HEY: The Claudio Castagnoli Story



The interview seems to take place some time in 2008. Claudio talks about becoming a fan of wrestling watching early 90’s WWF in Switzerland, training, his first match, coming to America, a really long, extended conversation about cars and traveling on the Indies, being signed/un-signed by WWE developmental, becoming a trainer, and general thoughts on the company’s he’s worked for and certain wrestlers. Honestly there’s not much to say or dissect because very little is gone into any one topic. Claudio has a good sense of humor so the interview is at least engaging, but if you want detailed thoughts on particular events or matches from this time period, you won’t get it. Given how good many of these Best on the Indies are, I was disappointed, but it’s good to see Smart Mark revised their interviews to make them more in-depth in later installments.


wXw World Heavyweight Championship
Claudio Castagnoli (Champion) vs. Robbie Brookside

wXw “Full Force I” – Essen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Deutschland – 7.10.2004

An intense lock-up is broken in the ropes. Brookside takes Claudio to the mat, controlling him by his left arm. Claudio reverses, but Brookside reverses right back and kicks Claudio’s arm before bringing him down in a Fujiwara armbar. Claudio turns it into a headscissors which Brookside escapes. Brookside trips Claudio and twists on the fingers on Claudio’s left arm. Claudio drops an elbow onto Brookside’s leg and grapevines it. Brookside hyperextends the arm. Claudio goes into a lateral press, leading to multiple pinfall attempts from both men until they roll into the ropes. In a double knuckle lock, Claudio tries putting all his bodyweight on Brookside to break Brookside’s bridge and get a pin. Brookside kicks him away and throws a pair of uppercuts to take him down. Claudio throws down Brookside by his hair, but Brookside takes back over and drives Claudio face first into his knee before dropkicking him to the corner. Brookside grabs a chinlock. Claudio drives him shoulder first into the corner to escape. He flings Brookside to the mat by his arm, legdrops that arm, and holds onto a top wristlock. Brookside turns that into a headscissors, which Claudio escapes by getting his feet on the ropes. Brookside snapmares him into a back kick twice. Brookside snapmares him into a pin. Claudio gets his own pin with a crucifix pin. He holds onto Brookside’s arms when Brookside kicks out and digs his feet into Brookside’s shoulders. Brookside kicks his way free. He whips Claudio back first into the corner three times before giving him a belly-to-belly suplex for two. He grabs a double nerve hold, bringing Claudio to his knees. Claudio blocks Brookside’s kick and uppercut and delivers a neckbreaker. He blocks some more of Brookside’s offense before rocking him with three uppercuts for two. Claudio comes off the top with a crossbody. Brookside rolls through catching Claudio for a two count. He tries an uppercut. Claudio counters with a backslide for two. Brookside places Claudio in a tree of woe and dropkicks him. The referee warns Brookside not to kick him while Claudio is in the ropes. He disobeys, dropkicking him twice, and gets disqualified at 17:12. Watching these two chain wrestle is a real treat, and when you throw in an appreciative crowd it’s even better. Both men displayed a lot of personality throughout the match as well, on top of keeping with a strategy. Weird finish aside, this was great fun. ***

Claudio Castagnoli vs. Alex Shelley
IWA Mid-South “A Phenomenal Invasion” – Evansville, IN – 9.15.2004

Shelley takes down Claudio in a wristlock, pulling apart his fingers. Claudio uses multiple rolls to escape. Shelley grabs a cravate. Claudio negotiates out into a wristlock, which Shelley maneuvers out of and brings Claudio back down in his own wristlock. Claudio escapes but Shelley shoulder blocks him down. Claudio spreads apart Shelley’s legs and kicks him in the chest to break yet another wristlock. Shelley trips Claudio out of a hammerlock. Claudio kicks Shelley to the ropes. Shelley hip tosses Claudio but Claudio kicks him away from the apron. Shelley gets two with a sunset flip, which Claudio turns into his own folding press. Claudio single leg trips Shelley, but Shelley rolls away before he can grab anything. Claudio uses a closed fist while holding Shelley in a side headlock which referee Bryce Remsburg cannot see. A diving uppercut to the back of the neck leads to a second hard uppercut to the neck and an inverted cravate neckbreaker across the knee. He twists up Shelley’s neck and chokes him with his wrist tape. Shelley brings down Claudio with a pair of dragonscrew leg whips. He locks on the Trailer Hitch. Claudio reaches the bottom rope to escape. He kicks out Claudio’s leg after giving him a kneeDT. Shelley dragonscrew leg whips Claudio off the middle turnbuckle, then comes off top with a frog splash to Claudio’s leg. Claudio enzuigiri’s out of another dragonscrew leg whip attempt. He strings together three uppercuts for two. Shelley leg whips Claudio. He looks for a spinning toe hold, but Claudio small packages him for two. Shelley then puts on a figure four lock. Claudio picks up Shelley in a Hangman’s neckbreaker. Shelley flips out and puts on the Border City Stretch! Claudio gets the ropes before it’s fully applied. Claudio gives him the Shake, Rattle, and Roll for two. Claudio places Shelley on the top turnbuckle and throws a pair of uppercuts. Shelley avoids a third and double stomps Claudio’s bad knee! He goes for the Border City Stretch. Claudio counters with the Swiss Sleeper Hold. Shelley passes out at 12:08. A lot of people sing the praises of the match these two had at ROH’s “This Means War” event, and while that was slightly better, this was a great precursor to that bout. Shelley constantly worked over Claudio’s leg while Claudio constantly worked over Shelley’s neck and Claudio’s work paid off in the end. These two have terrific chemistry and watching them wrestle one another is pure joy. ***¼

