WWE: Breaking Down the Unlikely Rise of Santino Marella
Next week, the reign of Santino Marella as the United States Champion will have reached 100 days. It will make for the 10th reign of its kind since 2004 and just the 12th such reign to hit that milestone since the prestigious title became property of WWE back in 2001.
Marella came into WWE as a handpicked fan who won the Intercontinental Championship on a RAW episode in Italy. It forced Marella to become a member of the roster on a regular basis. WWE stated that Marella grew up in Canada and lived in the U.S. trying to become a pro wrestler, but visited his family in Italy a few times each year.
Marella would hold the Intercontinental Championship for roughly three months in a reign that wasn't booked very strongly. Marella did not seem very strong in any specific area until he lost the title back to Umaga in July 2007.
Marella would begin to develop heel tendencies around his storyline girlfriend, Maria. She was getting a lot more attention than the ex-Intercontinental Champion, prompting some jealousy from Marella. This was also the same time where Marella began to attack the acting ability of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin's movie, The Condemned, was critiqued rather harshly by Marella, but his character showed some comedic moments from the program, prompting what most of his career has centered around.
Without Maria in his life anymore, Marella would fall for yet another Diva in July 2008. Marella would lose a match to WWE Diva Beth Phoenix. The two would share a kiss the following week and Glamarella was soon born. The duo would challenge Women's Champion Mickie James and Intercontinental Champion Kofi Kingston to an intergender tag team match with both titles up for grabs at SummerSlam. Phoenix would pin James and she and Marella would become champions once again.
The goal for Santino Marella was clear this time around with the Intercontinental Champion: become the greatest champion in the title's history. Marella would introduce the Honk-A-Meter, which would count toward the 64-week reign of The Honky Tonk Man, the longest-reigning Intercontinental Champion in history. At Cyber Sunday, Marella actually had to face Honky Tonk Man thanks to a fan vote. In November, William Regal claimed the championship from Marella.
This truly began a streak of simply ridiculous storylines for Marella. He would be eliminated in a record 1.9 seconds from the 2009 Royal Rumble, marking the shortest stint in the match's history. For WrestleMania 25, it would be Marella dressed in drag and pretending to be his twin sister "Santina" in a Diva battle royal. The winner was "Santina" and the crown of Miss WrestleMania was hers as well.
A year later, it was a tag team with Vladimir Kozlov that helped Marella become a little bit more serious. Kozlov's tough interior, combined with the comic relief of Marella, gave them a combination of good tag team work in the ring and entertaining hijinks outside of the ring. This helped them win the WWE Tag Team Championships in December 2010 and led to the new rise of Marella in 2011.
Marella surprised the world when he was a part of the final two men in the 40-man Royal Rumble, last being eliminated by Alberto Del Rio. Marella and Kozlov would lose their tag team titles to Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel, now members of The Corre. This led to a WrestleMania match between Marella and The Corre. In an eight-man tag team match at WrestleMania 27, Marella teamed with Kane and Big Show, but would need to recruit Kofi Kingston when Kozlov was injured prior to WrestleMania.
When Kozlov was released from WWE in August 2011, Marella began a tag team with Zack Ryder. Despite success in some matches, that wouldn't make for anything substantial for Marella. He would injure his left shoulder in a car accident in Puerto Rico. This would keep Marella out of action until October. Marella would go through a losing streak that lasted until January 2012, until he was named the new assistant to SmackDown General Manager Teddy Long. Marella would then shock the world by winning a battle royal to make it into an Elimination Chamber match, replacing an injured Randy Orton.
Marella would not just be in the Chamber match, but would last until the final two, ultimately having Daniel Bryan defeat him to retain the World Heavyweight Championship. Marella would be involved in the Team Teddy vs. Team Johnny feud that culminated at WrestleMania 28. Prior to the showdown, Marella would continue his run of good wrestling by taking the United States Championship in March from Jack Swagger. Even though Team Teddy was unsuccessful, Marella has stayed United States Champion, defeating such men as Swagger, Dolph Ziggler, The Miz and David Otunga to retain it.
Marella is a fantastic worker in the ring that can make anyone look good. He also has an unusual way to entertain the fans and make everyone laugh. Unlike most comic relief stars, Marella can make just about any fan giggle. His unique blend currently of being good in the ring and still being goofy isn't easily done. While Marella can never be considered a credible threat, his rise to where he is now is about as high as he can ever get. There won't be a world title reign in his future, which is just fine.
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