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On this hour: WWE superstars Mike and Maria Kanellis are in-studio along with Felger and Mazz producer Jimmy Stewart discussing their relationship, love of the Sports Hub and Maria’s days on “The Apprentice”. 98 Mile is discussed. The Stack: Could David Pasternak be on the trading block? Plus more!
We see Maria Kanellis backstage walking. She knocks on the men’s locker room door and Chad Gable answers. She asks if Sami Zayn is in there because he owes her an apology. Gable checks but Sami isn’t there. Maria tells Gable to tell Sami that the First Lady of SmackDown is looking for him. She walks off.
Back from the break and Sami Zayn walks up on lovebirds Mike & Maria Kanellis. Sami is a bit put off by their PDA. Maria says Sami owes them an apology but he says he’s already given them one. He goes on about how they should apologize for being in his way on two occasions. He wonders what they even do here and takes a shot at Mike. Maria delivers a big slap to the face and Mike cracks a vase of flowers over the back of Sami’s head. Maria talks some trash before leaving with Mike as Sami sells the vase shot on the floor.
The couple made their WWE debut (technically for Maria, her return) with a new gimmick, complete with an addictive theme song and hearts a plenty on the TitanTrons around them. Hearts appear on the stage and Maria and Mike Kanaliss walk out on the stage. Maria says she has been searching for the perfect partner. Mike says Maria found him. Maria described by saying, “The first lady is back in WWE to educate everyone on SmackDown Live about the power of love.”
[PHOTO CREDIT TO: KEVIN JACKSON JR. (UNDERTHESHUTTER.BLOGSPOT.COM]
“We’re bad,” Maria Kanellis-Bennett grinned. Her husband, “The Miracle” Mike Bennett, joined in on the laughter. The couple have been dominating Pop TV’s Impact Wrestlingthroughout 2016. It’s no surprise why the two are on top of the food chain. They were just as entertaining as their onscreen characters even when the cameras weren’t rolling.
“I’m the first lady of professional wrestling right now. I was the leader of the Knockouts Division. I’d like to believe I’m still the leader of the Knockouts Division,” Maria nodded. She continued, “I had it on a very good path. Jade and Rosemary recently had a Six Sides of Steel match and they were the main event of the show. I think that is the direction of wrestling in general. No matter if you are a big guy, a small guy, a girl or a guy—you really do have those opportunities in wrestling. I believe my character on Impact Wrestling was guiding the group of girls in that direction.” Maria gave a loving glance to her husband.
“I’m bad as well. I feel like I’ve been bad my entire career,” Mike Bennett snickered. Maria quickly followed up by telling her husband with a wide smile, “You have been bad.”
“I left Ring of Honor where I was with the Kingdom and now I am on my own as ‘The Miracle’ Mike Bennett. That’s a big reason why I went to Impact Wrestling. I am trying to get that top spot that every wrestler wants so dearly. It was the one thing that was promised to me—it was delivered,” Mike paused. He continued, “They told me, ‘Here’s the ball. Run with it. It’s up to you.’ That’s where I am right now. I am wrestling their main guys and trying to stamp my name as one of Impact Wrestling’s main guys.” The two have provided wrestling fans with many memorable moments throughout their run together. The dynamic husband and wife then switched subjects and went into detail about how they first met.
“Our first meeting was incredibly romantic because it had to do with…well, cheese sticks,” Maria told me in all seriousness. She explained, “Okay, so—we were doing a show. It was Northeast Wrestling. I was there for a signing and they ended up putting me in the main event. I worked that night with Matt Taven who was in the match, very ironically. Later that evening I saw Mike in the back and he was wearing a Ring of Honor hat. So, here’s my game.” Mike looked at Maria waiting for her to spill the details. Maria giggled, “I went up to him and said, ‘Hey. Do you work with Ring of Honor?’ That was the game that I had. Then he went, ‘Hey. Do you want some of this old pizza?’ Yeah, it really turned me on at that point.” Mike shrugged his shoulders, “I was eating really stale pizza.” Maria elaborated, “At every independent wrestling show there is always old pizza there.” Mike agreed with the sentiment. “Yeah, leftovers from the snack bar. Old hot dogs and all that stuff,” he said
Maria continued with their epic love saga. She said, “After that, we decided to chitchat for a little bit. Then we went to T.G.I. Friday’s. All of the wrestlers usually go out to eat after the show. I saw where Mike was sitting and I wanted to make sure I was sitting right across from him.” Never missing a beat, Maria finished her story by saying, “So he was sitting across from me. He gets his appetizer which were cheese sticks—and he is eating them with a fork and knife. I was like, ‘Who eats cheese sticks with a fork and knife?’ And he had no words. He just sat there. No words.” ‘The Miracle’ kept it real. “My plan backfired. I thought I was going to impress her. It really backfired. I was trying to be somewhat fancy. Little did I know, she just wanted me to eat with my face,” he told me.
