Cesaro, who has long been a fan favorite to finally get a world championship match, will get his chance at one inside the Elimination Chamber where he takes on Jey Uso, Daniel Bryan, Kevin Owens, King Corbin and Sami Zayn on Sunday (7 p.m., WWE Network). The winner gets to face Universal champion Roman Reigns later in the night. Before stepping into the chamber, Cesaro took time for some Q&A with The Post’s wrestling writer Joseph Staszewski.
(Edited for clarity and length)
Q: How are you approaching this opportunity at Elimination Chamber knowing how long fans have and probably you have wanted that world title opportunity?
A: Just two years ago we had “KofiMania”, right. That was kicked off by [the] Chamber as well. As much as I feel every moment of the year is important, this part of the year where it goes into WrestleMania season is overdrive. It’s important to pick up some momentum and it’s also really hard to pick up some momentum. I feel like I’ve managed to do that. I’m extremely excited. I’m also excited for all the people who have been supporting me over the past years. Hopefully, I make them proud.
Q: You mentioned Kofimania. Is that harder to have happen now because there are no fans in the arena?
A: I want to say next to impossible because … it is not impossible but it is very, very hard because I feel the fans are such a big part in what we do and they are such a big part in all the moments we create. Look at Kofimania, look at Becky Lynch, look at Daniel Bryan, Edge coming back at the Rumble. Those are all moments that were made extra special by the fans. Now our challenge is to make moments with the virtual audience and trying to resonate with the fans in different ways.
Q: It felt like you tried to resonate with your ‘Talking Smack’ promo. What was the motivation behind it and what did you want fans to come away with?
A: We need to find different ways to interact with our audience and try to gain some momentum. ‘Talking Smack’ is always a chance to just speak, to just say what you feel. I didn’t go into that ‘Talking Smack’ with a game plan. I didn’t have what I wanted to say written down. I actually didn’t really know what I wanted to say. I just wanted to speak from the heart and that’s what I did. And afterward I was like, “Is that good? Was that alright?” (Laughs) It was kind of one of those and I kind of feel like, no you said this, this. And I’m like, yeah I did and I meant it. It’s like everything I said I meant it. It was kind of like I was in a zone, you know what I mean.
I just wanted the fans to know that I appreciate them. I appreciate all the people out there that work really hard and may not see the appreciation or the results right away. There are a lot of people who do the right thing because you did the right thing, not necessarily because it is rewarded. I wanted all them to know that I appreciate them, especially in the hard year that was last year and continues to be this year, with all the first responders and health workers that just put in countless hours all the people who go through hardships and just try to make ends meet and do that right thing. I just wanted to let them know I appreciate them.
Q: What do you think has kept you from getting that push into a main event title picture all these years?
A: I think there have been a lot of different variables that go into it. Sometimes I feel like the squeaky wheel gets the grease kind of thing. Sometimes something that’s always there and reliable you kind of start to overlook it because you take it for granted. I always try to create as much momentum as I could and do the best with what I was given and am given and I think that’s the important part. Just keep working hard and make the best every single time with the opportunities that you’re given.
If you look at some of the past greats, it all took them a while to come into their own and get to the world champion level. Yes, there are a few people that did it fast. But look at Edge, look at Bret Hart, look at all those guys. They are all with WWE for almost 10 years before they hit their big break.
Q: Was there ever a point where you thought about leaving WWE and trying to go at it a different way?
A: Yeah. So, I’m extremely stubborn. (Laughs). It’s a good and a bad thing obviously, but I really enjoy entertaining people and I really enjoy traveling all over the world and that’s what kept me going. I still believe in hard work paying off and that’s what I wanted to do. Of course, you start to think, OK what are other options or other possibilities. How can improve my standing maybe through some outside ventures or whatever? But in the end, I just figured OK when the right moment comes I’ll be ready and I’ll knock it out of the park.
Q: Corey Graves said of your ‘Talking Smack’ promo on his podcast ‘After the Bell’: “For some reason, Cesaro is the guy that’s not translated to mega-stardom in WWE because that’s not his strong suit. He’s not an entertaining, captivating orator. He’s the world’s best wrestler. Period, point blank. It’s finally gotten to the point where he’s realized that’s all he’s ever going to be: the world’s best wrestler. I don’t say that to diminish it or make it less important. That is who Cesaro is. That is what he brings to the table.” How accurate do you think that is?
