Toughest in the five boroughs
One of SmackDown's most intimidating Superstars has gone through a dramatic change of late. Vito, who over the years has earned a reputation as a no-nonsense street thug from New York City that may or may not be ‘connected', has recently transitioned from his old ring apparel: a pair of business slacks, to his newer and more revealing apparel: a dress. Whether or not you are a fan of Vito's revealing outfits, they seem to be working. The ‘new' Vito is undefeated since donning the dress, including a victory over Sir William Regal this past Friday night on SmackDown.
"I think the key is that I'm able to finally be myself," said the Staten Island soldier. "I can finally be happy in the ring. I don't have to be afraid to smile or show any emotion anymore. I'm able to loosen up and just be Vito, and since then, I've had some incredible success."
Vito says that it's his intention for his opponents to feel uncomfortable when they are in the ring with him, but he admits that their uneasiness has provided him with a distinct advantage in the ring.
"Every little edge helps you out there," said Vito. "The dress wasn't really part of any strategy, but, if I can make a guy squirm because he has to face a guy who dresses like me, well what's better than that? If a guy is going be nervous to face me and lose to a guy in a dress in front of 15,000 people, then I'm going to use it against him."
Along with his amazing winning streak, Vito's new attitude has earned him the respect and adulation of fans everywhere. Those that once feared the roughneck are now firmly in his corner. Vito believes that the support may be due in part to the fact that some fans can now relate to the Italian Superstar.
"They see a guy who's not hiding anything," said Vito. "He's in touch with his feelings. He likes to look sexy, and he doesn't care what anybody thinks. It's something the fans seem to grasp. There are probably some fans out there who wish they could do what Vito does. There might be some guys who wish they could wear a dress. There may be some women who see me in a dress, and it motivates them to get in the gym. And then there's the kids. They see the good in everyone and they know not to be afraid of me. They see Vito out there having fun and they want to be a part of it."
Many have wondered if Vito's new wardrobe in and out of the ring has changed his reputation. Vito explained to WWE.com that anyone who thinks he has suddenly become a push-over because of his new wardrobe is sorely mistaken.
"I'm still the same Vito that I was before I put on these beautiful dresses," said Vito. "Vito has always been Vito, and Vito has fought to get to where he is today. None of that is going to change now. I had some tough things in my life. I didn't grow up in the nicest homes or neighborhoods. I was sick as a child and it made things rough coming up. I overcame a lot of challenges to get to the success I'm having today. I'm still the toughest man in all of the five boroughs and I'm still the reigning neighborhood champ. Until somebody decides to step to me and take my title, then things won't change. I'm still Staten Island's finest, and the toughest man in all of the boroughs."
Not everyone has agreed with Vito's new choice of ring gear, including his former associate and tag-team partner Nunzio, who was so freaked out by Vito's dress that he left SmackDown altogether. His opponent on Friday, Sir William Regal was so appalled that he left the ring and retreated to the locker room, giving Vito a count-out victory. Vito claims though that the folks back in his old neighborhood, and many of the people he encounters on the road with SmackDown have been supportive of his new lifestyle.
"A lot of people are happy that I made it. They know what I went through to get where I am, and they know how tough it can be to make the transition that I'm making. I know that Staten Island is 100 percent behind me and they are still very proud of me to this day. When I go out in the old neighborhood, or in any mall or street in America, people have had nothing but kind words for me. They see me walking down the street, and they pull over and say, ‘Hey Vito, what's going on, you look good today.' They may not be willing to wear a dress themselves, but they don't seem to mind that I do. They say ‘Vito, you've got guts. You've got a lot of courage to do this. I can't believe your doing it, but I love the way you wrestle and I'm a big fan,' I want to thank them for their support, it means a lot to me."
So now that Vito seems to have found the secret to success in the ring, what kinds of goals does he have for himself for the rest of 2006 and beyond?
"I have a dream," said an emotional Vito. "There's something I've always wanted to accomplish and that is to one day be WWE Champion. It would put a cherry on the cake for my career, a giant exclamation point. Anybody who ever laughed at me my whole life, or anyone who ever doubted me or didn't think I had it in me, it would great to be able to show them, and say look what I did. To be able to stand there, even if it's just for one day, it would be a dream come true. So when the time is right, whenever any Champion wants to give me a shot, I'm more than happy to take them on. Any time you have a chance to fight in a big fight like that, you're always gonna give 110 percent. I would give 150 percent, just like always for our WWE fans."