RF Video Shoot Interview with Santino

This was filmed on July 8th, 2016

The interview was conducted by Rob Feinstein

It runs at two hours and twenty six minutes long

 

The interview starts off with Santino talking about not using the Santino name now and how he was originally Boris Koloff in OVW, a name that trainer Rip Rogers came up with as Santino said he added Kolov, as his trainer was Don Kolov.

 

He started watching wrestling as a kid and remembers the Jimmy Snuka/Don Muraco feud first and how he loved Hulk Hogan, British Bulldogs, and Ricky Steamboat.

 

Santino also loved martial arts as a kid so his mother signed him up for a judo class and ended up training for ten years. He was the second youngest black belt in Canadian history and talked about going to the Jr. World Tournament and how he loved that.

 

On how he got into wrestling, Santino said he wanted to try and see if he could make it in wrestling. He talks about being used to judo and how he had to dial it back during training.

 

He got signed to a WWE Developmental Deal when he was 32 years old. Santino said he did six Independent matches in Canada but knew no one would find him so decided to go to Japan. He used the name Johnny Geo Basco, which was the name his father gave his mother when they first dated. Santino said he was trained by Yuki Ishikawa, founder of the Battlarts promotion. Santino also talks about doing Pancrease and eventually some MMA while in Japan.

 

When asked about difference between MMA and pro wrestling training, Santino said in Japan the core is the same as the mentally is basically the UFC with a three count option during the training.

 

Santino joined the beginners class in OVW after he left Japan. Mike Mondo (formerly of the Spirit Squad) was his coach then after a month got moved up to the intermediate class where he met Rip Rogers. He talks about how much Rogers swore but said he was brilliant and focuses on becoming the most efficient teacher as possible, stressing to bring out the most emotions as possible. He also said Danny Davis was cool but was usually really busy and did not say much.

 

He is asked about the incident he had with Jim Cornette, who slapped Santino after laughing at the Boogeyman when he was supposed to act scared in the crowd. The intermediate class was invited to the show and sat in a designated section and supposed to react a certain way. However, Santino said he did not know that at the time. Santino was sitting with his 9 year old daughter and saw the Boogeyman had a wardrobe malfunction as one of his horns was sliding off. Santino then smiled as he thought Boogeyman would scare his kid as he was heading that way but little did he know Boogeyman was exiting out the door behind him. Cornette was on the commentary table and yelled that he was supposed to act scared and move away then flipped out. The referee asked Santino to head out back as Cornette was charging at him and slapped him and yelled if he thought this was a joke. Santino said he was thinking if he slapped this guy he would not only lose his job but also get deported so he had to suck it up. Santino said he made sure to let Cornette know his slaps were weak and shot him a look that conveyed it while Cornette went on about not selling the Boogeyman and said Joey Mercury told Santino to be quiet. Santino said a lot of guys saw this take place and a few days later Cornette was fired. When asked if Cornette should have been fired, Santino said yes and should have been charged as you cannot slap people. Santino then said that John Laurinaitis came down and told Santino while they cannot give him a job just because of this, they would give him an evaluation if he continued to improve as Santino was not under a WWE Developmental Deal yet. Santino said they forgot about it as he got hired after doing the Boris Alexiev character on OVW TV. Santino said he approached Johnny in the hallway when he got called up to the WWE and thanked him for the evaluation as Laurinaitis did not remember. Santino also said that Cornette’s version of what happened is not true and knows he is an old-school worker who liked to create controversy.

 

Paul Heyman replaced Cornette in OVW as Santino said he was brilliant and could fire up the roster like no one else. While Heyman was watching practice, he told Santino that he’d be making his debut the following week. Santino talks about how as Boris Alexiev and how he got over using stiff kicks and suplexes, which he joked about having to forget once he got called up to the WWE.

 

He got a Developmental Deal on August 16, 2006 when Mike Bucci (Nova) called him up to offer the contract. Santino said he originally booked a trip to Japan prior to signing to show he was a hot commodity but ended up just going and said he drank and gained 18 lbs on the trip.

 

Santino is asked about guys in OVW. He said that the company missed the boat on Mike Kruel as he was awesome but thinks his height might have held him back. He considers Cody Rhodes as a younger brother and talks about “MuscleMania” while they were at the bar when Cody said Santino did not have a great body and Santino wanted to prove him wrong. It took place after WrestleMania XXV after others egged them on as the wrestlers even made t-shirts for the event. Santino said he got into shape during the build and Cody even came up to him at one point saying he did not want to do it but they did and Santino won the contest. He talks about getting into a spat with Roadkill, who questioned his work ethic. Santino said that Damien Sandow went to bat for him in OVW and that they were roommates at one point. Santino thought that Shawn Spears (Tye Dillinger) was good and that Dolph Ziggler is a super athlete who makes lemonade out of lemons. Santino said that Ziggler is never satisfied and its sad to see how he is never happy with his career. He said Mike Mondo is an awesome human being and could go an hour in the ring while calling the match.

