Claudio Castagnoli has been active in wrestling since 2000, and the man once referred to as "Swiss Superman" is showing no signs of slowing down, especially after his exit from WWE in 2022 and his debut in AEW four months later. Born in Lucerne, Switzerland, Castagnoli made the United States his official home in 2004, which is around the time he began to make his mark in a number of notable American indies from CHIKARA to Ring of Honor.
His exceptional strength and incredible in-ring move set help distinguish him from his competitors and helped attract the eyes of WWE where he worked for eleven years and went by Antonio Cesaro (and eventually just Cesaro). During that time, he gathered a number of titles and high-profile wins, but he seemingly couldn’t break out of the mid-card, which was a point of frustration for many proud members of the "Cesaro Section." Now with AEW, Castagnoli appears to be given the type of push many fans wish he would’ve received years prior.
While Castagnoli tends to keep to himself, there’s still plenty to know about one of the most respected wrestlers in any promotion today. Here are facts about the former Cesaro that only hardcore fans know.
His coffee obsession has led to his own coffee brand
Considering the crazy lifestyle of professional wrestlers, caffeine understandably plays a big role in most of their daily lives. When it comes to the knowledge, appreciation and fandom of coffee, Castagnoli is on a different level. In addition to his personal Instagram account, he has another account aptly named @claudioscafe dedicated to sharing pictures of the coffee drinks he gets from various shops while on the road.
With his love of coffee in mind, it’s only natural that Castagnoli has his own coffee brand, which is also named Claudio’s Cafe. The line is produced by California-based coffee brand Legal Speed. So far, the Claudio’s Cafe line has two varieties. There’s a medium roast called "Love Coffee" meant for standard coffee drinking. The other variety is a dark roast called "Sprsso" that is meant for use in lattes, cappuccinos and other coffee-based beverages.
How did Castagnoli even become a coffee fan? He shared in an interview with WWE AL AN that he really wasn’t much of a coffee drinker until he was booked in Japan, and there was a coffee area set up backstage for the wrestlers. He needed a little energy before a show and decide to have a cup. He then decided that when traveling that hitting up popular coffee houses was probably a better way to explore various towns while also adhering to a strict diet. Thus, a love affair was born.
He sure seems to have an intense relationship with Eddie Kingston
Nearly every wrestler has some sort of counterpart in the industry that they seem to run into more often than other wrestlers. For Castagnoli, that might just be Eddie Kingston. The two have crossed paths countless times over the years in a variety of promotions including CHIKARA, CZW, ROH and PWG. They’ve been partners and foes and pretty much everywhere in between, but it’s hard to tell if some of their bad blood is real or just a fun work the two enjoy playing with in the press.
In a November 2022 appearance on the "Stick to Wrestling" podcast, Castagnoli was asked if he even liked Kingston. He responded, "Eddie Kingston always has a lot to say. I think Eddie Kingston is a very, very talented fighter and he’s also very authentic which is why he resonates so well with the audience … If you have a lot of hate in your life, maybe you end up like Eddie Kingston, and I’ll just leave it at that."
For his part, Kingston has said a number of things about Castagnoli in the press, with most of them not being positive. But, in an October 2022 appearance on the "ESPR" podcast, he said, "Me and Claudio are cool now, but I don’t trust him. Only reason me and Claudio are cool is because Mox [Jon Moxley] asked me."
Drew McIntyre let it slip that Claudio’s a dad
Many public figures, regardless of the industry in which they work, have a hard time keeping their private life private, but Castagnoli has somehow managed to do so for years. However, Drew McIntyre let it slip in a February 2022 interview that Castagnoli was a dad.
In an appearance on the "In The Kliq" podcast, McIntrye was asked about Castagnoli’s exit from WWE. He touched on how it stings whenever anyone leaves the roster for whatever reason, but in the case of Castagnoli, it hurts even more when that wrestler is a friend. McIntyre added, "He’s got his family. He’s got his new kid, and he’s going to be just fine. He is far too talented not to be."
It was not made clear if this was Castagnoli’s first child, nor was the identity of the mother revealed. As far as his dating life goes, Castagnoli has been reportedly attached to wrestler/trainer Sara Del Ray, but it’s not clear whether they are still together.
Castagnoli is a gifted seamster
Wrestling, especially in the indies, is all about DIY, and Castagnoli certainly stood out thanks to his ability to sew. He said in a 2016 interview on "WWE Unfiltered with Renee Young" that his sewing skills were actually taught to him in school. Castagnoli noted, "We do woodworking for six months, and then you do sewing and crafts for six months, so you learn all kinds of stuff."
When he was still in WWE’s developmental system, he was still making his own gear. Once he went up to the main roster and had access to the company’s team of talented seamstresses, he turned over the making of his gear to them. However, there was one notable piece of gear he made himself: His cool tear-away suit. He explained to Renee, "I could visualize how I wanted it to look and how I wanted it to go. I tried to explain it to somebody and I was terrible at explaining it, so I was like, ‘I’ll just make it myself.’"
Years after the SummerSlam beachball incident, he was still heated about it
During SummerSlam 2017, Cesaro provided one of the show’s most memorable moments when he ran from the ring apron and into the crowd to grab a beach ball fans were batting around and proceeded to rip it to shreds. It was a moment that was discussed when he appeared on "The New Day: Feel the Power" podcast in April 2020. Nearly three years later, he still seemed rather annoyed that the whole incident even happened.
"Certain spots on the card are tougher to get the crowd into it, but I’m always like, ‘Nope, don’t worry. We’ll get ’em. We’ll find a way,’" said Cesaro. "[During the match] I was like, ‘Why aren’t they paying attention?’ I look over, and there a beach ball. I was like [makes growling noise.]" Cesaro then made his move into the crowd once he saw a member of the security team near the ring had secured one of the beach balls and decided to take that one and make an example out of the crowd members providing the distraction. "It was just one of those situation like, ‘Screw you!’" added Cesaro. "I wasn’t about to let that beach ball ruin our match. Screw that beach ball! This is my match!"
That horrific injury to his teeth took two years to correct
One of the gnarliest injuries Castagnoli ever sustained happened during the September 2017 No Mercy pay-per-view when he was with WWE. In a total freak move, he was launched up toward a ring post by Dean Ambrose (Jon Moxley). His went teeth first into the ring post causing his front teeth to be pushed up into his gums. This resulted in Castagnoli having to see a maxillofacial surgeon, which focuses on reconstructive procedures related to the head, face, mouth and neck. The PPV was on a Sunday, but according to Cageside Seats, he was able to quickly get surgery and was back in the ring at a house show the following Friday.
Following the surgery, Castagnoli wore braces to help realign his teeth following the run-in with the ring post. Nearly two years later in August 2019, he share a photo of himself to Twitter smiling wide and holding an apple. Castagnoli captioned the photo, "After almost two years, I can enjoy the best fruit again…"
There is one particular wrestler he tried to ‘swing’ and botched it
Throughout his entire career, Castagnoli has plenty of examples of his remarkable strength. One such example came during WWE Battleground in 2013 when he delivered a Cesaro Swing on The Great Khali. He may have made it look almost easy, but there was a time before when Castagnoli tried to swing the "Punjabi Playboy" and it didn’t go so well.
In his April 2020 appearance on "The New Day: Feel the Power," Castagnoli was asked if there was ever a time in the ring where he had trouble performing any sort of strength move. Without hesitation, he said, "I tried to swing The Great Khali in Germany, and I almost tipped over … it was like two seconds, but it just felt like forever. I eventually get it going, and then I hit my finish after, and it was the same thing. It was such a struggle."
How he found out The Bar was splitting up is a real bummer
While in WWE, Cesaro and Sheamus were the successful tag team called The Bar. The two wrestlers were seemingly thrown together randomly, but they were a tag team for nearly three years from July 2016 to April 2019. During that time, they won the "SmackDown" Tag Team Championship once, the "Raw" Tag Team Championship four times and won WWE’s year-end award for Tag Team of the Year in 2018.
There was no end in sight for The Bar, but then Sheamus ended up getting a concussion in April 2019. A "Superstar Shakeup" draft was set to take place to shuffle up the "Raw" and "SmackDown" rosters shortly thereafter. The Bar was part of the "SmackDown" roster at this point. Cesaro told TalkSport in May 2019 he was actually traded to "Raw" after the whole draft. Around this time, there was the infamous "wild card rule," where certain brand roster members would show up on opposing shows. That rule didn’t really apply to The Bar, though, and the duo was done. Cesaro said to TalkSport, "I sort of thought The Bar may have not been broken up. All of a sudden I get a message like ‘Hey, your travel changed,’ and I’m like ‘Ah, okay. Yeah, guess I’m a ‘Raw’ guy now!’"
‘We The People’ was called bad creative by Chris Jericho, but it didn’t come from creative
During his time in WWE, Cesaro also teamed with Jack Swagger as the Real Americans and came equipped with a catchphrase: "We the People." That catchphrase made an appearance during the second ever episode of "AEW Dynamite" on October 9, 2019. Chris Jericho was introducing fans to the members of his new faction, the Inner Circle. One of those members was Jake Hager, the former Swagger. While introducing Hager to the live crowd, they started chanting, "We the People!" Jericho put a stop to the chant saying, "’We the People’ sucks, and it’s dead and buried. It was a stupid idea from bad creative, and all that’s gone!"
