Just a lot of White Noise...
The idea of two World Titles has often been a vexing one for World Wrestling Entertainment. While it allows you to often get two major champs when you want to split the brands (as is the case at the moment), too often there is an obvious feeling that one is better than the other (as is the case at the moment). As a result, one title holder seems like a big deal. The other? Not so much...
In 2011 Sheamus had completed a face turn and went on a winning streak, which culminated in his 2012 victory at the Royal Rumble. A consistent performer who looked the part, Sheamus looked to be ready to have a massive 2012. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, let's start with the way he won the title.
I've ranted about the WM28 match between Sheamus and D-Bry already so I won't revisit it here in much detail. Suffice to say what the WWE thought would come off as a massive humiliation of a hated heel instead was recieved by the audience as a slap in the face of one of the most tenacious, well liked and all around best workers the company had in Daniel Bryan. This wasn't helped by the fact that Bryan's catchphrase, which was supposed to come off as obnoxious, was instead leapt on by the fans as a sort of rallying cry for the new champ. Sooooo...What the fans saw was a favourite getting their Wrestlemania moment ripped from them and they came out swinging.
It also didn't really help that Bryan had elevated so many mediocre starts to look great (he made fucking Santino look like he could win the World Title) because with that one Brogue Kick, everyone felt like McMahon and Co. had betrayed the trust Bryan had in them so that they could get this new hunk of meat over.
However, Bryan and Sheamus sought about rectifying the problem. At a packed Extreme Rules show Bryan and Sheamus tore the house down in a fantastic match that showed the amazing chemistry the two of them had together. This was followed by a great Fatal 4 Way between The Celtic Warrior, Chris Jericho, Randy Orton and Alberto Del Rio at Over the Limit that made people think that perhaps Sheamus could get the World Heavyweight Title back on track.
However, even as these great matches were talking place, clouds could be seen on the horizon...
2012 was a strange transitional year for the WWE. While it was by no means the best, you can't say they were dying wondering. So many of the top or near-top workers made some sort of change that it was often difficult to keep up. Add to that the debut of new colourful workers like Lord Tensai, Brodus Clay and Ryback (not to mention the Shield later on) and the return of Brock Lesnar there was a helluva lot of balls for Creative to keep in the air.
Unfortunately one of the workers who didn't seem to change was Sheamus. Instead, despite things changing around him, the Great White stayed irritatingly oblivious.
And this was made worse by who he seemed to emulate more and more.
It would be safe to say that Roman is now seen as the heir apparent to Cena. However in 2012 one could easily argue that Sheamus was the anointed one. Pushed with merch to appeal to the kiddies, as well as a safe move-set (I don't think it's a coincidence that the crucifix powerbomb was retired from his repertoire) one couldn't help but be reminded of Cena. This was made particularly obvious when the lame jokes began to appear...
The trouble is, Cena was still around- headlining PPVs with Johnny Ace and The Big Show. Why should we care about Cena-lite when the real McCoy was still around?
A bit less Cena circa 2011 and a bit more Batista circa 2008 may have made Sheamus a better champion. Less ass-kissing and more ass-kicking, in other words...
Of course, it would have helped if both Jericho and Orton didn't get suspended smack bang in the middle of his reign. I have a funny feeling that one would have been a potential PPV opponent for Sheamus had they managed to not be so naughty (particularly Orton).
However that's not to say they didn't have interesting options for Sheamus to face! Wade Barrett? Kane? the Miz? Christian? Cesaro? Why weren't they called upon to pinch hit for a PPV or two?
Instead they went with this guy. For THREE. CONSECUTIVE. PPVs.
Looking back at Alberto Del Rio's first run in WWE, I think most people if anything overestimate how successful it was. Sure he was a Money in the Bank winner, Royal Rumble winner and 4 time World Champion...but you don't really remember much about it, except that you wish you could see more Ricardo...
Thing is, if Sheamus' character was stuck for the whole of 2012, Del Rio's had been stuck for two years. And frankly the gimmick stunk to begin with. He was rich like the Million Dollar Man and JBL but strangely never really used his money to gain heat (in fact, apart from the cars and the flash suits it wasn't made that clear how much money he had- let alone how he got it). He was also foreign but rarely ran down America in any committed fashion. Furthermore, the most 'Mexican' things about his gimmick- Ricardo and the music, got over!! It had a cool bullfighter vibe about it (naturally, when he turned face, they remixed the theme and partly ruined it...).
Remember the taped segment on Smackdown when Sheamus trashed his car? What a cool angle that would have been to pop the crowd if John Cena and Edge had not done the same fucking thing- live in front of a crowd (therefore making a much bigger pop for wrestlers who, let's face it, were much more over than Sheamus ever was).
And it's not as if the matches were bad. In fact, they were quite decent. But every time they seemed to have a PPV match creative got in the way. Summerslam, for example, saw Del Rio get pinned while having his foot on the ropes. After that, they had Del Rio, Rodriguez and David Otunga (?) successfully campaign Booker T for the banning of the Brogue Kick as they believed it was too dangerous.
Now, despite the ludicrousness of that idea if you look at it closely (Sheamus isn't allowed to kick people in the head but Del Rio is?) there was some grist in the mill that they could have used for their third (yes, third) PPV match. Maybe they could have made the third match a submission match to favour Del Rio? Maybe Del Rio could have asked for a different referee and then called shenanigans?
No they just did a regular match for the third time. What's more, Booker T popped out just before the match and mentioned that the Brogue Kick was no longer banned.
Sooo...Sheamus, who was developing a new Texas Cloverleaf for the banned Brogue Kick...can just ignore it, and instead focus on the same thing that beat Del Rio in the past two matches. Why not make him look resourceful instead?
And you think the Wyatt/Balor feud has been treading water...
All of this led to Sheamus by September being seen by much of the WWE Universe with an air of indifference rather than excitement. This was exacerbated in his feud with the Big Show, where, in a 'World Championship Debate' (I assume they were trying to ape Obama/Romney) Sheamus made cracks about Big Show's BO, weight and bad breath. Big Show simply replied by pointing out that Sheamus wasn't taking him seriously, and therefore, as a result, he wasn't taking the championship seriously.
And the crowd agreed. Look, when you have one champion busting his buns to legitimise a championship that has a spinny 'W', it doesn't look great when your other champion seems to be more focused on his bad comedy routines than the matches at hand.
And what made this all even more frustrating is that when Big Show did beat him for the title...Sheamus didn't really change. He was still the plain old white meat babyface that the crowd was fairly indifferent to. He could have got more mean, more conflicted, even turned into more of a tweener.
Nope. Instead he actually remained face for another two and a half years. And that's the final nail in this whole championship reign. He was essentially given a terrible start when he got the belt, treated indifferently when he held onto the belt through the Summer and finally when he lost it, didn't really imply like it was too big a deal.
It's no wonder that the Big Gold Belt was soon put away for good.
And that's article 78! Next time we begin embarking on a series of articles revolving around shoots or worked shoots. To begin with we travel across the Pacific to a match that got out of hand and was just...ghastly.
The InVasion Saga
Article One: Shane has a surprise for Daddy
Article Two: Booker T vs Buff Bagwell and the Temple of Boos
Article Three: Daddy's little Girl Gets in on the Action
Article Four: "WHY AUSTIN DAMMIT?! WHY?