Stephen Farrelly knows all about alcohol-soaked Irish stereotypes. So he does battle with them in the wrestling ring.
A native of Ireland, Farrelly wrestles in WWE Raw as Sheamus, a fiery redhead who’s proud of his heritage. He incorporates several symbolic elements into his wrestling ensemble, from his outfit to his mannerisms in the ring, emphasizing proud Irish traits instead of lazy stereotypes.
Growing up, Sheamus knew of the four stages of Irish mythology, and he incorporated the sword- and ax-wielding imagery into his get-up, along with a pendant combining a Celtic cross and a war sword to exemplify one’s “indigenous origins with a hybrid of warrior strength matched with a strong ethical center.”
“With my persona, I wanted to bring attention to the proud heritage of the Irish rather than petty and derogatory stereotypes that people jump to, like all Irish being drunks or leprechauns,” Sheamus said. “Much of America and the world was built on the backs of the Irish. We’re some of the toughest people in the world.”
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Sheamus’ towering physique and fighting presence in the ring draw from the athlete’s experience playing rugby, including for the National College of Ireland, and Gaelic football growing up in Ireland. Sheamus also has worked as a bodyguard for several high-profile artists, including Bono of U2 and singer and actor Denise van Outen, and he says that few on the WWE circuit can match his physicality.
“My physical upbringing has led to me being tougher and more gritty in the ring,” Sheamus said. “We didn’t wear pads or helmets in rugby and would hit each other as hard as possible. The only people in the WWE that can match my physicality are Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe.”
Sheamus has crossed many milestones in his career, including being a three-time WWE champion, a two-time WWE U.S. Champion, a world heavyweight champion, a two-time and current WWE Raw Tag Team champion with Cesaro; and a Royal Rumble champion in 2012, but he says he always looks forward to what he’s doing now.
Sheamus and Cesaro, who have held the tag team championship for a month, will team up against Matt and Jeff Hardy in a bout for the World Tag Team Championship on Sunday at Rupp Arena.
Matt Wickstrom: @wickstromwrites
If you go
WWE Live Summer Heatwave Tour
What: A night of World Wrestling Entertainment featuring Sheamus, The Hardy Boyz, John Cena and more.
When: 7 p.m. July 16
Where: Rupp Arena, 430 W. Vine St.