Anthony Carelli (March 14, 1974), better known by his ring name Santino Marella, is a semi-retired Italian-Canadian professional wrestler, formerly signed with WWE. He is a two-time WWE Intercontinental Champion, one-time WWE United States Champion, and one-time WWE Tag Team Champion.
Professional wrestling career
Early career (2003–2004)
Carelli started his career on the Ontario independent circuit as Johnny Geo Basco, debuting with a disqualification win over Xhibit (now Rico Montana) in the opening match of a Ring Wars show in Orangeville, Ontario, on August 17, 2003. In the second half of 2004, Carelli wrestled four matches for BattleArts in Japan, as Joe Basko. He also competed in mixed martial arts, claiming to have a 6–1 record.
Ohio Valley Wrestling (2006–2007)
In the United States, Carelli took wrestling classes at and worked for the Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) a developmental territory for the national World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Upon joining OVW, Carelli was given the ring name Johnny Geo Basco. While there, he was involved in an infamous incident with Jim Cornette, the company's head booker and part-owner. After a storyline where he was supposed to act afraid of the Boogeyman but instead laughed, Cornette yelled at and slapped Carelli, leading to Cornette being removed from his position as booker of OVW by WWE.
Paul Heyman was appointed OVW booker to replace Cornette and changed Carelli's ring name from Johnny Geo Basco to Boris Alexiev, giving him a Russian shoot fighter gimmick. As Alexiev he made his debut on April 12, 2006 along with his manager and "comrade", Mr. Strongko. With his new gimmick he was booked to dominate opponents with stiff strikes and submission style wrestling, including a 10-second win over a wrestler named Dewey. He signed a developmental deal with WWE on August 11, 2006, and continued working in OVW.
On January 24, 2007, Alexiev was booked to hold the Television Championship after defeating Mike Kruel, who defended the title for original champion Eddie Kraven. He dropped the title back to Kruel on February 7, but regained it on March 14 after defeating Kruel in a rematch. His second reign lasted for three days, as he dropped it to Shawn Spears on March 17. He was called up to the active roster a month later.
World Wrestling Entertainment / WWE (2007–2016)
He made his main-roster debut on the April 16, 2007 edition of WWE Raw in Milan, Italy, as a planted fan named Santino Marella claiming to be from Calabria, Italy. Marella's debut, in which he took the WWE Intercontinental Championship from Umaga in a No Holds Barred match after interference from Bobby Lashley, resulted in both that night and Santino himself being dubbed "The Milan Miracle". The surname Marella was chosen for the character in honor of WWE Hall of Famer Gorilla Monsoon—real name Robert Marella—and was given to Carelli shortly before the trip to Italy. The next day WWE.com posted a profile on Marella with a fictional background saying he was an Italian national who moved to Canada as a child and returned to his native country a few times each year to visit family. It further stated that he moved to the U.S. to begin training with the goal of breaking into professional wrestling, and ultimately WWE. Shortly after gaining the Intercontinental Championship, Marella started a scripted rivalry with Chris Masters, narrowly retaining the title over him in his first defenses. He held the Intercontinental Championship for three months before dropping it back to Umaga on July 2, after having just defeated him at the June 24 Vengeance: Night of Champions pay-per-view by disqualification when Umaga stopped listening to referee's instructions and continued punching Marella.
After losing the title Marella's character became increasingly villainous; he was depicted as possessive and jealous over his girlfriend WWE Diva Maria. Over several weeks they appeared together in a series of segments on Raw, including two mini "game shows" hosted by General Manager William Regal which resulted in retired wrestler Ron Simmons winning a date with Maria, much to Santino's dismay. At the same time Marella, began a campaign of bashing the WWE Films production The Condemned as its DVD release neared. He was eventually confronted by the film's star, Steve Austin, who argued the film's merits before delivering a Stone Cold Stunner to Marella and soaking both him and Maria down with a hose from a Budweiser truck. During the Austin program, Marella repeatedly mocked Austin and mangled the English language and his catchphrases in promos, giving his character a new humorous bent.
After a short program with Jerry Lawler, he was placed into a tag team with Carlito. At the same time, Maria was chosen to be pose for Playboy magazine, which was used as part of their storyline. When he was unable to get her to turn the offer down, he attempted to sabotage the cover unveiling, finally pushing Maria to break up with him. At WrestleMania XXIV, Maria was involved in a "Playboy BunnyMania Lumberjack match", during which Santino interfered only to get punched by Jerry Lawler near the end of the match and clotheslined by celebrity Master of Ceremonies Snoop Dogg after the match. Marella's feud with Maria came to an end after she defeated him on the episode of Raw the day after WrestleMania by dropping her head into Marrella's groin. Marella and Carlito began a feud with Hardcore Holly and Cody Rhodes over the World Tag Team Championship. During a title match between the two teams, Roddy Piper distracted Marella, who was then pinned and so lost the match for his team. Due to the distraction, Marella started a rivalry with Piper, including a confrontation on Jimmy Kimmel Live!.
