At Sunday night’s Night of Champions pay-per-view, Alberto Del Rio will once again challenge Sheamus for the World Heavyweight Championship—the third month in a row he has done so. While a sustained rivalry over a top prize in the sport is typically a good thing, Sheamus and Del Rio would benefit greatly from moving on from one another.
Since the beginning of the feud, it has been apparent that chemistry between the WWE World Heavyweight Champion and his top contender was nearly non-existent. The aristocratic Mexican Superstar has done nothing to evolve his one-dimensional character and the “Celtic Warrior” has evolved too much, laughing and singing and losing nearly all of the edge that made him a breakout star in the first place.
The fans had an incredibly difficult time buying into the verbal exchanges between the two, and desperate attempts to get the vendetta between champion and challenger over—such as Sheamus stealing Del Rio’s car and Alberto retaliating by having a mob of police impersonators attack the champion—did nothing to make them care anymore than they had previously.
Unfortunately, the third month of their seemingly never-ending saga has done little more to spark fan interest. Storylines in which a babyface sees his signature finishing maneuver banned from use are nothing new. They have been done before and, typically, they work to the advantage of the match as the hero is forced to resort to other moves in his arsenal to pull out the victory.
One of the most famous cases of this story came in 2007, when Shawn Michaels challenged Randy Orton for the WWE Championship at Survivor Series. Sweet Chin Music had been banned and Shawn was forced to resort to an array of submission- and ground-based attacks in order to attempt to capture the title. The stipulation worked brilliantly, resulting in one of the more original, interesting matches in recent history.
It remains to be seen if that added stipulation will add drama to the title bout at Night of Champions; but, by the time bell rings and the match is underway, it may be too little, too late.
The fans have endured three months of a story they did not believe in or care about in the first place. Most truly successful stories become that way by hooking the audience from the get-go. By stumbling and bumbling for two months, desperately searching for the hook that would draw the audience—one that would make them care about Del Rio challenging Sheamus—they lost the people before they finally found something that may make them sit up and take notice.
The saga of Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio must end Sunday night at Night of Champions; preferably with Sheamus retaining the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. WWE fans cannot and will not stomach another month of a storyline that petered out some 75 days ago.
It is time for both men to go their separate ways. Alberto Del Rio must evolve as a performer and add dimensions to his horrendously stale character; something that cannot happen while spewing the same lines about “his destiny” and being “above everyone.” And Sheamus must be revitalized with a new challenger and new material to really sink his teeth into. He needs to rediscover his edge and remind everyone why he originally became so popular last summer.
If not, if Sheamus and Del Rio is extended for one more month, fans will turn their backs on both men and then it may be too late to repair the damage done.