Birth Name: Maria Louise Kanellis
D.O.B.: February 25th, 1982
Weight: 115 lbs.
Birth Place: Ottawa, IL
Resides: Los Angeles, CA
Billed From: Chicago, IL
Wrestling Career: 2004-2010
Trained By: Ohio Valley Wrestling, Dave Finlay & Florida Championship Wrestling
Maria Louise Kanellis (born February 25, 1982) is a singer-songwriter, model, and professional wrestler, best known for her time with World Wrestling Entertainment.
Kanellis was a contestant on the reality show Outback Jack in 2004. In the same year, she placed fifth in the Raw Diva Search, but was later hired by WWE as a backstage interviewer. Kanellis began competing in the ring as a wrestler in 2005. It was not until 2007, however, that she received her greatest push in the company, as the on-screen love interest of Santino Marella. As a result, she received more air time and began winning more matches than she had previously. She also posed for the April 2008 cover of Playboy magazine, which was incorporated into a storyline on Raw. She released her debut album Seven Sins on April 13, 2010 on iTunes.
Maria Kanellis, of Greek heritage, was born on February 25, 1982 in Ottawa, Illinois. She grew up with an interest in playing sports, particularly volleyball, basketball, and softball and graduated from Ottawa Township High School in 2000, before spending some time as a student at Northern Illinois University.
Maria was first asked to pose for Playboy when she was nineteen years old, but she turned down the offer in fear of embarrassing her sister, Janny Kanellis. In 2004, she was a contestant on the reality show, Outback Jack. She made it to the final three before being eliminated. Before her career in wrestling began, Kanellis also regularly competed in beauty pageants.
World Wrestling Entertainment
Diva Search and debut (2004–2005)
She competed in the Raw Diva Search in 2004, deciding to enter the contest after seeing an advertisement while watching Raw. Even though she only placed fifth in the contest, she was hired by the company. She stood out in the contest by giving fellow contestant Carmella DeCesare the finger after being eliminated from the contest. Maria began making appearances at the Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) training facility under head trainer Paul Heyman. She contributed booking ideas, and her work at OVW earned her a spot on the Raw brand roster. Maria was brought on to Raw as a ditzy backstage interviewer and the host of WWE KissCam in November 2004. Maria was given the dumb blonde gimmick despite having brown hair. She quickly earned a reputation as the oblivious backstage reporter—Maria seemed to ask the wrong questions, irritating and amusing WWE Superstars and Divas.
In 2005, Maria began to get very physical—in and out of the ring. She was defeated in her first official match on the January 10, 2005 edition of Raw by Christy Hemme in a Lingerie Pillow Fight. She also competed in a Fulfill Your Fantasy Diva Battle Royal at Taboo Tuesday for the WWE Women’s Championship but was the first to be eliminated by Trish Stratus and Mickie James. In another physical moment, Stratus slapped Maria so hard that one of her fillings legitimately fell out. On November 14, Maria competed in a non-title Diva Battle Royal at the Eddie Guerrero tribute Raw show. Maria stood by herself for most of the match, only getting involved when she saw the opportunity to eliminate a competitor, a strategy that proved effective as she eliminated both Jillian Hall and Victoria. She was one of the last three women left in the match but was eliminated by both Melina and Trish Stratus. On the November 28 edition of Raw, Maria interviewed then-Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff and asked him whether or not he thought he was going to be fired. He then booked her in a match with Kurt Angle out of spite, and Maria was laid out with the Angle Slam. As a result, one week later, Maria testified in the trial against Bischoff, who was being fired because of his controversial actions as General Manager. As Mick Foley questioned her, she answered, unusually intelligently, “Last week Bischoff abused his power in a way that was both malicious and capricious, and it’s this rash discourse that has led to a locker room of disdain and mutiny, and it should be grounds for his immediate dismissal.”
Feuds; relationship with Santino Marella (2006–2008)
In early 2006, Maria defeated Victoria in a match. Afterward, she was attacked by Vince’s Devils (Victoria, Torrie Wilson, and Candice Michelle), but she was saved by Ashley Massaro. During a commercial break that night, Vince McMahon announced a Bra & Panties Gauntlet match for New Year’s Revolution between all five girls that had previously been in the ring. At New Year’s Revolution, Maria was the first to enter the Gauntlet match and eliminated Candice Michelle and Torrie Wilson before being eliminated by Victoria. The match was ultimately won by Massaro.
Maria teamed with John Cena to take on Edge and Lita in the main event on the February 6 edition of Raw. Maria scored the victory after a spear meant for Cena hit Lita. One month later, Maria lost a singles match to Lita after missing a clothesline and falling prey to Lita’s DDT. After the match, Edge was preparing to spear Maria, but Mick Foley ran in to help her. On October 16, Maria won a Fatal Four Way Bra and Panties match against Victoria, Candice Michelle, and Torrie Wilson to advance to the semi-finals in a Women’s Championship Tournament. Maria, however, lost in the semi-finals of the Tournament against Lita.
