When Anthony Carelli looks back on his career in the WWE from 2006 to 2016, he can recall memories of working with a future President of the United States (Donald Trump), a superstar rapper (Snoop Dogg), and a slew of Wrestlemania experiences.
Carelli, who wrestled as the slapstick character Santino Marella and occasionally his twin sister Santina, worked with Trump in 2009 as part of a story line in which the New York billionaire had just fictitiously bought the WWE from owner Vince McMahon.
“Donald Trump was very interesting. I was aware he was a billionaire and Vince’s close personal friend,” Carelli told Yahoo Canada Sports. “I would say he was almost absent when he was there (for the show on Monday Night RAW) and I assumed this is what it must be like to be a billionaire. He must have a billion things going on and he’s probably a large picture thinker, not a details guy. You can’t be at that level when you have so many things going on. That’s what I assumed. We had a chance to shoot the breeze a little bit (before the story line unfolded) and it was nice.”
In the bit, Santina, who is allegedly Santino’s twin sister, encountered McMahon, who can’t get into his office because it’s occupied by Trump. So Santina suggested to McMahon he share the office with Trump and combine their two names and call it McDonald. McMahon, who was portraying a heel, wanted no part of that. Trump finally emerged from his new digs and told McMahon his office is now at the end of the hall.
Santina, wearing the Miss Wrestlemania crown she won a couple months earlier in a gender switch by Santino, introduced herself to Trump. The Donald took one look at Santina and, in a takeoff of The Apprentice show which made Trump a reality TV star, said: “I’m going to do what I did to Miss California. ‘You’re fired. Get out of here.’”
“He kept looking at the camera, which is a no-no, and I thought we were going to do a retake,” Carelli said. “But because it was Donald Trump, they just let it slide, which was a funny thing.”
Trump and McMahon clashed at Wrestlemania 23 in 2007 in what was billed as The Battle of the Billionaires. With help from wrestler Bobby Lashley, Trump defeated McMahon and partner Umaga. The losing billionaire had his head shaved, and Trump gladly did the honors, while guest referee Steve Austin, who was McMahon’s nemesis, watched joyously.
Santino Marella’s unexpected debut
Thirteen days later and much to his amazement, Carelli, who was working in a WWE development circuit, Ohio Valley Wrestling, received a call from the parent company asking if he spoke Italian. Even though he grew up in an Italian-Canadian household, Italian wasn’t spoken in his home but he knew enough to get by, having listened to an audiotape for tourists. He impressed the WWE enough to promote him to the top company and a day later he was flown to Milan for Monday Night Raw. On the day of the card, he was informed he would win the Intercontinental Championship, one of the most important titles in the company.
The storyline had him picked from the crowd as a complete unknown to fight Umaga, the IC Champion who was known as The Samoan Bulldozer because he stood 6-foot-4 and weighed 365 pounds. Carelli stood 5-foot-10 and weighed 220.
McMahon, wearing a fedora to cover his bald head and playing the role of a heel, savored seeing Umaga pounding the unknown fool to a pulp. After a brief introduction in which McMahon explained the rules, the unknown character was asked his name and he replied, “Santino Marella” from Calabria and the crowd went wild. At that point they had no idea it was a work cooked up by the WWE.
After Santino landed a few shots, Umaga physically demolished him into a state of unconsciousness. As Umaga prepared to do even more damage and with McMahon urging him to do so, Lashley emerged from out of nowhere to lay a beating on the giant. Lashley then lifted up Santino and dropped him over top of Umaga and held him down for a count of three. Santino won the belt and thus the Milan Miracle was born.
A cloudy encounter
The following year, with his character gaining traction for physical comedy, Carelli had his first Wrestlemania moment in a match that included Snoog Dogg as the guest Master Of Ceremonies. Carelli had a chance to meet the rapper a couple weeks earlier when they filmed a storyline in New York. In the scene, Santino, whose character butchered names, called the rapper Snoopy The Dog.
“We did it once and it was good enough, but it wasn’t perfect and he insisted on doing it again and again to make sure the producers and writers and directors that were present were 100 percent satisfied with the product,” Carelli recalled. “He’s not just Snoop Dogg by chance. He’s Snoop Dogg because of his work ethic, and the fact he won’t settle for anything that is less than perfect I was really impressed.”
Carelli went to see Snoop Dogg at his bus on the day of Wrestlemania.
“His uncle was barbecuing outside the bus, which I thought was really funny, and I go on the bus and it’s a little cloudy,” Carelli said, referring to Snoop Dogg’s penchant for lighting up. “I went to shake his hand and he offered me (some marijuana) and I could not turn down that peace offering. Wrestlemania was pretty funny (after that) and the catering (the WWE served) was extra delicious.”
In the match, Santino helped Beth Phoenix and Melina defeat Maria and Ashley in what was called the Playboy BunnyMania Lumberjill Match. Santino, whose character is ultra chauvinistic, was upset that Maria, his girlfriend, posted for Playboy – which actually did happen. After Santino interfered in the match by pulling Maria away during an attempted pin, he was punched by announcer Jerry (The King) Lawler, who was feuding with the Italian. Maria’s team lost the match and while Santino was gloating Snoop Dogg entered the ring and clotheslined Santino with full force.
“When you see Snoop Dogg he’s a little thin in stature, but he’s also about 6-5 and he laid it in. That was a serious clothesline.”
Carelli went on to have more Wrestlemania moments, including the one that next year when he won the Miss Wrestlemania Crown playing the role of Santina.
Carelli had a chance a year later to do another storyline with Snoop Dogg on Monday Night RAW. While the rapper was sitting in a room with a bevy of beauties, Santino walked in dressed like Charlie Brown, or as he said, “Charlie The Brown,” and apologized for what happened previously between the two. Snoop Dogg promptly told him to get lost.
Carelli’s career ended last year when the WWE released him due to injury. This year will be the first since he joined the WWE that he will not be in attendance for Wrestlemania. He plans to watch it with his family, something he used to do growing up in Mississauga as a wrestling fan.