For years, wrestling fans have been clamoring for the release of WWE talent Cesaro, AKA Claudio Castagnoli outside of the company. Wrestling companies around the world should, and more than likely will, attempt to get him in any capacity they can. The 41-year-old Swiss star is easily one of the most versatile and varied performers in the wrestling business and has been for almost 20 years. Despite his age, Castagnoli has an unbelievable level of talent, potential, and experience to offer wherever he goes. AEW is going to seem like the most obvious destination. At 41 years old it is unlikely he will want to travel out of the country much, and nowhere else in the U.S is likely to pay as much as AEW will. That doesn’t mean, however, that he can’t make a few visits on the way there.
Say Claudio was to take a good year before signing a contract to travel a bit and work some different talent. Not stay anywhere long-term mind you, but just tour around the world a bit. Fulfill some dream matches. Not only would it be incredibly entertaining, but it would help re-familiarize himself with the non-WWE style of wrestling, something we’ve seen hinder ex-WWE performers such as Andrade in the past. With that being said, here are some ideas for potential dream matches both in and out of AEW for Claudio Castagnoli. These suggestions are not in any particular order.
Keith Lee – AEW
Back in February of 2020, when doing a Twitter Q&A for WWE ON FOX’s YouTube page, Keith Lee named Cesaro as his number one dream match at the time, remarking on how he was a “remarkable specimen” much like himself. This may have changed in the last 2 years, but it’s still indicative of the respect and admiration that Keith has for Castagnoli. This match in WWE could have easily been a PPV match, but outside of WWE? Unrestrained by the WWE formula? These two could do incredible things together. As of right now, Keith Lee is in AEW, and without a non-compete clause, Claudio could potentially show up on Dynamite at any time, even tonight. That doesn’t mean the match needs to happen immediately, in fact, it’s a match that deserves a long, good build-up to it, but it’s definitely something to consider if and when Claudio debuts.
Plus, watching these two behemoths use their near-inhuman strength to throw each other around like rag dolls would be worth the price of admission alone.
Masato Tanaka – NOAH
Onto another match that has never happened, Japanese legend Masato Tanaka of FMW fame, currently one of the top names in Pro Wrestling NOAH would be as perfect an opponent for Claudio as you’ll find. Famous for his matches against Mike Awesome in the late 90s, Masato Tanaka is still in phenomenal shape for his age and has shifted very much toward a less-hardcore style of wrestling, and leans much more into the Kings-Road inspired style of NOAH in 2022. If Castagnoli decided to go to Japan for a stint, it would be fun to see these two blister each other with hard strikes and suplex each other around. Maybe even an N-1 run for Castagnoli if he’s so inclined. Speaking of famous Japanese wrestling tournaments…
Tomohiro Ishii – NJPW
As for matches that people have dreamt of for years, this one used to be pretty high on the list. In the last couple of years, demand has probably lessened, due just to the loss of any possible hope of it happening. But now this match is a very real possibility. If Castagnoli were to go to New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) instead of NOAH, Tomohiro Ishii would be one of the quintessential opponents for him. Both have a hard-hitting, power-based offense, and combined with the fighting spirit that comes with the NJPW upper-card style of match, these two could easily have a standout match in the G1. They may not be in their prime anymore, but they’re still Claudio Castagnoli and Tomohiro Ishii, and that alone should be enough.
JONAH – NJPW Strong
While JONAH is also an IMPACT wrestler, the kind of match these two could have is much better suited for the environment that NJPW Strong fosters. His matches against Josh Alexander in Impact prove that he can have good matches against that style of opponent, but he’s also done good work in NJPW Strong in his tag team with Bad Dude Tito. With the ROH-esque environment of NJPW Strong, and the crowds they have, these two could do some great stuff. Much like with the Keith Lee match, it’d be great to see Claudio in there with someone bigger than him. It could even spearhead into a feud with Claudio finding a partner to take on JONAH and Tito, and produce some great tag matches (something Claudio has a specialty for).
“Speedball” Mike Bailey – IMPACT
So far all we’ve discussed are people of similar builds and styles to Claudio. Mike Bailey, while also hard-hitting, is a much different kind of competitor to Claudio Castagnoli, but as often has been the case with him, that could very well be a good thing. Watching Castagnoli have matches against other big men, maybe even bigger men, is always fun. But the stuff that he can do with smaller competitors, high fliers, and more agile opponents is also almost always amazing stuff. Matches against Mike Quakenbush, El Generico (or Sami Zayn), and even recent bouts against opponents like Ricochet are perfect examples of this. Right now Mike Bailey is probably one of the top in-ring talents in the world, and a big-time match against Claudio could easily be an upper-card match on a PPV if Impact played their cards right.
Eddie Kingston – AEW
This one here is the big one. Once all is said and done and Claudio finds his way to AEW, whether under a contract or not, this match absolutely should happen at some point. And not just as a match, but as a feud, maybe even a months-long one. The history between Eddie Kingston and Claudio Castagnoli speaks for itself, going all the way back to their days in CHIKARA as a tag team. Both are different men now though, and far different, more serious competitors. Given the proper build, this match wouldn’t even need a championship. Just the personal grudge between the two would make for compelling stakes. You know deep down both of them want it. Eddie Kingston has made it clear he does. Claudio may not be as outward about it, but there’s no chance he doesn’t want it just as bad.
They want it, the people want it, everyone wants it. Whether sooner or later, this match absolutely should happen.
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