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Santino Marella wins Intercontinental Championship
MILAN, Italy— An earth-rattling applause erupted inside DatchForum Monday night after Italian native Santino Marella accomplished the impossible at the country's first-ever Raw: Marella defeated Umaga for the Intercontinental Championship (with help from ECW World Champion Bobby Lashley), and became the first-ever walk-on competitor to unseat a WWE title holder.
In what can only be described as an underdog story reminiscent of the "Italian Stallion" Rocky Balboa, Marella overcame insurmountable odds in a No Holds Barred Match with one of sports-entertainment's most savage Superstars. Handpicked from the sold-out DatchForum crowd to respond to Mr. McMahon's open challenge, Marella stunned both the WWE Chairman and Umaga with his speed, agility and toughness. However, it was Lashley's assistance that proved to be the crucial element Marella needed to walk out of the ring with Intercontinental gold strapped around his waist.
Taking full advantage of the No Holds Barred stipulation declared by Mr. McMahon, Lashley subdued the 350-pound Samoan with a steel chair to the skull, followed by a thunderous spear that bulldozed Umaga off his feet. The ECW World Champion then pulled a dazed Marella across the sapped Samoan Bulldozer. As referee Chad Patton slammed his hand down on the canvas for a third time, the arena exploded in a three-minute, ear-shattering ovation. Chants of "Santino" reverberated throughout the DatchForum as Lashley raised the awestruck newcomer's arm in the middle of the ring.
After the match, WWE.com caught up with Marella in the locker room area. Still covered head-to-toe in sweat, icing his bruised body and fighting back tears of joy, he was simply astonished at what had just taken place.
"It's unbelievable," he said, clutching his title, barely able to muster a syllable without bursting into tears. "I'm speechless."
Marella may call his victory and the circumstances surrounding it unbelievable; others might label it fate. Though born in Calabria, a city located near the "toes" of Italy's boot shape, Marella spent most of his adult life thousands of miles away in Canada, returning to Italy a few times each year to visit his father Francesco and other family members residing in Milan. The lure of a career in sports-entertainment had sent him packing for the United States, where he vowed that he'd one day break into the pinnacle of the industry that fascinated him — World Wrestling Entertainment. He never envisioned, however, that his latest trip to his home country would allow him to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a WWE Superstar.
On Raw Monday night, Santino Marella not only achieved his personal goal, he rewrote history in the process. His triumphs have proven to his family, his homeland and the world that through the power of desire, a touch of happenstance and, of course, with a little outside help from Bobby Lashley, anything in life is possible.