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Posted in: Oliver's Twist
Oliver's Twist: Cesaro vs Zayn, The Feud With Two Winners
By Oliver
Mar 3, 2014 - 1:00:00 PM

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Welcome once again, friends and family members alike, to Oliver’s Twist! Last week saw the first ever live show on the WWE Network in NXT:ArRIVAL and, just in case you’ve not read The NXT Review yet, it was a hell of a show. While Adrian Neville was finally ending the reign of Bo Dallas and Emma showed why she is much more than just Santino’s girlfriend against Paige, the match of the night probably belonged to the opening contest between Cesaro and Sami Zayn. Their fourth one on one encounter on NXT television stands as a fitting finale to a nine month long feud and should, rightfully, stand as one of the best matches of the year. When I was reading back through my review of the show, I realised that whilst I’d reviewed it to the best of my abilities on the night up until the point where I just stopped and took it all in, the style of review, being heavy on play-by-play, didn’t really do the match enough justice. So here, then, is just why I think Cesaro vs Zayn IV was so damned good. And it’s all about the storytelling, not just in this match but also in the previous three encounters.

See, when Zayn answered the Swiss Sensation’s open challenge that there was nobody in WWE who could hold a candle to him, it wasn’t quite as simple as one man wanting to make an impact against someone from the main roster – in that one instant, before they even touched the ring together, each person defined the character they would come to play throughout the feud, right up to the final moments of the fourth chapter last Thursday. Zayn, the quicksilver guy who’s confident enough in his own abilities to come out and challenge Cesaro to a match despite his rookie status. Cesaro, the arrogant, cocksure heel who is so dismissive of other people it riles them. This is before they even have a match. Bear that in mind, because it comes to define the feud as a whole – what occurs outside of the ring is as important as what happens in it.

The Canadian would win that first bout with a roll-up, but not before absorbing a lot of punishment. There are moments in that match that hint at the whole story – during the opening moments, Cesaro wins a mat exchange and gloats to the crowd, and later on he nonchalantly covers Sami with one foot. Zayn uses his pace throughout to best the power of Toni, but when Cesaro can catch him his power overwhelms him. Like a great novel, the first chapter defined characters and storylines that would sustain it through to its conclusion. The Real American looked stunned when Zayn slips out of a deadlift suplex to roll him up for the three count and, with his confidence in himself shaken, attacked from behind as his opponent celebrated his win to reassert not just his dominance but also his self-belief.

Come the second match, Cesaro’s still pissed that this rookie one-upped him a couple of weeks before and the knock his belief has taken, but he also knows that Zayn only beat him because he has The Quickness on his side. So the Swiss Superman looks to overcome that by destroying Zayn before the bell, charging him the moment he gets in the ring and just levelling him with European uppercuts and hard knees to the midsection. Zayn has moments, again, but for the entire 13 minutes or so Toni is the man in charge and Zayn doesn’t fully get control of the match. His flurries are just that: flurries, quickly snuffed out like snow in mid-March. With the bigger man working over the ribs and midsection, there’s a wonderful logic to it – Cesaro is trying to take away the breath of his faster opponent, looking to stop him from being able to do those quick moves. Chinlocks are tightened in to cut the circulation of to his head repeatedly, and Cesaro is astonishingly dominant. In the hands of some this would be a definitive squash, but Zayn gets just enough offense in – with Cesaro getting more irate due to his fighting spirit, there are chinks in his armour that the Canuck takes advantage of - to make it seem more even than it actually is. Cesaro has even learnt how to avoid a repeat performance from Zayn, popping out of a roll-up after he again went for a deadlift suplex. After neutralising Zayn he’d still disrespect him, kicking dust over his opponent

This all led up to the much talked about Zayn vs Cesaro III – the two out of three falls match that swept aside anything else WWE put on last year and should have been crowned their match of the year. By this time we’ve got two characters, not just wrestlers but characters, who know what they need to do to defeat the other. Zayn needs to use his speed and catch Cesaro off-guard. Toni needs to ride out the speed of Sami and overpower him, take control of the match and grind him down. Unsurprisingly, given what I’ve said so far, the match adhered to this – Zayn won the first fall after about ten seconds, having thrown himself at Cesaro as he made his entrance and knocked him off his stride with a tope con giro. He starts off by trying to throw bombs and take advantage of his speed in a call back to Zayn/Cesaro I, but Cesaro powers out of the pins and starts to take control. And when he gets control he really takes control in the same way he did in Zayn/Cesaro II, which is how he takes the second fall, dominating Zayn with power and making him tap out to a neck wrench. The two are getting to know each other better and better, so when spots occur that previously hit in I or II, this time there’s a counter to them – Zayn rolls out of the way of a double stomp, for example, or Cesaro counters a Yoshi Tonic. By the time they get to the third fall, they’re throwing everything at each other, pulling out moves that haven’t been seen from either man before, including possibly the best of all:

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That DDT is so embarrassingly awesome that it defines my memory of the final fall of the two out of three falls match – two guys throwing everything and the kitchen sink at each other. The finish of the match, though, is even better. Cesaro blocks Zayn’s finisher, a wristlock springboard tornado DDT, with his strength alone and goes to throw him up into the air for a Swiss Death for the ages. Except, he nearly drops him and has to hold him there, Patrick Swayze-esque, while he gets his footing again before uppercutting him to hell and back in one foul swoop. It was, undeniably, amazing, and got this great ‘woah-oooOOOOOOH-OOOOOOOOH’ reaction from everyone in the building.