 

On getting called up, Bucci called up and asked if he could speak Italian. Santino said that Dusty Rhodes once told him that if the offices as if you can do something, say yes. He had a few phrases of “tourist Italian” he knew and did it over the phone and was told to fly out. Santino said he got to the building where Arn Anderson came up and told him it was a good day to sign and that he is winning the IC strap today before walking off as Santino was in shock. Later on he sat down with Vince, who asked Santino about himself as they shot the breeze. Santino said that Vince is completely different from his TV character.

 

He talks about missing Umaga and said he was a great guy. Santino talks about liking Chris Masters and recently inviting him to his home for a BBQ as he was in town. Santino said he also rode together with Masters and Randy Orton for a while.

 

Santino said he had to work for respect of the locker room as he was given the IC Title on his first day. He also said he had no idea what direction his character would be going in when he arrived but the first week on the main roster he was given a WWE contract. He also thinks the crowd cheering Umaga in Houston a few weeks later made the office think he should be heel. The office asked him to cut a heel promo and Santino said that Vince loved it so he ran with that and how he kept doing talking segments. He said that Brian Gewirtz wrote most of his character at first then after a while he got more freedom and they gave him bullet points because of what he could do.

 

With the Maria pairing, Santino said he does not know who came up with that up he liked working with her. Santino said he did not care if he was typecasted because it meant job security and he was debuting at 33 years old and just 5’10 so he already defied the odds.

 

Santino put over Steve Austin for his work ethic then said that Roddy Piper’s slaps were very stiff but it was amazing to work with him.

 

He said that Vince liked the idea of him teaming with Beth Phoenix and thought it was hilarious to see a goofy character get pushed around by a woman. Santino said Beth is a great person and a super athlete.

 

On the Honk-a-Meter, Santino said they were going to have it go down to the wire but someone got into Vince’s ear and convinced him they were making a farce out of the IC Title and he ended up losing to William Regal in Europe.

 

When he set the record for the fastest elimination at the Royal Rumble, Santino said he was in the room where Dean Malenko was going over the match with the talent and told Santino he would be quickly eliminated. Santino then asked if he could set the record for the shortest elimination and Malenko went to ask someone and they ended up getting permission.

 

Santino did not mind dressing in drag as Santina and that it was only supposed to last for one night but Vince was laughing hysterically in the Gorilla position over his dancing so he ended up doing the character for a few months. When asked, he said a lot of the women were pissed he was getting the title but said they should have been as they worked really hard. Santino said he addressed them all about the situation.

 

On working with Donald Trump, Santino thought he was an airhead and that he kept looking into the camera, which Santino said you are not supposed to do, but the company let him get away with that. Santino then talks about Trump’s presidential campaign and how its a farce.

 

He is now asked about how many times during the course of the day does the script for RAW change. Santino says you arrive to the arena at 2pm and if Vince reads the show and likes it you will see the producers in the hallway running around to get the talent but sometimes you will see them in the hallway and find out Vince hated the show and is re-writing the whole thing. After that you chill in catering and puts over the food for being great. Santino said that later in his career he would say a joke or script is bad and he will not do it as he adds you have to make sure what you replace that with is better.

 

Santino puts over riding with Vladimir Kozlov and that he was a great guy. He tells a story of how they drove Khali around because the company paid for the car. They were all at an IHOP were Santino said he had to order for them because they barely spoke English and that everyone looked over at them like they were a freak show.

 

He does talk about John Cena being a locker room leader and made sure to gather the boys at the bar for all of the European tours and that he is incredibly intelligent. Santino notes how Cena never drank before wrestling then got into it and new about all types of alcohol and that he even learned to speak Chinese as he gets obsessed when wanting to learn something.

 

Feinstein asks Santino about the rumor that John Cena undecut Alex Riley’s push. Santino said that Riley might think that but the unspoken word among wrestlers is that its every man for himself. He did not know why they had a beef but thinks it might be Riley not wanting to embrace the locker room atmosphere and have drinks with the guys.

 

Santino talks about his car accident. He was making a left turn late at night to get a haircut (I bet) then decided to go right and a car pulled out and smashes his back rear tire as his car got shot into the island and into a pole. He called up the office as he was supposed to go to Puerto Rico in the morning. His shoulder was hurting and found out it was separated as it took a few months before he do any training but did do stuff backstage.

 

He talks about the Royal Rumble where he was the runner up and didnt think he did any great work in that match but said people came up to him and thought he was going to main event WrestleMania.

 

On being a captain at WrestleMania for Teddy Long’s team, Santino thought it was awesome. He did not think the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal was a big deal.

 

Santino said his on screen relationship was all designed to spotlight Emma and they had plans for that but he injured his neck. He then said the NXT audience is not a good barometer for how an act will get over as they cheer for everything. Santino then said that Vince didnt think Emma’s act was funny and once he does not like something its tough to make it work then said they did not present her well, either.

