I had the chance to speak with former ECW champion and Ring of Honor color commentator Steve Corino this weekend about a variety of subjects, including Friday night's All-Star Extravaganza VII.
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How was your trip to England?
"It was good, really good. I work for Paige's parents over there, they run a few shows a week."
ROH has a huge PPV this Friday in All-Star Extravaganza VII. If you had to sell non-ROH fans on one match to buy this show, what would it be?
"Well really you could go with two. Either Jay Lethal defending the ROH Television Title against Bobby Fish, or Jay Lethal defending the Ring of Honor World title against Kyle O'Reilly. Up until the WWE days, you never saw a company with a champion who had two titles, and defend those two titles in respective matches in one night. It's interesting, especially against O'Reilly and Fish, who are a tag team. As great as they are as a tag team, they're singles work is different and excellent. I truly believe Jay Lethal is on the run of a lifetime right now. It's going to be exciting to see where it happens on the card, will the matches be first and last? Will they be consecutive? If O'Reilly goes first, will Fish have an advantage?
"The rest of the card is dessert. Whether it's for the tag team titles, or Moose vs. Cedric Alexander or Matt Sydal vs. ACH, there's so many great matches that you can't go wrong with Ring of Honor. It's always a stacked card from top to bottom."
"Absolutely. So different, but so the same. You look at Silas Young, who is "the last real man," and he gets to the point to where he's almost redneck. Then you have Dalton Castle, who is a flamboyant enigma, almost like Exotic Adrian Street or Freddy Mercury. You put the two together and they make magic together. In this match, there's no loser in it for everybody else. If Silas wins, he gets 'the boys.' Just imagine what he'd do with those two boys. If he loses, he becomes one of the boys. Just the entertainment factor sells that match alone. You have two guys with different personas."
It's really cool to see something at stake that isn't a title. Speaking of titles, WWE started their own double champion storyline with Seth Rollins shortly after ROH's with Jay Lethal? Do you think this was a rip of ROH's idea, or just coincidence?
"I truly believe it's a coincidence. What would the WWE have to gain by 'stealing' a Ring of Honor storyline? WWE is usually so far ahead with stories that they probably had it in their head already. Hunter Johnston at Ring of Honor also plans ahead, to where he probably already has the next year or two mapped out. In the world of professional wrestling it's cool if it's 'they stole our idea' or 'we stole their idea' for that little bit of competition. I think it's one of those coincidences. What WWE's doing with Seth Rollins, having him wrestle John Cena and Sting, I think that's very interesting. As a fan of the WWE it makes me want to tune in and watch their show."
ROH has also been working with Destination America. Have you received any feedback from Destination America about your commentary?
"No, which is good because they don't hate it. I joked about it, but I'm the most unprepared announcer in the history of professional wrestling. It's basically my job to say what's on my mind. I try to be entertaining and something different than what you see in WWE, TNA, Lucha Underground or GFW, or any other style of announcers. I like good guys, I like bad guys, I have a man crush on Adam Cole, the hatred I have for BJ Whitmer. I try to be so many things.
"People have to remember, I've only been doing this job for two years, so I'm still learning as I go along. I didn't go to a school of broadcasting, I've been a wrestler for 20 years. I want to give the impression, love it or hate it, that this is a guy who still loves wrestling, and it could be commentary you hear if you're in the living room watching with your buddies. It doesn't have to be the best or the worst commentary, but I want to portray that myself and Kevin Kelly are two guys that love professional wrestling that are telling you our thoughts on professional wrestling every week. Are we over the top on some things? Absolutely.
"There's also a surprise factor where we're not produced that much. We may have something in our ear that tells us we're going to break or to make sure to remember something, but we're basically on our own from the first match to the main event. I think it's very different and it's working for it. I haven't gotten any memos from Destination America about what I say on the air. I do have a guide, though, that we had gotten from ROH offices that I'm not allowed to say, so I stay away from those."
But you're still allowed to say 'hit right in the ding ding,' so at least there's that.
"Right! If you say 'penis' then people….ugh. I try to be as third grade as possible. If it's too out there, then it could go over somebody's head or be right in their face. I'll say 'hit him in the ding ding' or 'over the top rope DQ.' I try to leave myself open for people to say 'Oh, there's no over the top rope DQ there, you dummy!' I open up myself for that, because you want people to fill in the blanks.
How much emphasis are you asked to put on a certain narrative by Ring of Honor?
"Nah, I wish I was. There are times I get so excited about something that they probably want the emphasis on something else. The whole screaming superkick thing was something I did on a house show that we thought was fun and different. My infatuation with Adam Cole is something. I wanted to see if someone would stop telling me to do it, but they have a lot of faith in Kevin and I. Kevin's been doing this a long time, he knows what he's doing, and he's a great person to throw up something for me to run with. He knows my sense of humor.
"There are times like Roderick Strong vs. Jay Lethal when the time for joking is over, and I'm excited as possible. It's a world championship match, and I go from color commentator to analyst, just to wear different hats and be completely different. In WWE, it's sports entertainment. We all know it and love it, and that's what makes WWE. Ring of Honor has to be that hybrid of so many different styles. If the announcers are the same as WWE, why wouldn't people just watch WWE instead of us?"
What was your reaction when you found out ROH was going to be on Destination America. Did you know anything about it before hand?
"Oh, let me tell you. We were moving that day, and I heard my phone going crazy. That many texts in that short amount of time, unfortunately my first thought in the wrestling world is 'aw man, who died?' You dread gong to your phone. I open my phone up and people are saying 'congratulations on the TV deal' and I'm wondering what they were talking about. One of my buddies said we were on Destination America, and I said 'get out! News to me!'
Your son Colby is now involved in Ring of Honor. How do you feel about that, and him having a prominent role on Ring of Honor TV?
"I can't lie, it's weird. It's weird thinking that we work for the same company. Or when we get room assignments, I can't just look for my name, I have to look for my name and Colby's name. It's surreal thinking about that. He's dreamed about being a wrestler since he was old enough to play with action figures. He just turned 19, but being 18 and having a spot in a national television company, it's gotta be overwhelming. He's so laid back. I don't know if it bothers him or he's nervous, but he's been preparing for this all his life.
"He was a great high school wrestler, where he had to cut weight all the time. Now he's a pro wrestler and has to go reverse and gain weight all of a sudden. On the mat, he's amazing. Once Ring of Honor see what he has, they'll be impressed with what he comes up with?"
Did you have reservations about being involved in a storyline with him?
"I had total reservations about it. It's not something I was super excited for, because you just don't know where it's going to go, if anywhere. Art imitates life, that's the craziness of this thing with me and BJ Whitmer. For years outside of the ring, we've not been friends, we don't hang out, we don't ride in the same circles. We've had words and issues before. Two guys that can't get along. I'm sure it makes for good drama, but it doesn't make me feel super comfortable.
"On the other hand, this is a great opportunity for Colby and something he's going to cherish and enjoy. He should, because this is just the beginning of his career, and who knows what the future holds? You can't fault him for wanting to be in the storyline. Before he started with ROH, he wore a mask as American Tiger as a high fiving babyface, now he's a 165-pound young boy for BJ Whitmer on a national level. It's sometimes uncomfortable, but sometimes surreal. In a year you'll have to ask me again."
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."
In part two, Steve Corino opens up about his WWE tryout, finding out he was going to win the ECW Championship, his relationship with Paul Heyman, and much more.