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All Elite Wrestling star Claudio Castagnoli is known as one of the most technically proficient wrestlers in the entire industry.
From his independent career in Ring of Honor, PWG and more, to spending several years as a popular star in WWE, the man dubbed "Swiss Superman" and former ROH World Champion is now at home in AEW, while also performing for the ROH brand – both owned by Premier League club Fulham's Director of Football Tony Khan.
And as tickets are now on sale for AEW's return to Wembley Stadium next year, Daily Star Wrestling's Danny Stone sat down with Castagnoli for an in-depth Q&A.
READ MORE: 'I didn't think I'd be alive, but now I'm wrestling at Wembley,' says AEW star Saraya
For more AEW content, click here.
Tickets for AEW’s second major Wembley show are now on sale. What are your expectations for it – how will it match last year’s event?
"Well, last year, it was record breaking. Right? And to me, if it just comes close, it will be a success. But to me, also, just being able to come back is a success. I think they announced a couple of days ago, that they're going to change the setup a bit. So, it's going to be a bigger setup, a bigger spectacle, which is great. For me, to make this a yearly destination, that is the goal. What made last year so special was the fans, so, I hope they come back in droves because it was awesome."
At last year’s show, you fought Eddie Kingstone through the Royal Box, what are your memories of that?
"Well, its something that never happened before. I didn't think, when I started wrestling, when I was wrestling, or even a week before it happened, that I had fighting in the Royal Box at Wembley on my bingo card! But when there was a chance, I hopped right on it because it's one of those things that, when you look back, it's such a cool story. It's such a cool thing to talk about. There were me and Eddie, fighting right by the Royal seats!
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"They were right there! We were right on top of them! Looking out at the crowd and seeing the results, it was just amazing. I couldn’t to the swing in the Royal Box though. There were obviously limitations on what you can and cant do in the royal box, and you know, we set up a little area. But in my mind, I was thinking, as cool as it would be to do the swing there, I want to do it in front of 80,000 people.
People know you by the names Claudio or Cesaro but did you have any other names suggested to you, or turn any down?
"When I first started WWE, they wanted to change my name, obviously. I gave them a list of four first names and four last names and it was like just mix and match. Antonio Cesaro came back and then I list the Antonio, so that was that. There were some other names on there, but they were all kind of in like a similar vein because like I felt like similar to like what my real name is. Kind of like Italian, so playing with that theme."
You mentioned the swing before. Have you got any swing stories, people reacting badly to it, for example. Do you happen to know your record number of swings?
"Well, on the independents, back in the day, the crowd counted to 100. It was against Grizzly Redwood who was a smaller guy. People react differently. Brodie Lee hated it. He would curse at me the whole time, he hated it! There's still people that absolutely hate it but there are people that quite enjoy it. There was a match that I had with Curtis Axel. We wrestled in Australia on a tour, and the first night he got super dizzy.
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"He was like, dude, I don't know how [to deal with the move]. I just told him to relax and like, where to look, so that he didn’t get too dizzy – I mean, you still get dizzy of course. The second match, he kind of relaxed and said I popped his back, so I’m also a chiropractor! It worked out well for him."
If you could wrestle anyone from the UK at Wembley, who would it be and why? What about a British celebrity?
"Pac, would be the main one. Will Ospreay has signed, so that might be an option. As for celebrities, I mean, I think that's the beauty was coming back right? There's a lot more integrations that we can do. So, hopefully, we can swing some stuff."
You’ve been a part of the Blackpool Combat Club. Have you ever been there?
"Yeah, I've actually been to Blackpool before. You know, the William Regal connection. He always sends us pictures when he goes back home – here’s the Blackpool Tower!"
For you, is it important to be part of a faction? You were famously part of a tag team for a very long time. Do you prefer the single’s role?
"There are advantages and disadvantages. Obviously, being part of a faction is cool because you have people who you can bounce stuff off You have somebody to play off of, and you're never really alone, right. So that's fun. I do enjoy the singles aspect of this because we have a good group and we're all affiliated but we also just kind of do our own thing so that makes it just extra fun and you know, with Mox and Bryan, it's a good time."
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Do you have any good rib [practical joke] stories?
"I do harmless ribs. Because you don't want to act like you're tripping somebody, for example, and then they don't pay attention and they trip and fall and they get hurt, I’ve felt with my luck that is what would happen. I always do stuff that I think is hilarious. So, when people sign 8×10 photos, they sign like a whole stack. I’d always come early, grab one of the 8×10’s from the middle of the pile and draw sunglasses and funny faces and just slide it back and nobody ever knew who it was – well until they read this! I would hide people's hats or whatever entrance gear they had. You’d give it back in time but just enough to stress them out!"
You played a big part in the independent wrestling scene for some time. Do you still keep an eye in on it?
"As good as I can. I follow a little bit from a distance. I don't really have that much time to watch but I try to follow it, I kind of know what’s going on and which promotions are doing well."
The independent wrestling scene famously fed Ring of Honor. Do you have a vision for where you would like to see that brand going now?
"I would like to see Ring of Honor focus more on having slightly longer matches. I know the way the schedule works right now its taped with Collision. Personally, I would like to see Ring of Honor go back to where it was taped, in Florida, on separate on like a smaller stage, just because there's a different feel to it. That felt more traditional and grittier to me. I feel its hard to give it its own separate identity when its shot in an arena because to me that was never Ring of Honor but I understand obviously why its done how its done, so we’ll see what the future brings."
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Any thoughts on CM Punk’s return to WWE?
"Look, there’s two companies, that stuff happens, right. People go from one to the other. I feel it’s a very exciting time for the fans because its like there are always new matches and ‘what if this guy was there’, and ‘he’s doing New Japan’, and so on. So for me, its business right?"
Finally, if you were booking AEW’s Wembley show next year, how would you book it? What do you want to see on the card?
"For Wembley? Oh, man. That's a really tough one. Because I feel like you want to do something where there's something for everybody, right? And it's also very hard because it's the biggest show so everybody wants to be on it. So, I think you need to have an idea but you cant be too far ahead. For example, Bryan [Danielson] got hurt last year. So, you know, he'll be back this year from being out in the cold. You also have to look at who is running hot, who is the champion at that point. There’s a lot of stuff leading into that, but I'm very, very excited to see what's coming up."
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