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Maria Kanellis Recalls “Fight” With WWE Over Playboy Cover

Maria Kanellis

Former WWE Superstar Maria Kanellis has recalled “fighting” with WWE over her 2008 Playboy cover shoot as the company wanted it to be “more sexy.”

Between 1999 and 2008 a total of seven female WWE Superstars posed for Playboy Magazine, with Torrie Wilson and Chyna appearing twice, (Chyna’s second appearance came after leaving WWE) and Sable appearing three times. Maria Kanellis was the final star to pose for the magazine in 2008, with WWE going on to present a more family-friendly product.

During this period, WWE’s female stars were presented very differently to how they are today, with a greater emphasis on the sexualisation of their characters. Speaking to Renee Paquette on her podcast Oral Sessions, Maria Kanellis, opened up about trying to get more opportunities in WWE during her first stint with the company.

Kanellis revealed that she had to “fight” WWE over her Playboy shoot as she wanted to go in more of a fashion orientated direction while WWE wanted it to be “more sexy.”

“I remember even having long conversations on what my Playboy was going to be,”

“And I wanted it to be more fashion forward. I was a big Cindy Crawford (fan), I loved her style and I wanted to bring more of that vibe to wrestling and make it more fashion forward and make it more pop culture. That was a fight. It was a fight even to get that, even something so sexualized at the time as a Playboy cover. It was like ‘we want it to be more sexy.’ I tried to get it black and white and they were like ‘no, we want it full colour.’ So there were those conversations, even about something as sexual as that.”

Maria Kanellis first signed with WWE in 2004, after competing in the Diva Search. Despite only coming fifth in the competition she was still offered a deal by the company. Kanellis remained with WWE until February 2010.

The star later appeared for IMPACT, Ring of Honor and New Japan before returning to WWE in 2017 alongside her husband Mike Bennett. However, the couple’s run with the company never really got going and they were released in April 2020. The couple have since returned to ROH.

Reflecting on their run with WWE earlier in the year, Maria Kanellis said they were “dead in the water” after only two weeks with the company.

H/t to Wrestling Inc for the transcription.