In the 19th century, there were circus strongmen. You know the guys, they were bald and had twirly moustaches. Their arms were the size of tree-trunks, and they’d lift huge barbells over their head for fun. Well, Cesaro is the modern-day equivalent of the circus strongman.
The unreal strength and power of Cesaro makes him the natural fit to work in the WWE, as Vince McMahon loves to put over the big guys in the company. At 6ft 5in and weighing 232 lb (likely zero, if not negative, percentage fat), Cesaro is as big as they come. But why it would seem like he was on a fast-track to the top, Cesaro has never quite reached the highest echelons of the business in WWE. He’s never held a big title, nor has he headlined a WrestleMania. There’s still time for him, though, and if we’ve learnt anything from him in the past week, he never gives up. Even when his front teeth go missing…
Prior to his run in the WWE, Cesaro wasn’t Cesaro. He wrestled in the indies under his real name, Claudio Castagnoli. He initially made a name for himself across Europe, before heading to the States and working for famed promotion, Chikara. Over the course of eight years, Castagnoli would cement himself as a staple of the Chikara roster. Teaming with talented guys like Chris Hero (now Kassius Ohno in NXT) and Bryan Danielson (now Daniel… well, you know surely?), he also established himself as a strong tag team wrestler. However, his promos (and ties) still needed some serious work:
Teaming with talented guys like Chris Hero (now Kassius Ohno in NXT) and Bryan Danielson (now Daniel… well, you know surely?), he also established himself as a strong tag team wrestler. However, his promos (and ties) still needed some serious work:
Castagnoli would also work for other big indie promotions during this time. He would spend six years in Ring of Honor, again working with Hero as the Kings of Wrestling tag team. And he’d compete in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla in the US, and Pro Wrestling Noah in Japan. His skills as a wrestler were becoming internationally renowned, and it was only a matter of time before WWE came knocking.
Antonio Cesaro: The Real American
It’s 2011, and Castagnoli signed a developmental contract with the WWE (actually for the second time, the first time in 2006 failed to result in a full-time deal). He began to wrestle in their then developmental promotion, FCW, and quickly rose through the ranks. By 2012, he was on the main roster, now wrestling under the ring name Antonio Cesaro. But from the start of his WWE run, it always felt like that creative couldn’t settle on a decent gimmick for him. Christ, they even had him yodeling at one point:
Shockingly, the yodeler gimmick didn’t get over with the fans. But his wrestling talent did. The WWE recogonised this, too, giving him a 239-day reign as the United States champion. Following this, he became a “Real American” teaming with Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger before getting his biggest push yet – winning the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania XXX.
It seemed like Cesaro might emulate the success of Brock Lesnar (and even feud with “The Beast” himself), as WWE made him a “Paul Heyman guy” by teaming him up with the ex-ECW owner. But alas, this ended up another gimmick path that didn’t lead him to the main event. Cesaro ended up working in tag teams again on the lower card, after his relationship with Heyman dissipated. But as always, he’d put himself over with wrestling fans. Not with a gimmick, but with his own in-ring abilities.
Welcome To The Cesaro Section
The Cesaro Section was born, and Cesaro became a clear fan-favourite. This was validation of the respect he’d earned from the fans, despite him mostly being under-used in the roster. The WWE would start to push him as a baby-face in 2016, but again never all the way to the top of the card. But with his recent heel turn, and teaming up with Sheamus, Cesaro has found a new lease of life.
In two consecutive pay-per-views, the Swiss Superman has stolen the show, and on neither occasions it was because of his wrestling. Sure, both tag team bouts that he and Sheamus have had with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose were top-notch matches. But it was an encounter with a beach ball at SummerSlam, and having two front teeth shoved up into his mouth at No Mercy, that proved to be pure show-stealing Cesaro moments:
Cesaro just lost some teeth pic.twitter.com/OxgGPX00nX
— WrestlinGifs (@WrestlinGifs) September 25, 2017
The fact that Cesaro wrestled for another 10 minutes after the teeth incident, is proof of how tough of an competitor he really is. The WWE needs guys like him at the top. And not just because of how good he is, but because of how good he can make younger wrestlers become.
At 36, he’s probably in his grappling prime right now, and he deserves to be the wrestler everyone aspires to be. A top title reign, and a main event spot at the show of shows WrestleMania, is now long overdue for Cesaro. Because he doesn’t just set the bar, he is the bar.