Sad news reached us this week all the way from the fantasy realm of Canada that WWE’s Santino Marella is seemingly done as an in-ring wrestler.
A succession of neck injuries have forced The Master of the Cobra to bow out of the grapple game before any more permanent damage is done to his well-being. I’m sure it wasn’t a decision he made easily, and I’m equally sure it’s a decision that we can all begrudgingly accept as being very wise. We only get one neck after all.
Whilst it seems very likely that we haven’t seen the last of Santino as a character on TV, his role as the feisty underdog wrestler have sadly come to an end.
Santino has never been the strongest man, he’s never been the most popular guy, he’s never been the most skilled performer, he’s never been considered a major draw… But he has often been identified as the funniest. And in the world of entertainment, there’s no shame in that whatsoever. Just like The Rock’s charisma cannot be explained, or The Undertaker’s presence can’t be replicated, Santino has a likeability that simply cannot be taught. He‘s one of the very few WWE performers who is cheered by men, women and children alike. Thus his in-ring exploits will be sorely missed by yours truly.
I’ll admit I wasn’t overly enamoured with the Santino character when he made his WWE debut in 2007. Being “plucked randomly from the audience” by Vince McMahon to face Umaga during a tour of Italy, he won the IC title in his very first appearance for the company. I felt it was a stupid gimmick to try and sell to audiences in an era when (almost) everyone is well aware of the ficitional nature of professional wrestling. It just felt a little insulting to me, and wasn’t a story I was able to buy into. Maybe I’m just too damn smart for my own good.
Thankfully, it was fairly shortly after this – when he was paired with Maria and started showing heelish tendencies by being boastful and jealous – that his natural comedic talents began to shine through and he commenced carving his niche.
The two highlights of his career are incredibly easy to pinpoint. He was the last person eliminated in the 2011 Royal Rumble – attempting a sneak attack on Alberto Del Rio who wasn’t aware of his presence – before beign bailed over by the Mexican aristocrat. And then there was also his magnificent performance in a 2012 Elimation Chamber match when he found himself up against a heel Daniel Bryan as the final two. Despite a gutsy effort (and incredibly vocal support from the live crowd!), he eventually succumbed to the Yes Lock.
The key (read ‘funniest’) moment of his career for me was the Honk-a-meter – a weekly update during Santino’s second intercontinental title reign on how close he was getting to The Honky Tonk Man’s record run as IC Champ. It was arguably during these skits that the heel Santino become so damn entertaining that audiences couldn’t possibly jeer him.
Watch a Honk-a-meter clip here, you won’t regret it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3VpC_n7TVE
As well as these career-defining moments – Santino has chalked up a rather impressive list of feuds over his relatively short 7 year tenure as a WWE wrestler. He’s battled Hall of Famers including Jerry Lawler, Ron Simmons, Roddy Piper and even Stone-cold Steve Austin (okay, that one didn’t result in a match, but it did result in a Stunner). He also once took a clothesline from Snoop Dogg, and has the dubious honour of having the shortest Royal Rumble run ever at 1.9 seconds (it might not be something to be proud of – but at least it ensures him a place in the history books!)
Magnificenly, Santino also won the honour of being Miss Wrestlemania in 2009 when he disguised himself as his sister Santina! (Don’t be fooled – Santina wasn’t a real person, it was just Santino in drag! I swear!)
In a video posted to YouTube of Marella’s speech, a clearly emotional Carelli is seen breaking kayfabe at the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto, Canada. Addressing the crowd, Marella claims the Toronto show is what he “looks forward to all year”. He continues: “I really wanted to perform in front of you guys and I apologise that I was unable to.”
Marella rounds-up his speech by claiming “I’m one of you guys” before making his way backstage to the sound of cheers and a standing ovation.
The speech can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbyfwjvbnK8
The retirement hasn’t been officially acknowledged by WWE yet, but I sincerely hope with all my hearty heart he gets the chance to deliver a similar speech on RAW or Smackdown in the very near future.
At just 35 years old, it’s rather tragic that injuries have forced Santino to call time on his wrestling career. But performers such as JBL, Booker T and William Regal have proven in recent times that there are still big roles for ex-grapplers to play on TV.
So even though it’s good-bye to Santino as a wrestler, I’m confident we’ll be welcoming him into a major TV role in the not too distant future. The recent departures of Teddy Long and Vickie Guerrero have left some significant gaps that needs filling, and I might know just the guy…
Over and out