Independent circuit — [ edit ] Bennett in Bennett made his professional wrestling debut in On April 27, , Bennett lost to Derek Destiny. In August , Bennett began feuding with Ru Starr, trading victories with him, until Starr won the rubber match on February 12, In March, Bennett moved into a feud with Michael Sain , losing to him in two singles match that month, and again in a Stretcher match on April He earned his first victory over Sain in June.
The following month Bennett defeated Billy Warhawk. He defeated Romeo Roselli and Chece en route to the final, where he defeated Slyck Wagner Brown to win the tournament. He suffered his first loss on July 1, when he was defeated by Antonio Thomas , and two weeks later he lost to Roselli.
The following night, he lost to Dudley in a steel cage match , and lost a Loser Leaves Town steel cage match to Dudley on September After losing to The Aldren Brothers in a non-title match in February, Bennett and Andrews won a two out of three falls match to retain the championship on April 6.
Freddie in a No Disqualification match on February Canada in early May, Bennett again prevailed with Evans' help. Bennett was accompanied by his real-life girlfriend Maria Kanellis for the match, in which he was the final man eliminated, allowing Lethal to retain the championship. Whitmer was legitimately injured after a piledriver on the ring apron. Three days later, at One Night Only: Live , Bennett made his in-ring debut, defeating Robbie E. He started a feud against Ethan Carter III , during the April 12 episode of Impact Wrestling, he had a match against him, which ended in a disqualification, when Carter attacked Bennett with a chair.
On June 12, at Slammiversary , Bennett was defeated by Carter in their rematch. Later that night, he interrupted the main event by attacking the referee and Lashley , with the help of debuting Moose. The following week on Impact Wrestling, he lost the match, when a frustrated Moose refused to help him.
After the match, Bennett yelled at Moose, calling him "a failed football player", just before Moose attacked him. Later that night, Bennett and Maria had a confrontation against the debuting Cody and his wife Brandi Rhodes. On the October 13 episode of Impact Wrestling, he suffered a loss against Cody. Later, Maria attacked Brandi Rhodes after Cody's match.
On March 1, it was announced that Bennett, along with his wife, had left Impact Wrestling. This prompted Maria to slap Zayn, and Mike to attack Zayn with a vase, establishing both as heels and beginning a feud with Zayn.
After a two month hiatus, Kanellis returned on the October 3 episode of SmackDown in a losing effort to Roode. This would be Kanellis' last televised match of the year. After a three month hiatus, Kanellis returned at a house show on February 25, , where he defeated Sin Cara.
Kanellis made his first in ring appearance as a Raw superstar at the Greatest Royal Rumble , entering at number 6 before being eliminated by Mark Henry in 2.