Corino: More than a 'manager in tights'
JASON CLEVETT -- SLAM! Wrestling
Since the demise of Extreme Championship Wrestling in 2001, Steve Corino has become a star on the independent wrestling scene and in Japan's Zero-One promotion. A top draw in Zero-One, he has also had a successful run with Ring of Honor, is the MLW GTC Heavyweight champion, and held the NWA World Title. Not bad for a guy who in his early days in ECW was dubbed "a manager in tights."
"I look at Lance Storm's picture everyday when I am in the gym and say 'Damn you, why did you call me a manager in tights?'" he joked. At that time Taz had given his notice and Raven and Tommy Dreamer were involved in their angle, so it left him without a program. Rhyno had just started being pushed so Paul E. Dangerously wanted Corino to be the mouthpiece for Rhyno and Tajiri. "I ended up managing five months before Dusty Rhodes came in. At the time I took the 'manager in tights' line offensively but we made up before he left and we talk to this day."
Many fans long for the days of Corino's former home, where he had a run as ECW World Champion, while wrestlers are often bitter about owed pay and dealings with the company. Corino keeps a more positive outlook.
"A lot of former ECW guys get upset when they talk about the company folding. My honest feeling is that if ECW hadn't closed I wouldn't have the life I live now so I wouldn't change it for the world. Japan is my Heaven, I love Zero-One, the style and the fans, it is a dream come true. I have always wanted to be a guy like Abdullah the Butcher or Stan Hansen, Terry Funk, Brody, guys who made such a name for themselves in Japan and been legends. To do that has always been my goal. My quality of life is so much better because there is no stress and when I come back to the States to do shows I just enjoy it and have fun."
It is in Japan where Corino spends most of his time these days, as mentioned in Corey D. Lacroix's recent story. Corino laughed as he recalled a father-son bonding moment with his seven-year-old son Colby. At a Zero-One USA show in Tokyo, Japan in 2003 Corino teamed with Tom Howard against Masato Tanaka and Shinjiro Otani when he got a surprise.
"Tanaka gave me a superfly splash on some chairs and broke my hand and ended up pinning me. I was outside of the ring and I heard the ring bump and the crowd go nuts. I heard another bump and then another. I noticed Tom Howard sitting next to me, so I said 'What happened?' he replied 'Colby just cleared the ring.' All I could think was that Otani and Tanaka were going to be pissed. I went back to the locker room and Otani gave Colby a big hug and said 'Thank you very much.' I had to ask 'Colby what possessed you to do that?' 'Daddy, he gave me the eye I knew I had to do it.' It's funny because if you watch the tape Otani gets right into his face, Colby punches him right in the jaw and then punches Tanaka."
It wouldn't be the last time Colby was involved.
"Masato and I just wrestled in Japan in a strap match and Colby came to ringside and saved me on a pin. Tanaka grabbed him the hair, Colby low blowed him and the place went nuts. It is a shame when you need the rub of a seven-year-old kid to get over as a babyface," he joked. The irony of Colby's involvement is that unlike many wrestlers' children he has no aspirations to be a wrestler.
The topic of wrestling at times being a family business brought up the name of Calgarian Ted Hart. After his backflipping incident in RoH Hart spoke out on a number of topics to numerous outlets about several people, including Corino. One radio show featured a simple challenge to Corino for a shoot fight in Calgary, that Hart concluded with "I'll fly you out first class and send you home in a body bag." In January the two were brought together at an MLW show that resulted in Corino giving up and walking out. Steve shared his thoughts on Hart.
"Teddy is a phenomenal performer in the ring. When he is not in the ring he is an ass. It's a shame because he has the ability to be an amazing pro wrestler in the next couple of years. Hopefully he can pull his head out of his ass and do some good business."
Before ceasing operations last week, it looked like MLW was building towards a in-ring showdown between the two. It wouldn't be the first time that Corino has wrestled someone he had personal differences with. In Ring of Honor he had a lengthy feud with Homicide and they don't get along. But the question is, can Teddy and Steve put aside their differences and step into the ring?
"Of course. If you look at the matches Homicide and I have done, we have done great business together. If Teddy wants to, I can do business. The problem is his not mine so I am not worried."
On the other side of the coin, Corino was extremely impressed with the showing that Hart's stable mates TJ Wilson & Harry Smith, teaming as "The Stampede Bulldogs," had in January in MLW. "I am a big fan of the Stampede Bulldogs. The match they had with the Havana Pitbulls on the second night of the MLW tapings was one of my favorite matches. TJ Wilson and Harry Smith are definitely future superstars."
One thing about Steve Corino is he doesn't play games. He is up front and honest in his thoughts about everything. Juggernaut made the statement to SLAM! Wrestling, "with Steve Corino what you see is what you get. You either love him or you hate him, there is no middle ground." Corino agrees with that assessment.
