A Wrestler You Should Probably Know Better: Antonio Cesaro

#BetterKnowCesaro

It’s the First Day of #AntonioCesaroWeek, a celebration of all things Very European/Real American and the second installment of our (patent-pending) Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week series. As always, we’ll start by making Cesaro a Wrestler You (Should) Probably Know Better. Tomorrow, we give you the finer points of the Claudio Castagnoli oeuvre with some Essential Viewing then march through Wednesday with a GIF Parade (and a bit on the soothing powers of The Swiss Superman with “Angry” Andy.) After Hump Day, we’ll make our Amazon.com-on-steroids dreams come true with “Juice Make Sugar Recommends…” before finishing everything off on Friday with a Difference of Opinion (where JMS HQ erupts in a Swiss Death-fueled civil war.)

While I am always impressed when I watch Antonio Cesaro, I ask myself a lot of questions: What do other wrestlers think of him? Are they jealous? When he held Sami Zyan above his head while walking backward fully across a ring before tossing Sami up in the air and giving him a perfectly timed European uppercut, did they ask for pointers on proper technique? Or when they wear his t-shirts out in public, are they subconsciously trying to tell us about how good his is? Or do they wear them because they are fans themselves?

When I watch Antonio Cesaro, I don’t look at what he’s done. I don’t think about the first time I remember watching him, in the main event of A New Level, where he battled then-World’s Champion and now-commissioner of ROH, Nigel McGuinness at the company’s first show in the Hammerstein Ballroom. I don’t think about him walking to the ring with Aksana dressed as what I assume Vince McMahon’s imagines (fantasizes?) a rugby player would dress like if he also wrestled part time before saying stupid things in five different languages before actually throwing someone around the ring like they let John Cena pretend to do.

When I hear or read about Antonio Cesaro, I think about VCRs.

***

I’m too young to actually have been an active member, but as a subscriber to a wrestling torrent website or two, I’m acutely aware of how important tape trading was to the development of not just the business, but our community of fans as a whole. We still exist in the nether regions of the internet, in what experts call “dark social”, closed off from the public on message boards and in comment sections. It’s always been that way, even as more and more part of the World Wide Web have been touched by the light of social networks.

But, with the Raw app pushed by the WWE as “a new way to watch television”, much of the activity with that once got lost in the abyss are now becoming viral, using twitter to spread the virus of Awesome to the unfortunately non-afflicted.

Like an exploding ring barbed wire death match from the 1990s, the El Generico-Claudio Castagnoli 2-of-3 Falls Match became a must-see event. Friends who had not watched wrestling since Stone Cold retired were standing and applauding, very aware even outside of the context of WWE’s 80 hours of weekly programming that they had watched a wholly unique experience in the world of sports entertainment.

That it was originally presented just for the people of the internet made it even more special.

For years there had been a feeling of marginalization, pushed out of the business to make way for children and their parents disposable incomes, and for us, Zyan-Cesaro was a return to the days of Rick Rude and Ricky Steamboat when faces flew around and overcame odds while dastardly heels with great looks fought as fair as they needed to beat you and still be able to brag about it the next day. It meant not just that we’d be able to see great wrestling from at least two (of many many many) rising stars for the next decade, but they’d even supply the bingo hall-sized room like the laboratory for the last time we could be “proud” to be wrestling fans (you know, before the necrophilia and paternity angles brought up back down to Nerdville) where men like Paul Heyman performed experiences in the art of storytelling.

Which, of course, is just a really fancy way of saying: we were getting our exploding ring barbed wire death matches again. But this time, the explosions would limited to the reactions from the crowd.

***

That’s not to say Antonio Cesaro is the only Indy darling to make it, or that’ll he’ll be the last or the best. In fact, it’s easy to say that CM Punk is the only reason that someone like Antonio Cesaro has a chance, and they may have a point. He’s not particularly great on the mic, and for someone who spends as much time wowing the crowds – and oddly the commentators, who don’t even admonish him for associating with Zeb and Jack, mostly choosing to talk about how palpably good he is at professional wrestling – he surely finds himself in a lot of tag teams.

While he’s clearly gifted, and even when you take into account the incredible success he had with Chris Hero as the Kings of Wrestling and Sweet N’ Sour International with the late great Larry Sweeney, a wrestler as talented as Cesaro spending so much time wrestling half of the matches he’s in. It can make one wonder if there is something holding him back.

It may be a matter of Americans hating people with any type of accent that doesn’t remind of Guinness commercials, trained by years of jingoism and wrestling history that accents = funny/evil, but regardless of the reason, having not moved past “mildly protected US champion” into any feud of any significance has started to make fans of his worry, especially when Alberto Del Rio manages to transcend the inherent unfairness of wrestling fan xenophobia.

And it’s a fair question as he moves forward, whether or not he can branch out on his own or if he is resigned to a career as the World’s Champion Hardcore Holly Impersonator. But for now, I choose to not think about that. I rather think about how much fun I have watching him. That, and the faint smell of Swiss Death:

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