WWE fans here in the New York area are in store for an especially big weekend. First on Saturday, WWE comes to “The World’s Greatest Arena” Madison Square Garden for a Supershow featuring talent from both Raw and Smackdown brands. Tickets were sold out, but some have recently opened up, so check out Ticketmaster.
Then on Sunday night, Long Island’s own Nassau Coliseum hosts just its fourth WWE pay per view in history, Fatal 4-Way. Check for tickets here. The show, a new addition to the WWE pay per view calendar, is headlined by a pair of four-man world title matches.
In the Smackdown main event, World Heavyweight Champion Jack Swagger defends against C.M. Punk, Rey Mysterio and The Big Show. And in the Raw main event, WWE Champion John Cena puts his title up for grabs against Randy Orton, Edge and Sheamus.
I had the opportunity recently to talk to Sheamus about the event, which comes at the end of a historic freshman year in WWE for the “Celtic Warrior.” He’s already held a world title, competed against Triple-H at WrestleMania, and become one of the company’s top names.
In this interview, Sheamus talks about his meteoric rise through WWE, the company’s new family-friendly direction, his thoughts on some other new talent in the company, his unexpected extended stay in Dublin recently, and the pros and cons of having such a unique appearance.
Alfonso Castillo: Is this your first stint through New York, or you have any other shows in the Garden or anywhere else since you came to WWE?
Sheamus: I’ve done a few shows in New York. I think with ECW, and with Raw we did TV, I think it was back in November. I just had gotten back from the European tour and I didn’t get to wrestle. But the New York crowd is definitely one to voice their opinion. They can be very loud and boisterous. So it’s always a very fun time in front of that group, you know?
AC: Obviously, it’s been a whirlwind year for you. It really is incredible how fast you’ve moved up the ranks. In kind of an overview, what the last year been like for you? I imagine a year ago you wrestling in front of 100 people somewhere in Florida, right?
S: That’s right. A year ago I hadn’t even debuted yet. I was still down in the developmental territory, Florida Championship Wrestling, still dreaming of performing in front of the WWE Universe. But, honestly fella, I couldn’t have dreamed a better experience for me so far. It’s been phenomenal. I’ve been WWE champion. I was in Mania against Triple-H. And I have this Fatal 4-Way coming up with thereof the top names you’ll ever see in this business – Edge, John Cena and Randy Orton. It’s going to cap off an amazing year. It’ll be capped off even better when I walk away with the WWE championship.
AC: Can you talk a bit about the differences in working in a high profile match like that with three other guys, as opposed to your standard singles match? Is it more exciting for you? Is it more stressful or complicated having to coordinate with three other guys?
S: Well, the thing for me, is that no matter what match I go into, Alfonso, I always give it 110 percent. Even when I was in FCW and I was wrestling or entertaining in front of 20 people or 150 people as opposed to entertaining in front of, whatever, 20,000 people, it’s all the same. I try to enter every match or every event with the same attitude, because to me they’re all as important as each other, and you’re only as good as your last fight. But this is going to be a big deal for. I don’t remember ever being in a fatal 4-way before, so this is my first 4-way event. This is going to be new ground for me. But I’m always looking for new challenges and different scenarios. It keeps me on top of me toes. It’s good. So this is going to be a big event for me too, because I want to show that I’m as good or even slightly better than the rest of the performers in this match.
AC: Is it important for you in this year, 2010, to prove that 2009 wasn’t a fluke? You had your world title run and some main events during those few months, but then obviously moved down the card a little bit. Is it important for you to entrench yourself now as a top tier player up there with Randy Orton, John Cena and the top names.
