Claudio Castagnoli on Fitting into AEW, Powerlifting During His Time Off and More

Doc-Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured Columnist IVAugust 5, 2022

Claudio Castagnoli on Fitting into AEW, Powerlifting During His Time Off and More

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    On February 24, Cesaro's WWE contract expired and he chose not to re-sign with the company he had been with for the past 11 years. Four months later, Claudio Castagnoli debuted under his real name with All Elite Wrestling at the Forbidden Door pay-per-view.

    He officially joined the Blackpool Combat Club and filled in for Bryan Danielson in his scheduled match against Zack Sabre Jr. at the June 26 event.

    Since then, Castagnoli also returned to Ring of Honor at Death Before Dishonor and won the ROH World Heavyweight Championship for the first time in a fantastic match against Jonathan Gresham.

    We had a chance to speak with The Swiss Superman about what he was up to during his time off, working with William Regal and BCC, winning the ROH title, Da Party and much more.

What He Did Between Gigs

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    When Castagnoli chose not to renew his contract with WWE, it caught a lot of fans by surprise. He had been part of the company for over a decade and had accomplished quite a bit during his time there, but it was time to move on.

    The 41-year-old did not have the usual 90-day non-compete clause that is enforced when a Superstar is released due to allowing his contract to expire, but he still took four months to himself between appearances.

    "I have just been enjoying my time off and recharging my batteries," Castagnoli said. "That doesn't mean I didn't do anything. I trained for a powerlifting competition that was actually one day after my AEW debut, and between my match at Forbidden Door and Blood and Guts.

    "It was for Twitch with Tyler1 Powerlifting. It was a really fun event that I wanted to do for a couple of years but didn't have the chance to. I just kind of recharged my batteries and got ready for whatever will be next in my career."

    Castagnoli is often cited by other wrestlers as being one of the strongest pound-for-pound performers in the business, so something like powerlifting might seem right up his alley. Surprisingly, it's not something he is looking to do regularly despite enjoying the experience.

    "I was happy that I was able to do it because I was able to specifically train for it," he said. "It's very different from my regular workouts. I had about a week to switch it back to my regular workout to try to get in even better shape. But, for example, powerlifting is lifting a lot of heavy weights, obviously. And in wrestling, you also need to have endurance, and so for me, I prefer Olympic lifting over powerlifting.

    "But the powerlifting community is very awesome and very cool. This is something that I always wanted to do. And it's a really cool event that gives more publicity and eyes to the Twitch powerlifting and fitness community, which is a very tight-knit and awesome community.

    "It's something that I like to do and watch the guys that are actually really, really strong in that aspect. I think I'm extremely good and strong when it comes to manipulating bodyweight and throwing my opponents around, which is its own skill. When it comes to pure powerlifting, there are people out there who are just ungodly strong."

The 1st Round of Post-WWE Matches

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    It has been a little over a month since Castagnoli debuted for AEW at Forbidden Door, but he has kept himself busy during that time. His first two matches under the promotion's banner were against Zack Sabre Jr. and the entire Jericho Appreciation Society.

    The Swiss star discussed how different the two matches were and why he enjoyed them.

    "[Blood and Guts] was awesome in a way that I was thrown right into the fire," he said. "It was a kind of trial by combat, so to speak. Trial by Blackpool Combat Club [laughs]. I wrestled Zack Sabre Jr. that Sunday in a very, very technical match. I think he's probably one of, if not the, best technical wrestlers in the world.

    "And then there was the Blood and Guts match on Wednesday where I was in from the beginning to end. I'm always looking for challenges and that was definitely a big one. It's so much fun to be in the ring with the Blackpool Combat Club.

    "I’ve only known Wheeler Yuta for about a month, but it feels way longer. Bryan Danielson, Jon Moxley and William Regal, His Lordship, I've known for such a long time, and it fits like a glove. It's really awesome. It's really fun. It just worked."

Jake Hager and Jonathan Gresham

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    During his time with WWE, Castagnoli had a couple of different partners. His most famous tag team was The Bar with Sheamus, but many fans also have fond memories of his time alongside Jake Hager, who was formerly known as Jack Swagger.

    After finding themselves on different sides during Blood and Guts on June 29, the former allies ended up across the ring from each other once again in a singles match on the Fyter Fest edition of AEW Dynamite two weeks later.

    "It's a completely different Hager than I've known or that I’ve been in the ring with almost seven years ago," Castagnoli said. "He slimmed down. He's in tremendous shape. He has constantly been in fighting shape. I think he just accepted a fight for August or September.

    "So stepping in the ring with him was a great challenge. And, of course, there were some familiarities, but it's definitely a different Hager who I stepped in the ring with. That was a lot of fun because it was a different atmosphere, different environment. I had a blast."

    Just 10 days later on July 23, Castagnoli worked a match for Ring of Honor for the first time in 11 years when he faced Gresham for the world title he never got to hold during his first run.

    "I was very excited to wrestle for the ROH World Championship," he said. "And I was excited to wrestle Jonathan Gresham for it. He kept that title alive during a very difficult time with Ring of Honor when it was kind of uncertain. So I was very excited.

    "And for me, it was also kind of coming home to Ring of Honor for the world title that I never had the chance to capture when I was there. And in that final moment, it was just kind of 'You're going to do it. You did it. I did it.' It was a very special moment for me."

