AEW Star Claudio Castagnoli has revealed why he left the WWE in early 2022, and what led him to sign for Tony Khan’s All Elite Wrestling.
The former United States and Tag team Champion made his AEW debut at Forbidden Door, taking on NJPW star Zack Sabre Jr in a dream match that fans had been fantasy booking for years. This marked his first match outside of the WWE since he signed for the promotion in 2011 and put an end to a successful yet frustrating career.
Since 2013, fans were ready to get behind Claudio Castagnoli in WWE (where he was known as Antonio Cesaro and then just Cesaro). He won the first Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania XXX and was a fan favourite who the entire WWE universe couldn’t help but love. Unfortunately, he turned heel the next night and used as a pawn to remind fans about Brock Lesnar until he returned the company following him beating the Undertaker.
The company refused to push him as a singles star, limiting him to tag team titles and nothing else. Former WWE Chairman Vince McMahon claimed that he could never be a main eventer “because he was Swiss” and showed no willingness to consider what the fans wanted, even for a moment.
Claudio Castagnoli left WWE when he let his contract expire in February 2022. He was in negotiations with WWE for a number of months but ultimately could not agree a deal with them. He went on to sign for AEW and this is where he continues to wrestle to this day.
Speaking with Dallas Morning News, Claudio Castagnoli revealed he left WWE because he wanted to do something challenging in his career and that he was stuck at “a crossroads” in WWE. He revealed he was “in a rut” in WWE, not being used in storylines and having very little to really sink his teeth into despite being one of the best wrestlers in the world. He claimed it was a tough decision but one he is “very happy about”
I was just kind of at a crossroads, I would say. I was looking for a new challenge. I wanted to do something with my career that I wasn’t going to just be complacent. And I always said that I always need the challenge, I want to be able to move up, I want to be able to get better.
I felt like I got into a rut towards the end of the last year I was there maybe. And I just felt it was time for me to move on, and to look for some new challenges. And when I looked at who I would want to step in the ring with, there was a lot of people in AEW that I have not stepped in the ring with.
There would have been a lot for me still to accomplish in WWE, as well. So it was a tough decision, but I made the decision that I wanted to go to AEW because I felt that there was a lot of young talent, a lot of talent that I haven’t had the chance to be in the ring with for an extended amount of time. So that’s how I wanted to end up, and that’s what it ended up being. And I’m very happy about it.
Claudio Castagnoli currently wrestles for AEW and is set to face Chris Jericho at Final Battle 2022 for the ROH Championship. He lost the title to Chris Jericho at AEW Grand Slam, and is currently a part of the Blackpool Combat Club.