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Charles (Loss)

[2013-05-01-WWE-Main Event] Antonio Cesaro vs Kofi Kingston

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THIS is when I would've booked the title change. They got about 20 minutes, and Cesaro brought his fucking working boots in this one, showcasing what has made him one of the top grapplers of the 2010s decade so far. He went to work on Kingston, finally getting some damage on the champion's right knee when it got stuck in the ropes about halfway in the match. But Cesaro didn't make this great all by himself. Kingston put in enough hope spots and did a masterful job with his facial expressions to get babyface sympathy.
 
Cesaro was just tenacious in going after that right knee, locking in a half-crab multiple times, whereas the champion had to dig down deep to overcome the adversity. Once Kingston got his chance, he hit the Trouble in Paradise with that bad leg, much like athletes in other sports do - you give them just one small crack, and they'll run through that door to the narrowest of victories. Excellent gem of a match here. ****

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This is a three segment match. There's an argument to be made that it's Kofi's career singles match but I think that'd be a false argument. What it is instead is an amazing Cesaro performance, one that maximizes Kofi's strengths and minimizes his weaknesses, despite the length.

 

They skip the shine and start with some really compelling matwork/grappling instead. Here, Cesaro is all over him with positioning and attempts at holds, but Kofi's just clinging on at every point like some sort of pro wrestling spider. I don't remember seeing a ton of this stuff in 2013. I don't remember seeing a ton of this stuff EVER in WWE. I don't think I've ever seen it from Kofi before, though I could be wrong. Eventually, Cesaro's strength wins out (with the gutwrench deadlifts out of nowhere) and he takes over.

 

That's most of the rest of the match. Kofi fires back a few times, including once early, where Cesaro takes a powder and Kofi all but dives after him in the moment, with obvious frustration that he lost the advantage that fit into the moment and that I really appreciated. Cesaro's offense is great. It's not about the amount of moves he has but his ability to fill time and keep things gritty and interesting. That said, he does have a lot of stuff and it all looks great, from double stomps, vice locks, to european uppercuts and suplexes.

 

I actually think they're going home in the middle after Kofi fires back (it was all about him getting distance from Cesar) and hits the boom drop but it somehow transitions into Cesaro going after the leg and the third segment is a lot of that, with some of the nastiest half crabs you'll see. The finishing stretch has a lot of call backs and the actual finish is clever and again highlights Kofi's strengths, his immediacy and explosiveness, and ability to hit things from off angles. If you told me this was Kofi's best singles match, I'd believe you. That says a lot for Cesaro, who also has Miz' amongst others.

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