One-half of Ring of Honor’s announce team, Steve Corino recently took some time to participate in an interview. Corino reveals his past during his time with OMEGA, his time with ECW and his future in professional wrestling. He opens up about his son following in his footsteps, and what the future may have in store for Ring of Honor. Check out the complete interview below.
When your career initially began, you had the opportunity to start off as part of OMEGA. What can you recall from that period? What did you learn and how did it help you develop the anti-new school character?
“Well, OMEGA was like a collection of Indy guys in North Carolina and myself I had lived in Pennsylvania but I was making a lot of trips to North Carolina. Joey Mercury was in Virginia and he had just started and he would meet me on the way and Matt Hardy has this this vision of let’s do something that no one else is doing and now you gotta remember that this was 1997 where there wasn’t a Ring of Honor and ECW was finding its legs and still a little more hard-core than anything so Matt had this grassroots idea of every match has to be like a barn burning stuff like that. And he (Matt) thought that me and Joey (Mercury) and CW Anderson would be great as the guys selling the old school first. People always ask where did the old school character begin with and I had those ideas and then right from OMEGA first time.
I really got to enforce them because I was against the new way of doing things and remember we were all job guys in little Cameron, North Carolina National guard army on TV so we were no one but were drawing 3, 4, 500 people where you needed an old guy on a show a Jimmy Valiant on the show in North Carolina or an Ivan Koloff and them were great guys but hey man this was like balls to the wall and lets just have a blast. We didn’t know we were all like 24, 23 years old and we had no idea what we were doing and we had no idea and here we are 18 years later still talking about it.”
You have often acknowledged how Tully Blanchard and Magnum T.A. were among your favorites. Can you see any similarities in them with anyone you have ever faced or seen compete?
Rising to prominence as part of ECW, what did that opportunity provide you? Were there always plans for you to compete for prominent titles like you did? What was Paul Heyman’s influence like?
“When I came in there were always no promises. I came in as just an underneath guy. I was Nova’s friend and this was right after November to Remember 98’ and they were looking for new guys and Paul wanted to build new guys. So they had Reckless Youth that was the guy they wanted and I was the afterthought. The guy was Nova’s buddy here is pretty good and he’s got an anti-hard-core thing alright bring him to the arena and do a quick try out match. That’s how I won my job. Then little things would come up and happen. Whereas Candido would mess up and Paul would look at me like, ‘Steve you can talk let’s do this thing with Tazz’ and then Candido would be back and then he would be fine and then I’d get pushed down a little bit and then Candido would mess up again and then all of a sudden I’m back. There was a time where no one remembers where I had Rhyno and Tajiri and Candido comes back and all of a sudden I had no one and Candido had Rhyno and Tajiri then 3 weeks later he’d mess up again. And then I’m back without explanation it was just like I was the go-to guy.
As far as the titles, it’s funny because he’s probably said this to everybody but Heyman said that the night I was hired ‘‘2 years and you’re going to be the world champion”. Um, yeah sure I will. My summer of 99’ was losing to Francine and Jazz and I was not on the road to the title and once Dusty came in that’s when everything turned. It was a whole hey you’ve got the blond hair now, now your with Dusty and now you’re the old school guy and people are starting to cheer for you now and hey we’ve got something here now and it also helped with the financial problems guys like Jerry Lynn and Justin Credible and Sandman all had breech contracts with claims in so and I was the only one that was still under contract that didn’t have mine in yet. So it was like oh, he’s the safe guy to put the title on right now. So it took a little wind out of the sail but it was still the greatest honor. Paul was always great because he had such visions of everything but he also let everyone else talk to you or talk about their character and sit there and get your input and ask what do you think? Where do you see yourself? and I’ll never forget that because he wanted real emotion to come out he’d would give me an outline for a promo because he wanted me to like real emotion to come and that’s where I learned bad habits too because in ECW you weren’t given times you weren’t told hey you gotta get this match done in 15 minutes or 8 minutes or 6 minutes. It was go out there, kill yourselves, steal the show and we’ll clip it as far as we need it. I bring it back to Ring of Honor in 2009’ and were like hey we need a commercial break, we need this and I’m like whoa I need to learn how to work TV! It was always a positive experience.”
After ECW dissolved, you traveled the independent circuit. How would you have described this time? What did you say you gained both as a professional and personally from this experience? Was the WWE ever an option?
Discuss your time in TNA. The personalities and management. Would you have considered them as a legitimate option to mainstream fans to WWE, or were there others at that particular time?
