When he first debuted by nabbing the Intercontinental championship in 2007, I found him to be a bit boring. A flash in the pan. Many times, pushes that immediate simply do not pay off over the long haul. As time went on, my opinion didnâ<80><99>t change, even when he turned heel.
Well, this version of Santino Marella has won me over.
Far too many times, wrestlers take their gimmicks way too seriously. They donâ<80><99>t want to look foolish. The heels today want to be cool anti-heroes. Yeah, the crowd may boo them, but they respect them as well. Todayâ<80><99>s heels do not want to look cowardly. They donâ<80><99>t beg off. They donâ<80><99>t â<80><9c>show ass.â<80>
Frankly, I blame the New World Order. They wanted to be heels, but they didnâ<80><99>t want the trappings of playing bad guys. Hall, Nash, Hogan, et all would not be upset by an insult lobbed from a babyface. They would mock the person ripping on them. They would rarely beg off from an assault in the ring. They would stand tall and keep fighting.
Few heels embrace their inner heel. Itâ<80><99>s a challenge to play pure evil. Some fans will naturally cheer you, no matter how heinous the actions are.
Then, thereâ<80><99>s Santino Marella.
I attended the live Raw show this past Monday. There was Santino, replete with the Glamazon girlfriend and his trusty unibrow. He confronted â<80><9c>Baptista,â<80> boasting about his â<80><9c>Honk-O-Meterâ<80> quest of becoming the longest reigning Intercontinental champion of all time. He went on to wax in a braggadocio and not to eloquent fashion about his vast number of brain cells.
It was not a complicated segment, rife with drama. It was just damn funny. Comic relief is usually something that WWE (and TNA) creative folks have trouble executing. But with Marella, they have struck comic gold. Not too complicated. Nothing cutting-edge. Just an old-fashioned idiot heel.
Add to that the long-term opportunities with his character and the â<80><9c>Honk-A-Meterâ<80> angle. The WWE has to keep this one going. Honky Tonk Manâ<80><99>s Intercontinental title reign is still the stuff of legend. He was the last person you would have expected to upend then-champ Ricky Steamboat in 1987. But upset him he did and went on to a lengthy and record-setting reign. One year, two months and 27 days to be exact.
Marella is not just a modern-day version of the Honky Tonk Man. He is better. He is funnier and more talented in the ring. He is willing to look stupid mispronouncing every word in the English language and act in a bumbling manner backstage. Thereâ<80><99>s no pretense of being a cool anti-hero. He is the perfect foil for any babyface.
Santino Marella: a modern-day, old-school heel.