Claudio Castagnoli (@claudiocsro) is a professional wrestling signed to AEW and Ring of Honor and previously worked for WWE under the name Cesaro. He joins Chris Van Vliet for a special live interview at Starrcast in Nashville. He talks about his decision to leave WWE and sign with AEW, what winning the Ring of Honor World Championship means to him, what happened to his partnership with Paul Heyman, who the strongest wrestlers in WWE are, Vince McMahon’s criticism of him lacking charisma and the “it factor”, his love of coffee, his match with CM Punk that was supposed to happen the night that CM Punk walked out of WWE, winning the Tag Team Championships with Tyson Kidd and also Sheamus, his current workout routine and much more!
On winning the Ring of Honor Championship:
I always believed, but I never really believed until it happened. I never really get excited until it happens, because a lot of stuff changes. But when it finally happened, I won the title, and I was able to raise it and to hear the crowd go crazy. And to hear it in Boston, which is where I have a lot of history with Ring of Honor. It felt really special, I felt validated. I also felt like I had to do this for my fans who have followed me for the past 20 years and are still following me. For me to win it for them meant a lot to me.
Claudio Castagnoli On being labelled as underrated:
I do appreciate the underrated label, but I don’t think they [the fans] ever thought that I was underrated, maybe under utilised would be a better thing. I think the underrated thing is the best kept secret kind of vibe, and I really appreciate that. I have never been the one to go out there and tell everybody how great I am, I would rather go out there and show it. It may take longer but in the end you have a longer lasting effect. And to me, that is more important. The fact that I had so many people calling me underrated, that is such a big complement.
On Claudio Castagnoli looking like Jason Statham:
Not as often as you would think, it’s usually when I do interviews and stuff. ‘Has anybody told you that you look like Jason Statham?’ I would say ‘No it’s the first time.’ And they are like ‘Really?’
On Claudio Castagnoli doubting himself at times:
I feel like every person goes through times where they doubt themselves. Okay, did I make the right choice? I am over here but I could have done this. For example, for the first few years when I moved to the United States, I was doing ok but not uber successful. I went to Ring of Honor and didn’t win the world title, then went to WWE and didn’t win the world title. It is like am I doing the right things? What am I doing? You just doubt yourself, especially when you are a creative person who wants to have success. I feel like everyone has their own way of finding success. But the way that the fans are going crazy, they do still like me. You go to a live event and the crowd goes crazy and they have not forgotten about you, that means a lot.
On Claudio Castagnoli leaving WWE:
A lot of thought [went into it] actually. I felt for a while that I needed a change, and leading up to it there was a bunch of signs and a bunch of stuff that different people said that they did not even realise that helped me make up my mind. One of the things that just popped in my head was Johnny Gargano’s last promo in NXT where he said to bet on yourself. That was one of those thoughts where it was like yeah he is 100% right. ‘Rather go out on your own horse…’ Is that even a saying? But it is now, I will tell you that now, put it on a t-shirt! But it was a lot of things leading up to it. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, because a lot of people do. When Cody left the first time he made a list of people that he wanted to wrestle, and then after that everybody made that list. So I just wanted to do it different, I am kind of against the grain a lot. Oh, someone is doing this? Let me try and do something over here. I felt that it was better that way because if I want to keep wrestling and then I pop up somewhere, it’s going to be a bigger surprise. I feel that wrestling is all about moments, and if I went ‘All right. I am leaving.’ Then people would have known and it would have been like oh he is going to show up somewhere or whatever. But if it’s quiet, then no one really knows what is going to happen and when it’s going to happen, that is the beauty of wrestling, you want to be surprised. Yes you want to know, but you want to be surprised. To me that is a very important thing of you do know maybe, but there is always that doubt, and that is what makes magic happen.
On the deciding factor to join AEW for Claudio Castagnoli:
There was a couple. One of the things was that there’s so many people that I want to be in the ring with at AEW and at Ring of Honor. I’m like man I have matches for the next [few] years that I want to do. While there are still guys in WWE that I want to wrestle, that number is less than at AEW. At my core, I always wanted to improve and get better and have new challenges. When I first went to WWE from Ring of Honor, I didn’t do it because I wanted to get onto TV, for me it was just the logical next step. Ok, I have done a lot in Ring of Honor, what is the next step? Where is the next challenge? Where are the best guys? It was the same thing here, what the next step and the next challenge? And AEW has been awesome, I have had the best first month that I could have dreamt of.
