WWE: Why Sheamus Cannot Be Taken Seriously
Sheamus has been World Heavyweight Champion since defeating Daniel Bryan in just 18 seconds at WrestleMania 28 back on April 1. As his title reign comfortably cruises past the 200-day mark, there are questions arising over the character.
Sure, he is over with the audience and the kids seem to love him, but how do true wrestling fans like you and I feel about the character?
There have been many discussions amongst the IWC about the character being shoved down the audience's throats and marketed as "John Cena 2.0," something an already stale WWE product is not in great need of.
Younger fans may enjoy the Irish brawler's dominant in-ring performances and "comedic" promos, but to engage a wider audience the character must connect with fans of all ages. And I feel as though the Sheamus character is too one-dimensional to be taken seriously.
This article will analyze why this is the case.
Who Is He?
Sheamus has been part of the WWE roster since his debut on the June 30, 2009 episode of ECW. More than three years later, what do we know about his character?
He has red hair, very pale skin and likes to fight. And that's about it.
There has been very little advancements made in terms of character since "The Great White" squashed a local competitor in his first match. The most popular stars in the business have always had backstories with sufficient depth to engage an audience. The Rock grew from bland babyface to charismatic superstar; Steve Austin was the anti-authority rebel that stormed up the ranks; John Cena (in his early years) was the underdog that would always triumph against the odds.
Sheamus is still the same character he was three years ago and despite being booked as the No. 2 babyface in the company, we still know next to nothing about him. Creative have made little to no effort to explain his motivations; they have merely told us to support him without telling us why we should. There is little beneath the surface with which to form an emotional connection to the performer.
If the creative team could add some depth to the character by explaining who he is and why he does what he does, then he would become more than a one-dimensional babyface whose act is fast becoming stale.
Too Much, Too Soon
Sheamus became WWE Champion only six months after his debut when he defeated John Cena at TLC on December 13, 2009. He held onto the title for only two months before dropping it at Elimination Chamber and enjoyed a second run with the belt between June and September 2010.
As well as being the current World Heavyweight Champion, Sheamus has also been involved in a high-profile feud with Triple H, won the 2012 Royal Rumble and was the last man to be crowned King of the Ring.
Most of us are aware that Sheamus is one of Triple H's pet projects, and the Irish-born star's strong booking is similar to that of "The Game's" when he ascended to main-event status at the turn of the century. The difference is that we had watched Triple H evolve on our screens over a number of years from "Connecticut Blueblood" to leader of D-Generation X, before he became one of the company's top stars.
Sheamus has been thrust into the spotlight almost since his debut and has never been booked as anything less than a strong upper-card performer. I'm not saying that he doesn't deserve his spot on the roster, but what I am saying is that having a wrestler perform in a consistently high spot on the card without improving the character will ultimately cause the routine to go stale.
In most cases, it will take a wrestler years to establish himself at the top of the card, and usually it is done by coming up through the ranks and earning his spot. By being put in such a high-profile position from the outset, the danger is that the audience will grow tired of the character, especially one as thin as the Sheamus character.
Lack of Interesting Feuds
Since winning the World Heavyweight Championship and defeating Daniel Bryan in their rematch at Extreme Rules, the only major feud of Sheamus' reign so far has come against Alberto del Rio. And what an interminable bore it was.
The feud dragged on for months, and it saw successful title defences for "The Great White" at Money in the Bank, Summerslam and Night of Champions. Unfortunately, del Rio never seemed to be a serious threat to the World title. The in-ring action was passable, but as the feud continued we were treated to the usual shtick that comes with a drawn-out feud: legal battles, general manager involvement and banned maneuvers.
And even after the del Rio feud came to an end, Sheamus' next challenger was The Big Show, who had moved over from Raw to challenge for the belt. I understand the motivation for the rivalry; the younger audience will get a kick out of seeing if their favourite star can overcome the massive challenge presented by the "World's Largest Athlete."
However, long-term fans have lost count of the number of times that Big Show has been inserted into world title matches, making the rivalry instantly less appealing. Show's sheer size and cumbersome ring style have created antipathy heading into their Hell in a Cell collision, with most of the excitement coming from Internet buzz surrounding a Dolph Ziggler cash-in.
In the space of six months, an over-extended feud with Alberto del Rio, who was never presented as a credible threat to the title, and an abrupt feud with the over-the-hill Big Show has hardly generated excitement around Sheamus' title reign. Which leads me on to my next point...
No Credible Heel Challengers
Two feuds in six months with stars who are constantly involved in the World Title scene is lazy booking, especially when one considers the dearth of main-event heels on Smackdown.
There are many heels on the blue brand that could inject some much-needed energy into the main-event scene and provide an interesting dynamic in opposition to "The Great White."
Dolph Ziggler is the ideal candidate. Mr. Money in the Bank is poised to cash in and has been banging on the doors of the World Heavyweight Championship scene for months now. However, any time he has shared the ring with Sheamus on television, "The Showoff" has never been presented as the champion's equal.
Randy Orton is one of the top stars in the company, and he's much more comfortable playing a heel. If Orton were to turn and pursue Sheamus' title, it could create a fresh and exciting feud for the title.
Wade Barrett is another contender; their recent match showcased the potential of a feud between the two. However, it seems as though creative are still finding their feet when it comes to the direction in which they want to take the "Barrett Barrage."
Unproven main-event talent like Cody Rhodes, Antonio Cesaro and even a heel Christian would create a number of unexplored avenues and challenges for Sheamus to take on instead of rehashing the same No. 1 contenders.
A greater array of challengers would also enhance the Sheamus character, as competing against different stars with different styles would pose a new challenge for "The Great White."
The Cena Effect
We all know what "The Cena Effect" is: when the WWE books one of their top talents as almost superhuman, able to overcome what seems like insurmountable odds.
It is this kind of booking that caused the fans to become disillusioned with Cena, and they eventually turned on him in huge numbers. If more care isn't taken with Sheamus, he may very well end up the same.
At one point this year, Sheamus was on a 25-match winning streak. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but for an audience to connect to a character, it is essential to show some level of vulnerability.
However, in 2012, Sheamus has been booked at almost Cena-like levels. Whether it be singles, tag team or multi-man contests, "The Great White" is usually the one who comes out with his arm raised. I know it's essential to have your biggest stars win, but the occasional loss will do nothing to hurt them in the long run and will ultimately help the fans sympathise with the performer and urge them to bounce back with a win.
It's difficult for the fans to connect with someone who is portrayed as unbeatable. To create an emotional connection there needs to be that niggling feeling that they could lose at any time. Making the character an unstoppable force will ultimately cause the audience to grow disenchanted, so what is the point in supporting somebody you know is going to win every week?
Booking Sheamus too strongly not only hurts his opponents in the short term, but it will also eventually hurt the character in the long term.
So there it is—the reasons why Sheamus cannot be taken seriously.
This isn't a personal attack; I find the Irishman an accomplished in-ring worker who can have an excellent match with the right opponent.
The problem is the way the character is being presented on television, and how this could ultimately affect audience perception of "The Great White."
Do you agree with the reasoning behind the article? Or do you think the criticism is too harsh?
Sign off in the comments below!