Santino has tremendous wrestling skills and is extremely funny on the mic. Problem is WWE has fallen in love with the comedic side of Santino too much. The kids love him because of the cobra and the funny walks and moves he does inside the ring. I wouldn't mind seeing him get another run with a title but I don't see it happening anytime soon. He'll be used purely for comedic value and to draw merchandise sales.
As a heel, Santino was awesome. One of the greatest heels "of all the recent times" as he would say lol!
Unfortunately, he's also a dab hand st playing a comedic character, and right now, that's paying dividends for WWE. He won't be able to use that persona for much longer IMO though without becoming stale (many will say he's already stale having had that gimmick for a while now).
Either way, I'm not sure if he's World Champion material. There's a lot of top talent in WWE right now, and a lot of good looking up and coming stars. For me, Santino's not going to get that World title.
To turn Santino into a contender all he would need to do is:
Smackdown, US title match, Antonio Cesaro Vs. Santino. Obviously everyone is expecting a quick match and a Cesaro win but after 3 minutes it becomes apparent that Santino is putting up a real fight. The match runs on to 7 minutes and ends with Santino kicking out of the neutralizer before hitting his 3 moves of doom (rope whip to splits, hip toss and cobra) and getting the win.
Cesaro rolls out of the ring quickly as Santino is presented the belt and takes mic. He proceeds to cut a promo sans accent about how he's sick of being comic relief, that he got into wrestling to win titles and he won't do as he's told anymore. Saninto Marella is no more.
The next week 'Santino' comes out to new music and in new ring gear, that isn't covered in Italian flags, and introduces himself under his 'real name' of Joe Basko. He defends his title against Cesaro with a more technical and more aggressive style than we're used to from him and debuts a new finisher, some Judo derivative throw or submission.
From there you could book him however you like; face, heel, long US title reign or straight into MitB or the main event picture. He was so good in the Elimination Chamber (which I've just realised is a euphemism for toilet!) and I've always liked Judo so it makes me sad to see him wasted. Time to change it up WWE let Ryder take the comedy crown and Santino can shine.
While I like the idea, I would rather him take the title from a current face or "good friend" so to speak - Ryder to the sake of argument. Have them have a PPV match in which Santino does his best to mimic Piper from his battle with Bret. Santino struggles and debates within himself after a ref bump, only he chooses to use the weapon against his close friend. I thought that was the reason why Bobby Roode was slingshotted so high as a heel was because he seemed to crumble in his selfish need for the gold. I think Santino could pull out the same card and use it to help further his status in the WWE as well; to hell with all of those who would claim they ripped it from TNA. People are going to bitch about that until one company ceases to exist, so why not make the best out of it and use a successful idea to help further another one of your more popular wrestlers.
I have to agree with you R Truth is vastly underrated. I like R Truth but they need to keep him as a heel. His best work was the nutty comedy character during his push to the main event with cena. He definitely has the wrestling ability to keep up with the top guys but as a face he's not going anywhere. They could do with a revamp of his character and bring back his Ron Killings persona which would be gold for the company considering how stale some stars have gotten. All in all pushing Truth is not the worst direction Vince could take.