Maria Kanellis

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Maria Kanellis

Kanellis in 2011.
Ring name(s)Maria[1]
Maria Kanellis
Billed height 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)[2]
Billed weight 130 lb (59 kg)[3]
Born (1982-02-25) February 25, 1982 (age 30)[3]
Ottawa, Illinois[4][5]
ResidesLos Angeles, California
Billed fromChicago, Illinois[1]
Trained byOhio Valley Wrestling[5]
Dave Finlay
Florida Championship Wrestling
Debut November 1, 2004[3]
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Maria Kanellis

Kanellis in 2011.
Ring name(s)Maria[1]
Maria Kanellis
Billed height 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)[2]
Billed weight 130 lb (59 kg)[3]
Born (1982-02-25) February 25, 1982 (age 30)[3]
Ottawa, Illinois[4][5]
ResidesLos Angeles, California
Billed fromChicago, Illinois[1]
Trained byOhio Valley Wrestling[5]
Dave Finlay
Florida Championship Wrestling
Debut November 1, 2004[3]

Maria Louise Kanellis (born February 25, 1982)[3] is an American singer-songwriter, actress, model, and professional wrestler, also known simply as Maria. She is best known for her time with World Wrestling Entertainment, and is working for Ring of Honor as the valet of Mike Bennett.

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, but was later hired by WWE as a backstage interviewer. Kanellis began competing in the ring as a wrestler in 2005. She also posed for the April 2008 cover of Playboy magazine, which was incorporated into a storyline on Raw. She released her debut album Sevin Sins on April 13, 2010 on iTunes.


Early life

Kanellis was born in Ottawa, Illinois.[5] She has two younger siblings; a brother named Bill and a sister Janny.[2][6][7] Kanellis grew up with an interest in playing sports, particularly volleyball, basketball, and softball and graduated from Ottawa Township High School in 2000, before spending some time as a student at Northern Illinois University.[8] Before her career in wrestling began, Kanellis regularly competed in beauty pageants.[6]

Professional wrestling career

World Wrestling Entertainment

Diva Search and debut (2004–2005)

Maria in the ring in 2006

She competed in the Raw Diva Search in 2004,[6] deciding to enter the contest after seeing an advertisement while watching Raw.[9] Even though she only placed fifth in the contest, she was hired by the company.[5] She stood out in the contest by giving fellow contestant Carmella DeCesare the finger after being eliminated from the contest.[5] Maria began making appearances at the Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) training facility under head trainer Paul Heyman.[5] She contributed booking ideas, and her work at OVW earned her a spot on the Raw brand roster.[5] Maria was brought on to Raw as a ditzy backstage interviewer and the host of WWE KissCam in November 2004.[10] Maria was given the dumb blonde gimmick despite having brown hair. She quickly earned a reputation as the oblivious backstage reporter—Maria seemed to ask the wrong questions, irritating and amusing WWE Superstars and Divas.[5][6]

In 2005, Maria began to get very physical—in and out of the ring. She was defeated in her first official match on the January 10, 2005 episode of Raw by Christy Hemme in a Lingerie Pillow Fight.[5][6] 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 by Trish Stratus and Mickie James.[11] In another physical moment, Stratus slapped Maria so hard that one of her fillings legitimately fell out.[5] On November 14, Maria competed in a non-title Diva Battle Royal at the Eddie Guerrero tribute Raw show. Maria stood by herself for most of the match, only getting involved when she saw the opportunity to eliminate a competitor, a strategy that proved effective as she eliminated both Jillian Hall and Victoria. She was one of the last three women left in the match but was eliminated by both Melina and Trish Stratus.[12]

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.[13] 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.[14] As Mick Foley questioned her, she answered, "Last week Bischoff abused his power in a way that was both malicious and capricious, and it's this rash of discourse that ultimately led to a locker room of disdain and mutiny, and it should be grounds for his immediate dismissal."[15]

Various Feuds; relationship with Santino Marella (2006–2008)

Santino Marella and Maria were an on-screen couple in 2007 and 2008.
In early 2006, Maria defeated Victoria in a match.[6] Afterward, she was attacked 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 that had previously been in the ring.[16] At New Year's Revolution, Maria was the first to enter the Gauntlet match and eliminated Candice Michelle and Torrie Wilson before being eliminated by Victoria. The match was ultimately won by Massaro.[11] On April 10, episode of Raw, Maria received a shot at the WWE Women's Championship, but was defeated by the defending champion Mickie James.

