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Pro Wrestling

Wrestling Fans Will Never Learn To Count

Claudio Castagnoli swings Chris Jericho on AEW Dynamite. Ref Aubrey Edwards is behind him.
Still via TBS/AEW

Numbers in wrestling are fake—or, if you prefer, for entertainment purposes only. Promoters make things up for storylines. There are “days” and “days recognized” categories in title histories. The “two minutes” between entrants in the Royal Rumble are often shorter. Also sometimes they’re longer! It’s all for the story. It’s all good.

There is a counting issue in pro wrestling that has been bothering me, though. It concerns Claudio Castagnoli, who was known as Cesaro during his time in WWE and also once wrestled as A Very Mysterious Swiss Ice Cream. Castagnoli uses a move known as the Giant Swing. It is an old wrestling move, the kind of finishing move you’d see at a wrestling match at a carnival. Well, you wouldn't have seen it because that match would have taken place before you were born; I found references to it from the 1930s. The only place I can remember encountering a giant swing before Castagnoli was Boris Chekov in Tecmo World Wrestling for NES.

Anyway, the move was a relic. Castagnoli, who began wrestling in 2000, brought it back. He did it in indie feds, but it gained a much wider audience after he signed with WWE in 2011. “To me the giant swing is one of the most traditional moves in professional wrestling and still one of the most entertaining ones,” he told Bleacher Report in 2013. “I’m really proud to be able to introduce it, or reintroduce it, to a completely new generation.”

The move itself is very silly. It seems like it would just make both wrestlers dizzy. But wrestling moves don’t need to make sense. Castagnoli explained it well in that interview: “When you think of professional wrestling you think of an elbow drop and swinging people by their feet. If you could do any move in a fight, you'd probably do the giant swing on somebody. It's such a show of strength and you see variations of it in movies and cartoons.” A live-action cartoon deserves some Looney Toons-style moves.

Castagnoli wrestled Chris Jericho on AEW Dynamite last week. He broke out the giant swing. The crowd could not count how many times he swung Jericho around. Listen to them just count numbers that have no relation to the move going on in the ring.

Jericho won the Ring of Honor world title from Castagnoli in this match. (Video from TBS/AEW)

You can see them just give up eventually; I think people realized they were just way ahead in the count and bagged it. The summing snafu on AEW Dynamite reminded me of another match where the same thing happened: Chris Jericho vs. Castagnoli, then known as Cesaro, on the June 6, 2016 episode of WWE Raw. The crowd in Oklahoma City that Monday six years ago was just as bad as Wednesday’s in Queens.

But six years ago Cesaro beat Jericho on Raw! (Video from USA/WWE)

That crowd got up to 15, when the actual count was 12. I understand how this happens: During matches fans would usually count, say, wrestler punches—10 big right hands in the corner, another old wrestling trope—and so they are prepped to use that faster cadence. But swinging Chris Jericho around the ring requires a bit more time than giving him 10 punches in the corner.

There’s actually an easy way to get this right, I think. To count properly, just use the referee as a marker like I did in the these two videos. Only count when the swingee’s head goes past the ref. This might make the count a little behind, actually, but it would be a nice change of pace. I don’t like to give talented wrestlers advice too often, but Castagnoli could even make it a point to start at the ref. It seems so easy!

Well, not really easy, I guess, and also it only seems that way. Castagnoli is famed for doing a 100-swing rotation at night one of CHIKARA’s King of Trios 2009. In a match where Team Uppercut (Castagnoli, Bryan Danielson, and Dave Taylor) beat The Roughnecks (Brodie Lee, Eddie Kingston, and Grizzly Redwood), Castagnoli swung Redwood around a record 100 times!

Or not! I did not count here, but I did read the YouTube comments and people pegged it at anywhere from 81-83 swings. Impressive, but not 100. Attendance at the event, at the old ECW Arena in South Philly, was a reported 550 people. If a crowd that small can’t get it right, what chance does an arena-sized one have?

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