On the July 14, 2008 episode of Raw, Marella was defeated by WWE Diva Beth Phoenix in a match. Marella issued an open challenge to the entire Raw roster. The angle continued the following week after Marella lost to the returning D'Lo Brown. Marella and Phoenix shared a kiss, both expressing considerable confusion afterwards. In later weeks, they became an on-screen power couple, later called "Glamarella", a portmanteau of "Glamazon" (Phoenix's nickname) and "Marella". At SummerSlam, Marella won the Intercontinental Championship for a second time, when he teamed with Phoenix against champion Kofi Kingston and WWE Women's Champion Mickie James. Phoenix pinned James after hitting her Glam Slam, thus winning both titles for her team per the pre-match stipulation.
During his second reign, Marella started a quest to become the "greatest Intercontinental champion of all the times" by beating The Honky Tonk Man's record reign of 64 weeks, constantly bringing out a status report called the "Honk-A-Meter". At Cyber Sunday, Marella defended the Intercontinental title against the Honky Tonk Man (who won the majority of fans' votes, beating fellow former champions Roddy Piper and Goldust), losing by disqualification. On the November 10 episode of Raw, Marella lost the title to William Regal and thus failed to reign as champion for more than 64 weeks.
At the beginning of 2009, Marella entered the Royal Rumble drawing number 28. He was instantly eliminated by Kane in 1.9 seconds, thus breaking The Warlord's two second record for shortest Royal Rumble appearance at the 1989 Royal Rumble.
Face turn and Santina Marella (2009)
Following the announcement of a 25-Diva battle royal at WrestleMania XXV to crown the first-ever "Miss WrestleMania", Marella became a fan favorite and was placed in an angle in which he expressed his desire to compete in the match. The storyline called for Marella to challenge Mickie James in a match where he had one arm tied behind his back, and if he won, he would gain entry into the match. He lost, however, and, as a result, the following week, in a bid to prove he was eligible to compete, he revealed he was wearing a mankini, but was subsequently attacked by most of the Divas on the roster. Nevertheless, at WrestleMania XXV, Marella won the 25 Diva battle royal, competing in drag under the disguise of "Santino Marella's twin sister, Santina", and last eliminating Phoenix and Melina. He successfully defended his "Miss Wrestlemania" title against Beth Phoenix on Backlash in only 3 seconds with the help of The Great Khali. On the May 18 episode of Raw, Santina lost the "Miss Wrestlemania" title to Vickie Guerrero. Marella won it back at Extreme Rules when he defeated Vickie Guerrero and Chavo Guerrero in a handicap hog pen match. On the June 22, 2009 episode of Raw, Raw's new owner Donald Trump fired Santina, ending the angle.
Teaming with Vladimir Kozlov (2010–2011)
At WrestleMania XXVI, Marella competed in the 26-man battle royal dark match, which was won by Yoshi Tatsu. Marella soon started trying to form a tag team with Vladimir Kozlov, who consistently refused the offer. On the May 31 edition of Raw, Kozlov intervened in a mixed tag team match featuring Marella and aided him in securing the victory. On the July 19 edition of Raw, Kozlov teamed with Marella and in their first match as an official tag team, they defeated William Regal and Zack Ryder. In August, Santino Marella started a relationship with Tamina, the manager of The Usos. Marella and Kozlov beats The Usos in several occasions. He teaches Tamina his finishing The Cobra. At Night of Champions 2010, Marella and Kozlov competed in a Tag Team Turmoil match for the WWE Unified Tag Team championship but were unsuccessful as the titles were won by "Dashing" Cody Rhodes and Drew McIntyre. On the October 11 edition of Raw he successfully defeated Zack Ryder to become a part of the Raw Bragging Rights team against SmackDown. However at the event, Marella was the first of the seven Raw Superstars in the match to be eliminated after being pinned by Tyler Reks. On the October 25 episode of Raw, Marella had a feud with Sheamus after he call Marella an embrassment after he was the first man to be eliminated in Team Raw at Bragging Rights. Sheamus then challenged Marella to a match which he accepted. Later in a match, Marella scored a major upset by defeating former two–time WWE Champion Sheamus; Santino and Sheamus then had two subsequent run-ins, both of which ended in John Morrison saving Santino from Sheamus' post-match assaults. On the November 15 edition of Raw, Marella and Kozlov became the number one contenders for the WWE Tag Team Championships, defeating The Usos in the process. Marella and Kozlov failed to capture the titles at Survivor Series 2010. They went on to win the WWE Tag Team Championship in a Four-Way elimination tag team match on Raw on December 6, 2010 against The Usos, The Nexus and