Maria Kanellis (born February 25, 1982) is an American professional wrestler, valet, actress and singer currently signed to Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) under the ring name Maria. She is best known for her time with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and Ring of Honor (ROH) as the valet of her real-life husband Michael Bennett.
Kanellis’s career began as 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. She also posed for the April 2008 cover of Playboy magazine, which was incorporated into a storyline on Raw. She released her debut album Sevin Sins on April 13, 2010 on iTunes.
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 in Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW), WWE’s then-developmental territory, under head trainer Paul HeymanShe 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. Her gimmick involved her asking wrong questions, irritating and amusing WWE Superstars and Divas.
In 2005, Maria began a more physical role, and was defeated in her first official match on the January 10, 2005 episode 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, courtesy of 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, and ultimately 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.