And then there was one.
The greatest three-match series I have ever seen in this business was the ballet Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair danced to at Clash of Champions in 1989. I defy anyone to tell me it was not the best set of matches ever wrestled by two of the greats of all time.
As I watched Cesaro and Sheamus in the final meeting of their own seven-match dance, I could not help but think of the matches from the past and how this rivalry fared in comparison and why these two superstars are as important to the mid card for the red team (Raw) as any of the title winners from Sunday night in Indianapolis.
While Smackdown Live has a slight edge over Raw in ratings and production – meaning the concentration of feuds and character build is better on Tuesday nights – the red team has a stronger and better mid card. While it does not get the attention it once did, the mid card of these two brands are what will help them succeed or fail.
Right now, Raw is running away with that aspect of a success wrestling program. At some point, I could see one if not both performers make the jump to Smackdown Live, and still remain as popular and successful as they have been battling each other.
As Sheamus said on the preshow, these matches have been hard-hitting, overcooked and highly entertaining. WWE needs that – no matter which brand we speak of. The fact the two superstars put on a show on Clash of Champions helped close the gap a bit between the red and blue teams. In a more perfect world, Cesaro deserves a run at the Universal Heavyweight Title or make the jump to challenge the winner of the Triple Threat match at No Mercy. For whatever reason, he is stuck in a purgatory I don’t see him escaping.
Sheamus is on the opposite side of the fence, already having won the WWE (World) Championship three times and the World Heavyweight Championship once. When I watch Cesaro, I’m reminded of Billy Robinson and Dory Funk Jr. Sheamus could easily have competed in the 1970s and 1980s like a rugged Ole Anderson or Bruiser Brody. This is what many of us have been waiting for – with these men going to the brink. Hell, Cesaro almost broke his neck during the final match. The fact the officials stopped the match – gave us no resolution other than a fantastic match.
For so long WWE tried to get by without building through its mid card. It failed miserably. Not only were the Intercontinental Title and United States Title obsolete, they were an afterthought. Now, the new era of this company requires the supporting cast to help strengthen the brand. The brawling style of Sheamus and the old school strength of Cesaro is the perfect match – setting themselves from a pack of also-rans who hope one day to stand in their position.
I’m not sure I would have built the series the way it was booked. Yes, injury had a lot to do with it, with Cesaro being injured in the match on Raw, but you cannot disagree with the intensity this program presented – something the company needs with every script, every champion.
The hope is WWE sees how this worked well and builds on it. What happens now for Sheamus and Cesaro really isn’t defined. Mick Foley wanted two men to go out and beat the hell out of each other. It looks like he got that and then some. And the fans got exactly what they wanted. More importantly, they got what they deserved.