Analyzing What Makes Antonio Cesaro An Elite In-Ring Performer

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Analyzing What Makes Antonio Cesaro An Elite In-Ring Performer
(Photo: WWE.com)

Even if WWE doesn't treat him as such, Antonio Cesaro is one of the greatest in-ring performers in pro wrestling today.

Much of the talk after Monday's WWE Raw was deservedly centered around Daniel Bryan's fantastic performance. Cesaro, though, elevated that gauntlet match from great to awesome with his power, technical skill and storytelling between the ropes.

Cesaro was an elite wrestler before he debuted for WWE, and even after being asked to yodel, crouch around like a cartoon villain or join Zeb Colter's militia, he continues to show off his talent each time he competes.

What makes him so impressive? Let's start with his strength beyond his size.

 

Strength

A part of the appeal of WWE Superstars is their superhero-like quality and Cesaro's strength fits into that category. Fans are continually dazzled by how powerful Cesaro is. 

That power allows him to hit a variety of moves on just about any opponent.

He's had no trouble hitting his Neutralizer finisher on a man over 100 pounds heavier than him in The Great Khali or on 375 pounds worth of funk in Brodus Clay. He also recently stunned the crowd by superplexing Kofi Kingston from the ring apron.

Cesaro's strength makes moves like his gutwrench suplex and his version of the spinebuster more compelling, as there is a more thunderous impact when his foe hits the mat.

It's also a big reason that his European uppercuts are the best in the business. His power turns his arms into sledgehammers pounding away at any facade in his path.

That power also helped him create the jawdropping moment where he smacked Miz into the barricade several times over.

 

Technical Skill

Great mat wrestlers and powerhouses are generally two separate categories, but not in Cesaro's case.

Think of WWE's strongest Superstars, and names like Mark Henry, Big Show and John Cena will come up. A list of the best technical wrestlers will include guys like Bryan, Dolph Ziggler and CM Punk. Cesaro is an amalgamation of those two groupings.

Along with being able to toss just about anybody around the ring, he can deliver a fluid, realistic wrestling match.

In a recent match against Cody Rhodes on WWE Raw, Cesaro showed off that ability.

His transitions from move to move here are smooth, turning a headlock into an attempted suplex and countering an attempted sunset flip into a double stomp.

In an interview with Phil Strum, Cesaro said he has studied and modeled himself after Fit Finlay, Dave Taylor, William Regal and Karl Gotch.

That comes as no surprise because Cesaro's throwback ring style has drawn comparisons to Gotch. He shares a similar viciousness with Regal and Finlay. All of those men are accomplished wrestlers who employed the hybrid catch style.

Striving to emulate those wrestlers shows up in Cesaro's WWE work.

He comes off as a ring general in control of the action and solidifies any matchup he's in.

Cesaro looks to strike Bryan mid-air. (Photo: WWE.com)

 

Storytelling

His matches don't come off as exhibitions however. They are works of theater.

One of his best performances thus far was losing the United States Championship to Kingston. As the aggressor, Cesaro wore a devilish grin on his face and disrespected his challenger by pushing him in the back of the head. As the victim, his head snapped back and his body went limp where appropriate.

He and Kingston generated a stockpile of emotion and excitement in a match few had high expectations for.

When given the opportunity, Cesaro has done this time and time again.

The problem is that for every match like his battles with Kingston, he's been asked to be a part of a squash or a meaningless, hurried bout.

Monday's WWE Raw was designed to elevate Bryan, to make him look like a viable contender for Cena's title. Cesaro shone nearly as bright as him in a secondary role.

Of Bryan's three matches that night, it was his bout with Cesaro that had more people talking, including Pro Wrestling Illustrated.

That's a direct result of Cesaro's elite abilities as an in-ring storyteller, a mat wrestler and a powerhouse. Should WWE continue to showcase him, Cesaro will reward the company with classic matches.

Hopefully when we look back at Cesaro's WWE story years from now, it will not be one of talent going to waste but how WWE made full use of their phenomenal in-ring performer.

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