Cesaro (wrestler)

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Cesaro
Cesaro March 2018.jpg
Cesaro as the WWE Raw Tag Team Champion in March 2018
Birth nameClaudio Castagnoli
Born (1980-12-27) 27 December 1980 (age 38)
Lucerne, Switzerland
ResidenceOrlando, Florida, U.S.
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)Antonio Cesaro
Cesaro
Claudio Castagnoli
Billed height6 ft 5 in (196 cm)[1][2]
Billed weight232 lb (105 kg)[1][2]
Billed fromLucerne, Switzerland[1]
Trained byChris Hero
Dave Taylor
Mike Quackenbush
SigMasta Rappo[3]
Skayde[4]
Debut24 December 2000

Claudio Castagnoli (born 27 December 1980) is a Swiss professional wrestler. He is currently signed to WWE, where he performs on the SmackDown brand under the ring name Cesaro.[1] He was previously known for his work in Ring of Honor (ROH) and various independent promotions including Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG), Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW), and Pro Wrestling Noah under his real name.

Castagnoli is an accomplished tag team wrestler, being a two-time ROH World Tag Team Champion with his partner Chris Hero as The Kings of Wrestling (where their 364-day reign as champions is the longest in company history). Within WWE, he is a six-time tag team champion, including one reign as SmackDown Tag Team Champion with Sheamus whilst teaming with him and holding the WWE (Raw) Tag Team Championship a record five times, sharing one reign with Tyson Kidd as part of their team and four reigns with Sheamus. He has also won various independent tag team titles both with Hero and with Ares as Swiss Money Holding, such as the Chikara Campeonatos de Parejas, the JCW Tag Team Championship and the CZW World Tag Team Championship. Castagnoli and Hero were voted as the 2010 Tag Team of the Year by Wrestling Observer Newsletter readers. He has also had success as a singles wrestler, having won the WWE's United States Championship and the inaugural André the Giant Memorial Trophy at WrestleMania XXX, along with numerous independent singles titles, such as the PWG World Championship.

When playing a villainous character, particularly in the United States, Castagnoli has been known to emphasize his European origin as part of his gimmick, proclaiming a superior intellect and fashion sensibility, and by regularly using the European uppercut.[5][6] Castagnoli is also known for his feats of strength in the ring and is frequently mentioned as one of WWE's best and most underrated performers. He was consequently recognized by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter as the Most Underrated Wrestler in the world a record four times, from 2013 to 2016.[7][8]

Early life[edit]

Claudio Castagnoli[9] was born in Lucerne on 27 December 1980.[1][10][11] He was a capable sportsman in his youth, being a keen participant in tennis, football, and basketball,[11] sports that he still follows today.[12][13][14]

Professional wrestling career[edit]

Europe (2000−2004)[edit]

Castagnoli received his initial training in his homeland from fellow Swiss wrestler SigMasta Rappo,[3] and made his debut on 24 December 2000 in Essen for the Germany-based Westside Xtreme Wrestling.[15] He first used a Japanese gimmick before changing it to a Swiss banker, along with Ares, together known as Swiss Money Holding. While performing in England, Castagnoli received training from Dave Taylor. In Switzerland, he met Chris Hero and Mike Quackenbush, who invited Swiss Money Holding to perform in the United States.[11] They competed in IWA Mid-South and Chikara and received training from Hero before returning to Europe. In 2004, Castagnoli received permanent United States residency in his first try at the green card lottery and moved to the United States, where he began making regular appearances for Ring of Honor and Chikara, while Ares remained in Switzerland and formed the new Swiss Money Holding with Marc Roudin.[11]

Chikara[edit]

Kings of Wrestling (2003–2006)[edit]

Castagnoli and Ares made their Chikara debuts on 5 July 2003, at the 2003 Tag World Grand Prix, from which they were eliminated after drawing with the SuperFriends (Chris Hero and Mike Quackenbush).[4] Castagnoli returned to Chikara in 2004 as a member of Larry Sweeney's Sweet 'n' Sour International faction.[4] The following year Castagnoli teamed up with Arik Cannon to form AC/CC. The team entered the 2005 Tag World Grand Prix and ended up winning the tournament after Hero turned on his partner Quackenbush in the final of the tournament.[16] Together, Castagnoli, Cannon, and Hero formed the Kings of Wrestling faction. Cannon left the promotion at the end of 2005, leaving Hero and Castagnoli to form a regular tag team. They entered the 2006 Tag World Grand Prix, defeating Equinox and Hydra, Ranmaru and Sumie Sakai, the North Star Express (Ryan Cruz and Darin Corbin), Incoherence (Hallowicked and Delirious), and finally Team Dragondoor (Skayde and Milano Collection A.T.) to become the inaugural Chikara Campeones de Parejas.[4][17][18]

On 17 November 2006 at the Chikara show Brick in Reading, Pennsylvania, Castagnoli and Hero lost the Chikara tag titles to Team F.I.S.T. (Icarus and Gran Akuma) in a two out of three falls match. Following the match, Hero and Team F.I.S.T. turned on Castagnoli and attacked him.[19] In November 2006, it was revealed that Castagnoli had signed a developmental deal with the World Wrestling Entertainment, having impressed them with an appearance on Raw (as a police officer in a backstage segment) and a successful tryout for Deep South Wrestling. Shortly after, Castagnoli was released from his WWE contract.

Singles competition (2007–2009)[edit]

Castagnoli (right), upon his return to Chikara with Ice Cream Jr. (left) and El Hijo del Ice Cream

Castagnoli returned to Chikara on 16 February 2007, as a masked character named 'A Very Mysterious Ice Cream', part of Los Ice Creams.[20] Afterward Castagnoli started feuding with his former partner Chris Hero. On 22 April 2007, at Rey de Voladores Hero defeated Castagnoli and as per stipulation of the match Castagnoli was forced to re-join the Kings of Wrestling.[21] The following month Hero, Castagnoli and Larry Sweeney joined forces with Team F.I.S.T. (Icarus, Akuma and Chuck Taylor) to form the Kings of Wrestling superstable, which was later joined by Mitch Ryder, Max Boyer and Shayne Hawke. On 22 September 2007, at Cibernetico & Robin the Kings of Wrestling faced Los Luchadores in the annual torneo cibernetico match. The Kings won the match with Hero, Castagnoli and Mitch Ryder as the survivors, but since the match could only have one winner, they were forced to face each other. Castagnoli forced Hero to tap out and then pinned Ryder to win not only the match, but also his freedom from the Kings of Wrestling.[4][22] On 9 December 2007, Castagnoli defeated Hero to finally end their long feud.[23] After the match, Hero left the company and Castagnoli took over his training duties at the Chikara Wrestle Factory.[4]

In 2008, Castagnoli started a new feud, this time with Brodie Lee.[4] On 7 September Castagnoli defeated Lee in the first steel cage match in Chikara history to win the feud.[24] On 19 October 2008, Castagnoli won a seven-on-seven Global Gauntlet match where Chikara wrestlers faced off with wrestlers from Big Japan Pro Wrestling.[25]

Bruderschaft des Kreuzes (2009–2011)[edit]