“We were both dating people at the time so nothing happened. A few months later we both ended up being single. He sent me a direct message on Twitter,” Maria explained. Mike jumped in, “We were following each other. I just stalked her. I was like a shark in water. Think Jaws.” Maria exclaimed, “You creeper you!” They both laughed before she stated what happened next. She said, “So we were both single and we were talking for a month on Twitter and then through texting. I was living in LA at the time and he was living in Massachusetts. We were about as far away from each other as we possibly could be. He found out I was doing a signing in Philly while he was in Boston. He was like, ‘Hey. I can drive down so we can go out to dinner.’ I was like, ‘Sweet!’”
“The Miracle” nodded his head. “She told me, ‘I’m going to be in Philly. Is that close?’ I went, ‘Yeah! It is. It’s closer than LA,’” he told me. Maria finished the story by stating, “We wound up going out on a date. Lo and behold, instead of five hours that it should have taken for him to get there it took him nine hours. He was four hours late to our date. But…it was okay. It worked out.” The two gave each other a loving look. The couple’s chemistry makes it impossible for a television viewer to look away when they appear onscreen together.
“It’s a lot of fun for us. We always like to go on the goofy side. We do have to watch that a little bit. I’ll get goofy. He’ll get goofy. Then it just goes down that path. So we have to pump the breaks a little bit on that but we do have a lot of fun together onscreen,” Maria nodded. She then gave credit to the guys that worked tirelessly behind the cameras. She said, “I think that this year we had the greatest writing staff. We were given such a great opportunity to work with people like Dave Lagana and Billy Corgan. They really just took what we already were and what we already wanted to do and they just guided it along. I think that’s why the product was so great this year.” Maria firmly explained, “You had people who allowed the talent to grow on their own. They were basically there to be the bumpers like when you play bumper bowling. They were there to make sure the storylines stayed on track.”
Maria went on to talk about the hard work that goes into making professional wrestling the entertaining product that it is. “We are scripted. I know that some people shy away from talking about that. We are actors. We do have those lines that we have to keep. At the same time, you never know what’s going to happen while you are out there,” she laughed. Maria continued, “It’s like improv, acting, stunt work and everything rolled into one. You know…I think we are the greatest entertainers in the world because we do have to deal with so many different variables where you never know what’s going to happen and it’s always changing.” She then challenged non-fans to think about wrestling in a different light. “Think about a film or a television series. A lot of times the actors are receiving their lines months in advance. For us, we are receiving them the same day. We don’t know what we are going to do when we get to the building. When we get to the building is when we find out what’s going on,” she said. Mike urged her to continue. Maria said, “Even though it is scripted, there is still a lot of reality behind it in the sense that we are learning it as you are learning it. We are going out there performing something that maybe we only received in the last couple of hours. We talk to each other a lot. We really do.”
The first lady of professional wrestling detailed their creative process behind the scenes. “Sometimes we bullet point it to where we go, ‘Alright. These are the main points. Let’s fill in the rest.’ Once you are out there, you never know what the other person in the ring with you might possibly say. You have to listen,” Maria stated. She continued, “Sometimes in a film—you don’t always have to listen to exactly what the person across from you is saying. They are going by the script which makes sense with your lines.” She took a breath before explaining the science behind the art of pro wrestling. “But when you go out to that ring and there are thousands of people screaming at you and some person in front of the ring is giving you time cues…and then whatever just happened in the back and maybe someone took too big of a bump and they are hurting. They get out to the ring and they don’t say exactly that line and you say that line verbatim, it makes no sense. No sense,” Maria exclaimed. She concluded, “It’s like they go, ‘Oh yeah so the ring is red.’ And you go, ‘Yeah, the ring is blue.’ You just totally threw everybody off in that audience. You have to listen. I’ve done improv classes and that is one thing I work with all the time. You have to listen while you’re acting which is completely different than acting on a film.”
