Santino Marella Talks Extensively About Jim Cornette Slap Incident From Early WWE Days

The slap heard ’round the wrestling world.

Santino Marella reflected on the infamous behind-the-scenes incident that saw Jim Cornette slap him during his days in the WWE developmental system during a recent interview with

Featured below are some of the highlights from the interview where he talks about this incident at length.

On an incident with Jim Cornette while he was training in OVW where Cornette, who was the booker there at the time, slapped him because he didn’t act afraid of The Boogeyman when he was supposed to do so during a segment at an event: “It was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. They had been wanting to get rid of him for quite some time. You know, allegations of you know, racism and just abuse, threatening talent and all this stuff. And yeah, he called me. So it was my first day there ever at WWE TV. I was with my daughter, actually. She was 10 at the time, I believe. And we’re just in the audience, you know. She’s in front of me. Here’s the reason I’m smiling. Because The Boogeyman, she was sh*tting her pants right? So I went to grab her because she was trembling. She was 10. I just kind of sat back like, ‘this is gonna be good, she’s gonna remember this forever.’ And that smirk on my face of me saying, ‘oh, this is going to be good,’ infuriated him (Cornette). And he thought that I was laughing at the product and not selling and that’s kind of the history. I was called backstage and he berated me and yelled at me and didn’t really faze me at all. I’ve had football coaches screaming in my face and Judo coaches, you know, trying to choke me out.

“They brought me backstage, okay. And they left her (Santino’s daughter) out there with some of the other –The Irony is just like, my first day and I’m like, I’m just an audience member. I don’t think I have any responsibilities on this show. I’m here with my family, man. And it was a holiday. The worst part is I didn’t get the chance to learn from him. Because, you know, he obviously has a lot of experience and I’m sure I could have learned a tremendous amount from him if he didn’t blow it for himself and for everybody else by being an idiot and getting fired.”

On having a meeting with WWE officials over the situation: “WWE was pretty cool, man,” Carelli said. “They were honest, they sat me down, they said, ‘look, we’ve been wanting to get rid of him for quite some time. He’s not getting fired because of you.’ Like, kind of taking the guilt off me, right? And also, they go ‘look, on the other hand, there’s no freebies because of this, when the time is right, where you have some potential. We’ll give you an unbiased observation and by no means is there anything given to you’ and some people did think I was given the job, like, the next day. It was like over a year later. I earned it myself. I was going to practice three times a day and the morning class and intermediate class and the advanced class for well over a year, and I even wanted to test it out. When I debuted as Santino, I saw Johnny Ace backstage. I said, ‘Hey, man, I want to thank you for giving me that unbiased observation.’ And he’s like, ‘What are you talking about?’ I’m like, thank you. That’s what I needed to hear. I said ‘I’m the Cornette guy.’ I could see his face like ‘no sh*t!,’ you know, and just the fact that he didn’t know who I was when I said that, I know that I earned it on my own merit, because [Cornette] likes to tell people that I was just gifted a job so that I wouldn’t sue. And I wasn’t going to sue. It’s not in my DNA to want to sue anybody. Yeah, it was just a blip on the radar.”

On the former WWE star noted that he still gets asked about the situation despite it happening 17 years ago: “It’s funny because it’s 17 years ago [and I’m] still asked about it, you know. So the whole thing that happened a couple of years back, when I had my neck surgery, I had a buddy named Josh and this guy he one day, I’m still in bandages, I just had my surgery. And I see missed call, missed call, missed call. A text message saying, ‘Dude, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know he was gonna do that.’ Voicemail shows up, voicemail missed call. And then what the hell? So I answered his next call. He goes, ‘dude, I’m sorry. I didn’t know he was going to do that. He just took the phone. He wouldn’t get it back.’ I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’ He was like, ‘you didn’t hear the message?’ I said ‘no, man.’ So anyway, I listen to the messages. It’s Jim Cornette. And he’s at like a convention or something. And my buddy Josh said, ‘Did you hear Santino had neck surgery and had to retire? He was like, ‘Oh, yeah, you know him?’ My buddy was like ‘Yeah, yeah.’ [Cornette] goes, ‘call him up.’ My buddy calls me up. And it’s leaving a message. And Jim Cornette takes the phone and cuts this promo in front of everybody. ‘You know, this is Jim Cornette, I heard that you have to retire because of a neck injury. I just couldn’t say I’m, I’m so happy. You never deserve to be there. You were a joke.’ And like, I’m looking at my phone. And I’m still in literally in bandages out of surgery. And I’m like, ‘what a dirtbag.’ you know. And I said, like the first interaction altercation, I’ll let that slide. But this one I’m going to remember, you know, and then when I retired from WWE, I did one of those shoot videos, Rob Feinstein shoot videos. And I told the story for the first time. And someone heard it, messaged him and he was like, you know, ‘I’m going to sh*t on your grave when you’re dead.’ And he’s like, what? And he heard about it, but he denied it. He said, ‘I never did that.’ Obviously, he was embarrassed. And he realized he crossed the line.

So then fast forward, several years later, there’s a convention in Detroit. And my buddy, Scott D’Amore was like, ‘hey, you know, my buddy needs one more guy would you care to go? So and so is gonna be here, Jim Cornette is going to be here.’ I go, ‘Jim Cornette is going to be there. Okay, I’ll go.’ And I just honestly wanted to do what I did. Extend my hand, have a chuckle, let’s have a laugh. Let’s put it behind us. We have enough mutual friends that I’m hoping we can be men about it. He proceeds to try to cut this promo on me. Oh, so here’s the thing. In the convention hall, I go to the bathroom and walk into the hallway. There’s nobody in the hallway, because the conventions inside. And the door just opens and he comes out by himself. And I guess he’s going to the bathroom or whatever. So I started smirking right away and I’m like, ‘Okay, here we go, man to man. No one’s around. Let’s hash it out.’ Yeah. And so I’d love to extend my hand and say, ‘Hey, Anthony Carelli.’ He tries to cut this promo and walk away. And I’m like, ‘wait a second, man. After all these years, you think it’s just gonna go down like this? You gotta be absolutely kidding me.’ And I said, ‘I came here to whatever, you know, put it behind us. If you’re willing to take it somewhere. I’m not that kid anymore. You have zero power over me, I’m retired. It’s just man to man. There’s no way you’re gonna put me off like that man and walk away.’ And then of course, he [called security]…”

On a recent meeting with Cornette: “Yeah, I’ve never really met the guy. It was just like I met him once the slap [incident]. And then years later, I met him again, stuck my hand out to put it behind us and he freaked out. And then he made his whole scene and still never had a sit down and had a beer [or[ had a chuckle over it. Like, you know, I don’t carry any ill will towards anybody. But this guy’s some serious issues there. I’d still have a beer with the guy you know.”

You can watch the complete interview below:

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