Episode 54 with Maria Kanellis
Coming off a super busy WrestleMania weekend, we’re very pleased to welcome the wonderful Maria Kanellis to the Podcast for a chat. She shares her thoughts on the weekend and meeting up with friends both old and new. We talk about Sara Del Rey training the next generation of WWE Divas and hear all about her relationship with fiancé Mike Bennett (including wedding details and their engagement story). Back on the wrestling, we talk about her work in Crossfire Entertainment and her thoughts on working with Jessicka Havok, Reby Sky & Allysin Kay. We discuss how she got her start in wrestling via the Diva Search, and follow that story right through OVW with Paul Heyman and developing the ditzy character that eventually became her trademark in WWE. We talk Fit Finlay‘s influence on the Divas Division, some of her favourite WWE memories, including where her Slammy Award is now. We also talk whether music is still something she wants to do, just how she got her shot on Celebrity Apprentice, and more future projects – and of course we talk about a potential return to WWE, clarify some recent rumours regarding her future with ROH and discuss reported issues in the past with Kelly Kelly and the Bella Twins. An absolute pleasure to chat to Maria. Get downloading.
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WARNING: Spoilers lay within.
TNA Wrestling is saying goodbye to the Impact Zone in Orlando, FL by hosting a series of One Night Only pay-per-views. In last week’s Roundup, we discussed the Knockouts Knockdown all-women show which saw a number of former Knockouts turn down the offer of being there. At the time, Traci Brooks was one of the women who had declined the offer, but it was not because she was holding a grudge of any description, tweeting “I had to say no to TNA for the KO ppv as I couldn’t make it that day. No other reason”.
Payton Banks (Rain) and Winter (Katarina Leigh) pointed out last week that they had also been asked but said no, while Salinas (Shelly Martinez) vlogged that she wasn’t asked. However, it was the former Roxxi who came out and explained in detail why she didn’t go back for Sunday’s show.
Nikki Roxx (who was messed around during her two stints in the promotion) spoke to the Greg DeMarco show about her turning down the offer, saying, “You can only get kicked so many times… I think that I had finally had enough. They had trouble treating me very well to begin with and I felt like I was being a glutton for punishment every time I went back… I felt like it was the right time to tell them no. It was like one of those bad relationships where you keep trying to get away from it… You can’t treat people badly and then hope that they’ll come back and hang out.” (more…)
Episode 48 with Amazing Kong
Few people have elicited the intense speculation and column inches as much as our guest on this edition of the Podcast – and as such we are very pleased to welcome back Amazing Kong, who recently returned to the ring at SHINE 5 following her WWE run. So it’s time to dissect the last couple of years and get to the truth of a lot of speculation and rumours. We talk getting back in the ring at SHINE and Florida Underground (both teaming with Jazz) a couple of weekends ago and how that return came about. We talk endorsements from Jim Ross and Steve Austin leading to meetings with John Laurinatis leading to her dream job. Is it fair to call her a Triple H Project? We talk the first meeting with Vince McMahon, and the Kharma name (and more to the point, discover a rejected alternate name!), and what the initial plans were for her push. We talk acceptance into the Diva locker room, and the reaction to her pregnancy. Seen her wrestling ring-shaped engagement ring? Now hear the *true* story of how her fiancé popped the question. Stew and Kong compare how many Royal Rumbles each of them have been in, and we talk about the great personal tragedy in Kong’s life around that time and how various things contributed to her eventual WWE release. We discuss the oft-reported story that Layla was a last minute replacement for Kharma at Extreme Rules 2012 and how aware she was of the growing interest in a match with Beth Phoenix. From there it’s a discussion of future plans both at home and abroad to wrap up the episode. A pleasure to have Kong back on the show.
