In 2011, wrestling fans rose from their seats as Santino Marella reemerged into the ring during the final two of the WWE Men’s Royal Rumble match. Marella, who had previously slipped through the bottom rope, was never eliminated. So as Alberto Del Rio seemed to have won the match, Marella snuck up from behind and shocked Del Rio with a Cobra strike. Marella began dancing around the ring, believing he was moments away from pulling off a major win. Unfortunately, Marella’s hopes for victory were thwarted when Del Rio launched over the top rope and onto the floor.
The following year, Santino Marella found himself in a similar situation as he made it to the final two of the World Heavyweight Championship Elimination Chamber match. After eliminating the likes of Cody Rhodes and Wade Barrett, it came down to Marella and the reigning champion, Daniel Bryan (aka Bryan Danielson). As “The Milan Miracle” appeared to be closing in on another massive upset, the Milwaukee crowd erupted in cheers. Marella came within inches of headlining WrestleMania when he nailed Bryan with The Cobra. Bryan would then kick out of Marella’s subsequent pinfall attempt and force him to tap out to the LeBell Lock. For a brief moment, though, Marella seemed to be on the verge of something special.
Speaking with WrestleZone‘s Managing Editor Bill Pritchard, one of Marella’s former colleagues, Tyrus (fka Brodus Clay), recalled the overwhelming reaction Marella received during that 2012 Elimination Chamber match.
“A lot of people don’t know about Santino’s background. He was a judo champion and one of the one of my closest friends and one of the toughest guys I’ve been ever been around. His work ethic was phenomenal. I was at that pay-per-view, and I went out in the crowd to watch that and that pop, that moment when Santino and Daniel Bryan were going at it, Santino had him. I’m telling you, that building erupted,” Tyrus said.
“I think the right thing would have been for if Santino would have captured that, we would be talking about that entire Elimination Chamber completely different. We would be talking about it with the same type of, ‘Do you remember that match?’ like we talk about Shawn Michaels, when you talk about Taker and I’m going to say it, Mankind. I mean, it was just that kind of, ‘Oh, my God, he might do it.'”
“There wasn’t one person sitting down. I was standing. I believe it was me and a couple other buddies, we snuck out into the crowd … That match with anyone who’s never seen it, and if you don’t want to watch the whole match, you just watch when the two of them come down and you listen to that crowd, that entire place would have erupted. And they did erupt. And I was cheering myself, not just because I love the guy, but it was I think it was a great moment for wrestling.”
While that moment may be remembered for Marella’s efforts, Tyrus recognizes the importance is holds for Daniel Bryan as well. “For Daniel Bryan, it was a great night for him. It was a changing of the guard, so to speak,” he said. “If you would have looked at both guys when they first came in and said these guys are going to be wrestling for the most coveted championship at the time in the business and the sport, people would probably laugh at you.”