Santino Marella Is The Greatest Comedic Wrestler, The Cobra Origin Story, Winning “Miss WrestleMania” As Santina

Santino Marella (@milanmiracle) is a professional wrestler known for his time in WWE and is currently signed to IMPACT Wrestling where he serves as the Director of Authority. He joins Chris Van Vliet at the Blue Wire Studios in Las Vegas to talk about his legendary WWE career, making his WWE debut at 31 years old, some of his most memorable moments like becoming Miss WrestleMania as Santina Marella, almost winning the Royal Rumble, setting the record for the fastest Royal Rumble elimination, how he came up with The Cobra finishing move, nearly beating Daniel Bryan at Elimination Chamber to win the WWE Championship, his daughter Bianca Carelli who wrestles in NXT as Arianna Grace, a possible dream match with Orange Cassidy and much more!

On shifting from serious to comedy wrestling:

“The shift happened, so the WWE Universe, as you probably know, they do not like to be force fed anything. And all of a sudden, this guy comes out of the audience. And, you know, he beats Chris Masters and, you know, Shelton Benjamin, he sneaks a victory, and it’s like, if he’s not fully trained, he’s beating the roster kind of doesn’t make sense. And, you know, there is a pay-per-view in the summer and Umaga was like, killing me in Houston. The audience was like one more time, and like the audience wasn’t taking to the initial babyface Santino that was kind of like, just thrust in you know, into them. So they said okay, we’re gonna have to turn him heel, and if that doesn’t work, you know, see you later repackage. And immediately upon turning heel, Vince found it very funny, because once I did my first heel promo, I did guest commentary next week, another promo, another promo, another promo and another pre-tape, because I actually separated my shoulder, this one. So it was an opportunity to get to speak on the mic. And, you know, people that were in Gorilla are like, dude, Vince is cracking up when you’re out there. He loves the character as a heel. So, if you can pop Vince you got a job, right? That’s, that’s the idea. So Vince was a fan and from what I hear, and you know, and there was actually no competition for a long time in terms of the comedic, the comic relief character. R-Truth a little bit at the time, he’s kind of doing now but at the time, there was really no no one was like, like Hornswoggle a little bit, but I was on Raw. So for a long time. I just kept quiet and didn’t draw attention to it, but there was no competition.”

Who was Santino Marella’s favorite person to break:

“Oh, that’s a good question. Probably John Cena. When it comes from John Chainer. It’s funny because people come up to me like signings or conventions, and they’re like, you know, we can’t call him John Cena for like, the last 15 years. We call him John Chainer. And like, it’s changed the way a lot of people speak to, but it was just so sudden, like the pop was just kind of like, just caught himself, but it actually became a goal of mine to try and pop everybody.”

On going all in on the pitches:

“Yeah, my philosophy was always if you’re given lemons, you make lemonade. And if this is going to be the character, then you know, I’m going to be the funniest guy I can be and you have to be very giving, you can’t take it too [seriously]. Santino got beaten up a lot in the beginning. And you can’t take it personally, you know, it’s a show, it’s not real competition. And, you know, I was known for being very giving in matches in general. Yeah, and that was really, the base of it was just swing for the fences every single time, whatever you’re given. I was appreciative from day one. When I first got there, there seemed to be a little bit of a locker room culture of people being dissatisfied, you know, like, you know, what, what’s the point? They chose that guy, and you know, whatever. I’m gonna do jobs. And, and I’m like, this is the WWE, I love being here, you know, and this is amazing. I was 33 years old when I debuted, and I was green. And I’m five foot 10. Like, I’m already defying the odds just being here. So I was appreciative from day one. And I was super grateful my entire career. And I had people at the end of my career come up to me and say, you know, you’ve always such a pleasure to work with, thank you. You never had a problem doing anything with anybody. And you made it really easy, and you make it fun. And as we’re having an awesome time, look, this is our job, this is amazing. You know, so I was very conscious of that the whole time.”

On WrestleMania 25:

“Is that the Santina one? Yeah, no, I’m bad with the years and the numbers. It’s oddly enough, that was my biggest WrestleMania moment actually. I was the captain of Team Teddy, I had a match with Kofi against Big Show and Kane, so I had some matches. But that was like, the most highlighted, spotlighted moment in Wrestlemania. [What was the lead up to that?] So the lead up was the storyline with Beth Phoenix in my life where I was just trying to, I was battling to be the alpha in the relationship. So the relationship dynamics was what we were going after. And you know, I was insecure, and I’m trying to show that men are better athletes. So I’m going to dress up as a woman and enter the Women’s Battle Royale. And the whole idea was just for the storyline with Beth and I, and it was supposed to be a one off. But it was so funny that it ended up lasting for months and months. I had to get fake lashes every day and all that stuff. I had to go shopping in Houston at a mall for like the gear that day.”

On the fastest ever Royal Rumble elimination:

“I know how to beat the record. I’m the only one that knows how to do it. Well, no one’s done it yet. But that’s a perfect example of when you’re given lemons, you make lemonade. You know, when they were going, we were going through the Rumble and Dean Malenko was like, Yeah, you’re coming out getting eliminated pretty fast. I said, you know, can we try and break the record? He’s like, let me get back to you. [The record was] Like two seconds? I think it was Warlord. And he [Malenko] came back to me and said, By the way, you’re good on trying to break the record. So Kane had a huge part in that he had to be there at that moment, right. I’ve slid under, stood up and I’m gone. I’m going. And he was there. I mean, he was there. Like it was perfect.”