S: Yeah, and Fatal 4-Way is the perfect chance for me to show that I’m there – as good if not better than the rest of the performers. But I have to say this. I don’t think I ever left the top tier. I went into a feud with triple-H and I’ve been in a feud with Orton. I mean, yeah, I was out of the title picture, which was basically taken up by Cena and Batista. But to be honest with you , fella, every year is important. I mean you really can’t ever look back on your achievements. I’ll look back at me achievements when I’m 60 and when I’m not doing this anymore. For me there are so many hungry athletes or performers coming up. Like you watch all these new guys on NXT paying their dues and coming up. All these guys are just as hungry as I was. But I believe that I’m hungrier than everybody in the company. But these people are after top spots. And for me, when I first came here, I never wanted to be just … I never wanted to just say, “Oh yeah, I’m a WWE entertainer, a WWE superstar. It’s great and I’m just happy to be here.” I’ve always wanted to be the best in the world I’m in. Like I said, I believe I’m better than anyone in the company. I believe that the rise I’ve had in the first year is because I’ve worked harder than anybody. And this year is going to be running through everybody who doubted me or thought it was a fluke. And I’ll do that every year until the day that I retire. That’s just my attitude. That’s the way I think. Us Irish are kind of like that. We’re hard grafters. We like to prove everybody wrong.
AC: Do you feel a certain kind of pride in representing your country? Obviously there have been Irish wrestlers – or Irish performers – before you. Is it important for you to be the best competitor to come out of Ireland.
S: Yeah, but not just Ireland. Ever. That’s the thing. I try not to think small minded. Don’t get me wrong. Finlay is one of the best there ever was. He’s a fantastic, fantastic WWE superstar, performer. He’s an agent as well. As a WWE producer he’s off the charts. He’s one of the best in the world, as far as I’m concerned. But, for me, it’s like you can be the best from Ireland, but that’s small thinking. I want to be the best in the world. Absolutely. Why not? You know. Best in Europe you hear. That’s bigger. But best in the world. Why not? Who’s better than me? I work as hard as anybody to prove that I am, and I’ll keep working as hard as I can to prove I’m no flash in the pan. And at Fatal 4-Way this Sunday June the 20th at Nassau Coliseum, I’m going to prove it to everyone. People can pick Edge, Cena or Orton. Well, I’m going to step all over them, fella, and I’m going to walk out WWE champion. As I said before, you give me an opportunity, and I’ll take it and run like the wind and you’ll never catch me.
AC: Do you think it’s that attitude that allowed you to climb so far, so fast. I’m sure a lot of the guys that you worked with are still down in Florida, or maybe now in NXT or that kind of thing. What do you think separates you from them?
S: I think – and I’m not being big headed here, fella – but it’s the attitude man. I think it’s the fact that I’ve never waited around for a person to come to me and tell me what to do. I’ve always taken the bull by the horns and tried to push as hard as I can and make the most of an opportunity. In FCW, I pushed as hard as I could and became Florida heavyweight champion. And when I was given an opportunity in WWE, I ran through ECW and then was given an opportunity on Raw. I just took it and I didn’t stop. I think if you cower around in this life especially to do anything… Us Irish, because we’re hard and we’re grafters we’ve always had to slog for everything we’ve got. And I’ve felt that that attitude has helped me an awful lot. You won’t see me waiting around for anything, fella. I'll always work hard. I think if someone worked as hard as me, I’d just work harder. That’s my attitude, and I think that’s what’s made me successful. I just keep pushing and I won’t let anybody outdo me, ever.
AC: So this Fatal 4-Way is a new pay per view for WWE. They’ve been introducing a lot of new pay per view concepts to replace some of the pay per views that have been around a while. What do you think of these concept pay per views? Obviously, you won your title at the TLC pay per view, which was concentrated around tables, ladders and chairs. Now there’s a Fatal 4-Way show. There are other shows that are being branded around concepts. What do you think about that? Do you think that’s a good business move for WWE?
S: I think it’s a great business move. I think sometimes when people see the same things over and over again, it just becomes maybe a little bit repetitive. And I think these pay per views are separating each other. I mean you look at the Elimination Chamber pay per view we had in February. It’s not the greatest memory for me, personally, but it’s still a great concept. Mania is a big event. The Royal Rumble is a special event. And this Fatal 4-Way now – it’s two main events, world championship matches with eight of the top guys. You’re not seeing singles matches all of the time. I think it cerates that… anything can happen in a four way. There are so many variables that can happen in there, you know what I mean. It’s not your standard one-on-one. It’s the four top guys in each brand basically fighting to be the one. I think it creates a different scenario, a different backdrop, a different setting. To me, it’s exciting. I’ve been a fan all my life, too. I mean, this is all I ever wanted to do. And as a fan, even me, I find this intriguing. There are so many variables. You just don’t know who’s going to walk out – I know I’m going to walk out the WWE champion. But on the Smackdown brand, who’s going to walk out of there, with Swagger holding it, Big Show, Punk, Mysterio… There are so many different variables, and that’s why it’s going to make a great pay per view this month.
