Q&A with Santino Marella
I’ve been interviewing pro wrestlers for well over a decade, and almost every one has been a “shoot.” Yesterday, however, I conducted a phone interview with Santino Marella, and it was one of the rare occasions when the subject did the entire interview in character. From the moment he greeted me in his exaggerated Italian accent, I knew I was in store for a fun conversation. Just keep in mind as you’re reading his responses that he is saying it in his “Santino Marella voice.”
I’m a big fan of Santino’s Casa on wwe.com. Do you pick the topics for the segment? And do you write the material or do you collaborate with writers?
I don’t pick the topics. I work with some writers, but we work together and they give me some freedom.
Has there been any talk of you bringing Santino’s Casa to TV as a regular segment?
There are some – what do you call it? – preliminary talks, but I guess they they want to see how the Casa develops and evolves, and maybe one day you’re going to see Santino’s Pit or something.
Speaking of Santino’s Pit, what it’s been like working with Roddy Piper, and what’s going to happen with this Cousin Sal?
You see, I was a Hulkamaniac growing up, so I know what Rodney the Piper is capable of, OK? And I was also a fan of Mr. T. So, although I respect Roddy Piper for his legendary accomplishments, he’s always been on the other side of the court, so to speak. Now, this Cousin Loser Sal – is this a joke for me? I’m a world class athlete. I beat Umaga in the past. This guy is like swatting a mosquito. But I’m not going to knock him off quickly or make him submit quickly. This is absolutely a lesson. I’m sending a lesson to Hollywood: You stay there, and we are going stay here and come there! Basically, this is going to be legal torture. He’s going to have to change his panties when I’m finished.
You obviously have great comedic timing. Do you have any background in comedy or are you just naturally funny?
People always told me when I was growing up that, “You are so funny person; you should be in movies and comedy and all this.” When the teacher in class tells you to stop being a class clown, there’s no job for this – ha, I guess there is.
I know that you have an MMA background and that you did a shootfighter gimmick when you were in developmental. Was it hard to make the transition from that type of character to a comedic character?
Not really, because there is a dichotomy within Santino Marella. Santino Marella can pretty much destroy anyone he meets. But there’s also that comedy component. So, at this particular time, I’m doing this component. Hopefully, one day the two can become one, and then I’ll be more dangerous. I’ll still be entertaining and pretty much be the best thing ever next to sliced bread – and I don’t mean Brian Kendrick’s finishing move. Because that’s called Sliced Bread – did you know that?
Sliced Bread No. 2, right?
Oh, it’s No. 2? Maybe you know more than me (laughs).
You mentioned your character becoming more dangerous. Do you really see that happening? Because I think the character would be more over if the character was more of a threat in the ring.
I think that’s just a natural evolution, because the more popular a character becomes, people want to see him competing for something worth competing for. In order to do that, they must allow my real ability to choke people, armlock people, leglock people and smash people on their heads. It must – this is a good word – permeate through the character. You like that word – permeate?
Yes, that’s a good word. Luckily, I have my dictionary here. Looking back at your WWE debut, it seemed like the idea was to create an instant babyface star with your win over Umaga. Why do you think that didn’t really get over?
Let me put it to you this way, Kevin. People like chocolate bars, right? What’s your favorite chocolate bar?
Uh, I guess I’m partial to Snickers.
OK, so I say to you, “Kevin, wake up, time to eat a Snickers. Oh, you like it? Have another Snickers, Kevin. Hey, don’t slow down with those Snickers – have three more.” Kevin, how long is it going to take before you don’t like Snickers?
I guess I’d get sick of them pretty quickly.
There you go. You can’t force-feed somebody. They must desire Snickers. Currently, you like Snickers because it’s your choice to go eat one. So now that Santino Marella is people’s choice to go indulge in him, it’s more popular.
I think you had the best gimmick in the company – being paired up with Maria. What was it like working with her?
Maria was a very nice chapter. We appreciate the opportunity to be together; we had lots of fun. She has very soft skin and smells nice. But, at the end of the day, Maria is just a chick. You know, I love Maria, but for people like me – I’m not sure about you, Kevin – they come and go like nothing. I am the true meaning of international playboy.
Can you talk about the infamous incident in which Jim Cornette slapped you because he thought you were laughing at an inappropriate time when you were in OVW?
Jim Cornette is a loser. Jim Cornette is an insecure person. And controversy creates cash, so maybe one day, Jim Cornette, I’m going to wrap that cheap tennis racquet around you neck. I’d like to have a cage match with Jim Cornette. I’ll put that out on the Worldwide Web right now. Jim Cornette is a misunderstanding person. Look, I’m watching wrestling in the audience – make it very clear – just in the audience. My daughter is sitting in front of me. Boogeyman turns to us, [and] I think, “OK, he’s going to do me a favor because maybe he knows I’m a student in this OVW school, so he’s going to scare my daughter for me, and treat my daughter to an experience.” So I’m happy. If your daughter is going to get an experience like this, you’re going to be happy as a father, right?
Sure, I would be.
Of course, there you go. So you are just as guilty as me then, Kevin, so Jim Cornette would have slapped you, too. Do you deserve it? No, because you are a good person. So anyway, this loser took advantage of a situation because he knew I would not hit him back because I was a student. He freaked out and he slapped me several times. I did nothing because I think to myself: “I am not American citizen. I don’t have green card. If I punch this guy, shatter his face the way my punches can actually do, then I’m going to be kicked out of the country.” You can’t just show up somewhere and start breaking skulls, Kevin. It doesn’t work like that. But now that I’m in a position to challenge him to a cage match, I make an official challenge to Jim Cornette for the first time, right now, right here.
OK, we’ll see if he answers.
Of course not. He’s a coward, Kevin.
You have a pretty interesting story as to how you got into pro wrestling. Can you talk about that?
I was under the understanding that you go to Japan, and you do good and then people notice you and bring you to America. So I went there with my vast judo background and my fighting ability. I have to really stress that I am a very, very serious fighter – it’s not comedy. So, I go there and I beat up lots of people, things are going great. I’m doing MMA and working for a good company called Battlearts. I don’t realize that you have to leave the country every 90 days. So, I made one mistake. I don’t leave the country for 94 days, and they say, “I’m sorry. You can’t come back.” At first it was for five years, but the law changed and it was for one year. So, here you are a young man, all the talent in the galaxy, trying to make it in this business and all of a sudden your plans just do a 180-degree turn. So, I have to reformulate my game plan, and we went to United States for school and it worked out pretty good.
There is more of an MMA influence in pro wrestling these days. Do you see the business continuing to move in that direction?
As a business, no. Some of the in-ring techniques? Probably. I saw one match where CM Punk was fighting like from the guard. It’s happening. The more it does, the better for me, because that’s where I come from.
The One Night Stand pay-per-view show is coming up Sunday. You aren’t on that show, correct?
Currently, I am actually not booked for that show. But I will be watching that show very carefully because there are some matches that are of particular interest to me, namely Randy Orton and Triple H. It’s no mistake that Randy Orton is my friend. So the more power he has, the better for Santino Marella. There’s just going to be some good fights. I want to see the girls. That’s going to be a good one, too.
Santino, I can honestly say this is one of the most entertaining interviews I’ve ever done.
Thank you, Kevin. It was a real pleasure for you to talk to me.
Photo courtesy of WWE