Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Cesaro's Proof of Life

Just another proof in Cesaro's worthiness as a main event player in WWE
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Claudio Castagnoli came into WWE (for real, not his aborted first signing from back in 2006) with everything Vince McMahon could want in a professional wrestler except for his country of origin. A lot is made of WWE's problems with racism and treatment of black and otherwise non-white wrestlers, but anyone born outside of North America and possibly the British Isles get it just as bad. Cesaro had periods where it looked like he was going to get unprecedented treatment on the main roster, mainly through his run with the United States Championship and that period in early 2014 where he was inexplicably well-protected, but the default of McMahon not "getting" him seemed to win out.

Cesaro's treatment and booking on the main roster has been a source of consternation among fans everywhere. When Daniel Bryan broke through into the main event, the Swiss Superman had taken the mantel of "guy the vocal fans clamored for" above all else, but the stubbornness of WWE's creative department kept him on C-shows and at best, in a tag team for a company that hadn't had a tag team golden period in 15 years. Sometimes, support from fans isn't enough. McMahon is a stubborn asshole at times, needing apocalyptic circumstances to lead him in trying something different.

But being respected by his peers, especially one as influential as John Cena, may be a different story. The last two weeks in WWE programming have been an exercise in Cena demonstrating for a wrestler the biggest signs of respect that he could show. Cena going into extended sell mode for Cesaro is huge because he doesn't do it for everyone, even when the feud calls for it. The feuds he had with Rusev and Bray Wyatt failed in part because of the booking, but also because neither wrestler got the Cena who treated them as equals in the ring.

That iteration of the current United States Champion has been reserved for a select few wrestlers, either guys on an equal or higher plane than him like Brock Lesnar or The Rock, or the massively respected wrestlers in the locker room and among the fans like CM Punk, Bryan, and Kevin Owens. Cesaro, a guy who up to that point hadn't been in a headline feud since before WrestleMania XXX, got that treatment from Cena, and the fans were given reason to get into him the way they were in that post-Mania afterglow, before Paul Heyman, Rob van Dam, and the shittiest character presentation this side of TNA did him dirty. As a cherry on top of the sundae, Cena took to the mic after the cameras stopped rolling and put Cesaro over to the Chicago crowd to the point where some fans were in tears.

Cesaro has always had the support of the fans, and before anyone denigrates that support as being from "smarks" or "The Internet," those hardcore fan cheers act as seeds for the rest of the fans to take hold of and develop. His marquee run against Sami Zayn in NXT and I suspect his big push around Mania last year shows he has the respect certain elements in the WWE office, namely Triple H. And now, his insertion into the Cena/Owens feud has shown he has the respect of the most influential and important wrestler on WWE's roster right now. How much showing of work is going to be enough for McMahon to see what he has on his hands?

If this beginning of a push for Cesaro doesn't take hold, it won't be because he's not worthy. It'll be another failure in the vision of McMahon, showing that it's he, not his fans, his roster, or his consiglieres, that is out of touch. Cesaro has done everything short of throttling his big boss to get himself a spot at the table. Last night's half-hour showcase exhibition vs. Cena was overkill, good and entertaining overkill, but it still was the reinforcement of everything people have known about him since he came up to the main roster. He may have a thick accent and unconventional charisma, but the man is everything a pro wrestler should aspire to be. He proved last night that he belongs, just as he's been proving it all along.