Santino Marella is currently WWE's resident buffoon, but with the right story he could turn into a more formidable force, morphing from the butt of jokes to a serious star.
Characters shift. Superstars undergo extraordinary transformations.
Should WWE ever choose to do so, Santino could flourish in a non-jobber, non-comedy role. A badass awaits to emerge out of him.
It's Santino's skill at being ridiculous that invites WWE to continue using him that way. He's among the funniest men on the roster, using deft comic timing and infectious goofiness to his advantage.
Santino, though, has the ring skills to be more than comic relief.
During his days at Ohio Valley Wrestling, Santino wrestled as Boris Alexiev. Alexiev was an unstoppable Russian fighter who mercilessly kicked his foes' chests.
This gimmick showed off Santino's martial arts skills.
His judo background helped him deliver convincing, destructive throws. His striking ability was phenomenal.
WWE fans now see little of this.
There's a certainly a place for jokes in WWE and Santino is among the best at delivering them. There is another option for Santino, though, one that shows off what he can do in the ring, one that lets someone else be the company clown for a change.
The Boiling-Over Option
After a loss which adds to a string of losses, Santino paces backstage. Matt Striker approaches him and asks him his thoughts on the match.
He kicks Striker in the groin and then proceeds to tear apart the backstage area. He tosses equipment to the ground. He thrashes any WWE employee within kicking range.
Vince McMahon or some other authority figure later asks Santino to explain his actions and apologize to the WWE Universe. He refuses.
The Italian Stallion flings his cobra out of the ring, snatches the microphone away and begins to explain that things are about to change.
Santino tells the fans he will no longer be an entertainer. He'll no longer be a fun-loving guy who cares about what the fans think. He's going to be a devastating force. In his ensuing matches, Santino takes on a much more aggressive fighting style. He brings back the dominance he showcased as Alexiev.
Slowly, Santino begins to shed everything representing his old self.
He begins to wear different ring gear, comes out to different music and uses a new finisher. A new era begins for him.
The Amnesia Option
Another method to get to this point would be to have Santino morph into a more dangerous character through amnesia.
Santino could be injured during a match or courtesy of a sneak attack by one of WWE's villains. He is carried off by a stretcher and is gone from TV temporarily.
When Santino returns, he doesn't remember who he is.
He doesn't play his pantomime trumpet anymore. He doesn't pull out the cobra or power walk because he doesn't remember that he once did those things. The first time he gets in the ring, he viciously attacks his opponent. Santino tosses his foe to the ground, kicks their chest red and puts them in a suffocating chokehold.
This is who Santino believes he is. The announcers can sell that Santino's injury must have knocked something loose, freeing this more aggressive side of him.
It's an option that allows WWE to revert back to the funnyman Santino if it doesn't work out.
Santino has the ring skills to look like a convincing threat, but he has been booked for so long as a plucky underdog that it's going to take some work to transform him.
It's not impossible though.
Aside from the two previously mentioned options, WWE could go any number of routes.
A mentor could take Santino under his wing and dredge the fire and violence out of him. WWE could tap into the ridiculous and have Santino play his own evil twin.
Rocky Maivia turned into The Rock. Isaac Yankem D.D.S. became Kane. Who knows what Santino can become once he emerges from the chrysalis.
If Santino protests his current position loud enough or if WWE simply wants a change, he'd thrive as a more serious character. The only question is if WWE wants him to be a warrior of if the company is happy having him be the court jester.