He used to be known prominently as Claudio Castagnoli, but the man currently known in WWE as Antonio Cesaro is making a great case to be the breakout star this year.
There isn't a thing about Cesaro that hasn't been impressive. Fans of Castagnoli thought that he was WWE-ready already. If his lack of time spent in FCW didn't show that accurately, his quality performance as Cesaro on the main roster has been nothing short of impressive.
The look and feel of Cesaro was a unique take, different from the typical "look, he's European"-type gimmick. A gimmick will only get a superstar so far, making it the responsibility of the superstar to make themselves stick out.
Cesaro is not only Swiss, but initially debuted as a violent ex-rugby player that was billed as too dangerous for the league. Fans of rugby may find that to be a tad ridiculous, but in a place like WWE, where foreign heels gets treated with "USA" chants, the attention to detail isn't always very important at first. Eventually, it all catches up to the superstar.
Upon his debut, Vladimir Kozlov was a Russian superstar with white trunks and no Titantron or music. Eventually, Kozlov had a Russian song and Titantron added to his gimmick, along with his real-life Sambo background.
This was too little and too late for Kozlov, who had lost all of his buzz and eventually lost his job with WWE last year. For Cesaro, the rugby background is very secondary to his arrogant European attitude and his diversity with multiple languages.
His pro-European and anti-American emotions remind me a lot of Ludvig Borga, who was impressive in WWE but failed to reach that next level. Even now, Cesaro has seemed to exceed Borga in terms of success.
Borga was Finnish and cut promos constantly breaking down his criticism of America using intelligent points. Cesaro has dabbled in the same acts, attacking the obesity rate in the United States in a previous promo.
For as much as Cesaro has brought previous foreign heel tactics back to life, he really has blazed his own trail. Having Cesaro spout off about a word in multiple languages is perfect for a bad guy.
Just one non-English language gets boos from some people, so multiple foreign languages surely gets fans bent out of shape. It showed Cesaro's intelligence in a better way than Alberto Del Rio showed his wealth to the fans.
The brightest part about Cesaro's future, however, is his ability to constantly have a good match so early in his WWE career. Too often, a new superstar comes along and is immediately put into a winning streak.
Not only do they win the same matches against the same nobodies, but a match against a main roster member following those squashes can result in a drastic change in performance. When a jobber was there, you could do anything to him. When facing someone with a bit of a higher stock, a much longer and tougher match could be expected.
For Cesaro, there was little resistance on his way to being United States champion, even getting a pretty easy time with Santino Marella in the YouTube pre-show for SummerSlam. Following that title victory, matches seemed to get a bit more interesting for Cesaro.
Suddenly, Cesaro was caught up in the middle of competitive matches with Santino Marella and Zack Ryder. This past Monday on RAW, Cesaro nearly was upset by Justin Gabriel and needed a well-placed European uppercut to turn the tide back to him.
There isn't a truly defined opponent for Cesaro yet, so it seems like his reign as United States champion will continue for quite some time. Fans and officials seem to be raising the stock of Cesaro and there doesn't seem to be much doubt that hiring him was a good move.
WWE took the time to sign him when it was right for both parties involved and didn't rush him into a gimmick or a storyline that was anything short of what would have worked.
Cesaro's matches show his dominance, but also live as one of the more compelling matches of a given night. A long reign as United States champion can help to bring back the prestige of that championship, which has been suffering in recent years to get a consistent amount of respect.
There is always the idea that Cesaro, being European, would change the championship to become the defunct European Championship. It would be nice way to generate more heat for Cesaro, but being an arrogant European and holding a championship with the United States in the name is good enough.
It won't really matter what the name of the title is because Cesaro will only hold it as long as he needs to before he can move up the ladder. Enough attention has been made about the rises of Ryback and Damien Sandow, neither of which have been champions in WWE yet.
Meanwhile, Antonio Cesaro sits in the background, slowly making his destruction through the WWE roster up to the top. As blinding as the light reflecting off his bald head, the future is as bright as can be for Antonio Cesaro.