I spoke to Ring of Honor color commentator Steve Corino recently about his career, as well as the growth of Ring of Honor of late. Corino opened up about Paul Heyman, ECW, Fred Durst and much more in this second part of our interview. You can check out part one at this link.
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How have things changed for you since ROH got on Destination America?
"People assume that because I'm an announcer I'm in the know, but I'm not. I think it was a secret that was kept in a very small circle, and it made that surprise factor an even bigger deal. Think about it, with the internet, the surprise factor is not what it was in wrestling 20-25 years ago. It's not bad, it's just that technology has evolved and it's harder to get that. This is a cool surprise."
"I live on the coast of Carolina where we don't have Sinclair Broadcasting, so I go into my local Food Lion and nobody knows me. Now all these weeks later, I have my oil changed last week and the guy says 'you're King Corino from Ring of Honor!' It worked out and I got a free oil change, and now I'll take my wife's car in next week.' It's just wild that I get recognized. It's very very cool."
We unfortunately saw the passing of Dusty Rhodes earlier this year. You had a program with him in ECW. What was Dusty like?
"He was amazing. You could love him, hate him, despise him, and love him again within the same minute. Then at the end of the argument he'd give you a wink and a smile and make you happy to be around him. He definitely put me on the map. I'd been in ECW about a year before him talking about being old school and anti-hardcore, doing my tv feud with Taz and house show feud with Tommy Dreamer. But they were ECW guys, not old school guys. It legitimized the 'King of Old School' character. He was just so instrumental in teaching me. I'm watching him sell and his comeback, and the timing he had even in 1999 and 2000. He was one of those guys who looked like they could come back when they were ready. He made it so much fun. It was such a blast."
Did he get you your tryouts with WWE?
"In 2002 it was actually Paul Heyman who got me a tryout as an announcer, and it was actually DDP through Dusty who gave them a call to give me a second look. He was always there, and I spoke to him two weeks before he passed. You take for granted when you don't talk to someone for a year, then you hear from them and you tell yourself you have to keep in touch. Different lives, different companies, things get in the way and then they're gone. My life is better since I got to know him.
"When my wife and I got our new house, I wanted to thank three people: Shinya Hashimoto, Paul Heyman and Dusty. I sent Heyman a text in a moment of reflection saying if it wasn't for the three of them, I probably wouldn't' be making a salary in a wrestling job today. I thought that I should send Dusty the same text and I never got around to it. I ended up talking to him on the phone, and we were talking about other things. How many guys did he book from Florida to his time working in WWE? His touching gave people the chance to live their dreams, buy houses and make careers."
Was there any reason given for nothing coming from the WWE tryouts?
"In 2002, I had a full-time spot in Japan. In 2007 when I had a tryout as a writer and a wrestler, they were thinking that I was too old, so maybe I didn't have the right people coming in for me. I was still in Japan 29 weeks a year, so I had something to fall back on. They were great up there. Anyone who buries the system by saying 'I went up there for a tryout and they didn't hire me, blah blah blah.' Oh man. It's such a well-oiled machine up there. You get to go up there and watch the biggest show in the world, they feed you, give you a payday, and you hope you impress someone enough to get a contract from there. If you don't at least you had the opportunity. It was cool to even be considered."
We had people asking about your sister Allison Danger, and how she's doing post-wrestling and since her stroke.
"She's doing well. She's been out of the ring for a couple of years now. She helps with some of the booking for SHIMMER out of Chicago. She keeps busy inside wrestling. She's healthy and happy. Her, her husband and daughter live out in Las Vegas. She's usually behind the scenes. It's a shame because she was such a great talent, especially on the mic. I get complimented on my mic work, but Allison Danger's rivaled mine and often went above and beyond. I think she's in a place where she's happy and got to do so much of what she wanted to do."
Your career has come full circle. You were the young guy calling out Dusty Rhodes, and now you're being called out by Decade from the announce desk. Could we see you back in the ring for ROH?
