final Battle 2012: Doomsday, Kanellis along with Bob accompanied Bennett to the ring where he defeated Jerry Lynn in his final ROH match before retirement,[54] on September 19, 2013, Maria and Bennett defeated The Brutal Burgers (Brutal Bob Evans & Cheeseburger) in a Intergender tag team match.[55] On October 26, during Bennett's match with Kevin Steen at the Glory by Honor XII, Kanellis tried to interfere but was attacked by Lisa Marie Varon.[56]

Kanellis and Bennett returned to ROH at the January 4, 2014, tapings of Ring of Honor Wrestling which aired on February 1, with Kanellis helping Bennett defeat Cedric Alexander.[57] Throughout the summer, Maria and Bennett would get involved in Matt Hardy's feud with The Briscoes,[58] during the feud, The Kingdom stole Jay Briscoe's title; Matt Hardy customized it as the Iconic Championship. At All Stars Extravaganza 6, Bennett and Maria customized the title as the Championship of Love, they were interrupted by Jay Briscoe's brother, Mark. Bennett and Kanellis left ROH after the December 19, 2015, Ring of Honor Wrestling taping, after failing to come to terms on a new contract with the promotion.[59]

Other promotions (2012–2015)[edit]

On February 25, 2012, Maria won a tournament to determine the inaugural Family Wrestling Entertainment (FWE) Women's Champion, the victory also marked Kanellis' first championship in professional wrestling.[60] She held the championship until March 24, when she lost it to Winter in a three-way match also involving Rosita;[61] in July, Kanellis regained the championship from Winter.[62] Kanellis successfully defended her title against Angelina Love at FWE: No Limits.[63]

In September 2012, Kanellis made her debut for Chikara, managing Mike Bennett and The Young Bucks to the finals of the 2012 King of Trios tournament.[64][65][66] Alongside Gavin Loudspeaker, Kanellis hosted the 2014 National Pro Wrestling Day, on October 4, 2014, Maria lost the FWE Women's Championship against Ivelisse Vélez

New Japan Pro Wrestling (2015)[edit]

On April 6, 2015, Kanellis managed Bennett and Matt Taven to capture New Japan Pro Wrestling's IWGP Tag Team Championship at Invasion Attack 2015. The following day, NJPW announced that, due to Kanellis' popularity, the promotion had booked its first match involving female wrestlers since October 2002, which would see Kanellis team up with Bennett and Taven to take on Amber Gallows, Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson at Wrestling Dontaku 2015 on May 3.[67] Kanellis pinned Amber to win the match,[68] on July 5 at Dominion 7.5 in Osaka-jo Hall, Kanellis accompanied Bennett and Taven to their first IWGP Tag Team Championship defense against Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson. The Kingdom lost the match and the championship, after Doc Gallows superkicked Kanellis, which distracted Bennett, leaving Taven alone to lose the match.[69]

Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2016–2017)[edit]

On January 5, 2016, during Impact Wrestling's premiere on Pop TV, Maria made her debut as a heel introducing her husband as "The Miracle" Mike Bennett.[70][71][72] In February, Maria began a feud with Gail Kim after Kim refused Maria's help to make her go "mainstream".[73][74] On the April 19 episode of Impact Wrestling, Maria won a ladder match to become the new TNA Knockouts Division Commissioner.[75] During the feud between Maria and Gail Kim, where a singles match was set up for Slammiversary, on June 10, Maria then revealed on her Instagram account that she suffered a broken hand,[76] and therefore she was not medically cleared to compete at Slammiversary and her match with Kim was called off. Kim was therefore added to the Knockouts Championship match, making it a triple threat match.