the tag team of Mark Henry and Yoshi Tatsu with a distraction created by John Cena and then after the celebration, The Usos' manager Tamina kissed Santino starting a relationship between the two. Tamina afterwards continued to accompany Santino for his matches. Santino and Kozlov retained their WWE Tag Team titles by disqualification at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs against Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater of the Nexus after another Nexus member Michael McGillicutty chopblocked Santino in front of the referee. After TLC Pay Per View, Marella and Tamina beat Ted DiBiase and Maryse in several occasions in a mixed tag team match on RAW. On January 30, 2011, Santino competed in the Royal Rumble entering at number 37, he made it to the final two before losing to winner Alberto Del Rio. At the Elimination Chamber, he and Kozlov lost the titles to Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel of The Corre. On the March 28 edition of Raw, it was confirmed Marella would team up with Vladimir Kozlov, Kane, and The Big Show, against The Corre (Slater, Gabriel, Ezekiel Jackson and Wade Barrett) in an eight-man tag team match at WrestleMania XXVII. However, due to an attack on Kozlov by The Corre during WrestleMania Axxess the day before WrestleMania, Kofi Kingston then took his place in the match. Their team won, when Marella performed The Cobra on Slater, which was followed up by Big Show's right hand punch. On the April 11 edition of Raw, Marella interrupted The Corre to tell them he had formed an alliance called "The Apple" (Allied People Powered by Loathing Everything that you stand for), a pun on apple core. Marella's relationship with Tamina ended when she was drafted to SmackDown as part of the 2011 WWE Supplemental Draft. On August 5, Kozlov was released from his WWE contract, effectively ending the partnership.
United States Champion (2011-2012)
Marella began teaming with Zack Ryder on the July 21 Superstars, beating Tag Team Champions David Otunga and Michael McGillicutty in a non-title match. On the August 1 Raw, Otunga and McGillicutty won the rematch.
On September 1, Carelli injured his left shoulder in a car accident before a house show in Puerto Rico, rendering him inactive for several weeks. Marella returned on the October 3 Raw, defeating Jinder Mahal. On the October 31 episode, Marella defeated Jack Swagger with a roll-up pin after he spit water given to him by special guest, Beaker of The Muppets, in Swagger's face. The following Raw, Swagger defeated Marella by submission. On the January 6, 2012 episode of SmackDown, Marella defeated Drew McIntyre to become Smackdown General Manager Theodore Long's assistant. Marella teamed with Yoshi Tatsu on the January 27 SmackDown and "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan on the February 3 episode to face Tag Team Champions Primo & Epico, losing both times. On the February 17 Smackdown, Marella won a battle royal to replace Randy Orton in the Elimination Chamber match at Elimination Chamber. At the pay-per-view, he was the last man eliminated by Daniel Bryan.
On the March 5 Raw, Marella defeated Jack Swagger to win the United States Championship. On the following episode of SmackDown, Marella successfully defended the title against Swagger in a steel cage match, by escaping through the cage door. At WrestleMania XXVIII on April 1, Marella was the team captain of Team Teddy, which lost to Team Johnny, after interference from Eve Torres. The following night on Raw, Marella successfully defended the title against Swagger and Dolph Ziggler in a Triple Threat Match, and against David Otunga on the April 16 episode. In the pre-show of Extreme Rules on April 23, Marella defeated The Miz to retain the United States Championship. The following night on Raw, Marella unsuccessfully tried to earn a WWE Championship match at Over The Limit in a Beat the Clock Challenge against The Miz.
Later that month, Marella briefly reunited with Zack Ryder, facing teams including Primo and Epico, Curt Hawkins and Tyler Reks and Titus O'Neil and Darren Young. Marella then feuded with Alberto Del Rio's ring announcer Ricardo Rodriguez. Their feud started when he scares Ricardo in SmackDown, making a comical win in a one-on-one match and mocking his Spanish language claiming it was ridiculous before knocking him out with Cobra while doing a mocking English translation on Alberto Del Rio's introduction on Raw. Despite his loss with Layla to Ricardo and Beth Phoenix in the mixed tag team match, Marella rips Ricardo's loose button shirt to show him wearing a purple tight-fitted Justin Bieber shirt in humiliation, leading to a non-title Tuxedo match on June 17 at No Way Out, which Marella won while he amused to see Ricardo only wears a pair of Hanes white briefs with a picture of Alberto's face. Their feud ends when Alberto Del Rio attacks him for humilating his ring announcer.
