WWE: Santino Marella and the 15 Most Monumental Moments of His Career
Five years ago today, a "fan" who was handpicked from the Italian crowd by Vince McMahon himself was placed in a No Holds Barred match against then-Intercontinental Champion Umaga, with the title on the line. With some help from an interfering Bobby Lashley, this unidentified fan went on to win the prestigious title in a shocking fashion.
This "fan," of course, would later be known as Santino Marella.
Since that point in time, Marella has embarked on a successful career in WWE both as a heel and a face while capturing gold on more than one occasion. Despite always being a mid-card talent, Marella has become one of the more popular wrestlers in the company due to his likable and humorous personality and antics.
In light of this special anniversary, I'll highlight the top 15 moments in the WWE career of Santino Marella over the course of the last five years. One can only assume that these moments are only the beginning of Marella's tenure going forward.
Winning the Intercontinental Championship on His Debut
Only an elite group of Superstars can say they've won gold in their debut match in WWE, but how many of them can say they did it while not under contract?
Of course, Santino Marella was contracted as a developmental wrestler before being called up to the main roster on April 16, 2007, but in storyline, he was nothing more than an Italian fan in attendance for Monday Night Raw. After being brutalized by the intimidating Umaga for a substantial amount of time, Umaga's arch-rival Bobby Lashley made the save and helped Marella pin the Samoan Bulldozer to capture the Intercontinental Championship.
Over the next three months, Marella continued to depict himself as an underdog in order to get over with the crowd, winning most of his matches via roll-up. He held the strap till dropping it back to Umaga in early July 2007.
During a majority of her WWE run, Maria was portrayed as a not-so-intelligent backstage interviewer that was only judged based upon her lovely looks. Guess the "Sexy, Smart, and Powerful" Divas slogan didn't apply back then, huh?
Anyways, her attraction to gold is what originally got her linked to then-Intercontinental Champion Santino Marella, claiming his belt was "shiny like her dress." Over time, Marella transformed into an overprotective boyfriend who was very controlling of Maria once he slowly turned heel over the course 2007.
In early 2008, Marella would even prevent Maria from exposing her new Playboy cover on an edition of Raw. At WrestleMania 24, Marella got himself involved in his significant other's tag team match, getting himself pushed by rap signer Snoop Dogg.
A short while later, Maria broke up with Marella after realizing he was nothing more than a jerk. The Milan Miracle requested an Anything Goes match against her the night after Mania, where he embarrassingly lost to Maria following interference from the WWE Divas.
Feuding with Stone Cold Steve Austin
Shortly after turning heel in late 2007, Santino Marella took shots at WWE Films' new production, entitled The Condemned, which featured Stone Cold Steve Austin. It was around this time that Marella developed more of a humorous personality, butchering the English language and intentionally getting laughs from the crowd.
At one point, Stone Cold confronted Marella to see if the Milan Miracle would start talking trash to his face and responded by spraying Marella as well as his girlfriend Maria down with a beer bath. The situation was obviously reminiscent of when Stone Cold did the same thing to Mr. McMahon during the Attitude Era, except it involved the sight of the gorgeous Maria getting soaked, too.
After his relationship with Maria came to an end following WrestleMania 24, Santino Marella bounded around from a number of angles in subsequent months. From challenging the cousin of Jimmy Kimmel to a match, to feuding with Cody Rhodes and Hardcore Holly, to being defeated by Rey Mysterio, Marella couldn't seem to catch a break.
His losing streak went to a whole new level in July 2008 when he issued open challenges to anyone in the locker room. After losing to the returning D'Lo Brown the week prior, Marella was determined to pick up a victory this time around.
Shockingly enough, Beth Phoenix emerged from the back to take on Marella and went on to defeat the former Intercontinental Champion with a roll-up. However, the two were attracted to each other from love at first sight, and it was the start of a beautiful yet strange relationship.
