“This man has the makings of a future champion.” — John Cena on Cesaro
The above statement is high praise, indeed, particularly coming from 15-time world champion John Cena, who in recent years has been regarded as the face of WWE.
Oddly enough, that remark wasn’t made following Cena’s four-star match with Cesaro on Monday Night Raw, but was proclaimed by Cena nearly two years earlier during a tour of Germany.
Cena sang Cesaro’s praises once again after Monday night’s 30-minute gem, but his lofty endorsement wasn’t unlike others in the company who have long considered Cesaro to be one of the most finely tuned workers in the business.
With that being said, one might surmise that Cesaro would be firmly entrenched among WWE’s upper echelon of performers by now. Sadly, though, that isn’t the case.
The ultra-talented “King of Swing,” who has shined while challenging Cena for his U.S. heavyweight title two consecutive weeks on Raw, has more than proved his chops. He is, simply put, the real deal.
As good as their match was two weeks ago on Raw, where Cesaro won via DQ due to the interference of Kevin Owens, their bout last Monday was a bona fide match of the year candidate.
It was a classic back-and-forth battle that kept fans on the edge of their seats, giving the U.S. heavyweight title some added prestige and reminding fans that Cena’s in-ring skills shine brightest when working with a master technician like Cesaro.
Cena again made sure he recognized Cesaro after Raw went off the air Monday night.
“For two weeks straight, even with The Beast (Brock Lesnar) destroying a Cadillac, the word on everyone’s lips is Cesaro,” Cena told a packed house at Allstate Arena in Chicago.
Cena invited Cesaro to get back into the ring where he told him he was standing on hallowed ground among the rowdiest crowd in the WWE Universe.
“I don’t know when your next opportunity is,” said Cena, “but I’m telling you, man to man, you’ve made the absolute most out of the last two.”
Cesaro has done that and much more. He has awed fans with his physical prowess and technical ability inside the ring. When put on the big stage, he always delivers.
Yet he has been mired in WWE’s mid-card territory since joining the organization several years ago and continues to be the most under-utilized talent on the roster.
The multilingual Cesaro, whose real name is Claudio Castagnoli, has been wowing fans for the past decade. While it’s true that the 34-year-old Cesaro has become well known to the masses on an international scale for only the past few years, he’s been mastering his craft in the pro ranks for 14 years.
To those who closely follow the business, the “Swiss Superman” has been on the tag-team radar for years, most notably with longtime friend Chris Hero as The Kings of Wrestling.
Their first run saw them win the Chikara Tag World Grand Prix in 2006. They later won and kept the Ring of Honor tag title longer than anyone in company history, wearing the belts from April 3, 2010, to April 1, 2011.
Pound for pound, the 6-5, 230-pound Cesaro is regarded as the strongest man in WWE.
Perhaps Cena’s latest ringing endorsement was meant to send a loud and clear message to WWE owner Vince McMahon and the powers that be who like to use the elusive “brass ring” as a motivational symbol for WWE performers.
Using that logic, it seems that Cesaro has done more than enough to have warranted a major push that certainly puts him well within reach of that imaginary ring. His ability to stand out from the pack and consistently put on quality matches makes him a valuable commodity for any organization.
While WWE executive Triple H (Paul Levesque) is said to be on board for a Cesaro push, ultimately the final decision to pull the trigger will rest with father-in-law Vince McMahon, who reportedly was glued to the backstage monitors watching Monday night’s main event.
Last December on Steve Austin’s podcast, McMahon said that Cesaro hadn’t yet connected with the WWE audience because he’s Swiss.
Some of Cesaro’s early detractors, such as Mick Foley, have changed course.
“I used to think that Cesaro was a guy who would have made a great world champion in a bygone era — a champion in the mold of a Lou Thesz, a Harley Race, a Jack Brisco, a Dory Funk Jr. But after seeing Cesaro in action these past few weeks, I’ve changed my mind. Cesaro would make a great world champion in any era, including the present WWE era!”
WWE Hall of Fame announcer Jim Ross, a highly respected judge of talent, made it a point to lend his voice to Cesaro’s growing number of supporters.
“Cesaro showed, again, that he’s ready for main events on a regular basis with no start and stop involved. Turn Cesaro loose. I’d love to see Cesaro vs Lesnar some day.”
As would millions of other WWE fans.
Reach Mike Mooneyham at 843-937-5517, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMike Mooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham.