Hail Cesaro: The Swiss Superman's 8 greatest matches
February 19, 2014
Behold the mighty Cesaro, an expatriate of both Switzerland and (one can only guess) Mount Olympus itself who has come to WWE for one purpose: Utter domination. An ever-evolving competitor in the guise of a throwback, the former U.S. Champion roams the ring like a mix between Frank Gotch and The Mighty Thor. He’s a Superstar who can dismantle shoulder joints with old-school holds or clobber opponents into different time zones with a seemingly infinite array of European Uppercuts. He has defanged Vipers, shown up Showoffs and tested future legends. Even those opponents who manage to defeat him are often found wanting in comparison.
Cesaro is America’s most fearsome adopted son, the future of sports-entertainment, and the one Superstar nobody wants to find themselves trapped in the ring with. What follows are eight of his mat masterworks, ranked in ascending order of their magnificence. He is Cesaro, and he is here to stay. Place your hands over your heart and pledge allegiance. Cesaro, and America, demand it.
Cesaro vs. Dolph Ziggler (WWE Superstars; Aug. 30, 2013)
It’s impossible to turn your attention away from the screen whenever Dolph Ziggler or Cesaro get in the ring, so on those rare occasions when these crowd-pleasing competitors square off one-on-one, don’t be alarmed by your sudden impulse to start a “This is awesome!” chant in your living room. It’s cool, we get it.
Our favorite encounter between the Real American and The Showoff occurred on an August 2013 edition of “WWE Superstars.” The exhilarating back-and-forth clash saw Cesaro daze Ziggler with a tremendous superplex, kick out of a Zig-Zag and then finish off the two-time World Heavyweight Champion with a teeth-rattling European Uppercut and Neutralizer. Even the brash Showoff would have to admit that Cesaro’s victory was pretty amazing. — JAMES WORTMAN
Cesaro vs. Kofi Kingston – U.S. Championship Match (WWE Main Event; May 1, 2013)
Heading into his match against Kofi Kingston on the May 1, 2013, edition of WWE Main Event, Cesaro succinctly stated that Kingston had taken his pride, his dignity and his United States Title, so he was going to take it all back that night.
Invoking his automatic rematch against The Dreadlocked Dynamo, Cesaro fought with a purpose. Unafraid to bend the rules and grab a handful of hair, Cesaro used his incredible strength to hurl Kingston around the ring with ease before showing off his vicious precision strikes. The Swiss Superman even muscled Kingston from the apron back into the ring with an amazing superplex.
Cesaro had WWE Universe members on the edge of their seats as he threw everything in his playbook at Kofi, yet the champion battled through every European Uppercut, a vicious double stomp on his leg and a half crab. In the end, Kingston was able to escape The Neutralizer and land Trouble in Paradise to retain the title. Though he did not win, Cesaro made it clear to the rest of the locker room that stepping in the ring with him would not be a night off. – BOBBY MELOK
The Real Americans vs. Sheamus & Christian (Raw; Feb. 10, 2014)
Cesaro carries himself with the composure of a Bond villain, but here’s the thing about The Swiss Superman: The dude can throw down when necessary. As the ruthless Real Americans, the former U.S. Champion and Jack Swagger stomp mudholes and walk them dry with impunity, though they ran into a Canadian-Irish brick wall against the tandem of Christian & Sheamus in a tag match on Raw.
Photos: Hall of WWE Tag Team Champions
There wasn’t a single competitor in this contest who didn’t get down and dirty; even the usually conservative Christian tapped into his inner brawler. The truly heavy hitting, however, was reserved for Cesaro and Sheamus in a sequence of uppercuts that nearly sent the bout spiraling into a boxing match. Despite an outstanding effort from both teams, the Irishman ultimately got the win with a Brogue Kick that nearly caved in Swagger’s face. No shame in that, though. Even the greatest fights have to end in loss for someone. – ANTHONY BENIGNO
Cesaro vs. William Regal (WWE NXT; Dec. 25, 2013)
If you want to see 2013’s most stellar throwback of a match, look no further than Cesaro and William Regal’s Christmas Day classic on WWE NXT. Featuring two hard-nosed, detail-oriented competitors brought up in the European style and seemingly cut from the same cloth, there was a sense of both mutual respect and sinister competition, too: Cesaro needed to prove he was superior to his forbearer and in-ring idol, and Regal needed to test himself against an opponent he conceded to be younger, stronger and better.
Bell-to-bell, the match is a true anomaly. Not once does Cesaro or Regal run the ropes. Nobody comes off the top turnbuckle and the action outside the ring is sparse. It is, for all intents and purposes, a match that unfolds entirely in the center of the ring. Holds are exchanged, joints are manipulated and chants of “This is wrestling” sweep through Florida’s Full Sail University. By the time Cesaro drops a double foot stomp on the back of Regal’s skull, setting up the match-winning Neutralizer, it’s clear to everyone in attendance that they’re witnessing something truly special. – JOHN CLAPP
Cesaro vs. Randy Orton (SmackDown, Feb.14, 2014)
If the measure of a WWE Superstar is how he fares in the ring against a champion, Cesaro may as well have chiseled his own face – most likely with his bare hands – onto the sports-entertainment Mount Rushmore with this match. WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton (laughably, in retrospect) thought taking down the Über-American would be a walk in the park; an easy rebound after a pair of disappointing losses to Daniel Bryan and John Cena.