Claudio Castagnoli vs. B-Boy
IWA Mid-South “Mid-South Shadows Over Vincennes” – Vincennes, IN – 2.11.2005

Claudio cleanly breaks a lock-up in the corner. We see a trade of control over a wristlock. Claudio forearms B-Boy, which makes B-Boy angry. He takes down Claudio and goes right for the Shining Wizard, but Claudio rolls out of the ring. They get into a shoving match. Claudio gives him an uppercut. B-Boy rolls through a sunset flip and kicks Claudio in the face. He snapmares Claudio into a back kick and hits his own forearm strike. He gets a one count with a dropkick. B-Boy stomps down Claudio in the corner and gives him some boot scrapes. B-Boy charges only for Claudio to cut him off with a clothesline. He slams B-Boy into a legdrop for one. Claudio puts on a chinlock. B-Boy fights out of that, so Claudio grabs a sleeper. B-Boy fights out of that. He sunset flips Claudio, who rolls through and nails an uppercut. He gets two with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. He snapmares him into a diving uppercut to the back of the neck for another two count. He goes for Swiss Death. B-Boy kicks him in the face and back of the head after avoiding it. He drop toe holds Claudio into the corner and hits the Face Lift for two. He strings an exploder suplex and Northern Lights suplex together for two. Claudio avoids a running clothesline. He bounces B-Boy off the ropes and hits Swiss Death for two. He also gets two with the Shake, Rattle, and Roll. B-Boy grabs the ropes to block an O’Connor Roll. He looks for Shining Wizard but is hit with an uppercut for a close nearfall. Frustrated, Claudio hits B-Boy with six consecutive uppercuts. B-Boy fires back with multiple forearms and a spinning gamengiri. The Shining Wizard connects and gives B-Boy the win at 9:23.

European Rules
Claudio Castagnoli vs. Chris Hero

IWA Mid-South “Givin Em’ The Business” – Highland, IN – 2.12.2005

European Rules means that there are 12 3-minute rounds with 30 second rest periods in between. To win, you must win 2 rounds by pinfall or submission, or 1 round by knockout. There are three warnings from the referee for each participant, and the third one results in a disqualification. Closed fists, attacking a grounded opponent, and attacking an opponent between rounds will result in a warning. Low blows result in an immediate disqualification.

Claudio and Hero trade control of a wristlock. Hero heel trips Claudio, pulling him up into a cravate which Claudio immediately reverses back into a wristlock. Hero kicks Claudio away from the apron. Hero ties up Claudio’s legs and Claudio pulls him into a quick crucifix pin. Hero has Claudio’s legs keylocked when Round 1 ends. We get some Lucha rolls to start Round 2, with Hero utilizing various armdrags and a huracanrana to the delight of the crowd. Hero elbows out of a waistlock but Claudio gives him a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. After a hiptoss, Claudio arm whips Hero to the mat. He holds on a top wristlock while keeping Hero grounded. He drops a leg across the arm to add pressure. He hip tosses Hero while holding him in a hammerlock. Round 2 ends with another arm whip from Claudio. Round 3 starts with Hero missing a clothesline and Claudio once again targeting Hero’s left arm. Hero and Claudio roll into various pinfall variations with neither man scoring a fall. Claudio applies an armbar. He then throws some closed fists while holding Hero in a headlock. Angry, Hero fires back with his own closed fist. Bryce issues him a warning. Claudio dropkicks Hero and stomps him in the corner. Round 3 ends. Claudio tosses Hero in a hammerlock despite the round ending, and Bryce issues him a warning as well. He attacks Hero’s arm while Bryce is issuing the warning. Hero leapfrogs over Bryce to start Round 4. Claudio catches his arm and further attacks it. Claudio gets him in a folding press. He puts his feet on the ropes, but the referee doesn’t see it, and Claudio gets a pinfall to end Round 4 in 11:57 (total). Claudio throws multiple uppercuts to start Round 5. He pulls down Hero into a hammerlock with a headscissors. Hero forearms Claudio in the stomach, then rolls him into the Skayde schoolboy to get a pin at 13:42, tying the match at one fall a piece and ending Round 5. While Bryce is issuing the decision, Claudio uppercuts Hero from behind! Bryce catches Claudio attacking Hero on the floor and issues him a second warning. Round 6 begins back in the ring. Claudio low blows Hero while holding Hero in his arms. Bryce didn’t get a clear enough shot of it to make a call. Hero fires up with forearms. Claudio responds with uppercuts. Hero avoids an atomic drop. He pops up Claudio and knees him in the groin on the way down. Bryce issues Hero a red flag, disqualifying Hero at 0:57 into Round 6, 16:08 total. They told a great story throughout the entire bout, with the crowd getting hotter as the match progressed and genuinely being upset with the result (in the good kind of way). I really enjoyed going for the emotional ride these guys took the audience on and of course the action itself was really good too. ***½

