"The Most Money Making Man"
"The Stalwart Swiss Powerhouse"
"The Swiss Sensation"
"The Swiss Superman"
December 27, 1980
United Bank of Switzerland
December 24, 2000
Very Mysterious Ice Cream
Very European Uppercut
Inverted Chikara Special
Roaring Swiss Uppercut
Double foot stomp
Jim Breaks Special
Multiple European uppercut variations Diving
Multiple suplex variations Delayed gutwrench
Swiss Sleeper Holding
Very European Uppercut
Chikara Chikara Campeonatos de Parejas (2 times) – with Chris Hero (1) and Ares (1)
King of Trios (2010) – with Ares and Tursas
Tag World Grand Prix (2005) – with Arik Cannon
Tag World Grand Prix (2006) – with Chris Hero
Torneo Cibernético (2007)
Cleveland All-Pro Wrestling CAPW Unified Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
Combat Zone Wrestling CZW World Tag Team Championship (2 times) – with Chris Hero
Last Team Standing (2006) – with Chris Hero
German Stampede Wrestling GSW Tag Team Championship (2 times) – with Ares
Juggalo Championship Wrestling JCW Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Chris Hero
International Pro Wrestling: United Kingdom IPW:UK Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Ares
Independent Wrestling Association: Switzerland IWA Switzerland World Heavyweight Championship
Pro Wrestling Guerrilla PWG World Championship (1 time)
Pro Wrestling Illustrated PWI ranked him #44 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2011
Ring of Honor ROH World Tag Team Championship (2 times) – with Chris Hero
Race to the Top Tournament (2007)
Tag Wars (2010) – with Chris Hero
Swiss Wrestling Federation SWF Powerhouse Championship (2 times)
SWF Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Ares
Westside Xtreme Wrestling wXw World Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
wXw Tag Team Championship (3 times) – with Ares
Wrestling Observer Newsletter Tag Team of the Year (2010) with Chris Hero
World Wrestling Entertainment WWE United States Championship (1 time, current)
Winner of Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania XXX
Professional wrestling career
Castagnoli received his initial training in his homeland of Switzerland from fellow Swiss wrestler SigMasta Rappo, and made his debut on December 24, 2000 in Essen, Germany for the Germany-based Westside Xtreme Wrestling. Castagnoli first used a Japanese gimmick before becoming a Swiss banker along with Ares, together known as Swiss Money Holding.
While performing in England, Castagnoli received training from Dave Taylor. In Switzerland, Castagnoli met Chris Hero and Mike Quackenbush, who invited Swiss Money Holding to perform in the United States. They competed in IWA Mid-South and Chikara and received training from Hero before returning to Europe. In 2004 Castagnoli received a United States Permanent Resident Card in his first try at the green card lottery and moved to the United States, where he began making regular appearances for Ring of Honor and Chikara, while Ares remained in Switzerland and formed the new Swiss Money Holding with Marc Roudin.
Kings of Wrestling (2003–2006)
Castagnoli and Ares made their Chikara debuts on May 7, 2003, at the 2003 Tag World Grand Prix, from which they were eliminated after drawing with the SuperFriends (Chris Hero and Mike Quackenbush). Castagnoli returned to Chikara in 2004 as a member of Larry Sweeney's Sweet 'n' Sour International faction. The following year Castagnoli teamed up with Arik Cannon to form AC/CC. The team entered the 2005 Tag World Grand Prix and ended up winning the tournament after Hero turned on his partner Quackenbush in the final of the tournament. Together, Castagnoli, Cannon and Hero formed the Kings of Wrestling faction. Cannon left the promotion at the end of 2005, leaving Hero and Castagnoli to form a regular tag team. They entered the 2006 Tag World Grand Prix, defeating Equinox and Hydra, Ranmaru and Sumie Sakai, the North Star Express (Ryan Cruz and Darin Corbin), Incoherence (Hallowicked and Delirious), and finally Team Dragondoor (Skayde and Milano Collection A.T.) to become the inaugural Chikara Campeones de Parejas.
On November 17, 2006 at the Chikara show Brick in Reading, Pennsylvania, Castagnoli and Hero lost the Chikara tag titles to Team F.I.S.T. (Icarus and Gran Akuma) in a two out of three falls match. Following the match, Hero and Team F.I.S.T. turned on Castagnoli and attacked him. In November 2006 it was revealed that Castagnoli had signed a developmental deal with the World Wrestling Entertainment, having impressed them with an appearance on Raw (as a police officer in a backstage segment) and a successful tryout for Deep South Wrestling. Shortly after, Castagnoli was released from his WWE contract.