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I was due to write the review of the Beth vs Layla match at No Way Out last week, but due to other priorities, I had to leave it to Lee. It’s probably just as well that I’ve had a week to think about it, because for what it’s worth, I hated the match. Well, maybe “hated” is too strong a word, but I really didn’t like the comedy of Layla stealing Beth’s headband and dancing with it. The finish of Beth losing again also irritated me a bit, mostly because it’s patently clear that WWE have absolutely nothing in mind for Layla, and with Beth losing again, it securely slots her below Layla on the pecking order and kills another level of anticipation (whatever there is left of it anyway) for the Beth Phoenix vs Kharma feud that we’ve been waiting/hoping for ever since Kharma signed up with the company.
Let’s make it clear here – my major downer on the Divas division at the minute is not the usual “wrestlers vs models” debate (I’ve learned for the most part to turn off my brain and find a way to enjoy the Divas for what they are rather than what they aren’t)… no… my big problem is the fact that at the minute, the future of the Divas division is just deathly dull. (more…)
The statuesque April Hunter graces the front cover of this month’s HONOUR Magazine, and has a long interview with Mary Hunt about her beginnings with the New World Order in WCW, training with Killer Kowalski, travelling to Japan and also how she hated working in Mexico, as well as whether she sees herself as a better valet or wrestler.
Elsewhere, HONOUR talks to Davina Rose and Buggy Nova, reviews Pro Wrestling: EVE’s Return of the Jetta, Part One, bids farewell to the Bella Twins, looks at the strengths and weakneses of Madusa and Beth Phoenix, considering their ongoing back and forth on Twitter, and also has a look at the recent GLOW revival debacle which has been heavily covered by us in the last few weeks – so click the picture on the right to have a read.
However, there are some other tidbits to feast your eyes on, so clcik after the jump for more… (more…)
WWE tops the list of topics this week.
Layla returned from a year away from the ring at Extreme Rules on Sunday as the mystery opponent against then-Divas Champion Nikki Bella, and won the title in a short yet spirited match that was more of a device to get the title off the Bellas before their departure (which we will get to later). After suffering a double tear of the MCL and ACL in her left knee, you could forgive the 33-year old Brit for deciding to calling it a day and moving on with her life, as the rehab process to get back into ring shape is a lot more intensive than just recuperating to the point where you could live a normal life.
It is to be commended that she sucked it up and got back in the ring, especially since she is pegged as a Diva Search winner, and could be perceived as only seeing wrestling as a job, or something to do until the next big offer comes along. However, she went through the surgery, the pain, the impatience, the frustration and the physical testing that was necessary to return to WWE. In her post match interview on WWE.com, she described about how she had to learn to walk, to run and to jump, and she started welling up. Any doubt on whether she is in the for the right reasons should be kicked out of the window now – Layla is a wrestler, not a model pretending to fight. As a stone-hearted journalist, I felt for the woman, and I am happy that she is back doing what she enjoys.
I am also happy that she is back for personal reasons, as I was starting to enjoy watching Layla wrestle when she was struck down with a bad wheel. Sure, she wasn’t Sara Del Rey, but she was reaching the top of the pile when it came to Divas – and I concede, that is hardly high praise, but she was plugging away, and it was producing results. Plus, she was hanging with Michelle McCool, who was one of the most technically proficient female wrestlers WWE had at the time, even though I found her slightly cold in the ring and never really enjoyed her work. Being in the right place with the right people played into the former cheerleader’s favour – as did her dance background, as I am now a firm believer that if you want to turn non-wrestling women into wrestlers, go for dancers and gymnasts over models, as they are more open to pain, hard work and dedication, while models know how to stand there and look good, which doesn’t translate to the ring.