Claudio Castagnoli vs. Sonjay Dutt
CZW “Trifecta Elimination III: Prove Your Worth” – Philadelphia, PA – 4.2.2005

Dutt rolls under Claudio’s attempts at a collar and elbow tie-up. Claudio palms his forehead and shoves him to the corner. Dutt catches him with boots from the corner, then takes him down with a quesadora armdrag. He hits a second rope crossbody for two. Claudio hits him with an uppercut. Dutt shoves Claudio to the corner. Dutt avoids an uppercut and hits a springboard dropkick for two. Dutt grabs a cravate which Claudio reverses. He drives his elbow into Dutt’s forehead. Dutt comes back with Déjà Vu. Claudio throws Dutt down by his arm which has a large elbow pad on it. He arm whips him using the same arm, then hip tosses Dutt while hooking him in a hammerlock.Dutt punches out of a wristlock. He uppercuts Dutt in his bad arm to stop his offense. He bodyslams Dutt in a hammerlock for two. Dutt uses the second rope to maneuver up into a crucifix bomb! Claudo kicks out of the pin and boots Dutt in the arm. Another hammerlock bodyslam leads to a two count. Claudio misses a pair of elbow drops. Dutt hits a basement dropkick. He strings some punches with his good arm and kicks to the leg together. Dutt comes in from the apron with a Dragonrana, sending Claudio to the floor. Dutt follows with a pescado. In the ring, Hero catches Dutt’s springboard crossbody. Dutt rolls him into a prawn hold for two. Claudio catches Dutt coming over the ropes into a Burning Hammer. Dutt kicks out just in the nick of time. Claudio lifts Dutt by his arm and places him on the top rope. Dutt knocks Claudio down to the matt. He goes for the Hindu Press. Claudio moves, but Dutt hits the Sonjay Cutta for two. As Dutt climbs the ropes, Sabian distracts him. Claudio blasts Dutt with a rolling uppercut and hooks the tights for the pin at 9:38. As solid as the match was, the crowd was not into it, and the finish didn’t help change their minds. It was fine in execution but nothing about this stands out. You just know they’re capable of producing something better. **¼

Claudio Castagnoli vs. Shane Storm
CHIKARA “The Grape American Bash” – Pittston, PA – 4.17.2005

Claudio and Storm reach a stalemate at the get-go. They engage in a Lucha sequence, ending with Storm hitting That Japanese Armdrag. He sends Claudio to the floor with a headscissors. Claudio stomps on Storm as they come back into the ring. Claudio slams Storm and goes for his mask. Claudio applies a sleeper on the mat. Storm escapes, but Claudio throws him down by his mullet. He chokes Storm with his shin. Claudio hits a suicide dive as Storm goes to the floor. Claudio throws him back in and gets a two count. Storm takes Claudio over with a double wrist clutch armdrag, only to be hit immediately with an uppercut. Claudio again goes for the mask in a Camel Clutch. Claudio chokes Storm on the bottom rope. A propped up STOP sign causes Claudio to stand still, allowing Storm to hit a German suplex. Storm hits a spinwheel kick. Storm follows up with the Jackhammer for two. Claudio hits a twisting neckbreaker for two. Storm hits the Air Raid Crash for two. Claudio takes Storm down with a Burning Hammer for two. Claudio and Storm exchange strikes. Claudio blocks That Japanese Move with an uppercut. Storm finally hits That Japanese Move, and Claudio puts his foot on the rope to break the pin attempt. Storm connects with another That Japanese Move. Just as he crawls over to Claudio, the time limit expires at 15:00. This was a really good exhibition from both guys. Claudio and Storm came off looking good, and the fans were behind Storm from the beginning. There were some nice counters and sequences making the overall package an enjoyable and effective one. **¾

Kings of Wrestling (Claudio Castagnoli & Arik Cannon) vs. Knight Eye 4 The Pirate Guy (Jolly Roger & Lance Steel)
CHIKARA “Aniversario White” – Pittston, PA – 5.22.2005

This match came from a challenge laid out by Roger and Steel last month. Cannon psyches out Roger by tagging in Claudio. Roger and Claudio exchange arm holds. Steel tags in and grabs a wristlock. He brings Claudio to the mat. Claudio uppercuts him and tags in Cannon. Steel applies a front chancery which Cannon transitions into a headlock. Steel reverses and Claudio tags in. Steel takes control with a variety of Lucha maneuvers. He puts Claudio in the Boston Crab, but he grabs the ropes to escape. Cannon and Roger tag in. They go back and forth until Roger takes Cannon down with a quesadora. Roger sends both Cannon and Claudio to the floor. Roger fakes out a dive on Claudio. Cannon sneaks up and hits a release German suplex. Claudio and Cannon team up on Roger while Steel looks on. Roger looks to turn the tide by targeting Cannon’s arm, but Claudio cuts him off. Bryce Remsburg and Eddie Kingston make Dane Cook Kool-Aid Man jokes at Cannon’s expense (too be fair he was still relevant then). Roger applies a cross armbreaker after Roger evades a top rope move from Cannon. Roger makes a tag to Steel behind the referee’s back, so it doesn’t count. After enduring more of Cannon and Claudio’s onslaught, Roger cracks Cannon in the face with a spinning face kick. Steel comes in and knocks down Claudio and Cannon. He puts Cannon in the Boston Crab, but Claudio breaks it. Claudio takes Steel to the top rope. Steel counters Claudio’s attack and puts him in a Boston Crab while up top! Roger rolls Cannon into a hammerlock neck crank submission. Claudio breaks it and sets up Roger for the Ricola Bomb. Steel blocks Cannon from hitting Roger with the Glimmering Warlock. Steel puts Cannon in the Boston Crab which Claudio breaks. Cannon drops Roger with Total Anarchy as Steel and Claudio brawl on the floor. He gets a two count. Claudio drops Steel with a TKO for two. Steel drops Claudio with a Finlay Roll. Roger follows up with a frog splash for two. Cannon blasts Steel with a right hand. Claudio fireman’s carry’s Steel into a European uppercut to the neck. Cannon drops Steel with an exploder suplex for two. Roger brings Cannon to the floor. He and Steel sunset flip Claudio for two. Cannon hits Roger in the head with a steel chain behind the referee’s back for the pin at 25:10. I actually thought Knight Eye should have won, and I suppose if they want to continue this rivalry it is good for the Kings to win using dirty tactics, but I was really hoping they’d pull the trigger on KE4TPG here. I guess knowing where these guys are today, it was the right call. Even in a loss though, this was a fine tag team encounter that helped raise Knight Eye’s game. ***¼