And so it was that we came to the fourth match in this wonderful story – what will stand as its final chapter, I believe, given the finality of its ending. It definitely adheres to the storyline as described so far, but it also adds some extra layers to it all. See, by now Cesaro is as dismissive as he was prior to that first encounter. He doesn’t give two shits about Zayn, spending their joint promo time on his phone and cutting his every answer off instead of letting Renee Young get Sami’s answers. Cesaro even tried to reject this match, only really getting into it after HHH made it so. Meanwhile, Sami can’t let go of the way he was beaten in the final fall of the two out of three falls match because he came so close. He was a fraction of a rotation away from victory and it really, really bugs him that he came as close as is possible to winning that match. He keeps saying he needs to win this match because it’s the one loss in his career that he can’t let go of. He wants to move past this one result, put it to bed completely, and the only way by doing that is by defeating Cesaro. Or so he thinks.

The match, like those before it, relies heavily on what has come before it – Cesaro absolutely kills Zayn going for his through the ropes tornado DDT this time because he knows it’s coming. Zayn the giant swing nearly every time Cesaro goes for it because he has learnt how to counter it through wrestling him as much as he has. But there is yet another level added here, and that’s the injury that Zayn sustained last December. Given that he’d spent some of the run-up to this on crutches, and had his leg targeted by Cesaro in a brawl, the Swiss Sensation knows what to target and does so with aplomb, stretching the joint out and dragon screw legwhipping Sami about left, right and centre. But Zayn fights, Zayn puts the pain behind him, and Zayn somehow stays in the match. He gets his little moments in, but for the most part this takes the route of Zayn/Cesaro III – the Swiss Superman on top, relentlessly grinding his opponent down after the early exchanges where his speed was prominent and gave him the advantage. Cesaro continues to not really care about Zayn and his mission, even looking willing to take a count out victory at one stage, while Zayn keeps having to use his speed and guile to hit Cesaro with his biggest possible moves when he has a chance. At one stage, he hits an exploder suplex into the corner, just catching Cesaro mid-run, and that gives him a chance to change the game plan yet he cannot outwrestle Cesaro one-on-one. He has to rely on that speed, and that gets quickly shown when Cesaro reverses a Koji Clutch into a Stretch Muffler. It’s not that Zayn isn’t a good wrestler – it’s that Cesaro is better.

But still he keeps coming, and in the key moment towards the end of the match he gets the poop uppercutted out of him time and time again. Sami, though, needs this. His career needs this. He can’t let Cesaro beat him again, he daren’t let Cesaro beat him again, because it will eat at him for months on end again. Cesaro’s nearly knocking him out with every European uppercut, the referee counting Zayn down, Cesaro telling him to stay down until he has to give him the big one, but Zayn has to fight back with right hands and connects with a German suplex. He reverses a Neutraliser attempt and hits a Yoshi Tonic, going for as many pinning combinations as he can despite operating on one leg. And then the moment – Cesaro catches him and Swiss Deaths the pants off of Zayn, with the referee having nearly counted him down for ten before. But Zayn kicks out.

At one.

The one count is an odd little thing in wrestling. Normally, it would just mean your opponent isn’t worn down enough. We see it in every match, the first couple of pin attempts will be a one count because nobody wins a match after thirty seconds. Yet here it is used differently – it makes a point. In Sami Zayn in this storyline, you’ve got a passionate wrestler who wants to win, wants to beat his opponent and daren’t lose, so the one count is a one fingered salute to Cesaro, it’s him saying ‘no, no you’re not beating me like that, I will not lose’. You hardly ever see a one count that says this in wrestling, and perhaps that’s why it means so much just here. Like I said, Zayn daren’t lose. Zayn doesn’t want to fester on this moment for another six months like he has done. So he kicks out with his shoulders having been down for barely a second. Not the standard one, two, kick out – he does it at one. Cesaro is bewildered, angered and yet grudgingly impressed. He rolling uppercuts Zayn to heck, then gives him the Neutraliser and ends it. But Zayn has gained his respect, and with it comes the post-match stuff – as he backs up the ramp, Cesaro looks on at his fallen foe, slumped against the ropes and near tears, and knows that he’s been given a serious challenge. He comes back to the ring and pulls up Zayn into a hug, whispering something in his ear that we might never know, and leaves the ring again. As he walks out of the arena, Zayn looks on and instead of looking crestfallen, instead of being defeated, Zayn cracks a little smile.

See, Zayn might have said he had to win the match but in fact he needed to win something else – he needed the respect of Cesaro. He earned it during this match, and everything that Cesaro had done, from nonchalant covers in match one, to dominating him in match two and throughout the build to match four where he had been so dismissive, built towards this one moment that could define the rest of his career. Instead of being hung up on a defeat, Zayn now knows that he has the respect of Cesaro. He’s put this to bed – Cesaro finally believes him to be worthy of his time and his best wrestling.

By building on their past history, adding new facets to it, and also by tying up the story in a way that makes us question what winning actually means for one man, Zayn and Cesaro set a bar so high that it’s unlikely we’ll see a feud match it for quite some time. Whilst I’m not necessarily saying their fourth and final match is a lock for match of the year, it’s certainly a hell of a contender, and the truth is that, as a whole, these two have wrestled for nearly an hour across four matches and expertly executed a match. While it might have ended 3-1 in favour of the Swiss Sensation, the Pride of Tijuana has come out as a winner too and there’s not a whole lot of feuds that end with two victors in wrestling history. Cesaro and Zayn might well have defined a new way for a feud to play out. And that might well mean that this feud is looked at in an even more positive way in the future than it is now. Perhaps that is the real reason I love it so much – it’s only going to get better with age.

What did you think of the payoff to Cesaro vs Zayn? Did you think it was a fitting conclusion to their feud? Leave me a comment below, or drop me a Tweet (@MrOlliB) or an email using the link at the top of the page. Until we twist again, stay safe when crossing the road and drink more hot chocolate! Selamat Tinggal!

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