WWE veteran Sheamus is set for a homecoming on Monday night as he returns to Raw. His move from SmackDown allows for the opportunity to reconnect with WWE champion Drew McIntyre, a close friend for the past 15 years.
“We first met on the indie scene in Ireland in 2005, and right away we hit it off as mates,” Sheamus says. “We gravitated towards each other because we both used to videotape our matches. When everybody else went out clubbing, we’d stay in and critique our matches. All the years ago, we talked about bringing this aggressive style to WWE and tearing the house down.”
The move to Raw places Sheamus on a collision course that will eventually lead to a program with McIntyre.
“I don’t know the lay of the land, I don’t know what I’m going to do on Raw, but I’ve heard people talking about a feud with Drew,” Sheamus says. “If it does happen, I feel sorry for Drew. He’s going to remember very, very quickly how hard I hit.
“I’m worried I’ll hit him so hard that he’ll just turn to dust. He’s my friend, I don’t want to do that to him. He’s been messing around with these American wrestlers for so long, tippy-tappying around the ring, but one shot from me will make him realize how easy he’s had it before I got there.”
Sheamus is Stephen Farrelly, who became the first-ever Irish-born WWE champion when he defeated John Cena in 2009. Now 42, he has more than a dozen years’ worth of tenure in WWE, yet he eschews the notion that his experience allows him the chance to ease off the gas pedal. Sheamus still possesses a passion and singular focus to thrive in pro wrestling, which has not changed from the time he decided to embark on a career in WWE.
“I want people to remember Sheamus, just like people remember John Cena or Undertaker,” Sheamus says. “People might scoff at that, but that is my mentality. I came here never to be a number; I came here to be the greatest I can possibly be. That’s my mindset. People are giving up their Friday nights to watch me. I need to give them a reason to watch. I don’t take that for granted, and I’m going to grab their attention and run with it.”
Hardware has never been a problem for Sheamus. Aside from the intercontinental championship, he has held every major title in the company. But just like his nights back home in Dublin, in an age before the internet and smartphones, he would watch Raw before sunrise if that meant keeping up on the top story lines in wrestling. Decades later, the story continues to drive him.
“You can win all the titles in the world you want, but it doesn’t mean anything if people aren’t invested in your story,” Sheamus says. “That’s all I want, the story. And I’m going to give you a very violent one.”
Sheamus had a controversial program recently that played off Jeff Hardy’s real-life experience with addiction. He relished the opportunity to use that story to highlight Hardy’s resiliency, as well as show off a more vicious edge to his villainous persona.
“The Jeff Hardy story hit so many raw nerves. It is definitely one of the favorite feuds of my career,” Sheamus says. “That was very, very personal, and it’s one of my favorite feuds in my career.
“For me, the pandemic has really given me a chance to be who I really am. I’ve never been afraid of cutting to the bone and saying things that put people in an uproar. The match with Jeff at the end, the barroom, that brought out this new shady side of Sheamus.”
For someone who has built his life around his profession, 2020 began on a humbling note for Sheamus. He worked with Shorty G at the Royal Rumble kickoff show, a stark difference from past years, including the 2012 Rumble match, where he was victorious.
“The preshow, that was a kick in the balls,” he admitted. “But I just keep pushing forward. I’m not going to complain, I’m just going to work harder. And though it was different without a crowd at the Performance Center, and now at the ThunderDome, it’s given me an opportunity. You have to adapt and make the most of the situation. Cena had a great line in a Celtic Warrior Workout, ‘Always be comfortable in the uncomfortable.’ I feel so natural out there. Nothing is forced.”
Sheamus has his SmackDown farewell match on Friday night, working a six-man tag with Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura against all three members of the New Day. His most recent feud was with Big E, and it ended in a fiercely intense Falls Count Anywhere match on last week’s SmackDown.
