Wednesday Morning Backlash: Sheamus Fits the Mold for WWE Gold

Columns, Top Story

It has been oft noted that Sheamus is becoming a huge star. This should, although it apparently does, surprise absolutely no one. His crowd responses rival that of even John Cena and CM Punk, but again, that should be obvious. He’s successfully adapted a very good heel act to become a crowd popping babyface, with intelligence and an ass-kicking persona. Why are we surprised? We’ve seen this all before. Sheamus’ ring work and character are near exact copies of Batista.

It has oft been argued (by me), that with a proper push, any athletic big man can become a major star. Mark Henry may be showing that the athletic part isn’t entirely necessary, but Sheamus is showing exactly what character, push, and, really, who’s good side to get on to become a big star.

Sheamus began as just another ECW rookie when, reportedly, he became Triple H’s workout buddy and immediately a monster heel on Raw. He got a big push as a smart heel, taking the WWE Championship from John Cena, dominating the undercard, and generally being well-protected while he improved in the ring. That improvement was really helped when he eventually lost the title and went down the card. For most, the de-push after a huge push comes with being humiliated, regularly beat, and an utter lack of storylines, but that wasn’t the case with Sheamus.

When Sheamus was removed from t he title hunt, he was allowed to remain strong, eliminated Triple H, then working with some of the better in-ring performers on t he roster in intense feuds. It was, notably, his feud with John Morrison that allowed him to elevate his ring work and become a guy who seemed destined to dominate. Unfortunately, t he Raw title scene was crowded, but a move to Smackdown provided just the impetus Sheamus would need to return to the top of the card.

Sheamus, a heel because of who he fought, was simply a smart big guy who loved to fight. Over on Smackdown, though, on the heel side, his intelligent side was mirrored by Wade Barrett and his “wants a fight” gimmick was being given a huge push with Mark Henry. Sheamus had already shown enough value to not be a third stringer behind either of those two, so instead, WWE just changed who he fought. Instead of attacking the likes of Randy Orton, he fought Henry for being a bully, and Christian for being a whiner. And with that, the crowd was rooting for Sheamus.

But he wasn’t immediately super over. The crowd liked him a lot, but in ring, they would slowly be drawn out of his matches. Sheamus, to his immense credit, changed how he worked, added crowd pleasing moves and poses to allow the crowd to cheer for him. He kept his offense high impact and refocused it around the Brogue Kick, a proper face, out-of-nowhere finisher. With these in place, Sheamus was, even without the title, a top star. Now all that awaits is WWE building a proper heel champion for him to dethrone.

Batista, much like Sheamus, started out in the undercard as D-Von, of all people’s lackey, but he showed enough energy and athleticism to warrant a spot with Triple H, who got behind him, and made him part of Evolution. There, he was a monster heel who got to work with top faces and learn his craft, along with teaming with greats like Ric Flair and Triple H, himself. Of course, he wasn’t immediately pushed out of evolution, that first big break went to Randy Orton, but soon it was Batista who was made a top guy, defeated Triple H, and was sent to Smackdown to be a leader of that brand, with or without the title. It’s almost passé now, but Batista was, at first, getting reactions that mirrored Cena, and even though he never sold that level of merchandise, remained a top star until he left the company. This is all, of course, to note the parallels between the rise of Sheamus/Batista and CM Punk/John Cena. Batista was good in the ring at first, but ended up arguably great, having classics with Triple H, Edge, John Cena, and plenty of others.

Finally, we return to the anyone big and athletic with the right support could have been Batista or Sheamus argument. To prove this, I point most notably to Tomko. Tomko was a decently over heel as Christian’s lackey. Had he been paired with top guys in Evolution like Batista, he could have learned more, worked harder, avoided his drug problems, and become a star. He was, at first, just as athletic as Batista, a better early worker, and as good on the mic. But he never got his push and was released. He did, however, almost become a star in TNA when… paired with top guys and allowed to talk and learn to work from guys who were over. TNA’s schizophrenic booking killed that, but it’s neither here nor there – he could have been the star Batista was. For further possibilities, take the much maligned Matt Morgan (again, with the right support, who knows where he ends up), and even, likely, Albert who had the look, but was never given the support to really learn to work until he got to Japan and became a star.

WWE themselves know this to be the case, hence the eagerness to push Ezekiel Jackson earlier this year, or Mason Ryan now. Both guys are unbelievably green and WWE is ruining them by rushing what should be a process where they are protected by good workers and really over guys, then pushed on their own. After bombing with Ezekiel Jackson, and, really, Bobby Lashley, the best counterpoint to my theory, before him, they are doing slightly better with Ryan. He isn’t being protected by top guys and given time, but he is being put together with the incredibly over Zack Ryder, working against the incredibly hated Vickie Guerrero, and in the ring with the most underrated worker in WWE, Dolph Ziggler. Let’s all remember that in a few years if Mason Ryan becomes a big star – yes, he’s putting in the hard work, but he’s also getting every break, never jobbing, and involved in programs where other s who are more over, like Daniel Bryan, are left to flounder.

WWE again find themselves in a transitional period and are turning to two new stars to carry themselves into the future, following the format of the past. On the one hand, we have the Triple H chosen one, the big, intelligent monster who can work and is never really de-pushed. He rose on Raw before being brought to Smackdown to rule, and gets great crowd response while selling a good amount of merchandise. On the other, we have the guy who was never supposed to make it to the top, he began bland and then found his own character, making that a hugely supported heel, and eventually a boundary defying face with amazing reactions and huge merchandising sales. Welcome to WWE – you can be huge, if you fit the mold and know the right people, or if you’re the most talented superstar in years and find the right angle. No in-betweens. Sheamus and CM Punk, welcome to the top of the card.

Glazer is a former senior editor at Pulse Wrestling and editor and reviewer at The Comics Nexus.