Whether some people like or not, it seems like Sheamus it on a fast track to becoming the next top face in the WWE. Now, you can have a lot of different opinions on Sheamus. Personally, I’m a fan— I see a lot of good potential in him. Some people see him as boring, some people don’t like the SuperSheamus push he’s been getting; that’s fine. Opinions make the IWC go round.
But the evidence stands. He’s held the World Heavyweight Title since WrestleMania, for a total of 159 days, making him the longest-reigning World Heavyweight Champion since Batista in 2005. Personable, likable and with no real hidden demons, he makes for an excellent mouth piece as a babyface, and has proven himself a good worker with a lot of the WWE top talent. Add in the size that Vince McMahon likes, an “out-of-nowhere” finisher in the Brogue Kick that management loves and the personal friendship of Triple H; it seems like he should be a top guy for years to come, easily the closest thing the company has to the next Cena.
So why doesn’t it feel that way?
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m making something out of nothing. But it almost feels like Sheamus’s grand babyface push is being cut out from under him. Let’s look at a few of the facts: he won his title extremely controversially at WrestleMania—taking out Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds— and I use the word "match" lightly; that disappointed a sizable chunk of the audience. For a good while afterwards at the Show of Shows, there were resounding Daniel Bryan chants, and the following Raw was deafening with “Yes” chants. Sheamus’s triumphant moment was cut out from under him by a fluke victory over a strong fan favorite heel— hardly a promising beginning for a new Super Face.
It seemed like things would turn around. Sheamus won a hard-fought contest against Daniel Bryan in a phenomenal 2-out-of-3 Falls Match at Extreme Rules, adding to the top quality of that pay-per-view. Sure, it had been a rocky start, but he got the crowd back on his side and it seemed things would get brighter.
Cue Alberto Del Rio.
For the last five months. Five. Oh, sure, the Over the Limit pay-per-view match turned into a Fatal 4-Way, and Del Rio lost his No Way Out shot to a concussion, but they’ve still been shoving Alberto Del Rio at Sheamus for five pay-per-views. We’re coming up on their third straight singles match, barring a turn around in the next week and a half. It’s too much. Two pay-per-view matches between these two put me to my limit, and now we have to suffer through a third?
Now, Sheamus and Del Rio will put on a serviceable match in two weeks at Night of Champions. It will be technically sound, and it will blow round two of Cesaro and Santino out of the water (then again, anything could). But that’s not the point. The point is that this match shouldn’t be happening. Alberto del Rio is a heat vacuum, the single most stale wrestler in the company who has managed to surpass Cena’s unchanging blandness in two years instead of ten.
Now, to be fair, Smackdown is lacking credible top heels, but really? Del Rio is the best they can muster? I don’t want to be one of “those ICW guys,” but push Cody Rhodes. Please. He could easily have been vaulted into the main event at some point in the last five months if WWE had tried. Or shove Big Show in there now he’s finished up with the WWE Title picture. That would have been a, well, probably plodding and slow match, but the build would have been far better and it would have given Sheamus a credible opponent to take down.
Del Rio, until the past Smackdown and Raw, has barely beaten a credible wrestler in months. Throwing a submission victory on Randy Orton and a cheap pinfall over Cena feels like far too little, far too late when the best he could muster prior was wins over Santino.
And that’s ignoring what the build has done to Sheamus himself. He stole a car. Let me repeat that for emphasis: one of the top babyfaces in WWE stole a car. This isn’t the Attitude Era. Sheamus is no Stone Cold Steve Austin. When Stone Cold poured cement on Mr. McMahon’s brand new convertible, it was fantastic, because we hated Vince McMahon and Stone Cold never pretended to be a good guy.
Stone Cold the character didn’t care about being a hero, and he didn’t want anyone to like him. He just did what he wanted. Sheamus, meanwhile, is stuck in the "WWE Inc. Era," where babyfaces have to smile and toe the line and play to the kiddies. You can’t run a "Be A Star" campaign, pander to the family values crowd and then have one of your top good guys commit blatant grand theft auto. Sorry. Uh uh. It doesn’t work that way.
This is ignoring the running theme of Sheamus getting one up on Del Rio at every opportunity. What point is there in watching a match between the two if we’ve seen Sheamus kick off Del Rio’s head three times prior to the match itself? Though, this isn’t a flaw unique to this particular feud, but WWE as a whole as of late. A year ago, Cody Rhodes beat people down and put paper bags over their heads as an act of humiliation and dominance. Now, Cody Rhodes loses a match, beats down Rey Mysterio for all of 30 seconds, then has Sin Cara drop him effortlessly and cover him with a mask. If that isn’t a perfect illustration of how WWE’s booking policies have turned bass ackwards lately, I don’t know what is.
So Sheamus is thrust into a no-win situation where his top opponent, again, for five months is uninteresting, cannot build heat, isn’t allowed to build heat and Sheamus does more heel-ish activities than he ever did before. Sheamus hits Del Rio with a shoe to win a match, then blatantly hides it when his foot is on the ropes? Who’s brilliant idea of a finish was that? That’s the single worst babyface victory I can remember seeing in months, and I’m a regular TNA viewer. This is inexcusable.
This is ignoring the fact that he's also kicked innocent in-ring officials on a few occasions. This isn't the behavior of a modern babyface. Or, rather, you can't try to have a man be John Cena and Stone Cold Steve Austin at the same time. It seems like that's what WWE wants. They want him to be an unpredictable and violent badass, while at the same serving as a big cuddly smiling teddy bear for the fans to rally behind, especially the younger crowd. And, sorry, but that doesn't fly. You can't please all of the people all of the time, and you certainly can't do it when you render one of your top commodities a schizophrenic mess in the process.
Then, this Monday’s Raw happened, which is what prompted this article in the first place. I was pleasantly surprised to see Sheamus start the show and actually look like he might be getting some real rub, a Smackdown guy getting a central place on Raw. It was a nice turnaround from seeing John Cena open the show, or Triple H, or even CM Punk, much as I am an admitted CM Punk mark. But then CM Punk came out, too. And the newly turned CM Punk, fresh off the babyface push of his life, proceeded to have a promo exchange with Sheamus.
If you can see the problem here, you are smarter than everyone working backstage in the WWE.
I really don’t understand what’s going on. Sheamus has all the attributes to be pushed as a dominant face. They’ve given him a, what, 18-match winning streak on TV and PPV? And yet they seem intent on undercutting him at every turn. They seem intent on booking him as one of the worst babyfaces in history. Maybe I’m bitter. Maybe I’m just sick of seeing Sheamus and Del Rio month after month. Maybe I’m making a lot of something out of nothing. But I liked Sheamus. I want to like Sheamus. I feel like he’s genuinely earned his place, and he could be a great top guy for years to come.
So why does it feel like he’s being sabotaged?