Antonio Cesaro is the very definition of a wrestler’s wrestler. What this means is that he’s more appreciated by those within the profession than to the casual audience. The following comments are evidence of this.
“I’m a fan of Cesaro’s work, and feel he can evolve into a main event level talent in WWE. Cesaro’s skill-set is loaded with subtle things, which arguably makes one take a longer route to reach the top. Cesaro’s a talent that I would covet if I ever started a wrestling territory.”- Jim Ross, former announcer and talent relations executive in WWE
“I will go on record right now that it’s absolutely ridiculous that Cesaro didn’t have a match at WrestleMania.” – C.M. Punk, former WWE Heavyweight Champion
Before entering WWE, Cesaro spent years performing under his real name Claudio Castagnoli in the Philadelphia-based Ring of Honor promotion. He has been a consistently excellent performer from the moment he debuted on WWE television last year.
Cesaro is a throwback to an older style of wrestler. Though he can work a good match with virtually anyone on the roster, he has a no-frills, grinding approach to the mat game. His style is far more reminiscent of Billy Robinson and Karl Gotch, two technical greats of the 1960s and 70s, than what most WWE fans are used to seeing in this day and age.
It wasn’t until a 5/1 WWE Main Event match against Kofi Kingston that people really began taking notice of his talent. The two pulled out all the stops and delivered a performance on par with the company’s best PPV matches of the year.
Instead of building upon their momentum the company did little to elevate either competitor. They even booked Cesaro to lose a week later in a squash against Randy Orton. History has shown that having all the talent and charisma in the world won’t amount to much without the backing of management.
Thankfully Cesaro was paired with Jack Swagger to form the Real Americans. With Zeb Colter as their manager the two have been an important component of WWE’s recent tag team renaissance. Hopefully they will have a run with the belts at some point.
If the Kingston match was Cesaro’s coming out party, then his 7/22 Monday Night Raw match against Daniel Bryan should’ve been the moment when the world realized just how great he is. Bryan has long been considered as one of the very best wrestlers in the entire world. In Cesaro he had an opponent that was equally talented.
Their match was the second of a three-match gauntlet Bryan competed in that evening. After besting Swagger, Bryan beat Cesaro in a 19:07 wrestling clinic. It was the closest thing to a ROH-style match that both have competed in since being in WWE.
Cesaro maintained a stable presence alongside Swagger for the remainder of the year. He also participated in a critically-acclaimed best of three series against rising star Sami Zayn (formerly El Generico in ROH) on NXT. It would be great to see a rekindling of their feud once Zayn makes his way onto the main roster.
When looking at Cesaro’s outlook for the future, there are two things in particular that sway in his favor. The first is his look. Compared to the majority of wrestlers that come from ROH, Cesaro actually fits WWE’s standard of the size they prefer.
The second is his remarkable strength. Despite it not being his finishing maneuver, his giant swing has got to be one of the most impressive sights in wrestling today. Popularized by Japanese wrestling legend Hiroshi Hase, the giant swing involves tucking an opponent’s legs underneath the arms and swinging them around in as many reps as possible. The notable thing about Cesaro’s version is that he can effortlessly apply it to guys twice his size. Watching him perform the move on Brodus Clay and Great Khali is a sight to behold.
Even without being featured in the top mix, it’s a testament to Cesaro’s tremendous ability that he was able to stand out from pack as being one of the best wrestlers of 2013.