Going solo (2007–2009)
Castagnoli (right), upon his return to Chikara with Ice Cream, Jr. (left) and El Hijo del Ice Cream.
Castagnoli returned to Chikara on February 16, 2007, as a masked character named 'A Very Mysterious Ice Cream', part of Los Ice Creams. Afterward Castagnoli started feuding with his former partner Chris Hero. On April 22, 2007, at Rey de Voladores Hero defeated Castagnoli and as per stipulation of the match Castagnoli was forced to re-join the Kings of Wrestling. The following month Hero, Castagnoli and Larry Sweeney joined forces with Team F.I.S.T. (Icarus, Akuma and Chuck Taylor) to form the Kings of Wrestling superstable, which was later joined by Mitch Ryder, Max Boyer and Shayne Hawke. On September 22, 2007, at Cibernetico & Robin the Kings of Wrestling faced Los Luchadores in the annual torneo cibernetico match. The Kings won the match with Hero, Castagnoli and Mitch Ryder as the survivors, but since the match could only have one winner, they were forced to face each other. Castagnoli forced Hero to tap out and then pinned Ryder to win not only the match, but also his freedom from the Kings of Wrestling. On December 9, 2007, Castagnoli defeated Hero to finally end their long feud. After the match Hero left the company and Castagnoli took over his training duties at the Chikara Wrestle Factory.
In 2008 Castagnoli started a new feud, this time with Brodie Lee. On September 7 Castagnoli defeated Lee in the first steel cage match in Chikara history to win the feud. On October 19, 2008, Castagnoli won a seven-on-seven Global Gauntlet match where Chikara wrestlers faced off with wrestlers from Big Japan Pro Wrestling.
Bruderschaft des Kreuzes (2009–2011)
Castagnoli at a Chikara event in April 2010.
Castagnoli entered the 2009 King of Trios teaming with Bryan Danielson and Dave Taylor as Team Uppercut. The team advanced to the finals of the tournament, where they were defeated by F.I.S.T. (Icarus, Akuma and Taylor). After the tournament Eddie Kingston, whose team The Roughnecks had been eliminated by Castagnoli and his team, claimed that he had been embarrassed and disrepected by Castagnoli. On May 24, 2009, Kingston, who had claimed technical superiority over Castagnoli, pinned him cleanly with an Oklahoma roll. After Castagnoli defeated Kingston via countout at the 2009 Young Lions Cup, the two of them were booked in a "Respect Match" on November 22, 2009, at the season eight finale Three-Fisted Tales, where the loser of the match had to show respect to the winner. Castagnoli won the match, but instead of showing respect, Kingston attacked him, claiming that both Castagnoli and his former partner (Chris Hero) were shady and did not deserve respect. At the conclusion of the show Ares revealed himself as the man who had been stalking UltraMantis Black, at which point Castagnoli turned rudo by attacking Mike Quackenbush. After beating the entire tecnico roster Castagnoli aligned himself with Ares, Tursas, Pinkie Sanchez, Tim Donst, Sara Del Rey and Daizee Haze to form the Bruderschaft des Kreuzes.
The Bruderschaft des Kreuzes (Castagnoli, Tursas and Ares) as Campeonatos de Parejas.
After picking up the three points needed in order to challenge for the Campeonatos de Parejas in just one weekend, Castagnoli and Ares defeated The Colony (Fire Ant and Soldier Ant) on March 20, 2010, to win the championship, making Castagnoli the first two-time Campeon de Parejas in Chikara history. In April Castagnoli, Ares and Tursas defeated the teams of The Osirian Portal (Amasis and Ophidian) and Sara Del Rey, Team Perros del Mal (El Alebrije, Cuije and El Orientál), Team Big Japan Wrestling (Daisuke Sekimoto, Kankuro Hoshino and Yuji Okabayashi) and The Colony (Fire Ant, Soldier Ant and Green Ant) over a three-day tournament to win the 2010 King of Trios. On October 23 Castagnoli represented BDK in the torneo cibernetico match, where they faced a team composed of Chikara originals. He eliminated himself from the match by low blowing Eddie Kingston, but his plan did not work out as Kingston came back to eliminate Tursas and win the match. At the season nine finale on December 12, Castagnoli and Ares lost the Campeonatos de Parejas to Jigsaw and Mike Quackenbush. On March 13, 2011, Castagnoli and Eddie Kingston finally faced each other in a grudge match fifteen months in the making, with Castagnoli emerging victorious after hitting Kingston with a chain. In May, Castagnoli entered the 12 Large: Summit to determine the first ever Chikara Grand Champion. During the Chikarasaurus Rex weekend on July 30 and 31, Castagnoli was involved in two main event matches, both of which were also a part of the 12 Large: Summit. After losing to Mike Quackenbush on Night 1, Castagnoli suffered an upset loss against his BDK stablemate Sara Del Rey on Night 2, after which he turned on not only Del Rey, but also Daizee Haze as she was standing up for her regular tag team partner. At the following event on August 27, Castagnoli was defeated by Icarus, eliminating him from contention in the 12 Large: Summit.
