Part of the fun of professional wrestling is watching the development of certain wrestlers, from their debut through the peaks and valleys of their career.
Many grew up watching Rocky Maivia transform into The Rock, or even John Cena develop from the "Doctor of Thuganomics" into "Super Cena."
As a result of my intermittent wrestling habits, I've never had that WWE superstar to latch onto and follow their career. Sure, I've followed guys like Daniel Bryan and Wade Barrett from their beginnings, but there was a part of the connection missing.
But now, with the official in-ring debut of Antonio Cesaro, I can find the beginnings of what will hopefully be an exciting journey through the system and to the top.
When I discovered independent wrestling in 2009, then-Claudio Castagnoli immediately became a personal favorite. I remember seeing him live in a fatal fourway at a Ring of Honor show and then really becoming a fan after seeing him in Chikara Pro.
Castagnoli had a long journey to the WWE. Starting in his native Europe, he developed into one of the top independent wrestlers in the world. In 2006, he signed a developmental deal with WWE, causing him to miss out on his first potential tour of Japan.
Before he could even report for duty, however, Castagnoli was released from his contract. To use WWE terminology, he'd been future endeavored before he even debuted.
But that wouldn't deter Castagnoli from living his dream. He and partner Chris Hero, now also signed to WWE developmental under the name Kassius Ohno, would reign supreme in the United States and Japan as the Kings of Wrestling.
Last September, Castagnoli re-signed with WWE, scoring a rare second chance that many had begun to believe may never come to fruition.
While I admit I didn't see much of his work - now wrestling under the Cesaro ring name - from Florida Championship Wrestling, he apparently did enough to impress the top brass in quick fashion, as he debuted on Smackdown in a backstage segment last week, only seven months after debuting in development.
On tonight's episode of Smackdown, Cesaro made his WWE television in-ring debut, defeating Tyson Kidd in a "tryout" match. When I heard the spoilers for this contest, I thought Kidd would make a great first opponent for Cesaro, and I was proved right.
Kidd's size allowed for Cesaro to hit his signature pop-up European uppercut and, in turn, pop the crowd, and his ability to sell made Cesaro look like a million bucks in his debut.
The possibilities are endless with Cesaro. He has the size, the look and the talent to be a top star. The only thing that could hold him back are his English-language promos, but if WWE chose to push him as a uber-European heel, I almost think he'd be better served doing promos in a condescending German accent.
What remains to be seen is what the creative team has in store. If Cesaro falls into the Brodus Clay, Lord Tensai and Ryback trap of endless squash matches and no clear direction, he could be in trouble.
I, though, am hoping this is just the beginning of a lengthy run filled with title reigns and high-profile matches that I'll be able to embrace and latch onto in the years to come.
And when Cesaro is joined by guys like Ohno, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, the journey is only going to get that much better.
- Sheamus scored a win back over Mark Henry after being screwed in their match on Raw by Daniel Bryan. The match was given a decent amount of time for a Smackdown main event, and they put together a decent contest. Sheamus looks strong heading into Extreme Rules, and that's precisely what this match needed to accomplish. Afterward, Sheamus cut a promo on Bryan, mocking his "Yes, Yes, Yes" catchphrase. That was pretty sweet.
- It was amazing how the opening segment of the show ran on a completely downward incline. It started with a strong Daniel Bryan promo, in which he continued to embrace his villainous character, and then shifted to an Alberto Del Rio promo and finally to the Big Show chokeslamming Ricardo Rodriguez. Del Rio and Show's promos were just kind of there. Del Rio laid claim to a world title shot after Extreme Rules, which if those are the plans, would likely indicate my predictions were wrong and Sheamus walks out of the pay-per-view with the title.
Big Show and Del Rio had a short match that ended when Cody Rhodes interfered and attacked Show. The match didn't really go on long enough to hit its full stride, but the beginning of it was alright. It's hard to rate or review a match like this that never gets off the ground. After the match, Rhodes was further embarrassed by Show, who whipped him with his own belt. The stipulation for their Intercontinental Championship match at Extreme Rules will be determined with the spin of a wheel on the pre-show. I'm guessing it's a strap match.