Q&A: Steve Corino on leaving ROH for NXT and training WWE’s first China-born talent
Steve Corino is a 23-year veteran of the squared circle. The former ECW world champion and Ring of Honor color commentator is now a coach at the WWE Performance Center. In addition to his extensive career in wrestling, Corino is also an expert on the culture and climate of Japanese wrestling. He commentated for New Japan Pro Wrestling World, and has traveled to Japan over 80 times in the past 15 years. Corino shares the secret to the Performance Center’s success, as well as touched on what it takes to be a successful coach for the WWE.
SI.com: What was the biggest draw to leaving Ring of Honor to work for WWE?
Corino: I can show my enthusiasm and passion for the business here at the Performance Center. I was lucky enough to learn from Kevin Sullivan and Dusty Rhodes and Terry Funk, and their passion still lives in me, so I’m passing that on.
SI.com: If ECW were the equivalent to the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies, are you now working for the 1998 New York Yankees at the WWE Performance Center?
Corino: I would rather be a coach for the Yankees than the manager of the Rays. That’s not to take away from the Rays, but I’ve always wanted to play for the best team. To me, that is WWE. I’m Bull Durham. I had a cup of coffee in the big time, but really, I always stayed in Triple A.
SI.com: You starred for promotions around the globe, yet never attained a spot or the stardom afforded to those who work in WWE. Are you a better coach because of your own experiences?
Corino: Absolutely. I can think like a middle guy, I can think like a top guy, and I’ve hit leadoff and I’ve hit ninth. I wouldn’t change a thing about my career during my 22 years in the ring or in the office. I lived in Puerto Rico for one year, working for Carlos Colon. It’s more than wrestling for the fans, it’s part of the culture. I always loved the spirit, and I always loved wrestling in Puerto Rico. It wasn’t easy being a bad guy, because people really hate you, but when they love you, they’ll love you forever. I truly believe any experience I’ve had brought me to this point right now. It wasn’t meant to be in 1996, or 2002, or 2007, but the universe had it ready for me to be here in 2017. I’m happy to have my WrestleMania moments through the men and women who I help coach.
SI.com: There are critics who believe the Performance Center strips away a talent’s individuality. Is that assessment unfair?
Corino: People from the outside might see this as a factory and an assembly line. Once you get here, you see that there is Terry Taylor. There is Robbie Brookside. Norman Smiley. Johnny Saint. Scott Garland. There are five or six different styles. Matt Bloom wants his coaches to discuss all the best techniques. We debate about what the best training methods are for a big guy, since he is a big guy but I wrestled big guys. There is a lot of healthy debate between the coaches. Every day, it’s so exciting. I’ll have a lesson plan, and then we’ll always find new areas and ways for people to react.
SI.com: How closely have you worked with WWE’s first China-born talent, Tian Bing?
Corino: I’ve been to Japan over 80 times, and I wished he spoke Japanese so I could work with him. I found out he can speak perfect Japanese, and we just built this perfect rapport. He wants to learn. We have a different connection. Some of the guys who come here after a career in football don’t know Satoshi Kojima, but when I mention Satoshi Kojima to him, he always wants to learn more. He is an incredible talent and improving every day.