Maria, Mike Kanellis can flourish on Raw, but storyline is worrisome

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Mike Kanellis has been competing on 205 Live since October with real-life wife and on-screen manager Maria Kanellis by his side, but he’s finally made his return to the WWE main roster in July.

There’s no doubt that Maria and Mike Kanellis have accomplished a great deal in their respective careers and fans have been waiting for the duo to be used more frequently in WWE programming after joining the promotion with plenty of fanfare in 2017. While their work on 205 Live has been strong, Mike “quit” after losing to Jack Gallagher last Tuesday. That’s when we got our first hint that these two may be headed for bigger and better things.

Raw is under a new direction with Paul Heyman’s promotion and Maria and Mike Kanellis played an immediate role on the July 1 episode. The duo made their mark by confronting Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch and it was Maria who did all the talking. She took aim at the Raw Women’s Champion and challenged Raw’s alleged “Power Couple” to a match, which served to hype up Seth and Becky’s “Winner Take All” Raw Women’s Title and Universal Title Extreme Rules match against Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans.

Honestly, Maria and Mike were show-stealers on Raw in their first show back. From Maria calling Mike her “bitch” to insulting her husband while announcing she’s pregnant, the Kanellis couple made headlines. WWE appears to be heading to predictably more edgy storylines under Heyman’s leadership, and there’s nothing crazier than Maria Kanellis insulting Mike Kanellis for not being “man enough” to be the father of her children.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this storyline, but it certainly has my attention. Maria put over Becky Lynch for being the only “Man” in the ring and said that next time, she’ll get Becky to impregnate her.

It was surreal. And the execution of the segment polarized fans, with many being intrigued and others being put off by it.

However, above all else, Maria and Mike Kanellis are getting a bigger opportunity professionally on Raw, and it’s exciting to see them on Monday nights. The match against Seth and Becky should have been an actual match that advanced the title match storyline and helped boost the returning talents, though perhaps Maria legitimately wasn’t in a position to compete. For as weird as the writing was and as “Attitude Era” as it felt, at least the acting from Maria and Mike was sublime.

Plus, Maria calling Mike her “bitch” has to go down as one of the moments of the year. Like, that was awesome.

WWE still has a LOT to figure out with this storyline, such as whether or not it’s even worth pursuing in this iteration. It already felt weird and could easily head into “dreadful” territory. Pregnancy storylines have never been handled well in professional wrestling, and this has the makings of something potentially embarrassing.

Outside of that, it was still great to see Maria and Mike on Raw. They have the charisma and experience to flourish as important side characters on Monday nights, without clogging up the title scenes. Their work on 205 was understated and solid, and, hopefully, WWE knows what they’re doing with this storyline. Maria is one of the smartest minds in the wrestling business and can make almost anything work, so if WWE can stray away from the offensive (a big “if”!), they could have something here.

I just wonder, why can’t WWE have Maria Kanellis be the leader of the relationship in a healthy way? They don’t need to have her belittling Mike in order to assert herself in the relationship and subvert harmful, stereotypical gender roles, because what they’re currently doing is more harmful than empowering.

And knowing how awesome these two Superstars are and what Maria has accomplished, WWE could (or could have, depending on how set this is) make this relationship an empowering on-screen couple instead of, um, potentially something else.

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But we’ll see, I guess. Maria and Mike are super talented, it’s great to see them back on Raw, and the rest is in WWE’s hands. I have faith in these two doing their best to make whatever they get interesting, but we’ll see if Heyman, Vince McMahon, and Co. can do what’s right by them.

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