Santino Marella had one of the most memorable debuts in WWE history as he won the Intercontinental Title in his billed home country of Italy in 2005. Marella was actually born and raised in Canada, but he adroitly pulled off being an Italian and fooled not only the WWE Universe but also WWE as well.
He talked more about when the title in his debut when he joined Chasing Glory with Lilian Garcia.
"It was nuts. I was in OVW and I was this character 'Boris,'" said Marella. "I was this Russian character and I was driving to a live event and my phone rings and it was Mike Bucci [Simon Dean], and he goes to me, 'you're real Italian, right?' I was like, 'yeah I am.'"
Marella then told a story of Dusty Rhodes calling a guy in OVW and asking him if he could ride a motorcycle. The guy thought it was a rib so he said no but Rhodes actually was calling and was interested in using the guy on the main roster. The guy missed his opportunity and that opportunity never came again.
"Dusty Rhodes had come to OVW and said that if anybody asks you if you can do this you say that you absolutely can and obviously you have to figure a way out to do it," stated Marella. "I couldn't speak Italian really well. When I used to drive in downtown Toronto - I worked downtown for one year with an hour and fifteen-minute morning traffic [commute] - and I used to put on an audio tape for tourist Italian because I had always wanted to speak more Italian. I memorized the tape while listening to it in traffic. I didn't really learn to speak Italian but I can say things on the tape so when they called me and asked me to say something in Italian I just said 'I want to buy a half kilo of cheese' in Italian. It was on the tape. I can hear them looking around with each other and thinking that it sounded pretty good even though they don't know what I had said, so that was it. I had said another phrase and they were sold.
"They flew me to Italy and me winning the IC title had [been planned] the night before… I got the phone call Friday, flew out Saturday, landed Sunday and debuted Monday so it was a crazy world wind of like, what just happened here? I didn't even really believe it until it happened. I didn't want to almost believe it and then something changes last minute but it happened and that was it."
Marella's character was mostly used for comic relief which doesn't always sit well with some Superstars. With that type of character, Marella was asked if he ever got frustrated backstage.
"I think that was one of the things that made me different was that I wasn't one of those guys that had a massive ego and I think that was what was refreshing for even some people. For example a lot of the guys I am their wives' favorite, or I am someone's grandmother's favorite because everyone is putting on that macho, badass cool guy and this guy isn't trying to do that. He is just going out and having fun and being silly which is what made me stand out as a character and as a person too," said Marella.
"I remember backstage, there were guys who weren't happy with being top guys and I'm like, 'dude, we're professional wrestlers for a living.' It's all good man."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Chasing Glory w/ Lilian Garcia with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.