On Where His Italian Dialect Comes From:
Almost my entire high school, I’m talking 90% are all first generation Canadians. All our parents are from different countries, so we had a lot of Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Greek, Maltese, and even in my elementary school, those nationalities are almost everywhere in the class. We had one black kid, one Chinese kid, but the rest was Italian, Greek, everyone that came from Europe, so all my friend’s parents had really strong accents from different countries….our parents would try and yell in us or something in English, which is definitely not their first language and that’s where I got sumanagun from. My neighbor Ivan would always say, ‘Sumanagun.” I just assembled bits and pieces of all my friends parents.
On How His Italian Gimmick Came About:
In 2007 I get this call…, ‘Your background is really Italian, right?’ I go, ‘Yep.’ He goes, ‘You can speak Italian?’ I just remembered we had this talk. There was this guy named Jack Bull, who was in developmental and Dusty Rhodes called him one time and said, ‘Jack Bull, this is Dusty Rhodes, can you ride a motorcycle? He’s like, ‘Nope.’ He thought someone was prank calling him and doing a Dusty impression. Dusty goes, ‘Can you learn to ride a motorcycle?’ He goes, ‘Nope.’ He goes, ‘OK.’ Anyway, he gets off the phone and sees 203, the area code, and he’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, is that Dusty Rhodes?’ Anyway, we kind of had a laugh about it and Dusty Rhodes came down to OVW and was talking to everybody. This poor guy never got another opportunity to get called up. He was going to get called up to do something with The Undertaker in this bike gang thing. Dusty said, ‘Look, if they ever ask you if you can do something, the answer is yes. Then you better learn how to do it.’ So when I used to work downtown Toronto….I always wanted to learn Italian more so I had this tourist, Conversational Italian tape that I would listen to everyday in rush hour traffic. I couldn’t speak Italian; but, I could regurgitate some of the tape….they asked me if I could speak Italian and I just regurgitated a couple lines from the tape….all of a sudden he goes, ‘OK, we’re going to fly you out tomorrow and you’re going to debut as this Italian guy. Keep it under wraps. It’s always subject to change.’ They flew me out to Italy the next day. I got there on Sunday and I debuted on Monday.
On How The Gimmick Helped Him Connect With His Italian Roots:
I really got a chance to connect with my Italian side. I’m a dual citizen and after I became Santino, I studied the language, because I knew I was gonna have to go back to Italy sometime and speak, so I started studying. First, I did Rosetta Stone and it got me well enough to a point where I could cut a promo in Italian in Italy. Years later, I had a tutor and I got the more advanced Rosetta Stone and I actually did two live interviews in Italy, one of them news and one of them radio, in Italian. It was amazing. I was so nervous because I’m portraying this guy in character and I should at least be able to speak the language. I became an Italian citizen and what’s the expression? Art imitates life.
On His Royal Rumble Record:
I remember when we were going through the elimination order and Dean Malenko was like, ‘Your match is not gonna be long. You’re gonna be thrown out pretty quick.’ I was like, ‘OK, whatever.’ And I said, ‘Can I try and break the record then?’ And he looked at me like, ‘OK, let me ask.’ He came back and said, ‘Yeah, go ahead.’ So, you know, they gave me lemons and I turned it into lemonade. I had to come up with a plan to be actually the fastest elimination and nail it. I think they tried to break it a couple times, but they can’t do it.
On Being Fired By Donald Trump:
Well, my sister was. It’s more significant now after the fact that he’s the President of the United States; but, it’s pretty cool. Of course, when he got elected I found that old video and retweeted it. It was funny. He kept looking at the camera and normally that would be a bust, you know, you gotta do it again, but they just let it go. It’s Donald Trump.
On Santina Marella:
Vince [McMahon] found it very funny, that kind of chauvinistic gender role comedy stuff, where Santino was trying to show that men are dominant and of course, Beth Phoenix was the more dominant one in the relationship, which was really making him become desperate and then he dressed up like a woman to win the battle royal and stuff. It was supposed to be a one time thing actually; but, apparently….Vince was just dying laughing, like slapping his leg dying. I brought it to life. I gave it my all. I had a couple of dance moves in the back pocket that I was waiting to use and it lasted for three months. You wrestle for ten years and you dress up like a woman for three months and that’s what they remember. I remember the first time I was getting the makeup and I remember Nicole Scherzinger from The Pussycat Dolls. She was our guest at Mania and she came in and saw me and I think she thought I was a transvestite or something. I was like, ‘No no no. What is happening is a one time thing.’ It was fun. My daughter is probably a little embarrassed at school, but that’s about it.
(Transcription Credit: Michael McClead, WrestleZone)
Readers interested in hearing Sean Mooney’s interview with Marella in its entirety may do so below: