Claudio Castagnoli finally debuted for All Elite Wrestling last night. He of course was the mystery opponent for Zack Sabre Junior, as many had already expected (including me—just saying).
Perhaps nobody expected the massive pop from the crowd that he got, or rather, perhaps his detractors in WWE management didn’t, but I did, and I’m sure his fans did as well, and apparently there are a lot of those out there (Claudio Castagnoli fans), and there were a lot of pleased people in Chicago last night, that’s for sure.
It was at the media scrum following the show that he made some comments regarding his debut and he repeated the phrase: ‘It just fits,” many times as he answered questions to the gathered press. He claimed walking around backstage and meeting old friends and talking to people in the locker room and he stated that despite the fact that it was his first day in the company, he felt as though he had been there for years.
“I’m like a kid in a candy store,” he had said more than once during the scrum.
Tony Khan, who was seated next to Claudio at the table, quickly turned the discussion to Blood and Guts and as Tony himself suggested, there isn’t a lot of time between now and then, as it’s set to transpire on Wednesday night.
Castagnoli is now in that match, replacing Bryan Danielson, alongside members of The Blackpool Combat Club, which he is now a member, and Eddie Kingston, who is no friend of Castagnoli’s. The two even got into an altercation last night when Claudio came out to help battle off their future opponents in Wednesday night’s match.
That prompted Claudio to share his thoughts on the upcoming match on Wednesday night:
“…we always look for a challenge. Zack Sabre Jr. on Sunday and then Blood and Guts on Wednesday…that’s a challenge and that’s awesome and to me, Blood and Guts, that’s like a staple, right… and to be thrown right in there with my friends, you know, Mox, Yuta, it’s just…it’s amazing and to me, that’s what gets you in the morning…that’s what makes you work out every day, that’s what makes me tick…so I can’t wait…”via Claudio Castagnoli /Video footage, Wrestling Observer
If you ask me, we saw a different Claudio Castagnoli yesterday night and one we haven’t seen in a long time. I remember when he wrestled in ROH and we saw that guy again last night.
About his time in WWE, he was watered down, and that’s not his fault…so many people are watered down in the WWE product…that invisible ceiling I always talk about is forever present. Castagnoli is an example. He was still epic despite all of this, but look at the difference.
The match last night was physical, aggressive and the pace was perfect. Even his selling and facial expressions were on a whole other level last night, and if this is promise for the future, we’re in for something special indeed.
Proof of this is also here: Take a look at Tyler Black in ROH back in the day, and compare him to Seth Rollins…same person, but not exactly. Seth’s still amazing, but imagine the caliber of matches he’d be able to have in AEW for a second. Castagnoli is capitalizing on an opportunity and he’s running with it big time.
He stepped away from WWE and it was smart because that ceiling was putting limitations on the type of career legacy he’d be able to leave behind. Here he can do that…something he set out to do at the start of his career…make a statement and that statement was clear last night: Claudio Castagnoli, the former Cesaro, is one of the greatest technical wrestlers around. Bryan Danielson didn’t lie, my friends.
We’re in for it people…the caliber of matches just got more intense with this man around.
To discuss the match from last night for a second, the moment I loved was when he managed to get out of Sabre’s Guillotine. If we remember one of Cesaro’s last matches in WWE, the Guillotine applied to him by Roman Reigns apparently put him out, leading to his losing the match at WrestleMania Backlash (absolute rubbish that I’m still not over, but anyways).
Yet when Sabre applied it…a man whom Roman Reigns cannot even lace the boots of, it was nothing for Castagnoli, and that sent the perfect message I feel. Was that done by design? I can’t say for sure, but I caught the reference. It certainly means a lot if you look closely at it.
In the end, having this man here is huge and I guess like him, I can’t wait to see more matches. I mean the hug Tony gave Claudio after the press conference was over says it all. Looks like Claudio wasn’t the only kid in a candy store after all. Thanks, Claudio!