Cesaro is generally accepted as one of the most talented wrestlers in WWE today. He is a former WWE United States Champion and has held the WWE World Tag Team titles twice, not to mention holding a great deal of tag and singles titles in independent promotions around the world before he signed with WWE in 2011. Cesaro’s incredible strength and natural charisma have made him a huge hit with the WWE Universe, but for whatever reason, he hasn’t quite broken through and become the main event superstar many of his fans believe he has the potential to be.
Today Cesaro speaks fluent English, but he was born in Lucerne, Switzerland, which both adds to his uniqueness and unfortunately starts to explain what the problem might be. Cesaro is supremely skilled, but there are a few pieces to the puzzle Vince McMahon feels are a little bit off, which is preventing Cesaro from the success fans think he deserves. Cesaro’s struggle to be accepted as a main eventer may one day become part of a WWE storyline, but there are certain things about him they probably won’t tell you on TV. Things like…
15. He’s A Star Wars Nerd
Whenever a foreigner becomes a success in America, fans inevitably take interest in what their perception of America was before they came here. Like many people, for Cesaro, that perception mostly came from the movies. Two series in particular Cesaro has gone on record to being a huge fan of are Star Wars and James Bond. In the right situation, it wouldn’t be too hard to see Cesaro playing a Bond villain or even a fellow spy, but fans might be surprised to imagine the big, tough weightlifting pro as a nerd who loves his wookies. The reality is, however, that Cesaro is such a big fan of Star Wars that in late 2015 he posted a picture of his home video collection on Instagram, claiming it was one of the only things he brought with him when he first moved to America.
14. He Speaks Several Languages
Fans of Kevin Owens may have been surprised to learn French was his first language, and fans of John Cena have recently been surprised to discover the Doctor of Thuganomics is at least partially fluent in Mandarin Chinese. It’s impressive for anybody to learn more than one language, but Cesaro absolutely blows both of them out of the water—he speaks five. According to Cesaro, he is completely fluent in English, German, Italian, French, and Swiss-German. Cesaro has used his intellect as part of his character, explaining his multilingual golden tongue as a byproduct of a high class European upbringing, but really, that’s a disservice to how difficult learning it all must have been. Maybe some Europeans are classier and more educated than the average American, but speaking five languages isn’t the norm anywhere, and Cesaro is really only bragging about himself when he brings it up.
13. His Real Name Is Claudio Castagnoli
For years before joining WWE, Cesaro wrestled in his native Europe and around the American independent wrestling scene under his birth name: Claudio Castagnoli. Maybe the name doesn’t smoothly fall out of one’s mouth the way Cesaro does, but something about it makes it look like a wrestler’s stage name. Using his real name, Castagnoli became a pretty decent star in Ring of Honor, Combat Zone Wrestling, CHIKARA, and various other wrestling promotions around the world. Despite what WWE may have you believe, the fact his name clearly meant he was a foreigner never particularly effected his drawing power, certainly not in a negative way. WWE has a longstanding policy of changing indy wrestler’s names for copyright reasons, but we bring all of this up because…
12. His Character’s First Name Is Antonio
When Cesaro first debuted on WWE SmackDown in 2012, he had a first name: Antonio. By February 2014, the first name was dropped, and he was simply Cesaro. It’s two years later, and his character’s first name has virtually been forgotten. The fact fans have complained about this may seem silly to some fans, and fair enough, because wrestlers and performers in general change their names all the time. However, many view this instance as emblematic of WWE’s long history of only pushing white bread American talents, and believe they dropped the first name because it sounded too foreign. Antonio doesn’t sound nearly as foreign as Claudio, though, and in any event, if that was indeed the case, it really shouldn’t have been an issue in the first place.