"There is no middle with me. I am very outspoken and truthful and my truth is brutal. I will tell people what I think about them. People will either like me or they won't and I am not one of those people who need to change something. I am who I am, I've been wrestling for ten years and learned from the best. You can't know why someone may not like you and if I worried about everyone that didn't like me I would be stressed out. I take care of what I have to do and go from there. If fans love me that is great, if they don't then there are reasons. They may not like my style or my promos for example. As long as fans come out and buy tickets and have fun, they can boo or cheer me all they want. I just want them to think that whether or not they like me, I gave 110 percent that night."
With this in mind, Corino spoke to SLAM! Wrestling on a variety of topics and talents and didn't hold back. The Backseat Boyz - Trent Acid & Johnny Kashmere - have become staples on the East Coast and have expressed a dislike of Corino.
"I think they have an issue with me. They are great wrestlers, you can't take anything away from them, especially Trent Acid. If I had one negative thing to say is that I don't think they take it seriously enough and realize how much talent they have. When they were with PWF they always gave it their all. As people I don't care about them, whatever they do they do. But I don't have an issue with them. Whether or not I like someone doesn't matter. As long as they can do good for the company that is what matters."
Acid has wrestled for the CZW promotion in the past, a promotion that at times has specialized in "Garbage Wrestling," a hardcore style that is influenced by the Japanese "Death Match" performances of wrestlers such as Mick Foley, Terry Funk and Leatherface. Thumbtacks, barbed wire and light tubes have all been used in these types of matches, including CZW's popular "King of the Death match" tournaments.
"I think it's crazy. Those light tubes have a powder in them that is poison; I don't know what they are thinking. I hope they know what they are doing. I wouldn't do anything like that, or if I did the money would have to be so good that I could appreciate the scars later and say 'well I bought something with this.' It is good that there are people who can do that style so that those of us who don't want to, we don't have to. It has its niche, CZW has a core audience that wants to see that so if people want to do it, God bless 'em."
Corino is one of the ECW talents that wasn't picked up by the WWE when they bought out WCW and ECW folded, despite having been in their training camp in 1997. Corino is happy he isn't in the WWE for a number of reasons, and has no plans in the foreseeable future to head there. He has a year left on his contract with Zero-One and has already talked about re-signing. However many wrestlers who were deeply associated with ECW have been involved with the promotion. Raven and Jerry Lynn both had runs before being released, while presently Corino's former proteges Rhyno and Tajiri, as well as Tommy Dreamer and Rob Van Dam, are part of the current roster.
"When you can't find something for Rhyno to do that is really a shame. When he was picked up I thought they would go balls to the wall with him, but they haven't given him a chance. Tajiri is a phenomenal cruiserweight. It's great that they gave him the belt a few times but he is capable of so much more. With Tommy Dreamer, I thought he would have a hard time from the beginning. Everybody sees him as the lifeblood of ECW and when it died, so did part of Tommy Dreamer. RVD is awesome. His openness to bury the company is what keeps him down but you can only keep him down for so long. People love him, they do the RVD hand signal whenever he is on TV. It is time for the WWE to realize they have so much money they can make of a Rob Van Dam. As for Jerry, it is a shame he was released because he has so much talent and they couldn't figure out something. Everywhere Jerry goes he has great matches whether it's his opponent's first match or the guy has been wrestling for ten years."
Of the topics, nothing brought about as strong a reaction as the name of fellow Canadian and Matrix star Keanu Reeves. "What a dick. I hate that guy. Here is a guy who thinks he is better than everyone else. One day when karma strikes him he will realize you can't treat people the way he does."
Even though most of his work has been in Japan, Corino has occasionally made blips on the North American radar. In the summer of 2001 he made a few appearances for the B.C.-based Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling. "It was a positive experience. I had a lot of fun with Dr. Luther and Juggernaut, they took good care of me and I wrestled them pretty much every time I was there. At the time ECCW was trying to run every weekend so I got to see some nice towns and the fans were great."
Stateside, Corino has worked for RoH, NWA-TNA, MLW and the new World-One promotion. His time in NWA-TNA was brief due mainly to commitments in Japan. The promotion runs every Wednesday and there was no point in working angles when he spent so much time in Japan. As well, Corino wasn't fond of Vince Russo, who at the time was heavily involved creatively with the promotion. "I'm not a Vince Russo fan so I wasn't going to listen to anything Vince Russo had to tell me," he said.
