Last night, I watched Ted DiBiase Jr. walk to the ring with Maryse, wrestle Golddust, almost steal back his Million Dollar Belt, and leave. I saw a natural heel; smug and arrogant, good looking and athletic. I heard a guy with tremendous speaking ability. I watched a professional wrestler who just a year ago was one of the hottest commodities in wrestling in Legacy. I thought to myself "man, this guy is GOOD."
That thought was promptly interrupted by the sound of the crickets his chaacter ellicited from the live crowd. You could hear a pin drop. I then got up to do laundry.
Shortly thereafter (with the wash on spin cycle) I saw Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov walk to the right in classic British garb for a tea party with Seamus. Unibrow in full effect, happy and ‘loving life’ smile engaging everyone in attendance. This guy has done for Kozlov what the rumored to be retiring William Regal did for both Tajiri and Eugene. He went on to execute one of the funniest segments on a pro wrestling program in years. The tea party segment was the only one I sat the entire way through Monday Night, and perhaps the only thing funnier than Santino was Kozlov. And you know what else? The crowd ate it up. They chanted "Santino! Santino!" They clamored "Kozlov! Kozlov!" And without missing a beat, Santino put over Seamus’s dominance even more and helped elevate the pending Seamus / John Morrison feud. That’s right folks – Santino, hardly a contender to win a match let alone a major title at this point, put over a major singles feud AND a guy in Kozlov who 6 months ago was on the fast track to the future endeavors page.
And I thought to myself. "Man, this guy is GREAT! He’s not that good – but he’s GREAT!"
A lot of my colleagues on the forums have busted on Santino and pointed out the obvious fact that he’s hard to take seriously. He’s not a real contender, and he may even be taking a roster spot away from someone who would be. But who cares? What Santino brings to the table is a breath of fresh, hilarious air. He’s the guy who farts during Steel Magnolias and makes everybody laugh. He’s a two-time Intercontinental Champion who has maintained not just a roster spot, but regular TV appearances despite really having no chance to win the title every again. The Cobra gets weekly pops the way MVP’s "Ballin’" did for like 19 days. He’s lightning in a bottle.
"Wrestling Fans" (which I parenthesized for the purpose of distinguishing them from "Sports Entertainment Fans") have long criticized Hulk Hogan for being an awful wrestler. His major moves were a punch, a kick to the face, a bodyslam, and a legdrop off the rope. It doesn’t matter, because he connected with fans of all ages and captured imaginations like nobody in sports ever really had. Just ask the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Those same fans also blast John Cena week in, week out. "5 Moves of Doom" they say. Well, he’s far and away the most marketable guy in wrestling right now. He’s the biggest draw. He outdraws Orton. He outdraws Styles. He outdraws Undertaker every day except Wrestlemania. Even being jeered, he always gets a reaction.
Hogan, Austin, and Cena were great in a way that’s far different from Santino. We believe Hogan in the 80’s, Austin in the 90’s, and Cena in the 00’s are capable of anything. Santino, on the other hand, has the uncanny ability to never get old and keep people laughing. And what’s wrong with a little laughter as long as the crowd reacts?
Maybe Ted DiBiase Jr. should take notes.
To discuss Santino’s role as a comedic character on Raw, please visit us at the Wrestlezone forums by following this link:
Chris "IrishCanadian25" Fitzpatrick