Looking at United States Champion Antonio Cesaro as he currently stands in the WWE is somewhat maddening. The company obviously has confidence in him, but he hasn't been put in a position to succeed. Cesaro has a ton of potential, though, and that will lead to a future main-event run.
Cesaro was put in a very difficult situation by the WWE from the start. Rather than simply debuting as a merciless, foreign heel, Cesaro was immediately thrown into a love triangle with Aksana and Teddy Long. The angle was stupid before Cesaro showed up since nobody believed Aksana was interested in Teddy, but his involvement didn't make it any better.
It ultimately led to Aksana accompanying Cesaro to his matches and he adopted a gimmick in which he would say a word in five different languages. It's obvious that the goal was to get him heat with the crowd since fans generally dislike cocky foreigners, but it failed to get over and he was essentially ignored.
Cesaro went on to capture the United States Championship from Santino Marella at SummerSlam, and while that gave him a more prominent position within the company, it hasn't launched him to superstardom as quickly as the WWE brass probably hoped it would. Despite that, Cesaro has all the tools necessary to be a big-time player in the business.
He regularly flashed his skills as Claudio Castagnoli in Ring of Honor as he and Chris Hero (now Kassius Ohno in NXT Wrestling) dominated the tag-team scene. There are differing opinions regarding who the strongest link of the team was depending on who you ask, but my feeling is that they have always been on equal footing in the ring, but Cesaro is superior on the mic.
Cesaro is Swiss-born, however, he has no issue cutting a promo in English and has the chops to be one of the WWE's best from a speaking standpoint. The biggest issue that Cesaro has encountered when it comes to that, though, is that he has been given terrible material to work with and still hasn't resonated with the fans.
He ditched the five-languages shtick, which was a good idea, but his new bit isn't working either. Since Cesaro is an arrogant, foreign heel it makes sense to have him degrade the fans, but there are right and wrong ways to go about it. Cesaro has largely focused on badmouthing holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving, and it doesn't appear as though the fans could care less about it.
The fact that Cesaro dumped Aksana a couple months ago and went off on his own proves that the WWE is on the right track, but Cesaro has yet to come into his own on the microphone. A little time and refinement can go a long way in that regard, but it's important to draw on what has worked in the past for foreign heels, as there are tried-and-true methods.
Another big reason for Cesaro's flatness as of late has been a complete lack of viable challengers for the U.S. title. He has been in possession of the belt for a few months, yet he hasn't had a notable feud yet. He had a brief rivalry with Santino and is engaged in a quasi-feud with R-Truth, but there is no heat behind it whatsoever.
The vast majority of Cesaro's title reign has involved him defending the belt against random mid-carders with little or no buildup. He has beaten the likes of Zack Ryder and Justin Gabriel on pay-per-views, however, the fans were never given a reason to care about those matches. The same can be said for his current angle with Truth, as they haven't even been given the opportunity to address each other on the mic.
Cesaro needs a rival that he can have an in-depth feud with as well as one that can push him from an in-ring perspective. The most logical option would be a returning Jack Swagger. Although Swagger has been a heel throughout his WWE career, he is in dire need of a complete repackaging and the perfect gimmick for him could be a pro-American face.
Swagger has credibility already as a former World Heavyweight Champion, and the fans are always willing to get behind an American gimmick. He is also excellent in the ring for a man his size and could potentially have the perfect style to mesh with what Cesaro brings to the table.
Cesaro has already proven to be one of the best pure wrestlers in the company, and he deserves a comparable talent to work with. While Cesaro has impressed me and many other fans based on his in-ring work alone, that usually isn't enough to draw in the casual viewers. Cesaro needs to find his pitch on the mic and enter into a feud that actually means something.
With all of that said, I don't doubt Cesaro's array of tools for a moment. If put in the correct position to succeed, he has everything that is needed to reach the next level. The current crop of top heels is a bit thin and guys like Big Show are aging, so there is going to be an open spot in the main-event scene eventually that Cesaro can occupy.
Building him up with the United States Championship and refining him in the mid-card is the right way to go about building him, though. Too many guys have been given too much in a short period of time and they have been crippled because of it. Slow and steady is the best route to take with Cesaro, even if it seems painfully slow at times.
He hasn't even been in the company for a year, so the fact that he is being mentioned as a possible main-eventer means that his skill set is elite. Provided the WWE doesn't squander Cesaro's considerable potential, he is undoubtedly a future world champion in the making.