Combat Zone Wrestling (2004–2006)
In late 2004 Castagnoli made his way to Combat Zone Wrestling, where he teamed up with Chris Hero to once again form the Kings of Wrestling. Eventually, on September 10, 2005 they defeated The Tough Crazy Bastards of Necro Butcher and Toby Klein to win the CZW World Tag Team Championship. While feuding with BLKOUT, Castagnoli and Hero lost the titles to Eddie Kingston and Joker. In September the Tag Team Championship was vacated when Joker left the company and on October 14, 2006, at Last Team Standing Castagnoli and Hero defeated Human Tornado and Justice Pain in the finals of a tournament to regain the championship. With their victory Castagnoli and Hero held the tag team titles of three of the top American independent companies simultaneously (CZW, Chikara and ROH).
After news broke that WWE was interested in Castagnoli, he and Hero dropped the CZW World Tag Team Titles to the BLKOUT of Sabian and Robbie Mireno on November 11, 2006. Castagnoli has not returned to the company since the loss.
Ring of Honor
Feud with Nigel McGuinness and CZW Invasion (2005–2006)
Castagnoli made his Ring of Honor debut on July 16, 2005, at Fate of an Angel. For the rest of the year, he feuded with Pure Champion Nigel McGuinness. On December 17 at Final Battle 2005 McGuinness defeated Castagnoli in a match for the title and as a result Claudio could no longer challenge for the title as long as McGuinness was the champion. At the beginning of 2006 Castagnoli's partner from other promotions, Chris Hero, along with other Combat Zone Wrestling wrestlers invaded ROH and started a cross-promotional war. Castagnoli initially sided with ROH, but on April 22, 2006, at The 100th Show turned on the company and assisted Hero, Super Dragon and Necro Butcher in defeating Team ROH (Samoa Joe, B.J. Whitmer and Adam Pearce) in a six-man main event match. On July 15, 2006, at Death Before Dishonor 4 Team ROH defeated Castagnoli, Hero, Necro Butcher, Nate Webb and Eddie Kingston in a Cage of Death match to end the feud. Due to having a contract with ROH prior to the invasion however, Castagnoli was allowed to stay in the company, while the rest of Team CZW were forced out. Hero returned to the company during the August tour of United Kingdom and on September 16 he revealed that he had stolen the ROH World Tag Team Championship belts from champions Austin Aries and Roderick Strong in order to get himself and Castagnoli a match for them. That match took place on September 16, 2006, at Glory By Honor V Night 2, where the Kings of Wrestling defeated Aries and Strong to become the new Ring of Honor tag team champions.
With the news of WWE showing interest in Castagnoli, the Kings of Wrestling dropped the ROH World Tag Team Championship to Christopher Daniels and Matt Sydal on November 25, 2006, at Dethroned. On December 23 at Final Battle 2006 the Briscoe Brothers (Jay and Mark) defeated Castagnoli and Hero in what was scheduled to be their last match together. After the match, Castagnoli announced that he would not be leaving for WWE after all, and promised great things for the Kings of Wrestling in 2007. Hero shook Castagnoli's hand, but left with his manager Larry Sweeney who promised Hero big things in 2007, thus ending the Kings of Wrestling.
Pursuit of the World Championship (2007–2009)
Castagnoli wrestled on Ring of Honor's first pay-per-view Respect is Earned on May 12, 2007, teaming with Matt Sydal to challenge the Briscoe Brothers for the ROH World Tag Team Championship. Despite losing the match, Castagnoli was granted a rematch with the partner of his choosing. He chose former partner Chris Hero, but the duo lost to the Briscoes on June 9.
