Mike Bennett On Why Using Maria’s Last Name in WWE Didn’t Bother Him, Goals For ROH in 2021

Mike Bennett discussed his WWE run, using his Maria Kanellis’ surname during the run and more in a new interview with Wrestling Epicenter. Bennett debut in WWE with Maria and under her last name, a move that drew a lot of mocking from people online. Bennett explained why it didn’t bother him even though he has realized it was probably a jab at him and discussed his having unrealistic expectations for his WWE run, his goals for ROH this year, and more. You can check out some highlights from the interview and the full audio below:

On his WWE run: “You have this perception of what you want something to be and then it is not that at all. And, again, if you’re going to point fingers, point them at me. I had that perception. I grew up watching it on TV. I had the perception of it being the Wonderful World of Oz and it was just a man behind the curtain. I love that analogy because it is true! (laughs) If someone is at fault, it is probably me because I traveled that Yellow Brick Road. I believed in that Yellow Brick Road. I believed in that magical land of Oz and it just… It didn’t exist. Some people go and they are OK with it just being a man behind the curtain. And, some people go, “No, I want the land of Oz and I know it exists somewhere out there and I’m going to go find it.””

On using his wife’s last name in WWE: “At first, it didn’t really bother me. I looked at it like, “All right, this is going to be a way to draw heat or to get people upset with me.” Like, “Oh my God, if you take your wife’s last name, you’re less of a man!” But, I didn’t mind the name Kanellis at first. As I’ve gone past it, I would say it was done because there was a perception that I wasn’t man enough or I wasn’t tough enough because I was always tied to my wife. So, as I’ve gone past it, I’ve realized it probably was a jab at me. But, it didn’t really bother me. I’m a professional wrestler. I wear underwear for a living. (laughs) It is not going to bother me if you tell me my last name is Kanellis. I’ve done way worse!”

On whether he regrets how open he and Maria were about WWE after their release: “No, I told the truth. I’m an open book. I’m never going to lie just so people like me. People always ask me, “Are you ever going to not talk about WWE?” I don’t talk about WWE. When I’m with my wife, my family, my friends, I don’t talk about it. It is not important to me. But, if people ask me a question, I’m going to give them a truthful answer. I’m not going to sugar coat it because it offends wrestling fans or it offends WWE fans. I’m going to tell the truth. Maybe that is because I am a recovering addict because when you’re an addict, you spend so much time doing drugs and living a lie that when you finally get to the point of recovery, you realize the truth is so much easier and freeing. You can phrase it as taking shots and I see how people see it as that but I’m just answering honestly. And, when I see things like taking away people’s Cameos, I think that is bogus! When I see billionaires trying to stop people who made them those billions from making money, I think that is wrong and I’m not afraid to say it. I am sorry if that offends people. I don’t really understand why it offends people! Like, Vince McMahon’s not going to hire you. He’s just trying to make money off the backs of other people. If that bothers you, I’m sorry. I don’t know what to tell you. The truth hurts.”

On his goals for ROH in 2021: “I could sit here and say World Champion or Tag Team Champion. You don’t get into wrestling to not be a champion! But, for me, personally, I have re-found my life for professional wrestling. I want to live that life as a professional wrestler. I don’t want to be a sports entertainer! I don’t want to be carny. I don’t want to be a joke. I want to lace up my boots and make a living for my family as a professional wrestler because it is what I love to do. At the end of the day, like we talked about earlier, when people say, “What is this new Mike Bennett character?” There is no character. I’m talking to you as a father, as a husband, and as a man. I am 35 now and I want to leave a lasting legacy where people say, “Oh, Mike Bennett. That’s that guy who really loved his family and was one hell of a professional wrestler!” That’s what I’m after. I’m not after gold or to be on Mount Rushmore.”

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