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.
On a side note, as Show whipped Rhodes with a belt, Booker T said that's something Dusty Rhodes should have done 20 years ago. Be a star; don't be a bully, but abusing your children may be acceptable.
- I am quickly taking to the team of Titus O'Neil and Darren Young. They worked a short match against Yoshi Tatsu and Ezekiel Jackson, which they won in dominant fashion and looked good doing so. I'm not sure what to think of their backstage and promo antics, but they had me laughing. I'm all for a new tag team being built up, as long as they are used right, unlike most other current teams. I wonder how long it will be before these two are jobbing to Big Show and Great Khali.
- After winning the Divas Championship from Beth Phoenix on Raw, Nikki Bella retained the title - albeit with an assist from her sister, Brie - against Alicia Fox. The match was short and not a bad quick defense for Bella, who will face Phoenix in a rematch at Extreme Rules. I'm expecting the twins to capitalize on Phoenix's injury to score a quick win, only to be destroyed by a returning Kharma.
- It doesn't matter if Rhodes was supposed to be selling injuries from earlier in the night, there is no justification for a rising star to be taking a clean loss to The Great Khali on television. Whoever made this decision should have their position undergo a corporate restructuring.
- Randy Orton's interview with Michael Cole was one of the strongest Orton promos in a long while, but Jinder Mahal's involvement in the segment was baffling. By using someone who hasn't even been on TV for weeks, the ending of the bit was completely telegraphed and, frankly, less effective.
- AJ snapping and slapping Kaitlyn was great. That'll teach you what to expect when you win NXT and make occasional appearances on television. In all seriousness, though, AJ's slow-burn heel turn has been well played, and I hope she cements it by helping Bryan cheat to win the title on Sunday.
- John Laurinaitis giving Teddy Long a spot on commentary but only allowing him to talk when the boss said so is pretty funny. It plays off all the stories of Vince McMahon dealing with commentators and provides some short-term laughs.
- There are a few others things that have become commonplace and that I don't feel need more description: Damien Sandow cut a pre-taped promo, and Ryback squashed a local talent.
Big Show d. Alberto Del Rio by disqualification
Nikki Bella d. Alicia Fox to retain the Divas Championship
Darren Young and Titus O'Neil d. Ezekiel Jackson and Yoshi Tatsu
Antonio Cesaro d. Tyson Kidd
Great Khali d. Cody Rhodes
Ryback d. Jacob Kay
Sheamus d. Mark Henry
Tonight's Smackdown was remarkably average. There was some good; there was some bad. Sheamus and Bryan's segments helped build their match at the pay-per-view, but aside from that, there was very little about this show to convince someone to order Extreme Rules. This wasn't as bad of a show as it looked like on paper, but for the go-home show to the first pre-WrestleMania pay-per-view, I would have expected more.
Ring Posts’ Adam Testa has teamed up with My 1-2-3 Cents and All American Pro Wrestling to bring you "From the Rafters Radio," a weekly pro wrestling talk radio show airing on Monster Radio 1150 AM in Southern Illinois and streaming worldwide on wggh.net.