AEW welcomed its newest star when Claudio Castagnoli made his surprise debut as a replacement for Bryan Danielson against Zack Sabre Jr. at Forbidden Door. The former Cesaro has become the latest addition to the Blackpool Combat Club, which also features Interim AEW World Champion Jon Moxley.
The Swiss Cyborg left WWE back in February after his contract expired. He has since kept a low profile before resurfacing in this weekend's pay-per-view. He couldn't agree on a new contract with his previous employer, which is reportedly one of the main reasons why he left after spending 11 years in the company.
''Cesaro’s (Claudio Castagnoli, 41) contract has expired as of this week. The two sides were in talks on a new deal but couldn’t come to terms. Given the huge money they’ve offered others whose deals have been up (Zayn, Owens and Styles) it would indicate he did not get that level of an offer,'' said Wrestling Observer Newsletter's Dave Meltzer in February.
AEW fans should be excited as the promotion welcomes one of the best in-ring technicians in the industry. He is a well-travelled veteran at this point in his career, having made his mark in multiple promotions.
On that note, let's take a look at 5 things AEW fans need to know about the former Cesaro.
#5 Claudio Castagnoli can speak 5 languages
Castagnoli is multi-lingual and speaks five languages fluently. Born to an Italian father and growing up in Switzerland, he was exposed to Italian, Romansh, and German.
The King of Swing picked up English and French later on in his life. His well-spoken nature has allowed him to thrive in the European wrestling circuit early in his career before he made the move to America.
With professional wrestling being a global industry, Castagnoli's ability to speak multiple languages is indeed a huge asset, especially as AEW is looking to grow their brand worldwide.
#4 The former Cesaro won only one singles title in his WWE career, the US Championship
Despite his distinguished career, it's a shame that Claudio Castagnoli only ever held one singles title in WWE, that being the United States championship. In fact, he held it relatively early in his career, back when he debuted in 2012.
It seems so long ago now that it's easy to forget that this happened. But for a brief period, the former Cesaro was on an upward trajectory in WWE, which culminated in winning the inaugural Andre The Giant Memorial Trophy at WrestleMania 30 in 2014.
When he aligned with Paul Heyman shortly after, most fans thought it was only a matter of time before he became the WWE Champion. Unfortunately, it never happened. Here's hoping he can improve this statistic in AEW and win another singles title before his career is done.
#3 Before AEW and WWE, Claudio Castagnoli made his name in Ring of Honor
Cesaro made his official in-ring debut back in 2000, where he wrestled for a German promotion called Westside Xtreme Wrestling. He has since gone on to appear in Chikara, ROH, Pro Wrestling Guerilla, Combat Zone Wrestling, and various other promotions. By the time he signed with WWE in 2011, he was already an accomplished performer in the ring.
One of the most prominent runs of his early wrestling career was in Ring of Honor when Claudio Castagnoli teamed up with Chris Hero (also known as former NXT Superstar Kassius Ohno) to form the Kings of Wrestling. The duo co-held the Ring of Honor tag team titles for almost a year, which is rare even in today's day and age.
Claudio was even a contender for the Ring of Honor World championship during the company's Race to the Top Tournament in 2007 in which he defeated current WWE Superstar Sami Zayn, who was then competing under a mask, as El Generico. But alas, he never won a top title in any promotion he's been in. Perhaps this could change in AEW.
#2 Cesaro was a tag team specialist in WWE
The former Cesaro is somewhat of a tag team specialist in WWE, winning tag team titles with multiple partners throughout his tenure. The AEW wrestler is a 5-time RAW Tag Team Champion with Tyson Kidd and Sheamus. He is also a 2-time WWE SmackDown Tag Team Champion with the Celtic Warrior and Shinsuke Nakamura.
The AEW star's most popular partner in WWE is arguably Sheamus, as part of the tandem "The Bar". Winning the tag titles together an impressive five times, they were even voted the WWE Tag Team of the Year in 2018.
Even though Cesaro never won the WWE Championship or the Universal Championship, he left an indelible mark on the company's tag division. Now that Claudio has joined the Blackpool Combat Club in AEW, perhaps he could be gunning for The Young Bucks' tag championship in the not-so-distant future.
#1 Claudio Castagnoli was briefly signed by WWE in 2006
Cesaro properly started his WWE tenure in 2011, but not many would know that he worked with WWE five years earlier. In 2006, Claudio Castagnoli was signed to a WWE developmental deal but his contract expired shortly after.
There was no official reason why he was released, but eventually WWE realized his potential when he was making his way up the Florida Championship Wrestling roster, which was their developmental territory at the time.
"No, I didn't leave. I got fired."
The newly-signed AEW star said that he still doesn't know why he was let go:
"They didn't say why. I asked why, didn't get a clear response. You know, if you don't work here and try to call it usually goes to voice mail. So I didn't really ever know. I saw the person after, that hired me and he said that to this day he still doesn't know and that was at a point where he wasn't with the company anymore so there was no reason for him to not tell me the truth. He just said that he got told to let me go. I got paid by WWE for three months after that and I started back up on the indies but in the end it ended up working out because I'm still here."
Despite the initial setback, Cesaro would go on to have a significant run in WWE during the 2010s. He is now primed to continue the next chapter of his wrestling career in AEW.
We just asked The Shockmaster about Vince McMahon's retirement here