11. He Was Trained By A Former WWE and WCW Wrestler
Cesaro might be the first Swiss professional wrestler to become a big deal in WWE, but he’s hardly the first European wrestler to make a name for themselves stateside. One of the many European wrestlers to precede Cesaro was former WWE and WCW wrestler Dave Taylor. Despite working for the two biggest wrestling promotions of the 90s, Taylor was never exactly a huge star. Taylor typically wrestled as the tag team partner of William Regal, who obviously had significantly more longevity in the sports entertainment business. The team was known as The Blue Bloods, with Regal called Lord Steven Regal and Taylor acting as his Squire. Although he played second fiddle to Regal, Taylor was himself a highly respected grappler, and it shows in his best-known student. Cesaro and Taylor also formed 2/3s of a six-man tag team together, along with a pretty famous third partner…
10. He Teamed With Daniel Bryan
The tradition of The Fabulous Freebirds and the modern efforts of The New Day prove that a tag team can have well over two members and still be a huge success. In fact, the more is typically the merrier, and as the numbers game allows those 3-member-plus tag teams to dominate the usually two-man field. This seems a little unfair in WWE, but promotions around the world have dealt with it by creating 6-man Tag Team Titles and similar accolades. One of the more current outlets for this kind of team is the CHIKARA King of Trios tournament. In 2009, Cesaro entered the tournament, alongside his trainer Dave Taylor and future WWE superstar Daniel Bryan (then performing as Bryan Danielson). That trio in particular was called Team Uppercut, and they made it all the way to the finals before being defeated by F.I.S.T. Cesaro probably didn’t mind the loss too much, though, considering his success on the more traditional tag team circuit…
9. He Was A Member of Swiss Money Holding
This list has made several references to Cesaro’s Swiss heritage, and the nature of the wrestling business means that it was all but a guarantee that as one of the first Swiss wrestlers to become a global name, being Swiss had to be an integral part of Cesaro’s gimmick at one point or another. WWE attempted to make note of Cesaro’s background by once having him yodel his way down to the ring. While wrestling in Europe, he suffered an equally goofy gimmick: he was a member of a team of wealthy Swiss investment bankers who occasionally wrestled as a hobby. Although the gimmick sounds a bit like wrestle crap on paper, Cesaro and his partner, Ares, became arguably the most respected tag team in Europe during their time together. This drew the attention of indy wrestler Chris Hero, who invited the team to America. The Swiss Holding Company would eventually return to Europe, but it would only be a few short months before Cesaro decided he wanted to return to America, and more specifically, to reunite with Chris Hero. Why? Well…
8. He Was One Of The Kings of Wrestling
Swiss Money Holding were a decently well known team in Europe during their time together, but that doesn’t compare to the complete domination of the American tag team scene exhibited by Castagnoli and his new partner Chris Hero, who formed The Kings of Wrestling in 2005. The Kings of Wrestling would at times expand to include as many as 10 members, but Hero and Claudio always formed the foundation, and the two brought the group to their highest heights through their success as a tag team. The Kings of Wrestling primarily competed for Ring of Honor, holding that promotion’s Tag Team belts for almost a full year in 2010. The duo also had success and won tag titles in CZW, JCW, and CHIKARA, in addition to being named the Tag Team of the Year by the Wrestling Observer Newsetter the same year they held the RoH titles. Hero probably isn’t even Cesaro’s favorite former partner from the group, though, because…
7. He’s Dating Sara Del Rey
Sara Del Rey might not be an immediately recognizable name to fans of the WWE Universe, although her influence on wrestling is increasingly significant. Del Rey has wrestled for Ring of Honor, CHIKARA, Wrestling Society X, and IWA: Mid-South, and she was one of the most important figures in the creation of the all female promotion SHIMMER. In 2012, Del Rey did what virtually every successful independent wrestler in America seems to do, and signed with WWE. She’s stayed with the company for the past four years, but don’t expect to see her on Raw anytime soon—she is currently a trainer at the WWE Performance Center, and the assistant head coach at NXT. In addition to Del Rey’s impressive professional resume, she and Cesaro have been dating since at least 2008, with many reports indicating her relationship with Cesaro is what got her noticed by NXT in the first place. The two are less public about their relationship than some other WWE power couples, but have been seen together in the background of at least a few episodes of Total Divas. Despite his huge presence in the ring, Cesaro actually has some solid experience with being in the background…
6. He Was In The Wrestler
WWE loves nothing more than mainstream attention, but only if that mainstream attention is achieved on their terms. This is why the company only rarely mentions Darren Aronofsky’s 2008 film The Wrestler. The film won several Golden Globe and Independent Spirit Awards, and was even nominated for two Oscars. WWE helped promote the film at the time, having lead actor Mickey Rourke appear at WrestleMania XXV and engaging in a mini-feud with Chris Jericho. What WWE doesn’t mention is that several other past and future WWE superstars appeared in the film. Cesaro was just one of many wrestlers appearing in the background as a version of himself to aid in creating a realistic setting for Rourke’s character’s matches. Other WWE superstars in the film included Ernest Miller, Romeo Roselli, and R-Truth.
