Last Monday on Raw, Sheamus outlasted 19 other men in a Battle Royal to become the new United States Champion—and it could well be a sign both he and the title itself are set to make a return to former glory.
Since his return at the Royal Rumble back in January, Sheamus hasn't really had much to do outside of a brief feud with Christian that didn't really go anywhere. Having chalked up losses to Bray Wyatt, Bad News Barrett and Batista in recent weeks, and only appearing in multi-man matches at every pay-per-view this year, the Great White has seemed like something of a spare part.
However, given that Sheamus is undoubtedly one of the most popular superstars on the roster today, and that he's proven that he's very capable in the ring, few would have bet that he would stay out of the spotlight for long.
Last week, it was reported by F4Wonline via lordsofpain.net that a heel turn was in the works for Sheamus for the coming weeks. Ahead of his United States Championship win, the obvious course for this to take seemed to be an alliance with Evolution.
As far back as 2009, Sheamus' friendship with Triple H was being reported as the reason behind his first major push. With the characterization of Evolution this year has been based around the idea of Triple H looking out for his real-life friends, Sheamus seems like a natural fit to further that idea.
However, him winning the United States title seems counterintuitive to this end. One of the major complaints of Dean Ambrose's long reign is that he didn't defend the title very often as a result of the Shield being involved in other storylines.
Having the United States Champion once again be part of a major stable would run the risk of repeating the same mistake. Whether Sheamus does indeed turn heel or not—and remember, just a few months ago the word from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter was that shades of grey was the new focus—he needs to be a fighting champion.
There are plenty of opponents for Sheamus to face in the burgeoning midcard of WWE, so there seems little reason to not have him defend his title as often as possible. A renewed focus on the belt, with regular pay-per-view defences could do wonders in offering some structure to the undercard as it stands.
In fact, another newly crowned champion might be the best bet to feud with Sheamus right off the bat. Bad News Barrett is enjoying a real surge in popularity as of late, and the history the two share could produce some great in-ring action.
Sheamus winning the United States Championship gives him a reason to be featured on television and pay-per-views, as well as taking advantage of his status as a former world champion to lend the belt some prestige.
Midcard titles have been misused over the past few years in WWE, but following the Intercontinental title No. 1 Contender's tournament last month, it seems like steps are finally being taken to change this.
Who's the best challenger to Sheamus' title at Payback?
Sheamus' popularity will make sure that the United States title gets the television focus that it deserves—perhaps even more so if he does turn heel in the near future. The question now is, who will be the first to challenge him for his title?
Do you think Sheamus isn't the right man to hold the United States title? Is his mediocre 2011 run still fresh in your mind? Leave your thoughts on who does deserve the title in the comments below.