“Now when I was in TNA it was still in Nashville and very unorganized so you can’t compare the TNA of 2003-2004 to what’s now. No, I wouldn’t have foreseen it. With wrestling like with life there is always the next big thing and you hear it and if it happens cool but if it doesn’t then it’s not. Ring of Honor could sit there and tell me that we’re replacing Raw on Monday and everything like that and I’m like until I see it. I guess wrestling teaches you that but I guess life teaches you that. So I didn’t see it but I think the wrong people were always in charge of creative. I believe if you’re going to be an alternative to what the WWE is doing you have to be different. The six-sided ring was weird but it was different. Now how do we capitalize that. We should capitalize on it this way. Why are we having guys write the show that we’re writing for WWE and then got let go?
I use baseball as a theory. Why are we going to grab the manager that was 60 and 102 with a great potential team and we hire him to manage our team when we could get somebody that was better? I believe that hurt them. Jim Cornette said you only get that shot to make that first impression and then you’re done. I believe it’s so true. I think that’s what’s hurt them. Coca-Cola is always going to be the name brand but there is room for Pepsi and RC and any other soda. WWE is always going to be that name brand but there is room. You just gotta be different. We’re different. Ring of Honor is different. NXT is different from WWE. There has got to be alternatives because if you don’t and there is nothing different about the product why wouldn’t you just wait to watch the product that you know?”
Your initial incarnation in ROH took part after leaving TNA. Did you ever foresee the opportunities coming from them at the time that you did? How was it working with guys like Homicide and Colt Cabana at the time?
“Ring of Honor started out in February of 02’ and I started out as a commentator. Rob, Gabe, and Doug asked me hey would you like to voice some of these over we’ve got this idea of this super Indy promotion. That’s what the goal was and a way to sell VHS tapes on RF Video and they wanted to have these super independent shows. They didn’t want a lot of big names and stuff like that but they knew that I could do color commentary and then it was something like hey, we need somebody for this angle. I never knew that they would be what they are now. I never knew that when I got back here in 09’ that we were still on HDNet that we would be here today.
It’s one of those slow build and slow burns and it worked. They didn’t learn to run before learning how to crawl but no one could see it. Just like I said before everyone’s got that idea of what’s going to be the next big thing but until you really see it unfold and where you see where it’s going to come from where is the capital going to come from and how will we use the television station that we’re going to be on. Until you see all this stuff you’re really amazed. Last year I was amazed when they told us we were going to do these shows with New Japan. I was like whoah, this should be weird but let’s see how it works out and now its an every year thing. Now its 4 shows in one week instead of 2. They’re crawling. You never know. I can’t tell you what next for Ring of Honor. I hope I’m along for the ride. Yeah, I can’t tell you what’s next. I would have never thought that in a million years.”
Explain the retirement tour and subsequent return to competition. Was it something you had always intended on doing towards the end of your wrestling career? What was the general reaction of audiences and competitors at the time of it taking place? Why the return to active competition?
At end of 07’, I was ready to go. I had done 13 years in wrestling and I was done. I was ready. Hashimoto died in 01’ he was my buddy. I was an office guy and once he died and he was the big star of Zero-One the house just started to die and once the houses start dying then every year the money starts dying and it started becoming a job. When wrestling starts becoming a job that I start dreading to go to then I’m done. I had the opportunity while I was figuring out hey I have these shows for 4 months and I’m going to give these promoters a heads up and then after this I’m done and I’m not doing anything else. If I have to drop a title, I’ll drop a title. At this time however going over to Japan there was a Hawaii Championship Wrestling so they figured you could stop over in Hawaii for a day, wrestle over there and go to Japan we’ll help pay for the ticket. But as I was over there one of the first guys I meet when I’m over there is Mr. Wrestling 2 and Wrestling 2 is the grizzled old vet and he was 72 at the time maybe and the lady that ran the Hawaii promotion was just on him you know, Johnny you gotta give the mask to someone and she had in her mind for one of the Island guys and I wrestled that night and we went out for dinner and Johnny would look at me and say from across the table he goes, “You…you could be Wrestling 3”. I go, “Sir, I am thrilled that you would think about that, but I made a name at this and I’m quitting. I’m done. I’m done at the end of the year.” And he’s like, “Ah, I want you to think about it”.
So I go to Japan for 2 weeks and I come back to do the show in Hawaii and he goes, “What do you think?” I’m like, “I don’t know.” Here I am if you were to ask me, a year before I would have been willing. I’d take the mask. So then during dinner, we started to draw out our designs of what the mask would look like and how it would be different. He said, “You have to be different from how I was and I was different from how Tim Woods was”. So we came up with a design of how Mr. Wrestling 1 had the white mask and how Wrestling 2 had the black outline so like what would 3 be? Oh, I’ve always been a heel so like Wrestling 3 would be a babyface so half the mask is black and the other half is white and I said I wanted to wear tights instead of trunks. You wore trunks, Tim wore trunks but here’s the thing I get booked at a certain price at these Indy shows why would they put Mr. Wrestling 3 on the show? So he say’s “Well, alright you’re going to have to do 2 different things” and at this time I don’t know why I was thinking of Muta but what if Mr. Wrestling 3 was The Great Muta compared to Keiji Muto. Muto everyone knows and everyone knows he’s Muta but there is that time where it clicks and he has to put on that stuff and he’s Muta and what if there’s that time where I’m in trouble and when you put the Mr. Wrestling 3 mask on and now you know shits, on! And he loved it!