On the June 25 Raw, Marella successfully defended the United States Championship against Jack Swagger. Four days later on SmackDown, he and Intercontinental Champion Christian defeated David Otunga and Cody Rhodes to qualify for the World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank ladder match at Money in the Bank, which was won by Dolph Ziggler.
On the July 27 and August 3 episodes of SmackDown, Marella lost to Antonio Cesaro in non-title matches. On August 19, on the SummerSlam pre-show, Marella lost the United States Championship to Cesaro. Marella lost his rematch for the title on the September 3 episode of Raw. On the September 21 episode of SmackDown, Marella defeated Cesaro in a non-title match to earn another shot at the United States Championship. The title rematch took place the following week on SmackDown, where Marella failed in his title challenge.
Various tag team (2012-2014)
On the debut episode of WWE Main Event on October 3, Marella and Zack Ryder entered a Tag Team Championship tournament, and defeated Justin Gabriel and Tyson Kidd in the quarterfinals. The following week on Raw, they were eliminated in the semifinals by eventual winners Team Rhodes Scholars (Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow). After this lost Marella and Ryder began a feud with 3MB's members (Heath Slater, Drew McIntyre & Jinder Mahal) who culmined in Pre-show of Survivor Series, which Slater and Mahal defeated them. On December 26, 2012, at Main Event, Santino Marella parteciped at a 20-man battle royal for the 1st contender of Cesaro's U.S. title and splitted from his patner Zack Ryder, when eliminated him. Successively Marella was eliminated by Wade Barrett from the battle-royal. Marella then took a leave of absence due to a neck injury. Marella returned on January 27, 2013, at the Royal Rumble, entering the Royal Rumble at number five before being the first man eliminated by Cody Rhodes. After a two-month absence, Marella returned to Raw on April 1, losing to Mark Henry.
Marella returned on the September 9 episode of Raw, defeating Antonio Cesaro. On the next episode of Smackdown he defeated Damien Sandow with the cobra. On the September 23 episode of Raw he suffered his first defeat against Fandango since his return to WWE. He defeated Heath Slater on the next episode of SmackDown and began to align himself with The Great Khali and Hornswoggle. Marella then began a feud with Cesaro and his tag team partner Jack Swagger. Santino defeated Swagger on the 20th September episode of SmackDown and he defeated Cesaro on the 30 September episode of Raw in singles competition. On October 6 at WWE Battleground, Marella and The Great Khali were defeated by Cesaro and Swagger in a tag team match. They were defeated again by The Real Americans on the following episode of Raw; after the match Marella attacked Cesaro with the Cobra. On the 21 October episode of Raw, he defeated Heath Slater, dressed as Elvis Presley. After the match, he danced on the announce table. After that, he took a brief hiatus once again.
Storyline with Emma, retirement, and comeback (2014)
On February 3, 2014, Marella returned to television and invited Emma into the ring from the crowd to have a "dance-off" with Summer Rae, starting a feud with her and Fandango. Emma would go on to win the dance competition against Summer Rae the February 21 episode of SmackDown. Santino participated in the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania XXX, eliminating The Miz, before being eliminated by Alberto Del Rio. On May 5, Santino participated in a 20-man battle royal for Dean Ambrose's WWE United States Championship, but he was eliminated by RybAxel (Ryback and Curtis Axel).
After a third neck injury, Marella announced his retirement on July 6 at a house show in Toronto, Ontario. On September 16, 2014, Marella had undergone successful surgery on his neck. After that, he began training for a comeback to wrestling after a two-month retirement.
Marella returned on the November 24 episode of Raw to promote his new movie, "Jingle All the Way 2" with co-star Larry the Cable Guy.
Part-time appearances (2014–2016)
Marella served as the Guest General Manager for the December 5 episode of SmackDown, as well as to present a Slammy Award on Raw dated December 8.
Santino made several appearances throughout 2015 including hosting his own Royal Rumble lottery on the 20th January, exclusively on the WWE Network.
He was released from his WWE contract on May 6, 2016.
- Finishing moves
- As Boris Alexiev
- Signature moves
- Tag Teams/Stables
- Wrestlers managed
- "The Milan Miracle"
- "The Italian Stallion"
- Entrance themes
Championships and accomplishments
- Ohio Valley Wrestling
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him #91 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2008
- World Wrestling Entertainment
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
- Best Gimmick (2007, 2008)