Castagnoli gained success in ROH singles competition on July 28, 2007, by winning Ring of Honor's Race to the Top Tournament, a 16 man, two night event. He defeated Hallowicked, Mike Quackenbush and Jack Evans en route to the final, where he defeated El Generico. He faced Takeshi Morishima for the ROH World Championship at Death Before Dishonor V: Night One on August 10, but lost. He received a second shot, this time a three-way match with Brent Albright, later that month, but was again unable to win the title. On December 29, 2007, one year after Hero had abandoned Castagnoli, the two of them faced each other at the second ROH pay-per-view Rising Above. If Castagnoli won the match, he would get five minutes with Larry Sweeney, but if he lost, would have had to join Sweet 'n' Sour Inc. He won, but was defeated by Sweeney the following night at Final Battle 2007, when Sweet & Sour, Inc. member Daniel Puder interfered.
On June 28, 2008, Castagnoli scored one of his biggest victories in Ring of Honor by pinning Bryan Danielson in their first meeting in ROH. The following month, on July 26, Castagnoli received a match for the ROH World Championship against Nigel McGuinness, but lost. On August 2, Castagnoli failed a Championship rematch against McGuinness. Along with Bryan Danielson and ROH World Tag Team Champion Tyler Black he competed in a four-man Elimination Match. He wound up being the first eliminated by Danielson and afterwards snapped and beat Danielson down setting him up to be eliminated by the eventual winner McGuinness. After turning heel Castagnoli started referring to himself as "very European", joined Prince Nana's heel stable The Embassy and feuded with Brent Albright.
Kings of Wrestling reunion (2009–2011)
Castagnoli performing the giant swing as Hero waits to dropkick the spinning opponent.
On December 19, 2009, at Final Battle 2009, ROH's first live pay-per-view, Castagnoli reunited with his former Kings of Wrestling partner Chris Hero as they attacked the new ROH World Tag Team Champions, the Briscoe Brothers. The two adopted Shane Hagadorn as their manager and Sara Del Rey as an associate. On April 3, 2010, at The Big Bang! Castagnoli and Hero defeated the Briscoes to win the ROH World Tag Team Championship for the second time. At the following pay-per-view, Death Before Dishonor VIII, on June 19 Castagnoli and Hero successfully defended their Championship against the Briscoes in a No Disqualification match. In July, ROH announced the return of Tag Wars, where 12 tag teams competed in three blocks to determine new challengers for the Kings of Wrestling in an Ultimate Endurance match. On August 28 the Kings of Wrestling defeated The Dark City Fight Club (Jon Davis and Kory Chavis), The All Night Express (Kenny King and Rhett Titus) and the Briscoes to retain the their championship and win the 2010 Tag Wars. On September 2 it was announced that Castagnoli had signed a contract with ROH, which gave the company priority in his independent bookings.
At the following pay–per–view, Glory By Honor IX on September 11, the Kings of Wrestling picked up a major victory by defeating Wrestling's Greatest Tag Team (Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin) in a non–title match. On December 18 at Final Battle 2010 the Kings of Wrestling ended their feud with the Briscoe Brothers in a six-man tag team match, where Jay, Mark and their father Mike defeated Castagnoli, Hero and Shane Hagadorn. On January 4, 2011 Castagnoli and Hero became the longest reigning ROH World Tag Team Champions by breaking the previous record of 275 days, set by the Briscoe Brothers. On February 26 at 9th Anniversary Show, Castagnoli and Hero successfully defended the ROH World Tag Team Championship against The All Night Express. On April 1 at Honor Takes Center Stage, the Kings of Wrestling lost the ROH World Tag Team Championship to Haas and Benjamin, ending their reign at 363 days. Castagnoli and Hero received their rematch for the ROH World Tag Team Championship on August 13 at the first Ring of Honor Wrestling tapings under the Sinclair Broadcast Group banner, but were unable to regain the championship from Haas and Benjamin.
Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (2005–2008, 2010–2011)
On August 6, 2005, Castagnoli made his debut for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, losing to Joey Ryan. On September 2, 2006, Castagnoli entered his first Battle of Los Angeles tournament, but ended up being eliminated in the first round by Jack Evans. On October 21, at Horror Business Castagnoli and Hero attempted to win the PWG World Tag Team Championship to hold four different sets of Tag Team titles simultaneously, but were unable to dethrone the Champions Super Dragon and Davey Richards. They received another match for the Championship during the 2007 DDT4 tournament, but were defeated in the first round by the Briscoes. In August 2007, Castagnoli competed in his second Battle of Los Angeles. He defeated Doug Williams in the first round, but lost to Pac in the second.
In late 2007, Chris Hero was involved in a feud with Human Tornado and when Hero's scheduled tag team partner Eddie Kingston turned on him in a mystery tag team partner match and sided with Tornado instead, Castagnoli came out and took Kingston's place as Hero's partner. However, when Hero went to tag Castagnoli, he nailed him with a European uppercut, turned heel and joined Tornado and Kingston. On January 5, 2008, at All Star Weekend 6: Night One Tornado, Castagnoli and Kingston defeated Hero, Necro Butcher and Hero's girlfriend/valet Candice LeRae in a six-person tag team match to earn Tornado a match with LeRae. On March 21, 2008, Hero defeated Castagnoli in a grudge match. On July 6, 2008, at PWG's fifth anniversary show Life During Wartime Castagnoli wrestled his last match at the time for the promotion, defeating Phoenix Star.
Castagnoli returned to the company for the annual Battle of Los Angeles Tournament on September 4, 2010. Castagnoli made it to the semifinals of the tournament, defeating Ricochet and Roderick Strong, before losing to the eventual winner Joey Ryan. Ryan should then have earned a match for the PWG World Championship, but as Davey Richards was stripped of the Championship, Castagnoli and the three other Battle of Los Angeles semifinalists – Brandon Gatson, Chris Hero and Joey Ryan – were placed in a four–way match to determine a new Champion. On October 9's The Curse of Guerrilla Island, Castagnoli defeated Gatson, Hero and Ryan to win the PWG World Championship, his first major singles title in the United States.
Castagnoli and Hero were scheduled to face PWG World Tag Team Champions, ¡Peligro Abejas! (El Generico and Paul London), in a non–title match at the following event. Due to Castagnoli's title win, the Champions agreed to put their belts on the line as long as Castagnoli agreed to give the victor a shot at the PWG World Championship, should the Kings lose. After Castagnoli had agreed to the stipulation, ¡Peligro Abejas! defeated him and Hero to retain the World Tag Team Championship and earn El Generico a shot at the PWG World Championship. On January 29, 2011, during the WrestleReunion 5 weekend, Castagnoli made his first successful defense by defeating El Generico. On March 4 Castagnoli and Hero entered the 2011 DDT 4 Tournament, defeating the Cutler Brothers (Brandon and Dustin Cutler) in their first round match. However, in the semifinals of the tournament the Kings of Wrestling suffered an upset loss against the Nightmare Violence Connection (Akira Tozawa and Kevin Steen) when Tozawa rolled Hero up for the win. On April 9 Castagnoli defended the PWG World Championship against the Battle of Los Angeles winner, Joey Ryan, who had knocked him out of the previous year's tournament. On May 27, during the first night of All Star Weekend 8, Castagnoli successfully defended the PWG World Championship against his long time tag team partner Chris Hero. The following night, Castagnoli defeated Low Ki to retain the title. On July 23 at PWG's eighth anniversary show, Castagnoli defeated Hero in a rematch for the PWG World Championship. After the match Castagnoli accepted a challenge from Kevin Steen and ended up losing the title to him in the impromptu match, ending his reign at 287 days.
On August 20, after both Castagnoli and Hero were eliminated from the 2011 Battle of Los Angeles in the first round, they challenged PWG World Tag Team Champions, The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson), to a match for the title. The match, which took place later that same evening, saw the Kings of Wrestling once again fail to win the PWG World Tag Team Championship.
Pro Wrestling Noah (2008–2011)
Castagnoli made his debut for Pro Wrestling Noah on February 15, 2008, when he teamed up with Chris Hero in a losing effort against Jun Akiyama and Kentaro Shiga. He primarily wrestled in the promotion as Chris Hero's tag team partner and in January 2010 the Kings of Wrestling entered the Global Tag League, where they ended up losing all of their matches. Castagnoli and Hero returned to Noah on November 19, 2010, for a three-week-long tour. The team went undefeated in tag team matches, before being defeated on the final day of the tour, December 5, by Takuma Sano and Yoshihiro Takayama in a match for the GHC Tag Team Championship. The Kings of Wrestling returned to Noah in April 2011 to take part in the 2011 Global Tag League, where they managed to win two out of their seven round robin matches, finishing seventh out of eight teams in the block. On May 15, he traveled to Germany to challenge Takashi Sugiura's GHC Heavyweight Championship on "Genesis in Germany", co-promoted by local Westside Xtreme Wrestling and NOAH. However, he was unsuccessful in his challenge, losing after an Olympic Slam.
