So how does our United States champion spend Valentine’s Day?
“Antonio Cesaro goes to the gym like any other day,” the WWE superstar said. “To me, holidays don’t really mean much. I think that’s just part of me being dedicated to what I do. I workout on Christmas [Christkind], birthdays, Valentine’s Day.”
Cesaro, 32, takes pride in the amount of time and effort his life consumes to become a top pro wrestler/sports entertainer.
It’s his passion.
“In any sport to be successful, you need to have a big passion for it,” Cesaro said. “For me, that was clear from day one. I had my first match on Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, in 2000 [Essen, Germany], so it was clear from the beginning you need to make sacrifices in order to be successful.
“A couple of years later I moved to the United States. I left my family and friends and started a new life essentially, because this is what I wanted to do. People don’t realize the sacrifices you have to make in order to be successful, also the dedication you need to have, and I would say I’m a pretty dedicated person.”
Valentine’s Day is everyday for Cesaro and his love, truly resonating every time he grabs a mic, walks to the ring, competes there.
“When I started doing it, I fell in love with it,” Cesaro said. “I was always into sports, always very active, when I was younger. I played every sport I could find. I played rugby for a bit. I got kicked out, and then I was looking for something else, and I found professional wrestling.”
Difficult to find in Switzerland, he was determined.
“It was something I watched as a kid, and I liked,” he said.
Television in Switzerland carried pro wrestling sparingly.
“I watched it on a German TV station in the early 1990s during the big wrestling boom,” he said. “There was some Japanese wrestling on a different channel. Then I started getting the DVDs and VHS tapes of wrestling from all over the world.”
When he signed with WWE in 2011, his complete transformation into Antonio Cesaro began.
His persona: arrogant, confident, condescending.
His look: shiningly chiseled.
His skill: outstanding.
Connect the lines, and fans can’t help but boo him.
Cesaro, one of the top rising superstars in WWE, is the first U.S. champ from Switzerland. He won the title at SummarSlam, defeating Santino Marella on the pre-show. His climb to superstardom began in Switzerland in 2000 with that debut match in Germany. To make it on the big stage in WWE is quite the challenge, especially if you hail from somewhere which is not known for pro wrestling/sports entertainment prowess.
“There is a traditional Swiss [amateur] wrestling that is very, very popular in Switzerland, and when I trained in professional wrestling, I was always very conscience to learn anything the correct way. There are many amateur wrestling throws and holds in professional wrestling.”
Cesaro first learned from Sig Masta Rappo, who he met in Switzerland. Rappo, who trained under WWE Hall of Famer Dory Funk Jr., was an active wrestler, and he took Cesaro with him throughout Europe.
“When I trained, you started with the basics, which was all amateur wrestling basics -- takedown, takedown defense. I was very fortunate to have that kind of training.”
Cesaro elevated his training.
“I started training with people like Dave Taylor in England and Robbie Brookside in Germany, Ecki Eckstein and guys from the old catch tournaments where wrestling was very important and very technical and very real.”
Cesaro, as a U.S. champ and WWE superstar, is a groundbreaker, helping open unchartered international doors.
“The United States is so far away; so that career path is unusual, to say the least,” he said. “It never seemed realistic until I did it.
“It’s not something that you do in Switzerland. It not that popular there because it’s not on TV, and it’s not ingrained in the culture like it is over here.”
Cesaro is versed in several wrestling styles, including American, European, Japanese. Prior to FCW (now WWE NXT) and WWE, he wrestled the European circuit as well as Japan’s Pro Wrestling Noah and Chikara and Ring of Honor in the United States among others.
“Every continent has a different wrestling style,” Cesaro said. “In Europe, it’s very, very technical, which you’d be able to tell by watching me in the ring.”
He debuted in FCW in September 2011. By April, this red chipper got the call, joining SmackDown.
• Going corporate
Valentine’s Day was not celebrated in Switzerland when Cesaro grew up there, but times have changed.
