Over the past few years in WWE circles the most open minded attitude has been adopted when it comes to pushing talent. It certainly isn’t perfect by any stretch but there would be certain guys/girls who would be stamped with the usual “can’t work” moniker and shipped off to the developmental leagues to supposedly to learn how to work the right (read:WWE) way. For the most part this attitude was mainly given towards any wrestler who had crafted their career on the independent leagues and carved out a name for themselves which certain higher ups in WWE disregarded due to the widely held belief that the so called “internet wrestling community” doesn’t know what is what.
Daniel Bryan is one such example of if this was 10+ years ago he never would’ve got a main event push to the likes of which he is getting now. He would’ve been deemed too small, sent to OVW to learn how to work the right way before he would be either never brought back to TV or quietly jobbed out and fired in the manner of Colt Cabana aka Scotty Goldman or Low Ki aka Kaval. What is interesting is what the aforementioned wrestlers as well as Antonio (now without the first name) Cesaro, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Sami Zayn aka El Generio have in common is that they all made their name in Ring of Honour Wrestling.
Be it for whatever reason WWE has not viewed ROH as a promotion with talented performers and has largely looked down upon them. In 2014 that mentality appears to have changed with all the crop of ROH stars in a hurry to join WWE and ironically enough at a time where ROH’s talent roster is arguably at its’ weakest in years. CM Punk and Daniel Bryan’s story has been documented already however one such superstar who is finally appearing to break out of the pack and really get noticed is Cesaro.
The Swiss-born superstar’s career in ROH was largely that of a tag team alongside long time partner Chris Hero under his real name of Claudio Castagnoli as the Kings of Wrestling who became one of the most successful tag teams in ROH history. Insiders will certainly be aware that compliment is quite the positive one indeed given how much depth the promotions doubles division had back in 2006 onwards. Accomplishing all he could within ROH Castagnoli knew there would be a time where he would need to creatively shake things up in move on to the next step. When WWE came calling he did not turn them down and joined the Stamford based promotion in September of 2011 debuting under his new ring name of Antonio Cesaro.
His initial character was that of a former member of the military and rugby player who was kicked out of the sport due to showing excessive aggression. This type of character would implicate a hard hitting ring style which is usually not the favoured one amongst WWE top brass however it was a welcome change and Cesaro, using such hard hitting manoeuvres as the European Uppercut, was every bit as aggressive in the ring as his storyline needed him to be. Being paired up with WWE diva Aksana may not have been the greatest idea but their association was quietly dropped.
Cesaro slowly started to amass a large amount of wins when WWE decided to see what the Swiss star could do with a title run which led to a US title victory against Santino Marella. Looking back on the entirety of his reign it wasn’t the greatest title reign of all time and his matches weren’t always fantastic. However Cesaro became a staple on television actually defending the title (which is something sorely missing from WWE television right now – example Dean Ambrose) and began to demonstrate a unique move-set and a large amount of strength.
His finisher the Neutraliser did look impressing and performing it on The Great Khali in a US title defence on WWE’s Main Event was heavily highlighted by WWE which was certainly a smart move to do. It seemed Cesaro was going in the right direction until he dropped the title with no storyline or warning to Kofi Kingston in a nothing match on Raw no less in April of 2013. Just like that one of the longest title reigns in years was over with no fanfare at all. It was a nonsensical waste of Cesaro, Kingston and the US title.
Unfortunately Cesaro began to flounder from there on and seemed to have lost focus of WWE officials. What once looked the start of a promising career seemed to be heading towards another tale of a guy who would end up jobbing out to everyone then eventually fired. What appeared to save him from the path to the unemployment line was a tag team with Jack Swagger. Thrown together as most combos’ these days are, the two began an alliance in July known as The Real Americans.
With Zeb Colter as their manager initially it didn’t seem like the two were destined for tag greatness but the duo slowly began but surely began to click and actually added something to WWE’s thriving double’s division. Still going strong today it does seem if a break up is potentially in the midst as Cesaro appears to be headed for a babyface turn and big singles push. His feats of strength and Cesaro Swing manoeuvre (in which he swings his opponent around the ring for at least ten times) have endeared him to the audience and he is getting more cheers than boo’s these days.
Recently being entered into the Elimination Chamber match for the WWE World Heavyweight title shows tremendous faith in his ability to put on a great performance and so much so he was awarded a victory of WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton. Unquestionably that was the single biggest victory of his career – until Raw on February 17th in which he faced John Cena. Going against John Cena has always been a double edged sword in that it can either make or break you and the Swiss superstar put in such a performance that this night made him.
I’ll go so far as to claim that February 17th will actually be known as the turning point in the career of the real life named Claudio Castognoli. The match featured all the big moves and feats of strength you’d come to suspect from a Cesaro bout and in classic wrestling booking he may not have won the match itself but he came out a much bigger star than he went in. With all eyes towards Wrestlemania Cesaro may not be involved in the WWE title picture after The Elimination Chamber but it is certainly conceivable that the innovator of the Cesaro Swing has an incredibly bright future ahead of him.
Matthew Roberts | @matrob90