For a man who’s held the WWE Championship twice in the last 12 months, Sheamus’ run as champion actually makes pretty grim reading:
Dec 2009 – TLC – Def John Cena clean after Cena fell through a table.
Jun 2010 – Fatal 4 Way – Wins WWE title after interference from The Nexus
The reason for all this, two people – Randy Orton and John Cena.
Sheamus is undoubtedly world champion material in my eyes. The detractors from the early stages of his first run cannot deny that he is every bit a main-event talent. From his stellar promo work, to his excellent facial expressions - with solid in ring skills to-boot, his place near the top of the tree is deserved. His problem has been that the only challengers he has been fed are John Cena and Randy Orton – two people that in creative's eyes – mustn't lose a match
I don’t know whether it’s due to the PG-era or not, but it seems that John Cena and (the now face) Randy Orton must not lose a match cleanly through fear of their fan base abandoning them. But because of a lack of credible main-event heels on raw, creative seems reluctant to give them the belt either. The solution? Make them lose in a way that doesn’t make them lose any steam (which usually involves DQ, interference or falling through a table).
Which is why the last few pay-per-view matches have been very disappointing. Sheamus’ win at Fatal-4-Way thanks to a Nexus beat-down on Cena made sense, his retention at Money in the Bank in similar fashion just stunk of lazy booking and his DQ defeat at the hands of Randy Orton just plain sucked for the paying customers, 3 months of unclean finishes for what should be WWE’s number one belt.
The issue for Sheamus’ second run problems began at the time of the draft. The rosters became extremely imbalanced. All the main-event talent had shifted to Raw, and all of the (what I like to call) upper-mid card talent was on Smackdown. With that in stone, creative didn’t have anywhere to go. Beyond Cena and Orton the next face down on Raw was a crap-shoot between John Morrison and Evan Bourne.
It’s worth saying that the last six months have been hugely effected by absentees. Batista could’ve easily put over Sheamus if he hadn’t have left. And Triple H’s injury meant that Orton had to fill in at Summerslam. But creative booked themselves into a corner by structuring both rosters as they did. If Sheamus were on Smackdown, he could have gone over anyone from Big Show, Christian, Rey Mysterio, Kane or Kofi Kingston.
Hell, he could have even beat Orton clean. Would this really have made Orton look bad? Orton is in desperate need to get away from John Cena (two unbeatable faces on one show will not work). Couldn’t they have had Sheamus beat him and send Orton to Smackdown? – where he should ultimately end up come October anyway.
Circumstances haven’t helped, but WWE creative has nobody to blame but themselves for the position that they are in. If you don’t want Cena or Orton to lose, then don’t feed them to Sheamus in the first place. Or better yet, actually have them lose the odd match cleanly. I’m not saying turn either one into a man who loses as regularly as Chris Jericho does, but the odd clean victory for the heel would do wonders for the WWE in general.
Then we have the six-pack challenge announced for the upcoming PPV. As much as I hate this idea, it had to happen for one reason - Orton and Cena are money. This is fair game, John Cena being off a WWE PPV would hit the buy-rate quite badly, as would a now face Orton. Once again this is a great example of creative booking themselves into a corner. You call a PPV Night of Champions (a good idea by the way) but don’t want the strap on either Cena or Orton. The only way around this I could think of was to put Orton and Cena in a tag match with The Hart Dynasty. It wouldn’t have been fantastic, and would’ve set-up a very screwy finish in said tag match, but at the very least it could’ve put Sheamus in a one-on-one match against Wade Barrett which, as a Englishman – I’m dying to see.
I believe the other purpose of the six-pack challenge is to swap the strap from Sheamus to Wade Barrett without Cena or Orton looking weak. They need to be in the match, but can’t look bad doing it. You can’t do a fatal-4-way match, so you throw in Edge and Jericho for good measure and have yet another multi-way match (if only the WWE understood the law of diminishing returns).
I see Triple H returning at Night of Champions, screwing Sheamus (there’s irony there). Putting the title on Barrett, and revealing himself as a heel and leader of the Nexus. This sets up heel HHH vs face Sheamus in a non-title match at Hell in a Cell, Cena vs Barrett for the WWE Title, and Orton a free-ticket to go to Smackdown. Nobody looks weak, and everyone leaves happy.
WWE will get there with this angle, but it will mark the end of Sheamus’ second run as champion without one single clean victory on PPV (Cena at TLC was clean, but Cena saved face in the process by falling through the table). It’s a great shame, because there is no doubt in my mind that Sheamus will be huge in the future. He has the complete package, and a character and gimmick that can move seamlessly between face and heel.
I just wish the WWE would book a competitive main event package, where faces can beat heels, and heels can beat faces. It would work so much better long run – Jericho is an extreme example, but he can lose one week and come back none-the-wiser the next. Cena and Orton booked properly could do just the same.