Castagnoli at a Chikara event in 2010

Castagnoli entered the 2009 King of Trios teaming with Bryan Danielson and Dave Taylor as Team Uppercut. The team advanced to the finals of the tournament, where they were defeated by F.I.S.T. (Icarus, Akuma and Taylor).[26][27][28] After the tournament Eddie Kingston, whose team The Roughnecks had been eliminated by Castagnoli and his team, claimed that he had been embarrassed and disrespected by Castagnoli.[4] On 24 May 2009, Kingston, who had claimed technical superiority over Castagnoli, pinned him cleanly with an Oklahoma roll.[29] After Castagnoli defeated Kingston via countout at the 2009 Young Lions Cup,[30] the two of them were booked in a "Respect Match" on 22 November 2009, at the season eight finale Three-Fisted Tales, where the loser of the match had to show respect to the winner. Castagnoli won the match, but instead of showing respect, Kingston attacked him, claiming that both Castagnoli and his former partner (Chris Hero) were shady and did not deserve respect.[31] At the conclusion of the show Ares revealed himself as the man who had been stalking UltraMantis Black, at which point Castagnoli turned rudo by attacking Mike Quackenbush. After beating the entire tecnico roster Castagnoli aligned himself with Ares, Tursas, Pinkie Sanchez, Tim Donst, Sara Del Rey and Daizee Haze to form the Bruderschaft des Kreuzes.[31]

The Bruderschaft des Kreuzes (Castagnoli, Tursas and Ares) as Campeonatos de Parejas

After picking up the three points needed in order to challenge for the Campeonatos de Parejas in just one weekend,[32] Castagnoli and Ares defeated The Colony (Fire Ant and Soldier Ant) on 20 March 2010, to win the championship, making Castagnoli the first two-time Campeon de Parejas in Chikara history.[33] In April Castagnoli, Ares and Tursas defeated the teams of The Osirian Portal (Amasis and Ophidian) and Sara Del Rey, Team Perros del Mal (El Alebrije, Cuije and El Orientál), Team Big Japan Wrestling (Daisuke Sekimoto, Kankuro Hoshino and Yuji Okabayashi) and The Colony (Fire Ant, Soldier Ant and Green Ant) over a three-day tournament to win the 2010 King of Trios.[34] On 23 October Castagnoli represented BDK in the torneo cibernetico match, where they faced a team composed of Chikara originals. He eliminated himself from the match by low blowing Eddie Kingston, but his plan did not work out as Kingston came back to eliminate Tursas and win the match.[35] At the season nine finale on 12 December, Castagnoli and Ares lost the Campeonatos de Parejas to Jigsaw and Mike Quackenbush.[36] On 13 March 2011, Castagnoli and Eddie Kingston finally faced each other in a grudge match fifteen months in the making, with Castagnoli emerging victorious after hitting Kingston with a chain.[37][38] In May, Castagnoli entered the 12 Large: Summit to determine the first ever Chikara Grand Champion. During the Chikarasaurus Rex weekend on 30 and 31 July, Castagnoli was involved in two main event matches, both of which were also a part of the 12 Large: Summit. After losing to Mike Quackenbush on Night 1, Castagnoli suffered an upset loss against his BDK stablemate Sara Del Rey on Night 2, after which he turned on not only Del Rey, but also Daizee Haze as she was standing up for her regular tag team partner.[39] At the following event on 27 August, Castagnoli was defeated by Icarus, eliminating him from contention in the 12 Large: Summit.[34]

Combat Zone Wrestling (2004–2006)[edit]

In late 2004, Castagnoli made his way to Combat Zone Wrestling, where he teamed up with Chris Hero to once again form the Kings of Wrestling.[40] Eventually, on 10 September 2005 they defeated The Tough Crazy Bastards of Necro Butcher and Toby Klein to win the CZW World Tag Team Championship.[41] While feuding with BLKOUT, Castagnoli and Hero lost the titles to Eddie Kingston and Joker. In September the Tag Team Championship was vacated when Joker left the company and on 14 October 2006, at Last Team Standing Castagnoli and Hero defeated Human Tornado and Justice Pain in the finals of a tournament to regain the championship.[42] With their victory, Castagnoli and Hero held the tag team titles of three of the top American independent companies simultaneously (CZW, Chikara, and ROH).

After news broke that WWE was interested in Castagnoli, he and Hero dropped the CZW World Tag Team Titles to the BLKOUT of Sabian and Robbie Mireno on 11 November 2006.[43] Castagnoli has not returned to the company since the loss.

Ring of Honor[edit]

Feud with Nigel McGuinness and the CZW Invasion (2005–2006)[edit]

Castagnoli made his Ring of Honor debut on 16 July 2005, at Fate of an Angel.[44] For the rest of the year, he feuded with Pure Champion Nigel McGuinness. On 17 December at Final Battle 2005 McGuinness defeated Castagnoli in a match for the title and as a result Claudio could no longer challenge for the title as long as McGuinness was the champion.[44] At the beginning of 2006 Castagnoli's partner from other promotions, Chris Hero, along with other Combat Zone Wrestling wrestlers invaded ROH and started a cross-promotional war. Castagnoli initially sided with ROH, but on 22 April 2006, at The 100th Show turned on the company and assisted Hero, Super Dragon and Necro Butcher in defeating Team ROH (Samoa Joe, B.J. Whitmer and Adam Pearce) in a six-man main event match.[45] On 15 July 2006, at Death Before Dishonor 4 Team ROH defeated Castagnoli, Hero, Necro Butcher, Nate Webb and Eddie Kingston in a Cage of Death match to end the feud.[44] Due to having a contract with ROH prior to the invasion however, Castagnoli was allowed to stay in the company, while the rest of Team CZW were forced out. Hero returned to the company during the August tour of United Kingdom[46] and on 16 September he revealed that he had stolen the ROH World Tag Team Championship belts from champions Austin Aries and Roderick Strong in order to get himself and Castagnoli a match for them.[47] That match took place on 16 September 2006, at Glory By Honor V Night 2, where the Kings of Wrestling defeated Aries and Strong to become the new Ring of Honor tag team champions.[48][49]

With the news of WWE showing interest in Castagnoli, the Kings of Wrestling dropped the ROH World Tag Team Championship to Christopher Daniels and Matt Sydal on 25 November 2006, at Dethroned.[48] On 23 December at Final Battle 2006 the Briscoe Brothers (Jay and Mark) defeated Castagnoli and Hero in what was scheduled to be their last match together. After the match, Castagnoli announced that he would not be leaving for WWE after all, and promised great things for the Kings of Wrestling in 2007. Hero shook Castagnoli's hand, but left with his manager Larry Sweeney who promised Hero big things in 2007, thus ending the Kings of Wrestling.[50]

Pursuit of the ROH World Championship (2007–2009)[edit]

Castagnoli wrestled on Ring of Honor's first pay-per-view Respect is Earned on 12 May 2007, teaming with Matt Sydal to challenge the Briscoe Brothers for the ROH World Tag Team Championship.[51] Despite losing the match, Castagnoli was granted a rematch with the partner of his choosing. He chose former partner Chris Hero, but the duo lost to the Briscoes on 9 June.[52]