Winning Back the Intercontinental Championship
The following month, Glamarella went to then-Raw General Manager Mike Adamle and asked him for shots at the Intercontinental and Women's Championships respectively. Being the oblivious authority figure that he was, he quickly granted them the title matches at SummerSlam in a mixed tag team match.
Pairing against the duo of Kofi Kingston and Mickie James, no one thought that Santino Marella and Beth Phoenix would be able to coexist after the two were at each others' throats the month prior. Nonetheless, Phoenix was able to pin James at the biggest blockbuster of the summer to win herself the Women's title, as well as the prestigious Intercontinental title for Santino for the second time.
Two weeks after winning back the Intercontinental Championship, Santino Marella was insulted by Randy Orton when the Viper called him a weak champion. Marella took that comment to heart and was determined to prove him wrong by initiating the Honk-a-Meter.
The Honk-a-Meter constantly compared Santino's reign as Intercontinental Champion to the Honky Tonk Man's record year-long reign as champion. The angle culminated that October, when Honky Tonk Man was chosen by the fans to challenge Santino for the strap at Cyber Sunday.
Sadly, the bout only lasted a minute before Phoenix got Marella disqualified, but HTM was able to deliver a nicely-timed guitar shot to the head of the Milan Miracle. Marella would drop the title to William Regal shortly thereafter.
In the weeks leading up to WrestleMania 25, Santino Marella acted similarly to The Miz a few months ago by complaining that he didn't have a match at WrestleMania. He failed to qualify for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match and the multi-Diva battle royal after losing to Mickie James (yes, seriously), so all hope seemed lost for the Milan Miracle.
However, that didn't stop him from dressing up as a woman and eliminating his own girlfriend Beth Phoenix to earn the title of Miss WrestleMania at the event. When Phoenix asked him to remove the disguise, he stated that "Santina" was his twin sister and that they were two separate people.
The angle continued on for a few more months, where he won back the title after originally losing it to Vickie Guerrero at one point. In late June, Santina was ultimately fired by Donald Trump in a hilarious backstage segment.
I understand that Santino Marella might be quite the ladies' man, but it strikes me as extremely strange that he'd dress up as a female just to get a match on the grandest stage of them all.
Relationship with Tamina
Over the next year, Santino Marella would slowly revert back to a fan favorite after cutting ties with Beth Phoenix and putting an end to Glamarella. Given the new guest host gimmick on Monday Night Raw, Santino spent most of his time interacting with the celebrities backstage.
In mid-2010, Santino helped Vladimir Kozlov turn from a threatening monster in a likable face against the will of William Regal. When the two started teaming together, they were soon joined by Tamina, who was going against the wishes of the Usos at the time.
Their relationship was referenced backstage, and multiple kisses were shared between the two before it became official. Marella and Tamina remained a couple before they were separated via the 2011 WWE Draft in April.
After losing his WWE Championship in September 2010, Sheamus embarked on a major losing streak that didn't see him capture many victories. The night after his team came up short at Bragging Rights, he challenged Santino Marella to a match in hopes of getting back on the right track.
However, the Celtic Warrior, as well as the WWE Universe, was shocked that night when Santino defeated the former WWE Champion with a roll-up in a surprising turn of events. Their mini-feud continued for the next few weeks, where the two had a very comical tea party on Raw at one point.
Becoming WWE Tag Team Champion
While his partnerships with Vladimir Kozlov and Tamina flourished, the team garnered more wins than losses during their time and ultimately earned themselves a shot at the WWE Tag Team Championships. Although they came up short in defeating Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater at Survivor Series, they were able to capture the belts at a subsequent Raw a few weeks later.
The duo enjoyed a nice reign as champs, with victories over the Nexus and the Usos before dropping the titles back to Slater and Gabriel at Elimination Chamber. The alliance between Santino and Kozlov slowly faded over the course of 2011 before Kozlov was abruptly released that August.