CZW Tag Team Championship
Kings of Wrestling (Claudio Castagnoli & Chris Hero) (Champions) vs. Team Masturbation (Excalibur & Beef Wellington)

CZW “Point of No Return” – Philadelphia, PA – 10.8.2005

Hero takes down Excalibur. They trade wristlocks Excalibur digs his head into Hero’s hand when he holds onto the wristlock. Excalibur tries a sunset flip. He kicks Hero in the spine from the apron. Hero misses a seated splash. He throws some kicks to Hero’s posterior and rolls him up for two. He dropkicks Hero in to Claudio’s groin, knocking Claudio off the apron. Wellington and Claudio block each other’s offense, Wellington trying an eye poke and Claudio looking for an uppercut. Hero tries to attack Wellington as Claudio holds onto him. Wellington backdrops Hero out, then pokes Claudio in the eyes before sending him to the floor as well. The Kings avoid a double dive, at first, but end up taking double pescado’s. In the ring Wellington goes for the Ass Punch on Claudio. Claudio stops him mid-air with an uppercut, leading to the Kings isolating and beating down Wellington in their half of the ring. Wellington almost goes up and over Hero, but Claudio kicks him in the face from the apron for two. They pull off a lot of double team action behind referee Bryce Remsburg’s back. Wellington is able to catch Claudio with a Flying DDT, giving him time to tag in Excalibur. Excalibur rocks Hero with two flying forearms and sunset flips him for two. Excalibur swings into a reverse DDT for two. He knee strikes Hero to the floor. He tries a suicide dive but Hero catches him in a cravate. While Hero isn’t looking, Wellington dives to the floor with the Ass Punch, sending Hero into the crowd! Claudio yanks up Wellington to the apron. Wellington snaps Claudio’s neck across the top rope. They place Claudio on the top turnbuckle, simulate a pleasurable motion, then bring him down with a double leg sweep. Hero breaks the cover. Wellington tosses him back to the floor and follows with a baseball slide dropkick. Excalibur knee strikes Claudio in the corner and goes for the Tiger Driver ‘98. Claudio counters with Swiss Death. Wellington breaks the pin. He calls for the E. coli Driver. Claudio tries a backslide, but Wellington spikes him with the E. coli Driver! Hero breaks the pin just in time. Wellington goes for the E. coli Driver on Hero. Hero kicks his way free and hits the Ricola Bomb for the pin at 15:53. They did a very convincing job making the crowd believe the comedy tandem was going to upset the dominant tag team champions, which tells you how good of a job they did telling a story. Was it the best match on a technical level? No, but it wasn’t designed to be. It accomplished it’s goal and was a fun watch. ***

Claudio Castagnoli vs.Arik Cannon
IWA Mid South “Morris Mayhem 2” – Morris, IL – 10.13.2005

A wristlock exchange leads to Claudio grabbing a full nelson. He brings down Cannon into a chinlock. Cannon baits Claudio back into a wristlock. Chris Hero makes his way ringside as Cannon bars Claudio’s arm. Claudio grabs a courting hould. Cannon walks around Claudio to grab a cravate. Claudio flips his way free and grabs a headlock. Cannon snaps off a pair of armdrags and hip tosses Claudio. Claudio takes a break in the ropes, so Cannon kicks the ropes into Claudio’s crotch. Hero distracts Cannon momentarily, and Claudio throws Cannon face first into the middle turnbuckle for two. Claudio flings him down in an arm whip and uppercuts him in the neck for two. He snaps Cannon’s arm and shoulder in the corner. He hip tosses Cannon in a hammerlock. He applies pressure to the shoulder on the mat. Cannon rolls Claudio onto his shoulders for two. Claudio further wears down the arm. Cannon sneaks in a sunset flip, only for Claudio to cut him off with an uppercut. Claudio hyperextends his arms. Cannon small packages Claudio for two. Claudio hits him with two uppercuts before stretching the arms back out. Cannon swings Claudio into a neckbreaker. He calls for a brainbuster. Claudio fights free, but Cannon nails him with an enzuigiri for two. Claudio rolls to the floor where Hero is sitting. Cannon gets in some shots on Claudio. He turns his attention to Hero and spits in his face! Claudio knees him in the stomach and brings him back into the ring for multiple uppercuts. Cannon Saito suplexes Claudio right on his head. As Bryce Remsburg is checking on Claudio, Hero snaps Cannon’s shoulder and arm across the top rope! Claudio brings down Cannon in a modified small package for the pin at 11:46. This was a solid follow up from the TPI where Hero turned on Cannon. The arm work was solid and the ending, while cheap, at least paid off that story. **¾