Maria teamed with John Cena to take on Edge and Lita in the main event on the February 6 episode of Raw.[5][6][14] Maria scored the victory after a spear meant for Cena hit Lita.[17] One month later, Maria lost a singles match to Lita after missing a clothesline and falling prey to Lita's DDT. After the match, Edge was preparing to spear Maria, but Mick Foley ran in to help her.[18] On October 16, Maria won a Fatal Four Way Bra and Panties match against Victoria, Candice Michelle, and Torrie Wilson to advance to the semi-finals in a Women's Championship Tournament.[19] Maria, however, lost in the semi-finals of the tournament to Lita.[20]

On the January 1, 2007 episode of Raw, Maria attempted to interview Kevin Federline but was instead slapped by Melina and called a "bitch". This led to a match between the two later that night, with Melina winning with a roll-up following a failed attempt at a dropkick. At New Year's Revolution, Maria and Candice Michelle ran to the ring during the Women's Championship match between Victoria and Mickie James to stop Melina from interfering, helping their friend Mickie to retain the championship.[21] For two consecutive weeks afterward, Maria had two tag team partners—Mickie James and Jeff Hardy, respectively—to take on Melina and a partner. She lost the match with James,[22] but won the other with Hardy.[23] As a part of her entrance when teaming with Hardy, she mimicked the dance he performs at the top of the entrance ramp, a moment she later claimed as a favorite in her career.[5]

Maria with tag team partner Ashley and Master of Ceremonies Snoop Dogg at WrestleMania XXIV

Maria began an on-screen romance with Santino Marella in June 2007. She also resumed competing in the ring occasionally, often jobbing, or losing quickly, in short matches. 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, who then went backstage, only to return with a Budweiser beer truck to hose down Marella and Maria with beer.

After former Playboy cover-girl Ashley Massaro's return in early 2008, Kanellis engaged in backstage segments where Ashley suggested Maria should be on the cover of Playboy, including at the Royal Rumble, to the disdain of Marella.[5][24] As a part of the Playboy storyline, Maria defeated Beth Phoenix on February 18, to "earn the right" to be on the cover of the magazine.[5] During her Playboy cover unveiling, Maria's cover was plastered over with images of Marella.[5][9] After Marella offered an ultimatum of posing for the magazine or staying with him as a couple,[25] she stated, "No man and no one is going to make this decision for me" and broke up with her on-screen boyfriend.[5] Maria, along with Ashley, (who replaced Candice Michelle) were defeated by Phoenix and Melina at WrestleMania XXIV in a Playboy BunnyMania Lumberjack match.[4][5][26] After the match, Maria passionately kissed the Master of Ceremonies, Snoop Dogg.[14][26]

SmackDown! (2008–2010)

Maria in 2008
Maria at Tribute to troops in 2008.

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.[27] For weeks, Maria teamed up with Michelle McCool against Maryse and Natalya, losing to them on several occasions.[3] On the September 5 episode of SmackDown!, Maria lost to Maryse in a #1 contender's match.[28] 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.[3] Maria lost a subsequent match for the title against then-champion Michelle McCool.[3] She participated in the Raw Divas vs. Smackdown Divas match at Survivor Series where she eliminated Jillian Hall, but still her team lost.[3]

On the December 19 episode of SmackDown! she got an upset victory over Michelle McCool but was defeated by Maryse in a number one contenders match for the title.[3] On the December 26 episode of SmackDown!, she served as a guest referee in the Divas Championship match between Maryse and Michelle McCool where Maryse became the new champion.[3] After the match Michelle turned heel and attacked Maria injuring her shoulder.[3] Maria returned and attacked Michelle during a match, On the January 21 episode of SmackDown.[3] On the February 10 episode of SmackDown, Maria defeated Michelle McCool following interference from Eve Torres.[29] She also competed at WrestleMania XXV for the "Miss Wrestlemania" crown, but was eliminated by Victoria.[3]

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

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 Michelle McCool and Layla.[3] She made her in-ring return the following week, teaming up with James to defeat McCool and Layla.[3] On December 14, Maria won the Slammy Award for Diva of the Year, which was voted for by WWE fans.[30] On the February 12, 2010, episode of SmackDown, Maria began an onscreen relationship with Matt Hardy.[31] On February 19 episode of SmackDown, Maria along with Matt Hardy and The Great Khali started a short feud with the Hart Dynasty after losing to them.[3] Her last match in WWE was a six-person tag team match on the February 25 episode of WWE Superstars, where she, Hardy, and The Great Khali lost to The Hart Dynasty and Natalya Neidhart.[32] She was released from her WWE contract on February 26.[33]

Independent circuit (2011–present)

Ring of Honor (2011–present)

Maria (left) with her real-life boyfriend Mike Bennett at ROH'S Showdown in the Sun in March 2012.

