In recent months, the biggest criticism of Sheamus has been his lack of quality feuds thus far as World Heavyweight Champion. The Alberto Del Rio program did nothing to help legitimize the Celtic Warrior as the SmackDown brand’s top star because fans did not believe in the Mexican aristocrat as a legitimate contender.
The current rivalry with the Big Show has failed to really catch on because Show has been beaten by top stars in the company so often as of late that buying into his chances to beat Sheamus is almost impossible, regardless of how dominant they try to make him look on Friday nights.
With a World Heavyweight Championship reign that has not been as impressive as the company had hoped, there really is only one way to salvage time a titleholder on SmackDown, and that is for Vince McMahon and his creative team to take a huge leap of faith by turning Randy Orton heel.
The company has been very hesitant to take this step recently because they have wanted to be assured that Sheamus could carry the Friday night brand on his own before turning a marquee babyface in Orton. That is logical thinking on the part of McMahon.
It is his duty to protect his brand and do what is best for business, and if he fears that Sheamus may not be the guy to carry the brand, then he needs that backup plan in place.
But with a lack of legitimate top-level heels on the SmackDown brand, it is very difficult to test Sheamus and gauge exactly what he can be. At this point, there is only one man on the SmackDown roster that can conceivably challenge Sheamus as the brand’s top villain and help get the current World Heavyweight Champion to the level the company so desperately wants him at.
And that man, for better or worse, is Randy Orton.
Fans respect Randy Orton, they buy him as one of the WWE’s biggest stars. Beating him is still a big deal, even if it has happened a little too often in recent weeks for this writer’s liking.
Arguably, his best work from a story-telling standpoint has come as a villain. He has natural heel tendencies and the “Viper” character works far better when he can strike from out of nowhere and outthink his babyface opponent.
Recent matches between the two, including a very good one in June on SmackDown, have proven Randy Orton and Sheamus have tremendous chemistry with one another between the ropes, but their personalities have never quite meshed to tell that one story that could elevate a great match into legendary status.
The character clash of heel Orton and babyface Sheamus could be that one last element they need to get there.
In his current state, Sheamus will never be taken as seriously as John Cena, CM Punk or Orton because the level of competition is not where it needs to be for fans to look at him as being in the same class. Those men are elite sports-entertainers in the eyes of the audience because they have beaten every top superstar in the industry.
A feud with Randy, where Sheamus is pushed to the limit and has to abandon the obnoxious smiling and bad jokes in order to fight off the challenge of a ruthless, vile opponent is just what the doctor ordered.
Whether or not it is what Vince McMahon orders, however, remains to be seen.