Castagnoli gained success in ROH singles competition on 28 July 2007, by winning Ring of Honor's Race to the Top Tournament, a 16-man, two-night event. He defeated Hallowicked, Mike Quackenbush and Jack Evans en route to the final, where he defeated El Generico.[53] He faced Takeshi Morishima for the ROH World Championship at Death Before Dishonor V: Night One on 10 August, but lost.[44] He received a second shot, this time a three-way match with Brent Albright, later that month, but was again unable to win the title.[54] On 29 December 2007, one year after Hero had abandoned Castagnoli, the two of them faced each other at the second ROH pay-per-view Rising Above. If Castagnoli won the match, he would get five minutes with Larry Sweeney, but if he lost, would have had to join Sweet 'n' Sour Inc. He won,[55] but was defeated by Sweeney the following night at Final Battle 2007, when Sweet & Sour, Inc. member Daniel Puder interfered.[56]

On 28 June 2008, Castagnoli scored one of his biggest victories in Ring of Honor by pinning Bryan Danielson in their first meeting in ROH.[57] The following month, on 26 July, Castagnoli received a match for the ROH World Championship against Nigel McGuinness, but lost. On 2 August, Castagnoli failed a Championship rematch against McGuinness. Along with Bryan Danielson and ROH World Tag Team Champion Tyler Black, he competed in a four-man elimination match. He wound up being the first eliminated by Danielson and afterwards snapped and beat Danielson down setting him up to be eliminated by the eventual winner McGuinness. After turning heel Castagnoli started referring to himself as "very European", joined Prince Nana's heel stable The Embassy and feuded with Brent Albright.[citation needed]

Kings of Wrestling reunion (2009–2011)[edit]

Castagnoli performing the giant swing as Hero waits to dropkick the spinning opponent

On 19 December 2009, at Final Battle 2009, ROH's first live pay-per-view, Castagnoli reunited with his former Kings of Wrestling partner Chris Hero as they attacked the new ROH World Tag Team Champions, the Briscoe Brothers.[58] The two adopted Shane Hagadorn as their manager and Sara Del Rey as an associate.[59] On 3 April 2010, at The Big Bang! Castagnoli and Hero defeated the Briscoes to win the ROH World Tag Team Championship for the second time.[60] At the following pay-per-view, Death Before Dishonor VIII, on 19 June Castagnoli and Hero successfully defended their Championship against the Briscoes in a No Disqualification match.[61] In July, ROH announced the return of Tag Wars, where 12 tag teams competed in three blocks to determine new challengers for the Kings of Wrestling in an Ultimate Endurance match.[62] On 28 August the Kings of Wrestling defeated The Dark City Fight Club (Jon Davis and Kory Chavis), The All Night Express (Kenny King and Rhett Titus) and the Briscoes to retain their championship and win the 2010 Tag Wars.[63] On 2 September it was announced that Castagnoli had signed a contract with ROH, which gave the company priority in his independent bookings.[64]

At the following pay–per–view, Glory By Honor IX on 11 September, the Kings of Wrestling picked up a major victory by defeating Wrestling's Greatest Tag Team (Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin) in a non–title match.[65] On 18 December at Final Battle 2010 the Kings of Wrestling ended their feud with the Briscoe Brothers in a six-man tag team match, where Jay, Mark and their father Mike defeated Castagnoli, Hero and Shane Hagadorn.[66] On 4 January 2011 Castagnoli and Hero became the longest reigning ROH World Tag Team Champions by breaking the previous record of 275 days, set by the Briscoe Brothers.[67] On 26 February at the 9th Anniversary Show, Castagnoli and Hero successfully defended the ROH World Tag Team Championship against The All Night Express.[68] On 1 April at Honor Takes Center Stage, the Kings of Wrestling lost the ROH World Tag Team Championship to Haas and Benjamin, ending their reign at 363 days.[69] Castagnoli and Hero received their rematch for the ROH World Tag Team Championship on 13 August at the first Ring of Honor Wrestling tapings under the Sinclair Broadcast Group banner, but were unable to regain the championship from Haas and Benjamin.[70]

Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (2005–2008, 2010–2011)[edit]

Castagnoli performing the giant swing in 2009

On 6 August 2005, Castagnoli made his debut for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, losing to Joey Ryan.[71] On 2 September 2006, Castagnoli entered his first Battle of Los Angeles tournament, but ended up being eliminated in the first round by Jack Evans.[72] On 21 October, at Horror Business Castagnoli and Hero attempted to win the PWG World Tag Team Championship to hold four different sets of Tag Team titles simultaneously, but were unable to dethrone the Champions Super Dragon and Davey Richards.[73] They received another match for the Championship during the 2007 DDT4 tournament, but were defeated in the first round by the Briscoes.[74] In August 2007, Castagnoli competed in his second Battle of Los Angeles. He defeated Doug Williams in the first round, but lost to Pac in the second.[75][76]

In late 2007, Chris Hero was involved in a feud with Human Tornado and when Hero's scheduled tag team partner Eddie Kingston turned on him in a mystery tag team partner match and sided with Tornado instead, Castagnoli came out and took Kingston's place as Hero's partner. However, when Hero went to tag Castagnoli, he nailed him with a European uppercut, turned heel and joined Tornado and Kingston. On 5 January 2008, at All Star Weekend 6: Night One Tornado, Castagnoli and Kingston defeated Hero, Necro Butcher and Hero's girlfriend/valet Candice LeRae in a six-person tag team match to earn Tornado a match with LeRae.[77] On 21 March 2008, Hero defeated Castagnoli in a grudge match.[78] On 6 July 2008, at PWG's fifth anniversary show Life During Wartime Castagnoli wrestled his last match at the time for the promotion, defeating Phoenix Star.[79]

Castagnoli returned to the company for the annual Battle of Los Angeles Tournament on 4 September 2010.[80] Castagnoli made it to the semifinals of the tournament, defeating Ricochet and Roderick Strong, before losing to the eventual winner Joey Ryan.[81][82] Ryan should then have earned a match for the PWG World Championship, but as Davey Richards was stripped of the Championship, Castagnoli and the three other Battle of Los Angeles semifinalists – Brandon Gatson, Chris Hero and Joey Ryan – were placed in a four–way match to determine a new Champion.[83] On 9 October's The Curse of Guerrilla Island, Castagnoli defeated Gatson, Hero and Ryan to win the PWG World Championship, his first major singles title in the United States.[84][85][86]

Castagnoli and Hero were scheduled to face PWG World Tag Team Champions, ¡Peligro Abejas! (El Generico and Paul London), in a non–title match at the following event. Due to Castagnoli's title win, the Champions agreed to put their belts on the line as long as Castagnoli agreed to give the victor a shot at the PWG World Championship, should the Kings lose. After Castagnoli had agreed to the stipulation, ¡Peligro Abejas! defeated him and Hero to retain the World Tag Team Championship and earn El Generico a shot at the PWG World Championship.[87] On 29 January 2011, during the WrestleReunion 5 weekend, Castagnoli made his first successful defense by defeating El Generico.[88] On 4 March Castagnoli and Hero entered the 2011 DDT 4 Tournament, defeating the Cutler Brothers (Brandon and Dustin Cutler) in their first-round match. However, in the semifinals of the tournament the Kings of Wrestling suffered an upset loss against the Nightmare Violence Connection (Akira Tozawa and Kevin Steen) when Tozawa rolled Hero up for the win.[89] On 9 April Castagnoli defended the PWG World Championship against the Battle of Los Angeles winner, Joey Ryan, who had knocked him out of the previous year's tournament.[90] On 27 May, during the first night of All Star Weekend 8, Castagnoli successfully defended the PWG World Championship against his longtime tag team partner Chris Hero.[91] The following night, Castagnoli defeated Low Ki to retain the title.[92] On 23 July at PWG's eighth anniversary show, Castagnoli defeated Hero in a rematch for the PWG World Championship. After the match Castagnoli accepted a challenge from Kevin Steen and ended up losing the title to him in the impromptu match, ending his reign at 287 days.[93]

On 20 August, after both Castagnoli and Hero were eliminated from the 2011 Battle of Los Angeles in the first round, they challenged PWG World Tag Team Champions, The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson), to a match for the title. The match, which took place later that same evening, saw the Kings of Wrestling once again fail to win the PWG World Tag Team Championship.[94]

Pro Wrestling Noah (2008–2011)[edit]

Castagnoli made his debut for Pro Wrestling Noah on 15 February 2008, when he teamed up with Chris Hero in a losing effort against Jun Akiyama and Kentaro Shiga.[95] He primarily wrestled in the promotion as Chris Hero's tag team partner and in January 2010 the Kings of Wrestling entered the Global Tag League, where they ended up losing all of their matches.[95] Castagnoli and Hero returned to Noah on 19 November 2010, for a three-week-long tour. The team went undefeated in tag team matches, before being defeated on the final day of the tour, 5 December, by Takuma Sano and Yoshihiro Takayama in a match for the GHC Tag Team Championship.[95][96]

The Kings of Wrestling returned to Noah in April 2011 to take part in the 2011 Global Tag League, where they managed to win two out of their seven-round robin matches, finishing seventh out of eight teams in the block.[97] On 15 May, he traveled to Germany to challenge Takashi Sugiura's GHC Heavyweight Championship on "Genesis in Germany", co-promoted by local Westside Xtreme Wrestling and NOAH. However, he was unsuccessful in his challenge, losing after an Olympic Slam.[98]

Other promotions (2006–2010)[edit]

Castagnoli in the ring in 2009

In November 2006, he wrestled Antonio Thomas in one half of the main event at MXW Pro Wrestling's Capital Collision show in Albany, New York. In April 2007, Castagnoli represented Chikara in the inaugural King of Europe Cup, a sixteen-man tournament held in Liverpool, England. He lost in the opening match against CZW's representative and former partner, Chris Hero.[99]

During mid-2007, Castagnoli competed in the Reclaiming the Glory Tournament for the newly vacated NWA World Heavyweight Championship under the Terry Funk bracket.[100] He defeated Pepper Parks in the first-round qualifiers and Sicodelico Jr. in the second[101] before losing to Brent Albright in the semi-finals on 12 August in Charlotte, North Carolina.[100]

Later in September, Castagnoli competed in Independent Wrestling Association Mid-South's Ted Petty Invitational 2007 tournament. He defeated Nigel McGuinness in the first round, Davey Richards in the quarterfinals, and Brent Albright in the semifinals to compete in a three-way elimination match, with finalists Mike Quackenbush and IWA Mid-South Heavyweight Champion Chuck Taylor. He was first eliminated by the eventual winner, Quackenbush, being pinned following a Quackendriver II. Castagnoli replaced Fergal Devitt in the eight-man NWA Australian Championship Tournament which was held in November 2007.

On 13 March 2010, Castagnoli made his debut for Evolve Wrestling, at the promotion's second event, defeating Bobby Fish.[102] At the following show on 1 May Castagnoli was defeated by Chuck Taylor.[103]

WWE[edit]

Florida Championship Wrestling (2011–2012)[edit]

Castagnoli as Antonio Cesaro during a WWE dark match in 2012

In September 2011, Castagnoli signed a contract with WWE and began working in its developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) under the new ring name Antonio Cesaro.[104][105] He made his FCW debut at a live event on 17 September, in a loss against Seth Rollins.[106] He made his television debut on 24 October episode of FCW, defeating Mike Dalton,[107] which would be the first win in a singles winning streak that lasted until February 2012.[108] On 6 January 2012, Cesaro made his WWE live event debut in Jackson, Mississippi, where he teamed with Michael McGillicutty in a tag team loss to Alex Riley and Mason Ryan.[109] On 4 March episode of FCW, Cesaro and Alexander Rusev unsuccessfully challenged Bo Rotundo and Husky Harris for the Florida Tag Team Championship.[110] Cesaro then started feuding with Richie Steamboat over the FCW 15 Championship, starting with a title match (15 minute Iron Man rules) on 18 March episode of FCW, which ended in a 1-1 draw, so Steamboat retained the title.[111] A 20-minute rematch on 8 April episode of FCW resulted in a similar 1-1 draw.[112] A second 30-minute rematch for the title on 6 May FCW TV resulted in Steamboat winning 3-2.[113] On 13 May episode of FCW, Cesaro was then disqualified against Kassius Ohno (the former Chris Hero) and eliminated from a tournament to crown the number one contender to the FCW Florida Heavyweight Championship.[114] Cesaro faced Steamboat again for the FCW 15 Championship on 8 July episode of FCW in a 15-minute match that Steamboat won 1-0 in sudden death overtime.[115]

Main roster debut and United States Champion (2012–2013)[edit]

Cesaro as the United States Champion in 2013

Cesaro made his WWE television debut on 20 April episode of SmackDown, appearing in a backstage segment with Aksana and Theodore Long, ending with him going to talk to General Manager John Laurinaitis about a contract.[116] In storyline, the multilingual Cesaro served in the Swiss militia, before embarking on a career in rugby, which ended with him being banned for "excessive aggression". The following week on SmackDown, Cesaro defeated Tyson Kidd in a tryout match.[117] In May, Aksana revealed that she and Cesaro were lovers.[118] On 3 July live episode of The Great American Bash SmackDown, Cesaro suffered his first loss when he and Aksana were defeated in a mixed tag team match by The Great Khali and Layla.[119] On 27 July and 3 August episodes of SmackDown, Cesaro scored back-to-back non-title wins over United States Champion Santino Marella.[120][121] On the following SmackDown, Cesaro suffered his first loss in a singles match as he was pinned by Christian.[122] On the SummerSlam pre-show, Cesaro defeated Santino Marella to win the title, his first singles title in WWE.[123] Cesaro made his first televised title defense on 3 September Raw, defeating Marella in a rematch.[124] Cesaro retained the title against Zack Ryder at Night of Champions.[125] On 21 September SmackDown, Cesaro ended his relationship with Aksana after an inadvertent distraction from her cost him his non-title match with Santino Marella.[126] This led to a title rematch between Cesaro and Marella the following week, where Cesaro was able to retain his title easily.[127]

After Cesaro was defeated by Justin Gabriel in a non-title match on 22 October episode of Raw,[128] the two were booked in a United States Championship match six days later at Hell in a Cell, where Cesaro successfully defended his title.[129] Cesaro then began feuding with R-Truth after Truth saved Kofi Kingston from a post-match assault from Cesaro on 29 October Raw.[130] At the same time as his feud with Truth, Cesaro was successfully defending his title against Tyson Kidd on 31 October episode of NXT;[131] with NXT being the rebranded FCW.[132] On 18 November at Survivor Series, Cesaro defeated R-Truth to retain the United States Championship.[133] The feud continued on the following SmackDown, with Truth defeating Cesaro in a non-title match.[134] Cesaro then defeated Truth in two more matches, first in a four-way match, which also included Kofi Kingston and Wade Barrett on 3 December Raw and second on 16 December at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs in a singles match, to retain his title.[135][136] On 31 December Raw, Cesaro issued a title challenge to Sgt. Slaughter as part of the "Champion's Choice Night" and then defeated Slaughter in the match that followed to retain his championship.[137] Two days later on 2 January 2013, episode of WWE Main Event, Cesaro defeated The Great Khali to retain his United States Championship with a massive Neutralizer. Afterwards, Cesaro began a short-lived feud with The Miz, who confronted Cesaro after he insulted Americans as being soft.[138] In the pre-show of the Royal Rumble on 27 January, Cesaro defeated Miz to retain the United States Championship. Later on in the pay-per-view, Cesaro entered his first Royal Rumble match at number 22. He lasted a decent amount of time, and even managed to eliminate Daniel Bryan, but was the 18th man eliminated by the eventual winner John Cena.[139] Cesaro's feud with Miz continued on 17 February at Elimination Chamber, where he retained the United States Championship via disqualification after Miz accidentally hit him in the groin.[140] Cesaro and Miz faced off in a Two-out-of-Three falls match for the United States Championship on 1 March SmackDown, where Cesaro yet again retained his title.[141] During the 21 March NXT tapings[142] (which aired on 24 April due to tape delay), Cesaro successfully retained his title against Adrian Neville during the "Clash of the Champions" NXT.[143] On 15 April Raw, Cesaro lost the United States Championship to Kofi Kingston in an upset victory, ending his long-lived reign at 239 days.[144] Cesaro received his rematch for the title on 1 May episode of Main Event, but was again defeated by Kingston.[145]

The Real Americans (2013–2014)[edit]

In 2013, Cesaro formed The Real Americans with Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger

In May, Cesaro started a feud with Sami Zayn in NXT, where the two held some of what would later be considered the best matches of 2014. The two first squared off in the ring during the 22 May episode of NXT, where Zayn scored an upset victory over Cesaro in his debut match.[146] Cesaro later defeated Zayn in a rematch on 13 June episode of NXT.[147] On 17 June episode of Raw, Cesaro became an associate of Zeb Colter.[148] Colter and Cesaro went on to justify their alliance by saying that Cesaro is the ultimate (legal) immigrant and thus a superior American.[149] Cesaro unsuccessfully challenged Bo Dallas for the NXT Championship on 3 July episode of NXT.[150] At the Money in the Bank pay-per-view, Cesaro and Colter's fellow client Jack Swagger competed in the World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank ladder match, but were both unsuccessful as the match was won by Damien Sandow.[151] The following night on Raw, Cesaro and Swagger, now billed as "The Real Americans", teamed together for the first time, but ended up being defeated by The Usos.[152] On 21 August episode of NXT, Cesaro defeated Zayn in a Two-out-of-Three Falls Match to conclude the feud.[153]

During the Night of Champions pre-show, The Real Americans competed in a number one contenders Tag Team Turmoil match for the WWE Tag Team Championship, in which they were the last team eliminated by The Prime Time Players (Darren Young and Titus O'Neil).[154] Simultaneously, The Real Americans began a feud with the returning Santino Marella after he defeated both of them in singles competition.[155][156][157] On 6 October at Battleground, The Real Americans defeated Marella and The Great Khali in a tag team match.[158] The Real Americans moved onto feuding with Los Matadores,[159][160][161] culminating in a tag team match on 27 October at Hell in a Cell, which Los Matadores won.[162] The following night on Raw, The Real Americans defeated WWE Tag Team Champions Cody Rhodes and Goldust in a non-title match.[163] At the Raw of 18 November in Nashville, Tennessee, a fan handed out a hundred simple black and white signs on standard printer paper with the words "Cesaro Section" printed on them. A group of fans held them up together in Cesaro's match and this made it to air and was remarked on by the commentators, as well as by Cesaro himself after the show; this was picked up by other fans, and the Cesaro Section phenomenon quickly spread from there to other arenas and events.[164]

In early 2014, The Real Americans competed against several tag teams (Rey Mysterio and Big Show/Sin Cara as well as The Usos), but were not successful in winning.[165][166][167] Cesaro also competed in the 30-man Royal Rumble match at the Royal Rumble, entering at number 21, but was eliminated by Roman Reigns.[168] On 31 January episode of SmackDown, Cesaro defeated Dolph Ziggler to earn a spot at the Elimination Chamber match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.[169] On 14 February SmackDown, while his ring name was shortened to Cesaro, he defeated WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton clean in a non-title match.[170][171] At the Elimination Chamber, Cesaro was eliminated third by Cena via submission.[172] On 27 February at NXT Arrival, Cesaro defeated Zayn again, but embraced Zayn after the match.[173]

On the post-WrestleMania Raw, Hulk Hogan endorsed and congratulated Cesaro for winning the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania XXX

During the Wrestlemania XXX pre-show, The Real Americans were the final team eliminated during a Fatal Four-Way Tag Team Elimination Match for the WWE Tag Team Championship.[174] Jack Swagger blamed Cesaro for the loss and put Cesaro in the Patriot Lock before Colter demanded that the duo to shake hands. Cesaro instead retaliated with a Cesaro Swing on Swagger.[175] Later during the pay-per-view Cesaro was a surprise entrant in the inaugural André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, which he won by making the final elimination of the Big Show, body slamming him over the top rope and out of the ring in a manner reminiscent of Hulk Hogan's body slam of André at WrestleMania III.[176] In a 2015 interview Cesaro would describe this victory as his "career highlight" to that point.[177]

Teaming with Tyson Kidd (2014–2015)[edit]

On the post-WrestleMania Raw on 7 April, Hogan endorsed Cesaro's WrestleMania victory. Cesaro proceeded to dump Colter as his manager, instead revealing that he was a Paul Heyman guy.[178] After Cesaro was eliminated by Rob Van Dam from a tournament for an Intercontinental Championship title shot,[179] he defeated Van Dam and Swagger in an elimination match at Extreme Rules in May.[180] Cesaro had a series of matches against United States Champion Sheamus, but failed to win the title at Payback in June.[181] Cesaro then defeated Van Dam to qualify for the Money in the Bank ladder match for the vacant WWE World Heavyweight Championship,[182] which was won by John Cena.[183] After that, Cesaro went on to lose to likes of Kofi Kingston and Big E in singles matches,[184][185] while also being eliminated by Heath Slater in a battle royal for the Intercontinental Championship at Battleground in July.[186] On 21 July Raw, Cesaro ended his partnership with Paul Heyman.[187] In July 2014, WWE.com noted that one of Cesaro's signature moves, the Cesaro Swing, was "now a rarely used attraction" after previously being "a daily maneuver";[188] also that month, it was reported that WWE officials had told Cesaro to stop using the Cesaro Swing because it was making him too popular, and they did not want him being cheered as a heel.[189]

Cesaro "was on the verge of big things with fans getting behind what they expected would be a babyface turn... Then it fell apart. They did a heel turn to put him with Paul Heyman, and apparently figured that enabled them to not give him wins at all since Heyman was with him... but he'd stay over [... this was] before his big babyface turn fell completely apart and the turn was forgotten about".

Dave Meltzer on Cesaro winning the 2014 Wrestling Observer Newsletter award for Most Underrated.[7]

Without Heyman, Cesaro went on a losing streak, being defeated by Dean Ambrose, John Cena, Jack Swagger, Dolph Ziggler and finally Rob Van Dam at the SummerSlam pre-show.[190][191][192] By defeating Van Dam in a rematch on Raw, Cesaro earned a United States title match against Sheamus,[193] but lost again at Night of Champions in September.[194] Instead, Cesaro switched his sights to another title, the Intercontinental Championship held by Dolph Ziggler, as Cesaro became number one contender after winning a battle royal.[195] In September to November, Cesaro faced Ziggler in a title match on five occasions, on Raw, SmackDown and at Hell in a Cell, but lost every match, including three-way matches and a two-out-of-three falls match.[196][197]

Also in November, along with losses to Ryback and Erick Rowan and failing to win the United States title in a battle royal, Cesaro's tease of joining Team Cena for a Survivor Series match turned out to be a ruse.[198] In a December 2014 interview, Stone Cold Steve Austin asked Vince McMahon why Cesaro had not gotten over yet and asked whether Cesaro was getting a proper push. McMahon replied that Cesaro was lacking in charisma, verbal skills, and the "it" factor, "might be because he's Swiss ... and the European style". McMahon concluded that he was not certain what could be done to restore Cesaro's momentum, but McMahon was not giving up.[199][200]

During the first half of 2015, Cesaro spent much of his time teaming with Tyson Kidd in pursuit of the WWE Tag Team Championship

Cesaro began a tag team with Tyson Kidd on 1 December episode of Raw and were eliminated from a gauntlet match for a tag title shot by The Usos.[201] They gained victories over Los Matadores, and proceeded to ally with Adam Rose in a feud against The New Day (Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods) in January.[202] On the Royal Rumble pre-show, Cesaro and Kidd defeated The New Day. Later that night, Cesaro entered the Rumble match at number 28, however he was eliminated by Dolph Ziggler.[203] At Fastlane on 22 February, Cesaro and Kidd defeated The Usos to capture the WWE Tag Team Championship.[204] They retained their titles in a rematch the following night on Raw after their valet Natalya caused a disqualification.[205] Cesaro and Kidd managed to retain their titles on the WrestleMania 31 pre-show in a fatal four-way tag team match.[206] Cesaro also competed in the André the Giant memorial battle royal, but was eliminated by Big Show, whom Cesaro had eliminated the prior year.[207] Cesaro and Kidd then reignited their feud against The New Day, where a double turn took place; Cesaro and Kidd turned face by displaying a fighting spirit, marking Cesaro's first ever face turn in the WWE, while The New Day turned heel by using underhanded tactics during their matches. At Extreme Rules, Cesaro and Kidd lost the Tag Team Championship to The New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston), ending their reign at nine weeks.[208] They failed to regain the championship on 30 April episode of SmackDown.[209] and at Payback in a 2-out-of-3 falls match, with Xavier Woods interfering in both matches.[210] At Elimination Chamber, Cesaro and Kidd competed in the first ever tag team Elimination Chamber match, but failed to win the titles. On 7 June, it was announced that Kidd had suffered a legitimate spinal injury and would be out of action for over a year.[211]

Cesaro Section (2015–2016)[edit]

"... Cesaro's one main undesirable attribute: being a super talented wrestler whom the fans clearly want to see succeed, but is never given any serious push because of the decision of one man based on vague, shaky reasons."

Zach Dominello writing for the Wrestling Observer website in 2015.[8]

On 29 June episode of Raw, Cesaro answered John Cena's United States Championship open challenge and won by disqualification after Kevin Owens interfered and assaulted Cesaro.[212] He unsuccessfully challenged Cena for the title again the next week on Raw in a match that was hailed as an 'instant classic',[213][214] and that was later awarded the Slammy Award for "Best John Cena U.S. Open Challenge".[215] After Raw went off the air, Cena praised Cesaro to the crowd, stating "Cesaro should be main eventing every night".[216][unreliable source] On 13 July episode of Raw, Cesaro confronted Kevin Owens and Rusev about who should face Cena for the championship. This resulted in a triple threat match, where the winner would face Cena immediately after, which Rusev won.[217] On 16 July episode of SmackDown, Cesaro became only the second man (after John Cena) to pin Rusev in a singles match.[218] In the main event of the 20 July episode of Raw, Cesaro teamed with John Cena and Randy Orton to defeat Sheamus, Kevin Owens, and Rusev.[219][unreliable source] Cesaro was again attacked by Owens after losing a match to Seth Rollins on 23 July episode of SmackDown.[220][unreliable source] Cesaro teamed up with Randy Orton to defeat Sheamus and Kevin Owens on 17 August episode of Raw. At SummerSlam, Cesaro was defeated by Owens in a singles match. Around this time, with Cesaro now firmly established as a fan favorite, the Cesaro Section phenomenon that originated in early 2014 again found traction, and home-made printed "Cesaro Section" signs again became circulated widely for fans to hold up during events to show their support for Cesaro.[164][221][unreliable source] On 7 September episode of Raw, Cesaro faced The Miz in a match resulting in a double countout, after which he was knocked out by Big Show.[222] In the Hell in a Cell kickoff show, Cesaro teamed up with Dolph Ziggler and Neville to defeat Rusev, Sheamus, and King Barrett. Cesaro defeated Sheamus on 9 November episode of Raw to advance to the quarterfinals in a tournament to crown a new WWE World Heavyweight Champion at Survivor Series after previous champion Seth Rollins injured his knee at a house show in Dublin, but lost to Roman Reigns in the semi-finals on 16 November. On 23 November, WWE announced that Cesaro needed surgery for a torn rotator cuff muscle in his left shoulder that had been injured for at least two months, and that would leave him out of action for four to six months.[223] Cesaro stated in an interview that the injury would prevent him from competing at WrestleMania 32.[224][unreliable source]

Cesaro with "Cesaro Section" in 2016

Around the time of his injury, a number of prominent wrestling legends had increasingly been calling for the WWE to move Cesaro into a more significant role in the company. In the months prior, former champion Mick Foley voiced strong support for Cesaro, declaring the day after Cesaro's second United States Championship match with Cena in July that "Cesaro would make a great world-champion".[225] Foley added in September that he was baffled by WWE's treatment of Cesaro, stating that if there was one change he could make to WWE it would simply be to "push Cesaro".[226][unreliable source] Just days before the injury was announced, Ric Flair answered a question on who on the current roster he thought should have already been WWE World Heavyweight Champion by discussing how he thought Cesaro was "phenomenal" and that "nobody [brought] more to the table as a performer".[227][unreliable source] Flair further stated that he thought Cesaro could be built up for a major storyline with Brock Lesnar within two months, suggesting for himself to become Cesaro's manager to help with his work on the microphone.[227][228][unreliable source] Meanwhile, around the same time Stone Cold Steve Austin, a long time supporter of Cesaro,[200] reiterated that he believed Cesaro had what was needed "to go up on top of the card" and blamed the WWE for not helping him more.[229][unreliable source]

Cesaro made his return from injury on the Raw after WrestleMania 32 on 4 April 2016 episode of Raw, introducing a new James Bond style entrance and attire to his character, including a tear-away business suit.[230] He replaced Sami Zayn as a surprise entrant in the main event, a Fatal 4-Way match between himself, Kevin Owens, AJ Styles and Chris Jericho to determine the No. 1 contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, with the match being won by Styles.[231] He then teamed with Styles to defeat Owens and Jericho in a tag team match on Smackdown. On 11 April edition of Raw, Cesaro defeated Kevin Owens to become the #1 contender for the Intercontinental Championship held by The Miz.[232] At Payback, Cesaro failed to win the title after a distraction by Zayn and Owens, allowing Miz to retain the title.[233][234] A Fatal 4-Way Intercontinental Championship match between Cesaro, Miz, Owens, and Zayn was then made for the Extreme Rules pay-per-view on 22 May.[234] The Miz ultimately prevailed by pinning Cesaro after Zayn executed a Helluva Kick on Cesaro.[235] The following night on Raw Cesaro defeated Miz for a spot in the Money in the Bank ladder match.[236] his On the following episode Smackdown, The Miz retained the title against Cesaro.[237] At Money in the Bank, Cesaro was unsuccessful as the match was won by Dean Ambrose.[238]

Teaming with Sheamus as The Bar (2016–2019)[edit]

On 19 July at the 2016 WWE draft, Cesaro was drafted to Raw.[239] Afterwards, while being interviewed live on the WWE Network by JoJo, Cesaro legitimately complained about how he should have been drafted "at least top 10" and thought he would be a better fit on the more wrestling-oriented SmackDown brand, as well as criticizing the decision to have the storyline focus on the potential drama between Stephanie McMahon and Raw General Manager Mick Foley as opposed to the wrestlers themselves. While WWE would eventually continue this as part of an angle, Dave Meltzer confirmed on Twitter that the interview was a shoot and that Cesaro had unexpectedly gone off-script.[240] After the draft, Cesaro would then begin a rivalry with Sheamus, he defeated Sheamus in two consecutive matches, resulting in Cesaro earning a championship match for the United States Championship, which he received on 8 August episode of Raw against Rusev, but lost after interference from Sheamus. The following week, Mick Foley announced that the pair would face each other in a Best of Seven Series, with the first match taking place on 21 August on the SummerSlam kick-off show, which Sheamus won. Sheamus would defeat Cesaro in the second and third matches, but Cesaro defeated Sheamus in the fourth, fifth and sixth match, tying the series 3-3.[241] At Clash of Champions, Cesaro fought Sheamus to a no contest when neither man could continue, leaving the outcome of their series undecided.[242] The next night on Raw, Mick Foley decided to make the two partners to receive a future Raw Tag Team Championship opportunity. Later that night, they defeated a few local athletes, but still did not seem to be seeing eye to eye. Cesaro and Sheamus defeated The New Day on 24 October episode of Raw and defeated them by disqualification at Hell in a Cell.[243]

On 7 November episode of Raw, Cesaro and Sheamus were announced as part of Team Raw for the 10–on–10 Survivor Series Tag Team Elimination match at Survivor Series on 20 November, which Team Raw won with Cesaro and Sheamus being the sole survivors of their team.[244] The next night on Raw, Cesaro and Sheamus again failed to capture Raw Tag Team Championship from The New Day.[245] After hinting at a break-up, the pair got into a bar brawl with men who offended them and finally began to cooperate with each other.[246] They received another title shot at Roadblock: End of the Line, where Cesaro and Sheamus finally defeated The New Day to win the Raw Tag Team Championship, marking Cesaro's second reign. On 29 January 2017 on the Royal Rumble kickoff show, Cesaro and Sheamus lost the Raw Tag Team Championship to Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, and failed to regain them after The Hardy Boyz won the title at WrestleMania 33.[247][248]

Cesaro (left) and Sheamus in May 2017

The following night on Raw, Cesaro and Sheamus defeated Enzo Amore and Big Cass to become the number one contender's for the Raw Tag Team Championship at Payback. At Payback, after failing to regain the title, both Cesaro and Sheamus turned heel by attacking The Hardy Boyz.[249] From there, now known as "The Bar", their entrances became further synchronized as they wore the same attire into the ring. They then won a tag team turmoil to earn another opportunity for the tag title at Extreme Rules.[250] The match was made a steel cage match after Matt Hardy defeated Sheamus on 22 May episode of Raw in a match where the winner chose the stipulation for their Extreme Rules bout.[251] At the event, The Bar defeated The Hardy Boyz to win the Raw Tag Team Championship for the second time, making Cesaro a three-time champion.[252] The duo made their first televised defense of the title against The Hardy Boyz on 12 June episode of Raw in a two out of three falls match where the two teams tied at 1-1 after being counted out.[253] They defended their title against The Hardy Boyz at the Great Balls of Fire pay-per-view in a 30-minute Iron Man tag team match by the score 4-3.[254] The Bar lost the Raw Tag Team Championship to Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose at SummerSlam.[255] The Bar lost their rematch for the title to Rollins and Ambrose at No Mercy, during which Cesaro lost his two front teeth following a throw into the turnbuckle by Ambrose. Cesaro continued to fight despite blood coming out of his mouth and eventually taking a Brogue Kick from Sheamus (as part of a scripted miscue between the two), earning critical praise from fans and fellow wrestlers for his toughness.[256][257] WWE released a statement on Cesaro's medical condition stating that his teeth had been pushed up into his upper jaw by about 3 to 4 mm and that he would next go to see a maxillofacial surgeon.[258][259] They teamed with The Miz, Braun Strowman and Kane against The Shield and Kurt Angle who replaced Roman Reigns after he wasn't medically cleared to compete in a five-on-three TLC match at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs in a losing effort.[260] On 6 November episode of Raw, the duo regained their titles from Rollins and Ambrose, winning the title for the third time.[261] At Survivor Series, SmackDown Tag Team Champions they were defeated by The Usos in an inter-brand Champion vs Champion match.[262] The Bar later lost the tag team titles to the team of Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan on the Christmas episode of Raw.[263]