Castagnoli in the ring in April 2009.
In November 2006, he wrestled Antonio Thomas in one half of the main event at MXW Pro Wrestling's Capital Collision show in Albany, New York. In April 2007, Castagnoli represented Chikara in the inaugural King of Europe Cup, a sixteen-man tournament held in Liverpool, England. He lost in the opening match against CZW's representative and former partner, Chris Hero.
During mid-2007, Castagnoli competed in the Reclaiming the Glory Tournament for the newly vacated NWA World Heavyweight Championship under the Terry Funk bracket. He defeated Pepper Parks in the first-round qualifiers and Sicodelico, Jr. in the second before losing to Brent Albright in the semi-finals on August 12 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Later in September, Castagnoli competed in Independent Wrestling Association Mid-South's Ted Petty Invitational 2007 tournament. He defeated Nigel McGuinness in the first round, Davey Richards in the quarterfinals, and Brent Albright in the semifinals to compete in a three-way elimination match, with finalists Mike Quackenbush and IWA Mid-South Heavyweight Champion Chuck Taylor. He was first eliminated by the eventual winner, Quackenbush, being pinned following a Quackendriver II. Castagnoli replaced Fergal Devitt in the eight-man NWA Australian Championship Tournament which was held in November 2007.
On March 13, 2010, Castagnoli made his debut for Evolve Wrestling, at the promotion's second event, defeating Bobby Fish. At the following show on May 1 Castagnoli was defeated by Chuck Taylor.
Florida Championship Wrestling (2011–2012)
Castagnoli as Antonio Cesaro during a WWE dark match in April 2012.
In September 2011, Castagnoli signed a contract with WWE and began working in its developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) under the new ring name Antonio Cesaro. He made his FCW debut at a live event on September 17, in a loss against Seth Rollins. He made his television debut on the October 24 episode, defeating Mike Dalton, which would be the first win in a singles winning streak that lasted until February 2012. On January 6, 2012, Cesaro made his WWE live event debut in Jackson, Mississippi, where he teamed with Michael McGillicutty in a tag team loss to Alex Riley and Mason Ryan. On the March 4 FCW TV, Cesaro and Alexander Rusev unsuccessfully challenged Bo Rotundo and Husky Harris for the Florida Tag Team Championships. Cesaro then started feuding with Richie Steamboat over the FCW 15 Championship, starting with a title match (15 minute Iron Man rules) on the March 18 episode, which ended in a 1-1 draw, so Steamboat retained the title. A 20 minute rematch on the April 8 episode resulted in a similar 1-1 draw. A second 30 minute rematch for the title on the May 6 FCW TV resulted in Steamboat winning 3-2. On the May 13 FCW TV, Cesaro was then disqualified against Kassius Ohno (the former Chris Hero) and eliminated from a tournament to crown the number one contender to the FCW Florida Heavyweight Championship. Cesaro faced Steamboat again for the FCW 15 Championship on the July 8 FCW TV in a 15 minute match that Steamboat won 1-0 in sudden death overtime.
United States Champion (2012–2013)
Cesaro as the United States Champion in 2013.
Cesaro made his WWE television debut on the April 20, 2012, episode of SmackDown, appearing in a backstage segment with Aksana and Theodore Long, ending with him going to talk to General Manager John Laurinaitis about a contract. In storyline, the multilingual Cesaro served in the Swiss militia, before embarking on a career in rugby, which ended with him being banned for "excessive aggression". The following week, Cesaro easily defeated Tyson Kidd in what was billed as a tryout match. In May, Aksana revealed that she and Cesaro were lovers. On the July 3 Great American Bash SmackDown, Cesaro suffered his first loss, when he and Aksana were defeated in a mixed tag team match by The Great Khali and Layla, though Cesaro himself was not pinned. On the July 27 and August 3 episodes of SmackDown, Cesaro scored back-to-back non-title wins over United States Champion Santino Marella. On the following SmackDown, Cesaro suffered his first loss in a singles match as he was pinned by Christian. On August 19, during the SummerSlam pre-show, Cesaro defeated Santino Marella to win the United States Championship, his first singles title in WWE. Cesaro made his first televised title defense on the September 3 Raw, defeating Marella in a rematch. Cesaro next defended the title from Zack Ryder on September 16 at Night of Champions. On the September 21 SmackDown, Cesaro ended his relationship with Aksana, after an inadvertent distraction from her cost him his non-title match with Santino Marella. This led to a title rematch between Cesaro and Marella the following week, where Cesaro was able to easily retain his title.
