Roman Reigns defends the Universal championship against Cesaro in the main event of WrestleMania Backlash on May 16 in the Yuengling Center in Tampa, Florida.
Cesaro has been on the WWE main roster for around nine years, and he’s never really found any sustained success as a singles wrestler during that time. But things suddenly changed for him starting in January 2021. He’s been piling up wins ever since.
Cesaro’s most important victory in this run occurred last month at WrestleMania 37, when he defeated top guy Seth Rollins. Roman Reigns also had a huge win at that event, stacking up Daniel Bryan and Edge to pin both stars simultaneously in a triple threat match. When Reigns came out on SmackDown to brag about his victory and declare that he was out of challengers, he was greeted by Cesaro.
Reigns didn’t want anything to do with Cesaro. He disrespected and dismissed the Swiss Superman. But Roman could not evade inevitability - Cesaro defeated Rollins again on a Throwback edition of SmackDown in order to earn a match against Roman at WrestleMania Backlash.
That latter victory over Rollins coincided with the SmackDown return of Jimmy Uso. Jimmy made it clear that he wasn’t going to let Roman talk down to him and treat him like he’s inferior. Roman had no interest in re-litigating the past, and wanted Jimmy to simply acknowledge him as the Head of the Table him so they could move forward together. Jey Uso was essentially caught in the middle of his two bickering family members.
Cesaro took advantage of this family tension by taking out all three men. It reinforced the notion that Jimmy’s sudden presence in Roman’s life might provide the kind of distraction that Cesaro needs to score the biggest win of his career at WrestleMania Backlash.
What took this long?
Stepping outside of kayfabe, why is Cesaro suddenly being pushed to this degree? If you recall, more than six years ago Vince McMahon said the following about him:
“He’s not connecting yet and we hope he will. He doesn’t quite have the charisma. He doesn’t quite have the verbal skills as well, and maybe because he’s Swiss, I don’t know...there’s something missing and quite frankly, I don’t know, I can’t quite put my finger on it...”
The truth of the matter is that Cesaro isn’t a significantly different performer today than he was then. He was great then, and he’s still great now. Vince McMahon was wrong about Cesaro when he implied that he’s not charismatic enough to connect with the audience. Cesaro was always good enough to form that connection, Vince was just too stuck in his old ways to see it.
The reason Cesaro is being pushed now is not because he filled in whatever blanks Vince McMahon was referring to in the above quote. The lack of a live audience means there isn’t that feedback to change McMahon’s mind about Cesaro.
The reason he’s being pushed now is because...it’s his turn. That’s pretty much where things are on SmackDown when it comes to the babyface landscape. Roman Reigns is the top heel, and WWE needs to find babyfaces to feed to him. It was Jey Uso’s turn to be that babyface last fall. It was Kevin Owens’ turn after that, then Daniel Bryan, and now Cesaro. That’s because everything on SmackDown revolves around Roman Reigns. This is his story, not Cesaro’s.
That might be disappointing to read, but it explains how Cesaro can be pushed to this spot despite Vince McMahon’s incorrect preconceived notions about him. It also explains why you already know who is walking out of WrestleMania Backlash as the Universal champion.
Find out who wins by tuning into WrestleMania Backlash and keeping it right here at Cageside Seats!
Who will win?
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