In Ring of Honor he feuded with Homicide, culminating in a brutal barbed wire match at War of the Wire on November 29, 2003. After the feud ended RoH said on their website that Corino was finished with the company. "Ring of Honor is a phenomenal promotion, the time I spent there I remember fondly. I had a lot of fun and there are a lot of great kids there. My deal was to go in, do my feud with Homicide and go. Anytime RoH gives me a date I am already booked. The chance of returning right now is pretty slim but I wouldn't say it's never going to happen. We will see."
Even with the folding of MLW, Corino still doesn't see a return despite some fans requesting it. "No. I could have gone back on Valentines Day but I chose to stay home. Ring of Honor doesn't need me. I have to do one more match with Homicide, but not right now. I don't want to be a regular guy for RoH. With MLW going down it was almost like a godsend to me, when I had the PWF I always worried about everyone else's shows instead of the PWF ones. Now with MLW down it lets me concentrate on Zero-One and World-One and see how far we can take that. I won't put the belt on me or book a Shane Douglas feud."
The Shane Douglas joke stems from the comment made by some fans that Steve Corino is a death knell for a promotion, especially if he is a champion there. In addition to the MLW champion, he was the main titleholder in the PWF, and held the ECW Title a few months before its folding.
"It's funny because that joke has been going around for awhile. It's not just putting the belt on me it seems like my being in the company is a jinx. When I went to USWA in 1997 I was there four weeks before it closed down. From there I went to Puerto Rico and the houses went down! When I first got to ECW they were having financial troubles so my first cheque bounced. I was thinking 'God, no, not again!' When ECW started doing okay again I thought 'Yes! The streak is broken' because it was like the Armstrong curse. Then of course they gave me the belt and six weeks later it closed. At least I wasn't the final ECW champion."
History weighed heavily on his mind when he become a champion in Zero-One. "When they put the U.S. title on me in Zero-One fans were like 'Awh geez, company's going down.' Then they did a double-whammy because they put the tag titles on C.W. Anderson. So there I was with the Tag and U.S. belts thinking 'Please god don't let the company go down,'" he joked.
With that in mind Corino had concerns about MLW
"I was thinking with Orlando being cancelled, I was going to be missing the next two MLW shows so I thought I had better drop the strap to Shane Douglas really quick because if the company goes down I'm going to get a call from someone saying 'Do you think you're the jinx?' It's funny that you called and asked that because I am starting to think I am! It could be it's a combination of Shane Douglas and Steve Corino in the main event that spells the end for a company. Douglas took down XPW, he probably had a small part in taking down ECW, I took it down the rest of the way and the combination of both of us in MLW was enough to end it."
As its champion, MLW took priority over other bookings besides Zero-One and Steve was happy with his experiences there. He, Justin Credible and tag team champions Simon Diamond & C.W. Anderson comprised "The Extreme Horsemen," a group that was initially a part of Dusty Rhodes' Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling.
"It was created in 2001 with myself, Barry Windham and C.W. Anderson for Dusty Rhodes' Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling. When Court Bauer started MLW he wanted to put Diamond, Anderson and I together. That was actually a threesome that we wanted to do back in ECW but Paul changed the plans and put Swinger with them and sent me in a different direction as a babyface. When Court put us together he suggested the name 'The Elite' and I said 'I copywrote the name The Extreme Horseman,' that has been who we are ever since."
Corino is sad to see the promotion fold. "As far as I know the company is closed and I don't think it's coming back. I had a feeling that something was up because when I called to get my seat reservation for the flight to Florida they said the ticket hadn't been issued yet. I thought 'That's never good.' It's a shame because Court is a good guy and did a lot of good things for me, anything he has ever told me has come true. He is one of those rare honest promoters. but I don't want to see him lose money. We are already planning on bringing World-One to Florida and try and run TV there so we will see how that develops. Fans in Florida like the old Florida Championship Wrestling style, so the ones that get the most reaction are old school feuds. That will be the key to success."
Steve Corino continues to work hard at doing what he loves, and considers himself lucky to be continuing to do it. He is thankful for all of the support that the fans have given not only him but professional wrestling over the years. "Our heart and soul is going out there and entertaining the fans and give them something to make them go home and say 'wow.' Without fans there would be no us."
Steve's goal is to bring wrestling back to prominence and the way it should be. WWE may hold a monopoly but there are many smaller promotions that are working hard to survive and give fans looking for an alternative to wrestling something else.
"It is important to me that Pro Wrestling stops being disrespected. The sport of Pro Wrestling is still alive and there are groups like NWA-Florida, ROH, ECWA, JAPW and so many other places that care about wrestling, not sports entertainment. We are trying to bring the sport back," he concluded.
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Jason Clevett is the self-proclaimed "King of Western Canada" and is contemplating dying his hair blonde so that if he ever bleeds he can have to cool Corino/Flair hairstyle going. He can be reached at email@example.com.