Mike Bennett then gave words of wisdom for young wrestlers out there. “I try to tell independent workers who are coming up that it’s a matter of how much you want to get into the actual entertainment aspect of professional wrestling,” he nodded his head. He continued, “I like to look at every aspect so I think we need to get into it more than just what we do in the ring. It’s everything. I talk to Maria about this all time. A lot of people in the business say that we have to be our characters even when we use the internet so people believe it.” “The Miracle” shook his head with disapproval. “I always say, ‘No. I don’t think we have to be those people online. I think we just have to be better on camera.’ You don’t watch a movie and think Arnold Schwarzenegger is really the Terminator. You don’t watch The Walking Dead and think Andrew Lincoln is actually a sheriff that kills zombies,” he said. Mike elaborated, “If you check out his interviews that float around the internet, he talks about his family and all the charity work he does. That doesn’t mean when you watch The Walking Dead you think he is the dude that talks about being the family man. You watch it and are enthralled because he is a really good actor. I try to tell people that we need to be better actors. It’s on us. We need to be better actors and performers.”
“The Miracle” echoed his wife’s earlier sentiments about the public’s opinion on wrestling. “We’ve gone past the idea where everyone thinks wrestling is real. We are past that. Everyone knows we are entertainers now. Now, we have to go to that next level where we are really good entertainers and where we make people believe without walking through an airport where someone goes, ‘Hey that’s ‘The Miracle,’’ and I slap that person’s coffee out of his hands and go, ‘Screw you!’ No. Now I’m just a real life jerk,” he said. Mike then stated, “One of our buddies said it best…we have to stop being the butt of the joke and start being in on the joke—like actors are. If we are going to go on Twitter and act as our characters to our fans, we are the butt of the joke. Everyone knows wrestling is scripted. But if we go and say, ‘Yeah, it’s scripted…but we are really good at it,’ now we are in on the joke.” Mike was convinced that fans will always be drawn to someone with an electric personality. “People still connect to good characters. They will watch a match and a move will take their breath away but that’s only temporary. They will watch it but by the end of the night they will remember how a certain wrestler made them feel. They won’t remember how the move made them feel unless it’s Mick Foley being thrown off of a cage,” he stated. He followed up by saying, “But even if you think about that, the reason why that moment was so big was because of all the drama that was added to it. It was him being carted off and then going back to the ring to still put up a fight.”
Maria nodded her head with delight. She fondly recalled memories of watching WWE’s attitude era and what made her a fan. “You have to care about the characters. I remember watching when I was in my teenage years. When The Rock would be on the show, I wanted to hear what he had to say. I wanted to know how he felt about something. Then he would go into the ring and I would get so angry when he would get beat up for like 95% of the match and he would comeback for 5%. I was just like, ‘Why do you suck so bad!’ It just gets you that much more invested in the characters.”
The couple is focused on making 2017 another incredible year. They both have dreams and goals that they want to accomplish. Maria dished on her recent college experience. She told me, “I’m finishing up my degree. I’m hoping to get my master’s degree. I have this little thing that keeps me inspired. Some day, I want to be known as ‘Doctor Diva.’ It sounds like a mean character but eventually I want to keep going with my degrees. I’m excited to be graduating in May from Johnson & Wales University. I’m in my last term right now.” When asked how she was doing, Maria said, “I’m good. It’s weird because I never got any As when I was in high school but now I’m a straight A student. I don’t know why. I think when you go back and you truly care…I didn’t care about college when I came out of high school. I wanted to go out and entertain people, I don’t want to be in class.” She then explained, “Now I truly care because I know what I want. I’m paying for it with my own money. That’s the whole other thing. I go, ‘Wait a minute here. That’s my money and my husband’s back is getting broken in the ring. I better work my tail off to get those As.’ I’m excited about that and as a couple, I’m hoping we will get closer and closer to buy our own house. Real human stuff. That’s the problem. We live such a gypsy lifestyle. It’s really going to depend on what happens in January.”
