Currently, WWE appear to be hitting the panic button in a desperate bid to steer themselves onto a makeshift road towards the Grandest Stage of Them All, despite hitting every speed bump along the way. Frankly, we are just a Roman Reigns injury away from an Authority promo being the main event of WrestleMania.
To their credit, they are trying to generate shock value to regain fan interest leading into the special event. The Royal Rumble is being contested for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, with plenty of big names in with a chance of walking away with the coveted belt, and more is expected for Fast Lane. Yet, unnecessary swerves like Kalisto's shortlived US title reign are not filling me with confidence that their aren't a few more potholes coming up.
The question is how many bumps WWE can take before spinning out altogether? Sadly, injuries have robbed the company of a number of capable drivers (yes, really going hard on the car metaphors here) to navigate a safe course to WrestleMania. The franchise player John Cena is out, ditto Randy Orton and Seth Rollins, while there are doubts surrounding the health of Daniel Bryan. Thus, all of the enormous weight of this burden has been placed on the shoulders of Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar, and The Undertaker.
But, I think another individual is primed to share some of this load, and unless for some reason you skipped reading the title of this article, you'll know who I mean. Finn Balor, the current NXT Champion, has long been ready to make an impact on the main roster. Whether he wants to move up is another matter, considering how badly many of his former NXT cohorts have bombed (i.e. Tyler Breeze, The Ascension, Neville).
However, there are special qualities that separate Balor from this collection of misfits. Firstly, his entrance is one of the hottest things in wrestling right now. The unique lighting, his intricate bodypaint and expressive mannerisms give him an aura that can only be matched by The Undertaker. Balor has an adaptive, intense style bred from years in Europe and NJPW. And although he lacks somewhat on the microphone, his in-ring skills and character work almost nullify these shortcomings.
Is now the right time for the Irishman to slither onto the main stage? Let's face it, there is a lot of open space available right now. Balor has a huge amount of credibility, both from his work in Japan and his excellent NXT Championship reign. He will undoubtedly get a major pop from the crowd, and could easily establish himself among the elite quickly before the big name injuries return and start to jockey for their prior predominance.
There are many ways to introduce Balor, but personally I wouldn't take the plunge in the Royal Rumble. With the WWE title up for grabs, there is no way they would give him the ball on his first night. It would be AMAZING, but is completely unrealistic. So, there is no need to devalue the importance of his debut by placing it in the shadow of whoever wins the Rumble.
Fast Lane is a different matter altogether. After Royal Rumble, WWE could start playing short, cryptic promos, showing brief images of Balor Club elements and his demon persona. Then, he can announce himself into the main roster at the final PPV before WrestleMania to build his feud for the event. What would that feud be? There are three key options:
1) Face The Undertaker
2) Go after the Intercontinental/US title
3) Bring his friends from the Bullet Club with him
The first two options are certainly intriguing, especially The Undertaker for the production value of the entrances alone. Yet, the real money lies in Balor not coming alone. I don't know if/when the rumored new arrivals from NJPW will be here, but if they can manage it, AJ Styles should be alongside Balor. Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson would be awesome too, but Styles is the most important.
With those two making an immediate impact, they would head to WrestleMania either chasing the WWE Tag Team titles, or against a team of top talents. Obviously, a number of big names are out, and those matches can be saved for another day. In my mind, they should contest a competitive, reasonably long tag bout with The New Day or League of Nations.
While New Day don't scream 'main event' talent that would be ideal for Balor and Styles, Kofi Kingston and Big E are very capable performers that are seriously over with the crowd. And winning the Tag Team titles in their first big match would be a great way for them to announce their arrival without going overboard. This shouldn't be a case of 'Balor should immediately challenge Roman Reigns for the WWE title' because that is both unfeasible and something he isn't ready for. SummerSlam, now you're talking.
In the end, can Finn Balor rescue WrestleMania no matter what impact he makes? Potentially. He is a big star with a lot of momentum behind him right now, and with a roster crying out for star power and uniqueness, Balor fits the bill ideally. The spectacle of his entrance will grab the attention of casual fans, and his ringwork will keep them glued. Whether he comes alone or with his Bullet Club buddies, Balor could be a valuable asset on the Grandest Stage of Them All.