Orton’s assessment was, to put it mildly, wrong. Not only did Cesaro come correct against the Champion of Champions, but he beat WWE’s Apex Predator at his own ruthless game, jacking Orton’s jaw with obliterating clotheslines and sending him soaring with the Cesaro Swing. An attempted RKO was met – how else – with a European Uppercut to the back of the dome before a Neutralizer put the “Face of WWE” to an unceremonious bedtime. The night ended with the Real American pointing at the WrestleMania sign, as is customary for the Superstar who is, invariably, headed for the glory of The Grandest Stage of Them All. It’s hard to argue at this point. – ANTHONY BENIGNO
Cesaro vs. Daniel Bryan (Raw; July 22, 2013)
Cesaro and Daniel Bryan were not strangers to one another when they met on Raw on July 22, 2013. In fact, it was almost five years prior to that night that the two faced each other in an indie show technical classic. However, their Raw match was less about polish and more about punishment. Raw General Manager Brad Maddox, after decreeing that Bryan was unworthy of challenging then-WWE Champion John Cena at SummerSlam, decided that WWE’s “Yes!” Man needed to prove himself in a nearly hour-long gauntlet against three unknown opponents, one of whom was Cesaro.
Though he made Jack Swagger tap out to his “Yes!” Lock, Bryan had no time to recoup before he met the multi-faceted human Swiss Army knife. As hard as Bryan tried to build momentum, Cesaro cut him down every time. At one point in the match, Cesaro pummeled The Beard with 19 consecutive uppercuts, then clotheslined him so hard that Bryan’s prone body flipped in mid-air! Minutes later, when Cesaro was ready to finish his opponent with one final uppercut, Bryan somehow managed to counter with a small package that he began securing while still in flight. Words don’t do what happened justice, so check out the match and be amazed. – JOEY STYLES
Cesaro vs. John Cena (Raw; Feb. 17, 2014)
A quick Google search will tell you a “dark horse” is defined as “a candidate or competitor about whom little is known but who unexpectedly wins or succeeds.” However, if you’re one who has called Cesaro a dark horse in this Sunday’s Elimination Chamber Match, then you just haven’t been watching that closely.
Just six days before stepping into the harrowing steel structure for the very first time, Cesaro went toe-to-toe with WWE’s benchmark, John Cena, and it quickly became astoundingly clear just how similar these two competitors are. With the showmanship of a Barnum & Bailey strongman, the former United States Champion manhandled the veteran with a dizzying Cesaro Swing, an impressive gutwrench slam, a mind-blowing superplex while Cena was dazed on the ring apron and several jaw-smashing uppercuts. Even an attempted Attitude Adjustment found Cesaro landing square on his feet and socking a swift boot to Cena’s jaw.
One brief mistake allowed Cena to finally nail the AA, but Cesaro took his opponent to the absolute limit. Fans knew it, everybody backstage knew it, and most of all, Cena knew it. Dark horse no more. – ZACH LINDER
Cesaro vs. Sami Zayn – 2 out of 3 Falls Match (WWE NXT; August 21, 2013)
In an ironic twist, Cesaro’s most thrilling effort to date was against a competitor the WWE Universe had barely even heard of, in a tiny arena about as far from WrestleMania glory as WWE boundaries allow. In a place where “the next generation” of WWE Superstars is forged, Cesaro emerged as the Superstar who led the charge in a 2-out-of-3-Falls Match, claiming the win at the expense of a human tornado named Sami Zayn. To his never-ending credit, the NXT standout proved to be anything but generic as an opponent in the rubber match of their then-tied rivalry. Zayn secured the first fall immediately with a brain-busting, running boot to Cesaro’s face that had many wondering whether the former U.S. Champion would be embarrassed a second time at the young blood’s hands.
The Real American fought hard to get back in the game and eventually succeeded, submitting Zayn with a vice-like chinlock that robbed him of his all-important speed. Cesaro later tapped into his famous strength to shoulder-press Zayn out of a tornado DDT into the Very European Uppercut, following up with The Neutralizer for the win. The NXT Universe in attendance immediately took to Twitter to praise the match, and they haven’t let up since (a rematch is planned for NXT ArRIVAL on WWE Network Thursday, Feb. 27). Considering it’s the bout that both “made” Cesaro as a competitor and catapulted Sami Zayn into the larger consciousness of the WWE Universe, it seems almost inappropriate the audience was so small for a match this amazing. Then again, legends are always born in the most unlikely places. – ANTHONY BENIGNO