Santino Marella on Beth Phoenix in the Hall of Fame, WWE Expanding Globally, Calls the Cobra Silly and Says Cornette Hits Like a Woman

Nick Paglino
santino marella

(Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Bazooka Candy Brands/Topps)

Former WWE star Santino Marella recently appeared on Interactive Wrestling Radio and below are some interview highlights:

On Battle Arts Academy:

“It has been going really well. We’re almost at 3 and a half year mark right now. Battle Arts started When I was still on the road. As my neck got worse, it was kind of a blessing in disguise, I was able to stay at home and help. It is surviving, it is thriving! We have champions in multiple arts. For example, we have some kids who are National Champions in wrestling, we have some Muey Thai champions, and our professional wrestling training is taking off. My philosophy, for professional wrestling, is to train like a professional athlete so we have a lot of our wrestlers cross-train in judy and boxing and stuff like that so they can have real, natural, organic reactions. It makes them better pro wrestlers. It is like a miniature Olympic training center, 100%!

On being a former Judo Champion:

“Yeah! That was a long time ago, though. I stepped away from judo during my entire pro wrestling career. But, now I’m kind of retired from WWE in July, I have been coaching again. I just came from another practice tonight. We are taking our fighters to other clubs to do more sparring. It is fun, man! I never saw myself as a coach but I’m certainly enjoying the role.”

On his approach versus the more acting-style training by other schools like Mr. Anderson’s:

“We teach promos as well. 100%! Sometimes we have students and they’re getting it… They’re getting the showmanship and the psychology. But, they have to become bodybuilders. Everybody has a different prescription on what they have to do for success. Some guys look the part but can’t act for shit. You have to wear so many hats to be a professional wrestler. You have to be a theatrical actor. You have to be a body builder. You have to be a fighter. You have to be a showman, a role-model. You’re a hero or a villain! There’s so many things to work on.”

On if he ever got heat for getting cheered When he was a heel:

“No, no. The number one thing is that people are making noise. If they’re quiet, it means they don’t care. If they’re making noise, be it laughing or cheering, that is what the office wants. They want the audience to be engaged. They let the audience turn me into a babyface. I really didn’t change except the guy in front of me was a bad guy instead of a good guy. But, When the audience changes you, it is so much more impactful than When the office changes you.”

On his comedy and if the writers wrote for him or if it was his ideas:

“It went on a sliding scale. At the beginning, it was very written. Then, near the end, it was written very little. I started owning my character and bringing it to life in a different way. I started owning my character. They let me sort of say things as I would say them instead of writing them for me. There was a shift.”

On if people are surprised he does not have an Italian accent:

“(laughs) Yeah, all the time. I feel bad because they’re disappointed that I’m not as funny and goofy as but this is me, I’m Anthony!”

On Roddy Piper versus Jim Cornette slapping harder:

“Jim Cornette hits like a woman! Roddy Piper, definitely hits harder. It wasn’t so much working with him, it was between takes. The stories, the knowledge… I actually can’t even believe he’s gone. Just an awesome human being. Every time I’d see him, he’d genuinely receive you so well and ask you questions about yourself. He was a class act, man. He’s not one of those guys just because they passed away who you say was awesome, he WAS awesome!”

On if he is surprised by the Beth Phoenix WWE Hall of Fame nomination:

“No, she really changed the division. She sent it in a new direction to where it is today with girls who are not just beautiful but are talented and smart. At the time that she was wrestling, there wasn’t really a lot of girls that could go with her… Maybe Nattie Neidhart at the time. But, she made girls look like they were in a legitimate fight. That is how good she was. She was a great worker, a superb athlete, loves the business. She was really a pioneer. And, we had so much fun doing the whole gender role. Beth is a true professional. I’m so proud of her!”

On if he liked the Santina character:

“Santina? Whatever. My philosophy is if you give me lemons, I’ll make lemonade. They gave me that role and I’d like to believe I knocked it out of the park. It was only supposed to be for one night but it was so funny, it lasted for 3 months. It definitely tested my acting ability, that is for sure!”

On what he thinks about Santina having been fired by President Donald Trump:

“It makes me think Revelations and the Bible are coming true and we’re going to be in World War 3 pretty soon. I don’t know, man. The political landscape is really unstable and scary. God, I just hope it smooths over, man.”

On the Honk-O-Meter and working with the Honky Tonk Man:

“Oh, it was awesome, man! He’s a consummate worker. He was down with working together. We were supposed to do it. We were supposed to come close to the record but maybe not beat it… That is the story of Santino. Coming so close but not actually doing it. I thought they were going to do it but they changed their mind and it ended abruptly.”

On the Elimination Chamber When he almost won the World Title:

“Yeah, man. When I came back through the curtain… It is not often that you get standing ovations in Gorilla but I got a standing ovation. I remember John Cena came up to me and said, “I know what I’m capable of and I’m not going to be able to get them louder than that tonight.” That meant a lot to me. When I watch it back, you know, you’re so in the moment, you don’t hear the audience completely because you are so in that moment. Man, they were loud and it was awesome!”

On the Cobra and if he thought it would be as popular as it was:

“It kind of took off really fast. The reactions were immediately really good at live events to the point the word got out to live TV to where Vince wanted to see it. It blew up so fast. I remember just being amazed at people’s reactions When I’d make the gesture that I was going to pull it out. People went crazy! I didn’t get it, almost! “Why do you love this so much? It is silly!” But, it was great!

On his role in Jingle All the Way 2 and acting in general:

“I just signed up with an agent at the end of the year to explore acting. Big roles, small roles. I don’t care, I’ll do whatever! I enjoy acting a lot. As far as pro wrestling goes, I was probably more on the acting side because I was playing such a different character from my personality. As for Jingle All the Way, it was awesome! Larry the Cable Guy was awesome! I asked WWE Films, “I want to be in this movie, I want to be in this movie. Keep me in mind for this.” And, they did keep me in mind. They called me for this role and it was interesting because it was a role that I had to be calm and collected. I couldn’t have had a more demanding role as far as playing a character but it was actually kind of hard playing a smaller character, not so over the top, just a regular guy. I had always had to be so extreme being Santino so it was challenging. Filming, I felt my comfort level grow exponentially from When we started to When we finished. At the beginning, I was nervous. By the end, I was rocking! That was the sentiments of WWE films. Even Vince said, “I heard you were nervous day one but by the end, you were knocking it out the park.” So, yeah. I love it. I love the movie. It is seasonal! Every Christmas, people are going to watch it for years and years to come. That is really cool!”

On WWE expanding globally with the UK Tournament and so forth:

“I think it is great as long as there are options. You can go to the UK, you can go to Japan, you can go to 205… It is not competition in the purest sense of the word because it is all the same company. Competition is always good for the wrestlers, you know? To give them options, especially high paying options. I want Battle Arts to be the Canadian developmental one day. I’m heading in the right direction to help that happen, you know?”

On if his neck injury was a result of any particular spot or grew over time:

“Accumulation, definitely. After the double fusion, the first surgery, a couple screws came out. So, after 3 months, they had to go in and check all the hardware out. I think that was a set back. They gave me lots of time to heal. It just never got to the point where I could come back and compete at a high level in the ring or perform at a high level, I should say.”

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