Claudio Castagnoli vs. Trik Davis
IWA Mid South “Revolution Strong Style Tournament 2005” – Streamwood, IL – 12.30.2005

Davis neckdrags Claudio out of a lock-up. Claudio claims hair pulling. He brings down in Davis in a hammerlock, which Davis armdrags his way out of. Claudio uses a single leg takedown. Davis however pulls off a headscissors from the apron and a pair of armdrags. He satellite headscissors Claudio to the floor. He misses a pescado but lands on his feet. From the apron Davis headscissors Claudio into the chairs. In the ring, some Lucha rolls lead to some legs weeps and a stalemate. Claudio uses a hug to bait Davis into a short-arm clothesline. He gets two with a scoop slam. Claudio brings him down in a delayed brainbuster for two. He stretches out Davis’ arms and shoulders. Davis stops him with a roll-up. Claudio pounds on his shoulders and back before giving him a Hot Shot. Claudio gutwrench suplexes him for two. Claudio goes for Swiss Death. Davis counters with an armdrag. He hits a leg lariat before putting on a Butterfly Lock. Claudio pops Davis out of the hold, then hits Swiss Death. Davis barely kicks out. Claudio hits the Alpamare Waterslide, and Davis is still able to kick out. Davis fights out of the Ricola Bomb and drives Claudio into the mat for an X-Factor. He rolls him into a sunset pin for the upset victory at 10:23! While I like the idea of Davis getting the proverbial rub from defeating Claudio, the win felt forced. The commentary team did a good job of trying to convince us otherwise, but I just wasn’t buying it. While the match itself was okay and Davis worked hard, it felt like it was stuck in second gear. **½

Tag World Grand Prix Quarter-Final Round Match
Kings of Wrestling (Claudio Castagnoli & Chris Hero) vs. The North Star Express (Darin Corbin & Ryan Cruz)

CHIKARA “Tag World Grand Prix 2006, Night 3” – Philadelphia, PA – 2.26.2006

JJ Dillon is still with the North Star Express. Cruz puts on a headlock to end a wristlock exchange. Claudio reverses. Cruz hip tosses and armdrags Claudio after taking a shoulder block. Claudio stomps on Cruz after blocking his hip toss. Cruz crossbody’s Claudio for two. Claudio rolls to the floor and Hero comforts him. Hero and Corbin tag in. They trade strikes. Hero hits the ropes and Dillion trips him. Corbin headscissors Hero to the corner. Corbin armdrags Hero into an armbar. Hero breaks it with a forearm and tags in Claudio. Claudio gets armdragged a couple times himself. Claudio begs Corbin off and asks for a handshake. He of course kicks Corbin in the side instead. He and Hero take turns beating on Corbin in their corner. Corbin rolls through Hero’s clothesline to tag in Cruz. Cruz elbows and clotheslines the Kings to the mat. He hits the Side Effect on Hero for two. Dillon trips Hero when Hero hits the ropes again. The North Stars double Japanese arm drag Hero, then drop him with a tandem STO for two. Claudio comes in. He catches Corbin and puts him in a tree of woe. Corbin sits up to evade a baseball slide. He somersault senton’s off the top onto Claudio on the floor. Hero flips off the top rope into a tornado kick from Cruz for two. Cruz monkey flips Corbin onto Claudio. Claudio catches Corbin and Hero puts Cruz on Claudio’s shoulders. Hero dropkicks both of them as they dangle off Claudio’s shoulders. He gets a two count on Corbin. Hero rolls Claudio to shoulder tackle Cruz in the corner. Hero looks to monkey flip Claudio onto Cruz, but Corbin catches him with an Ace crusher! Corbin only gets a two count. Hero puts Corbin and Cruz in stereo cravate’s. They break free and slam Hero on his face. They set up for Cruz Control. Claudio uppercuts Cruz as he’s coming off of Corbin’s shoulders. The Kings lift Corbin into a double Ricola Bomb for the pin at 12:36. The fact that they were able to convince people that Cruz and Corbin had a fighting chance is quite the triumph. The standing ovation they got afterward says a lot about their performance over the weekend. There were so many close calls and cool reversals to make this stand out amongst the myriad of tag matches from the tournament. ***

Claudio Castagnoli vs. Bryan Danielson
PWG “Enchantment Under The Sea” – Los Angeles, CA – 5.20.2006

This is the infamous “headlock” match. Multiple lock-ups go nowhere. Claudio takes down Danielson in a double knuckle lock but can’t press his shoulders down, even when putting his bodyweight on Danielson. Claudio latigo’s Danielson across the ring. Danielson grabs a wristlock. Claudio rolls Danielson forward to force a release. He puts on his own wristlock, and Danielson rolls Claudio forward to force his release. He puts Claudio in a surfboard stretch with an added chinlock. Claudio elbows Danielson in the ear to escape. Danielson tries a sunset flip. Claudio kicks him in both ears to stop the count. Claudio turns Danielson’s wristlock into a headlock, and Claudio holds onto that headlock for a long time. Try as Danielson might, he could not escape Claudio’s headlock. FInally, Danielson escaped and O’Connor rolled Claudio for the pin at 16:47. This sounds silly, but it worked. The crowd chanted “headlock”, got excited when it seemed like Danielson was finally going to escape, and then erupted when he did. Ending it right away was the right choice as you weren’t getting the crowd back after that. At this time in wrestling, in front of this crowd, no two wrestlers could do a match like this better than they could with the same successful result. Totally brilliant. ***½

2006 Ted Petty Invitational Tournament; Second Round
Claudio Castagnoli vs. Mike Quackenbush

IWA Mid-South “2006 Ted Petty Invitational, Night 2” – Midlothian, IL – 9.30.2006

(Note: You can watch this match in its entirety here.)

Claudio comes out in a Dr. Wagner mask and scrubs, but sadly removes it all before the bell. He smartly goes after Quackenbush’s bad back. Quackenbush catapults over him in a double knuckle lock. Claudio kicks him back to the mat. Quackenbush puts on a standing Octopus. He armdrags Claudio and then headscissors him. Claudio forearms him right in the face. Some more armdrags and a monkey flip send Claudio to the floor. Quackenbush tope con hilo’s onto him. Back in the ring Claudio counters his crossbody with a backbreaker. Claudio stretches his back out across his knee. Quackenbush counters a backbreaker with a backslide. Claudio kicks out and nails a clothesline. Claudio goes back to targeting his back and mid-section. Quackenbush monkey flips Claudio to the floor. Claudio pops Quackenbush to the second turnbuckle. Quackenbush cartwheels off into an armdrag that sends Claudio into rows of chairs! That was unreal. In the ring, Quackenbush cascades up Claudio and huracanrana’s him for two. Claudio gets two with the Alpamare Waterslide. Claudio shoots him off the ropes. Quackenbush hops off of Claudio’s chest. He takes him down with La Mistica and rolls him into a Skayde schoolboy for two. Claudio pops him up. Quackenbush huracanrana’s him, but Claudio rolls through that and catches him off guard with a pin at 9:32. That was amazing, and it felt like things were just picking up when it ended. This was like a human highlight reel which so many awesome spots. The fans give them a well deserved “thank you” chant. ***¾

Claudio Castagnoli vs. Ricochet
CHIKARA “King of Trios 2007, Night 3” – Philadelphia, PA – 2.18.2007

Claudio has Ed O’Mac tell the crowd that if they don’t stop saying “HEY!” he will leave. As angry as Claudio gets, it turns out to be an empty promise. He slaps Ricochet after placing him on the top rope. Ricochet comes off with a huracanrana and a spinwheel kick. Claudio grounds him in a knuckle lock but can’t get a pin. Ricochet catapults up with an armdrag. Claudio stops his momentum with a back elbow. He misses an uppercut in the corner. Ricochet snaps his neck across the top rope. He headstands from the floor onto Claudio’s shoulder. Claudio throws him off and hits a dropkick. He angrily chokes Ricochet with his shirt. Ricochet comes off the ropes. Claudio knee lifts him up and elbows him to the canvas. He lifts him up by his armpits and slams him for two. Claudio grinds on a side headlock. Ricochet comes back with a Déjà vu! He gets twisted around before sending Claudio to the corner with a headscissors. Ricochet hops to the top rope to avoid a corner attack. Claudio’s momentum carries him to the floor and Ricochet dives after him. Claudio avoids the Sunset Flip. He hits the Match Killer for two. Ricochet gets two with a fast victory roll. He misses a back handspring Phoenix Splash. Claudio uppercuts him across the ring! Somehow Ricochet kicks out. Ricochet successfully pulls off a Dragonrana. Claudio kicks out of that. Ricochet uses the ropes for a DDT. He gets two with a Phoenix Splash. Ricochet hits the ropes. He gets caught with the craziest Swiss Death for the pin at 11:44. That was a star making performance for Ricochet in CHIKARA. Claudio worked as the best base ever and brought the best out of his opponent. Definitely the spectacle you would expect. ***¼

Claudio Castagnoli vs. Mike Quackenbush
ACW “Claudio vs. Quackenbush” – San Antonio, TX – 3.11.2007

(Note: You can watch this match in its entirety here.)

