Mike Bennett isn’t the same person he was during his initial run with Ring Of Honor, and he aims to show just how much he’s grown in that absence.
Mike Bennett recently spoke with WrestleZone Managing Editor Bill Pritchard ahead of OGK’s ROH World Tag Team Championship match against The Foundation. Bennett returned to Ring Of Honor last year after a five-year absence, including stays in IMPACT Wrestling and WWE. Bennett explained how important it was to make sure this run with ROH stood on its own, all while righting a ‘wrong’ and fixing things with Matt Taven and their tag team title goals.
In addition, Mike and his wife, Maria Kanellis Bennett, were announced as signing contracts in separate announcements, further solidifying that this wouldn’t be just a ‘reunion tour’ that saw The Kingdom playing the greatest hits or a return to ‘Wonderland.’ Bennett said personal growth for everyone involved led to a different approach, and Ring Of Honor fully supported them trying something new.
“The fact that they announced it separately meant a lot to me personally, and I know it meant a lot to Maria. But that was one of the things going into [it] that like, when we decided to go back to Ring of Honor, that was one of the discussions that I had with Delirious and with Ring of Honor management, ‘this is how we wanna do it.’ We’re very much trying to go in this separately. Obviously, we’re married. Obviously, we have a family, we’re always gonna be connected,” Bennett explained, “but there’s a certain time and place when you’re like, ‘you know what? It’s time to try something new. It’s time to reinvent yourself.’ Me and Maria had been doing ‘Mike and Maria’ for ten years now, and it was one of those things where when we reached out to Ring of Honor, again, it was a perfect fit. Because talking to Ring of Honor, talking to Delirious, that was exactly what he had in mind, too. When I had talked to him, he was like, ‘I want Mike Bennett, and then I want Maria Kanellis. And I want them to be two entirely separate entities, and I want to bring you guys in and show everyone what you can do on your own.’ And that meant a lot to me.”
“And I know when we decided to bring The Kingdom back, it was one of those things where it was like, ‘you know we can do the greatest hits. We can do all that stuff, we can reunite the band. But what’s gonna make this different?’ Because over the past five years, I’ve learned, I grew, I became a different wrestler. Matt learned, he grew, he won the Ring of Honor World Championship. He became an entirely different wrestler,” Bennett said. “So we’re trying to find this balance of like, we need the greatest hits but we need to sprinkle in some stuff [to make it stand out].”
Since reuniting last fall, Taven and Bennett have been determined to rewrite the ending to their story. Now they have that opportunity.
— ROH Wrestling (@ringofhonor) May 20, 2021
Bennett said that they’ve tried things like changing their ring style and demeanor, as well as the name of the group from ‘The Kingdom’ to ‘OGK.’
“I’m really on a mission now to show everyone who Mike Bennett is, not just ‘Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis’. I want to show them who I am, what I represent, the wrestler I became over the past five years,” Bennett said. “So all this stuff coming together is really really important to me. And I’m excited that Ring of Honor wants to do it with us and I don’t have to fight them on it, where they’re like, ‘No we want something different. We want you to reinvent yourself.’ So it’s really cool for me.”
During a recent promo for the tag title match, OGK spoke about re-writing their story and how they would pick up where they left off. While they were specifically speaking about righting the ship in ROH, a large part of The Kingdom’s story also took place in New Japan Pro-Wrestling, where they won the IWGP Tag Team Championship from Bullet Club in 2015. Asked if a return to Japan to show their growth was also something they wanted to do, Bennett agreed that they would love to return for their careers, but it would also hold some personal meaning for him as well.
“It’s one of those things where me and Matt both know that’s where we want to go again. We want to do that, especially with where we’re at now. We’re older, we’re more mature, we have a different mindset about wrestling. I know for me, I’m clean, I’m sober, it’ll be an entirely different Mike Bennett this time, but it’s definitely one of those things that we 100% want to do,” Bennett said. “I feel like when we won the tag titles at New Japan, that was kinda like affirmation and like that moment where it was like [people realized] ‘Oh okay, these two are the real deal.’
“And so the fact that they did that for us, I’d love to go and return the favor. And selfishly, I wanna go and work for New Japan because I think they’re freaking awesome, I love everything they do. I want to go back there, and now that I’m a dad, I wanna take my kids over there. I want my daughter to see it, I think she would love Japan. I want my son to see me wrestle in Japan. I think it’d be very cool. And I know Matt’s definitely on the same page as I am. To think that I had the opportunity to wrestle Shinsuke [Nakamura] and [Tomohiro] Ishii, I got to be on the same team as [Kazuchika] Okada, I got to wrestle Tanahashi in a singles match at the Hammerstein Ballroom,” Bennett explained, “it blows my mind that I was lucky enough to do all this. And now I want to do it again, so I hope I get that opportunity.”