|Steve Corino finds himself trapped in a figure-four leglock applied by Masato Tanaka during the Pro Wrestling WORLD-1 debut show in Pottstown, PA. -- Photo by Corey David Lacroix
POTTSTOWN, PA - Quitting is always easy for the disenfranchised. In the modern era of professional wrestling, all too many have become disillusioned with the mainstream, sport entertainment product. Add to the lack of viable alternatives to turn too for that squared circle fix, and the flood of refugees fleeing from the product for good appears to have no end in sight.
Steve Corino is one man who is not walking away though.
In fact, the Winnipeg-born grappler is leading the charge to deliver a brand of serious, athletically charged wrestling in the form of a new promotion, Pro Wrestling WORLD-1. SLAM! Wrestling attended the debut show for the promotion at Academy Hall in Pottstown, PA, and spoke with Corino.
As Corino explained in a one on one interview, WORLD-1 is promoting a product rooted in the Japanese strong style.
"The Japanese tradition of pro wrestling is keep it pure and simple. Don't insult the intelligence of the fans, don't do anything that will send people home thinking that was crap," said Corino.
"We're trying to bring that hard hitting style here. For people who haven't seen the Japanese strong style before it's going to be a treat. You're going to see guys hitting each other hard, your going to see matches that look like real contests."
Bringing the Japanese style is something Corino feels is imperative, making it abundantly clear that the hunger from North American fans for a different kind of wrestling product is being fueled by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
"When you give the Miller Lite girls seven minutes and you only give Matt Hardy and Rey Mysterio Jr. four minutes, you know something is wrong," remarked Corino in reference to WWE.
"It's the Harlem Globetrotters -- it looks like the NBA, but it's not. That's what the WWE is becoming, it looks like pro wrestling, but it's not. It's a shame because they have the greatest athletes in the world there. But you're talking about a company that worries more about a guy's look than his ability. I don't know why the WWE doesn't look at what the Ric Flair DVD set has done, it sold out. People want pro wrestling back and there needs to be an alternative."
That alternative was delivered in full force this past weekend where the promotion held three debut shows. Fans were treated to frill-free, hard hitting matches, featuring a mix of ECW alumni including Corino, CW Anderson, Justin Credible, Simon Diamond and Jerry Lynn.
Further bolstering the line-up were independent stars Josh Daniels, Homicide, Low Ki, Brian "Spanky" Kendrick, and Matt Striker. The Japanese contingent consisted of Yoshihito Sasaki and veteran mat star, Masato Tanaka. Combined, the roster delivered matches with athletic drama and fighting spirit to a vocal and appreciative audience, well in keeping with what Corino has become accustomed to in the rings of Japan.
His journey to helping create WORLD-1 can be traced to the collapse of ECW and the decision he made not to dwell on the bitter reality of losing his job.
"You don't like how it (ECW) ended, but you can't let what happened affect you for the rest of your life, or you're not going to succeed," Corino said.
"Everybody gets mad at Paul (Heyman); Paul owes me this, Paul owes me that," Corino added. "Paul doesn't owe me anything. You can make money elsewhere. A lot of the guys who make complaints over complaints publicly are the guys who have gone down, instead of going up."
Corino set forth a game plan to become as self-sufficient as possible in acquiring bookings with various promotions, of which the NWA would become his primary focus.
"When I left the indies in '98, I kept in touch with everybody, so when ECW went down it was okay, it's time to go back to the indies," Corino said. "I had made a plan for what I wanted to do. It was one of my goals to become the NWA champion because it was the first championship I ever saw on TV and I wanted to become a part of that."
Corino got his wish on April 24, 2001 when he finally won the coveted title. But in addition, he acquired the attention of Japanese wrestling legend, Shinya Hashimoto. The end result for Corino was a place on the roster of Hashimoto's Japan based promotion, Zero-One.
Since his debut with the promotion in July, 2001, Corino has cemented himself not only as a premiere wrestler, but also a talent coordinator for other American wrestlers.
"I'm more of union shop steward. I'll bring over a million tapes, and they'll look through them and pick guys. I make sure our crew is good; if there any problems then I'm there in the office," explained Corino, who readily admitted he relishes his new responsibilities within Zero-One. "I just love it. I got to deal with the press every day which puts more responsibility on me to learn Japanese. It's a great responsibility, and when they gave me the ball, I just ran with it."
The key in Corino's opinion to keeping the roster, both American and Japanese, happy is the unique booking regime that Japanese promotions utilize with specific talent.
"None of my guys ever complain," said Corino. "In Japan, you always have strong finishes. You don't see many school boy or backslide pin falls. There are times when Americans come over for the first time and they might not be the greatest in the ring. But they do have a look we're looking for."
Being in Japan has allowed Corino to keep his ear to the ground on the Japanese wrestling business, where there is a significant interest in attempting to import the Japanese strong style to North America.
"They know that the WWE has gotten away as far away from pro wrestling as you can get," he said. "They want to break into the market, I think more for the sake of looking like more of an international company."
An added bonus to Corino's success in Zero-One is the opportunity to bring his son Colby with him on tour, even partaking on shows.
"He's not much of a fan as he was because his intelligence has been insulted," Corino said, explaining his son's exposure and reaction to WWE. "With Colby, he just doesn't like it anymore unless it's the hard hitting Japanese style."
But with Colby now older with friends and hobbies to indulge in does the inevitable conflict arise between Corino's overseas commitment and spending time with his son.
"It's so hard because I'm in Japan 26 to 30 weeks a year, and I don't get to see him as much as I want to. That kills me," he said. "I love pro wrestling to death, but if I had a choice of sitting at home every day with your son and not make any money or you can be a pro wrestler and make millions of dollars, I'd rather stay with him. I love watching him grow up."
Despite the difficulties of being a single parent, Corino continues to pursue his chosen craft with vigor, even maintaining a high profile among various stand out promotions in the United States during the past year.
But if there is one major accomplishment that stands out the most of the King of Old School, it was his inclusion in the book by SLAM! Wrestling co-producer Greg Oliver, The Pro Wrestling Hall Fame: The Canadians.
"Wow! It was thrilling," said an ecstatic Corino, telling how when he first acquired the book, he had no idea he had been included. "I was sitting there reading the book, and all of a sudden I see my name. I was like 'Holy Geez, I'm in the Canadian Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame.' I called my webmaster and said you got to put this on there. It was such an honor."
Making the experience that much more meaningful has been the continued support he receives from his Canadian fans. "Canadian fans are very loyal to the people who were born in Canada. I only lived in Canada for five years, but every Canadian fan who has ever emailed me has said, well, you may have only lived here for five years, but you're still Canadian. I'll always be loyal to the Canadian fans."
Visit the SLAM! Wrestling store!
It's got Corino's endorsement:
Buy The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Canadians
See Corino in action from Japan, January 2004:
Buy Zero-One PPV 'Hustle-1' (01-04-04): Goldberg vs. Ogawa
MORE ON STEVE CORINO
NOTE: We'll have more from Corino with another story by SLAM! Wrestling's Jason Clevett - including his take on Teddy Hart - in the coming week on the site.
Corey David Lacroix can be emailed at email@example.com.