Anthony Carelli (aka Santino Marella) recently appeared on The Art Of Wrestling With Colt Cabana to talk about various topics. During the interview, Carelli was asked how he came up with the Santino Marella character. Carelli said that Nova asked him if he spoke Italian and he took the advice of professional wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes, which was essentially to say ‘yes’ up front and figure it out later. In this instance, it worked out for Carelli.
“One day, I get a call from Nova and he’s like, ‘can you speak Italian?’ and I remember Dusty Rhodes told me, the answer is ‘yes’ and then you’d better go learn how to speak Italian. And I said, ‘yeah, of course, sure, my dad’s from Italy’ and they said, ‘say something.’ And I remember, I used to work out of town and I would put in this cassette, Basic Italian Phrases, so I just repeated a couple of things from the tape with a decent accent, and I could just picture them going around the room saying, ‘it sounds like Italian.’ And then they go, ‘great, we’re going to call you.’ They sent me my passport and I flew the next day and I get to Italy on a Sunday and I’m kind of just chilling and walking around Milan.”
“I remember talking to Nova. He goes, ‘this character or whatever,’ I don’t know if he said ‘Santino,’ no, he said, ‘Italian character.’ And I’m like, ‘what’s going to happen to Boris?’ And he’s like, ‘forget Boris! This is a Vince idea.’ [Carelli replied] ‘But I’m loyal to him. He got me hired! Yeah, that gimmick,” Carelli recalled. “When I come to OVW, I’m doing battle arts stuff, which is why I’m standing out like a sore thumb because everyone’s doing tackle, drop down, get it again. And I’m doing Germans, and Saito suplexes, all this crazy stuff, armlocks, so it got me hired and it’s like, ‘thank you for getting me hired. Now I have to forget you.’ Santino was like a little babyface, whatever, and it didn’t really catch so, [in] three, four months, I turned heel, later finding out if that didn’t catch, it would’ve been a repackage or arrivederci.” Carelli continued, “and for some reason, me speaking in an Italian accent and being a heel amused the right person. And there you go. Enjoy yourself.”