Q: We are joined today by somebody who has skyrocket to quite a lot of fame in a short period of time in the WWE, a man who is known not only for his wrestling moves but also for his comedic talents, none other than Santino Marella. Mr Marella, welcome to The Main Event, How you doing sir?
A: Ah, very, very well, itâ<80><99>s a pleasure to be on The Main Event.
Q: Santino maybe you can tell us a little bit about how you got into the business, transitioning from MMA and judo to professional wrestling. I believe you even attended Concordia University here in Montreal and were part of the amateur wrestling team there, correct?
A: Absolutely, I did Juno for many years, then tried to break into the business, I tried to go to Japan, and they always told me if you do good there, they are gonna bring you here, so when I went their, I actually was starting to do good there, but I got kicked out because I overstayed one visit by a couple days you know, so back here I went to OVW and everything seemed to work out just right.
Q: Well speaking of OVW, You were involved in a now infamous incident with Jim Cornette and The Boogeyman which resulted in Cornette slapping you and his eventual dismissal from OVW, can you tell us a bit about how that went down?
A: Oh, this? Ha ha. This is a good one, So I’m at this time only in OVW for one month, and my daughter was visiting me, and so we were sitting in the audience and I thought maybe the Boogeyman recognized me from the school and as he was leaving the ring, he turns to us, and I think, oh what a good guy, he is gonna scare my daughter for me, for me thatâ<80><99>s like a present, but I didnâ<80><99>t realize that we were standing in front of the emergency exit where he goes out. So I’m smiling thinking my daughter is going to crap her pants, and Jim Cornette freaks out and says move move move, this man, you have to be scared of this man, and then we moved and I thought it was over, but somebody called me in the back and he freaked out a little bit, slap here, slap there, and I think to myself that I can’t punch this guy in the face because I’m Canadian, and I’m gonna get kicked out of America. So anyway, I just kept quiet and the rest was history, the WWE called me and apologized, saying this is not how we treat out talent, this is not how we want to develop inspired young athletes and he was going to be fired anyways they told me because heâ<80><99>s crazy, but that definitely put me on the radar a little bit but there was no freebies from that, I had to work up from scratch just like everyone else.
Q: Following the dismissal of Cornette, its been said that Paul Heyman really helped guide you and prepare you for the big time. How much influence did Paul Heyman have on your preparation?
A: Well Paul Heyman did something I did not realize, he would actually go up in the bleachers and watch us practice. I was in the intermediate class with Rip Rogers, and he would watch and scope out new talent, He is a special person, Paul Heyman. Some people can call them whatever they want about him from the past but he is a good person to me. So one day in the parking lot, I was doing the Boris character, and he said I want you to start on TV next week, and your gonna start to make it in the business. And this is crazy news, you know my knees started shaking, but I’m thinking, “No problem, I’m ready.” And next week, sure enough his word was true, and I debuted on OVW TV.
Q: You practically went from one day being in developmental to the next day debuting on WWE television in Italy and winning the Intercontinental championship from Umaga of all people. What was your initial reaction when you were told you of the plans for you?
A: Well actually they didnâ<80><99>t tell me the plans until like an hour before, because I’m driving in Kentucky to a house show for OVW and the phone rings, and this is like Saturday or maybe Friday. Yes, it was Friday, and they say, “Santino, you’re Italian right?” I say, “Of course, I’m Italian.” So they say, “OK, were gonna send you your passport, you might fly out tomorrow, to Milan, and debut as Santino Marella,” So I hang up the phone and look at the guy beside me. I’m thinking, “Oh my god, what’s happening? This cant be true.” They called me back, and I turned down the volume, I clear my throat, professional voice and say hello, and then they say, “Yup, ok, you’re booked tomorrow, you’re flying to Milan, you might debut Monday, but you know the wrestling business, might could change last second, so fingers crossed.” I show up, walking around, donâ<80><99>t know what’s really going on and Arn Anderson, Double A, comes up to me and says, “Hey looks like your gonna have a pretty nice day, your winning the Intercontinental Title.” And, you know, I actually froze for the first time. He continued walking by me, and I kept looking in the same direction, and I just froze in disbelief. And sure enough it ended up happening.
Q: If you had the chance, would you have changed anything about the first month of your WWE career, was it too much too fast?
A: I wouldnâ<80><99>t change a thing because its all a means to get where we are today and if I change something back thereâ<80>“you saw Back to the Future… If you go change something in the past you’re going to affect the future!
Q: In OVW, you had the shoot-fight persona. You were Boris Alexiev as you mentioned, which really highlighted your in-ring ability. In WWE, they utilize your comedic strengths. Do you think there will be a time when you can combine your comedic talents and your in-ring talents into the same character?
A: Yeah, I hope so. You see, sometimes you can want something to be a certain way, but if it doesnâ<80><99>t make sense, you cant force it. So if we get there naturally, organically, and this comes out and we have a good storyline that will allow it to make sense then okay, but I just can’t one day wake up and kick everyoneâ<80><99>s butt.
Q: For a while you played the jealous boyfriend of Maria Kanellis. How was working with her?
A: Ah, you know, to quote Stone Cold Steve Austin, one time when they asked him about Trish Stratus, his response was, â<80><9c>You know, sheâ<80><99>s a chick.” Haha.
