Growing up as the child of a wrestler exposes you to a world of entertainment that is unlike any other. Watching your father or mother live out their passion and hear fans cheer after them is sure to be an incredible feeling. For most kids who grow up around the squared circle, they dream of one day getting their shot in the spotlight.
For Bianca Carelli, it was only until she became a young adult when she decided to follow in the footsteps of her father and WWE superstar, Santino Marella.
“I always saw how fun it was to watch him in the ring, I just didn’t know how I fit into the puzzle,” Carelli explained recently to SLAM! Wrestling.
Although she was fascinated by the entertainment side of the business and was lifting weights in the gym by the age of 12, it was only after college when she put two and two together, with a little help. “I was studying biology and I loved it,” she said, “but I knew that I didn’t want to pursue a career in that field and so did my dad.”
Marella then suggested that she join a wrestling school. That was the Tyson Dux Wrestling Factory in London, Ontario. After months of training and learning under Dux, Carelli returned home to train with her father in Mississauga, Ontario, at his Battle Arts Academy facility.
Working with your family is not as easy as it may seem. “You tend to take things a little more personally which is hard at times,” Carelli said with a laugh. As any kid who has been coached by a parent, there is a silent pressure that can often become the biggest hurdle to overcome. “He loves me and wants me to do well, so I had to adapt to taking his criticism without getting my feelings hurt.”
Carelli did come from a world of judgment. That world, however, was filled with tiaras, dresses and heels.
As a high school senior, Carelli participated in Miss Teen Canada and won the Miss Teen Ontario pageant in 2013. “I was sitting on my couch one day watching Toddlers and Tiaras and I thought to myself, ‘This seems like something I could do!'” The young girl then researched Canadian competitions and applied. Although she entered with no previous experience, she did what she always does with everything else: she gave it her all. “I put in my time, I had to raise the money on my own for the pageant, which is a lot for someone in their last year of high school.” Even with all the hard work, she never expected to come out with the tiara and sash. “I was totally shocked when I won Miss Teen Ontario and it was a really cool experience.”
Transitioning from a pageant queen to a grappler may seem odd to most. However, it’s her competitive side, Carelli explained, that ties her two lives together. “Yes, in both experiences there are other people who are competing as well, but really, you’re competing against yourself. It’s all about presenting the best version of you.”
Another challenge she had to contend with was being a second-generation wrestler, one that was at times competitive and others a comedic act, including a stint in drag as Santina Marella. “I do notice that some people want me to be named Santina and I often get grouped as ‘Santina’s daughter.” The young wrestler doesn’t necessarily see this as negative. “My dad was a very funny character in the WWE so I don’t mind, but when it’s my time I want to be seen as being my own person in the ring.”
Carelli’s bright and upbeat personality has helped her so far in her career and she has even got the attention of WWE officials, as she was invited to a tryout in Toronto during SummerSlam 2019 week.
“I was very nervous but I had been preparing for a very long time, or at least it felt that was through my diet and training regime,” she admitted. From the moment she walked into the building, she was taken aback by the set up. “Everyone was very kind and I learned a lot from that experience. I now have a better idea of what the WWE is looking for and how I fit into all of that.”
Going into that tryout with under three years of in-ring practice, Carelli said the toughest part wasn’t the physical test, it was the time constraint she was under. “I only had two days and I felt like I didn’t have enough time to show them my perseverance and it would have just been better for me.”
She does hope that the WWE is in her future. “As a young girl I was on the road with them and my dad so I know what it’s like and it feels comfortable for me.”
For now — or at least for the weekend — she will have to call The Don Kolov Arena in Mississauga, at her father’s gym, as she will be facing CC Moss at an all-women’s show, Rebelution Women’s Wrestling Presents: Pandamonium. This will not be the first time the two meet and Carelli has a plan in mind to beat the strength and Moss’ strong style. “I think I’m going to have to be quick and think a couple of steps ahead of her. It’s the only way I’m going to be able to get to her before she lays her dangerous moves into me.”
With a little more time, she hopes to have the same kind of success as Marella. Not as the daughter of a WWE superstar or “Santina,” but as Bianca Carelli.