2/20/14 Wrestler of the Week – Cesaro

The Wrestler of the Week award is designed to highlight a wrestler who made the most of his or her opportunities in a given week. While great matches or memorable promos certainly help a wrestler win Wrestler of the Week, the ultimate decision will also include consistency through the week and bonus points for pulling off a task with a higher degree of difficulty. 

2/20/14 Wrestler of the Week – Cesaro

Cesaro made this week’s decision for Wrestler of the Week the easiest one of 2014. After Daniel Bryan worked his way into fans’ hearts in 2013 with passable promos and phenomenal in-ring fire and storytelling, Cesaro has started to borrow that formula as he has been given more opportunities to start the new year. He went a long way toward making himself a star this week with an excellent win over Randy Orton on Smackdown and an even better loss to John Cena on Raw. They were two of the best matches on free TV this year and they showed what a polished, hungry wrestler can bring to the table when given his chance to elevate himself.

Cesaro’s match with Orton on Smackdown was part of Orton’s gauntlet through his Elimination Chamber challengers. When Cesaro qualified for the Chamber match with a win over Dolph Ziggler, I worried that he was included as a token heel to give the match at least one unique element  and that he would mainly just take finishers from the other five combatants before an unceremonious elimination. Cesaro and Orton had compatible styles that allowed them to stand toe-to-toe in a hard hitting match. They repeatedly found ways to counter each other’s moves that kept the match very unpredictable. Cesaro swung the match in his favor when he avoided Orton’s superplex and delivered a powerbomb instead. He followed it with a European uppercut and his Neutralizer finisher to end the match. Cesaro got star treatment from Michael Cole and JBL on the announce table which helped to put over the importance of his victory.

The announce team continued to heap praise on Cesaro on Raw when he challenged Cena in another match between Chamber participants. Cesaro and Cena put each other through a match that would have been right at home in a PPV main event. They told a very compelling story about how Cesaro could match Cena’s raw strength so Cena had to come up with other ways to put together offense. Cesaro continually headed off Cena’s rallies and came back with powerful moves of his own. Even though he did not hit the Neutralizer, there were a few moments at which it felt like Cesaro might have Cena beat. They also did an excellent job to build up to signature moves as they failed to execute them early. When Cesaro finally got the Cesaro Swing and Cena finally hit the AA, the moments were more exciting because the wrestlers had to work to get to that point. The AA that Cena hit ultimately ended the match, though Cesaro’s performances in his two matches made sure that the effect of the loss could not outweigh his success through the week.

It has long seemed like Cesaro was destined for the type of high end success that fellow independent luminaries CM Punk and Daniel Bryan eventually achieved in WWE, but it took him considerable time to break through. While his character will continue to evolve and there is still room for improvement in how he relates to fans outside of the ring, he got star-caliber fan reactions for his matches with Orton and Cena. Since success in wrestling is defined by fan reaction, it would be hard to argue that Cesaro was anything less than a star for the last week.