You could see fire and desire in Layla on Sunday – running all over the place, executing dropkicks and springboard flying bodypresses – and it was exciting, and it’s not often you can say that about Divas matches recently. Even Beth Phoenix, possibly the best wrestler in the Divas division, is hardly a thrill to watch these days, though it could be argued that some of that may be down to what she is working with. Either way, I had fun watching Layla defeat Nikki Bella on Sunday, and taking both Bellas out on Monday’s Raw, even though the match consisted of one dropkick and a schoolboy roll-up. It felt like wrestling, not a bunch of pre-arranged, mechanical moves, and Layla should be praised for that. It is also something that people like Kelly Kelly and Alicia Fox should look at. Intensity is not screaming on cue. (more…)
New Divas Champion Nikki Bella was all set to defend the title against former champ Beth Phoenix, but a spanner was thrown into the works because of the sprained ankle injury that Beth suffered on Raw. Still, there was a new challenger waiting in the wings…
• Bella won the title last week after Phoenix jumped from the apron to the floor during their Lumberjill match, “injuring” her ankle, and giving Nikki an opportunity to score the flash pin.
• A rematch was announced for the title at Extreme Rules.
• Before the match, a backstage segment was shown where Executive Administrator Eve Torres ruled Beth out of the match due to her injury and told Nikki that she would still have to defend the title against a mystery opponent, but reassured her that it wasn’t Kharma, who many had speculated would be the one to take the title.
• The mystery opponent turned out to be Layla, who had been out for a year after legitimately tearing both her anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments, and needed reconstructive surgery and rehab. (more…)
Nikki Bella won the WWE Divas Championship on Raw last night. There are a couple of issues that stem from this, so let’s deal with the Bella situation first.
First off, this title change has been on the cards for weeks, so it wasn’t a kneejerk reaction to the “twist” in the match. However, according to previous reports, the Bella Twins’ contract expires on Monday, and unless they have signed a contract extension – which we don’t believe has happened – they are set to go. Putting the Divas strap on Nikki is a curious choice, as it has to be a short reign – don’t be fooled, she won’t be taking the belt away with her like CM Punk did with the WWE Championship last June after winning it at Money in the Bank – so there are only three shows where she could conceivably drop it – SmackDown, Extreme Rules on Sunday, or the Raw the following day. Realistically, option 2 is the most likely, meaning a six day reign, and there is a prime candidate for winning the title, probably in some sort of open challenge…
I really hope that in one year, when I come back, you two will still be here.
That’s the parting words Kharma gave to the Bella Twins last May before taking a sabbatical following the announcement of her pregnancy. As has been reported, things tragically didn’t work out with that, but it seems that she is ready to get back onto the scene after being interviewed for a TV news piece about GLOW while she was at the Cauliflower Alley Club reunion in Las Vegas last week (more on GLOW later). Besides, if she wants to make good on her threat to destroy the Bellas, she has a window of a mere few days to get the job done, and the cherry on top would be taking the Divas Championship in the process. (more…)
This year’s Royal Rumble was just about set in stone as far as matches were concerned. However, the powers that be must have figured that one more match was needed to fill time in between the World Heavyweight title match and the John Cena v Kane contest. Cue an impromptu Divas match – Beth Phoenix, Natalya and Nikki & Brie Bella taking on Alicia Fox (who, like Beth, has returned from exile), Eve Torres, Kelly Kelly & Tamina. No build up for it, but when does a women’s match in WWE have build up anymore?
For the record, Phoenix got the win for her team, delivering a Glam Slam to Kelly to get the victory.
Meanwhile, Kharma made her return to WWE as a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble match, making Michael Cole eliminate himself, pulverising Dolph Ziggler, throwing out Hunico and then being eliminated by Ziggler while she wasn’t looking.
Lets see what was pepperoni, what was sausage and what was anchovies… (more…)
This Sunday sees Bull Nakano issue her official goodbye to pro wrestling as part of her EMPRESS retirement show on her 44th birthday at the Tokyo Dome City Hall. So far, only two matches have been announced, though the former WWF Women’s Champion has spent the last few months visiting numerous joshi promotions, offering blue envelopes to wrestlers, ostensibly inviting them to be part of the show.