On the September 1, episode of Impact Wrestling, Maria berated and forcibly pinned her apprentice Allie to win the TNA Women's Knockout Championship for the first time in her career.[77] On October 2 at the Bound for Glory pay-per-view, Kim defeated Maria for the title, ending her reign at 50 days,[78][79] on March 1, 2017, it was announced that Kanellis, along with her husband, had departed TNA.[80]

Return to WWE (2017–present)[edit]

On June 18, 2017, Kanellis returned to WWE alongside her husband Mike Kanellis in his WWE debut at Money in the Bank, establishing the Kanellis couple as heels for the first time in Maria's WWE career.[81][5][82] On the July 18 episode of SmackDown, Maria helped Mike Kanellis to defeat Sami Zayn in his WWE debut match;[83] in September, Kanellis went on a leave of absence from WWE, following her pregnancy announcement.[84]

Other media[edit]

Maria signing autographs at the 2011 Chicago Comic Con

In 2004, she was a contestant on the reality show, Outback Jack,[12][85] she made it to the final three before being eliminated.[86]

During the week of November 5, 2007, she appeared on five episodes of Family Feud with several other WWE superstars,[87] she also appeared on the February 6, 2008 episode of Project Runway with some of the other WWE Divas.[12] On August 17, 2008, Maria, Candice Michelle, and Eve Torres were on an episode of Sunset Tan. Kanellis later appeared on VH1's Top 20 Video Countdown, along with John Cena, on December 17, 2009, she was a guest host on G4's Attack of the Show.[88] Kanellis began a new career as a mixed martial arts announcer for HDNet on March 26, 2010 at the King of the Cage event in Reno, Nevada.[89] Kanellis was also a contestant on the Celebrity Apprentice, which premiered in March 2010, she was eliminated on the May 16 episode. She placed fifth out of fourteen contestants.[90]

Kanellis was first asked to pose for Playboy when she was nineteen years old, but she turned down the offer in fear of embarrassing her sister.[3][14][26] She eventually posed for the cover of the April 2008 issue, with an accompanying nude pictorial,[12] for the pictorial, she chose her own wardrobe and made the black hooded jacket she wore in one of the photos.[13][28] That same year, FHM named her 53rd of 100 on their "The Sexiest Women 2008" list,[91] with WWE transitioning to PG content a few months after Kanellis's pictorial and WWE dropping its use of the term WWE Diva in 2016 in favor of referring to the female talent as WWE Superstars along with the men, Kanellis was ultimately the last active WWE Diva to pose nude for the magazine.

Kanellis is also a singer and released her debut album Sevin Sins on April 13, 2010, with "Fantasy" as the first single.

In early 2011, Kanellis starred in online comedy web show Funny or Die, and in March 2011 she launched her own perfume line called Signature; in September 2011, Kanellis launched her DVD line in conjunction with Code Red DVD called Maria's B Movie Mayhem.[92]

In January 2014, Kanellis and Bennett launched a weekly podcast called Mike & Maria in Wonderland.[93]

Discography[edit]

EPs[edit]

Filmography[edit]

List of film performances
Year Title Role Notes Source
2012 Mother Hen Kelly
2013 Army of the Damned Terry
2014 The Opposite Sex Hot Mess
2017 The Santa Files Herself
List of television performances
Year Title Role Notes Source
2004 Outback Jack Herself [12]
2007 Family Feud Herself [87]
2008 Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed Herself
2008 Project Runway Herself [12]
2008 Sunset Tan Herself
2009 Attack of the Show Herself [88]
2010 Celebrity Apprentice Herself [90]
2010 Cubed Herself
2011 Swallow: The Series Vicki

Personal life[edit]

Maria and Mike Bennett at an indy wrestling show in October 2015

Kanellis previously dated fellow wrestler CM Punk;[14] in a December 2011 interview, Kanellis confirmed she was dating Mike Bennett, and they later got engaged.[94][95] On October 10, 2014, Kanellis and Bennett married.[96]

In 2013, Kanellis was announced as one of the recipients of WWE's Talent Scholarship, which she utilized to obtain a degree in Sports, Entertainment, and Event Management from Johnson & Wales University, graduating in May 2017.[97][98]

On September 25, 2017, Kanellis announced she and Bennett were expecting their first child.[99]

In wrestling[edit]

Maria along her tag team partner Ashley and Master of Ceremonies Snoop Dogg at WrestleMania XXIV.
Maria with Mike Bennett and Matt Taven in October 2015

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

References[edit]

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