The AEW crowd may have popped big for what Jericho said, but he wasn’t correct. The "We the People" catchphrase was actually thought up by the Real Americans. Cesaro said in a November 2019 interview with Sportskeeda, "I was lucky to be in some very great tag teams with people I’ve gotten along with tremendously well: Jack Swagger, Tyson Kidd and Sheamus. ‘We The People’, by the way … That was our idea and it’s still over!"
He had an extensive history with some of the biggest indies
Castagnoli has been wrestling for over two decades, but before signing with WWE in 2011, he was making a name for himself on the indies in a number of notable promotions including CHIKARA, ROH and PWG. His longest tenure on the indies came with CHIKARA where he spent eight years and feuded with the likes of Chris Hero, Brodie Lee, and Eddie Kingston. He won a number of tournaments during that time including the King of Trios tournament with Ares and Tursas in 2010 and the Tag World Grand Prix twice with Arik Cannon in 2005 and Chris Hero in 2006, who were known as a team as the Kings of Wrestling.
The Kings of Wrestling had a notable run in ROH toward the end of Castagnoli’s six-year run with the promotion. The tag team won the ROH World Tag Team Championship twice. As a singles competitor, Castagnoli had popular feuds with Nigel McGuinness for the ROH Pure Championship and the ROH World Heavyweight Championship. Castagnoli lost all his challenges for those titles against McGuinness.
In PWG, Castagnoli had a five-year run that included him winning the PWG World Championship in October 2010 in a fatal four-way against Brandon Gatson, Chris Hero, and Joey Ryan. He held the title for 287 days and successfully defended it against Hero, Ryan, El Generico, and Low Ki before dropping it to Kevin Steen in July 2011.
He earned this distinct honor four times in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Awards
While with WWE, Cesaro was often talked about as being underutilized by the sport entertainment giant. A prominent example of this came via the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s annual end-of-year awards which named Cesaro "Most Underrated" for four years in a row from 2013 to 2016. Cesaro ties Bobby Eaton with receiving this superlative more than any other wrestler. Eaton was named "Most Underrated" in 1985, 1986, 1990 and 1993.
For the 2015 awards, Dave Meltzer echoed the feelings of many fans, writing, "Cesaro showed absolute brilliance at times in his longer matches but is never pushed at the level of his ability. Every time there is a tease things will change, a week or two later it becomes clear that they’ve already dropped the idea. With the ‘Cesaro section’ gimmick at televised events, the company had the perfect opportunity to elevate him as a star, gave lip service to the idea briefly, but eventually he was still in the same position."
How DaParty came to be
One of the most popular factions in wrestling over the past five years might just be one that existed outside of the ring and WWE programming altogether. For anyone that follows Austin Creed/Xavier Woods and his popular YouTube Channel UpUpDownDown, we’re of course referring to "DaParty," which consisted of Woods, Cesaro, Matt Clement (aka Tyler Breeze) and Adam Cole (BAY BAY). "DaParty" would gather and play a variety of card, video and board games, but the game they were best known for playing was UNO. In an appearance on a September 2021 episode of "Out of Character with Ryan Satin," Cesaro explained the origins of "Da Party" saying it really happened out of necessity due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We were like, ‘Okay, we want to do something fun for UpUpDownDown because we cannot film in the locker rooms anymore on the road like we used to’," said Cesaro. "If you watch the first one and look at how far it’s come, it’s crazy. We all got better equipment because we nerded out and it was just one of those. Okay, we’re just the four of us playing UNO and seeing what happens." He added, "It’s something so special and we are so beyond grateful for it, and then see how people were like, ‘Oh, we are looking forward to it. It helped us get through last year.’ They made our days when we felt that."
Mick Foley once ‘begged’ Vince McMahon to give Cesaro a chance
It’s no secret that as Cesaro in WWE, Castagnoli had a loyal following of fans, but he seemingly couldn’t get "over" with Vince McMahon. This is something "Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy" recognized, and he publicly tried to appeal to the former WWE boss. In a video extra from his appearance on "Stone Cold" Steve Austin’s "Broken Skull Sessions" in June 2021, Austin asks Mick Foley a batch of rapid-fire questions about what he thinks of various current WWE superstars. When Austin gets to Cesaro, Foley’s demeanor changes and he starts talking directly to the camera.
"Vince, please," he pleaded, pointing to Austin and himself, "60 years of experience between us! We know a little something. We both proved Vince wrong … Trust us and give him the chance!" Foley then literally gets down on his knees and continues while holding prayer hands, "Vince, please! All we are saying is give Cesaro a chance. I just believe in that guy wholeheartedly. Give him a chance." Austin agreed and said, "Put a rocket ship on his back. There’s no telling what that kid can do." It was clear McMahon was never quite sold on Cesaro, but it must have felt incredible to have the likes of Foley and Austin –- two of the best ever to do it –- be so supportive.