 

He talks about how his neck injury and how he was unable to move his neck and had Big E help him with a shirt as he was in tremendous pain and it was then where he got checked out and got fusion surgery. He got checked out after that and was told by the doctor a screw was loose and if his throat starts to hurt, call immediately. Santino was in the car with Sandow heading to the Tribute to the Troops and he got a sore throat that felt like strep and flew back the next day and they had to take out the Titanium. Santino said his neck is fine for regular day life but can feel it when he teaches at his academy at times.

 

When asked about Daniel Bryan’s retirement, Santino said Bryan had a neck, arm, and concussion issue as he puts over how awesome he was. Santino said he wanted to wrestle Bryan’s style and lived vicariously through him. On if he retired prematurely, Santino said maybe he could wait a few more years but once the damage starts it just gets worse and how you cannot get killed by your ego.

 

He got along with CM Punk but said like Ziggler he was never happy with his career, despite the fact it was awesome. Santino does agree that Punk had legitimate gripes though and said it took balls for him to leave the way he did. Punk said he could come back and that it would be money and Vince likes to make money. Santino puts over how Punk always kept himself in great shape and once ran a marathon, without training for it, after a tour of Europe. On his MMA career, Santino said he hopes that Punk’s been fighting a lot and wants to see him do well.

 

Santino said he is a fan of Brock Lesnar and would talk about amateur wrestling with him but said he mostly keeps to himself in the locker room.

 

On when he got released, Santino said he was surprised. He said the company planted a seed that he would be the Smackdown GM once the brand split occurred and thought they were calling him about that when he got the call he was being let go. Santino had no hard feelings and said he loved working for the WWE.

 

He talks about his wrestling school and how he tells everyone what the WWE looks for in a wrestler and says they have a live local TV time slot as well. He uses the training he learned from guys like Rip Rogers, Paul Heyman, and Al Snow.

 

When asked about guys who the company could have used more, Santino mentions Low Ki but said he gave Dolph Ziggler a concussion and that someone stooged him off for making a comment about Vince.

 

Santino talks about some of the guys he worked with. He talks about Randy Orton and how if he is your friend he’ll go to bat for you but if you cross him he can make your life hell. Santino said Orton has no idea how good he is as a wrestler, either. Santino also said that Orton has matured. On Ryback, Santino said he has a great work ethic and a little bit OCD about that. Santino said Bob Holly would beat the piss out of him when he started. He teamed with Carlito at the time, who Santino joked was crafty enough to have him in the ring with Holly most of the time. He puts over Ken Anderson’s presence but that he got labeled as a dangerous worker. Santino said Miz is one of the hardest working people in the company and always knocks on Vince’s door.

 

They talk about guys on the independent scene as Feinstein talks about Ricochet heading into the WWE in February as Santino says he will take off the minute he makes his debut. He also says that Kota Ibushi is awesome.

 

Santino tells a story that took place over in England. He was in a bar with Alberto Del Rio and Hornswoggle when some guy messed with Hornswoggle. Santino asked the bouncer to take care of it but the guy blew him off. Santino then told the bouncer the guy had to go after having a few drinks and they got into each other’s face as Santino took him down and punched him a few times before they left, realizing that they were over in England and could get into trouble.

 

The interview ends with Santino thanking his fan but then we get a DVD extra. Santino tells another story after he cut a promo on WWE where he basically retired when his friend Josh called and said he was so sorry. Santino then said he didnt get where he was coming from then saw a message Josh left on his phone. He listened and turned out that Jim Cornette grabbed his phone and left a message for Santino saying he was glad about the injury and that he was a piece of shit who had no business being in wrestling in the first place. Santino said that if Cornette is doing that to impress the people around him, then he kind of gets that but if he truly meant that then he is a piece of garbage. Feinstein said that maybe one day he can get Cornette for a face off as Santino joked he can just beat him up instead.

 

Final Thoughts: Overall, I thought this was a decent interview. Santino seems like a solid guy and told some funny stories. You can tell he wants to go back to the WWE but does seem happy to be away from the grind of the road. He really praised the company a lot.

The stuff with Cornette in OVW was nuts but what happened with that voicemail was just deplorable. What would possess someone to do that to a person?

I also gathered from this that Santino stayed on for as long as he did due to the fact Vince laughed at all of his comedy. The thought of Vince laughing hysterically over Santino dressing while dressed in drag is something else.

Overall, a thought it was a decent interview. Fans of this era or Santino I would recommend it to but if you are not, its tough to say.

You can purchase the DVD here for $20

 

Here is my schedule for the next several days:

Friday: WWF Saturday Night’s Main Event 1/7/89

Saturday: Mid-South Wrestling 3/18/82

Sunday: WWF Wrestling Challenge 1/8/89

Monday: WWF Superstars of Wrestling 1/14/89

Tuesday: WWF Wrestling Challenge 1/15/89

Wednesday: PWG Thirteen 7/29/16

Thursday: Shoot Interview TBD