On being Santino Marella in IMPACT Wrestling:

“Yeah, so the big thing, I guess in 2021, somebody did not renew the trademark. And as a habit. When IMPACT gets guys that were former WWE guys, they look up the trademarks, you know, they have to come up with a name for me. Well, what can they call me? St. Tino? Or you know, something? [Santino’s real name is Anthony] Anthony? No, nobody wants to see Anthony. I found out you know, nobody really wants to see Anthony they’ve in fact disappointed when they see Anthony. But it [Santino] was available, IMPACT grabbed it. And it’s great news, you know. I was gonna have a great time anyway. But the fact that I can be Santino Marella and be the genuine article, and not a knockoff, it was just the icing on the cake.”

On the origin of The Cobra:

“I was in Japan. So for most of 2004 I was living in Japan. And after the shows there, we all go to the bar restaurant every day. There was a gentleman named Carl, who was friends with my coach, Mr. Ishikawa. And he’s just sitting at the table and just showed me this thing where he transforms his arm and his little kind of wooden puppet type thing. And I remember looking at Mr. Ishikawa like, I don’t get it. What is that? He goes it was a funny thing he does, you know. So he made me try it. The next time I saw him say, do you remember how to do it, you know, and that was it. Like that was it? That was the little funny thing between us. I’m guessing about five years later, I believe it was Atlanta. And I was wrestling either Chavo or Carlito I think it was Chavo. I go I am I try something during my comeback. So it’s like you know jab and clothesline or whatever punch and then next I stop and this transformation in my arm and I hit them they turned away into a schoolboy. And without seeing it on TV, the audience immediately laughed. So Cena, I always stand beside Cena, you know. So he came back, I came back through the curtain. He’s like, I would keep that if I were you, that was funny. And so I was doing it only on live events. And then one day I go to TV and Ricky Steamboat was my producer, and he’s like, I was wrestling Zack Ryder, he goes you know, you’re going over with the Cobra. Vince wants to see the Cobra. Vince knows about the Cobra? He goes yeah, he reads the reports and I go okay, so then yeah, I did The Cobra. The Cobra was crazy, like in three weeks. Really quickly, I would gesture for it. I would see in my peripheral vision like entire arena, like jumping up. I’m like really? Ok, they like it. I mean, I didn’t find it that spectacular, but they loved it. So and then I think they did it for like a year without the sleeve, and then we introduced the sleeve.”

On the WWE debut:

“Someone was talking about it yesterday, there was, people believed it, people really believed it. I can, I watched the footage, I can break it down to the moment where I got them. It’s when Vince says, you know, you and I’m like, you talking to me kind of thing. [Not] the guy [behind me] But I think I even point to the guy beside me like him. And they’re like, no, no, you and the confusion I had with like, is for real me? That was the moment people like, this guy’s really coming out of the audience. And so now, okay, that’s like 15 years ago, 16 years ago, in then April. So there’s kids that were 10 years old that are now 26 years old. And they’re telling me, you know, like, they thought it was real for years and years and years and years.” 

On learning Italian:

“So Dusty came down to kind of see Cody and talk to the class. And he said, if anybody ever calls you and says can you do something? The answer is yes, of course. And then you better learn how to do it. And like a month later, they call me and they say, can you speak Italian? I’m like, yes. And then after I said a few lines, because I used to work downtown Toronto in rush hour traffic. I had a cassette in my car that will just play and like flip over and play in rush hour traffic. I listen to this tourist Italian tape, and so I said a few lines from the tape. Like ‘Voglio comprare mezzo chilo di formaggio.’ I want to buy a half kilo of cheese. It’s something you would say at a market.”

From learning Italian to the WWE debut:

“And I could see them sitting at a boardroom table with a speaker and they’re all like, sounded good to me. And they go okay, you’re gonna fly out tomorrow. You might debut on Monday. So they sent me my passport. Like that day I flew out. Well, first I went to Borders, And I bought the eight CDs for Italian. I downloaded them to my iPod, and the entire flight. I’m just drinking espresso, was trying to learn Italian the way there. And that was it. Yeah, then like so I got there Sunday morning. And then I had a day in Milan by myself and then maybe the next day. And then like, I come home and it’s like pack your bags, you’re on the road. And so it was zero on the road, and then I was on the road for like a year straight.”

On Santino Marella’s Italian accent:

“Well, it’s funny, my high school, like almost my entire high school, all the parents were from another country. So it was a Catholic school. So Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Italian, Croatian, and so all our parents had these funny accents. You know, they all spoke English, but they had accents. So I have like tonnes of material just from my friend’s parents. And that was kind of a lot of my friends even call me out on it like, because my neighbour Simon Maganivan, is where I got Sonnamagun from. And he’s literally my next door neighbour. And it caught on but yeah, I have a plethora of material to choose from.”

On moving to northern Canada:

“COVID had a lot to do with it. You know, we just kind of got a little just fed up and we just wanted to change and, you know, it was in our plan to do that. But it just got sped up and man, I’m still in the honeymoon stage. It’s been over two years and I wake up and look out my backyard. And I’m like, I can’t believe we live here. It’s amazing. [We have] Deer every night, we put corn out for them. You back on to 500 acres of environmentally protected land. We have a couple of acres and we’re like a minute walk from the beach. And that’s fine like you know like we go to the farm to get our growing vegetables in the summer and stuff. It’s honestly, it’s incredible.” 

What is Santino Marella grateful for?

“My children, my health and my lifestyle.”

Featured image: WWE

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