Claudio Castagnoli talks about leaving WWE, landing in AEW, and comments made by Vince McMahon in 2015.
Currently, Claudio Castagnoli is the reigning Ring of Honor World Champion. For the last decade, Claudio was known as Cesaro and he attempted to climb through the ranks of WWE. Now, in a new interview on INSIGHT with Chris Van Vliet, Claudio explains what led him to allow his WWE contract to expire and eventually end up in All Elite Wrestling.
“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 realize 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,” said Claudio. “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.”
In regards to what led Claudio to join AEW after his WWE departure, he credits the rosters of both All Elite Wrestling and Ring of Honor, and the possible matches that awaited him as a major driving force behind his decision.
“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.”
In regards to comments that Vince McMahon made during a 2015 appearance on the Stone Cold Steve Austin podcast about Claudio not being able to get over, Castagnoli says he believes that Vince McMahon was wrong about his lack of charisma and says that he believes he’s shown that he can get over with an audience.
“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 don’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,” Claudio said.
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