Former WWE Superstar Mike Bennett was interviewed this week on The Two Man Power Trip of Wrestling podcast.
The former ROH and IWGP Tag Team Champion talked about his recent WWE run, his release, winning the 24/7 Championship, his wife Maria Kanellis, Vince McMahon, his move to 205 Live during his final months in the company, his battle with addiction, the current independent scene, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Steve Bradley and a lot more.
Bennett went into detail on his time in WWE and he talked about the decision to have him use his wife’s last name. He said, “It didn’t bother me because I knew how the company worked. I knew trying to take my own name would be an issue because they want the rights to everything and they clearly can’t have rights to somebody’s real name. But when they told me it was Mike Kanellis, my first thought as a worker is that it is really good heat because I know a lot of people will be upset that a man took his wife’s name. It really didn’t bother me because in my head, a name is a name and I will let my talents speak for itself and if this is a way to get heat from the crowd instantly right out of the gate, sure, no problem, I’ll do it.”
Bennett said that it bothered him only when WWE didn’t turn the story of his last name into a storyline. He said, “But, they decided not to do anything with it and it turned into nothing. I took her name because I’m less than her and she is the bigger star. There was no story behind it and it became a novelty act. We are going to give you her name because that will really be funny, ha, ha, ha, but we are not going to do anything with it. If there was a story and a purpose and a reason behind it which is what I was told from the beginning, great, let’s do it. But if you just drop it and do it for shock value, it becomes lame and stupid and nobody can run with that.”
Bennett also talked about the lack of communication in the company, which is something that many wrestlers have said publicly in interviews. Bennett said, “The thing with WWE is nobody ever tells you what’s going on and that’s always the issue. My big thing is I’m a grown man. I’m 35. I have 2 kids. If you don’t like me or if you have a problem with my work, tell me so we can fix it. If we can’t fix it, let’s figure this out. Either let me go or maybe there is a different role. I don’t like passive-aggressiveness. I don’t like playing games or playing politics. If there’s an issue, tell me and we fix it or we don’t.”
On Vince McMahon, Bennett said, “Vince is always nice to their face, but, some of the things he’s done lately, it is hard for me to wrap my brain around. It’s hard for me to be ok with the way he treated my wife. I asked for my release. I was ready to go. I asked for my release 8 months before the pandemic happened. Do I have every right to be pissed that they didn’t release me then when I could have gone and worked somewhere or picked up another contract and then they released me when I couldn’t do that? Yes, that pissed me off. As far as getting released, I knew I was getting released. I wanted to go. My wife didn’t. We talked to them time and time again about firing me but not firing her. I wanted my release, she did not want her release. We were adamant that we were two separate talents and you should treat us differently. Not only that, but she had more experience with that company. She was there for almost 6 years before the second time and then 3 years on the second run, so that’s almost 10 years of service. To release a woman who is on maternity leave after giving 10 years to a company and then just fire her in the middle of a pandemic? I’m sorry. I think that’s a real lousy thing to do to a person.”