WWE superstar and resident doormat Santino Marella plays a vital role with the company.
Men like John Cena are immeasurably valuable to WWE, but Santino has thrived in a completely different way. He entertains like few men have while serving as a bottom feeder.
His job with WWE is much like that of an NFL punter. His is the unappreciated work, unnoticed but necessary. It may not be glamorous, but someone needs to do the job.
He goes beyond just being a quality jobber.
WWE doesn't need to be comprised of all brooding, bulked-up tough guys. There's a place for comic relief, for vaudevillian entertainment in between the bouts of violence and intensity.
Santino, as the funniest man on the roster, provides that element of the sports entertainment equation at a high level.
He flourishes as WWE's comedian, ultimate underdog and as a resident of the bottom end of food chain.
Ladders Must Have Lower Rungs
Santino's presence helps balance the WWE ecosystem.
In order for predators to maintain their existence, there has to be prey. Santino is often the antelope for any of WWE's lions.
In 2009, WWE promoted Sheamus as an unstoppable warrior on a path straight to John Cena. Santino served as a victim, suffering the Celtic Warrior's rage.
The same has happened time and time again. Kevin Nash dominated him as did Beth Phoenix.
Allowing a legitimate contender to suffer that kind of definitive beating can make him look weak. Having Santino around gives WWE writers a go-to stepping stone to provide wrestlers they want on the ascent.
With the traditional no-name jobber all but gone in WWE, wrestlers like Santino are needed, so that other wrestlers have someone to climb over.
He and WWE have done such a great job in creating a character that is so convincingly inept that all of his wins are huge upsets and even his near victories excite a crowd with is unexpectedness.
Alberto Del Rio believed he was the last man standing at the 2011 Royal Rumble. Santino, who had been hiding under the ring, entered and sneaked up on him with the Cobra. Del Rio eventually won, but it seemed for a moment that Santino might actually win.
The thought of Santino pulling off the impossible and winning the Royal Rumble match may not have created such a shocking moment had it been done by someone with more clout, someone seen as less of a buffoon than him.
He riled up the crowd again when he nearly pinned Daniel Bryan for the World Heavyweight Championship at Elimination Chamber 2012.
Listen to how raucous the crowd gets. They scream when he hits the Cobra and gasp in unison when Bryan kicks out.
Being such a lovable loser created those moments.
David Otunga or Alex Riley wouldn't have elicited that kind of reaction. Santino's endearing sense of humor makes him stand out from his fellow jobbers.
Real Funny is Hard to Find
WWE programming is a mix of sports, theater, soap opera and comedy show. It's rare that you find a wrestler capable of providing all those elements by himself.
So while someone like CM Punk provides the sports element and AJ provides the soap opera, Santino delivers the comedic side of wrestling in a big way.
From his unibrow to his goofball accent, it's hard to not at least chuckle at Santino's antics.
Wrestlers like The Miz dish out amusing one-liners, but no WWE superstar is as committed to hilarity as Santino. His entrance is marked with his silly power walk. He throws the splits into his in-ring action as well.
WWE has harnessed his funnyman skills beyond the ring, attempting to get the most out of The Italian Stallion.
Santino's Foreign Exchange is a WWE show on YouTube, a low-budget production where Santino interviews various WWE personalities and lets its silliness loose.
His comic timing as well as his persona goofy persona afford WWE the opportunity to showcase him this way.
Contrast in Character
Santino's gimmick offers WWE fans variety.
A roster full of brooding lone wolves dressed in black would get tedious rather quickly.
Santino serves as a stark contrast to superstars like Randy Orton or Wade Barrett. He's a colorful, hapless rube who stands out amidst all of WWE's tough guys.
A part of WWE's appeal is that fans have a number of superstars to choose from when selecting their favorites. Some fans just may not been into Dolph Ziggler's dramatic shtick or Ryback's beastly behavior.
Santino offers a wildly different flavor.
While WWE has had its share of in-ring clowns, Santino's persona is a highly original one. He's the only unibrowed Italian martial artist on the roster now and in WWE history.
WWE sometimes has to take chances to try angles and tell stories that may fail. It can't continue to roll out the same stock character.
Santino is a risk that has worked.
His humor, his willingness to lose and be the butt of the joke, as well as his uniqueness make him a valuable component for WWE to utilize. Not every performer can be the knight; someone has to play the jester.
No one has done that better in recent WWE history than Santino.