Entering WrestleMania last year, Daniel Bryan and Kane were unexpectedly the hottest tag team in the WWE. The duo was probably teamed up because the WWE really wasn't sure what to do with either of them.
Bryan was stalling after a successful heel run and Kane, well, he's never really had much direction in his career that's spanned a decade-and-a-half.
By the end of last summer, Bryan had managed to rise above the tag ranks and earn a shot at the WWE title, main eventing SummerSlam against John Cena.
Few could have expected such an ascension based on where Bryan stood on the card just a few months earlier: in a late addition tag match against Dolph Ziggler and Big E.
This year, we're marching to the biggest show of the year with "YES!Mania" running wild. It's fair to say that Bryan is the biggest star in the wrestling world at this moment and could be anointed the leader of a new generation on April 6.
Something bizarrely familiar is happening with another former indy darling who has been bumping around the midcard in a tag team for the last year.
(Don't call him Antonio) Cesaro has run with Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter as the Real Americans since after WrestleMania last year, confounding many with the team's success.
Much like the Team Hell No pairing, I can't believe many people saw Swagger and Cesaro as a star-building solution for either performer. After Swagger flopped as a singles challenger to Alberto Del Rio at 'Mania and Cesaro didn't even make the card, it looked like a way to keep Colter busy since he was signed to a contact after all.
Before long, the crowds were popping for the team's entrance. In a loud, clear voice, fans chanted "We The People" with the trio standing in the middle of the ring. Somehow, a guy previously known as The Swiss Superman was over with a Tea Party Patriot gimmick.
Had Cesaro not joined Colter and Swagger, I'd wager the characters would've struggled to get TV time and would be jobbing out to Sin Cara on Main Event each week.
The fans have taken to Cesaro for the same reason they took to Bryan: They know talent.
Cesaro is a truly great ring worker. Due to his diversity of styles and prowess for a man his size, I don't think it's beyond reason to say he's actually a better wrestler than Bryan.
Heresy, you say? Go watch his last two matches with Sami Zayn. Cesaro has never had a bad match. He sells like a luchador for bigger, more powerful men. He's the best base for any high-flyer to work off when serving as the powerhouse in a match himself. He also understands ring psychology as well as anyone I've ever seen.
What other man could possibly have gotten the Giant Swing over as a signature move in 2014? Nobody. Nobody except Cesaro.
I can hear Vince McMahon in the back screaming, "What a maneuver!" while watching him hit the move each time on the show.
Cesaro understands his character and lives it within the ring and on promos. His character is just an enhanced version of himself. He's an elite athlete with a desire to be the best. He can play smug, angry, ambitious, confident, goofy, funny, wholesome—you name it.
WWE recognizes that the fans are turning in his direction.
He closed his match with Zayn on NXT Arrival with an embrace and a handshake. The respect angle is one of the most traditional first steps for a heel turning face.
His placement in the Elimination Chamber was a test to see how he held up in a major match with top talents from the company. He clearly played the part without missing a step.
While it's minor, it shouldn't be overlooked. This week, Cesaro "conducted an interview" with Hulk Hogan. The reason I put that in quotes is because Cesaro spoke a combination of the various European languages he knows throughout, while Hogan pretended to understand and deliver a promo about the Andre the Giant Battle Royal at WrestleMania.
This was a test for Cesaro, who showed off his ability to play a comedic role—no matter how small—and pull it off with someone of Hogan's stature.
Cesaro will likely be turning face, going over Swagger and moving up the card sometime this summer.
I previously wrote that I expect Big Show to win the Andre Classic at Mania as an ode to the big man himself, but I'd put Cesaro as another favorite. I wouldn't be surprised if he stole the pre-show with a great feat of strength during the Battle Royal or even won it himself. The crowd would love it.
Cesaro has been tested in the ring over the last few months. He and Cena had what's been Cena's best match with anyone not named Punk or Bryan in the last few years on Raw. He and Orton had a knockdown, drag-out technical brawl on SmackDown.
We see that he looks the part. It's just a matter of WWE giving him the chance to stand up to a top star and bring it in the ring on the big stage.
I'm not saying Cesaro is going to be wrestling two marquee matches at next year's WrestleMania and winning the belt. I highly doubt that he'll be the top star in the company. Of course, both these statements would've been absurd to say about Bryan at this time last year as well.
All I'm saying is that, as we salivate at the future led by Bryan, Bray Wyatt, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Cody Rhodes, don't forget to keep the Swiss Superman on your shortlist of leaders for the new New Generation.