After Cesaro was defeated by Justin Gabriel in a non-title match on the October 22 Raw, the two were booked in a United States Championship match six days later at Hell in a Cell, where Cesaro successfully defended his title. Cesaro then began feuding with R-Truth after Truth saved Kofi Kingston from a post-match assault from Cesaro on the October 29 Raw. At the same time as his feud with Truth, Cesaro was successfully defending his title against Tyson Kidd on the October 31 episode of NXT; with NXT being the rebranded FCW. On November 18 at Survivor Series, Cesaro defeated R-Truth to retain the United States Championship. The feud continued on the following SmackDown, with Truth defeating Cesaro in a non-title match. Cesaro then defeated Truth in two more matches, first in a four-way match, which also included Kofi Kingston and Wade Barrett on the December 3 Raw and second on December 16 at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs in a singles match, to retain his title. On the December 31 Raw, Cesaro issued a title challenge to Sgt. Slaughter as part of the "Champion's Choice Night" and then defeated Slaughter in the match that followed to retain his championship. Two days later on the January 2, 2013, episode of WWE Main Event, Cesaro defeated The Great Khali to retain his United States Championship with a massive Neutralizer. Afterwards, Cesaro began a short-lived feud with The Miz, who confronted Cesaro after he insulted Americans as being soft. In the pre-show of the Royal Rumble on January 27, Cesaro defeated Miz to retain the United States Championship. Later on in the pay-per-view, Cesaro entered his first Royal Rumble match at number 22. He lasted a decent amount of time, and even managed to eliminate Daniel Bryan, but was the 18th man eliminated by the eventual winner John Cena. Cesaro's feud with Miz continued on February 17 at Elimination Chamber, where he retained the United States Championship via disqualification after Miz accidentally hit him in the groin. Cesaro and Miz faced off in a Two-out-of-Three falls match for the United States Championship on the March 1 SmackDown, where Cesaro yet again retained his title. During the March 21 NXT tapings (which aired on April 24 due to tape delay), Cesaro successfully retained his title against Adrian Neville during the "Clash of the Champions" NXT. On the April 15 Raw, Cesaro lost the United States Championship to Kofi Kingston in an upset victory, ending his long-lived reign at 239 days. Cesaro received his rematch for the title on the May 1 Main Event, but was again defeated by Kingston.
The Real Americans (2013–2014)
In 2013, Castagnoli formed The Real Americans with Zeb Colter and Jack Swagger.
Main article: The Real Americans
In May, Cesaro started a feud with Sami Zayn on WWE NXT, where the two held some of what would later be considered some of the best matches of 2014. The two first squared off in the ring during the May 22 episode of NXT, where Zayn scored an upset victory over Cesaro in his debut match. Cesaro later defeated Zayn in a rematch on the June 13 episode of NXT. On the June 17 episode of Raw, Cesaro became an associate of Zeb Colter. Colter and Cesaro went on to justify their alliance by saying that Cesaro is the ultimate (legal) immigrant and thus a superior American. Cesaro unsuccessfully challenged Bo Dallas for the NXT Championship on the July 3 episode of NXT. At the Money in the Bank pay-per-view, Cesaro and Colter's fellow client Jack Swagger competed in the World Heavyweight Championship Money in the Bank ladder match, but were both unsuccessful as the match was won by Damien Sandow. The following night on Raw, Cesaro and Swagger, now billed as "The Real Americans", teamed together for the first time, but ended up being defeated by The Usos. On the August 21 episode of NXT, Cesaro defeated Zayn in a Two-out-of-Three Falls Match to conclude the feud. During the Night of Champions pre-show, The Real Americans competed in a number one contenders Tag Team Turmoil match for the WWE Tag Team Championship, in which they were the last team eliminated by The Prime Time Players (Darren Young and Titus O'Neil). Simultaneously, The Real Americans began a feud with the returning Santino Marella after he defeated both of them in singles competition. On October 6 at Battleground, The Real Americans defeated Marella and The Great Khali in a tag team match. The Real Americans moved onto feuding with Los Matadores, culminating in a tag team match on October 27 at Hell in a Cell, which Los Matadores won. The following night on Raw, The Real Americans defeated WWE Tag Team Champions Cody Rhodes and Goldust in a non-title match.
