By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
On becoming a comedy wrestler: “The shift happened, so the WWE Universe, as you probably know, they do not like to be force fed anything. And all of a sudden, this guy comes out of the audience. And, you know, he beats Chris Masters and, you know, Shelton Benjamin, he sneaks a victory, and it’s like, if he’s not fully trained, he’s beating the roster kind of doesn’t make sense. And, you know, there is a pay-per-view in the summer and Umaga was like, killing me in Houston. The audience was like one more time, and like the audience wasn’t taking to the initial babyface Santino that was kind of like, just thrust in you know, into them. So they said okay, we’re gonna have to turn him heel, and if that doesn’t work, you know, see you later repackage. And immediately upon turning heel, Vince found it very funny, because once I did my first heel promo, I did guest commentary next week, another promo, another promo, another promo and another pre-tape, because I actually separated my shoulder, this one.
“So it was an opportunity to get to speak on the mic. And, you know, people that were in Gorilla are like, dude, Vince is cracking up when you’re out there. He loves the character as a heel. So, if you can pop Vince you got a job, right? That’s, that’s the idea. So Vince was a fan and from what I hear, and you know, and there was actually no competition for a long time in terms of the comedic, the comic relief character. R-Truth a little bit at the time, he’s kind of doing now but at the time, there was really no no one was like, like Hornswoggle a little bit, but I was on Raw. So for a long time. I just kept quiet and didn’t draw attention to it, but there was no competition.”
On winning the Miss WrestleMania Battle Royal: “Is that the Santina one? Yeah, no, I’m bad with the years and the numbers. It’s oddly enough, that was my biggest WrestleMania moment actually. I was the captain of Team Teddy, I had a match with Kofi against Big Show and Kane, so I had some matches. But that was like, the most highlighted, spotlighted moment in WrestleMania. [What was the lead up to that?] So the lead up was the storyline with Beth Phoenix in my life where I was just trying to, I was battling to be the alpha in the relationship. So the relationship dynamics was what we were going after. And you know, I was insecure, and I’m trying to show that men are better athletes. So I’m going to dress up as a woman and enter the Women’s Battle Royale. And the whole idea was just for the storyline with Beth and I, and it was supposed to be a one off. But it was so funny that it ended up lasting for months and months. I had to get fake lashes every day and all that stuff. I had to to go shopping in Houston at a mall for the gear that day.”
On the origin of The Cobra: “I was in Japan. So for most of 2004 I was living in Japan. And after the shows there, we all go to the bar restaurant every day. There was a gentleman named Carl, who was friends with my coach, Mr. Ishikawa. And he’s just sitting at the table and just showed me this thing where he transforms his arm and his little kind of wooden puppet type thing. And I remember looking at Mr. Ishikawa like, I don’t get it. What is that? He goes it was a funny thing he does, you know. So he made me try it. The next time I saw him say, do you remember how to do it, you know, and that was it. Like that was it? That was the little funny thing between us. I’m guessing about five years later, I believe it was Atlanta. And I was wrestling either Chavo or Carlito, I think it was Chavo.
“I go I am I try something during my comeback. So it’s like you know jab and clothesline or whatever punch and then next I stop and this transformation in my arm and I hit them they turned away into a schoolboy. And without seeing it on TV, the audience immediately laughed. So Cena, I always stand beside Cena, you know. So he came back, I came back through the curtain. He’s like, I would keep that if I were you, that was funny. And so I was doing it only on live events. And then one day I go to TV and Ricky Steamboat was my producer, and he’s like, I was wrestling Zack Ryder, he goes ‘You know, you’re going over with the Cobra. Vince wants to see the Cobra.’ [I respond] Vince knows about the Cobra? He goes yeah, he reads the reports and I go okay, so then yeah, I did the Cobra. The Cobra was crazy, like in three weeks. Really quickly, I would gesture for it. I would see in my peripheral vision like entire arena, like jumping up. I’m like really? Ok, they like it. I mean, I didn’t find it that spectacular, but they loved it. So and then I think they did it for like a year without the sleeve, and then we introduced the sleeve.”
On having the fastest ever Royal Rumble elimination: “I know how to beat the record. I’m the only one that knows how to do it. Well, no one’s done it yet. But that’s a perfect example of when you’re given lemons, you make lemonade. You know, when they were going, we were going through the Rumble and Dean Malenko was like, ‘Yeah, you’re coming out getting eliminated pretty fast.’ I said, you know, can we try and break the record? He’s like, let me get back to you. [The record was] Like two seconds? I think it was Warlord. And he [Malenko] came back to me and said, ‘By the way, you’re good on trying to break the record.’ So Kane had a huge part in that he had to be there at that moment, right. I’ve slid under, stood up and I’m gone. I’m going. And he was there. I mean, he was there. Like it was perfect.”
On being able to use the Santino Marella name in Impact Wrestling: “Yeah, so the big thing, I guess in 2021, somebody did not renew the trademark. And as a habit. When Impact gets guys that were former WWE guys, they look up the trademarks, you know, they have to come up with a name for me. Well, what can they call me? St. Tino? Or you know, something? [Santino’s real name is Anthony] Anthony? No, nobody wants to see Anthony. I found out you know, nobody really wants to see Anthony they’ve in fact disappointed when they see Anthony. But it [Santino] was available, Impact grabbed it. And it’s great news, you know. I was gonna have a great time anyway. But the fact that I can be Santino Marella and be the genuine article, and not a knockoff, it was just the icing on the cake.”