At this stage of his career, “the big one” for Sheamus in WWE differs from a decade ago. For most professional wrestlers, the goal is climbing to the top of the mountain and becoming world champion. The 44-year-old probably wouldn’t turn that opportunity down, but that isn’t where his focus is in 2022. Instead, he’s been eyeing the Intercontinental Championship, which would make him just the 11th grand slam champion under the modern format. It’s a goal that Sheamus said has driven his career resurgence, and his run with The Brawling Brutes has slowly gotten over with fans.
Earlier in his career, The Celtic Warrior believes the WWE Universe didn’t support him because it seemed like the machine was pushing him. Fans are quick to reject anyone who feels like a hand-picked champion. For instance, it happened with Roman Reigns, and audiences eventually soured on John Cena when he became the company’s version of Superman. That same issue held Sheamus back when he became WWE Champion in 2009. That was a long time ago, though, and he now has support as he shoots for the only title that has eluded him so far in the Intercontinental Championship.
WWE had a tough booking choice heading into Clash At The Castle in September. Fans were clamoring to see Sheamus achieve his goal of becoming a grand slam champion, but a loss for Gunther would have been devastating to his considerable momentum. Where Vince McMahon might have sought out the easy pop with a Sheamus win, Triple H decided to have Sheamus come up short in Cardiff.
They could have booked the match to end in a shoddy way, but those kinds of finishes have been backfiring over the last few months. Think back to Liv Morgan’s win over Rhonda Rousey at SummerSlam as an example. That finish inadvertently earned Morgan boos, so much so that WWE decided to keep her away from live crowds for several weeks following the victory. Despite taking the loss, Sheamus ducked a similar fate and didn’t end up looking any weaker because of it. That’s partly because Gunther has such a remarkable presence and partly because their matches were so even and physical.
Losing to Gunther at Clash At The Castle was like an underdog fan favorite losing the last game of the series in overtime. Sheamus didn’t come out on top, but fans had to respect the effort and emotion that he gave. Brawling Brutes Vs. Imperium had run its course by the time that premium live event rolled around, and WWE wisely shifted both groups in other directions. Sheamus’ consultation prize was a main-event spot against The Bloodline at Survivor Series. Not a bad place to be.
Sheamus’ WWE career might be winding down, but he’s not quite done yet. He’s spoken openly about wanting to spend more time doing television shows and movies but doesn’t anticipate that evolving into a full-time pursuit. As such, it might have been wise for Triple H to punt Sheamus’ emotional grand slam champion win. They didn’t run his feud with Gunther into the ground, and by allowing it some time to breathe, it’s a program that could easily be circled back to now that WWE is in its slow season.
The gap between Survivor Series and the Royal Rumble is considerable. There will be time to weave this story on SmackDown in the coming weeks if WWE wants Sheamus’ Intercontinental Championship chase to be a significant storyline focus. The spotlight is on Ricochet right now, as he became the inaugural World Cup Champion and earned the right to fight Gunther for the IC Title on December 9. That doesn’t seem like a story that will continue for another month, even if Braun Strowman gets involved. That leaves the door open for Sheamus to get involved once the dust settles between Strowman, Ricochet, and Gunther. Once it does, WWE can reinsert the veteran into a storyline that focuses more on his pursuit of the grand slam championship.
That’s where the money is for WWE and Sheamus, anyway. Once the title is won, fans can turn in any number of ways. He’d likely maintain his momentum as a face against someone like Karrion Kross but might not fare as well if Bray Wyatt decided to show up to the IC Title party. The chase is what makes things so entertaining and engaging for fans. By passing on a championship win and easy pop at Clash At The Castle, WWE left itself an opportunity to tell a story on a larger scale, making Sheamus SmackDown‘s main focus for a month or so while he chased down the Intercontinental Championship. It is a matter of when, not if, regarding Sheamus winning the IC title, and WWE has plenty of runways to figure out the best time and place to make that a reality.
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