On the surface, Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio may not seem to have a lot in common, but the two rivals' WWE careers have followed mostly parallel paths.
Both began their pro wrestling in their home countries.
Both their WWE careers have seen them win both the WWE and World Heavyweight titles. They ascended the company in rapid fashion and have since morphed from villains to heroes.
Too Much, Too Soon
Before some fans had a chance to ask, "Have you heard about that new red-headed guy?" Sheamus won the WWE title.
He debuted with the company on June 30, 2009 and sent John Cena flying through a table to win the WWE title that December. As good as Sheamus was and as good as WWE was sure he was going to be, six months is just too soon to award someone that high of an honor.
Fans just don't have enough time to grow to love or hate a guy in that amount of time.
Del Rio first appeared on SmackDown via vignette a year after Sheamus' debut. Six months later, Del Rio was vying for the World Heavyweight title.
He battled Kane, Rey Mysterio and eventual winner Edge in a TLC match for the belt at TLC 2010. In January 2011, Del Rio outlasted 40 other men to win the Royal Rumble.
It was the first of many major accomplishments for Del Rio.
He would go on to win the 2011 Money in the Bank contract and twice win the WWE title during the second half of the year.
Both men's careers felt hurried at first, riches being tossed at them before they'd earned it. For both Sheamus and Del Rio, WWE bypassed the traditional arc of midcarder, secondary title holder and then world champ.
It showed in their matches.
Despite their experiences in their home countries, their performances didn't feel worthy of their lofty positions, at least not right away.
Expanded Repertoire, Improved Peformance
It wasn't until after the storm of their initial momentum faded that Sheamus and Del Rio developed their rings skills to an elite level.
This was partly due to an evolving, expanding in-ring repertoire.
Sheamus began to use White Noise and Cloverleaf. Del Rio bolstered his toolbox with the moonsault and the superkick to a kneeling opponent.
More than just adding moves, though, both men grew over their first few years with WWE into better storytellers and better entertainers.
Their matches against each other showed off how much they'd grown.
It was only after their first year-plus that they began to produce elite-level matches.
Del Rio and CM Punk had an excellent match at Survivor Series 2011. He also seemed to improve during the course of his feud with Christian.
It wasn't as if either one of them took an inordinate amount of time to find their rhythm in the ring; it was just strange to see it happen after they had won the company's biggest prize.
Heels to Faces
Both Sheamus and Del Rio began their careers as heels. Their gimmicks couldn't be more different, though.
Sheamus was a vicious warrior, a snarling brute. Del Rio was the snobby aristocrat who drove expensive cars to the ring and bullied his personal ring announcer.
Since then, both have become good guys. Fans have bought into them in their new roles.
Sheamus is more expressive as a face.
His personality has blossomed while being on the good side. He appears more comfortable. He has become the lovable hooligan, a role he appears to relish.
Del Rio seems capable as a good guy but is far more of a natural fit as a villain.
He is better at being merciless and devious than his current state of doing things honorably.
His gimmick is all but washed away without the arrogance element. It's been a refreshing change for him but one that may not last.
Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio spent much of 2012 battling over the World Heavyweight title.
They may very well spend the next five or six years in equally high positions with WWE.
Sheamus looks like he may be WWE's resident brawler for years to come. When Rey Mysterio retires, Del Rio could become WWE's bridge to the Mexican fanbase.
There are surely more championships in both men's futures. Success in different forms will come too.
It will be interesting to watch how much Sheamus and Del Rio's paths differ in the future and how much they will continue to mirror each other.
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