Former TNA Star, Mike Bennett, now known as Mike Kanellis made his WWE debut on Smackdown’s Money In The Bank pay-per-view. He talked with wrestling legends Edge and Christian about his departure from Impact Wrestling, why he and his wife did not renew their contract with TNA, their debut and why this is the right time for a WWE Run.
According to Kanellis, he and Maria were offered deals to return to Impact, but the one-time X-Division Champion was unsure about whether he wanted to stay with the promotion.
“We had finished up our contracts with TNA, but we were still working there. The way I was raised in the [pro]wrestling business, it’s once you decide to leave, you leave the right way, so we wanted to make sure that we would tie up any loose ends and storylines, which we did. Maria did the whole wedding angle and I was kind of slowly pushed off TV and just doing that stuff with her, so I could help those people do what they needed to do, so I was just kind of in the background in that storyline because that’s just what I believe in. So we promised that we would finish up and at that point we were in between contracts. TNA had offered us to stay and they were offering us a pretty good amount of money. And at that point, I didn’t know if I wanted to stay.”
Mike was unsure what to do so he had to seek advice from Paul Heyman who advised him to contact WWE COO Triple H.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do because I was in that weird position where I want to take care of my wife and my family, but there’s still that itch, so I actually reached out to Paul Heyman and he actually was like, ‘yeah, I think you should reach out to Triple H and talk to him and see what he says.’ And so, I did. I sent him an email. And asked him what was… I said, ‘I was done with TNA and this and that and blah, blah, blah.”
While Triple H replied to Kanellis’s email, Kanellis still accepted that it may not ultimately lead to a spot on WWE’s roster. Eventually, Kanellis got a call from WWE’s ace recruiter William Regal about signing with WWE for its main roster.
“He emailed me back and he was really nice about everything and he was like, ‘alright,’ he was like, ‘I’ll have someone be in touch with you.’ And I’m so used to… I’m kind of jaded in [pro]wrestling, just through everything, so hearing that, he was really nice, so that was great. The most I took out of it was, ‘wow, that was really great – he was really nice about everything. Cool.’ And I was like, ‘but, if I don’t hear from anybody, I’m not going to be surprised.’ But a week later, or maybe, yeah, a couple of weeks later, I don’t know, Regal called me and they offered me a contract and I was just kind of blown away. I was just kind of like, ‘holy cow!’ I think it was like the end of January or so and I was just blown away. I remember looking at Maria and I was like, ‘yeah, they offered’ and she was like, ‘oh, well, what is it? Is it NXT?’ And I was like, ‘no, they want to bring us right up to the main roster’ and she was like, ‘holy cow!’ And I was like, ‘well, we’ve got to take it.’ And so we had to reach back out to TNA and be like, ‘oh, we’re going to go in a different direction.’ It’s this weird dynamic because you want to keep everything a secret and quiet, which is impossible to do in the [pro]wrestling business nowadays.”
Kanellis divulged that he and Maria almost re-signed with TNA, but Kevin Owens told the former Kingdom stable member to wait for a week or so before deciding.
“We had talked to TNA and we were actually really close to re-signing and it was like maybe a, maybe a week before we re-signed where Kevin Owens reached out to us and he was like, ‘what are you guys doing? I heard you are re-signing with TNA. I don’t think you should do that. That’s a stupid idea. You should come here.’ And we were like, ‘well, we’re going to re-sign’ and he said, ‘I think you should wait off a week or so.’ And when we saw him the first time at TV, he was like, ‘aren’t you glad you listened to me?’ because he actually put the brakes on us re-signing with TNA. And we waited and that’s when Regal had called.”
Kanellis indicated that he and his wife had to tell Impact that they were taking a break from pro wrestling instead of saying they were going to WWE because the duo was concerned that Impact would have broken the news.
“We then had to reach out to TNA and just be like, ‘yeah, [for]personal reasons, we aren’t going to re-sign’ because if you say something to them about WWE, it’s going to get out there because what do they care at that point? And you can’t blame them, but we were like, ‘yeah, it’s personal reasons – we’re going to do other things and maybe take a break from [pro]wrestling for a little while.’ Whatever you can think of at that point. It sucks for me because I had a great time at TNA, like the locker room, the roster, and I didn’t really get a chance to say that because everything was so quiet and, like, hush-hush about WWE, so it really hurtful me because guys like EC3 and Rockstar Spud, like, the Hardys were so great there, Eli [Drake]. Like those guys, the locker room was great and I think that’s what bothers me the most about all the crap that goes on because that locker room is fantastic.”
Apparently, the couple waited nearly three months to debut at WWE Money In The Bank. Kanellis said that the waiting was very difficult, as he and Maria are better on the road together than at home.
“Right around the end of March is when we officially signed our deal with WWE and we were just ecstatic. And then it was, ‘alright’ and we waited until they were ready for us. It felt like 10 years. You’re sitting there and in theory it’s lovely. I’ve been wrestling for 15, 16 years and in theory it’s great, ‘oh, I’ll have three months to sit at home and relax.’ But after 2 weeks, me, and Maria, and the dogs were all ready to kill each other. So yeah, it’s in your blood. You’re born to move, and go, and be on the road and wrestle.” Kanellis added, “we’re better on the road than we are at home together. If we’re at home too long together, that’s when we argue and fight. When we’re on the road, and it’s stressful, and we’re going through security, and have to find hotels and rental cars and where we’re going to eat, nothing. No problem. Smooth as can be.”
On the subject of his WWE debut, Kanellis claimed that he was excited and he admitted that he would not have been ready even after 10 years of experience.
“So we were sitting [at home]for three months at that point and finally we got the call from [Director of Talent Relations] Mark Carrano and he’s like, ‘alright, it’s going to be Money In The Bank’ and I’m like, ‘oh, wow.’ Then it hit me that it’s really happening.” Kanellis explained, “I like to think that everything in life happens for a reason and when I got to the building I was very relaxed and excited and I thought to myself, ‘do you know what? The reason it took 15 years was so I could be feeling this way right now’ because five years ago, having been wrestling for 10 years, I wasn’t ready for this. And so I truly believe that it’s just like build up and build up for that moment.”
After his long journey to WWE, Kanellis indicated that he will do everything he can to stay in WWE now that he has made it.
“I want to do everything in my power to make sure I stay here and never go back to where I was and I’m going to do that.” Kanellis continued, “I just want to be here now and that’s it. I’m going to do what I need to do to be here. And I did everything I needed to do to get here. Now, I’m going to do everything I can do to be here, and stay here, and just finish off here.”
Credits for the interview goes to the E&C Podcast.