When Cesaro first appeared on last night's (April 21, 2014) edition of Monday Night RAW (full recap here), I shit you not, I thought Alberto Del Rio was driving to the ring in one of his fancy cars, and that the vehicle's anti-theft alarm had gone into business for itself.
That's how bad it was.
What followed was an ugly, artless affair that not only failed to elevate Cesaro, but also left me wondering why WWE would take a performer on an obvious upswing, and tether him to a streak-obsessed loudmouth who sounds like that jerk from high school who's still bragging about the time he nailed the prom queen.
WWE is treating Cesaro like Paul Heyman's cool-down program in between Brock Lesnar pay-per-view (PPV) matches.
That said, I think it's time that we, as wrestling fans, distance ourselves from the notion that anything Heyman touches turns to gold. If that was true, if all it took to get someone "over" was the label of "Paul Heyman Guy," then Curtis Axel would not be riding shotgun in the "Big Guy" Express.
Paul Heyman does not make stars. Paul Heyman is a star.
That's why his relationship with Cesaro, to date, has not delivered. Heyman's ability to light a fire under the ass of a live crowd, in addition to his adoration from the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC), has WWE gambling on success by association.
Yin and yack.
But the Swiss sensation -- who can talk if you let him -- will struggle to get noticed for as long as he's forced to play second fiddle. Especially when the mouthpiece who is supposed to be his "advocate" spends an entire opening segment screaming about Brock Lesnar.
I guess the fact that his current client was only one win away from an Intercontinental title shot was unimportant.
As a result, Cesaro had to stand there and smile awkwardly while Heyman drew heat for a guy who A) doesn't need it and B) wasn't even in the building. So once the Baltimore crowd was all hot and bothered over "The Streak" -- a story that's now over two weeks old -- the former "Real American" had to regroup against the likes of Rob Van Dam (RVD).
Then lost his match and got bombed by Jack Swagger.
I'm not annoyed that his bout against RVD was the pits. Bad matches happen from time-to-time. I'm also not up in arms over the booking. Disappointed, yes, but not outraged. If there is unfinished business with Swagger and Zeb Colter, then take care of it and circle back after Extreme Rules.
But I'm worried we may not give a shit by then.
Heyman is the perfect manager for Brock Lesnar, because he complements "The Beast Incarnate," in the way Master complemented Blaster. The same goes for CM Punk, back when they had their entertaining run throughout 2013. Those respective pairings were essentially dynamic tag teams -- except one half didn't wrestle.
For the formula to work, a "Paul Heyman Guy" must be equal (or superior) to Heyman in terms of star power.
If not, you're left with a guy like Axel, and to a lesser extent, Cesaro. The talent should be able to sink or swim on their own merits and on a subconscious level, a performer may feel safe under Heyman's tutelage, and perhaps be less likely to take chances or go for broke in a big spot.
Not that anyone wants to be the guy to try to follow a Paul Heyman promo.
Part of my resistance to this program is that I believe Cesaro doesn't need it, or the projected "rub" that goes with it. I understand that being an IWC darling is not going to influence the backstage players, but the "King of Swing" had slowly but surely amassed a "Cesaro Section" -- not just at live events -- but around the web, too, and his big win at WrestleMania 30 was a breakout moment.
Now it's time to take those training wheels off to see if he can ride it.
But that's going to be a tall order if Heyman does all the talking, steals all the heat, and performs all the heavy lifting. We need to see (and hear) more of Cesaro, not less, and simply branding him as the "King of Swing" takes a medley of unique skills and dumbs them down into a cheap spot for numbered pops.
Sadly, a man capable of this is being repackaged as Count Von Count.
It's up to Heyman to convince us otherwise, but he's been miscast in the role of carnival barker. It's not enough to get us to step right up and see, he has to actually show us something once we're there. He got our attention by screaming about the strongman, then stuck us with the bearded lady once inside the tent.
The good news is, it's not too late.
Much like Daniel Bryan's ill-timed defection to The Wyatt Family, Cesaro can use the current narrative to his advantage. If Heyman comes out on next week's RAW and starts talking about Lesnar, have the former United States Champion grab the stick and ask something to the effect of "Hey, what about me?"
May as well, we're cheering for him anyway.
WWE could let that build for a few weeks, then ice the cake with a Cesaro Swing at Extreme Rules, so he can unload Heyman and pick up right where he left off.