After the surprising news yesterday (Feb. 24) that Cesaro is a free agent after the expiration of his WWE contract, folks in and outside the industry paid tribute to the 41 year old wrestler.
Claudio rules. But we all already knew that.— Renee Paquette (@ReneePaquette) February 24, 2022
Especially among fans, recurring themes to the reactions were that WWE squandered a potential star in Cesaro (real name Claudio Castagnoli), and that he would prove that at his next stop — which many assumed would be AEW. The initial behind-the-scenes reports made it seem like the Swiss Superstar agreed, claiming he was unhappy how he’d been used by the company he’s worked for since 2011.
But in the latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Meltzer writes that Cesaro wasn’t looking to leave WWE. The two sides were negotiating a new contract, but unlike Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and AJ Styles, they couldn’t come to terms. The likely reason Cesaro may be leaving now is because he wasn’t offered the “huge money” those men were.
Meltzer also writes that he’s heard nothing about Cesaro joining AEW. There was no “backdoor AEW offer” made during the seven-time WWE Tag champion’s negotiations with Vince McMahon’s company. While Tony Khan may be interested now that Cesaro is on the market, Meltzer also notes that TK has signed several talents lately, all of whom are younger than Cesaro. He theorizes that New Japan may be a better fit, but acknowledges that until/unless international travel returns to pre-COVID normal, he’d be limited to working their U.S. shows for less money.
For my money, Castagnoli would be a great addition to any wrestling company. His days as a potential main eventer are behind him, but he remains one of the best wrestlers in the world, and by all accounts a great person. But it’s not my money, and it sounds like Cesaro and whoever his next employer ends up being will have to figure out a deal that works for them before we get to enjoy his work again.