On Sunday, WWE saw the return of one of its most peculiar, on-again, off-again running gags: Vince’s Troll Doll.
If you’re not familiar with the reference or with the various ways Sheamus has been trolling the audience since his WWE debut, let’s take a look back in history.
In October of 2009, Sheamus joined the Raw roster after a short stint with the dying ECW brand. Immediately he was positioned as an upper tier heel, winning a Survivor Series elimination match and later an opportunity to challenge for the WWE title.
The match was set for the December TLC PPV with the unstoppable Sheamus set to face John Cena for the belt. Anyone who had watched wrestling for the past several year knew how that dance would end. It had been the same with Great Khali, Bobby Lashley, even Hollywood Heel Batista: The big bad monster rises through the ranks, conquers all in his path, ends up in a feud with John Cena and then WHAM! The unforgiving brick wall that is “Brrrrappledough!”
Sheamus was to be the next in a long line of vanquished foes, paper tigers and tin cans that were built up for the expressed purpose of making Cena look like a million bucks. At TLC 2009, in a tables match John Cena did what we all knew he would do: He defeawaitwhat?
Vince’s troll doll was made.
You see, as much as fans may complain about the predictability and mundane-ness of the product, the fact is Vince still sees his weekly shows as “anything can happen juggernauts of excitement” when really they are anything but. Every now and then, though, Vince picks up on the grumbling of the audience and throws a curve ball just to keep us on our toes. It doesn’t usually work, because it doesn’t feel like “keeping us honest.” It feels more like “random illogic for the sake of it.”
For some reason, Sheamus has become the posterboy for Vince’s occasional love of trolling the audience. Maybe it’s because he has the look Vince likes, maybe its just that he’s in the right place at the right time.
Maybe it’s the idiotic hairdo he is always rocking.
Either way he became Vince’s personal troll doll.
A few years later, Chris Jericho made a huge return to WWE. He debuted after a series of cryptic and armageddon-predicting videos announced the imminent arrival of the “end of the world.” Finally he returned to a huge ovation, then pulled his own personal troll move by refusing to speak. Chris Jericho, the loud mouthed orator-extraordinaire, refused to cut a promo for the first three weeks of his comeback, much to the ire of fans. Finally, on the go-home show before the 2012 Royal Rumble, Jericho finally took a mic and spoke:
This Sunday at the Royal Rumble…it’ll be the end of the world as you know it.
After that one sentence promo, he went dark again, leaving fans to assume that he was on his way to a huge Rumble win, WWE title feud and possibly the most illustrious run of his already-illustrious career. It certainly seemed like the most logical course of action.
SO OF COURSE…
wait wrong article…
Instead of just doing what made the most sense and just happened to be what everyone was predicting, Vince decided to whip out his troll doll. Everyone was waiting for Jericho’s big win and the start of his feud with champion CM Punk, and even though the latter of those two would happen, the obvious Jericho Rumble win never took place.
Even though Sheamus had not done much of anything since his brief runs with the WWE title, he suddenly found himself in the final two of the Rumble and the, inexplicably, the one to eliminate the only guy with any real story going in. Rumors are just that and no one can really say what’s going on in Vince’s sleep-deprived brain, but the so-called dirt-sheets say that Vince made a day-of decision to switch the winner from Jericho (set to feud with Punk) and Sheamus (set to feud with World champion Daniel Bryan). The idea was that Sheamus needed the win more, and that since he was winning the title (and Jericho was not) it would mean more for the Rumble itself for the winner to win at Mania.
Of course that win was perhaps the most infamous title win in Mania history. And for all the wrong reasons. But still: Sheamus as Vince’s Troll Doll struck again.
Fast forward a few more years, and it’s the run-up to Money in the Bank 2015. Sheamus was one of seven men slotted to compete in the annual ladder match, though his presence there felt more like a placeholder than a contender. He was there for the same reason Ric Flair was in the one at WrestleMania 22, or King Booker in the one at WrestleMania 23. He was a guy with credibility as a champion, but not one who screams “multi-man ladder match participant.”
In fact Sheamus had just come off a feud with Dolph Ziggler that, though he won, seemed to firmly establish the Irish superstar as a midcarder…a big name midcarder, perhaps, but still not a main-event attraction. In fact, in the preview of the match, here is how I saw each of the seven men’s place in the contest:
Of those seven are six who belong (sorry Kofi), five with even an outside chance (sorry Orton), four that either fans or Vince care about (sorry Sheamus), three that have a legit shot at winning (sorry Neville), two the story of the match is built around (sorry Ziggler) and one that should win (sorry Kane).
In other words, Kofi didn’t belong in the match, Randy Orton had no reason to win, Neville didn’t have a chance, Ziggler didn’t have a story, Kane had a story but a victory by him would have been horrible. Roman Reigns was the favorite going in, as much as he was booed in the early months of the year, WWE had done a good job rehabbing his image and getting fans used to the idea of him getting a main event run.
Sheamus was the guy that most assumed was a solid, not in the dog house, but not needed or wanted for another main event run (at least not for a while). He wasn’t given any kind of a prime spotlight in the weeks leading up to it. He wasn’t the focus of any story. He wasn’t generating a crazy amount of fan heat that might have made Vince and co. take note. Instead he was just kind of there.
Of all people, Kofi Kingston was the odds-makers second favorite pick to win the match. Of course Roman Reigns was the favorite, not only with odds-makers but also he was the presumed winner by fans. He was the logical pick and no one would have been upset at seeing it happen. Fans were mostly curious to see what he would do with it (turn heel or play it straight).
Vince decided too many people were guessing correctly, so out comes the troll doll. Out comes the guy with the luckiest timing in WWE history. Not since Honky Tonk Man was walking down the hall while Vince and Pat Patterson were trying to find someone—anyone—who could replace Ricky Steamboat as IC champion has there ever been such a positive recipient of “right place, right time.”
Now I’m sure Vince would say Sheamus was the plan all along, that his heel character was getting over (enough) to justify it and that they see big things in him. I’ve heard that before. It never comes up when Sheamus gets an organic push, but it tends to get said around the time that Vince gets the itch to surprise the audience, and if not surprise…
then just straight up troll them.