"Something that's never been brought up is that a match hasn't been discussed because I'm under contract to Sinclair Broadcasting. People think that I'm too old and decided I didn't want to wrestle. It's not that, I just saw an opportunity at 40 years old to take an opportunity to learn something new about wrestling instead of bumping all the time. I've been a booker, I've managed, wrestled, I've been to Japan 79 times. The idea of being a full-time announcer intrigued me, because I wanted to see if I could do it. If they come to me tomorrow and tell me they're replacing me and switching my contract over and I'd have to go on the road as a wrestler, I'd be fine with it. I still wrestle on the independents and still love wrestling, but being a commentator was my choice and something I'd asked about in 2011 when Sinclair bought the company. It was just waiting on the opening to take it and audition for it.
"Will all this lead to a match between me and BJ? I don't know. He's got that torn ACL that he's getting over. I have no desire to wrestle Colby, because I don't think a father-son match is one that's TV friendly. What's the good that comes out of it? If he beats me, I'm an old man. If I beat him, I'm a bully. I like being looked at as the guy who's done things and am now in the booth. If this was a different company and I was a wrestler still, then absolutely I'd take the match. But who knows."
Did you have heat with Paul Heyman after the collapse of ECW?
"I think everybody was upset at the beginning because you have to blame everybody. He was the face of the company, and he was the easiest person to be upset at. Paul's communication skills with the wrestlers weren't the best at that time. I held a little resentment for maybe two or three months, until I started in Japan. One day out of the blue I got this huge e-mail from him explaining what happened. I was like 'okay, cool, I got it.' Even if he'd said 'I screwed up and stole $30 million from the company and I'm sorry' I'd have definitely forgiven him because as a man he apologized.
"Paul is a guy that was wearing 25 different hats. Instead of asking for help, he did 25 different jobs, it gets to be, where did it explode? The job he did from 1993 to 2001, he did so much. He was such a great motivator that the in-ring stuff took care of itself. But outside of the ring, he didn't have that support staff. That could have been his downfall. If there was no Paul Heyman, you probably wouldn't be talking to Steve Corino right now, because I'd be at my old job thinking I loved my few years in pro wrestling. Paul Heyman put me on national TV and gave me the chance to live my dream and become a star. He gave me the tools to survive the end of ECW and venture. I love Heyman and what he's done for me. I like the person he's become both personally and professionally. He's a good dude and always will be."
What was your reaction to being told you'd win the ECW Title, and how far out does he tell you something like that?
"I was shocked. I didn't know until 3:30 that afternoon, and only because Sandman broke it to me. Jerry Lynn came in right after. I was told something different before the show. It was something that came as a total shock to me. I was told that Justin Credible was getting the title back and that it would be me and Justin. He was going to be my Raven, and I'm Tommy Dreamer. I could beat anyone on the roster, but I couldn't beat Justin Credible. That was the idea Paul had going in. I don't know what circumstances led to him changing his mind. I heard stories that Justin, Jerry and Sandman had breach of contract claims in and I didn't, which could have bought Paul some time so the title didn't get vacated or taken to WCW again. If that's so, I'm that lucky guy, but it's still an honor. There are only so many ECW World Heavyweight Champions, and that's my little mark on history."
Something I've wondered for 15 years: When are you getting revenge on Fred Durst?
"Oh, man! I don't even know if that guy's still around!"
I think he directs commercials now. Maybe he can direct one for a pain relieving knee brace for ROH so you can plan a sneak attack.
"I'll give him a knee lift. That was a fun time. The stars were aligned in those two weeks. The Limp Bizkit thing and then Dusty Rhodes came to ECW. If I didn't have those two opportunities, I might have been overlooked."
Where can fans follow you on social media, and what other projects do you have going on?
"You can always follow me on Twitter @KingCorino. My website is World Of Corino. I have a little promotion here in the Carolinas called the Premier Wrestling Federation. We've been around for years. We ran in Pennsylvania, and then here in North Carolina when I moved. You can go to the website and check that out. We're going to be doing stuff on Roku. We're trying to get them ready for Ring of Honor. I try to keep all my dates updated on the website. You can also go to Pro Wrestling Tees, or I always have a different style at live events."