Nearly Winning the 2011 Royal Rumble
Each January, every WWE Superstar makes it their No. 1 goal to win the annual Royal Rumble match and earn a World title shot in the main event of WrestleMania. As the usual slogan says, forty men will enter, but only one will win.
Well, Santino Marella was one of those forty, entering at the opportunistic number of 37. At one point, he left the ring but wasn't eliminated due to going under the bottom rope.
Once Alberto Del Rio thought he won the match after getting rid of Randy Orton and Wade Barrett, Marella reemerged in the ring and delivered a picture-perfect Cobra to the Mexican aristocrat. When he was about to throw Del Rio over the top rope, however, Del Rio countered and won the bout for himself.
Sadly, WWE didn't capitalize on the massive pop he received that night, as he quickly lost to Alberto Del Rio on the following edition of Raw. But hey, at least he can say he lasted until the final two, right?
Winning at WrestleMania 27
Although Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov dropped the WWE Tag Team Championship back to Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel at Elimination Chamber, the fuming feud didn't stop there. Big Show and Kane recruited the two goofs to rival against the Corre at WrestleMania 27 in an impromptu eight-man tag team match.
Within a minute and a half, Santino's team had quickly defeated the Corre on the grandest stage of them all, following a Cobra and a swift punch from Show. He may not have scored the pin, but winning at WrestleMania is a goal every superstar hopes to achieve in their career.
Becoming the Official SmackDown Assistant
After Vladimir Kozlov was released last August, Santino Marella searched to find a new tag team partner to challenge David Otunga and Michael McGillicutty for the straps. Most of his pairings were unsuccessful, and Santino soon found himself inactive after being the victim of a car accident shortly thereafter.
Once he returned, he began appearing on SmackDown on a regular basis, despite still being a member of the SmackDown brand. Since Zack Ryder had captured the United States Championship that December and was looking for a replacement as the assistant to SmackDown, Marella earned the job title after defeating Drew McIntyre.
Santino would remain the sidekick of Long until John Laurinaitis became the General Manager of both shows, with the Milan Miracle being replaced by David Otunga.
Nearly Winning the SmackDown Elimination Chamber
Throughout the month of February, participants in the SmackDown Elimination Chamber were dropping like flies due to injuries. Mere days before the event, Randy Orton was sidelined with a concussion, leaving one empty spot for anyone to claim.
On the SmackDown before the show, Santino Marella shockingly won a battle royal to earn the final spot in the World Heavyweight Championship match at Elimination Chamber. No one thought he would last long (myself included), but man, were we wrong.
After eliminating established stars such then-Intercontinental Champion Cody Rhodes and Wade Barrett, it was down to Santino and the then-World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan. At one point, the Milan Miracle even managed to connect with the Cobra, but Bryan was able to kick out.
In the end, the American Dragon locked in the LaBelle Lock on Santino, forcing him to tap out after nearly a minute. Despite all of the major names on the card that night, it was Marella who received the biggest pop of them all.
Winning the United States Championship
Following Elimination Chamber, Santino Marella was treated with a new-found push, given his massive popularity with the crowd. Being aligned with the Friday Nights General Manager Teddy Long, Marella was granted a shot at Jack Swagger's United States Championship a month ago at the start of Monday Night Raw.
Shockingly enough, Marella was able to defeat the All-American American and capture his first United States Championship in the process. Following the bout, the Milan Miracle was congratulated by Kofi Kingston, Teddy Long and Aksana while tears streamed down his face.
Over the last month, Marella has been able to successfully retain his star-spangled prize against a variety of competitors. After working his tail off the last five years for WWE, there's no doubt in my mind that he certainly deserves it.
Thanks for reading, Bleachers, and make sure to drop a comment with your thoughts on the illustrious career of Santino Marella so far, as well as predictions for the future of the Milan Miracle. As always, your overall feedback and criticism is greatly appreciated.