Maria Kanellis Reveals She Had To “Fight” WWE Over Playboy Cover

Maria Kanellis

Maria Kanellis, a former WWE Superstar, has recalled “fighting” with WWE over her 2008 Playboy cover shoot because the company demanded it be “more sexy.”

Between 1999 and 2008, seven female WWE Superstars posed for Playboy Magazine, with Torrie Wilson and Chyna appearing twice (Chyna’s second appearance occurred after she left WWE) and Sable appearing three times. Maria Kanellis was the final WWE star to pose for the magazine in 2008, after which the company shifted its focus to what became known as the ‘PG Era.’

During this time, WWE’s female stars were portrayed very differently than they are now, with a greater emphasis on the sexualization of their characters. Maria Kanellis opened up to Renee Paquette on her Oral Sessions podcast about trying to get more opportunities in WWE during her first stint with the company that lasted between 2004 and 2010.

Kanellis indicated that she had to “fight” WWE over her Playboy shoot because she wanted it to be “more fashion” while WWE wanted sex appeal:

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

“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, following her participation in the Diva Search. Despite finishing fifth in the competition, she was offered a job by the company. Kanellis worked for WWE until February 2010.

Later, she worked for IMPACT, Ring of Honor, and New Japan before returning to WWE in 2017 with her husband, Mike Bennett. However, the couple’s tenure with the company was cut short, and they were released in April 2020. Since then, the couple has returned to ROH.

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