Professional wrestling, at its very core, is about entertainment. For all of the fancy moves and elaborate sequences you need to be able to back it up with a good story or character, and someone who managed to master that art throughout their career was Santino Marella.
The Milan Miracle came into the business quite late in life by comparison to others, and yet once his time in the ring was said and done he was lauded as being one of the most underrated stars in recent years.
“Thank god I made it all the way through university without MMA being so popular. If it was popular when I was in high school, I’m pretty sure I would’ve been fighting from a very young age. It’s a rough life though, man, I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys. They fight for peanuts because they love fighting and ultimately want to get that big payday one day.”
Whilst injuries ultimately forced him away from the business, his body of work speaks for itself – although it doesn’t even tell half of the story when it comes to the man himself. We spoke with Santino, also known as Anthony Carelli, and whilst he may not be entertaining the world on television anymore he’s certainly doing his part behind the scenes.
His Battle Arts Academy up in Canada is doing wonders for youngsters who are attempting to come up through the ranks, and despite a lack of publicity regarding his work, he’s certainly doing some great things for the business.
Santino, aka Anthony, is a guy who has many different interests and it’s his complexity that fascinates us the most. For the most part, he’s been seen as nothing more than a comedy character for the better part of 10 years, and yet here we are in
2017 with people calling him one of the most underrated talents of the last decade.
“It was a long, tedious process [opening his Academy], and a learning curve, but it’s awesome. We do three Olympic sports – judo, boxing and wrestling, and then we do the whole MMA side and the pro wrestling side, as well as athletic conditioning. It’s quite challenging, but at the end of the day, it’s worth it.”
It’s funny how absence can make the heart grow fonder, and the man behind The Cobra has always had so many moments in the spotlight that we now look back on with a sense of positive nostalgia.
From his run in the Elimination Chamber to winning the US Championship to almost winning the Royal Rumble, Marella was the light-hearted relief that all of us needed from time to time. Hell, he even managed to win the Intercontinental Title on his first night with the company whilst being disguised as a ‘fan’.
“When you’re imagining your career it’s all about these moments when you’re completely spent, struggling to your feet for one more desperation manoeuvre or submission, that’s the kind of wrestling I really wanted to do. Don’t get me wrong, I was very happy bringing laughter into people’s homes, but I would’ve enjoyed some classic knock ‘em down drag ‘em out type matches to try and showcase my wrestling skills.”
That, in itself, pinpoints how remarkable this underdog story has been for Carelli. He worked his way up from the bottom and in this business you’re going to be recognised for that, and amongst his peers, we can guarantee that he’s still held in high regard to this day.
This perception that everyone needs to be a world champion in the WWE in order to be deemed a success couldn’t be further from the truth and Santino Marella is all the proof that you need for that.