Like in life, in wrestling the legacy of a wrestler is deemed to be the most important thing in one’s career. What you leave behind and the impact you cemented is what makes you unforgettable, great, an icon or a hall-of-famer. That legacy for one particular wrestler was cemented on December 23rd, 2011 in the Hammerstein Ballroom at ROH’s end of the year iPPV “Final Battle 2011.”
At the Hammerstein Ballroom, a venue that he main evented several times for Extreme Championship Wrestling, he stood across the ring from one of the best talents in wrestling today, Kevin Steen. It was at this point whether it was personally for you at the start, middle or end of the match that you realized the importance Steve Corino has had on wrestling; an importance that I can only compare to a great like Terry Funk.
[ad 6]That comparison for some wrestling fans and even quite possibly Steve Corino himself may be a title that may be too much of a high standard for “The King of Old School.” But think about it for just a second, when ECW was on its rise it was the veteran leadership of Terry Funk that elevated ECW to a new standard. Sure you had tremendous talents like Raven, Tommy Dreamer, Taz, Sabu etc. but it Terry Funk who used his time in the wrestling business to cement himself as a legend.
The closest thing we have to what ECW was “back in the day” is Ring of Honor. A company that for the better part of their existence survived on great in-ring talent, work ethic, YouTube video wires and DVD’s. It isn’t the ideal business plan for a wrestling company but it worked for them and led them to two television deals over the nearly 10 years of their existence.
If you look up & down the ROH roster today it is filled with talents who have made a name for themselves in ROH, talents who are starting to make a name in ROH and talents who will eventually make a name for themselves in ROH. It has the look and feel of an ECW roster during its heyday. The rock of those rosters, the “glue” you might say, lies within the veteran leadership of two particular wrestlers. For ECW it was Terry Funk and for ROH it’s Steve Corino.
It’s only fitting that the veteran of the ROH roster was a product of Extreme Championship Wrestling and like Terry Funk is very well traveled in his career. Just like Terry Funk’s career path, Corino spent time on mainstream television in the “bright lights.” For Funk it was the NWA, WWF and WCW. For Corino it was in ECW, during a time where he feuded with such greats like “The American Dream Dusty Rhodes,” a feud that is highly underrated in my opinion.
Like Terry Funk was, Steve Corino is one of the most respected American wrestlers in Japan. An honor that is treated with high regard in the wrestling world as the respect and admiration wrestlers get from their time in Japan is unmatched to any other audience. The Japanese wrestling fans truly respect and honor their wrestlers & for Corino to share that honor with other American wrestlers is a true testament to his great career.
The legacy of Steve Corino outstretches other areas of the world besides American and Japan as well. He has spent time in Puerto Rico with the highly regarded World Wrestling Council (WWC) where he has captured various championships such as their World Junior Heavyweight Championship and Universal Heavyweight Championship. The list of Championship accomplishments Corino has captured in his career can also be compared to Terry Funk. But for me I don’t think there is more justification that Steve Corino is this generation’s version of Terry Funk then what he has helped accomplished the last two years in Ring of Honor wrestling.
In storyline purposes it started at Final Battle 2009 when Kevin Steen turned his back on his partner El Generico in one of Ring of Honor’s most memorable moments. The feud and turn was the result of Steve Corino convincing Kevin Steen to turn on his partner. For all of 2010, along with Kevin Steen, El Generico and Colt Cabana, Corino was part of one of the best storytelling & emotion grabbing feuds we have seen in wrestling for quite sometime. Corino and Cabana played the parts of the wrestling veterans while Steen & Generico elevated themselves as some of the most highly regarded talents in all of wrestling.
The feud concluded, Kevin Steen was gone from Ring of Honor wrestling and Steve Corino was basically “left by himself” in ROH. He vowed in 2011 that he was going to become a changed man, he felt horrible & responsible for the exit of Kevin Steen from Ring of Honor, for had he not urged Steen to turn on Generico he would still be in ROH today. Corino spent the first six months of the year trying to earn the respect and trust in the ROH locker room, a locker room that didn’t trust Corino & his evil ways whether they were face or heel, he had no “friends” in ROH, a compelling storyline that was “out of the box” in many ways since heels usually align with heels, faces usually align with faces and they did not with Corino.
Corino added Jimmy Jacobs to the storyline as his “sponsor,” a take off of when someone has an addiction to something. Corino’s addiction was being evil, something that wrestling fans saw from “The King of Old School” throughout his career. While in wrestling theory may be looked at as very basic, worked beyond the basic definitions thanks to the great ability of Steve Corino.
Vowing for redemption for his faults he looked to bring Kevin Steen back to Ring of Honor. Corino vowed like himself, that Steen was a “changed man” and needed a “second chance.” Steen in the perfect unpredictable fashion that was have seen him do in recent years turned on Corino and spent the rest of 2011 vowing to get back at his mentor & make ROH a living hell.
The feud reminded me a lot of another “teacher vs. student” wrestling feud that Terry Funk was part of in his career. This feud is of course, the Terry Funk vs. Cactus Jack (Mick Foley) feud throughout their careers in various different promotions. A feud that helped make Mick Foley what he is today.
Here you have Corino, who like Terry Funk, has achieved a great legacy in his career in various promotions around the world and now uses his time in the wrestling business to be that “grizzled veteran” who takes stars to new levels. And then you have Kevin Steen, who like Mick Foley, is not your stereotypical World Champion. He may not “look” like a World Champion with huge muscles & six-pack abs but he can work his tail off in the ring and make you feel emotion on the mic like Mick Foley did. Their match at Final Battle 2011 was in most wrestling fans opinions the most anticipating match on the card, mind you a card that was headlined by Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards, two stars that have had a terrific series of a matches in Ring of Honor.
But like Funk vs. Foley, you knew what you were going to get out of Corino vs. Steen. It was going to be violent, it was going to be emotional, it was going to be entertaining and it was going to leave you with new found respect for them. And the match was better then expected and lived up to all those expectations (and then some) I just spoke of.
[adinserter block=”1″]He may never be a WWE, TNA or World Heavyweight Champion, he may never headline a Wrestlemania or even a WWE or TNA pay-per-view, but Steve Corino doesn’t need those accolades, like Terry Funk, to cement his legacy in wrestling. But the appreciation and respect wrestling fans have for Steve Corino are in the highest of regards because he accomplished all of that without any “machine” backing him & did it on his own. He traveled the entire world earning the respect & admiration of wrestling fans and his legacy was cemented as our generation’s Terry Funk on December 23rd, 2011 in the Hammerstein Ballroom.
All hail “The King of Old School.” Thank you Steve Corino.
For more on this topic join Eric Gargiulo & myself for the Thursday December 29th edition of “The Still Real to Us Show” and download the show at www.wheelhouseradio.com and can be downloaded in the “Real Guy Radio” section of the site.
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