Even taking into account his solid WWE matches and stellar independent career, Cesaro’s breakthrough in WWE took place in February of this year when he wrestled fantastic matches with Randy Orton and John Cena on Smackdown and Raw in the same week. Cesaro rode that wave of momentum into the WWE World Heavyweight Title Elimination Chamber match and then to a win in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania. Although his hot streak has cooled considerably since then, Cesaro had a tremendous week this week that was reminiscent of that breakthrough in February.
Cesaro’s Smackdown match with Dean Ambrose was nothing like the February victory over Randy Orton, but it was highly entertaining nonetheless. Cesaro and Ambrose faced off in a no disqualification match that featured lots of shots with kendo sticks and creative uses of chairs. Both wrestlers were suplexed or thrown into chairs repeatedly until the chairs were mangled in the ring. The biggest spot of the match took place after Ambrose threw a pile of chairs into the ring and Cesaro took advantage with a superplex onto them that looked painful for both parties. Seth Rollins intervened and tried to take out Ambrose to continue their ongoing feud, but Ambrose was able to fight him off and roll Cesaro into a small package for a surprising win. After the bell, the heels got their heat back with a beating on Ambrose that included a Curb Stomp by Rollins and a Neutralizer by Cesaro. It was the best match on Smackdown and demonstrated yet another style that Cesaro has in his repertoire.
Monday’s match with John Cena was an even bigger success for Cesaro and served as a reminder that he can elevate himself to the top of the card whenever the situation calls for it. He interrupted the conversation between Cena and his erstwhile manager Paul Heyman with some funny insults about Cena’s wrestling ability that showed he does not necessarily need a mouthpiece. He and Cena got an extended amount of time for a match in the first hour of Raw and made the most of the opportunity. Cesaro worked in some of his signature offense- a deadlift superplex, the Cesaro Swing, and plenty of stiff uppercuts-, as well as some counter wrestling and variations we don’t often see- such as a Greco-Roman knuckle lock and a top rope cross-body. Cesaro repeatedly frustrated Cena and found ways to avoid his big offense. He countered a side slam with a DDT, wriggled free of an STF attempt, and got away cleanly from Cena’s first two tries at the AA. Finally, Cena caught Cesaro on the top rope and hit an AA from the elevated position to win the match. It goes without saying that a loss to Cena is not especially damaging to a rising wrestler, but in this case, Cesaro was so competitive and entertaining that it actually enhanced his stock.
There is no guarantee that Cesaro is on the verge of a big breakthrough with WWE. In fact, with so much energy behind the Roman Reigns push, I think it is unlikely that there is room for another developing character to reach the main event. Brock Lesnar will likely rule the WWE for the next few months, and the ongoing storylines with The Authority, John Cena, and the remnants of The Shield leave little room for another big build. It is probably for the best, though, as Cesaro has shown that he can seize opportunities when they present themselves and remain entertaining even when the spotlight is not on him. When WWE needs Cesaro to become a main event player, I have no doubt that he will excel in the role. In the meantime, it is fun to watch him maximize his time like he did this week.