Santino was born in Canada, specifically Mississauga, Ontario as Anthony Carelli. He is of Italian descent just like his character, however he does not have the trademark thick accent and unibrow that he used for comedic effect during his tenure in the WWE in the mid 2000s.
In 2005, Marella began training at Ohio Valley Wrestling, a camp for future WWE talent. By 2007, Marella made his professional debut on Raw whereby he fought the massive Umaga. Marella was posing as a fan at the time and won an upset victory over Umaga and became the Intercontinental Champion. His patented finishing move was “The Cobra” whereby in three steps he bends his elbow and wrist to resemble the poised reptile and then strikes his opponent in the face or throat.
Marella eventually dropped the title back to Umaga and started becoming a heel as he was jealous of other wrestlers expressing interest in his on-screen girlfriend, Maria. At WrestleMania 24, Marella interfered in a bout Maria was involved in called “The Playboy Bunnymania lumberjack match” costing Maria her victory (Maria had posed in Playboy magazine at the time). The women involved then attacked Marella, spread his legs open and Maria headbutted his testicles. On later episodes of Raw, Marella comedically referred to the injury as being in his “scrotissimus region”.
Marella then formed a tag team with Carlito and feuded with Cody Rhodes and Hardcore Holly. He then created a team with Beth Phoenix and fought an intergender tag match against Kofi Kingston (the reigning Intercontinental Champion) and Mickie James (the reigning Women’s Champion). Marella pinned Kingston, winning his second IC title.
One of Marella’s comedic angles was to intentionally mispronounce the names of living legends in the sport. One notable example was a brief feud he had with Roddy Piper whom he referred to as “Rodney the Piper” while wearing a kilt.
His humour certainly got over with the fans and Marella decided to dress in drag as his twin sister “Santina Marella” in order to compete in a Ladies Battle Royal at WrestleMania 25. He did win the Battle Royal and was crowned Miss WrestleMania, a title that he later lost and re-gained from Vickie Guerrero.
Later in his career, Marella formed a tag team with Vladimir Koslov. The two became the Tag Team Champions after winning a four-way match on Raw against the Nexus (Justin Gabriel and Health Slater) , The Usos and Mark Henry/Yoshi Tatsu.
During a memorable Raw episode in Manchester, England, Marella and Koslov hosted a mock traditional English Tea Party with their special guest, the Irish madman Sheamus. Marella rose Sheamus’ ire by referring to him as “Sha-moose” and making fun of his milky white skin and flaming red hair.
Kozlov and Marella later dropped the Tag belts to Gabriel and Slater. Kozlov was released shortly thereafter.
Marella then teamed up with others including Zack Ryder and feuded with Jack Swagger from whom he won the United States Championship. Marella held the title for 5 months successfully defending it against the likes of Dolph Ziggler, Swagger and the Miz. At the Summerslam pay per view of 2012, Marella lost the title to Antonio Cesaro.
Before his wrestling career took off, Marella was an accomplished mixed martial artist who eventually opened a multi-use exercise facility in Mississauga known as Battle Arts Academy. There he trained future wrestling and mixed martial art talent as well as training athletes in the Pan-American games in 2015.
Marella was officially released from the WWE in 2016 apparently from a recurring neck injury. Marella had a plentiful career and gained popularity with his comedic persona which easily could have proven to be a one trick pony.
Special thanks to Dr. Stephen Balsky for contributing the above wrestler profile.
Dr. Stephen Balsky is a chiropractor currently in practice in his native Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has been a wrestling fan since age 13 and is very passionate about the product, especially the “old-school” 80’s – 90’s era. He completed his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree in 2015 and currently is also working part-time as a professor in both business and healthcare.