5. He Wrestled In Japan
With the debuts of AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura taking the WWE Universe by storm, the company has done a pretty good deal of explaining these superstars past success in Japan into their newly widened fan bases. Styles and Nakamura, as well as seasoned WWE veteran Brock Lesnar, all worked for the same company while in Japan: New Japan Pro Wrestling. While NJPW is definitely the biggest company in Japan, there are plenty of smaller indy feds in the country, just like there are in America. Cesaro briefly wrestled for the company Pro Wrestling NOAH. NOAH was founded by Japanese wrestling legend Mitsuharu Misawa in the wake of All Japan Pro Wrestling, which remains NJPW’s biggest competition. Given how WWE feels about competition, they probably won’t be saying anything about the rivals of their allies, either.
4. He Was A Real American
Despite the fact Cesaro was born in Switzerland and spent the first half of his career wrestling in Europe and Japan, in June of 2013 Cesaro teamed up with WWE’s resident racist Zeb Colter to form a team with Jack Swagger, known as The Real Americans. Only a few years after establishing himself as a proud Swiss, Cesaro and Colter started claiming Cesaro was the “ultimate legal immigrant,” and therefore more American than native-born citizens. Every part of Zeb Colter’s gimmick has been criticized as xenophobic and deeply questionable if not outright racist, and the gimmick only furthered Swagger’s descent down the card with the bonus of nearly dragging Cesaro down with him. Luckily the team only lasted a few months.
3. He’s A Paul Heyman Guy
Although The Real Americans were at least a little bit offensive at their core, Cesaro continued to grow popular with the crowd thanks to his wrestling skills, charm, and natural charisma in the ring. The night after WrestleMania XXX, Zeb Colter chastised Cesaro for losing a match with Swagger, and asked him what kind of guy he was. In what could have been the start of a big moment, Cesaro responded that he was a Paul Heyman guy, and introduced the former mastermind of ECW as his new manager. Fans were ready to accept Cesaro as a huge deal, especially considering what he did at WrestleMania the night before…
2. He Won The First Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
Fans are generally in agreement that WrestleMania 32 was not without its foibles, but one thing people were pretty content with was Baron Corbin winning the third annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Like with any profession, the first big victory of a person’s career is relevant not because of the achievement itself, but how they use it to propel themselves further. One reason fans are still skeptical is Cesaro’s big win three years ago, when the tradition was initially announced. At WrestleMania XXX, Cesaro body slammed The Big Show out of the ring to win the trophy, and his big Paul Heyman guy moment came the next night on Raw. And then…nothing. Eventually he found some moderate success in the tag division with Tyson Kidd, but until recently, that was about it for Cesaro as a solo performer. And the reason why is probably the most important item on our list.
1. Vince McMahon Admitted He Doesn’t Know What To Do With Him
Above all else, Cesaro has a reputation as being hands down the most underrated wrestler currently on the WWE roster. Obviously, fans, critics, and his high profile previous tag team partners like him, and it doesn’t end there. WWE Hall of Famers Ric Flair, Mick Foley, and Steve Austin have all gone on record to say the biggest problem in WWE today is their refusal to turn Cesaro into the massive star everyone believes he could be. The Wrestling Observer Newsletter has voted Cesaro the Most Underrated Wrestler every year since 2013. Unfortunately for Cesaro, there’s at least one person who just doesn’t get what all the fuss is about, and he’s the guy who’s opinion matters the most: Vince McMahon.
When McMahon was a guest on Steve Austin’s podcast in December of 2014, Austin told McMahon everything that everyone has been saying about Cesaro, and McMahon responded that he flat-out didn’t know what to do about it. In spite of his biggest star in history telling him otherwise, McMahon alleged Cesaro lacked charisma and didn’t have the “it” factor necessary to really make a name for himself in WWE. This is the same guy who pushes Roman Reigns down the fans throats. McMahon also said, however, that he wasn’t giving up on Cesaro. Perhaps this is why fans aren’t giving up on Vince one day simply opening his eyes and seeing the superstar he already has.