AC: Another big change in WWE in recent months has been this concentration on new faces. I think about a year ago now, there was definitely a sentiment from fans of “We want to see some new guys. We like Randy Orton. We like John Cena. We like Triple-H. But we’ve seen them now for a while.” And I think there was a clear response to that and sometime in the last quarter of the year you saw a bunch of guys come through the top, and more in recent months. You mentioned yourself, and obviously Jack Swagger, Drew McIntyre. A bunch of guys who weren’t that much on the radar a few months ago are now headlining shows. What do you think that says about WWE and what do you think about moving in that direction of creating all this new, young talent?
S: I think it’s brilliant. I think it shows that WWE listens to the WWE Universe – the fans. I think that they know that no matter what industry you’re in, things change. There’s always going to be new people coming in. I think it’s created a whole new, fresh era. You saw back when they had “The Next Generation” with Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels and Yokozuna was there. Then they did it again in the “Attitude” era. Austin stepped up. The Rock came in. I think every so often the whole climate changes. And right now it’s very exciting. I like to think that me becoming the WWE champion so quickly really set the ball rolling for this whole new wave of talent. And there’s a lot of exciting talent coming in. Drew McIntyre, myself, Wade Barrett… Of course you’ve got Bryan Danielson. You’ve got Kaval, who’s on the way in NXT. The son of Mr. Perfect, too, is coming in. It’s exciting times, fella. I’m just really happy to be involved at this time. Like I said, all these guys are coming in hungry – just as hungry as I was. That’s the whole thing… It keeps the product fresh. It drives the product forward. Every week we’re out there, everyone performs 110 percent. Because if we don’t, somebody is just going to step over you. So I think it’s good for everyone. Everybody wins. The audience wins. The talent wins. And the product itself – the WWE product – wins. So I think it’s very exciting.
AC: As far as the product, I think another thing that has changed over the last couple of years now has been moving back to something that is a little more family friendly. Obviously, the content has been toned down. And you hear from some fans who maybe aren’t too happy about that. They want their blood and guts and four-letter words. But obviously, you open it up to a whole other market by doing this. As a father of a young kid, I certainly don’t mind having a more family friendly product. What do you think of that direction and where do you stand on it?
S: I think it’s fantastic. You go to a live event, Alfonso, you see that the events are packed to the rafters. I’ve been at pretty much 99 percent of our live events since I became WWE champion. And they’re full of kids everywhere wearing John Cena T-shirts, WWE T-shirts, WWE superstar shirts. I mean, to be honest with you, fella, I came in during the PG era, and I think it’s fantastic. I was a kid me self watching the product. And I remember the stars, watching as a kid. And I just think it was a good call. The blood thing and all (WWE’s no blood policy) that’s happened in the past. Been there, done that. But getting back to the kids and it being family oriented. At the end of the day families want to come out, they want to be entertained. I think they’re the biggest market. It’s such a good thing to get the kids back in. I think it’s a great move. Because, again, you go to any live event and the kids make so much noise. I’ve got nephews and nieces, too, who’ll be at the Dublin shows back home. And they won’t sleep for three days after the show. They’re so excited. It’s just, you bring back something for the family and the kids, and the kids walk away happy and overwhelmed and everything. And to me that’s a better feeling. So I think it’s a step in the right direction.
AC: What was it like for you to have that extra week over there in Dublin when you guys were stuck over there? Was it just kind of an unexpected vacation for you to be back with the family – that kind of thing?
S: Yeah, it was fantastic for me. For everyone else, they were away from their families for an extra week. I was pretty much the only one there who was actually happy to be back in me hometown. And don’t get me wrong, I was dying to get back here, because I didn’t want to miss Raw. An extra day or two is great, but I don’t like missing Raw or TV’s. It was fine. An extra couple days in a spot that’s not 100 degrees like in Florida where I live. It wasn’t a bad thing, Alfonso. It was actually all right for me. It was like a break, you know?
