Tables, Ladders & Sheamus: The WWE's Celtic Warrior
HIS SKIN LOOKS like a peeled potato, his hair blazes like a flame and his muscles ripple like the Irish Sea.
His name is Sheamus, and he's one of the newest WWE superstars on the Monday night "Raw" program.
But that newbie status will be a moot point come Sunday, when the man they call "The Celtic Warrior" will face WWE champion John Cena on the "Tables, Ladders and Chairs" pay-per-view special, in a battle for the most prestigious belt in sports entertainment.
Despite being on the "Raw" show for less than six weeks, and in the WWE proper since June 30 (on "ECW"), Sheamus was elevated to main contender status after several brutal squash matches (including ending the career of veteran Jamie Noble, a man a fraction of his size), a team win at the "Survivor Series" (held at Verizon Center) and a recent royal-rumble breakthrough match on "Raw," which awarded the victor a title shot.
Sheamus' quick rise has irritated some wrestling fans, who wonder if his bodybuilding sessions with Triple H has helped his push in the company. But it's also thrilled many people who are happy to see a new heel battle the ever-present babyface Cena for the top strap. (It also doesn't hurt that a figure as polarizing as Sheamus gives some extra shine to Cena, who sometimes seems to have just as many haters in the crowd.)
The redheads at Express, however, are thrilled that Sheamus is getting a chance to stand up for gingers everywhere — and not just because the 31-year-old Dublin-born muscle man took the time to speak with us in the days before he engages in the biggest match of his career. We spoke to the man born Stephen Farrelly about how he became interested in wrestling and sports entertainment, body-guarding Bono, his workout music and slamming Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban through a table on "Raw."
» EXPRESS: As a fellow ginger, I'm happy to see the Pale Warrior in the WWE.
» SHEAMUS: [Laughs] That's fantastic. I'm trying to fly the flag out here for all the gingers out there. It's been a tough life; I don't know about for you. But I've taken all my years of abuse out on the WWE, so it's helped me get along the ladder quicker than everybody else.
» EXPRESS: Scientists think the gene that gives people red hair will die out in 100 years. Have you noticed fewer gingers in Ireland?
» SHEAMUS: It's still pretty common, but it's not as common as people think anymore. Everybody thinks everybody in Ireland is a redhead, but there's less and less of them. ... The more the better.
» EXPRESS: You actually appeared in a documentary about red hair, right?
» SHEAMUS: I did a program with an independent studio in Ireland. ... It was all about the ginger gene and how it was dying out. It was a lot of fun. I did an interview on the Hill of Tara, which is an old Celtic lookout. There's a historic significance there: When the invaders were coming across, they'd have a clear view of Dublin for miles and miles. We ended up there with a couple of Nigerian guys that Guinness brought over, and we took a photograph: All the Nigerians and me, like a white light-bulb in between them. It was pretty funny.
» EXPRESS: Did that experience in front of the camera — and acting in the Irish indie movies "The Escapist," "Assault of Darkness" and "3 Crosses" — help you when you came to WWE?
» SHEAMUS: The most important thing for me was wrestling — always. I wanted to be recognized by the WWE. Being from Ireland, it's kind of hard. WWE doesn't come over to Ireland too much, and there's no wrestling schools in Ireland; there are a few in England, but the level has dropped off significantly. Basically, I had to find a way to get noticed, and getting experience with documentaries and films was great, and it helped me get in front of the camera.
But it was kind of a tool to help me: The ultimate goal was always being in the WWE and becom[ing] a WWE champion. That's always been my dream since I was a kid, ever since I was watching on Sky1, which was a brand new channel. I grew up watching the British "World of Sport"; Finlay was in there, and William Regal, and Robbie Brookside and Dave Taylor and those guys — and most of them went to the U.S. Then Sky1 came in. I used to watch British "World of Sport" with my grandmother; it was the only show we watched together.
But when WWE came in on Sky1 it just blew me away. All these characters like Randy Savage, Junkyard Dog, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, Million Dollar Man. ... It's always what I wanted to do, so I just found different ways to get experience in front of the camera and also get noticed by the WWE.
» EXPRESS: You played rubgy and Irish football growing up; is this why you also started bodybuilding? Or did you really start training once you decided to become a wrestler?
» SHEAMUS: My dad, Mark Farrelly, he used to do amateur bodybuilding when I was a kid, when I was in school. I always kept on him about it because I wanted to do it, but he was a bit unsure about it because I was pretty young. ... From a WWE perspective, I was always fascinated by the physiques of some of the guys on TV, and I always wanted to go down and go get in shape and look after myself. ...
I would never dream of trying to get to WWE if I didn't feel like I was in shape or didn't have an athletic physique, because that's a big part of it — especially when you're standing there in a pair of trunks in a wrestling ring in front of millions of people. Don't want to have the odd belly hanging out over your tights — not a nice sight, especially for someone who doesn't have a tan as well [laughs].
» EXPRESS: I've heard that you were a bodyguard for Bono back home?
» SHEAMUS: I was doing a lot of jobs to get where I am. I sacrificed an awful lot to get here. I worked a couple of jobs to save money; I slept in airports. I'd fly over to England on a Friday after work [to wrestle], sleep in the airport, and then fly back home. That's how passionate I am about what I do.
People see you in WWE but they don't know a thing about your background. ... I worked myself tooth and nail to get where I am ... and one of the jobs I did before — because I wasn't making much money on the independents — I used to work in a club called Lillie's. Bono would come in there and I'd be security in there and I'd look after his table and make sure nobody would bother him. So, I'd do personal security for him and maybe Larry [Mullen Jr.] would be there, but nothing outside of that because I didn't have the time or I wouldn't be able to travel. ... Bono's cool; he's always in his own little world.
