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From doorman at Lillie's to one of the biggest Irish exports in American entertainment - meet Stephen 'Sheamus' Farrelly


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WWE superstar Sheamus

WWE superstar Sheamus

WWE superstar Sheamus

At the turn of this century, you would have found IT technician Stephen Farrelly manning the door at Dublin's Lillie's Bordello nightclub.

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A burley, red haired, pale skinned giant from the north side of Dublin, he needed the cash collected on his night shifts shepherding the great and good who passed through the doors of the nightspot favoured by the rich and famous and could never have imaged that he would join the 'A list' one day.

Twenty years later and 42-year-old Farrelly is an international star both of the small screen and on his highly successful YouTube channel, with his storming success as one of the star names of the WWE wrestling extravaganza in America arguably one of Ireland's great entertainment exports of recent years.

Now known to the world as 'Celtic Warrior' Sheamus, he has emerged as one of the most popular characters into the circus that is the WWE and as he sat down for an exclusive interview at a BT Sport even in London, it quickly became clear that fame and fortune in an environment where ego reigns supreme has not changed this humble Dubliner.

"I was just a chubby kid in Dublin and had to fight so hard to get to where I am now," begins Sheamus.

"The story behind how you get to the position where you have achieved success is what people want to hear about. The fans see the Celtic Warrior I portray in the WWE and he is brash, loud and determined to stand out, but there is a man behind that character and he had to overcome so many barriers to get to this point.

"I started watching wrestling in 1988 and I remember being captivated by it. I was living in Dunboyne in Meath at the time and the idea that one day I would be in that ring was impossible to imagine back then.

"There was no glitz and glamour when I started out with a wrestling promotion in Ireland and when I got some try outs with the WWE when they came to the UK, I had to fly over and hope they liked me.

"I was far from being an overnight success for me, but hard work and dedication has taken me on an amazing journey.

"Being Irish might have opened a few doors for me in America as they love the Irish over there, but once that door is open that is only the start. Then you have to prove you can cut it with the big boys and hopefully I've done that.

"I certainly looked different to everyone else when I started out in WWE with my red hair, pasty white skin and Dublin accent. I looked like a ghost and it made an impact. It changed the image of what everyone else was in the WWE.

"The rest of the guys had long hair, super tans and the WWE folks didn't know what to make of me. I offered up a very different vibe and thankfully, the fans liked it.

"Now we see others coming in who look a bit different, with Finn Bálor and Becky Lynch following in my footsteps by adding to the Irish contingent in the WWE and doing a great job.

"I have been in the States since September 2007, starting out living in Florida before moving to Nashville and it's amazing to think I have been a part of this for so long now.

"It never felt like an impossible dream for me. I always believed in it. When you are chasing something that means so much to you, you need the conviction that it will happen and I always had that in me."

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Sheamus does not believe Conor McGregor would have the commitment to launch a WWE career

Sheamus does not believe Conor McGregor would have the commitment to launch a WWE career

Sheamus does not believe Conor McGregor would have the commitment to launch a WWE career

With almost five million loyal followers on Twitter, and another 2.7m devotes hanging on his every post on Instagram, Sheamus has a story that has come similarities to that of Conor McGregor, who has also tapped into the fighting Irish image to hit the financial jackpot in America.

The McGregor phenomenon has been born as much from his headline grabbing personality as his sporting prowess and it has sparked suggestions that The Notorious One could take on the Celtic Warrior in the WWE ranks, but Sheamus suggests that move is unlikely.

"Could McGregor fit in at the WWE? I'm not so sure," states Sheamus. "It's a very different discipline compared to what he is used to. We have had guys like boxer Tyson Fury come in for a couple of special appearances and that's great fun, but we are on the road 300 days a year doing live events, some of them that are not on TV. Can I see a guy like McGregor wanting to do that? I doubt it.

"We can drive five hours between shows and it takes real dedication to entertain the fans day after day. You need to hit the gym in the morning at whatever hotel you are in and then might do a show in front of 5,000 people, rather than the 20,000 people you see on the TV shows and you need to be motivated to do that day after day.

"I love doing it, I have a real passion for it, but what we do is very different to someone coming in from another sport or maybe a movie star who will pop the rating for a week, but the schedule for someone who is full-time in the WWE would fill the guys who drop in with horror.

"People have said McGregor has taken a persona of a WWE star from the 1980s or 90s and taken that to make a name for himself in the UFC. He has created a character that has drawn people in to watch him and while I'm not sure how close that character is to the real person, he pulls it off quite well.

"McGregor doesn't annoy me, far from it. I respect what he has done. I met him a while back and have sent out some tweet supporting him down the years and he has done well for himself.

"The difference between someone like me and McGregor is he is fighting once or twice a year and has the chance to live his life away from the sport.

"I would love the chance to live back in Dublin and still be in the WWE, but that it just isn't realistic to commute from Ireland and I do miss home."

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Stephen Farrelly (Rocksteady)  who is best known to his fans worldwide as WWE Superstar "Sheamus,"who acts in the film tonight at the Irish premiere of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows at the Savoy Cinema,Dublin. Pictures: Brian McEvoy

Stephen Farrelly (Rocksteady) who is best known to his fans worldwide as WWE Superstar "Sheamus,"who acts in the film tonight at the Irish premiere of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows at the Savoy Cinema,Dublin. Pictures: Brian McEvoy

Stephen Farrelly (Rocksteady) who is best known to his fans worldwide as WWE Superstar "Sheamus,"who acts in the film tonight at the Irish premiere of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows at the Savoy Cinema,Dublin. Pictures: Brian McEvoy

Sheamus had just returned from a flying visit to Dublin as he caught up with his beloved Dad and the rest of his family when he sat down for our interview and it is clear that his pining for Ireland has not waned despite his success in America.

"I miss home, of course I do," continues the gentle giant who was once a doorman at Lillie's Bordello nightclub in Dublin.

"I have just been back in Ireland for a couple of days to see my Dad and the rest of the family and it reminded me how much I miss them. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and it is difficult for me being out in the States on my own.

"The great thing about Irish people is they don't care if you are famous or successful, they treat you the same and it keeps you grounded.

"I'm a Dubliner and that will never change. When I get to go home, I realise how much I miss the place and especially my family. My accent always comes back even stronger when I'm in Ireland as well because you do lose a bit of it when you spend so much time in America."

Aside from his WWE duties, Sheamus' big passion now evolves around his YouTube channel Celtic Warrior Workouts, which encourages his fans to embrace fitness and gym sessions inspired by their hero and the inspirational people he works out with.

"Since my Celtic Warrior channel took off on YouTube, I think people have seen the real me," he adds, speaking with pride about a venture that has attracted more than 500,000 subscribers.

"When you look on Instagram and Twitter, there is a lot of vanity on there with people displaying how fit the are and the protein shake they claim will make them look like that.

"Well, I didn't want to follow that lead. Our workouts is all about making brave changes and taking a different route to how you get fit.

"It has allowed me to meet people who have had problems that need to be overcome and we try and get round them together and it has been a huge success.

"It has been an incredible experience and if my profile can inspire a few more people to get into the gym and get fit, then I'd be delighted by that."

BT Sport has become the exclusive live broadcaster of WWE in the UK and Ireland. It is available to Irish viewers via a Sports Extra subscription on Sky.

Online Editors