AC: Did you feel it incumbent on you to show people around as kind of the hometown guy? Were you sort of a tour guide for the other guys?
S: You know, a lot of us just kept to ourselves. I kind of went down and did me own thing, and the rest of the superstars did their own thing. It was just kind of wait and see what happens. What we actually did – and you might want to take note of this – both crews, Smackdown and Raw – for Raw we traveled for 28 hours from south of France, we hit a show on the way up because there were no flights. We made it to Belfast, Dublin for a show. We actually made a show an hour before it started. We didn’t stop. We just traveled all the way through, because that’s how much the audience, the WWE Universe, the fans – that’s how much they mean to us. We were determined not to miss any shows on that European tour. It goes to show you the commitment we have. We don’t let anyone down. We try our best to make sure that we make every event, every day. And when we got there, the audience was thrilled. It was a great show in Belfast. And I was not as popular in Belfast as I was in Dublin, but that’s alright with me. But it was a great event. And afterwards, everybody was just kind of waiting to see when we’d get a plane back out of there and get back to the United States. It wasn’t even day by day. It was hour by hour, to be honest with you.
AC: I wanted to ask you a bit about movies. I know WWE has a film studio, and if I’m correct, before you even came up to the main brands, you had a little film experience, right?
S: Yeah, I did. I did a few. All of these other things with the movies was just to try to get a name for me self and get WWE to notice. Like you said, there are WWE movies. That’s why we call ourselves entertainment. We’re not really considered pro… We don’t like pro wrestling. People say, “pro wrestling.” It’s not really pro wrestling anymore. It is entertainment. It’s superstars and divas. We have a global movie company. We’ve got a lot of publications. We’re entertainers. But that’s the whole movie situation. There are a lot of movies in the works right now. But for me? (laughs). It might be a little more difficult to fine me a role. I’m not like your carbon copy cutout fella, you know, for like a detective or anything like that. So finding a role for me, which I hope they do – I’m definitely interested in doing something for WWE Films. It’s a lot of fun making movies. But finding a role for a Celtic boy, a fella with the Irish tan, that’s not going to be easy. It’s not something that I can be up for every single movie like everyone else. I don’t fall into that category. But hopefully, something comes up. There’s a lot of stuff I’d like to do. I have a lot of ideas me self. It’s very exciting times man. WWE has so much to offer.
AC: Do you look at your unique appearance as a benefit of a hindrance? Obviously, you’ve got some of your colleagues that poke fun sometimes. You definitely look different than anybody I ever remember seeing in WWE. Are there advantages and disadvantages of that?
S: What are you talking about, fella? I look completely normal.
AC: (laughs) Of course. Everybody is bright white with fiery red hair.
S: You’re trying to say I don’t look like everybody else, lad?
AC: You’re certainly bigger than most.
S: For along time in life, being a ginger was a bit of a hindrance. When I started at the independent scene, I was using the fake tanner and stuff and all that. And then I realized, I’m Irish. You’ve probably seen some of the pictures around. I realized, “What am I doing? I’m trying to look like everybody else, and I’m wasting my time.” What I realized was, why look like everybody else? Why not just be me, because I look completely different than anybody. And that’s the thing that really helped me get noticed by WWE. And it’s really helped me, especially … John Cena called me a “human jar of mayonnaise”… And I see the signs everywhere, like a cardboard cut out Ronald McDonald with a beard a spiked hair, you know. I’ve seen Casper The Ghost signs. I mean it’s the fans and the people like to have a go of me, and that’s great, because that’s what we’re all about – entertainment and having the fans come out and have a good time. The kids always shout at me, “Get a tan!” They’re lucky they’re on the other side of the barrier. I tell you that, Alfonso. But it’s definitely helped me, fella. It’s definitely something that’s helped stand out and I’m very happy about and comfortable with. I’m very happy I don’t look like anybody else, because that’s the goal. If you looked like everybody else, then why would people come out and pay to see you?
AC: Maybe you knew this, but yours was the fastest time between a television debut and a world title win. The record before you was Brock Lesnar, who I think was something like six months between when he debuted and won the world title. And for you it was like five months.
S: Really? I knocked Brock out of the way. You know, he’s a ginger too. But I’m a better ginger.