As wrestling fans, we tend to lose ourselves in the Kayfabe world of make believe and predetermined outcomes. We tend to forget that past the surface these characters we both love and hate are people with families and struggles who just so happen to live in the public eye; teetering between real life and a character they spend just as much time portraying. It can be hard to separate the two, especially to the casual fan who may not know the difference between what is real and what is storyline based.
One such story started developing at last year’s WWE “Money in the Bank” pay per view as we saw the debuting Mike Bennett as “Mike Kanellis” accompanying his real life wife (and WWE veteran) Maria Kanellis in a gimmick where “love” could conquer all. In the year since his debut, the “love” gimmick never really had an opportunity to grow as Maria announced she was pregnant and Mike Bennett was swiftly off television following a brief feud with Sami Zayn. Behind the scenes, unbeknownst to many fans, Bennett was falling apart and accepted WWE’s help by entering a rehabilitation program for a prescription pill addiction. Many fans wrote this off as a failure on the part of creative and the gimmick Bennett debuted with.
Like many fans of his work on the independent circuit, I have cheered Mike on from the sidelines as he has battled the woes of his personal life while the unforgiving bevy of internet wrestling trolls attempted to debase and tear him apart for things they know nothing about. While a man recovered, unfair criticism remained amiss for the shortcomings of the “Mike Kanellis” character rather than support for Mike Bennett the man. One year removed from his WWE debut, Bennett took to social media with an amazing post of hope and unknowingly won father’s day with the love and support of his fans and family, truly proving that “love” was more than a gimmick to sell on a sports entertainment program.
“1 year ago @mariakanellis and I debuted at #MITB. Many will say that since then the past year has been a disappointment. But I tend to look at it differently. In the past year I bought my first house, got clean and had a beautiful baby girl. As far as @wwe goes I can’t help but be incredibly grateful for everything they have done for me. I came in, out of shape, ill prepared and in a very bad place in my life. They had every right to say “see ya later” and they didn’t. They stuck with me, they gave me a 2nd chance. I am forever grateful for that. In the last year, I have worked harder than I have ever worked in my life. @wwe and life in general has given me a second chance and I won’t blow that opportunity. Today as I reflect on the last year, I can only be positive about the future…”
After reading this post I must tip my cap to a man who fought and battled his demons and truly realizes what is important in life. The only part I have ever hated about the sport of professional wrestling are the woes and demons our heroes battle behind the scenes in order to entertain us. Addiction and depression are both very real things not meant to be taken lightly. You can love and hate a character; you can cheer or boo until your voice is gone but please remember our heroes are people too. You never know the true power of an unkind word until it is aimed in your direction. My sincerest congrats to Mike and Maria on what has been an amazing year behind the scenes and I hope this story can urge others towards a better understanding of addiction in the wrestling business.
On a personal note, it is great to be back here at fight booth! This is my home and after short hiatus to handle some things in my life, I am excited to get back to writing! Be sure you follow me on Twitter @NicholasGrooms or Instagram @officialnicholasgrooms! Let’s talk some wrestling!!!