When Santino won a wild-card battle royal to replace Randy Orton in the SmackDown Elimination Chamber match, many fans were upset. After his excellent performance on Sunday, though, Santino deserves some higher-profile angles.
Santino was built up as the ultimate underdog heading into the match and the WWE did a great job of making it seem like a miracle might happen. Santino scored a couple of eliminations and made it into the Chamber's final two against World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan.
Santino actually connected with "The Cobra," but Bryan was able to kick out and eventually defeated the upstart challenger. There was never any real threat of Santino capturing the title ahead of WrestleMania, but for a split second it seemed as though it was a possibility.
For essentially his entire tenure with the WWE, Santino has been used as comedic relief. Even when he was Intercontinental Champion he wasn't made to look like a true threat. Santino is always going to have that humorous side, but it's time to get him involved in a meaningful feud in which he can display his true in-ring skills.
Say what you will about Santino, but there is no question that he is over with the fans. During his unexpected run in the Chamber match, the crowd was red-hot. The same can be said of his performance in last year's Royal Rumble when he nearly eliminated Alberto Del Rio to win.
There is nothing wrong with Santino being an underdog because that is precisely what so many fans love about him, but he should be built as more of a legitimate in-ring competitor who can believably beat some of the upper-card heels.
Can Santino be built into a credible contender?
Obviously Santino isn't world championship material, however, that doesn't mean that he can't be a major player in the company. Santino rarely disappoints from an entertainment standpoint, so the company should feel pretty safe putting him in a feud with somebody like Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes.
If Santino comes out of a feud with a guy like Rhodes looking strong, then it will immensely help his future prospects. Santino is currently too one-dimensional to be passed off as a true threat, but his Chamber performance coupled with a push could put him back in the midcard title picture and help him develop into a guy who can fill in higher on the card when needed.
Love him or hate him, Santino gets a strong reaction, and that is more than can be said of most competitors in the company today. If Santino maintains the quirky personality, but mixes some serious grappling into his matches and picks up some important wins, he can be a believable contender in short order.