In early 2014, The Real Americans competed against several tag teams (Rey Mysterio and The Big Show/Sin Cara as well as The Usos), but weren't successful in winning. Cesaro also competed in the 30-man Royal Rumble match at the Royal Rumble, entering at number 21, but was eliminated by Roman Reigns. On the January 31 episode of SmackDown, Cesaro defeated Dolph Ziggler to earn a spot at the Elimination Chamber match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. On the February 14 SmackDown, while his ring name was shortened to "Cesaro", he defeated WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton clean in a non-title match. At the Elimination Chamber, Cesaro was eliminated third by Cena via submission. On February 27, at NXT Arrival, Cesaro defeated Zayn again but embraced Zayn after the match.
On the post-WrestleMania Raw, Hulk Hogan endorsed and congratulated Cesaro for winning the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania XXX.
During the pre-show of Wrestlemania XXX, The Real Americans were the final team eliminated during a Fatal Four-Way Tag Team Elimination Match for the WWE Tag Team Championship. Jack Swagger blamed Cesaro for the loss and put Cesaro in the Patriot Lock before Colter demanded that the duo to shake hands. Cesaro instead retaliated with a Cesaro Swing on Swagger. Later during the pay-per-view, Cesaro was a surprise entrant in the "André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal", which he won by lastly eliminating Big Show by body slamming him out of the ring, which mirrored Hulk Hogan's momentous body slam of Andre.
Failed title pursuits (2014–present)
On the post-WrestleMania Raw on April 7, Cesaro's WrestleMania victory was endorsed by Hogan. Cesaro proceeded to dump Colter as his manager, instead revealing that he was a new client of Paul Heyman. After Cesaro was eliminated by Rob Van Dam from a tournament for an Intercontinental title shot, he went on to beat Van Dam and former partner Swagger in an elimination match at Extreme Rules in May. Cesaro had a series of matches against WWE United States Champion Sheamus, but ultimately failed to capture the title at Payback in June. Cesaro then defeated Van Dam to qualify for the Money in the Bank ladder match for the vacant WWE World Heavyweight Championship, which was won by John Cena. After that, Cesaro went on to lose to likes of Kofi Kingston and Big E in singles matches, while also being eliminated by Heath Slater in a battle royal for the Intercontinental Championship at Battleground in July. On the July 21 Raw, Cesaro ended his partnership with Paul Heyman.
Cesaro "was on the verge of big things with fans getting behind what they expected would be a babyface turn ... Then it fell apart. They did a heel turn to put him with Paul Heyman, and apparently figured that enabled them to not give him wins at all since Heyman was with him ... but he’d stay over before his big babyface turn fell completely apart and the turn was forgotten about."
Dave Meltzer on Cesaro winning the 2014 Wrestling Observer Newsletter award for Most Underrated.
Without Heyman, Cesaro went on a losing streak, being defeated by Dean Ambrose, John Cena, Jack Swagger, Dolph Ziggler and finally Rob Van Dam at the SummerSlam pre-show. By defeating Van Dam in a rematch on Raw, Cesaro earned another United States title shot against Sheamus, but lost again at Night of Champions in September. Instead, Cesaro switched his sights to another title, the Intercontinental Championship held by Dolph Ziggler, as Cesaro became number one contender after winning a battle royal. In September to November, Cesaro faced Ziggler in a title match on five occasions, on Raw, SmackDown and at Hell in a Cell, but lost every match, including three-way matches and a two-out-of-three falls match.
Cesaro challenged Sheamus for the WWE United States Championship at Night of Champions.
Also in November, along with losses to Ryback and Erick Rowan and failing to win the United States title in a battle royal, Cesaro's tease of joining Team Cena for a Survivor Series match turned out to be a ruse. In a December 2014 interview, Stone Cold Steve Austin asked Vince McMahon why Cesaro had not gotten over yet and asked whether Cesaro was getting a proper push. McMahon replied that Cesaro was lacking in charisma, verbal skills and the "it" factor, "might be because he's Swiss ... and the European style". McMahon concluded that he was not certain what could be done to restore Cesaro's momentum, but McMahon was not giving up.
Cesaro began a tag team with Tyson Kidd called "The Masters of the WWE universe" on the December 1 episode of Raw and were eliminated from a gauntlet match for a tag title shot by the Usos. They gained victories over Los Matadores, and proceeded to ally with Adam Rose in a feud against The New Day in 2015. On the Royal Rumble pre-show, Cesaro and Kidd defeated The New Day. Later that night, Cesaro entered the Rumble match at number 28, however he was eliminated by Dolph Ziggler.