On the January 1, 2007 edition of Raw, Maria attempted to interview Kevin Federline but was instead slapped by Melina and called a “bitch” thus starting a feud. This led to a match between the two later that night, with Melina winning with a roll-up following a failed attempt at a dropkick. At New Year’s Revolution, Maria and Candice Michelle ran to the ring during the Women’s Championship match between Victoria and Mickie James to stop Melina from interfering, helping their friend Mickie to retain the championship. For two consecutive weeks afterward, Maria had two tag team partners—Mickie James and Jeff Hardy, respectively—to take on Melina and a partner. She lost the match with James, but won the other with Jeff. As a part of her entrance when teaming with Hardy, she mimicked the dance he performs at the top of the entrance ramp, a moment she later claimed as a favorite in her career. Maria and Jeff Hardy won against Melina and Nitro, ending the feud between Melina. One week later Eric Bischoff returned to Raw for one night. He then called Maria in his office blaming her for his dismissal, and later put Maria in a match against Umaga where she was pummeled before being saved by John Cena.
Maria began an on-screen romance with Santino Marella in June 2007. She also resumed competing in the ring occasionally, often jobbing, or losing quickly, in short matches. On the November 5 edition of Raw, Marella was confronted by the returning Stone Cold Steve Austin for criticizing his movie, The Condemned. As a part of the storyline, the argument ended as Marella received a Stone Cold Stunner from Austin, who then went backstage, only to return with a Budweiser beer truck to hose down Marella and Maria with beer. Maria then did a dance in the ring for the WWE Fans. Maria later dropped the ditzy gimmick and moved on to be more serious.
After former Playboy cover-girl Ashley Massaro’s return in early 2008, Kanellis engaged in backstage segments where Ashley suggested Maria should be on the cover of Playboy, including at the Royal Rumble, to the disdain of Marella. As a part of the Playboy storyline, Maria defeated Beth Phoenix on February 18, to “earn the right” to be on the cover of the magazine. During her Playboy cover unveiling, Maria’s cover was plastered over with images of Marella. After Marella offered an ultimatum of posing for the magazine or staying with him as a couple, she stated, “No man and no one is going to make this decision for me” and broke up with her on-screen boyfriend. Maria, along with Ashley,(who replaced Candice Michelle) were defeated by Phoenix and Melina at WrestleMania XXIV in a Playboy BunnyMania Lumberjack match. After the match, Maria passionately kissed the Master of Ceremonies, Snoop Dogg.
Move to SmackDown! (2008-2010)
As part of the 2008 WWE Supplemental Draft, Maria was drafted to the SmackDown brand. She made her debut on the August 1 edition of SmackDown by defeating Victoria. Later, Maria won a Las Vegas Dice on a Pole match to become the number one contender for the WWE Divas Championship. Maria lost a subsequent match for the title against the the Divas’s Champion Michelle McCool.
She made her in ring return on July 3 teaming with Melina to defeat McCool and Layla El. Soon after, she entered into an on-screen relationship with Dolph Ziggler, despite her being a fan favorite and him being a villainous character. At Night of Champions, Maria accompanied Ziggler to his match with Rey Mysterio. In the following weeks, Melina implied that Ziggler was cheating on Maria, which Maria did not believe. Maria and Dolph Ziggler later broke up backstage because she cost him his match.
Maria then took a brief hiatus from the ring to film the Celebrity Apprentice. Maria then returned on the December 4 episode of SmackDown by helping Mickie James fend off an attack by Michelle McCool and Layla. She made her in-ring return the following week, teaming up with James to defeat McCool and Layla. On December 14, Maria won the Slammy Award for Diva of the Year. On the February 12 edition of Smackdown, Maria began an onscreen relationship with Matt Hardy, but two weeks later on February 26, 2010 she was released from her WWE contract.
In 2004, she was a contestant on the reality show, Outback Jack. She made it to the final three before being eliminated.
During the week of November 5, 2007, she appeared on five episodes of Family Feud with several other WWE superstars. She also appeared on the February 6, 2008 episode of Project Runway with some of the other WWE Divas. On August 17, 2008, Maria, Candice Michelle, and Eve Torres were on an episode of Sunset Tan. That same year, FHM named her 84th of 100 on their “The Sexiest Women 2008″ list. Kanellis later appeared on VH1′s Top 20 Video Countdown, along with John Cena, The Miz and John Morrison, and The Big Show.
Maria had been asked to follow in the footsteps of other WWE Divas and pose for Playboy, but she initially refused because she did not wish to embarrass her sister, who was still in high school at the time. After refusing the offer to pose a few times even before WWE, she eventually posed for the cover of the April 2008 issue, with an accompanying nude pictorial. For the pictorial, Maria chose her own wardrobe and made the black hooded jacket she wore in one of the photos.
On December 17, 2009 she was a guest host on G4′s Attack of the Show. Kanellis began a new career as a mixed martial arts announcer for HDNET on March 26, 2010 at the King of the Cage event in Reno, Nevada. Kanellis was also a contestant on the Celebrity Apprentice, which premiered in March 2010. She was eliminated on the May 16th episode. She placed fifth out of fourteen contestants.
Kanellis also began a singing career and released her debut album Seven Sins on April 13, 2010, with “Fantasy” as the first single.
Kanellis was born on February 25, 1982 in Ottawa, Illinois. She has two younger siblings; a brother named Bill and a sister Janny. Kanellis grew up with an interest in playing sports, particularly volleyball, basketball, and softball and graduated from Ottawa Township High School in 2000, before spending some time as a student at Northern Illinois University. Before her career in wrestling began, Kanellis also regularly competed in beauty pageants She has two dogs, a long haired chihuahua named Gemini and a black lab named Vador.
She has dated fellow wrestler CM Punk, which she confirmed in an interview. They met during their tenures in Ohio Valley Wrestling. They, however, separated in June 2007. She later began dating a freelance camera operator and wrestling journalist, whom she met while shooting an episode of Project Runway.