In 2008, the doe-eyed Maria Kanellis became the seventh and last WWE Diva to shed her clothes for Playboy, much to the chagrin of her beau, Santino Marella.
Ashley Massaro, who graced the cover of Playboy the year before, told Kanellis in an in-ring segment at the Royal Rumble that she had caught the eye of Playboy talent scouts and encouraged her friend to pose for the magazine. Marella demanded that Kanellis keep herself covered, but Kanellis — to the delight of male fans everywhere — stood up to her boyfriend and decided to go along with the nude photo shoot.
Kanellis appeared on the cover of the April 2008 edition of Playboy, timed to coincide with WrestleMania XXIV on March 30, 2008, at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida. She took great pride in selecting her wardrobe for the photo shoot and even designed and created a black hooded jacket she wore in one of the photos.
In an interview with SLAM! Wrestling, Kanellis said that Playboy had actually been courting her ever since she was 19-years-old, but she wanted to wait until her younger sister was out of high school before posing for the magazine.
“My sister said, ‘Go for it, it’s an amazing opportunity.’ My mom’s behind me, my brothers too. It’s definitely a decision that you need your family for,” Kanellis said.
At WrestleMania XXIV, Kanellis and Massaro teamed up against Beth Phoenix and Melina in a match billed as a BunnyMania Lumberjack Match. Phoenix was a force of nature, but Massaro took the fight right to her, hitting her with a flip. Both women tagged out, and Kanellis threw Melina out of the ring, where the Divas surrounding the ring punished the unpopular Melina before putting her back in. Kanellis and Massaro kept attacking Melina until she was able to reverse the momentum and toss Massaro out of the ring.
For more than two decades, WWE fans have learned that anything could happen at WrestleMania and this match proved the adage with a temporary blackout at the Citrus Bowl. In the resulting chaos, Kanellis hit a top-rope move on “The Glamazon” until Marella got involved. His actions angered Jerry “The King” Lawler, who punched Marella out. The ringside confrontation allowed Phoenix to nail Kanellis with her patented Fisherman’s Suplex, scoring the pinfall victory.
The Raw after WrestleMania XXIV, Kanellis made it perfectly clear that her relationship with Marella was over, as she recruited a ring full of Divas to help her beat him in a singles match.