Quackenbush reverses a wristlock. He takes Claudio to the mat and stomps on his elbow. Claudio tires to stomp on his elbow and misses. He stomps Quackenbush before putting a side headlock. Quackenbush baits Claudio into a wristlock. Claudio gets to the ropes. They engage in a Lucha sequence, ending with Quackenbush blocking a Mad Scientist Bomb with an armdrag that sends Claudio to the floor. Somehow Claudio has a long piece of toilet paper hanging out of his pants now. He takes Quackenbush down in a double knuckle lock. Quackenbush catapults his way up and again armdrags Claudio to the floor. Claudio gets frustrated when he can’t get ahold of Quackenbush’s legs. He manages to break Quackenbush’s full nelson and grab at his face. Quackenbush throws him across the ring. He toreadors Claudio back to the floor. This time he follows with a tope con hilo. Back in the ring Claudio stops his momentum with a dropkick. He drops Quackenbush throat first across the top rope for two. He throws Quackenbush’s face into the turnbuckles and gives him a back elbow. He puts on an abdominal stretch while twisting Quackenbush’s ear. Quackenbush hip tosses his way free. Claudio gives him a fisherman’s suplex for two. He earslams Quackenbush for two. That’s like a chokeslam, but with the ear instead of the throat. From the floor Claudio teases an uppercut. He ends up twisting Quackenbush’s ear instead. Claudio throws him across the ring by the ears. Quackenbush quesadora’s his way into a bulldog. He cascades up Claudio into a huracanrana for two. He also gets two with the Black Tornado Slam. Claudio catches him with the Alpamare Waterslide for two. From the second rope he nails a European Uppercut. He sets up for the Ricola Bomb. Quackenbush fights out of it and takes him down with the Torbellino for two. Claudio fights off a monkey flip and delivers an uppercut. Claudio gives him an arm capture German suplex for the pin at 17:23. This had glimpses of their greater, better matches but was deliberately slower and had more humor infused into it. The middle part was a little slow, but by the end they had kicked things up. Not their best encounter, but still pretty enjoyable. ***

Claudio Castagnoli vs. Eddie Kingston
CHIKARA “Best Imitation of Myself” – Reading, PA – 3.23.2007

Two intense lock-ups are broken in the corner. Kingston reverses into a headscissors which Claudio quickly escapes from. Kingston ducks an uppercut while Claudio avoids the Backfist. Claudio goes after Kingston’s leg which just recovered from an ankle injury. Kingston shoves Claudio away, causing Claudio to smack him in the face. Kingston suplexes him across the ring, then gets two with a Northern Lights suplex. He slaps Claudio in the corner. Claudio hits him with Swiss Chin Music. After some more strikes he gets two with a fisherman’s suplex. He uppercuts Kingston in the neck for a one count. He tries going for the leg again. Kingston shoves him away. Claudio lifts him into a gutwrench suplex. Both men daze each other with a hard strike exchange. Kingston gets in a yakuza kick and a uranage suplex for two. Claudio blocks another yakuza kick. He delivers a diving uppercut off the second rope. He German suplexes him for two. He rocks Kingston with some uppercuts. Kingston delivers a Backfist, causing Claudio to throw more uppercuts. Kingston lariats him for two. He sets up for a suplex. Claudio slips out and brings Kingston to the mat. He twists up Kingston’s ankle, causing him to tap out right away at 8:19. That was intense. Both men laid it into each other and put up a hard fought battle. I love that Claudio was able to finally get the ankle and got Kingston to submit right away. I’m glad we would see a series of matches between these two a couple of years later. ***¼

CWE Undisputed Championship Tournament; First Round
Claudio Castagnoli vs. Matt Cross

CWE “One Step Closer” – Youngstown, OH – 4.15.2007

Claudio cranks on a headlock. Cross headstands his way out and into a hammerlock. He puts on a chinlock. Claudio also headstands his way free, which Cross is surprised by. Cross takes him down in a wristlock. Claudio gracefully reverses. Cross resists being pinned in a double knuckle lock. Cross monkey flips his way free, bringing things back to square one. Claudio picks Cross’ ankle. Cross headstands and walks around the ring. Claudio does the same, then goes back to the ankle. Cross headscissors Claudio to the floor. When Claudio comes back in, he sends Cross to the ropes, and Cross once again headscissors him out. He holds the top rope and dropkicks Claudio from inside the ring. Claudio pump kicks Cross in the stomach when Cross comes out. Cross sends him face first into the ring post. Cross then lands the flagpole press. In the ring, Claudio slams Cross into a legdrop for two. He then gives him the Giant Swing. Claudio twists up Cross’ shoulder while putting on a modified octopus stretch. He uses his legs to roll Cross into a roll up for two. Claudio then airplane spins Cross. Dizzy, Claudio ascends the ropes. He misses a Swanton bomb. Cross delivers two clotheslines but Claudio stays on his feet. He goes for a third, but Claudio avoids it and hits his own. Cross headscissors Claudio back to the floor and suicide dives after him. In the ring Cross snaps off a Frankensteiner and delivers an enzuigiri. He gets two with a standing moonsault. Claudio hits the Match Killer for two. He swings Cross around in a full nelson for two. Cross spikes Claudio with a tornado DDT for two. Cross lands a moonsault for two. When he recovers, Claudio catches Cross with Swiss Death and the Alpamare Waterslide for the pin at 15:58. It felt like they were hovering around some semblance of a story but never quite hit on it. The action was good but didn’t have any flow. They wrestled like it was a random match in a random indie in a random town, and that’s exactly what this was. **½

Claudio Castagnoli vs. Matt Sydal
wXw “16 Carat Gold Tournament 2007, Night 2” – Essen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Deutschland – 5.5.2007