As well as handing out invitations like she’s on an episode of My Super Sweet 16, Nakano has also been preparing herself, putting on weight and growing her hair so she can become the image that she was when she was wrestling – 230lb with hair spiking straight up, and blue veins etched onto her face. It is a big change from a couple of years ago, when as a professional golfer, Keiko Nakano’s weight had dropped weight all the way down to 130lb – partly to ease the pressure on her injured knees that had taken a battering during her hard-hitting 14-year career between 1983 and 1997 (though she returned for one more match in 2001). For that reason, it is unclear if Nakano will wrestle on the event, though nothing should be ruled out. (more…)
When Beth Phoenix and Natalya turned heel back in August, WWE Diva fans held their breath. They seemed hell bent on turning the division upside down, separating themselves from the “models” like Kelly Kelly, Eve Torres, Alicia Fox and others. They christened themselves the Divas of Doom, or, alternatively, Sisters of Salvation, claiming that they were out to “save” the Divas division from princesses and perky blondes.
The storyline has mostly gone downhill now, for several reasons. It took Beth three matches to defeat Kelly for the Divas title. Even when she won it, at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, it was only after Natalya interfered by hitting Kelly in the head with a microphone. Hardly a dominant win. Creative also didn’t go nearly far enough with the storyline – Beth and Natalya still refer to themselves as “Divas”, they still do photo shoots, and they have been very selective in who they choose to go after. So far it has only been the faces such as Kelly, Eve, Alicia, AJ and Kaitlyn. If they were after the models, shouldn’t they also target Brie and Nikki Bella, as well as Rosa Mendes? Tamina was never a model, so there is a logical reason why they wouldn’t go after her.
Also, at the start, Natalya was presented as an equally dominant partner. However, her singles wins have been sporadic, at best – any match that she won was when she was in a tag team match with Beth. Lately she has lost out to Alicia on RAW, SmackDown and at the house shows. This weakens the concept of the dominant team they were originally made out to be. Now it seems like they are another version of LayCool. (more…)
It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently. – Warren Buffett
On Sunday, the Bella Twins must have over-indulged as part of Labor Day weekend. They decided to take .357 Magnums, aim them square at their own feet and pull the triggers until they went click.
WWE.com writer Katie Raymond wrote an article about the Divas of Doom, asking if they were a solution or foil to what is perceived as the Diva-norm portrayed by the likes of Kelly Kelly, Eve Torres and the Bella Twins.
In the article, Raymond wrote:
Stinkfaces. Booty poppin’. If you’re a purist about a woman’s place inside the WWE ring, you might be wondering what Fabulous Moolah is thinking looking down on the Divas division. Would the iconic figure chalk up the current flux of the division on changing times, or would she say, “Someone needs to save this”?
Beth Phoenix and Natalya, the “Divas of Doom,” think so. However, are The Glamazon and third-generation Diva just the two women to call “saviors”?
So does the Divas division need to be saved? Not just yet. But Beth Phoenix and Natalya are certainly doing their share to rejuvenate it.
Taking this as some kind of personal insult, Diva supporters took to Twitter to bombard Raymond with vitriol, insults and threats for writing a KAYFABED article on the company’s KAYFABED website. The number of filters that this would have had to have gone through is ridiculous, yet fans got all butthurt about it, seeing it as a personal insult against the girls, instead of as a piece to fluff up the storyline between the Divas Of Doom and the rest of the roster – and it really needs it, as the storyline has lost so much steam since SummerSlam’s Phoenix v Kelly match that it makes you wonder if WWE had a plan for after the match. While the reaction of the fans was silly, it was expected to a certain extent. However, everything went into meltdown when the Divas themselves started talking about it like it was real. (more…)
It was the worst match at Money in the Bank by a long way, and nobody would have bought the show to see it, but Kelly Kelly retained the WWE Divas Title over Brie Bella in the second match of the show.
Brie spent much of the match working over Kelly’s abdominals after faceplanting her on the arena floor from the apron before Kelly fought back and claimed the victory with her K2 finisher.
Eve Torres accompanied Kelly to the ring after the angle on Monday’s Raw where she was beaten down by the Bellas after Kelly defeated Melina, but had absolutely no impact on the content of the match or the outcome.