Q: Well, actually, you were ripping on Stone Cold’s movie the condemned on TV pretty intensely. How did you really feel about the movie and how did you like working with Stone Cold and getting doused by the beer hose?
A: Well the movie is the movie, but working with Stone Cold Steve Austin, that was definitely a moment where I stopped and looked around and said to myself, “Sum of a gun,â<80> you’re in the ring with Stone Cold Steve Austin. And the beer hose, you know, under normal circumstances that could be a better thing, but it was really fun.
Q: Well, you poke fun at Stone Coldâ<80><99>s acting, but when your in-ring career begins to wind down, would you like to make the jump to the acting field?
A: Make no mistake about it, Hollywood, I put them on notice already, movies, TV shows, books, cooking shows, sitcoms, everything. When it comes to Hollywood everything. We made some good friends there at ABC with Jimmy Kimmel and I told them the same thing. Just be ready because when I come, Iâ<80><99>m coming strong.
Q: This coming Saturday, your appearing at the 42nd Annual CHIN Picnic in Ontario, what thatâ<80><99>s gonna be like?
A: This is actually the coolest thing I’ve ever done. I’m gonna be the celebrity guest judge in the bikini contest, and little does the winner know she gets an additional prize, she gets to go on a date with Santino Marella. Maybe the top three, actually I’m not sure.
Q: You recently took part along with other celebrities in the “Dreams Take Flight” where you took 300 kids with mental, social or physical challenges with you to Disney World in Orlando. How did that opportunity come about and how did it go?
A: You know I love doing charity. You come away with such a larger prospective, and for me Doug Gilmour and George St. Pierre was there and I’m still a big fan of those things too, but you know the kids are the real magic of that event. You go down, and I was pretending to be scared of the roller coaster a little bit, and this one little girl I remember, she just survived cancer, and she was so supportive of me being scared of the roller coaster that she was forgetting about all her problems. And those kind of actions make you realize that these kids have some strength inside of them that is unbelievable.
Q: At the hall of fame, The Rock, a guy you’ve never worked with, mentioned you along with some of the biggest stars in the company, how did that feel?
A: You know I had nothing to do with that, it was the company who thought of it, and That was a great feeling, and I know The Rock isnâ<80><99>t really wrestling right now, and there probably won’t be an official opportunity to pass the torch so to speak with regards to the charisma, and the in-ring ability and things like that, so I hopefully interpreted that as some sort of informal passing of the torch, something like that. I’m not sure exactly what they had in mind with that but thatâ<80><99>s how I interpreted that.
Q: With that in mind and looking back at how fast and how popular Santino Marella has become, did you ever find that someone in the backstage area was jealous of you. Did you ever get any heat from the boys in the locker room?
A: Actually, no. In the beginning, I guess some people are hesitant, this new guy in the locker room, given the title, given TV time, but throughout the last year I’ve become pretty good friends with everyone in the locker room, so now there seeing their friend do well, so its not so much jealousy but you know itâ<80><99>s a little bit dog eat dog, and there is not opportunities for everyone but if your smart, you want the business and company as a whole to do well because there is a trickle down effect for everyone to get paid and feed their families, but the locker room is really cool and they are some of my closest friends, and you work with them so much they are like family.
Q: As of late you have been feuding with Rodney the Piper with Cousin Sal, even appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Is Roddy Piper as crazy as people say he is/was?
A: Oh yeah, absolutely. He beat up Cousin Sal so bad in that training video, he choked him unconscious for real, slapped him like seven times, and just basically beat him up. And heâ<80><99>s legit, heâ<80><99>s rowdy, heâ<80><99>s Roddy, and heâ<80><99>s a piper.
Q: The 2008 WWE Draft went down last week. Were you happy that you remained on Raw? And is there anyone that has been moved to Raw that you’d like to feud with in the months to come?
A: I am very happy to stay on Raw. All our programs are supposed to be equal, and the talent on every show is supposed to be equal, but Raw is Vinceâ<80><99>s baby being live television. I’m happy to stay there, my schedule, my friends, I wanted to stay the same, if its not broken, then donâ<80><99>t fix it. And with the new people coming over, thereâ<80><99>s Rey Mysterio. Finally someone I’m bigger than. Maybe I can beat him up, Batista, um, I might want to become friends with him somehow, but I dunno there is definitely some opportunities now.
Q: And your ex-girlfriend, Maria, moved to Smackdown..
A: Thatâ<80><99>s okay, because I’ve got a new girlfriend, and I didnâ<80><99>t want the static backstage.
Q: Any clues on who that may be?
A: I can’t really give a clue like a name, but let me tell you this, she is sexier than the devil himself..uh Herself I mean.
Q: Well, Santino Thanks for coming on the program. To conclude, what are your future goals in World Wrestling Entertainment and is there anything else you would like to relay to your home country fans in Canada?
A: One goal I have is to get back the Intercontinental Title and keep it for a while. You know, being an athlete and I was training for the Olympics my whole life and when this was no longer possible because of family, and I decided to become a professional wrestler, and there was a goal I set for myself back in 1999. It was the same day that Owen Hart passed away and I remember because I was with Jim Neidhart that day and it was a memorable day. I said that day, that one day I am going to become Intercontinental Champion. And I said when I become Intercontinental Champion, I’m going to allow myself to let go of the fact that I did not go to the Olympics as should have been.
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