Mike Bennett understands why WWE might not have reference his personal story on air but he wants to continue to use his own experiences to help people and make a positive impact on others.
Bennett recently spoke with Wrestlezone Managing Editor Bill Pritchard and talked about his WWE release and what his next move might be. Bennett has been very open about his battle with drug addiction and uses his platform on social media to try and help people and share words of encouragement.
The former ‘Mike Kanellis’ has used different mediums—social apps, video messages and speaking engagements—to try and reach people but one thing that didn’t happen was using his story on WWE TV. Bennett was asked if he ever considered using his story on television as a way to reach more people, clarifying that it wouldn’t be used for a storyline but rather just showing a WWE Superstar who overcame a personal issue and found success. Bennett says he did go to the company and thought showing a more vulnerable side would connect with more people, but there was never a push to make it a gimmick or portray it in poor taste.
“I had gone to [WWE] and told them I was willing to use my real-life story to try and use it as—I viewed it as a vehicle to help people more than as a story to get over. Personally, my story of sobriety and overcoming addiction can help people. I didn’t want to use it as a “storyline” to push myself. I wanted it to be where WWE could use it and say ‘this is where he started and look how he turned his life around’ and just use it as a feel-good story. I never wanted to exploit it, I just wanted to use it to help people.
“I had asked them if I could go out on speaking engagements and do stuff like that, but I don’t feel like it’s the right time or the right place. I feel like that’s maybe a topic they didn’t want to touch at the moment. It’s still a touchy subject. It’s hard to get people to talk about the fact that there’s an opioid crisis or addiction problem. I can understand why a major corporation might not want to go that route right away, but to me it’s important. I just wanted to use it as a way to say ‘this can affect everybody, but even though it can, there’s a way out. If you feel like there’s not a light at the end of the tunnel, look at this person who accomplished it and overcome it.’ That was my main goal.”
Titus O’Neil is another name who has used his position as a WWE Superstar to help enrich his community, and Bennett agreed that he was a good example to follow. Bennett was featured in a social media video showing his progress after getting clean, but he felt like continuing to show his progress and presenting him with the WWE label might go a long way with helping others battling addiction.
“We ended up doing a short video on socials, WWE.com, which I loved. They came up and asked if I wanted to do it and I said ‘yes, I would love to be this outlet for people.’ I love the fact that you brought up Titus O’Neil because that’s a perfect example.
“He does so much in his community and he has the WWE tag so it helps him further his message of spreading this goodwill. He’s a phenomenal person and that’s how I viewed it, let me go do that but let me go speak to people. They might listen more if you label it ‘WWE Superstar Mike Kanellis is coming to talk to you about addiction’ opposed to someone else who they might not know. Not that everyone knows who I am, but with the WWE brand on it and pushing it like that, I just think it would be a hell of a thing to do and help so many people.”
Bennett has used the mantra of “Process Over Outcome” and often speaks his mind, sharing things that have helped him turn his life around in hopes it helps someone else. When asked if he’s thought about doing more online seminars, especially since most people are still stuck at home right now, Bennett says it’s something he’s considered and his wife, Maria Kanellis, has encouraged him to host meetings that way as well.
“When I feel something or it clicks in my head, I like to put it out there and people can [react to it]. It’s not for clicks, views, likes, I like to express my opinion and my thoughts and so many of the things I projected online are things that helped me turn my life around. I’ve given up drugs, I used to be a terrible procrastinator. Through the things I’ve learned, just by surviving addiction, I just try to help people with that aspect. I’ve absolutely thought about it. I’ve thought about maybe doing Instagram Live—I’ll keep putting out the motivational videos on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram. Maria and I have had discussions where she’ll say ‘go on Zoom and just hold a session’ so it’s something I’m looking into, especially now.”
“My wife brought up a good point—there’s no way to stay relevant and keep your name out there other than social media. Especially if you’re not working for a major company, since I think WWE and AEW are really the only companies that are still doing broadcasts that haven’t been seen before. So it’s a question of how do you keep your name out there when you can’t be on a show like that? The only way is social media, so you have to maximize everything you can. After we got released we just hit the ground running. I just remember I got the phone call, Maria got the phone call, we took about an hour to think ‘holy shit, what the fuck are we going to do?’ and then we looked at our kids and said we have to figure it out. We have to provide, so what can we do immediately that can keep us relevant. It’s social media, so we’ll push the hell out of it. We’re hitting the ground running and seeing what works, and if it sucks, the fans will tell us. If it’s good, they’ll tell us that.”