The last time most people saw Steve Corino wrestle was either on ECW’s show on TNN or on an ECW pay-per-view. Since the company’s bankruptcy last April, most North American fans might have assumed he disappeared from the wrestling world entirely. In fact, the exact opposite is true — he’s actually worked more this year than in his last year of ECW. He just hasn’t done it locally.
“I’m doing a lot of stuff in Japan, some in Europe and Puerto Rico. I’m traveling the world, having fun, picking and choosing what I want to do and what I don’t. If something opens up in North America that I’m interested in, then I’ll explore it. Otherwise, I’m happy doing what I’m doing.”
Recently, he’s been spending a lot of time booking and producing for the PWF promotion in Pennsylvania. His goal for PWF is to work small towns, maybe pick up a local TV deal, and run cards a few times a week, similar to an old-school, Memphis-style territory. It’s a return to that grassroots wrestling territory that Corino feels will be a viable alternative for today’s wrestling fans. It’s a philosophy that Corino has made a career out of.
“It’s worked for seven years,” he says, when asked if that sort of wrestler can make it in today’s environment. “It worked in ECW where, if it was going to fail, it was going to fail there. The old-school wrestler, that’s what I liked when I was a kid. That’s what I enjoy, that’s what I enjoy working as. The five-minute matches don’t work for me. I get started at 15 minutes. I love telling a story, and having the crowd go up and down, up and down, and the false finishes. I definitely think there’s longevity in an old-school promotion. Vince is always going to be number one. And he’s more entertainment than a sports guy. But I think there’s also longevity in an old-school promotion.”
It’s a far cry from his days in ECW, the company known for its extreme levels of violence, which helped change the direction of the wrestling industry. Despite these conflicting styles, though, Corino was pleased to be a part of the hardcore company.
“I wouldn’t change it for the world. The matches that I had, the friendships that I made, the chance to be on national TV, to be a top guy in a promotion, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Though he emerged as one of the biggest names of ECW, Corino wasn’t signed by the WWF or WCW upon the company’s demise. However, his name would not be forgotten by wrestling fans, especially when controversy erupted over his participation at the debut tapings of the MECW promotion.
Apparently, former WCW wrestler Buff Bagwell was not willing to lose a match to Corino and asked the match result be changed at the last minute. Corino, then the NWA champion, felt that a loss could result in contractual problems with the NWA. As a result, the match was scrapped entirely, and instead the two traded vicious barbs on the mic instead. Corino’s promo was particularly heated, as he brought up Bagwell’s recent firing from the WWF stemming from Bagewell’s disappointing match on WWF Raw and various backstage problems Bagwell had allegedly caused.
While he enjoyed the attention it brought him, Corino is clear when he denies any bad blood between the two men.
“That incident wasn’t even an incident. There were no words, there was nothing. He made a business decision, and I made a business decision. There were no hard feelings afterwards. I think everyone made a big deal of it because of the promos. But nobody asked if it was a shoot when I accused Dusty Rhodes of cutting Magnum T.A.’s brakelines — I just touch on subjects that most other people don’t. I have no hard feelings towards Buff. I had fun, I got paid a lot of money to do a two-minute promo… I couldn’t go wrong.”
Despite the occasional event like that, though, Corino recently found himself getting bored with wrestling. So much so, that he announced his retirement, noting that he had run out of goals in the industry.
It took yet another controversy to change his mind.
Shortly after announcing his retirement, Corino was scheduled to defend his NWA championship at the 53rd NWA Anniversary show against Japanese star Shinya Hashimoto. However, the finish seemed to be a shoot, when the match was stopped and the belt stripped from Corino, similar to the infamous 1997 Survivor Series finish with Bret Hart. The resulting outcry from fans, and the fallout, played out between Corino and the NWA officials, had the wrestling newsboards abuzz.
“It was great. It was the way business should be done. I was very happy the way it came out because for at least 48 hours, everybody thought that something happened wrong. I believe to this day that people want to believe in wrestling, they want to go home thinking they saw something real. That day, the people in the arena saw something special, the boys saw something special. Only 15 people were smartened up about the whole thing. Of course, one of the NWA members ended up telling (an internet wrestling journalist) that it was a big plan, which kind of killed it. But it piqued my interest back in wrestling. For a while there, I was just going through the motions. That incident made me remember what I liked most about wrestling.”
The execution of that angle was so inspiring that Corino has decided to put off his retirement. Renewed, he has found new goals for himself, albeit not exclusively in the ring.
“Now I’d like to see some of the other side. I’d like to see the production side, getting a territory out, booking shows, getting a show on TV. My new goals relate more to the business side of wrestling. If I can have some fun going in there, and learning everything that I can, we’ll see how that goes.”
It’s a change in career direction that Corino seems very optimistic about, and he hopes it will be as rewarding as the last one.
“Three years ago, I had to decide to leave a full-time job to join ECW, possibly with the opportunity to go somewhere. I was really happy with what happened with that. And since then, I’ve had no regrets with anything I’ve done.