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.” – CM Punk, former WWE Heavyweight Champion
Such words speak volumes about the regard with which Cesaro is held by WWE employees. Before entering WWE, he spent years performing under the name Claudio Castagnoli in the Philadelphia-based Ring of Honor promotion. He has been a consistently excellent performer from the moment he debuted in WWE last year.
Many consider Cesaro to be 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 wrestling looks far more like what Verne Gagne and Karl Gotch did years ago than what most WWE fans are used to seeing.
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 the 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 doesn’t amount to much of anything without a push from management.
Thankfully Cesaro was paired with Jack Swagger to form the Real Americans. With Zeb Colter as their manager they have been an important component of WWE’s tag team renaissance. Hopefully they will have a run with the WWE Tag Team Championship.
If the Kingston match was Cesaro’s coming out party, then his 7/22 Monday Night Raw match against Daniel Bryan was when the world realized just how good he is. Bryan has long been known as WWE’s most versatile in-ring performer, capable of working a good match with anyone. 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 full of the hard hitting action both were known for prior to entering WWE. It was the closest thing to a ROH-style match WWE has produced.
For the remainder of 2013, Cesaro has maintained a stable presence alongside Swagger. 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 a finishing move his giant swing has got to be the most impressive maneuver in wrestling today. Popularized by Japanese wrestling legend Hiroshi Hase, the giant swing involves tucking an opponent’s legs under his arms and swinging them around as many times as humanly 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 truly 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.