Future Rivals and Allies

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    From the moment he first appeared on screen at Forbidden Door, Castagnoli has been a member of The Blackpool Combat Club.

    The William Regal-led stable has been popular with fans since the moment it was created, and those same fans have welcomed the Swiss star with open arms.

    With Yuta, Danielson and Moxley as allies, Castagnoli has a good group by his side, but he said they are still looking at other prospects for potential membership.

    "We're always looking for good additions," he said. "I think the key is, who's gonna step up? It's somebody who needs to fit the group’s needs and to have the mentality and the ability. The AEW locker room is full of people who have the potential. Who can realize that potential?"

    While he may be on the lookout for allies, he is also keeping an eye on who might step into the ring with him as an opponent. Unlike some wrestlers who compile a list of dream matches, Castagnoli is just looking for anyone who wants to have a good fight.

    When asked if he had such a list, he said: "That's not me. I know that became very popular when Cody [Rhodes] made that list. And then afterward, everybody made a list. So I make sure I’m kind of always going against the grain. I just want to work with everybody. I just want to face whoever's ready at whatever point because that's the fun for people.

    "That's all I want, and even people who may have been forgotten or who want to prove themselves. I think fans have their own list of who they want me to face in AEW and Ring of Honor. And for every single person I’ve heard so far, I've said 'Yes, please.'"

Da Party

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    When the pandemic first began to impact sporting events in March 2020, Castagnoli found himself in the same position as every other wrestler on TV: He was no longer touring and only worked a limited number of matches inside the WWE Thunderdome.

    During that time, though, he also formed a quartet with Xavier Woods, Adam Cole and Tyler Breeze called Da Party.

    The quartet streamed themselves playing games on Woods' UpUpDownDown YouTube channel, but they were mostly known for playing the online card game Uno together.

    The group became an instant hit with fans who were stuck at home, so they continued to put out new content every week.

    Castagnoli spoke about what it meant to him to be able to form those bonds at such a difficult time.

    "It was absolutely amazing," he said. "It got me, and from what I hear, a lot of people through the pandemic way better than [it would have] without those guys. A lot of people couldn't meet with their friends, couldn't hang out, couldn't interact the same way with their friends as they usually do. And for us, that was the same.

    "I used to see those guys every week, every weekend. We hang out at shows in the back, talk on airplanes, everything. And then all of a sudden, it's nothing. [Da Party] was instant chemistry and it was so much fun. We were very fortunate that it became such a hit with the fans at home and they wanted us to do more.

    "But I'll be honest with you, even if nobody watched it, we probably would have done it anyway because we had such a blast. And I feel that came through. It was authentic. We were joking that they should release a podcast of us just talking because, before every game, there was at least an hour and a half of us just catching up, talking about everything and having a blast. So I'm very happy to have those memories."

Quick Questions

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    While speaking with Castagnoli, we also asked a series of quick questions about a variety of random topics.

    What is his cheat meal?

    "Pizza. Just pizza. And some frozen yogurt. It's not even a cheat meal. That's the best part."

    Does the Big Swing ever make him dizzy?

    "I'm pretty sure I've got to the point where I don't get dizzy, but sometimes it still happens."

    What is his favorite language to speak of the five he knows?

    "Oh, man. I like them all because they're all fun for different reasons or challenging. But I guess my native Swiss German is still the most fun."

    What is something he misses about Switzerland?

    "You can get around on public transportation without using your car. You can get from the lake to the mountains in less than 30 minutes. You can be out of the house and downtown in 20 minutes with public transportation. And it's all very convenient."

    Who has hit him the hardest?

    "Sheamus. That's why I always said I prefer keeping with him than fighting. To be fair, though, I think I hit him the hardest, too. You will never see him take it easy. Never. And that's very inspiring to me. And that's who I want to surround myself with."

Movie Review

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    We always end our AEW interviews with a movie review to give readers a chance to know a bit more about the person behind the character. Castagnoli, like many people, is a big Marvel fan, so he chose to talk about Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.

    "OK, so I've watched Endgame 30 times at least, and Infinity War a bunch of times as well." he said. "It was one of those things where I literally flew home from Saudi Arabia, I landed at 7 p.m. on Wednesday for an 8 p.m. show, and flew out the next morning. I just wanted to go home to watch it.

    "And just to watch it in the theater with people was so cool because at the end when Dr. Strange brings everybody back, the reaction to that was absolutely amazing. And then with Infinity War. I don't think anybody thought Thanos would succeed, right? And then snapping away half of the superheroes that we got accustomed to, I thought that was a very bold and awesome move because it kind of kept everybody waiting for the next year or two for Endgame."

    "So to me, it's also that it was the culmination of a 10-year build. It started with Iron Man and then all those movies built over 10 years. It was just this really well-done storyline. And you get invested in all the characters. You knew everybody's backstory. And even the ones you don't really know, they were in multiple movies, so you knew all of the cast.

    "It was something that was unheard of. You had so many solo movie stars in one film, and it was so amazing. And then, as I said, the ending was so bold. And they kept you invested and kept you on your toes. So I thought that was really, really well done. I feel a lot of wrestling should be like that."

    When asked who the Thanos of the pro wrestling world would be, Castagnoli did not hesitate with his response: "I think it will probably be Brock Lesnar."


    Quotes were edited for clarity and conciseness. You can follow Claudio (@ClaudioCSRO) and Chris Mueller (BR_Doctor) on Twitter.

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