On Vince McMahon’s comments about Claudio Castagnoli on the Stone Cold Podcast:
I thought he was wrong. Yeah I feel that charisma comes in very different forms, shapes and sizes. Not everybody has that over the top Ultimate Warrior shaking the ropes and running around crazy, yelling and screaming charisma. Not that I’m sitting here telling you all how awesome my charisma is, but I felt like I had a connection with the fans, with the WWE Universe, whatever you want to call it, in the United States and all over the world. While other people were known for long promos that get translated into many other languages and doesn’t necessarily come across, mine was about the in-ring work and people can connect with that. It may take a bit longer, but I did connect with the fans and they were behind me. I don’t know if that was not what he was looking for, but the end effect brought me here and you get to see that.
On winning the Andre the Giant Battle Royal:
So I don’t know if you remember, but the trophy I had got destroyed the very next day. What happened was, that thing is heavy, it’s huge. The base is completely solid. Until Corbin picked it up the other day, no one had picked it up. I don’t know if you remember but every time someone won the Andre the Giant Battle Royal after me, they stood next to it and did the pose next to it, and afterwards they had it ringside. They brought it in for me, and this is my second match of the night. I’m like no I want to lift it, it will look cool and I want to have pictures and everything. And I lifted it and it is so heavy, I was like [makes strained face], and I wanted to carry it to the back as well. So the next day they just kind of carted it around for me, and they have those little baby ramps that goes over cables. Someone pushed it, it went this way and the trophy just absolutely shattered. So they fixed it as good as they could, they still have it at the warehouse. The broken parts I was supposed to get them, I never did, but I still have the first ever plaque that was made.
On the swing:
The longest I have ever swung someone, the crowd once counted to 100, but I was told by someone online that it was actually 88. I’ve heard from many people that it is their least favourite move to take, and they absolutely hate it to the point where they refuse to take it. Because it makes them so dizzy, they hate it. I just tell them to relax, which I guess is the wrong thing to tell them.
On where the UFO swing came from:
OK you would never guess it, but I stole that move from Dancing With The Stars. That was probably again 15 years ago when you didn’t have the option of Netflix or anything, you just got to watch cable. I was watching Dancing With The Stars, I don’t know why, and they just have this cool lift, where they throw people around and everything. One of my Mexican teachers, he would watch gymnastics or whatever, and he would figure out new moves just watching anything. So I watched that because they had really cool lifts, the way they pick people up and stuff. And they did a variation of that, I’m like that’s cool, so I gave it a try.
On losing the tag team championships to Braun Strowman and Nicholas:
I didn’t even realise. So I met Nicholas earlier that day and I didn’t realise that he was going to be the mystery opponent, because no one told us until the last minute. It was like 3 hours later and I asked Sheamus or somebody ‘So who is it?’ And he was like ‘You met him 3 hours ago.’ I’m like ohhh! I thought it was really cool. I mean every show, what I love about wrestling, all the kinds of different matches, the roller coaster ride it takes you on. That show needed a match where it was fun. Every show needs fun matches. WrestleMania, everyone is nervous and hyped, it is WrestleMania. Once everything was figured out, everything was so much fun. We had the float with the big head guys, it was a crazy, awesome entrance. The match was just fun, and it is all about moments. If you are a kid watching WrestleMania, that could be you. For people to still talk about it to this day, that WrestleMania had a lot of bangers on it, but for people to come to me and still say ‘So Nicholas?’ That’s cool.
On Claudio Castagnoli teaming with Tyson Kidd:
We found out on Twitter that we would be teaming up on Raw that night in a tag team gauntlet. That is legit how we found out. We get to the arena and it’s like I guess we are teaming together tonight. We were always friends, but then the first time we teamed was that night and it instantly clicked.
On what is on the bucket list for Claudio Castagnoli:
There are so many things. I did an in-ring segment with Tony Schiavone the other day and then I was like well there is another one off the list. There are so many moments that I can’t foresee, but when they do happen it is amazing. AEW is going to Arthur Ashe Stadium, and being a huge tennis fan that will be a big thing for me.
On what Claudio Castagnoli is grateful for:
Only 3 things? My family, my fans and my health.