Seth Rollins' run in NXT is well documented, as it was there that he became the inaugural NXT Champion and was eventually called up to the grand stage of WWE with the rest of The Shield. But before the relaunch of the black-and-gold brand in mid-2012, FCW (Florida Championship Wrestling) was his stomping grounds, and he was being booked like a top talent even then. If anyone was being earmarked for the main roster, it was him, as he was wowed audiences in every match he had.
However, it was also around that time that (Antonio) Cesaro signed with WWE and started out in FCW. He quickly ran roughshod on the roster and set his sights on Rollins soon after his arrival. Prior to his FCW debut, Cesaro was mostly known for his tag team work alongside Kassius Ohno (f.k.a. Chris Hero) in The Kings of Wrestling, and even though they were brought into the company together, officials were interested in booking them as singles stars. To their credit, both men did extremely well for themselves on their own, and this match between Cesaro and Rollins made that evident.
I don't think Cesaro has ever gotten enough credit for being the incredible athlete that he is. His stamina in the ring is unreal, making all of his matches an absolute treat. As I write this, he's coming off an extremely entertaining encounter with Rey Mysterio on Raw, so it was hardly surprising that he and Rollins killed it in the few minutes they were given here. The WWE Network has their matchup listed as happening on December 7, 2011, but it doesn't say if it was taped for FCW TV or not. What's interesting is that the NXT banner and graphics can be seen around ringside and by the stage, but this was months before the brand was overhauled by Triple H, so this must have just been a tryout for them.
Cesaro has had a handful of different entrance themes throughout his WWE tenure, but "Iceman" (which Dean Malenko used briefly back in the day) might just be my favorite. That must have been the first song he used in FCW before transitioning to "Invader" and a few other themes. In retrospect, it fit him so well and I'd love nothing more than for it to return (though I highly doubt it will). He also cut a short promo before the bout running down the audience and Rollins. It wasn't exactly necessary, since he could have simply let his skills between the ropes do the talking for him, but it didn't hurt, either.
Again, I'm not disappointed by the length of this match considering it wasn't supposed to be anything more than a showcase for Cesaro, but this did a hell of a job of cementing Rollins as a star on the rise as well. I actually thought he was on the verge of victory when he connected with a Curb Stomp on Cesaro, but The Swiss Superman kicked out at two and hit Rollins with a beautiful European uppercut in midair for the win. Rollins and Cesaro have since crossed paths on a number of occasions on Raw and SmackDown, but I'm anxiously awaiting the day we get a full-fledged feud between them. Based off what we saw here, their chemistry is off the charts, and Cesaro moving up to the main roster a mere four months later had to be expected following his performance versus Rollins in this exceptional exhibition.
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