Sheamus: An Irreplaceable Role

As WWE enters a new decade, it’s become clearer than ever that in that world, some things never change. This Sunday at Royal Rumble, a handful of familiar faces take centre stage but perhaps, new stars will emerge along the way. With two Rumble matches and three title tils, this event certainly isn’t without intrigue but in fittingly understated fashion, another story lies beyond those headlines. After appearing in vignettes last November, Sheamus returned on the very first SmackDown of the decade and at Royal Rumble, has his first televised match too.

Taking on Shorty G, Sheamus will look to make a real impact, laying the groundwork for what could be another domineering heel run. Ten years ago, Sheamus was WWE Champion, a brand-new heel that quite shockingly, had been entrusted with the greatest responsibility of all. Though the ultimate prize rested on his shoulder, Sheamus was still very much finding his feet and as a result, the perception surrounding him was polarising to say the least. Naturally, fans questioned if the Irishman belonged, especially at those lofty heights around established main event players.

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In the years after that initial reign though, Sheamus proved to have staying power, remaining a consistently featured figure and producing some impressive matches along the way. For a range of reasons, Sheamus may have never become the ardent fans’ favourite but he certainly earned their respect, becoming an immensely reliable performer that steadily built a match catalogue worth admiring. He compiled a simply staggering collection of titles too, standing firm as a rare constant in a time of change, as WWE’s talent recruitment style shifted dramatically.

When the time arrived, Sheamus was able to re-invent himself also, forming a formidable tandem alongside Cesaro and dominating the tag team ranks. Just days after his ninth WrestleMania appearance, Sheamus suffered a concussion, bringing an end to The Bar chapter as Cesaro transitioned to a singles role on RAW. As Sheamus’ absence extended and the uncertainty surrounding it grew, his wrestling future appeared somewhat in doubt. With those rumours swirling, it was hard not to ponder that possibility, providing some perspective to Sheamus’ commendable career.

Those fears were soon rendered baseless though as refreshed and refuelled, Sheamus will now look to add another chapter to his decade-long main roster journey. In his very first appearance in the SmackDown on FOX era, Sheamus’ value was immediately clear. Though certainly not without top tier talent, the blue brand has been lacking formidable antagonists, villains that without extensive creative focus, command attention and respect. Those traits are particularly helpful to SmackDown, a group already armed with some of WWE’s most natural babyface characters.

That’s in use right away at Royal Rumble, as Sheamus meets a performer that in one King of the Ring run, captured fans’ imaginations and embodied an underdog role that transformed his appeal. Since then, Shorty G’s presence has dwindled somewhat but with his potential clear, Sheamus could be the foe that brings his greatest form back to the forefront. It’s hard to predict how long this programme will last or its overarching intentions but on paper at least, it’s a seamless fit.

Sheamus has become incredibly at ease in this role: a heel that can have consistently strong matches without ever veering into a popular anti-hero that blurs the lines. He can lead programmes or supplement them all while on credentials alone, appearing at home opposite any level of opponent. In fact, he’s the exact type of opponent that Shorty G, Mustafa Ali and even to some extent, Braun Strowman require. In Sheamus’ case, his lengthy time in the tag title ranks proved beneficial too, as its allowed fresh matches to emerge while he produced impressive work elsewhere.

Sheamus’ part of the WWE fabric is quite unique, perfecting a position that’s often thankless but as his lengthy absence highlighted, very much necessary. After the career he’s had, it was always going to be a positive when Sheamus returned, providing a chance to complete his in-ring career on his own terms. However, it’s certainly a credit to Sheamus that beyond that initial boost, he’s genuinely needed on this roster, a show that in stature at least, is WWE’s current flagship product. The reasons for that can and will be debated but at this point, Sheamus’ unwavering value is impossible to deny.

Professional wrestling careers can be ranked or rated in many ways, especially considering its naturally subjective nature. Sheamus shines in undisputable areas though, with substantial longevity and a range of accomplishments across the board. It’s hard to question those feats and as a result of them, Sheamus’ perception has steadily shifted. The plans for Sheamus’ SmackDown stint will become clear in the coming weeks and months but in theory at least, he could very well play a pivotal role on the Road to WrestleMania.

If that’s indeed the case, it’ll be nothing new for him but ideally, Sheamus can get SmackDown’s babyface group back on track. Sheamus’ time as the central focus has almost certainly come and gone but his role remained very much in place, simply waiting for his return. Though there may be more miles on his clock now, Sheamus’ impact is remarkably similar, virtually unchanged from a decade ago. Simply put, Sheamus is a natural villain and though styles and eras may change, that skill is never outdated.

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