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Posted on: Apr 22 2017, 07:57 PM
The Road to GCW
by Wade Bronson, GCW.com staff
It's April 19th, 2017. On this night, GCW Warzone makes its debut. It's one hour before show time, and Aurelio Castaldo is the picture of serenity. You wouldn't know it from looking at him, but he's one hour away from realizing a thirty year dream.
Aurelio is not the man you'd picture if you were asked to picture the chairman of a professional wrestling federation. At 42, with dignified silver hair and cutting a sharp figure in a tailored Italian suit, this son of Rome is about as far from professional wrestling's American carny origins as you could get. There is no wrestling in his family, promoter or performer. It is not in his blood, in his history, or in his culture. In fact, Aurelio hadn't even seen a match until he was twelve years old.
"My father was a business man," Aurelio explained to GCW.com in an exclusive interview, "He had his hand in many different enterprises. Wine. Real estate. Finance. I was brought up with the expectation that I would follow in his footsteps. So, no, I was not allowed to watch anything so crude as wrestling. There was a lot of opera. Really, far too much opera."
It was a fateful night in 1987, Aurelio recalls, when he was bitten by the wrestling bug. Accompanying his father on a trip to New York, young Aurelio was left in the care of a driver while his father attended to business dealings.
"I was very bored, stuck in that hotel room. I asked the driver if he could take me somewhere fun. Maybe a museum or an art gallery. But the driver thought I had a stunted conception of fun for a twelve year old. There was wrestling in town, and we purchased tickets, and... Well, before the bell for the first match even rang, I was hooked. The spectacle of it all - I had never seen anything like it."
The larger-than-life characters battling it out in the squared circle enamored young Aurelio instantly, and he consumed as much wrestling as he could - much to his father's dismay. All he wanted from that moment on was to be involved, in some way, with that spectacle. But his passion for the business had to take a back seat to his other obligations. Aurelio, indeed, followed in his father's footsteps and took over all of his business enterprises once the elder Castaldo retired.
In hindsight, Aurelio said, this was more of a blessing than a curse.
"If I had attempted to enter the wrestling business after University, I would have failed spectacularly. I was far too young, idealistic, and inexperienced to go head-to-head with the titans of the day. Overseeing my father's companies gave me the experience and wisdom that I needed in order to succeed. Not to mention the capital. The Colosseum did not come cheap."
Aurelio's plans for the genesis of GCW began in early 2015. Taking his Roman heritage and love of history into account, Aurelio planned on building a wrestling promotion unlike any in the world. It was to be the true grandest stage of them all, where competitors from all walks of life could battle for glory and gold.
It was both coincidental and fortuitous, then, that pro wrestling's oldest and greatest titan collapsed just as he was ready to show his dream to the world.
"That scandal actually pushed our debut back several months," Aurelio explained. "There were a great many talents now without a home. We spent sleepless night after night tempting these top tier wrestlers with the most lucrative contracts we could afford. We wanted to lock them all down before our debut. There were more than a handful of sponsors and advertisers who were reluctant to take a risk on us until we showed them the names we had signed to our roster."
And what names they were - talents like Jeff Hardy, Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, Bray Wyatt - international superstars ready to enter the next chapter of their careers.
For Aurelio Castaldo, though, GCW is chapter one.
At the end of the show, as the audience files out of the GCW Colosseum, Aurelio Castaldo watches through the curtain with the grin of an awestruck twelve year old boy.