Right from there you know from the beginning of 08’ I’ll do some little shows as Wrestling 3 and I was done and Carlos Colon called me and I said I need someone to wrestle Eugene on the big show. Okay, I’ll go down. And then it was like hey, why don’t you come down, I need a lead heel and I’m like..I’M DONE! All of a sudden I was out, I was almost out. I had one foot out at the door and someone just pulled my belt back in. I found my love for it again and I found that I had to do what I had to do for the rest of my career and have fun and I don’t want to be that bitter veteran. I don’t want to be that guy because I’m not a bitter person in real life. So I would see that too much, where others would say they hate this thing or that thing and oh I can only lose by DQ. I was like ugh, blow my mind. Jack Victory was always the best veteran towards me and always positive now that I’m this old I can be that guy that’s like happy go lucky just my regular personality and stuff instead of turning into that bitter veteran.”
Upon your return, did you find there to be a period of adjustment competing against the younger talent?
Your role within ROH has changed over the past few years. How would you say that evolution from wrestler to manager to commentator has been? Where have the greatest challenges in the transition lay?
“The transitions been great. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor than Kevin Kelly. Just a quick story of how things go in circles 2002, the WWE called me to try out for the program that was filmed in the WWE New York location and then aired on the Sunday’s. That was the try out that I did and the guy that I did the tryout with at the WWE studios was with Kevin Kelly. I had known Kevin since my time jobbing in the WWE and now 13 years later he’s my broadcast partner every week. It’s so weird how the world goes. I always knew that I wanted to be a color commentator because my whole forestay in wrestling was talking and I was always known for promos. So I thought am I going to be the guy that’s going to be 60 years old and go out every week and bump and feel bad or can I talk until I’m 65 and I thought this was a better time than any. Then there is always the urban legends because our booker is very tight and he tells you what you need to know. I was told by people inside that SCUM was originally supposed to be Adam Pearce being the leader and then something didn’t work out and it was like oh we can put Steve in that role and then I was going to get the colour commentating job before but then I had to do the SCUM stuff and parlay into it. I had asked right in the beginning from Sinclair, when Jim Cornette brought it up and I said I’d like to audition for colour commentator and they said ah, I don’t see it. Maybe a backstage interview but I never see you being a colour commentator.
I thought alright I’m going to get that one shot to be a colour commentator whether or not to audition for this and I have to hit it a homerun. That was Best in the World 12’, Kevin (Steen) was still champ. It was arguably the best. It made Sinclair think you know, that guy could be a good colour commentator. I love it. But people don’t understand that I am the ill-prepared colour commentator of all time because they like the interaction between me and Kevin (Kelly). It comes across as genuine because he’s the one guy that gets my humour. So he’s thinking of something and wants to throw it out there so Steve can hit it home. I don’t have a format and there are TV tapings going on and I’m watching baseball on my iPad. Gorilla Monsoon would always be prepared but Bobby Heenan wasn’t. He just went with whatever Gorilla said and they would interact. So they were going with that formula and it seemed to work. For me I’m thinking man I wish I was more prepared and then I told nope it’s okay just do your thing. It works and its fun. I also think because I don’t myself too seriously that I’m not afraid to make mistakes. I’m not afraid to mumble my words and then say man, I couldn’t get that one out. I believe were all human we all don’t have to be perfect all the time. Like last night (May 15th) if you rewatch the ippv I don’t know what made me say but Naito did something to Elgin but I say yeah, you don’t play in his sandbox and Kevin Kelly goes, really sandbox? He asked me where’d you get that I said I don’t know. And then 5 minutes later something happens again between Elgin and Naito and I said “I told you not to go in his sandbox”. So it makes people think okay he’s trying to come up with something new. The motor-boating thing was all Kevin and I talked about last night. Jushin Thunder Liger has been in the wrestling business 31 years and now he will be forever known in my mind as the guy that motor-boated Maria. I think that’s the ridiculousness of it.
If you were to draw it down as to how it was going to be then there would be no style. We have to think about this. He loves Adam Cole. He’s very homoerotic towards Adam Cole, he loves super kicks and then when it comes to BJ Whitmer he’s the toughest son of a bitch in the world or I’m an analyst for this guy. I and ACH have our high five out of nowhere before each match and I’m all over the place. It’s what separate’s me from Lawler and Booker and JBL and Taz. It separates me. It makes people go oh he is different than the normal let’s plug something. If I plug something then I try to make a joke out of it. I just try to keep it light its pro wrestling, it should be fun.”
