Santino Marella recently spoke with Wrestlezone’s Bill Pritchard ahead of his match at Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport II tomorrow night in Atlantic City. Fighting under his real name, Anthony Carelli, the former WWE star spoke about his background in combat sports and talked about being a competitive judo athlete and coach.
“Growing up, I was a judo athlete. That was really my entire identity. I was a competitor. We competed at nationals, international tournaments, and that’s where I kind of started wrestling a little bit late. I was a judo athlete all the way through University. And, I did start wrestling, started training at 28-years-old. But being a competitive judo athlete really helped me expedite my training,” Carelli said, “in regards to being able to do all the moves, have the coordination ability to do it. And then, of course, the Santino character came along, and that was the vast majority of my career.
I have a training facility called Battle Arts Academy, in Mississauga, right beside Toronto, and I coach judo, I coach professional wrestling, I’m a sensei. I’m actually getting experience in some commentary with the International Judo Federation,” Carelli said, “but the style I fell in love with, professional wrestling, was back in 2004, I was living in Japan, and we did that work-shoot, looks like MMA-style pro wrestling. And there’s not very many opportunities in North America to do that stuff now, so that’s why when Josh asked me, I jumped all over it.”
Carelli added that “this is the way I’ve always wanted to wrestle. This is the way I wrestled at OVW. This is the way I wrestled right up until the phone call for Santino. This is my favorite style for sure.”
Returning to the ring after a brief retirement due to injuries a few years ago, Bloodsport will serve as Carelli’s eighth match of 2019. He says sometimes the matches he picks is based on destination, where he’ll want to visit a certain country, or he’s already going to be somewhere for a judo match so he’ll take a wrestling booking there too. Carelli noted that Colt Cabana requested him for WrestlePro’s Does Funny Equal Money? in April, and hopes to appear more in Canada in the future.
“I want to wrestle more in Canada to be honest, in my own country, I was always wrestling as Santino. Every time I go in Canada, I just make sure I go let everyone know there. It was nice to play an Italian character,” Carelli said, “but I’m Canadian. I want to connect with the Canadian fanbase a little more.”
Anthony Carelli faces off with Simon Grimm (Gotch) at Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport II in Atlantic City tomorrow night; the event will also be available to watch on FITE.