Love, love me don't

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August 16, 2007

NEW YORK -- Santino Marella winced as our fans at Madison Square Garden laughed, and WWE officials tended to him. Both his head and his right arm -- which was in a sling -- were throbbing after Ron Simmons slammed him face-first into the entrance way to the ring. However, the pain Santino felt in his head and arm were nothing compared to his aching heart.

Santino had suffered three straight weeks of embarrassment because of a woman -- the beautiful Maria. He has spent weeks courting the Diva, and it appears he has had little success.

But don't tell that to Santino; he refers to Maria as "my girlfriend." Psychiatrists say the former Intercontinental Champion better be careful or his heart could cost him his career.

"You see it all the time, not just in wrestling but in all walks of life. When people fall in love, they tend to think with their hearts instead of their heads," said Dr. Arbus Freedman, a New York-based psychiatrist. "In wrestling, the need to impress a woman, especially a beautiful woman like Maria, may be magnified just because the environment is so competitive. It's natural, but if you're not smart, you could really put yourself in jeopardy. And in a sport like pro wrestling, that can be potentially hazardous."

And life has been particularly hazardous for Santino recently. Three weeks ago on Raw, he complained about the officiating in WWE when Maria and her team lost a match. His chivalry was rewarded with an impromptu match with -- and thrashing by -- Umaga that left him in a sling. The following week, he participated in Raw's version of The Dating Game with Maria, and to his dismay, lost. The happy-go-lucky Diva could not recognize his voice behind the screen and chose Simmons, one damn fine man of few words.

And then on Monday, Santino, apparently desperate not to see "his" Maria go on a date with Simmons, participated in WWE Idol to win her heart. The fiery Italian's desire has apparently overwhelmed his manners. He interrupted Lilian Garcia's rendition of "New York, New York," and told her she resembled a "Times Square filthy prostitute." When he serenaded Maria with "That's Amore," the judges and our sold-out Madison Square Garden faithful were not impressed.

And neither was Simmons. When Santino dismissed the WWE great as a Sesame Street character, he paid a painful price. Maria and Simmons are scheduled to go on their date next week. And though Maria has said the date is just for "fun," Santino is not convinced. He is determined not let the date happen and seems bound for more embarrassment.

"There are two possible problems I see here: One, it seems that Maria's feelings for Santino are not as strong as the feelings he has for her," Dr. Freedman said. "The other is that Santino is in obvious denial. He has become possessive of Maria and cannot see that he is acting irrationally."

Perhaps Santino's behavior is rooted in his overall string of bad luck over the past month. He has been on a steady fall from grace.

Just four months ago, he was the toast of Italy and all of sports-entertainment. Santino became WWE's version of Cinderella (or "Cinderfella") when he literally came out of the crowd in Milan and defeated Umaga for the Intercontinental Championship. Sure, he had a huge assist from Bobby Lashley, but he was the everyday man's hero. Santino had gone from fan to a WWE Superstar and champion in mere minutes. Our fans could easily identify with him because he was WWE's version of a rags-to-riches lottery winner.

But now, since losing the Intercontinental Championship back to Umaga, Santino has seen the dark side of his lottery winnings -- and he is beginning to crumble.

"When you suddenly go from nothing to having everything, it can be difficult to deal with. There may be self-doubt. You may wonder, ‘What did I do to deserve all this? Do I deserve this?'" said Dr. Bleau Ard, a Wisconsin-based psychiatrist. "But then, when you get used to your new fortune, get more comfortable with it, you may start to indulge. You may get a sense of entitlement. ‘I deserve this. Why shouldn't I have this?'"

"That's why you hear so many stories about lottery winners going bankrupt," Dr. Ard continued. "When someone loses their fortune as quickly as they got it, it can be utterly devastating."

And losing the Intercontinental Championship was devastating to Santino Marella. He wondered if he truly belonged in WWE and sought comfort in the arms of Maria. His self-doubt was understandable -- but then he began to whine. It seems Marella has begun pointing fingers everywhere instead of looking in the mirror.

"That's very common when once-successful people experience a sudden fall from grace," Dr. Ard said. "It goes back to that sense of entitlement. Instead of wondering whether you were truly deserving of good fortune, like you once did, you begin to feel like it was your birthright. And after all he's lost, it seems that Santino may feel like he's entitled to Maria."

Marella's lovestruck heart has already left him with both a battered wing and bruised sense of reality. Let's hope it doesn't leave him in a body cast.

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