Maria confirmed via 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, in a three-way elimination match against Jay Lethal and El Generico for the ROH World Television Championship. At the event, Bennett was unsuccessful in winning the title.[34] Kanellis continued accompanying Bennett at the January 7, 2012, tapings of Ring of Honor Wrestling, where she was dubbed the "First Lady of ROH".[35]

On June 21 tapings of Ring of Honor Wrestling, Kanellis along with Mike Bennett, Brutal Bob attacking Adam Cole and Eddie Edwards but was stopped by “The Queen of Wrestling” Sara Del Rey hit the ring to stop it and attempted to put an ankle lock on Kanellis.[36] On July 28 tapings of Ring of Honor Wrestling, it was later announced Kanellis would be teaming with Bennett to face Sara Del Rey and Eddie Edwards in a mixed tag team match at Boiling Point pay-per-view.[37][38] However at the Boiling Point pay-per-view on August 11, Maria teamed up with Mike Bendett in losing effort to Del Rey and Edwards.[39]

Family Wrestling Entertainment (2012–present)

On February 25, 2012, Maria wrestled her first match since being released by WWE defeating Tara in the first round of the tournament to determine the inaugural FWE Women's Champion after an interference from Winter whom defeated Brooke Tessmacher early the night.[40] Later that night, Maria defeated Winter in finals of the FWE Women's Championship tournament to determine the inaugural Family Wrestling Entertainment (FWE) Women's Champion after the interference from Brooke Tessmacher and Tara.[40] She held the championship until March 24, when she lost it to Winter in a match also involving Rosita.[41]

On July 28, 2012, Maria defeated Winter to regain the FWE Women's Championship.[42][43] On October 4, 2012 at the Back 2 Brooklyn pay-per-view, Maria teamed up with Katrina Lea (formely Winter) in losing effort to The Beautiful People (Angelina Love and Velvet Sky) in a tag-team match.[44]

Crossfire Wrestling (2012–present)

In 2012, Kanellis has took part of Crossfire Wrestling as their Creative Director. In a wrestling interview Kanellis stated on the recent actions of Jessicka Havok, "We all need moments where we’re knocked off our pedestals, it makes us better." This is a high-profile match (with Jillian Hall) for her and she can think I have something against her or she can think of it as an opportunity to showcase her skills. For me, I think it’s going to showcase her skills and I only want to put on the best women’s wrestling possible. That’s why I became the Creative Director, so I can do just that. She has an attitude and I try to control that attitude, a lot of people in the past have had attitudes, but they can be the best workers in the world. I’ve heard stories about Shawn Michaels, back in the day, or I’ve heard stories about CM Punk and their horrible attitudes, but they’re some of the greatest workers in the world and you can’t deny talent and I won’t deny talent just because personally a person gets under my skin".[45] On the March 17, 2012 tapings of Crossfire Wrestling, Kanellis appeared in a backstage segment talking about the event and Jessicka Havok.[46] On the May 19 tapings of Crossfire Wrestling, Kanellis stated in a backstage segment she has suspended Jessicka Havok and hired Reby Sky.[47]

In September, Kanellis made her debut for Chikara, managing Mike Bennett and The Young Bucks to the finals of the 2012 King of Trios tournament.[48][49][50]



Other media

In 2004, she was a contestant on the reality show, Outback Jack.[8][51] She made it to the final three before being eliminated.[52]

Maria visited American troops in Iraq in December 2007.

During the week of November 5, 2007, she appeared on five episodes of Family Feud with several other WWE superstars.[53] She also appeared on the February 6, 2008 episode of Project Runway with some of the other WWE Divas.[8] On August 17, 2008, Maria, Candice Michelle, and Eve Torres were on an episode of Sunset Tan. That same year, FHM named her 53rd of 100 on their "The Sexiest Women 2008" list.[54] Kanellis later appeared on VH1's Top 20 Video Countdown, along with John Cena.

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.[5][10][24] She eventually posed for the cover of the April 2008 issue, with an accompanying nude pictorial.[8] For the pictorial, she chose her own wardrobe and made the black hooded jacket she wore in one of the photos.[9][26]

On December 17, 2009 she was a guest host on G4's Attack of the Show.[55] 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.[56] Kanellis was also a contestant on the Celebrity Apprentice, which premiered in March 2010. She was eliminated on the May 16th episode. She placed fifth out of fourteen contestants.[57]

Kanellis also began a singing career 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 webshow Funny or Die, and in March 2011 she launched her own perfume line called Signature. In September 2011, Maria will launch her DVD line in conjunction with Code Red DVD called Maria's B Movie Mayhem.[58]

Kanellis will be appearing in Manos: The Search for Valley Lodge, the upcoming 2013 sequel to the cult movie Manos: The Hands of Fate.[59]

Personal life

Kanellis started dating fellow wrestler CM Punk in late 2005.[60] They met during their tenures at OVW.[10] In June 2007 it was reported that they had broken up.[61] In a December 2011 interview, Kanellis confirmed she was dating Mike Bennett, she accompanied him to Chikara King Of Trios tournament in Easton, PA. [62]

In wrestling

Maria before WrestleMania 23 in 2007

Championships and accomplishments

Kanellis as the FWE Women's Champion


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