Examining Antonio Cesaro's Direction, Upside and Long-Term Potential
Antonio Cesaro's future will depend on his ability to overpower his critics.
Cesaro is an anachronism, a throwback wrestler not understood or appreciated by many. He's Mozart in a hip-hop world, a silent actor trying to land a job on TV.
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.
That's why WWE has struggled to figure out what to do with him.
He went from showing off his language skills to yodeling and is now one half of The Real Americans and Zeb Colter's latest mentee. Having the Swiss grappler with a history of anti-American sentiment join Colter's crew was a strange choice.
Sure it beats shifting from gimmick tweak to gimmick tweak and being left off pay-per-views, but it's a pairing that requires that's ill-fitting.
The partnership has allowed Cesaro to be a more consistent part of WWE programming. He and Jack Swagger nearly won the Tag Team Turmoil match at Night of Champions and battle babyface teams often. Being a Real American even led to him being in the world title Money in the Bank ladder match this July.
Cesaro's talent will have him in line for more Money in the Bank matches and far more, even if some WWE officials don't believe in him yet.
His peers have noticed his immense skill and given time and great match after great match, the folks in charge of booking will see the same thing.
What the Industry Sees
Goldust notes Cesaro's greatest quality—his strength.
Like Sin Cara's speed and Kofi Kingston's leaping ability, Cesaro's power is immediately noticeable. For fans who aren't wowed by great technical wrestling, it's this quality that will eventually win them over.
Sheamus' assessment emphasizes Cesaro's toughness.
Billy Gunn had high praise for him and Joey Mercury agreed.
All this acclaim from wrestlers past and present can only take one so far, though. It's the fans and bookers who determine a Superstar's success. Still, Jim Ross' description of Cesaro is a testament to the former United States champ's talents.
Ross wrote the following of the Swiss Superstar:
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 another talent that I would covet if I ever started a wrestling territory.
Even amongst all this praise, Ross predicts that Cesaro may take awhile to reach his peak. He has a point about Cesaro's subtlety. Diehard fans notice how well he sells for his opponents or how gorgeously he strings together a chain-wrestling sequence, but will casual fans?
The King of Wrestling
Being the best wrestler and the most successful Superstar don't necessarily go hand in hand, but being able to consistently impress in the ring can carve a path to the top. Daniel Bryan's mat skills forced WWE to take notice and Cesaro's best bet is to follow the same route.
Cesaro's collection of great matches is growing.
Yes, he clamps on a lot of chinlocks and doesn't fly around the ring like so many of his peers, but Cesaro can make a match dramatic and meaningful as evidenced by his recent bout against Dolph Ziggler.
Cesaro is compellingly aggressive here, stomping on Ziggler, powered by believable rage.
He taunts Ziggler when he's down, cracks his own neck and looks nearly unconscious after Ziggler nails him with the DDT. This is the kind of match Cesaro has on a regular basis. WWE can be confident putting Cesaro in a marquee clash knowing that he will produce work like this.
To counteract the more subtle parts of his attack, Cesaro also delivers a number of moves that are both beautiful and brutal.
His European uppercuts are the kind of hard-hitting move that make an audience gasp in unison.
Combine that with power moves like his superplex from the apron or using his foe like a baseball bat against a barricade and Cesaro does plenty in the ring to grab our attention.
These are the kinds of memorable moves that can win an audience over. Should his fanbase grow big and vocal enough, concerns about his intangibles will fade.
Boring or Underutilized?
Cesaro lacks flash, so much so that some of the people at WWE's helm haven't taken to him. Dave Meltzer, via CagesideSeats.com, reported that "the reality is that the people who are in charge believe that Antonio Cesaro is boring."
While Cesaro doesn't have the buzzing star power that John Cena has, part of the blame for Cesaro's alleged tedium has to go to the way he's presented. Husky Harris is far less interesting than Bray Wyatt and Skip Sheffield didn't have the same appeal as Ryback does.
Finding the best way to utilize Cesaro's abilities the way WWE did with those men is key.
When he was paired with Aksana and asked to tell the audience how many languages he spoke, he was certainly boring. Given a chance to belittle America on the microphone, Cesaro showed more spark.
This promo is above average. Cesaro delivers his lines naturally and has good timing.
His magnetism isn't at an elite level, but he can grow increasingly comfortable with experience to the point where his mic skills don’t hold him back from his potential.
Bryan was thought to be boring and lacking in personality once as well. WWE gave an opportunity to prove it wrong and he did. Expect the same thing for Cesaro.
Whether WWE makes him a throwback foreign heel or finds a new vehicle for him, Cesaro has enough charisma to supplement his top-notch ring work, to get us to care about his fights.
It's not his ability to speak that has the biggest chance of holding him back; it's a lack of belief in his ability from the company.
Allow him to have more matches like he had with Zayn at NXT on Raw and the fans will buy in. Hard-workers with a surplus of ability have a way of making fans forget about their weak points.
Cesaro is potentially a top heel.
He can be what Iron Sheik was to Hulk Hogan in 1984, the despised opposition to a beloved star. The Iron Sheik was a superior mat wrestler to Hogan and aided the believability of that match while Hogan brought star power to the equation. Cesaro can follow in that tradition against WWE's biggest fan favorites.
Pit him against Cena, Sheamus or Bryan and watch him thrive.
Winning the Money in the Bank briefcase, the WWE Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship are all goals within Cesaro's reach.
If WWE sees him as a yodeling, beret-wearing jobber, then he’ll be just that. If the company leaves the door ajar for him, Cesaro will come crashing in, uppercutting it off the frame.
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