What are your thoughts on your son Colby following in your footsteps? Is there apprehension on your or and Colby’s mom’s part?
“I don’t talk to Colby’s mom. She’s like the BJ Whitmer of mom’s. Colby’s always wanted to be a wrestler. It would say since he was about 2 or 3 playing with wrestlers. He analyzes it and he lives it. He was a great amateur wrestler in high school and stuff like that and he’s only 18 he just graduated last June. For him to put on weight it’s so tough because for 4 or 5 years in school he was cutting weight so now that he’s up to 160-162 it’s a huge thing and he’s trying to change his body chemistry and guys in there are like you gotta eat, you gotta do this, you need to lift. He’s in the gym twice a day, his arms are looking good. But gaining that weight is his bugaboo right now.
If you’ve seen any of his matches on the Indy’s he’s a totally different style than me. He’s a high flier, he does many cool different things and now that he’s wrestled since he was probably about 15 he wrestled with a mask on he wrestled as American Tiger and when ROH approached him, they didn’t approach me they approached him they said this is the idea and they said you’re going to be in The Decade and you look like a young kid. He goes to all the tryouts and works on his promo skills and stuff like that you’re going to be in this role and no hood. It’s a whole new world for him and the best advice I’ve told him is work every crappy Indy show that you can whether it’s in front of 5 people or the good ones in front of 250-300 people and just say to the promoter the only thing I ask you to do is let me be a heel because he’s never been it. He’s the most laid back kid in the entire world. I’m asking him are you tired? And kicking him in the ass. Nah, man I’m just cool. You don’t get any more laid back than him. I went out today and bought him a whole bunch of energy drinks because he had things to do. I know you have to be cool but then he puts water in his hair and he’s on.
He’s awake and yeah he is able to turn it on and turn it off. He’s a student of the game and its fun. For me as a dad it’s different. Of course the apprehension is that he’ll get hurt and protect your head. He’s smaller so he’s going to take these bigger bumps but make sure they’re good and make sure they’re safe. I don’t want him to be 25 years old and his heads everywhere because he’s had to many concussions. But I have to tell the other guys to tell him that because you know how it is you don’t want to listen to your dad. I’ll go up to Christopher Daniels and say and talk to Colby and make sure that if he’s taking that turn that he’s not taking it on the top of his head. Chris is like, I got it doctor! Chris has known him since he was 2 years old and all these guys watched him grow up and now he’s the 18 year old kid and I think he feels the nervousness of he’s gotta perform and it’s a monstrous reach just to hang in there but he doesn’t realize he has and that he’s grown into this. It’s fun to watch but it’s also a little scary.”
As ROH continues to move forward, what do you foresee for the promotion? Will they continue to remain a viable option? Do you see growth for ROH and where?
“If you would have asked me this a couple of years ago I would have said the game plan has always been for ROH to be economic television for the Sinclair broadcasting channels. I would have never thought we would have done something with New Japan and I’d never thought that the replica belts would come and that they would have taken the 17th chance at ippv because of all the problems that we had and I would have never thought that we would have done regular traditional pay per view and it wasn’t all in the business plans that they all got together and this is good and houses are up and merchandise licences are being sold so let’s try this so for me you just gotta keep moving forward little steps just like they are doing whether the next step is a video game, whether the next step is action figures, whether the next step is four weekends a month instead of three, whether it is the test of hey Tuesday and Wednesday worked maybe we should start thinking Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday instead of Friday/Saturday. When I was a kid I grew up in Philadelphia and Philly was always a Saturday night town. Kevin Kelly grew up in Tampa, Florida and that was a Tuesday night town. You always went every Tuesday night and to the Tampa Army to see Championship wrestling in Florida. So let’s see let’s throw some shit against the wall and see what sticks. The crew is so laid back.
Young kids come back here and are like they’ve done their WWE tryouts and their 2-day loop comes and their shaking hands on Saturday morning as they did again on Friday. Guys, relax this isn’t WWE no one is going to hate you because you didn’t shake hands the second day. A hearty hello, how is everyone doing and go about your business. Everybody is laid back here. It makes it really relaxed here. People always talk about the ECW locker room was the greatest locker room in the world and it’s not true. I was on top and I walked around on eggshells because you didn’t want to get heat with someone. Here you just go and do your thing. Everybody gets along with everybody. We all make fun of ACH. It’s a blast. It’s got the family atmosphere with no bullshit. We can all say we’re a family but we don’t all have to get along but you get to ride with the same guys every weekend and there are no cliques. It makes it enjoyable to come to work.”
Was there anything you’d like to promote or share with the readers?