“The Miracle” explained why picking out a house is a difficult process. “We are nomads. I grew up on the East Coast. She grew up in the Midwest. We lived in LA together. We now live in Providence together. We don’t have a point where we can call home. We go where work and school takes us. When we decide to finally buy a house, where will we be? Maybe if we are in a particular place at a certain time that’s where we will settle down. It’s a gypsy life,” he nodded.
Maria and Laurel Van Ness make their way to the ring. Followed by Laurel’s opponent Allie. Maria gets on the mic and mocks Allie. Tells her that she can’t wrestle and isn’t in proper wrestling gear. Allie says that she has been training to wrestle. Maria laughs at her. Asks Allie who trained her. Allie gets in Laurel’s face and says Braxton Sutter. Sutter makes his way to the ring for this match to be in Allie’s corner.
Laurel Van Ness vs. Allie
Madison Rayne is on commentary. She sells this match on commentary, as if Allie is a complete novice. Allie hits a nice arm drag on Laurel to start things off. They both tie up in the ring, Allie escapes and hits another arm drag. Laurel fight back briefly, but Sutter’s instructions help Allie counter Laurel’s offense. When Van Ness does gain control. She starts to beat down Allie in front of Braxton, and taunts him. Allie eventually fires up, hits multiple clotheslines on Laurel. Then suplexes her. Allie goes over to Braxton for approval after every move, she executes. Both women run at each other and hit double clotheslines. With both women down, The ref starts the 10 count. Sutter gets on the apron to encourage Allie to get up. Mike Bennett is out and he knocks Sutter off the apron. Braxton and Bennett start trading punches outside the ring. They brawl up the rampway. Allie sees Braxton leaving and starts to panic. Laurel sneaks up behind Allie and attacks her. Van Ness then starts taunting a fallen Allie. Gets Allie back on her feet, Allie counters out of a tie up with Laurel and hits a reverse DDT on her. Covers Van Ness and pins her for the victory.
Allie defeats Laurel Van Ness by pinfall
Maria tries to sneak up on Allie after the match. Allie spots her and Maria runs away.
CRANSTON, R.I. (WJAR) — The woman at the center of “Celebrity Apprentice” firing spoke with NBC 10 News Wednesday, giving her side of the story.
Maria Kanellis-Bennett is a professional wrestler, as well as a student at Johnson & Wales University in Providence.
In 2010, she was a contestant on the reality TV show. As she sat with Donald Trump in the boardroom, she made a comment about another contestant that upset Trump.
“You came in our dressing room and took a crap, and left the stench in our room,” Kanellis-Bennett said of her co-star, with Trump replying, “This is my boardroom, not a locker room. Maria, you’re fired.”
Kanellis-Bennett admits her words were locker room talk. While she doesn’t apologize for it, she said the presidential candidate went way too far when he was caught on tape making vulgar comments about women.
“What Trump said is assault, and he’s making it glamorous,” Kanellis-Bennett said. “It’s disrespectful. It’s degrading, and it’s just plain rude.”
The former WWE Diva and Ring of Honor superstar currently performs for TNA Wrestling with her husband, Mike. Both have been in many locker rooms.
“If I heard a guy say that in the locker room, it would go from like, joking and then if they said what Trump said, you’d go, ‘What?’” Mike said.
Trump’s comments may have put the sleeper hold on his chances to win the election in November. For Kanellis-Bennett, they’re already down for the count.
“The President of the United States should represent the best of American culture, and right now, he’s representing the worst,” she said.
NBC 10 also asked Kanellis-Bennett if it’s safe to say that she’s voting for Hillary Clinton. She said while she’s not sure yet if she will vote for Clinton, she definitely won’t vote for Trump.
Donald Trump came under fire this week for vulgar, denigrating remarks he made in an audio recording from 2005, later excusing the conversation as “locker room talk.” However, “locker room” talk was the precise reason the Republican presidential nominee fired professional wrestler Maria Kanellis during the third season of Celebrity Apprentice in 2010.