» EXPRESS: What type of music do you like to listen to when you're working out?
» SHEAMUS: I like a lot of metal stuff. I bought Metallica's new album; I hadn't listened to any of their stuff since "Black." Nirvana, Guns N' Roses, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden — a lot of that stuff gets me going. I like stuff that has some kind of steel behind it. You won't find me listening to Lady Gaga or any of that stuff.
» EXPRESS: No Hothouse Flowers on your iPod, then?
» SHEAMUS: Oh, you know "Don't Go," I like that song. Aslan is pretty good. There's a couple of good Irish bands. I don't like The Cranberries, never did; I never jumped on that bandwagon. U2 is pretty good; I like a bit of U2. ... I also listen to some Irish music as well: The Pogues and The Dubliners, when I'm in the right mood, I listen to them. ...
I haven't seen any pictures of Shane McGowan in a long time. He was never a good lookin' fella, but he's a brilliant singer. "A Fairytale of New York," they play that in Dublin in every night club and every night when Christmas starts in Dublin — and all over Ireland, really. ... He's taken the downs with the ups, but he's pretty cool. ... The Dubliners as well are great; The Chieftans, listen to a lot of that as well. The Corrs, not so much.
» EXPRESS: Your character references old-school Celtic myths and stories about the island's warriors. How did you come up with the angle?
» SHEAMUS: I went to all-Irish-speaking schools, and we grew up listening to ... a lot of Celtic stories. Most Irish kids grow up on all of that, so it's a second nature thing to us. Plus, I wanted to bring a different approach: Finlay was already in the WWE and he was already doing the fightin' Irishman gimmick with the shillelagh, and he had Hornswoggle, which was great. It worked for him, and I just have tons of respect for Finlay for everything he's achieved. I kind of look up to him.
In another way, I wanted something completely different. I wanted to get rid of the stereotypes of drunken paddies, and Lucky Charms, and Irish lads and donkey carts. I wanted to bring a more positive image, and back in the day the Celtic Warriors were the most feared warriors in Europe. People were afraid to invade Ireland because the guys were all lunatics; they wouldn't hesitate to just stand in your way or come down swinging axes and swords. A lot of Celtic mythology stuff is pretty deep and pretty interesting, and it's been taken and put in different stories and different movies: "Conan the Barbarian," "Lord of the Rings." You can see it in a lot of those stories.
» EXPRESS: Your finishing move, a powerbomb cross, is visually appealing, but it's also pretty cool how it also plays off the Celtic cross and into the mythos of your Sheamus character.
» SHEAMUS: The cross is significant to Sheamus because the Celtic cross is a big thing for the Celts, and the one I wear is the mark of Sheamus [and incorporates a Celtic short sword]. The finishing move incorporates that, which completes the character. It's something I started using when I came up here [to WWE] when I got more of an opportunity to showcase my skills.
» EXPRESS: You've been working in the WWE's developmental league for two years, and then jumped to "ECW" in June 2009. But since your recent move to "Raw" you've had a huge push.
» SHEAMUS: In the past six weeks of being on "Raw," everything I've done has been a stepping stone to becoming the new WWE champion, which is the ultimate goal for me. A lot of people aren't happy about my progress and how quickly I've got there, but I couldn't care less. My only gripe is that it's taken five weeks to get a shot at the title.
The WWE has never seen anybody like Sheamus. John Cena has never met anybody like Sheamus. Yeah, sure, he's fought Hall of Famers, like he said on Monday night ["Raw"], but just as when I put Mark Cuban through that table — I don't care if he's a billionaire, a trillionaire, or a Hall of Famer, or the fella sittin' down ringing the bell or if you're Jamie Noble and your career is ending. All I want to do is become WWE champion. I'm greedy — and this Sunday night on "TLC," I am gonna kick lumps outta John Cena. I want him ready, and in my own time I'm going to bury him in a table.
As far as I'm concerned, I really don't care what the people think. ... Come Sunday, I want to be the first Irish WWE champion, the first real European WWE champion. All these people with, "Oh, yeah, the slow build." Well, I ain't waiting around for nobody. All the other lads, you can wait there and you take your time and you can wait years, but there's no stopping me. I'm not tanned, I'm not a dark-skinned fella, I don't talk like everybody else — I'm completely different. If John Cena thinks I'm like everybody else ... he's in for a big surprise. I'm gonna kick lumps outta John Cena. I'm gonna leave him black and blue.
» EXPRESS: I could hear NBA commissioner David Stern clapping all the way here in D.C. when you threw Mark Cuban through that table.
» SHEAMUS: The fella was in my ring, during my time, during our championship showdown. It was probably the biggest night in my life — and he gets up in my face and shoves me down on the mat. So, as far I'm concerned, if I had three or four more tables, I would have put him through three or four more tables. I guarantee he will never, ever put his nose in my business again. ... He got in my face and he got exactly what I deserved. ... I have no sympathy for that guy.
Nobody's gonna wanna miss "TLC" on Sunday. There's gonna be a changin' of the guard — whether people like it or not, I'm gonna make it happen. I've put John through a table already; it was easy. ... I'm gonna do it again. ... I'm gonna smash him through the table — it's gonna leave scars and he's going to remember it for the rest of his life. ... There's a new era about to happen: It's the era of Celtic Warrior.
Photos © 2009 World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.