Maria Kanellis-Bennett doesn’t want to play it safe with Women’s Wrestling Army.
WrestleZone recently spoke with Maria Kanellis-Bennett about her first year running Women’s Wrestling Army. The interview is featured as part of our annual Best For The Business series (check out the full list of this year’s nominees here)
Maria Kanellis-Bennett and Bobby Cruise started the promotion after Ring Of Honor went on hiatus, formally announcing WWArmy in April 2022. At the time, Kanellis said she wanted to create another quality promotion for women that just wanted to wrestle. One perk Kanellis hoped to implement was paying residual income to wrestlers for each appearance.
Women’s Wrestling Army presented “The Journey Begins” on May 1, 2022. The promotion continues to air weekly events and an ongoing documentary series on ProWrestling.TV, with its March 29 show set to feature a double main event.
Kanellis-Bennett reflected on the year, which also saw her maintain an on-air role with IMPACT Wrestling and AEW. She said the entire experience of running Women’s Wrestling Army was a humbling one, noting there are both problems and positives that came from it all.
“We knew we had some amazing talent in Ring of Honor. We knew that going into this, we had a lot of support. But at the same time, there’s those pieces that you don’t think about when you own something, of hotels and flights and the logistics of everything, and then, ‘How are we going to fund this thing?’ When Ring of Honor closed in 2021, it was just an idea of doing Women’s Wrestling Army,” she explained. “It was actually Willow [Nightingale] that asked us to do something moving forward with women’s wrestling.
“So we started looking at it in December of 2021, and by about April, we had found funding for our first show, and that was through BrandArmy.com, which is kind of like Patreon. So we were able to put together that show, and it was literally a show-string budget. It was just throwing everything together, and then we had the opportunity with Pro Wrestling TV. I think that that first night and just being out there with the crowd and listening to them react, even though it wasn’t a big crowd,” Kanellis explained, “just the way that everybody was so excited about having another all-women’s wrestling promotion, it’s like okay, we need to continue this, no matter what. We gotta figure out how we’re gonna continue this.”
Maria said Women’s Wrestling Army still faces some of the same problems, but they also have the same benefits, too. She praised the talent that has worked Women’s Wrestling Army shows, adding that the promotion is still looking for a long-term home on the airwaves.
Maria said the talent is certainly there, noting that’s likely the biggest takeaway. By contrast, she said funding is still probably the most difficult issue to overcome.
“How are we gonna fund it? How are we gonna move forward? I wish I could find it myself because I believe in it that much, and I think that that’s gonna be our biggest struggle moving forward; where does this go? I know my ideal place,” Kanellis explained.
“My ideal place to have it is on HonorClub, and that’s because I feel like there’s so much crossover between [Ring Of Honor and Women’s Wrestling Army]. It’s also the same style of wrestling. When we started this, we didn’t want it to be too fluffy. We wanted it to be a little bit fluffy of course,” she noted, “but we wanted to be able to showcase every style, and we wanted to make an impact with it. So the style of wrestling we have is a lot of what Ring of Honor is already doing. So for us, the crossover is obvious.”
Kanellis confirmed she has had conversations with Tony Khan about making that happen, but noted that it’s still very early in that process.
“We’ve had talks. We’re in the early stages, and I think that it’s all about bandwidth. Tony Khan is a very busy man, and whether or not that can happen, we don’t know,” Kanellis said. “But we’re definitely investigating that, and Tony’s super open. He’s one of the best bosses I’ve ever had when it comes to open communication. So we’re talking about it. He definitely sees the potential, and I definitely see the potential for us being placed on HonorClub.”
HonorClub is not her only goal for Women’s Wrestling Army, as Kanellis mentioned a few outlets that she’s had talks with recently, including PWTV about a potential renewal.
“I was actually just recently talking to FITE about some possible opportunities. I’ve also talked to Twitch because they’ve had a contract before with IMPACT Wrestling, so it’s an obvious kind of relationship that they’ve already done. I’ve been looking even beyond that. We don’t just do the women’s wrestling show. We also do a documentary series alongside it. With the next two documentaries, we’re gonna have six altogether. So that’s a miniseries in itself, and so we’re also talking to people like Bravo. We’ve talked to NBC, we’ve talked to Discovery,” Kanellis said.
Maria Kanellis-Bennett said she isn’t just looking at taking the “normal route” of companies that already stream wrestling content. She wants to get Women’s Wrestling Army out there on a broader scale, noting that the story of women trying to make it in wrestling is just as interesting as the in-ring product itself.
“Just this past set of tapings, I was on the phone with Skye Blue, and she’s having all these flight problems and trying to make it in [to the taping]. She was so excited about the match because it was against her friend, Queen Aminata, and you’re gonna see that on our next episode of Women’s Wrestling Army. You’re gonna see the match itself,” Kanellis said, “but then there’s the whole story of all the adversity that she went through that day, just to have that match with her friend. So a channel like Bravo that highlights women in business, that’s another avenue that we’re willing to take. [Skye Blue] ended up making it, and her mom came, and for me, that’s also a big story.”
Some of the names that have worked for the company have gone on to appear in AEW, IMPACT Wrestling and other promotions. Asked if she could envision Women’s Wrestling Army being a feeder promotion, Kanellis agreed that it is one of her goals.
“When you get to such a high level, the pressure to not take risks is there. So where we’re at right now, and even if we get a television deal, I want to make sure that there’s not too much pressure to take a safer route. We have the opportunity right now to take chances in people, to see, will they have a good match? Will they not? If they do have a bad match, that’s okay. We’ll just try it again. I think watching that growth of talent is really important in a feeder system. You don’t want it to be so clean to where you don’t get to see them struggle.
“That’s one of the things that make Ring of Honor, I think, so incredibly special. You see the undercard, which I don’t always like calling them, but you see the undercard being built. You see them start to have those moments and matches that can make an entire career. So I like to have us positioned in that way,” she explained, “and that’s again why being under that HonorClub umbrella would be the ideal place for us. Because then it’s not that we’re so big or on a network that tries to take too much control, but we’re within a place that we can take those risks with talent.”
Women’s Wrestling Army airs every Wednesday on Pro Wrestling TV. Check out our full video interview with Maria Kanellis-Bennett below: