So it became pretty obvious last night that Antonio Cesaro is ready.
Not that it hasn't been obvious for quite some time, but when you attempt to pull off your signature move and the crowd pops -- especially when you're a heel -- then it's time to take the turkey out of the oven.
I'm referring, of course, to the handicap match featuring The Real Americans against World Heavyweight Champion John Cena. Cesaro had the champ in all sorts of trouble and when he hooked the legs to uncork his patented "swing," he did the quick 1-2 check of the crowd.
And they roared in approval.
True, he was competing in Manchester, who really upped the decibels for all things awesome, but Cesaro gets a reaction no matter where he performs. Is a reaction reason enough to warrant a big push? No, but there's more to the Swiss giant than a few solicited pops.
Never was it more evident than when he fought Cena.
For all the heat he gets from fans, a lot of it warranted, there is no question that Cena knows how to deliver a big match when he wants to. Not so much in technical prowess, but rather in psychology and execution. But it's hard to sell an opponent as a legitimate threat, because Cena is usually the more imposing physical specimen.
Not this time.
That was a big part of the appeal during last night's tag action on Monday Night Raw (results). There was never a point during that match when I didn't believe that Cesaro was able to hold his own against Cena. It was a nice change, too, as the champ usually has to wrestle down to his opponent, rather than up.
And when you have John Cena selling for you, then you must be doing something right.
My top spot from last night was probably the European uppercut that floored Cena off the ropes, as he was doing his dopey shoulder-block attack. The second was watching Cena go airborne, only to land flush against a second uppercut. Compare the sales job on those two spots to his half-hearted grimace while being armbarred inside a steel chair by Alberto Del Rio later in the night.
Recently, Cena said he's going to be working the World Heavyweight Championship (WHC) for the foreseeable future. His goal is to restore the "honor and focus" of the Big Gold Belt, but it also keeps him out of the WWE title chase to allow The Authority program to play out sans interference.
That said, let's not pretend the roster is deep when it comes to the WHC.
Alberto Del Rio has been clogging up the pay-per-view line up most of the year and he's already worked against Dolph Ziggler, Christian and Rob Van Dam, before moving on to Cena. It's enough already with this guy. But WWE won't remove him from the top spot because they don't have a serviceable heel to take his place.
Actually, they do.
Cesaro has the look -- as well as the skills -- and now he has the fans. All he needs to move forward is someone backstage willing to pull the trigger. What else does he have to do? He's managed to shine in ever role he's been given, including United States Champion and one half of Zeb Colter's patriotic pair.
He also turns 33 next month, so in the immortal words of Cena, the time is now.