“Because of the commercial value of the holiday, it has become increasingly popular there -- the same thing for example with Halloween,” Cesaro said. “Once people realize they can sell more things to more places on a holiday, they try to bring those silly holidays over to Europe as well.”
• Swiss Misses
What do you miss most about Switzerland?
“Home,” he said. “My family, friends, the mountains, Switzerland itself.”
• Who needs Rosetta Stone
Utilized in his WWE character portrayal, Cesaro does speak four languages.
“Everybody in Switzerland speak Swiss, essentially, but we read and write in German,” he noted. “That’s something you learn from the first day of school.
“In Switzerland, there’s a French part. There’s an Italian part, and there’s a German speaking part. There’s also a Latin mountain language part, but not too many people speak it. You start learning French in sixth grade, and I started learning English in eighth grade.
“I learned Italian after school, because I wanted to speak another language as well.
“To me, school was always very important, because a good education is very good base for the future. No matter what it is you decide to do, you have that education to fall back on.”
• Are you smarter than a Rhodes Scholar?
Cesaro, who performs well in the ring, performs well out of it. He achieved academically, later studying business, to mirror his stellar mastery of linguistics.
Who is smarter? The Intellectual Savior of the Masses Damien Sandow of Rhodes Scholars or Antonio Cesaro?
“Antonio Cesaro,” he said without hesitation.
“I give Damien Sandow credit, though. He’s a very smart man.”
You both are smarter than Cody Rhodes. Correct?
Cesaro answered, “I’m not going to answer that.”
• The other football
As a youth, Cesaro competed in European football.
“The real football [soccer] that we play in Europe,” the athletic Cesaro chuckled, “without the pads, with an actual ball that you play with your foot as opposed to the egg and the hand.
“I played basketball, rugby as I mentioned, anything that you could play outside with your friends. We played baseball. We tried anything as long as it was fun.”
Cesaro also served in the Swiss Militia.
• Swiss Miz
U.S. champ Antonio Cesaro wrestles The Miz during the WWE Elimination Chamber live on pay-per-view at 8 p.m. EST Sunday, Feb. 17 from the New Orleans Arena.
“I’m very excited about the Elimination Chamber, the last pay-per-view before WrestleMania,” Cesaro said. “Everybody wants a win, wants to get on a roll, to head into WrestleMania with a lot of steam, and that’s what makes the Road to WrestleMania so exciting for the fans to watch.
“The Elimination Chamber [PPV] is going to have some great matches. Obviously, it will have me defending my U.S. championship against The Miz, which should be great if you like seeing The Miz get beat up.”
Also, The Rock defends the WWE Championship against CM Punk (with Paul Heyman). If The Rock is disqualified or counted out, he loses the championship.
Cesaro observed: “Rock vs. Punk is a rematch from the Royal Rumble, and if Rock gets DQ’d or counted out, the title changes hands, which is great as I’m looking forward to seeing Punk win the title again.”
World champ Alberto Del Rio (with Ricardo Rodriguez) versus The Big Show.
Daniel Bryan, Mark Henry, Chris Jericho, Randy Orton, Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler in an elimination chamber for a World championship title shot at WrestleMania 29.
Cesaro said: “The elimination chamber is always very exciting and always very unpredictable.”
John Cena, Sheamus and Ryback battle The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins).
Cesaro said: “This is only The Shield’s second sanctioned match in WWE, and if you saw the first match, you kind of know what you’re in for. It will be very exciting.”
WWE women’s champ Kaitlyn against Tamina Snuka.
Pre-show: Brodus Clay and Tensai (with Cameron and Naomi) vs. Team Rhodes Scholars (Damien Sandow & Cody Rhodes).
Cesaro said: “It’s going to be a great night to be a WWE fan in the WWE Universe.”
The Elimination Chamber is the final pay–per–view stop before WWE WrestleMania 29 on April 7 at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
• Twitter: @AntonioCesaro
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