“My intention, as soon as I learned I was working with Big E, was to show he is a tough bastard,” Sheamus says. “I wanted to show a side of him that no one had ever seen. We all know he can joke and crack people up, but when it comes to a fight, he can also hold his own against anybody.”
As a four-time world champ, Sheamus shared that his objective in the program was to show that Big E belongs in the world title picture.
“Big E is the full package,” Sheamus says. “He’s one of the strongest guys I’ve ever seen in the gym, and he’s one of the most charismatic guys in WWE. He will be a star in this business for years to come.
“The world saw a different side of Big E, a guy that should be world champion. I hit him as hard as I could last week, and he hit me back even harder. That’s a credit to him. He brought it, and I still have the marks on my back to prove it.”
The Falls Count Anywhere match, which was the perfect end to their singles program, belonged on pay-per-view. An issue with the proliferation of pro wrestling in the current era is the constant need to churn out new content, which means that there are plenty of chances to overlook highly compelling matches. Big E–Sheamus served as a prime example, as both men had yet to wipe blood off their tights before the show shifted to another story line. The encounter was an old-school battle, a perfect intertwining of psychology and physicality.
“That match really made me go back and think,” Sheamus says. “I thought back to how Dr. Tom Prichard really brought something out of me when I started here, tapping into this aggressive Irish brute. I thought about Stan Hansen. I studied a lot of his matches. I just loved his physical style. When I went to ECW, I worked with Goldust, who was a veteran. We beat the s--- out of each other, and it was awesome. It was my feud with Goldust that got me elevated to Raw and on the fast track with Cena. I was WWE champion within six months, and the whole thing happened so fast.
“So the match with Big E stayed true to all of that. I’ve always been about the fight. When the bell rings, I want to put on the most aggressive, vicious fight I possibly can. For Sheamus, win or lose, it’s all about the fight.”
Sheamus’s fight is on full display on his Celtic Warrior Workouts YouTube channel. The pandemic has stifled his ability to produce all of the content he has envisioned, but he confirmed grand plans remain in place for his workout series.
“With the pandemic, the new episodes have stalled,” Sheamus says. “We’re showing a lot of our clips on YouTube, but the goal is to get Celtic Warrior Workouts back up and running properly. I want to make this the biggest fitness channel in the world. It’s still in the early stages, but this is what gave me a new outlook on working out. My idea is to inspire people to work out, help people make that brave change.
“I want to hear people’s stories. Their victories, their setbacks, what made them fall in love with fitness. I’m so blown away by the people that have been motivated by the channel. I’m just the host of each episode, so this is never about me. There is no ego involved. I’m just trying to keep up with someone in their workout and share their story.”
A fixture of WWE programming, Sheamus makes his final SmackDown appearance for the foreseeable future on Friday, but does so in familiar company. The chance to tag again with Cesaro, and against the New Day, has him eager to climb into the ring.
“I haven’t tagged with Cesaro since I had a concussion that sent me away for a while [in April 2019], so I’m very excited,” Sheamus says. “Our last match tagging together was actually against the New Day, and now we’re to go at it again. Cesaro raised my game when we were teaming together in the Bar, and I’m so grateful to be beside him again.”
Regardless of the brand, Sheamus has the skill, confidence and experience needed to make the most of any situation in a WWE ring. When taking a close look at his work, looking beyond the heel maneuvers, his spirit and drive is unmistakable. And he plans to reward people’s faith in the product with an unrelenting passion every time they watch him work his captivating blend of magic.
“I never forget why I’m doing this,” Sheamus says. “There were a lot of struggles to get to WWE. That’s why I won’t stop working. I’ll be 43 this January, and I’m working 10 times harder than I did in ’09 when I was WWE champion. Every morning, I do cardio, even though there are days when I definitely don’t want to do it. I’m boxing twice a week, doing MMA to help improve my wrestling, and I’m constantly trying to improve and bring myself to the next level.
“I’m more passionate about this job than I’ve ever been. That means I am going to take whatever I’m given and make it real, giving people something to remember when they watch my fights.”