If you don’t count Christian’s ECW world title reign -- you should not count Christian’s ECW world title reign -- Captain Charisma didn’t get his entertaining, but still very limited, time as a world champion in WWE until he was in his mid-30s. By the time Christian became world heavyweight champion it felt like he had been with the company forever, and it was because he had. Wrestling fans had watched him wrestle from their comfy couches for more than a decade before he finally got his chance. Christian was 37-years-old when he finally won the big one.
Cesaro turns thirty-six in just over a month.
And although Christian was in the WWE more than a decade -- with a splash of TNA mixed in during the middle of his prime -- Cesaro finds himself in a similar place in 2016. Cesaro has only been on WWE television a handful of years now, sure, but doesn’t it feel like he’s been with the company for longer? Doesn’t it feel like Cesaro has been flirting with being a top guy in the company for over a decade? Doesn’t it feel like the wrestling fans have been begging for this guy to get a shot as long as most were for Christian?
It feels this way because it has always ostensibly looked as though the biggest of wrestling fans unanimously agree that Cesaro has been underutilized for years now. With WWE’s current oversaturation problem, one calendar year in wrestling feels like twenty-plus years of content. (Doesn’t Triple H’s WWE World Title win feel like it happened much longer than a few months ago?) Fans have seen Cesaro saddled with comedy gimmicks, name-removals, lifeguard gear, yodeling and many other absurd additions to his character that I’m probably forgetting. Much to these same fans’ dismay, WWE teased another Cesaro push in his feud over a potential title shot with Sheamus that resulted in the two forming a tag-team and no title shot.
Sheamus and Cesaro partnering up hasn’t been intriguing or interesting or fun, however, considering their close proximity now as tag-team partners, examining the duo’s careers reminded me of Edge and Christian’s. It’s not a perfect comparison, as it took Edge a lot longer to capture his first WWE championship than Sheamus -- who captured his first WWE title his first year on the main roster -- but it always felt like he was the guy the decision-makers prefered between the two. It’s no secret who Triple H’s preference is between Sheamus and Cesaro, and it’s clear Vince had a lot of faith in Edge as a top guy when you consider how he was treated after his memorable heel turn in 2005. Edge won a lot of world championships, and if Sheamus wrestled in that era, it’s fair to assume double-digit title runs would have been in the cards for a guy like Sheamus -- Cesaro, like Christian, would have been in the same predicament that he’s in now. The people that matter within the company liked Christian, and they probably like Cesaro, too, but up to a certain point.
And it’s not like Monday Night Raw couldn’t use a babyface who got organically over as a top guy with Finn Balor being out of action for an extended period of time. And yet, it’d still be more surprising to see Cesaro capture the WWE Universal Title than Sheamus over the next few months.
That shouldn’t be the case, but it is.
Vince McMahon, and Triple H to an extent, too, are stubborn. They have always had their guys and if they believe in them they’ll stick behind them even if the fans loudly reject them. It’s why Bray Wyatt is still a central figure on one of the main shows. It’s why Sheamus has had chance after chance to make it work as a top guy. It’s why Roman Reigns can chase the United States championship, but his quest is treated like a bigger, more-serious deal than the show’s biggest championship. Like it is in most walks of life, having the support from the right people matters just as much if not more than talent and work ethic alone. Cesaro and Christian have always had the latter, but it has never really seemed like they’ve had the former.
At some point, you’d expect someone to talk the powers that be into a Cesaro world title reign. If, for nothing more, than to throw those rambunctious fans in the Cesaro section a bone. That wouldn’t be the worst thing -- it may be the best Cesaro fans can hope for at this stage in his career.
But what if this is the right course for Cesaro?
One of the hardest things in wrestling is objectively identifying a wrestler’s ceiling. WWE clearly believes Roman Reigns can be a top babyface for the company, but that sentiment clearly isn’t shared by a majority of its fanbase. But Reigns is a complicated figure, and when it’s all said and done wrestling historians will look back on the Roman Empire shaking their heads that WWE spent as much as they did trying to push him where they thought he belonged. But WWE doesn’t usually make these sort of mistakes as to who they should build around, which doesn’t include Cesaro. They built around John Cena, Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Steve Austin, and many more. And they were right. They could be right in seeing Cesaro as a “Christian-type” -- a really good hand who you can count on when you need him, but not a guy you want to hand the keys to full-time.
Christian may have finally won a world championship in WWE, but he never won the main championship on the main show. With Cesaro trapped that dreaded main show, his chances of grabbing that brass ring the same age as Christian was when he finally captured gold don’t seem very high. They seem minimal and unrealistic. But that’s what made Christian’s win over Alberto Del Rio so fulfilling -- it was a long-time coming.
Sometimes, you just need to throw those long-time, dedicated fans a bone to nibble on for a bit just so they trust you enough to come back for more. Monday Night Raw, in its current state, is a chore to get through and barren on the babyface front. Summerslam and WrestleMania aren’t on the horizon, the show’s top babyface is out of action, and the time is now to experiment. At this point, fans know Cesaro isn’t going to get a long-term title reign, but he may be the best upper-tier babyface WWE has competing on Mondays. There may not be a better time for a transitional-championship run for Cesaro.
Like Christian over Del Rio those years ago, why not Cesaro over Kevin Owens now?