On 28 January 2018, The Bar won back the title at Royal Rumble, becoming record four-time champions as a team, and a record fifth reign for Cesaro individually. Earlier in the Royal Rumble match, Cesaro entered at number 11 but was eliminated by Seth Rollins. Following consecutive losses to Titus Worldwide (Apollo Crews and Titus O'Neil) on Raw, they defended their title against the two at Elimination Chamber, retaining successfully.[264] On 12 March episode of Raw, Braun Strowman won a tag team battle royale to determine the number one contenders for their tag titles at WrestleMania 34 although he lacked a partner, Raw General Manager Kurt Angle still allowed Strowman to wrestle for the titles, under the provision that he reveal his mystery partner at the event.[265] At the event, Strowman revealed his partner to be a 10-year-old fan called Nicholas. The Bar were defeated by Strowman and Nicholas, therefore losing the tag team title and in turn making Nicholas the youngest champion of any kind in WWE history.[266]

On 17 April, as part of the 2018 WWE Superstar Shake-up, Cesaro and Sheamus were both drafted to SmackDown.[267] Despite the trade, they still had an opportunity to win the Raw Tag Team Championship as they faced Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt at Greatest Royal Rumble event, but failed to win the WWE RAW Tag Team Championship. The Bar entered a brief feud with The New Day, losing to them and failing to qualify for the Money in the Bank ladder match. After going on a hiatus, the duo returned in late July to take part in a number one contendership tournament for the SmackDown Tag Team Championship and beat The Usos to advance to the finals, where they lost to The New Day. After failing to become number one contenders again, the duo finally was gifted a title match. At Super Show-Down event, The Bar failed to win the titles. At SmackDown 1000, The Bar won the titles from The New Day with the help of Big Show.[268] The Bar lost to Raw Tag Team Champions AOP in an inter-brand Champion vs. Champion match at Survivor Series.[269] On 27 November episode of SmackDown, they had a backstage argument with Big Show, causing him to break away from the team.[270] At TLC, they successfully defended the championship against The Usos and The New Day in a triple threat tag team match.[271] On 8 January 2019 episode of SmackDown, they accepted a challenge from The Miz and Shane McMahon,[272] which would lead to a tag team title match at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view, in which they lost the titles.[273] The following SmackDown they lost a number one contenders match to The Usos.[274] The team then lost to New Day, DIY, The Hardy Boyz, and Aleister Black and Ricochet over the next two months on SmackDown.[275]

At WrestleMania 35 in April, The Bar lost to The Usos in a fatal-4 way tag team match for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships, which also included the teams of Aleister Black and Ricochet and Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura.[276] At the Raw following WrestleMania, The Bar interrupted a match between Seth Rollins and Kofi Kingston, resulting in a tag team match. This resulted in "bullshit", "AEW" and "CM Punk" chants from the crowd, voicing their displeasure in the match they were given instead.[277] The next day on SmackDown, Sheamus reportedly suffered a concussion in a six-man tag team match with New Day. Cesaro was drafted to Raw a few weeks later, and it was not addressed if Sheamus would follow him there.[278]

Return to singles competition (2019–present)[edit]

On 20 May episode of Raw, Cesaro debuted a new entrance theme and titantron separate from The Bar as he defeated Ricochet.[279] He also adopted a new part of his gimmick where he would only allow backstage interviewers to ask him only one question before walking away.[280][281] He would then trade wins with Ricochet as they would feud over the following weeks.[282][283] Their series of matches would receive praise from critics.[284] He accepted Aleister Black's open challenge for a match at Extreme Rules in July, but was defeated at the event.[285] Cesaro would go on to issue an open challenge at NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff on 31 August, which would be answered by Ilja Dragunov and Cesaro would go on to win the match.[286] Cesaro would enter the 2019 King of the Ring but would be eliminated by Samoa Joe in the first round.[citation needed] Following the 2019 WWE Draft, Cesaro was drafted back to the SmackDown brand.[287]

Professional wrestling style and persona[edit]

Cesaro performing the "Giant Swing" during a house show in January 2015

Cesaro is widely considered one of the best performers in professional wrestling, in despite of him never really getting a run at the top of the card.[288][289] His wrestling ability has been praised by fellow wrestlers and wrestling legends such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mick Foley and Jim Ross.[290][291] In 2019, Bleacher Report would call Cesaro one of the best "pure wrestlers" in WWE.[284] WWE has been criticized for underutalizing Cesaro creatively on their shows.[290][291][292] Later in his career he became known as a "tag team specialist", due to his partnerships with Jack Swagger, Tyson Kidd and Sheamus.[288][284] He also received praise for his previous tag teams with Chris Hero and Daniel Bryan.[293]

Cesaro uses a no-nonsense, European style as the basis for his ring repertoire.[291] He uses the Gotch Neutralizer (a belly-to-back inverted mat slam)[294][295] and Very European Uppercut (a pop-up European uppercut) as finishing moves. He also uses the Cesaro Swing (a giant swing), albeit less frequently. A big part of his wrestling style comes from his strength, which he has showcased by lifting heavier wrestlers such as The Great Khali, Brodus Clay, and Big Show, all of whom weigh at least 100 lb (45.3 kg) more than him.[296] He has been credited as one of the strongest wrestlers in WWE.[291] His technical ability is also notable, and he has utilized the sharpshooter (adopted from former tag team partner Tyson Kidd) as a signature move since 2015.[297]

During an interview in 2013, he cited Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund, Dave Finlay, Dave Taylor, William Regal, and Karl Gotch as his influences.[298]

Personal life[edit]

As of 2015, Castagnoli lives in Orlando, Florida.[299] In addition to his native Swiss German, he is fluent in English, French, German, and Italian.[300][301] He is a noted coffee aficionado[302] and enjoys cooking,[303] having run a blog and YouTube channel called Claudio's Café in his pre-WWE days.[11][304] He is also an animal lover,[305][306] and a fan of films such as the James Bond franchise[307] (which he would incorporate into his gimmick as of 2016) and Star Wars.[308] Castagnoli prides himself on holding high personal values and presenting himself as a professional in both his personal and work life.[309]

Noted for his exceptional strength and stating that he is "100% natural",[11] Castagnoli describes his training regime as "kind of a mix", with particular focus on CrossFit and variations of Olympic weightlifting.[310] He has stated that he continually tries to learn new ways to workout in order to keep improving.[311] He has performed a one-arm snatch with 145 lbs (66 kg),[312] a one-arm clean and jerk with 135 lbs (61 kg),[313] and comfortably performed a two-arm clean and jerk with 286 lbs (130 kg).[314][315]

Castagnoli and former tag team partner Tyson Kidd have revealed that despite being paired up by WWE without their input, they subsequently became very close friends in real life.[316][unreliable source][317]

Other media[edit]

Castagnoli made a brief appearance in the 2008 wrestling drama film The Wrestler.[318] He regularly appeared on the WWE web series The JBL and Cole Show until its cancellation in June 2015.[319] He has also made brief appearances on the E! show Total Divas.[320]

Castagnoli, as Antonio Cesaro and later Cesaro, made his video game debut in WWE '13 as a downloadable character,[321] and has since appeared in WWE 2K14,[322] WWE 2K15,[323] WWE 2K16,[324] WWE 2K17,[325] WWE 2K18,[326] and WWE 2K19.[327]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

Cesaro is a record five-time WWE (Raw) Tag Team Champion
By eliminating Big Show, Cesaro claimed the inaugural André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal trophy at WrestleMania XXX

References[edit]

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  5. ^ "Very European maneuvers". wwe.com. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
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