It’s that time of the year again when the WWE rolls into town, London prepares itself for a storm to be whipped up and the sports entertainment’s biggest superstars thrill masses of fans that swamp to the capital to catch the action.
But while many of the WWE Superstars will look to take in as much as they can of travelling abroad, Sheamus can use the tour to grab a rare chance to come ‘home’.
Strictly speaking home is Dublin, but when you spend the majority of your time travelling across the States, London feels close enough. Fresh from a long-haul flight across the Atlantic, Sheamus meets The Independent in a hotel overlooking Wembley Arena, where he will join his fellow Superstars in entertaining the WWE Universe at London’s live show - where he defeat The Miz.
"It’s always great to come home, it really is,” says Sheamus. “It just kind of resets me every time I come home and reminds me how it started and how far I’ve come, and it’s kind of like the same thing where you’re so busy that you sort of get lost in the day-to-day stuff but you come home and it really puts everything into perspective.”
Asked whether it’s a special trip given his wrestling roots were planted in the UK and Ireland, Sheamus answers: “Of course it is. This is where I started, I started in the UK and in Ireland wrestling, did my first couple of tryouts here a couple of years ago, well actually more than a couple of years ago back in 2005, 2006 and 2007 so yeah, it’s very special for me.
“My home is across the pond [in St Augustine, Florida], but I lived in London for a short while, travelling back and forth from Ireland to the UK to wrestle on my holidays and on my breaks, bank holidays and weekends and what have you to perfect my craft and to go into WWE with some experience.
“Everything about being here is like being home. The television programs, the TV, the culture, the vibe, you know it’s always special when I get to come back to this neck of the woods.”
While we discuss all things inside and out of the ring, staff are busy outside changing the banners that surround Wembley Arena’s bigger brother – Wembley Stadium. The NFL International Series arrives in London for the third and final time this year on Sunday when the Jacksonville Jaguars ‘entertain’ the Dallas Cowboys, the emphasis being on the Jags staging another of their home games here in London.
This leads us to talk about the possibility of staging a WWE event inside the home of football, but not just any WWE event, the grandest stage of them all – Wrestlemania. Sheamus leaves little to the imagination when he’s asked whether the prospect of a UK-based Wrestlemania would be a success in the near future.
“Absolutely, I think WrestleMania would be bigger than the NFL, way bigger,” the 36-year-old says enthusiastically. “I think NFL is a great sport, it’s a fun sport but let’s be honest, football is number one. It’s the number one sport in the world. I think when you compare NFL to WWE there’s no comparison, WWE would blow it out of the water.
“I think NFL is cool because they come over once a year or whatever and I think people are intrigued by what it’s about, but we come over here twice a year, sell-out arenas all over the country. That’s consistency, and I’m pretty sure we could come four times a year and sell-out all over the country. The NFL thing is cool but I think WrestleMania would be 100-times bigger than the SuperBowl. I think you’d really see what sports entertainment is really all about and I’d guarantee we’d fill that stadium across the way there. It’d be unbelievable.”
Sheamus has a point that he argues well. Yes, the NFL is up to three games in its International Series staged in London this year, and the inevitable feeling is that a London franchise is a case of when rather than if. But the WWE has been coming to the United Kingdom for a lot longer, and it has broadened its horizons much further than the capital itself.
Shows in Cardiff, Dublin, Belfast and Birmingham follow London in just two days, while next week’s Raw and Smackdown shows will take place in Liverpool. So we ask the question: Sheamus in the WrestleMania main event in the UK – how does that sound?
“That’d be fantastic,” he answers. “At Wembley, the Aviva Stadium or even Croke Park in Dublin, that would be amazing. I’d love nothing more, but I’ve got to get some more momentum first.
“I just lost the US Championship so I’ve got to get some momentum behind me, get everything back into perspective and I think I’ve got to come a little bit more ruthless and selfish to go out there and put Sheamus back where he belongs, back in the main event.”
His words hint that there may be a change in the tide for the Great White. Sheamus has excelled as both a face and heel during his career, something that’s not as easy as it sounds. His shock defeat to Rusev, a match screened solely on Vince McMahon’s newest brainchild the WWE Network, means Sheamus lost the US Championship that he has held since May, an incredible 182-day reign.
“I obviously want a rematch,” he adds. “I want to prove I can beat Rusev. That’s important, we went back and forth the other night – it was a long night – but it was cool the way it was on the network. It was like the first of its kind, to broadcast that match on the network and it shows how powerful the network can be with so much opportunity and options that the WWE can put any match on there, anytime, anywhere, exclusively for the fans that subscribe to the network.
“We’re also giving the network away free for the month of November in the US. Vince McMahon released a message today, we’re doing everything we can to get the network set-up properly and get going over here because let’s be honest, we come here twice a year as I’ve said and regardless of how personal I feel about the UK and Ireland because it’s my home, we really, really care about the UK fans. They’re just as important as the United States’ and we’re doing everything we can to get set-up for all the fans here.”
Part of Sheamus’ reign as champion was an entertaining feud with The Miz and his latest protégé, Damian Mizdow. Not only did the feud work, it saw the three become the biggest talking point in the UK ahead of the show, and it’s something that Sheamys can’t help admiring himself – not that he has anything nice to say about The Miz.
“What do I think of The Miz? Not much mate,” he says with a comically straight face. “I think he should be doing ballet dancing rather than the WWE. He just talks a lot, has a big mouth – I’ve tried to shut him up a few times but no matter how many times you hit him or kick him in the face he doesn’t get the message.
“I think Mizdow is tremendous and I think both of them together are a very entertaining piece. I’m not sure one would survive without the other really. I mean Miz obviously has the track record, but both of them together, they’re just entertainment gold.
“They’ve come a long way. They’re very, very entertaining television and they’re a very entertaining couple. Even when I’m wrestling Miz, I’ve got one eye on him and one eye on Mizdow on the outside and he’s cracking me up half the time, he’s very entertaining.”
The feud with Miz followed another strong battle against Cesaro, with the King of Swing unable to prevail against the Irishman. Sheamus speaks well of his Swiss counterpart – clearly impressed by his talented style of wrestling – but his favourite feud of his career is rather surprising when he reveals just who it is.
Sheamus says: “My personal favourite to work with? I’ve enjoyed my matches with Cesaro, I actually really enjoyed The Miz stuff too, it was a different type, took me out of my zone in a different type of opponent, a much craftier opponent, but I’d have to say Cesaro is a favourite of mine. You know who’s actually a favourite of mine? Goldust.
“It’s funny, people ask me all the time about guys I’ve had great feuds with, and not so long ago I was thinking when I first started in ECW in 2009, one guy who really helped me to hit the ground running was the feud with Goldust in ECW. That guy is phenomenal and still to this day it’s one of my favourite feuds ever.
“He’s got experience and he’s got amazing talent. You look at him and he flies around the ring, doing unbelievable moves for his age and still he’s kept that character fresh. People still love it and I remember watching him as a kid in 1994-95 when Goldust came out for the first time – that’s incredible, it’s almost 20 years. So I think he’s definitely a favourite opponent of mine. We had a couple of tag matches and it was fun to get in there.”