Santino Marella has now held the United States title for over 160 days, but most would probably consider him to be one of the worst U.S. champs in recent memory.
It's hard to argue with that, but Santino still plays an important role within the company and that shouldn't be forgotten.
The reasoning for Santino's failure as United States champion has much more to do with writing than Santino himself. He beat Jack Swagger for the strap several months ago, but has defended it quite infrequently and doesn't even bring it with him to the ring half the time.
He was given the belt because he is viewed as a fairly safe entity, and that has merit, but he doesn't need the title in the least. Santino is incredibly over with the fans, particularly the younger demographic, and he will continue to get a favorable reaction regardless of whether there is gold around his waist or not.
I would have Santino drop the belt to someone who needs it, such as Damien Sandow or Tensai. However, that doesn't mean that I'm down on him. In fact, saying that somebody doesn't need a title in order to be over is the ultimate compliment in wrestling. What's more, aside from guys like John Cena, CM Punk and Randy Orton, there aren't many who can say that in the WWE.
Most serious wrestling fans prefer serious wrestlers, but there is always going to be room for a comedy act or two. The Attitude Era is widely regarded by most as wrestling's golden age, and it was flooded with comedy characters such as the three faces of Foley, Val Venis, The Godfather, "Sexual Chocolate" Mark Henry and countless others.
Guys like Cena try to be funny nowadays, but they miss the mark much of time. All Santino has to do is speak in his fake Italian accent and he is naturally comical. Perhaps only he and Zack Ryder have that ability currently. Therefore, even if you don't like Santino's character or in-ring prowess, you have to give him credit for finding a niche.
Having said that, Santino won't be able to please everyone. Some people simply can't appreciate his role. Santino once played a character named Boris Alexiev in Ohio Valley Wrestling. As Alexiev, he was a ruthless Russian fighter who would rock his opponents with stiff blows and vicious submissions, and that is something Santino's detractors point to.
A YouTube video of Santino as Boris Alexiev makes the rounds more than perhaps any wrestling video on the Internet, and there are constantly fans clamoring for him to revert to that. I'll admit that it seems like a fairly cool gimmick, but how many guys like that do we need? Ryback and Tensai already fit the bill, and we certainly don't need any more squash matches.
Santino would appeal to an older crowd with the Boris Alexiev gimmick, but what he does now is much rarer and more valuable from the WWE's perspective. He isn't meant to be taken seriously, and that causes some fans to resent him. However, they need to understand that he has a defined job and executes it to perfection.
He isn't ever going to be a world champion and he shouldn't even be United States champion, but that doesn't make Santino useless by any means. Not everyone is capable of being a main-event performer, but as long as a wrestler gets a reaction, it should be viewed as a positive.
That is the case with Santino.