maria kanellis bennett

Maria Kanellis Bennett: New Documentary Gives ‘Heart And Soul’ To Women In Wrestling, Found ROH Experience Rewarding

Maria Kanellis-Bennett is excited for fans to get a behind-the-scenes look at the Ring of Honor women’s division through “This is Women’s Wrestling”, a documentary that highlights the resurgent group’s journey throughout 2021.

Kanellis-Bennett, often called “The First Lady of ROH”, worked with Bobby Cruise to rebuild the ROH women’s division last year; this initiative was showcased by the Women’s World Championship Tournament, which culminated at the Death Before Dishonor pay-per-view. There, Rok-C defeated Miranda Alize to become ROH’s first Women’s World Champion, and she proceeded to defend the title throughout the fall. But when ROH officials announced the plan to go on hiatus in the first quarter of 2022, the future of the company and its newly revamped women’s division became quite unclear.

This uncertainty remains, as ROH is set to begin an entirely new era upon its return in April. But in the meantime, the promotion will shine a light on the recent past with the documentary about the women’s division. In a new interview with WrestleZone, Kanellis-Bennett shared her thoughts on the experience. First, she complimented the ROH production team and stated that the way this footage will give fans a more substantial understanding of the tournament makes it “worth it.”

“The entire Ring of Honor production was amazing working with us, allowing us to kinda get all the behind-the-scenes stuff and shooting over shoulders, which isn’t always the most comfortable feeling in the world,” said Kanellis-Bennett. “But to be able to give that to the fans, to give you a little bit more knowledge of what it takes to be a professional wrestler. The thoughts and feelings that we have going into a tournament, that is worth it. That’s worth every moment of it.”

When asked about the tournament itself, “The First Lady of ROH” named the remarkable growth of the women involved as the most rewarding part of the whole process. She recalled how, early on, the performers were reasonably nervous, but they gradually evolved into stars who were ready to carry the division moving forward. Kanellis-Bennett pointed out the uncertainty surrounding the division right now, but she also stated that it holds up against any other group in the wrestling world. She then emphasized how rewarding it has been to see these women’s wrestlers continue to blossom months after the tournament ended.

“So at the beginning of the year, when women were coming in to do tryout matches, in essence, and it really gauged if they belong with the Ring of Honor style and the Ring of Honor crew, you saw the nerves in them,” said Kanellis-Bennett. “You didn’t really know them as a person, how they are at home, at the very beginning because you go into any company and you’re nervous at first. And then watching them transition to these performers and watching them really do the type of wrestling they believe in, especially people like Trish Adora and people like Rok-C and Miranda Alize, you watch them transform throughout the entire year. And by the end of last year, they were ready to go.

“They were ready to dive into what comes next for this Ring of Honor women’s division, and unfortunately, I don’t know what that is now. But they were ready. I put these women up against any division at any time. All of them are doing fantastic things, and that to me is the most rewarding part, is to see them create their own opportunities outside of Ring of Honor now, with that basis of going, ‘Okay I did that. And now I can grow.'”

On the other hand, Kanellis-Bennett recalled how overcoming stigmas within the wrestling world was one of the most challenging parts of her work with the women’s division in 2021. Specifically, she described how performers are often conditioned to have a fear-based approach to their matches, whereas she wanted to help them gain confidence and show their art to the world. In the end, “The First Lady of ROH” believes they succeeded in this regard.

“Stigmas,” said Kanellis-Bennett. “Everybody in wrestling, they come in with this idea of what they think wrestling is, or what it has been in the past. And to push past that, to say to them, ‘Even if you have a bad night, that does not make you a bad wrestler. It does not make you a bad person.’ So we will give opportunities over and over again to people that we believe in, that are good humans, and that are working their butts off to do well out there in the ring.

“So getting past that initial, you know, that fear response and just giving people a platform and saying, ‘Go perform, I already know you can. I’ve watched you in Podunk, Missouri, or I watched you down in Texas, I’ve seen your matches. I know what you can do. Now bring that here with the same confidence that you do in your own home promotions. Because I want that wrestler, and I think we got there throughout the year….I believe that having a place that you can go and show your art, that produces great performances. And that’s what we were able to accomplish.”

Despite ROH’s unclear road forward, Kanellis-Bennett views the outcome of the tournament as a “gift” to the entire wrestling industry; over a dozen talented competitors were part of the bracket, and many of them have been flourishing in a number of ways ever since.

“I think it’s a gift to the wrestling industry because now there are 15 women that came out of this tournament and about 22 women we worked with in general over the past year that are now out there performing,” said Kanellis-Bennett. “And a lot of them have really made themselves into stars. So that’s the most important thing that came out of it, the people that came out of it.”

Kanellis-Bennett highlighted Max The Impaler, Amy Rose, and Mazzerati as performers who specifically impressed her with their growth throughout their work with ROH in 2021.

In closing, Kanellis-Bennett again emphasized the importance of the people the documentary features; beneath the glitz and the glamor associated with being in the spotlight, these women are human beings, and Kanellis-Bennett is glad that fans will get to see the true hearts behind the characters that have been featured on ROH programming over the past year.

“I think that this documentary does a really good job of giving heart and soul to women in wrestling,” said Kanellis-Bennett. “I think that it shows the other side. It’s an insider’s perspective. It pulls the curtain back just enough to let you know that these are real, true live human beings that are out there performing every night for you.

“And I have enjoyed watching it. It was hard for me to get through it at first because I feel for these women. I want them to achieve their best. [This documentary] shows you the real-life humans that are behind the characters out there.”

The uncut edition of “This is Women’s Wrestling” will premiere on the ROH YouTube page on January 28 at 7 p.m. EST.

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