NZPWI had the opportunity to speak to WWE Superstar Cesaro earlier this week.
A former United States Champion, and Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal winner, The Swiss Superman has stamped his mark on the WWE Universe since debuting in 2012.
Currently one-half of the Raw Tag Team Champions, Cesaro will be part of the WWE Live event in Christchurch this September.
Cesaro spoke to NZPWI’s David Dunn about his path to WWE, Sheamus, The Hardy Boyz, his excitement about New Zealand, and more in this exclusive interview conducted Monday, June 12.
David Dunn: Growing up in Switzerland, what’s your first memory of pro-wrestling?
Cesaro: My first memory was seeing The Steiners and The Quebecers on my television with WWF back then. Then it was Bret Hart and Owen Hart and Macho Man, those guys, right away, but the first memory I have of professional wrestling is The Steiner Brothers against The Quebecers.
Watching them, did you immediately want to become a pro-wrestler?
When you see it as a kid it’s like, ‘Wow, this is so cool!’ Like a comic book, but it’s real, and it draws you right in. Of course you dress up as them and you play wrestling and it’s just so much fun. Growing up I was kind of like, that’s what I want to do. As a kid that was my dream job. It’s like, ‘What’s your dream job?’ ‘I want to be a professional wrestler.’ And then reality kicks in and you find another real job, and that’s what I did, but then I had a chance to train wrestling and follow those footsteps and I haven’t looked back since.
What was the best piece of advice you received when you first started training?
When I started training I would say… eyes and ears open, mouth shut. That was it, one of the best pieces of advice. Just learn as much as you can and from anybody that you can, and never stop learning.
Obviously, with the realities of immigration, it’s not a straightforward path from Switzerland to America. Was it difficult to make it to the United States?
It was very difficult. If you look back I got kind of lucky – they say luck is preparation meets opportunity, and that kind of happened for me. I wrestled for about four years in Europe and I went to the United States to train a couple of times and then I was lucky enough to enter the green card lottery. I won a green card, which is, you can come to the US and work. I had a really good job at Johnson & Johnson in Switzerland and I quit, and four months later I moved to the United States and, again, haven’t looked back since. The other day I looked up and the chance for me winning was about one per cent.
You battled your current tag team partner, Sheamus, in a Best of Seven Series in 2016. Do you prefer wrestling Sheamus, or having him in your corner?
I prefer looking over and seeing Sheamus on my side. It’s no fun to be hit hard by Sheamus. It’s much more fun to see Sheamus hit other people hard … on top of that, over the years—especially the last year of us hitting each other hard—we grew a bond and a respect for each other, and right now we’re the best of chums so to speak.
You’re currently involved in a feud with The Hardy Boyz, an iconic team in WWE history. What do you and Sheamus need to do to be held in the same regard as Matt and Jeff?
I think we already proved we can beat The Hardy Boyz, and we can hang with The Hardy Boyz. We are just getting started, and I think if we continue the path that we started we definitely have a chance to improve and become one of the greatest tag teams in WWE. If you look at Sheamus’ career, he’s won just about everything there is to win in WWE. With me, I think this is going to be a fun team for a long time in the future.
From your Best of Seven Series with Sheamus, to your Steel Cage Match at Extreme Rules, to the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, to the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, you’ve wrestled under some of WWE’s most iconic stipulations. Are there any matches you’d still like to have?
I’ve had a chance to compete in many of the iconic matches. For example we also won Survivor Series last year in Canada, which was amazing. There’s a few matches… since you had the steel cage match, I remember those the old blue steel cage which would be amazing—just maybe for nostalgia reasons—would be awesome to compete in one of those. I’m trying to think of other matches. I still prefer the one-on-one, classic wrestling match and that’s why the Best of Seven series with Sheamus is so fond in mind. That’s what I think bonded me and Sheamus because we left it all in the ring. How about an Ironman Match? Like a 60-minute Ironman Match. How about we put that there?
You have such a diverse moveset, from the Neutraliser, to the Cesaro Swing, to the European Uppercut. Do you have a favourite move to perform?
I would say the European Uppercut, because I can do so many different variations of it so I can be extremely creative with it and I always find different ways to hit it, which is a lot of fun for me, and also the crowd, to watch because you never really know what to expect. I think that’s part of, like you said, the moveset, I think I have a moveset that people know the moves but you don’t really know when to expect it and I think that’s part of the fun of watching. It’s not just, ‘Okay, he’s going to do the same thing at the same time in the same order.’ It’s a little bit different. Of course, the Cesaro Swing is near and dear to my heart because it’s an incredible move and it takes an incredible person to execute it.
In 2013, the Cesaro Swing caused Titus O’Neil to be physically sick. Has that ever happened to you?
For me, no, because I got used to it and usually my legs get tired before I get dizzy. I’ve heard it from many people, they absolutely hate the Swing because they do get very dizzy, but on the other hand I’m kind of immune to it.
WWE Live comes to Christchurch this September. Have you been to New Zealand before?
I’m extremely excited about this because I’ve never been to New Zealand, apart from a layover. When you land you see all the beauty that is New Zealand, all the green. I get very excited every time we land in Switzerland for similar reasons. New Zealand, it was kind of the same feeling. So I was very excited that WWE is coming and actually Raw is coming to New Zealand and I’m extremely excited. I can’t wait to come to New Zealand and hopefully go sightseeing.
How would you describe the WWE Live event experience to someone who may have seen Raw or SmackDown Live on TV, but never seen WWE in person?
People, they want to see Raw and SmackDown with the pyros and stuff but there’s nothing compared to a WWE Live event because it’s so much more intimate. It’s so much more… you’re really just in the middle. The matches are longer, the people have more time to interact. It’s just that crazy energy that you can’t describe. What you see on TV and you watch with your friends, you kind of get sucked into the matches and the reactions, it’s amplified that by hundreds when you go to a live show. People are there to have fun and have a good time. It’s just this great energy and I can’t wait to see what New Zealand has to offer in that aspect.
WWE Live comes to Christchurch at Horncastle Arena on Wednesday, September 13. Tickets available from Ticketek.