It’s Day Three of #AntonioCesaroWeek, a celebration of all things Very European/Real American and the second installment of our (patent-pending) Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week series. We started with A Wrestler You Should Probably Know Better. Yesterday, we gave you the finer points of the Claudio Castagnoli oeuvre with some Essential Viewing. Today, we’re starting off with a special appearance by a relatively happy Andy before giving marching through the end of Hump Day with a GIF Parade. Tomorrow we’ll make our Amazon.com-on-steroids dreams come true with “Juice Make Sugar Recommends…” before finishing everything off on Friday with a Difference of Opinion (where JMS HQ erupts in a Swiss Miss-fueled civil war.)
We got to the shitty little venue in Reading, and walked inside. There were a couple dozen chairs set up around a low-sitting ring, in a tiny little hall. We set up our gear, and got to work. After the pro-wrestling formalities (shake EVERY hand, be polite to EVERYONE) – it was time for interviews. That’s when I met the man who would someday become Antonio Cesaro, Claudio Castagnoli.
Some classmates and I had jumped in my ’93 Grand Marquis, with a trunk full of camera and lighting gear. We braved the winter weather, and drove off to Reading, Pennsylvania, to begin work on what would become our senior project: a documentary on CHIKARA pro wrestling.
What I asked him, or what he said doesn’t really matter. In our little chat, what came across was how happy he was to be wrestling, and surrounded by wrestling fans. That, and his cheesy jokes. Goofy. In a good way. Not like Shawn Michaels selling someone he doesn’t like. Like a guy who might wrestle under a mask as Very Mysterious Ice Cream.
We sat and watched the show, had a good time, packed up our gear and got back on the road. The next day we hit the Chikara show in Easton, taped some more interviews, and headed home.
Fast forward about a month. I’ve decided I want to get a real job after graduation, and chop off my hair. No big deal. But the work on the documentary isn’t done, so back on the road we go.
We get to the ECW Arena in Philly, to shoot the bulk of our b-roll at the 2009 King of Trios. We’re running around, trying to get all the talent to sign releases, so we can use their likeness in our piece, when Claudio approaches me. With a big smile on his face, he comes up and points at still newly-shaved head, and in his very European accent, chuckles “you cut your hair!”
It was small talk, that sparked a 30 second conversation before he ran off to deal with his very busy weekend. But that little moment really stuck with me. He’s just a fun, friendly guy, who was happy to talk to some fan he’d met once before.
That’s why I was so happy when Claudio Castagnoli got signed to the ‘E. That’s why I was so happy when he got called up to the main roster as Antonio Cesaro. That’s why I was excited when he won the United States championship. And that’s why I was absolutely ecstatic when he stopped fucking YODELING.
He’s a good guy, and a great wrestler, with a fantastic future in the business. I’m happy I got a chance to meet him, and appreciate Claudio “Antonio Cesaro” Castagnoli as not just a wrestler, but a pretty awesome person.
And just for shits and giggles, here’s a clip of Claudio being fucking awesome: