Maria Kanellis Photos © 2008 World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
By Zack Zeigler
Even Divas can
Fame hasn't spoiled WWE Diva Maria Kanellis.
Although she's garnered a huge fan-following on one of cable's top-rated TV shows, "WWE Raw," and currently graces the cover of Playboy's
April issue, she's down to earth, knows about cars, and best of all digs comic books (and hopefully the guys who like to read them).
Even though it's the busiest time of year for WWE with their biggest event, WrestleMania XXIV, coming up this Sunday, March 30, Maria was cool enough to take time to hang out with Marvel.com and discuss everything from her Marvel tag team partner of choice to her favorite Marvel movies.
Marvel.com: Maria, with all the changes you've undergone—all the success and fame—you've somehow kept a level head. Some people couldn't have done that. What's your secret?
She flies through the
air with the greatest
My mom would kick my butt if I didn't! No, I'm kidding. My family is terrific and I've asked them to remind me of who I am and where I came from if I don't seem like I'm myself anymore. I have a little sister and would want to do things that she'd approve of.
Marvel.com: So not even sold-out arenas packed with fans screaming your name can change who you are? Pretty cool. But at the very least you have to feel like a super hero when you're performing, no? Not even a little?
With the outfits and the big hair and the gloves and the boots, I definitely feel like a super hero walking to the ring sometimes. That chaos of the fans cheering or booing, that atmosphere, it's like when a super hero gathers to confront a villain or something and everyone is watching, waiting on the outcome. It's exciting.
The Black Widow
But I think all the WWE Divas are examples of super heroes, it's not just me. Look at Beth Phoenix, the Glamazon. Beth is as strong as the She-Hulk; she's tough as hell. There's also Melina, who's like Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff). Melina's beautiful and sexy, but you can tell by looking at her it's wise not to mess with her. She also does these splits before entering the ring so that reminds me of Natasha's gymnastic skills.
Marvel.com: To take on the bad girls of WWE you get to choose one Marvel super hero as a tag team partner, who you picking?
I'd take Jean Grey, easy. She'd know what our opponents were thinking and could diffuse them before they could harm us in the ring. I'll stick with X-Men for this question because Storm would be cool, too, because she'd toss a lightning bolt down their butt. Then I'd only have to do a few things and I'd get the pin. Of course, I'd also take She-Hulk, but only after she faced off against Beth Phoenix. She-Hulk may have her hands full with the Phoenix – Beth Phoenix, that is.
Marvel.com: Did you pick Jean Grey because you secretly wish you had her powers?
Oh yeah. I'd take telepathy or telekinesis as a superpower. It's hard to pick just one though. It'd be nice to know what people are actually thinking because I don't think people often say what's on their mind. But, I'd also like to move things with my mind, too. Either one would help me in my profession, like if I knew when someone was going to throw a punch, I'd be able to block it. Of course, Marvel women have to deal with supernatural things and different types of projectiles, which could potentially be more hazardous than a punch.
Marvel.com: Were the "X-Men" movies your favorite of all the Marvel movies?
I loved all of the "X-Men" movies; I read those comics so to see it come to life was really cool. However, I really loved "Ghost Rider," too. I know there are a lot of Marvel movies out there and it wasn't as popular as "Spider-Man," but I'm a fan of Nicolas Cage. He always puts a little of himself into his movies, which I like. Plus, I love cars and bikes and stuff like that, so the movie was awesome to me. There's also "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer." That movie has a place in my heart. I thought the effects were cool and I like those characters.
Marvel.com: Okay, somewhere down the line Marvel offers to CGI you in all of Kirsten Dunst's scenes in the "Spider-Man" trilogy, do you take it?
I'd love to. My vision of Mary Jane was more of a glamorous, hot chick; I know MJ has to be sweet and wholesome but she can have a little sex-kitten, hottie in there too. In the comic books she's drawn very sexy. If I was asked I'd totally do it.
Marvel.com: So here's the thing: you're a knockout. Nobody's surprised you landed the April cover for Playboy. Are they?
Raise your hand,
who wants to
It was all very unexpected for me, actually. Shooting for the April cover of Playboy
was glamorous, sexy and fun, but I never dreamed about being in Playboy
. Lots of girls grow up and want to be a centerfold or a Playboy
Playmate but I didn't. I have a sister who is still in high school and when Playboy
came to me the first time I declined it. Then WWE came to me two weeks later and said they wanted me to do it. I spoke with my family and my sister and they said it might be good and lead to other things down the line. Sometimes when those opportunities arise you got to take them, and I did.
Marvel.com: Did you think you'd have the types of opportunities that have presented themselves to you when you entered the WWE's Diva Search a few years back?
The Diva Search was my first time on live TV, and I got to work with The Rock, which was also really cool. WWE just threw us out there and it was sink or swim. Since I didn't win it was more of a desire to succeed and I've been driven to make it since. I've changed a lot since I joined WWE nearly three-and-a-half years ago. I've become more of a woman with my character. I was a reporter backstage when I first started. Then I came out to the ring and did some things. Then I got to wrestle. Some changes were subtle though. Like Jennifer Garner's character change from "Alias" to "Elektra." Yes, there were some major changes, but some were subtle. Jennifer played a spy in "Alias" and in "Elektra" she was an assassin. She still had these extraordinary capabilities as Elektra but her martial arts knowledge increased as well. So it's a change but some of it's still the same. Know what I'm saying?
Marvel.com: I see. Do you see a clear parallel between comic book super heroes/heroines and the WWE Superstars and Divas?
Maria's got a hold on
WWE rival Melina.
Absolutely. In the Marvel Universe there are villains like Mystique and Dr. Doom and they're just these evil beings. Then the good guys combat them to do their part for society; in WWE there are villains too. Randy Orton and Edge are probably the most notorious right now. The good guys, like John Cena, they'll battle with Orton or Edge and stand up for the people that can't or won't.
There's also a line to cross with bad and good, too. Sometimes the villains are just too cool to hate, even if they're bad people. Bullseye and Green Goblin are cool. Just like "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was cool, even though at first he wasn't supposed to be cheered, he was.
Marvel.com: Do you know any WWE Superstars who are into comic books?
I know of a few that are into comics—Edge and Gregory Helms—who I saw you guys interviewed recently. CM Punk is also into comics. But I honestly think a lot of Superstars think of themselves as super heroes when they go to the ring. Look back on guys like Rock and "Stone Cold." Those guys were super heroes. They were larger than life characters and people believed in their ability to be the villain or be the hero. It's also evident in guys like CM Punk or John Cena. They're the good guys of WWE who people can get behind.
Marvel.com: If you could choose only one WWE wrestler who reminds you of a super hero, who would it be?
CM Punk because he's not only fighting evil in the ring, but he does it outside of the ring too; Punk is against drug use, drinking and promiscuous sex. He really is the "Straightedge Superstar." His passions toward his causes are as solid as Captain America's shield. Although I don't like putting Punk over—and I hope you put that part in there—he does do a lot of good things, like a super hero does.
Watch Maria every Monday night on WWE Raw airing on the USA Network and this Sunday, March 30, she'll be at WWE's biggest annual pay-per-view event, WrestleMania XXIV.