The world is waiting to see what the future holds, but Mike Bennett is staying positive throughout the whole process.
Bennett recently spoke with WrestleZone Managing Editor Bill Pritchard this week about his WWE tenure and what the future might hold. Bennett and his wife, WWE Superstar Maria Kanellis, were both just released by WWE after a nearly three-year run because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Bennett initially wanted out of the company, publicly asking for his release in October after he’d just signed a new multi-year deal. He cited the desire to work more and felt like he had more to give, but his release was not granted by the company. Things were looking up as he started being featured on 205 Live and was teaming with Tony Nese. He says plenty changed in the months that he asked for his release and now, saying he was never “anti-WWE” and he just needed to prove himself again.
“There’s also an aspect of it that I spent 4-5 years addicted to drugs and I wasted those years. That, for me as a man,” Bennett said, “that’s incredibly difficult to try and comprehend and realize ‘well, you wasted those years and now you feel good, but now you might not be able to get those years back.’ Obviously I can’t get those years back, but now that I feel good and I’m healthy I wanted to go prove myself again.”
Bennett says he ended up working things out and eventually started working for 205 Live and NXT. Bennett was having the most fun he’d had so far in the company—and then the coronavirus changed everything. Because of the scale of the pandemic, he knew there was no way WWE couldn’t be affected by it and thought he’d get cut just because he wasn’t doing much, and he’d already asked for his release. He remained hopeful that his wife would remain under contract, but as we learned last week the Kanellises were two of the 24 confirmed wrestlers cut last Wednesday.
With no time to prepare for the news, Bennett says they spent an hour after getting their respective calls to panic, but looked at their children and knew a quick plan of action was needed.
“No. It was literally me, then her. We knew the releases were coming that day and we were hoping that at least one of us would stay on but it didn’t happen,” Bennett said. “I like to be honest and truthful—we’re terrified just like everyone else because we’re now in a climate where we don’t know when wrestling is coming back.
Everyone keeps saying to go out there and prove yourself. Trust me, nobody is more excited to just go out there and kick ass on the indies or whatever company could potentially want us, but nobody knows when that’s going to be and it’s terrifying, especially as a parent. We have a 2-year-old and have a newborn and we’re trying to figure it out. I feel for anyone that’s in that position. I don’t want to sit here and [get sympathy] because there’s millions and millions that are going through this. We’re right there with you all and it’s scary,” Bennett said, “I don’t know any other way to put it. It’s a scary time and we’re just trying to stay positive. We’re doing a bunch of social media content to keep ourselves sane and hopefully one of those things kicks off. We’re figuring it out.”
Before asking for his release, Mike and Maria were involved in one of WWE’s most memorable—if not infamous—storylines where Maria announced she was pregnant and berated Mike, who might not have been the baby’s father. Bennett says the storyline was pitched to them a couple of days after learning they were pregnant in real life (with son, Carver) by Paul Heyman and they knew they had to break the news to him before things kicked off on TV.
“I think we found out on a Wednesday and we talked to Paul Heyman on a Friday. He called us and pitched this idea of Maria and I working Becky [Lynch] and Seth [Rollins] and he went through the whole thing. A lot of the match was going to stay the same, but it was going to be where Becky put Maria in her finisher and Maria taps out and berates me for allowing that to happen, and the storyline goes from there,” Bennett explained. “When Paul pitched us all of that, Maria then had to tell him ‘Paul, I’m pregnant’ and he said, ‘well I guess we can’t have you wrestle’. There was a bit of silence and then he goes, ‘I have an idea… do you mind if I tell the boss?’ Maria said no, we were going to tell him soon anyway, so he says I’ll be right back and gets off of the phone. He called us back and pitched us doing it the way it went down with me getting my ass kicked and Maria getting tagged in before [the reveal and me getting berated]. I was OK with it because we were constantly saying that we’re OK with using our family, our personal life as long as there’s a payoff.
Maria knew she was eventually going on maternity leave so her goal was to leave Mike in a good position when she was home. He says he had fun with the whole thing and even pitched the idea for Ron Simmons’ RAW Reunion appearance with them, but once the Rusevs got involved, it was a ‘well… shit’ type of moment.
If there ever was going to be a payoff, I don’t know, but we were hoping that there would be, and we were told there would be.
Despite the lack of a payoff, Bennett says he had a blast with everything and cites the doctor’s office scene with R-Truth and Carmella as a highlight. That said, he does wish the outcome was different because he was portrayed as an inferior character as “Maria’s husband” and said nobody will care to see him if she wasn’t there to be his antagonist.
When asked about a few highlights from his WWE run, Bennett is proud of a few matches he had on 205 Live, as well as his program with Drake Maverick.
Mike Bennett also talks about the launch of his new “Non-Essential Wrestlers” t-shirt and reviving his podcast with Maria, using his personal story to help others, why free agency is wrestling is a “wait and see” issue now and much more. Check it out by listening to the full interview below: