By Jared "JJF" Jackson-Ferrans
For every young independent star that looks to move on and become a top star in a major promotion, there are a ton of indy stalwarts who will never make it beyond where they are, for better or worse. There is, in fact, nothing wrong with this, some of the true independent stars become just as big of names as competitors in the WWE or New Japan.
The second man I've decided to cover in this series is a true legend of the independent scene, a man who has never gone to the big time despite offers, and has worked with most of the greats to come across the independent scene.
There are few indy guys more well renowned than "The King of Old School" Steve Corino.
Starting his career under the tutelage of former WWE enhancement talent Tom Brendi, Corino got his start as a member of the Organisation of Modern Extreme Grappling Arts, owned by future WWE stars Matt and Jeff Hardy, Corino was noted for his anti-extreme gimmick and refusal to work hardcore matches, which carried over when he joined the then-independent ECW promotion in 1998. He notably feuded with the "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes and, in the waning years of the promotion, earned his first World Championship, becoming ECW Champion by defeating Jerry Lynn. He left ECW due to payment issues, and after a failed attempt to join WCW, he joined the National Wrestling Alliance, becoming World Champion once again.
In 2002, Corino joined Ring of Honor, and embarked on what would become his defining feud with Homicide, which included vicious matches, including one where he lost most of the hearing in his left ear. Fittingly, Homicide was Corino's final opponent in ROH before his 2007 retirement tour, his first ROH match in 3 years. Naturally, it didn't last and Corino returned to ROH in 2009, as a partner with Kevin Steen, before claiming to be "changed" from evil ways and teaming with Jimmy Jacobs. Despite initial conflict, Steen ended up aligning with a less than changed Jacobs and Corino, forming SCUM in 2012. Following the dillusion of the stable, Corino joined the ROH commentary team.
"King of Old School" isn't just a nickname. Taking a page from the likes of Tommy Rich and Tully Blanchard, Corino works a classic smash mouth style that is all too rare in modern wrestling. Combining technical ability with power and brawling, Corino wouldn't have been out of place in the early '80s territories, and stands out with good reason among modern wrestlers. With over 20 years in the business, Corino is a true originator, and though he's been out of the ring a year at this point, it wouldn't be much of a surprise if Corino made his way back to a ring in 2016.
Given that a good amount of Corino's career was spent in ECW (which technically was an independent), the WWE Network is a great starting point for a Corino retrospective. His Bullrope match with Dusty Rhodes from the 2000 Living Dangerously event is a personal favorite of the man himself, and his ECW Title win at November to Remember is worth seeing for the moment alone. As for Ring of Honor, his feud with Homicide included memorable and violent contests including a Barbed Wire match at War of the Wire, a Fight Without Honor at the Bitter End, and a vicious match at Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies that led to a ruptured eardrum for Corino. His matches with CM Punk put Punk on the map, and his work with Steen, BJ Whitmer and Jacobs showed just how vicious he could get.
With Corino's contract with ROH expiring in 2016, the future of the Corino legacy lies in two places. One is at the Carolina Wrestling academy, where he lends 20 years of knowledge to young grapplers hoping to learn from the veteran. The other half of the Corino legacy lies with his 19 year old son Colby, a member of Ring of Honor's Decade stable alongside Corino's rival Whitmer, and a top prospect in Ring of Honor. Though he has a long way to go, Corino has a great chance at continuing the legacy his father and aunt Allison Danger had built.
As for Steve himself, a return to commentary for either Ring of Honor or New Japan would be ideal for him to showcase his ability. He brings a passion and knowledge to the product that is rarely seen nowadays, and his enthusiasm bring the ROH product to a whole new level. Whether it's screaming SUPERKICCKKKKK on commentary or dishing them out in the ring, Corino is a bonafide independent legend.
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SEE ALSO: "JJF's Take - 10 Things That Must Happen in Wrestling: 2016 Edition"
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