World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus def. Alberto Del Rio

BY Kevin Powers July 15, 2012 PHOENIX – Alberto Del Rio showed how much he’s worth, rolling into Money in the Bank in a 1966 Octane AC Cobra, but he was left green with envy when WWE’s first-ever Irish-born World Champion, Sheamus, retained his coveted World Heavyweight Championship against The Mexican Aristocrat. The Celtic Warrior also managed to stave off an attempt from Dolph Ziggler to cash in his Money in the Bank World Championship contract, thanks in part to Alberto Del Rio of all people.

Changing the traditional tale of the tape between Del Rio and Sheamus to focus on accomplishments, two parallels between the bitter rivals are particularly striking. Del Rio and Sheamus have each twice reached the pinnacle of sports-entertainment before as WWE Champions, and they both completed one of the most daunting tasks in all of WWE — surviving, and winning, the Royal Rumble Match. Although Sheamus is also a former United States Champion and King of the Ring, Del Rio was last year’s winner of the Money in the Bank Ladder Match for a WWE Championship contract.

Given the accolades between the two competitors, by the time the bell rang, the WWE Universe inside the U.S. Airways Center was on the edge of their seats in anticipation. The Mexican Aristocrat hoped to capture lightning in a bottle once again at Money in the Bank, this time winning the World Title, and The Celtic Warrior was aiming to prove his continued dominance as champion.

Following Sheamus’ grueling contest with Chris Jericho on SmackDown, Del Rio tried to give himself an advantage, attacking The Celtic Warrior and locking him in the Cross Armbreaker on the entrance stage. There were some questions as to whether the World Champion was still feeling the pain of Del Rio’s under-handed tactic two nights earlier, and The Mexican Aristocrat pounced on the injured arm. But The Celtic Warrior quickly proved he was ready for the challenge, tossing his opponent out of the ring.

The Celtic Warrior’s early offense was exactly what the WWE Universe has come to expect from the World Champion: pure brute force. However, anytime Del Rio had a clear opportunity, he tactically attacked Sheamus’ arm. The story of the bout quickly became whether Del Rio could outlast the powerful offense of the champion while wearing him down enough to strategically strike with the Cross Armbreaker.

Almost inevitably, Sheamus’ early dominance was quelled following a distraction from Ricardo Rodriguez. This allowed Del Rio to shift momentum in his favor, and he continued to target the World Heavyweight Champion’s injured arm.

Less than 10 minutes into the contest, it was quickly becoming a textbook example of a powerhouse vs. a master technician, the style of the two international combatants involved drawing parallels to the classic bout at SummerSlam 1992 between The British Bulldog and Bret “Hit Man” Hart.

Del Rio’s strategy seemed to be paying off, especially when Sheamus rammed his shoulder into the steel ring post. Though the fighting Irishman tried to strike back using his pure strength, Del Rio continued to counter, at one point channeling the lucha libre traditions of his father, Dos Caras, and taking down The Celtic Warrior with a flying armbreaker as Sheamus dove over the ropes into the ring.

With the champion reeling, Del Rio unwisely taunted him, sending Sheamus into frenzy. From there, momentum shifts remained even, until Del Rio missed a kick to the back of his opponent’s head.

Though The Mexican Aristocrat dominated throughout much of the contest, The Celtic Warrior proved why he’s been a multiple time World Champion. Taking down Del Rio with White Noise, he pounded on his chest, bringing the WWE Universe to their feet in anticipation of the coming Brogue Kick which ended the match.

When the dust settled, Del Rio clutched his jaw, no doubt wishing he attacked Sheamus’ legs rather than his arm. As The Celtic Warrior celebrated, Rodriguez and Del Rio attacked the champion, prompting Dolph Ziggler to race to the ring, in the hopes of cashing in his newly won Money in the Bank World Championship contract.

As Del Rio tried to stop Ziggler multiple times, Sheamus recovered, taking out The Showoff with a Brogue Kick before the official could call for the bell. Ultimately, The Celtic Warrior walked out of the U.S. Airways Center with his World Heavyweight Championship intact and Ziggler remained Sheamus most opportunistic challenger.

Has Del Rio’s destiny been changed for good? When will Ziggler again try to cash in his Money in the Bank contract? Tune in to Raw SuperShow, Monday night at 9/8 CT.