Santino Marella was a recent guest on Chasing Glory with Lilian Garcia and the former WWE Intercontinental Champion talked about how he felt after winning the title in his WWE debut that is referred to as the ‘Milan Miracle’. He went on to explain how he got the gimmick, recalling how the gimmick was pitched to him, and how he learned some valuable advice from Dusty Rhodes.
“I was in OVW, I was this character Boris, this Russian character. I was driving to a live event and my phone rings and it’s Mike Bucci. He said ‘Boris, you’re really Italian, right?’ and I say ‘Yeah.’
A few weeks before, Dusty Rhodes had come to OVW, and he called this guy Jack Bull, ‘Can you ride a motorcycle?’ Jack thought it was someone doing a Dusty impersonation and ribbing him, so he said ‘Nope!’ Then he says ‘Can you learn to ride a motorcycle?‘ and he’s like ‘Nope!’ And he’s like ‘Okay, whatever.’ Then Jack sees the 203 area code and the guy is like ‘That may have been Dusty Rhodes!’ So we had a laugh about it, but the opportunity didn’t come around again so it’s actually really bad. He was going to get called up and do something with Undertaker as one of his motorcycle buddies. So Dusty came to OVW and said ‘if anyone asks you ‘Can you do this?’ you say ‘Absolutely, yeah.’’ Then obviously figure out how to do it.
So they called and I couldn’t really speak Italian very well. When I used to drive to downtown Toronto, I worked downtown for one year so I was in morning traffic. 115 minutes every morning for one year. I used to put in a tape, an audiotape of tourist Italian because I always wanted to speak more Italian. And I memorized the tape, I remember that I listened to it in traffic everyday. So I didn’t know how to speak Italian but I could say things on the tape. So when they asked ‘can you say something in Italian?’, I just said ‘I want to buy a half kilo of cheese.’ It was on the tape, and I could tell that they thought it sounded good, and that was it. I flew in, they were sold, and that happened on TV two days later.”
Santino also talked about how not having a massive ego made him stand out, noting that being fun and silly instead of trying to act like something else helped him in and out of the ring.
“No, I actually think that was one of the things that made me different. I wasn’t a guy that had a massive ego. I think that’s what was refreshing to even some people like for example, a lot of the guys, I’m their wife’s favorite or I’m someone’s grandmother’s favorite. Everyone is putting on that macho badass cool guy, this guy’s not even trying to do that. He’s just having fun and being silly and I think that’s what made me stand out. As a character and as a person too.”