Kaneillis spoke with ET on Tuesday, where she opened up about her firing and the 70-year-old business mogul’s controversial “Trump Tape.”
“He fired me for what I said, and what he said was much worse so,” Kanellis shared. “My hope is that he gets fired as the Republican nominee.”
On Monday, The Daily Show dug up a clip of the NBC competition series in which Kanellis told one of her fellow contestants, celebrity chef Curtis Stone, “The reason why I said you were so arrogant was because you came in our dressing room and you took a crap and left the stench in the room.”
Trump criticized Kanellis for her comments, which he referred to as “sort of gross” and “a little below the belt,” before dropping the axe: “This is my boardroom, it’s not a locker room,” he told Kanellis. “Maria, you’re fired.”
According to the TNA wrestler, she didn’t really “make the connection” between Trump’s language when firing her and his dismissal of his misogynistic 2005 remarks until she saw an article about it on Monday.
“When I first saw it I was astounded that anybody remembered it,” she admitted. “But then again, we are talking about a presidential nominee. When he is a hypocrite about things that he says, I guess then it starts to become a news story.”
WATCH: Nancy O’Dell Addresses Donald Trump Comments on ‘Entertainment Tonight’
Last week, audio was released of a hot mic conversation between Trump and then-Access Hollywood co-host Billy Bush, in which Trump said he could “just start kissing” women, among other graphic examples of sexual assault, because “when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
Trump has since brushed off the remarks as “locker room talk” several times, although Kanellis disagrees with that description.
“I don’t think that is locker room talk. I have been in locker rooms for the past 12 years in wrestling companies,” she explained. “I have been backstage, I have been in green rooms and I have never heard anyone talk like that.”
“When you are trying to become president, you are held to a higher standard. Even if you have a past. You should have been a little bit more careful, you should have never said those type of things if you want to hold the highest office in the United States of America,” she added. “So I don’t think it was locker room talk, I think it was assault.”
MORE: Celebs Slam Donald Trump’s Answers, Sniffling and Demeanor in Second Debate Against Hillary Clinton
As for getting fired from the show, Kanellis said she “knew it was coming.”
“[Among] the people in front of me [finalists Holly Robinson Peete, Bret Michaels, Sharon Osbourne and Stone], I had the least amount of celebrity,” she recounted, explaining that the show’s ratings “depend on popularity,” and that she had the least amount of name recognition. “I knew it was coming but I wasn’t expecting it to come like that.”
In the wake of the Trump Tape, many have called for the release of unaired footage from Trump’s 14 seasons of The Apprentice, citing the possibility of further examples of the politician making lewd or disparaging remarks.
WATCH: Mark Burnett Says He Cannot Release ‘The Apprentice’ Footage, But Isn’t Threatening Litigation Against Leaks
Kanellis said she could clearly remember one instance in which she felt objectified by Trump, which occurred in the boardroom when she was wearing a sleeveless shirt.
“I have a mole on my shoulder and he said to me that I should have the mole removed because it is an imperfection,” she recalled. “I just felt as if that comment didn’t belong in the boardroom, I felt as if he should not be making comments like that to me and telling me that a part of my body is an imperfection.”
“It wasn’t something that bothered me [at the time], but as a presidential nominee, it bothers me because of all the recent comments and things that he has said or that has come out,” she continued. “It just shows more and more of what his character is.”
WATCH: ‘Today’ Show Addresses Billy Bush’s Suspension Over His 2005 Conversation With Donald Trump
Which is exactly why Kanellis doesn’t think Trump would make a good commander-in-chief. “In my opinion he is a great entertainer, but not presidential,” she said. “I would like to be proud of our leaders and I can’t be proud of a leader like that.”
So how has Kanellis fared since getting fired from The Celebrity Apprentice six years ago? The 34-year-old wrestler continues to work for TNA Wrestling and now manages her husband, fellow TNA star Mike Bennett, whom she married two years ago. Additionally, she’s gone back to school to get her bachelor’s degree in sports entertainment and event management from Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, and is applying to graduate schools to continue her education.