A: I looked it more as Corey saying I’m finally playing to my strengths. A lot of people are trying to put on a character when they’re not [that]. To me, right now, I’m just like you know what, screw it. I am who I am and I’m frickin’ proud of it.
I kind of came to the realization that I have my values and I have my beliefs that is right and I just need to be proud of them and present them. Other people who have those same beliefs. They believe in hard work, they believe in integrity and what you say is important. To me, actions carry more weight than words. So you have seen me for the past nine years kill it every single time I get in the ring and then, I’m not going to go and talk about it because you just saw it. There are plenty of people who tell you how awesome you are then you see them and you’re like ehh, actually not that much. Now that’s who I am and I’m proud of it and let’s go. So, yes, Corey.
One of the things I realized over the years is a strength is knowing and acknowledging your weaknesses. I don’t think 10-minute monologues are necessary (for me). Nor do I want to do a 10-minute monologue. If somebody says that’s my biggest fault, fine so be it. I’m still super entertaining. And in a lot of other countries, they have to cut that or translate that because people don’t speak English. I speak the language and I’m really good at that’s universal and that’s what we do in the ring and if he says I’m the best at it that’s a huge compliment from Corey because he watches a lot of wrestling,
Q: You’ve had very few singles opportunities with Roman Reigns. With the level that he’s working on now, is that something as a performer that’s a really enticing opportunity?
A: Yeah. I’ve been working on that level for a long time I feel like. Every time me and Roman step in the ring, there is some great chemistry. To feed off his performance and where I’m at I think that would be great. You just saw what he did with Jey Uso, which is awesome. I think that would be a lot of fun and a lot of good storytelling.
Q: You had an interaction with Seth Rollins last week on SmackDown. Is his character something that fits maybe trying to lure Cesaro into taking a shortcut with someone like him instead of sticking to that hard work?
A: I don’t think I ever picked the easy way, even when it was available because I was too stubborn. I’d rather do it the hard way. I think that’s an interesting possibility. Seth Rollins was someone I wrestled a lot in tag matches with him and Dean Ambrose against me and Sheamus, but I don’t think we’ve had the big singles match. I’ve wrestled him on SmackDown and stuff, but that was five, six years ago. I think that’s an interesting possibility right there.
Q: Is there one of your tag teams you wish had more time together?
A: All of them. But you have to say me and Tyson Kidd because we were only a team for six months to the dot and I think that team had so much potential. We had so much fun, especially with Natalya involved as well. That was a special time in my career.
Q: Do you have a favorite Swing or Swing moment?
A: There are so many (laughs). The first time I did it was with Santino in Toronto. That was special because it was just the first time. I swung the Great Khali, which was insane and special. The Swing I did while Sheamus did the Ten Beats of Bodhran at WrestleMania (35) when we just went on forever and ever. There’s a bunch of Swings, but to me what makes it special is live events or when we tour internationally when people get to see it live and the live reaction. You kind of see it on TV and you’re like, oh they’re just cutting camera angles. But to see it live, it’s just one of those moves that make it fun to perform in front of the crowd.
Q: Do you have a dream match or something you haven’t done yet that’s appealing right now?
A: There are still guys I haven’t wrestled. Think me and A.J. (Styles) never really had a long singles match. Keith Lee, Matt Riddle just came up on Raw. There are so many guys even in NXT I haven’t had long singles matches or a singles program with. Even on SmackDown with the dynamics changing you know like Jey Uso, Roman Reigns or someone like Sami Zayn even Shinsuke I haven’t had a singles match with.
Q: You were someone who was very close to Brodie Lee. How would you describe what it meant to be friends with him to someone who didn’t know him?
A: I once read this quote. Friends are like stars. You may not always see them but they’re always there for you. That’s how it was with him because I’ve probably known him since 2005, which is like a year after I moved to the United State we first met. We were always in contact, we always did indy shows together, we did CHIKARA, we did Ring of Honor together and he came to WWE about a year after me. We started being on the road together and we just had that bond from back in the day and coming from the same upbringing.
When he came down to the Philadelphia area, he would always stay at my place. I kept an extra mattress in my bedroom just to pull out to the living room for him to stay so he had a place to sleep on that wasn’t the couch of the floor back in the day. So I’ve known him forever and it’s still hard to grasp that I’m not going to see him because it’s always like, “I’ll see you again when I see you around” because it’s the wrestling business we see each other again. It’s just hard. We had a similar sense of humor, so my bad jokes made him groan, and he would try to get me with bad jokes. We’d just stir the pot. He was a very good complement (to me) and was a lot of fun to be around.