It seems pretty redundant, as it was a fairly throwaway contest, but let’s look again at what was thumbs up, what was thumbs down, and what was thumb in my arse then into my mouth… (more…)
Anyone see Raw this week? I mean besides the awesome stuff with CM Punk? I mean, the Divas match in particular between Kelly Kelly and Melina, with a post-match beatdown by the Bella Twins on Kelly and Eve Torres? Anyone see how Melina joined in with the beatdown? No?
That’s because it didn’t happen. The two-time Divas Champion and three-time Women’s Champion was left in the shadows after being defeated in 100 seconds by Kelly, having only got in three moves, and two of those were kicks. It could be claimed that the match was short – so short that Melina was introduced in the ring and din’t even get to do her signature entrance with the paparazzi and the splits – because the show was overrunning. Some would say it’s a big push for Kelly, given that she is the Divas Champ right now, and that she has a title defence this weekend on the Money in the Bank pay-per-view against Brie Bella - and that’s all true. However, Kelly could have beaten any number of women on the Raw roster in what was effectively a squash match – Maryse would have been perfect for that role. It is telling that WWE chose to send out Melina – its former golden girl, the woman who was the figurehead of the division for years and the woman who has seemingly been in the Diva doghouse for all of 2011 – to lie down… (more…)
The Big News
In what was a pretty classy move by WWE, not only did they let Kharma go out there and tell the truth, they also left the door open for her return.
Following a week of speculation – started by the Wrestling Observer/Figure Four Online by saying she would be out of action for nine months – Kharma came clean to the world and revealed her pregnancy on Raw last night.
In a straight promo – much like Edge’s when he revealed he had to retire – she told us about how she had two dreams, the first of which was to be a WWE Superstar (note she said Superstar instead of Diva… telling. Also, she said the word “wrestling” or “wrestler” three times). She talked about applying for Tough Enough 2 back in 2002 – something I’ve documented in the past – and how Jim Ross thought she was too fat to make it. Undeterred, she travelled to Japan, scrubbed floors and earned the right to train and become a star there, as she told to us in the Women of Wrestling Podcast last year.
From there, Kharma also talked about how she had always wanted a family, and officially let us know about her pregnancy – something that received a nice reception from the fans. She described it as a “high risk pregnancy”, which is understandable considering her working environment, thanked the audience for their support and said that she would return in a year.
Of course, with this being WWE, there was an interruption by the Bella Twins who mocked Kharma with some poorly written, and even more poorly delivered, insults. Seriously, if Nikki and Brie were any more wooden, they could have been part of the hull of Noah’s Ark. Perhaps they didn’t fully believe or support the words they were saying, so it came across that way in the promo. Still, Kharma promised that she would be back for them in a year, which makes sure that we haven’t seen the last of her in WWE. (more…)
The Big News
Two big stories coming out of the UK this week…
It was a rough yet rewarding weekend for Britani Knight. Suffering from what she thought was tonsillitis, the 18-year old member of the Knight Dynasty wrestled 5 matches in 28 hours on route to becoming the first ever Pro Wrestling: EVE champion. However, she was bedridden the next day with what turned out to be glandular fever, causing her to miss a date with her home promotion, World Association of Wrestling. We at Ringbelles wish her congratulations on her title win and also a speedy recovery from a nasty illness.
EVE’s title tournament turned out to be less complicated that the brackets would have led you to believe. Starting with FIVE four corner matches and a Last Chance Battle Royal for the losers to determine the quarter finalists, they were hurried through relatively quickly to leave us with singles matches which varied from fine to good – the standout matches of the first night featured Erin Angel v Nikki Storm and Britani v Jenny Sjodin in the quarters, and Sweet Saraya taking on Blue Nikita in a Last Woman Standing match. The return of Blue Nikita was something of a surprise after her relationship with EVE went sour after the first show – so when she ran in to attack Saraya in the opening match of the evening, it took many by surprise. It also meant that both voluntarily took themselves out of the tournament – Saraya was eligible for the Battle Royal and Blue Nikita never got to compete in her four-way contest due to brawling with Saraya before the bell – to compete in the Last Woman Standing affair, which Saraya won with a sunset powerbomb.