Claudio shows of his size by throwing Sydal to the mat and placing him on the top turnbuckle. When he does it a second time, Sydal comes off the top with a swinging Frankensteiner. Claudio blocks a hip toss, but Sydal sends him to the floor with a hiponesa. Sydal asks for a stool to stand on, but decides against it. Some leapfrog.drop downs lead to Claudio catching Sydal with a backbreaker. Sydal leg trips Claudio. Claudio tries whipping him to the corner, but Sydal comes off with a cartwheel armdrag. Claudio moves before Sydal can dive after him. Sydal prawn holds Claudio back inside the ring for two. Claudio comes off the second rope with a diving uppercut. He gives Sydal the Giant Swing for two. Claudio goes to the second rope, but Sydal quickly brings him down with a Frankensteiner. Sydal throws multiple forearms to Claudio’s chest. Claudio fires up. Sydal sends him out with a satellite headscissors, then comes off the top with a plancha. In the ring, Sydal dives off the top and gives Claudio a beautiful spike DDT for two. Claudio catches Sydal with Swiss Chin Music. A running uppercut gets him two. Sydal and Claudio trade nearfalls, ending with a standing moonsault from Sydal. Claudio’s Alpamare Waterslide gets two. Sydal cascades up Claudio’s shoulders. He falls off and Claudio gives him an uppercut. Sydal takes him down with a standing legdrop. He goes to the top. Claudio throws Sydal down, but Sydal rolls through. Claudio hits Swiss Death for two. He goes for the Ricola Bomb. Sydal counters in a sunset flip for two. Claudio goes for Swiss Death. Sydal counters with a huracanrana, but Claudio rolls through that and catches him off guard with a pin at 11:37! As I was watching this, I thought this was more akin to a Claudio vs. Mike Quackenbush match than a Claudio vs. Sydal match, and then they go with the exact same finish as the Claudio/Quack TPI match. There’s absolutely nothing wrong replicating a successful formula in a different company, but watching those two matches so close together makes the similarities stick out. It was also similar to their ROH match from “Driven”, but that match was more refined. What I’m saying is this was both derivative, and improved upon a month later, but still real good? Sure, let’s go with that. ***¼

Claudio Castagnoli vs. PAC
CHIKARA “Here Come The International Invaders: Stage II – Return of the Clone Menace – Hellertown, PA – 8.18.2007

After reaching a stalemate on the mat, PAC uses the ropes to armdrag Claudio to the floor. Claudio grabs his ankle. PAC kicks him away so Claudio knees him a few times in the corner. PAC flips out, kicks Claudio in the chest, and hits a standing twisting splash. He headscissors Claudio to the corner. PAC comes running in but eats Swiss Chin Music for two. He slams PAC into a legdrop for two. He does some damage to his back. He delivers an uppercut in the corner and gets two with a Magistral cradle. PAC throws some forearms. Claudio launches him up and lets him slam into the mat. PAC manages to dropsault Claudio to the floor. He then follows out with a corkscrew moonsault off the second turnbuckle! He takes Claudio down back in the ring. He comes off the second rope with a tumbleweed senton for two. PAC counters Claudio’s slam with a huracanrana. Claudio kicks out. He deadlifts PAC up into a German suplex for two. He picks PAC up by his shoulders for a slam. PAC kicks out of that as well. PAC moonsaults into a tornado DDT! Claudio kicks out. He hits PAC with a step-up enzuigiri on the ropes. He brings him down with an Ace Crusher for two. A rolling uppercut yields the same result. PAC avoids Swiss Death and Swiss Chin Music. He rolls up Claudio and kicks him in the neck. PAC goes for a Dragonrana. Claudio instead catches him and hits the Ricola Bomb for the pin at 11:09. This was tremendous as you would expect. Claudio is the ultimate base for agile high-fliers like PAC and it’s matches like this that show you just why. ***½

Claudio Castagnoli vs. MIYAWAKI
CHIKARA “The Sordid Perils of Everyday Existence” – Hellertown, PA – 11.17.2007

Claudio and MIYAWAKI look for control, both of them going after the others’ leg. A test of strength leads to MIYAWAKI putting on a full nelson. It takes a few tries, but he eventually knocks Claudio down with a running shoulder block. He goes back to Claudio’s leg. Claudio fights up but gets taken down with a dragonscrew leg whip. MIYAWAKI tries it a second time but gets taken over with a gutwrench suplex. Claudio uppercuts him in the shoulder blades for two. He stretches MIYAWAKI across his knee after a backbreaker. He lifts MIYAWAKI up into a back suplex for two. MIYAWAKI blocks another suplex with a brainbuster. He strings a hip toss, slam, and t-bone suplex together for a two count. He dropkicks Claudio’s knee out and puts on a figure four leg lock. Claudio turns it over to transfer the pain. MIYAWAKI turns it back around. Claudio escapes and hits the Match Killer. He hits Swiss Chin Music for two. Claudio goes for an uppercut. MIYAWAKI counters with a Complete Shot. He lifts up Claudio into a German suplex. Claudio hits Swiss Death! Both men are down. They trade shots when they get to their feet. MIYAWAKI gets two with a backslide. He tries going for Claudio’s leg but Claudio rolls him up. Claudio hits a running uppercut for two. MIYAWAKI gets two with a reverse DDT. They trade strikes on the top rope. Claudio knocks MIYAWAKI down and follows with a diving uppercut. The Ricola Bomb gets him the win at 13:56. That was a terrific big man match. They treated the crowd to a slug fest, excellent mat work, and some surprisingly agile stuff. MIYAWAKI taking Swiss Death is a sight to be seen. This is an underrated gem from 2007 and worth checking out. ***½

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