Claudio Castagnoli recently was interviewed by Chris Van Vliet. He talks about signing with AEW and what ultimately led to that decision and to leave WWE, being a Paul Heyman guy and why it didn’t work out, originally being the opponent for CM Punk on the day that Punk walked out of WWE, his reaction to Vince McMahon’s comments on the Stone Cold Podcast and more.
On 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:
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 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 losing the tag team championships to Braun Strowman and 10-year-old 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 CM Punk walking out of the WWE the night he was supposed to wrestle Cesaro:
Here’s a fun fact. Do you know when the last time I was supposed to wrestle Punk was? The day he walked out. [How did you find out?] Oh, he told me, I saw him in the hallway as he was on his way out.
On being a Paul Heyman guy and what happened next:
Brock Lesnar came back, and Paul Heyman went back to Brock Lesnar. [On if Paul Heyman telling everyone about the streak being broken while with Cesaro was the downfall] Yeah, I would think so. It was right after WrestleMania 30 when I won the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal, which is still one of my favorite memories of my career. I remember it was also me and Jack Swagger broke up as The Real Americans, we both went solo and I was clearly liked as the babyface in that scenario, but they kept us both heels but then they switched Swagger babyface and kept me heel, so it was this weird mix of happenstance where they put me with Heyman. Heyman talked about Brock, I was supposed to be a bad guy but they really liked me, so again we were going against the grain in that aspect. So, I think it was just a series of unfortunate circumstances.
On who is the strongest wrestler in WWE:
Oh man, there is a lot of really strong guys. Big E is abnormally strong, Seth Rollins is extremely strong too. John Cena is an obvious one, Big Show. You know when you hold a cat or a dog and it just [dangles] like it doesn’t want to be held. There’s one match where Big Show just held me and I was like let me down, let me down, I was just being held like an animal. Mark Henry is one too, I think that Mark Henry is the strongest human to ever walk this planet from his sheer feats of strengths that he can do and still does. He once just deadlifted 550lbs like it was nothing, just ridiculously strong.
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.