The Project nightclub was a makeshift venue after the Royal British Legion was pulled as a host due to licensing issues and complaints – somebody even called up the local radio station pretending to be EVE management to say the event at the Project had been completely cancelled – but as an environment for the audience, it was great. It was cosy, yet sat the fans comfortably with plenty of space, and felt safe yet anarchic. Apparently it was a little too cosy backstage, as there wasn’t much room for the wrestlers – of which there were around 20 – to change, but that could be changed if EVE decides to return to the venue – something the owners were pretty receptive to. (more…)
A couple of noteworthy moments from WWE Raw last night…
A promo for Amazing Kong aired before the Divas Title match showing the head of a blonde doll being flicked off. Kelly Kelly should be soiling her drawers right about now…
Following the promo, Brie Bella defeated Eve Torres for the WWE Divas Championship. Good on her, we say – the Bellas went from a struggling face act on their last legs to a more useful heel tandem, and have been rewarded with the Divas title.
A bumper week of TV in prospect here, kids. Not only do we have the return of Trish Stratus on Raw and Alissa Flash taking the Madison Rayne open challenge on Impact, we’ve got women’s matches on the secondary shows too (Superstars and Xplosion), so given that these shows actually feature longer matches, I had initially planned to deal with the “B” shows first, but believe it or not, my favourite match of the week was from the next level down, namely Florida Championship Wrestling, as AJ takes on her former NXT buddy Kaitlyn.
TNA are in the middle of their “let’s give Madison Rayne some credibility” phase, which they seem to do maybe twice a year, and I was a fan of her match a couple of weeks ago with the returning (apparently for one night only) ODB, and having heard that tonight features another one night return (this time of Roxxi aka Nikki Roxx), I was quite looking forward to this.
Last week’s fun sprint of a match between Madison Rayne and ODB certainly entertained me, and having read the spoilers from TNA’s Fayetteville tapings, I was rather looking forward to this week’s edition of Impact too – but it seems like the next stop on Madison’s “brush with greatness” tour won’t be until next week (the second half of the Fayetteville tapings), so instead, Impact gives us the payoff to the Velvet Sky vs Sarita feud that has been simmering for… well, it seems like months.
Credibility (or the relative lack thereof) is often an issue with the distaff divisions of WWE & TNA, mostly because nobody in creative generally bothers to take the women seriously enough for long enough to make stars out of anybody, and this week’s TV is a pretty great comparison in how the “Big Two” are doing at making any of their women credible. We’ll start with someone who knows all about that problem, the “Killer Queen” herself, Madison Rayne – who famously won her first Knockouts Championship without ever winning a singles match in the company… taking on a surprise returning star on Impact.
It’s all about the build-up this week on the TV digest, as both WWE & TNA actually put some effort into building up some future matches and programmes. In WWE, the build is towards this coming Monday on Raw, when Eve Torres will defend her Divas title against Natalya, while TNA are promoting their “Against All Odds” PPV this weekend, as Madison Rayne is set to defend her Knockouts Title against Mickie James in a “Last Knockout Standing” encounter.
TV match of the week this week goes to the challenger for the Divas Title, Natalya, who took on Alicia Fox on Superstars this week in a match that was a significant cut above the Melina vs Tamina mess from the previous week.
Tonight’s Divas match at the Royal Rumble produced two surprises, but neither one turned out to be what many people expected.
Right as LayCool and Natalya were squaring off, Raw’s General Manager interrupted with a message for all three women. Michael Cole reads that with Teddy Long indisposed, the GM is in charge. This match is now a fatal four way: Natalya vs. Layla vs. Michelle McCool vs. the following Diva…
Perfect chance for Amazing Kong to debut, right? Wrong – instead we got Eve. Seriously? The audience seemed to be as confused as everyone at home. (more…)