Amidst all the hypes surrounding CM Punk’s record breaking 328 day WWE championship reign, the fact that the current World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus has also been on a pretty incredible run has been all but forgotten. Sheamus, as on the date of this post is on his 195th straight day as champion which while being a distant third to Triple H’s 280 day run and Batistia’s 282 day reign has yet been nothing short of incredible. So how does Sheamus measure up when compared to some of the great champions to have held this title?
The World Heavyweight Championship since its inception in 2002 has been held by several different champions and has seen a total of 49 reigns. Out of these, for the purposes of this article I have selected the 8 longest reigns as a measure to compare Sheamus reign with while also discussing other aspects of those reigns. These 8 reigns have been specifically chosen because these were the only ones to have crossed the 100 day mark. Here I also want to clarify that I have omitted Batista’s 126 day run in 2006-07 as I felt his 2005 run was a better indicator of him as a Champion.
Sheamus won the title on April 1st 2012 at Wrestlemania from Daniel Bryan who was himself coming off a 105 day run with the title (8th on the list). While the manner in which he won the title rubbed a lot of fans the wrong way including me, two great things happened on that night. The first was that due to the outrage that followed the outcome of the match, the outpour of sympathy for Daniel Bryan made his “Yes!” chants a global phenomenon and elevated him into the uppermost echelon of Stars for the Company. The second, often overlooked thing is that it began a reign that would bring back some much needed credibility to the once prestigious World Heavyweight Championship. The World Heavyweight Championship, once the equal of the WWE Title had been floundering for quite some time. Booked poorly, with short inconsequential reigns and not featured prominently on WWE programming, the once prestigious title was in need of a much needed facelift. Sheamus’ present reign has given it just that.
His reign had a rough start with fans not taking too kindly to the shoddy treatment meted out to Daniel Bryan and being very vocal about it. Adding to this, the feud itself with Bryan was lackluster salvaged solely by the tremendous match which ended the feud at Extreme Rules. Despite a certain section of the audience again unhappy with how strongly Sheamus was booked, this was an important win in his career with him gaining support from the majority of the audience. Following this feud, for a while it seemed like Sheamus reign was also doomed to fail with no clear contender in sight and being mostly relegated to unimportant matches. Thankfully, this unfortunate situation was quickly remedied and Sheamus was pitted against Randy Orton, Chris Jericho and Alberto Del Rio. Again, the feud itself wasn’t well executed as it was obvious from the start that Sheamus or Orton were the only possible contenders for the title. This was never more clear than on the last Smackdown before Over The Limit when Sheamus and Orton went toe-to-toe in a brilliant television match which ended with Sheamus coming out on top by cleanly pinning Randy Orton. As any self-respecting wrestling fan knows by now, very few people get to pin the ‘golden boy’ clean and since he did, it could only mean a huge push was underway. This was proven right when at Over The Limit- he beat all three of them in dominant fashion signifying that he was here to stay. Another emphatic victory with another tremendous match, despite the jerichoholic in me deeply disappointed at Y2J not coming out on top, I understand that it was the right decision both for Sheamus and for the title. Too many unnecessary title changes in the last couple of years are a big factor behind the devaluing of the title. After this win, Sheamus had yet another great match with Dolph Ziggler at No Way Out which again ended with an emphatic win for the Great White. After this he began a feud with Alberto Del Rio which would start at Money in the Bank continue at Summerslam and culminate at Night of Champions each time with good matches and solid effort from both Superstars. This feud was reminiscent of the feuds that used to happen in the ‘good ol days’ in terms of long drawn-out feuds with good matches and with a storyline unlike the random matches WWE seems to have ever so often on PPV nowadays and in my opinion really made the title feel relevant again. Also it was with his win at Money in the Bank that he surpassed the reigns of Daniel Bryan and Edge who were tied at 105 days for the 9th longest run in the history of the World Heavyweight Championship. His next victory at Summerslam marked the 141st day of his reign and caused him to go beyond the reigns of Rey Mysterio (112 days), Booker T (126) and the Undertaker (140). His most recent title defense at Night of Champions marked his 169th day as World Champion thus surpassing the reigns of Kane and Chris Benoit who were both tied at 154 days effectively making this the longest reign since Batista’s 282 day reign in 2005-2006 which also happens to be the longest single reign with the World Heavyweight Championship since its inception. While it remains to be seen how much longer Sheamus will hold the title especially with the Money in the Bank contract held by Dolph Ziggler being exclusive to the World Title and with a Hell in a Cell match coming up giving him an opportunity to cash it in, but it can safely be said that this reign has been the most significant for the title in a long time. The world heavyweight championship has been defended more times in this reign than in those of the superstars mentioned previously in this post with great title defenses both on television and on pay-per-view producing great matches each time. The Championship is featured prominently and is always the main-event on his own show which is something that was again not seen in the several reigns preceding it in the recent past. Sheamus has really come into his own as a Champion and as a main-event caliber talent during this run with great crowd responses from most crowds. This reign has a feel of dominance to it unlike several others on the list such as those of Daniel Bryan, Edge, Kane, Booker T and Rey Mysterio all of which felt like transitional reigns and were booked as such. In sharp contrast, Sheamus has almost always been booked strong in his matches, very similar to how Batista was booked in 2005 except I would place him over Batista as a Champion primarily because unlike the Animal he can actually wrestle and secondly because the number of title defenses in his reign is far greater than those in Batista’s where the last couple of Pay-per-views he did were tag team matches and other non-title matches.
Keeping everything in mind, Sheamus reign as champion suffers from two main issues. Firstly that is his reign has come at a time when the WWE seems to have deemed the World Heavyweight Championship as secondary to the WWE title and for this reason alone despite its regaining some of its lost sheen under this reign he will never main-event Wrestlemania in the near future as previous champions Edge and Triple H did. The second that he doesn’t seem to have any proper feuds for the title except the one with Alberto Del Rio with most of his other defenses being randomly put together matches. But that aside, Sheamus has done a great job as Champion and taking into account that by the time Hell in a Cell is upon us he would have crossed the 200 day mark as Champion I believe that this was one of the best reigns in the history of the title and Sheamus has earned the right to be called one of the best World Heavyweight Champions in the history of the title.