Finn Balor: Demon Or Dead Weight? | Smark Out Moment

Finn Balor: Demon Or Dead Weight?

Posted by Callum Wiggins Saturday, June 3, 2017
Extreme Rules 2017 is right around the corner. Raw's latest pay-per-view spectacular will be headlined by what is sure to be a chaotic and haphazard Fatal 5-Way match to determine Brock Lesnar's first challenger for the WWE Universal Championship at Great Balls of Fire (I shudder typing that). The five battling for the right to face The Beast Incarnate are Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Bray Wyatt, Samoa Joe and the subject of this article, Finn Balor.

Prince Fergal Devitt Demon NXT Universal Championship

Many people are backing Balor to secure the victory in this 5-Way collision. Up until recently he was considered the favorite, the betting odds currently ranking him as the third most likely victor heading into Sunday. A victory for the Irishman would be another milestone in his short stint on the Raw roster thus far, having already been crowned the first Universal Champion ever at SummerSlam last year.

But, does Finn Balor deserve another big opportunity to headline against Brock Lesnar? A major point of discussion during our recent Smack Talk podcast (which you can listen to here) was his status as a predominant focus on the red brand. Suffice to say, none of us in the discussion will be joining the Balor Club anytime soon.

Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of upside and potential to Finn Balor. He is a strong, experienced wrestler, with a high-impact and theatrical move-set. His elaborate entrance engages the audience, he has a body chiseled out of marble (he is our Sexiest Superstar of 2017 after all) and his legacy on the independent circuit and in NJPW has left him a strong reputation, particularly his work in the Bullet Club.

Balor has all of this in his favor, yet I'm still suffering a disconnect with him in terms of his presence in the main event scene, and I don't think I'm alone in feeling this. It's clear there are those backstage that are really behind him, namely Triple H, who clearly see a bright future in Balor as a leading name for the foreseeable future. But in my opinion, he is positively underwhelming in almost every aspect currently, and frankly it's been that way since before he graduated from NXT.

Balor entered NXT when it was still in its formative years, carrying his weighty reputation from NJPW. His first six months on the roster were excellent, his captivating Demon character and over-the-top character cementing him as a huge star, resulting in him winning the NXT Championship. From that point however, cracks started to show, and Balor became less demonic and more dreary.

His lack of character and personality certainly play a role in this. Balor in his very well-produced 24 special discussed how he is shy at heart and the Demon allows him to escape that side of himself. That is all well and good, but when you need to inject emotion into an impassioned promo or fierce brawl, he falls short. Furthermore, while Balor is very good in the ring, he doesn't stand head and shoulders above the likes of Sami Zayn, Seth Rollins, AJ Styles - people that have far more personality and depth than he demonstrates.

There are two major reasons I suffer a disconnect from Finn Balor, and both have not been helped by WWE's booking of the Irishman. Firstly, the Demon character. The body paint is cool. The captivating entrance is excellent. But why does the Demon even exist? Balor says that it prevents his inherent shyness, to which I respond why isn't he the Demon all the time then?

In reality, it is probably because WWE don't want to spend hours every show painstakingly covering his body in elaborate designs and they want people to tune into PPVs to see these rare showings. Funnily enough, it's hard to invest yourself in a character that makes these factors so transparent. In my case, it's nigh-on impossible.

The Demon should undoubtedly be a special attraction, but it should be used very sparingly. I'm talking 3 or 4 times a year, with different designs each time. Finn Balor's alter ego should be something he turns to as a last resort, when his back is against the wall and he cannot overcome an opponent. It should unlock something in the back of his mind increasing his intensity, aggression and sheer malice during matches, but can't be let loose forever in case it completely wrenches hold of Balor's psyche. Every time he has to go to that place, it should be harder and harder to return to normal, which could be his story arc for months if not years. And above all else, the Demon should NEVER lose.

Sadly, WWE have not taken this route, instead presenting Balor as just another spoke on the wheel, just with an occasionally fancier entrance. Plus, the Demon has already lost to Samoa Joe in NXT. Balor also has to carry some of the blame here as he does little if anything to differentiate between himself and the Demon either in his mannerisms or by the moves he uses. It's just a gimmick rather than a character.

The second reason is it is clear WWE's backstage powers are pushing him to the moon, and subsequently down our throats. This is a criticism that is often thrown in the direction of Roman Reigns, and people are not wrong in assuming that. But, few bring up Finn Balor in the same discussion, which I think is a blatant case of the hypocrisy among certain vocal members of the WWE Universe.

Think about it: Finn Balor became the longest reigning NXT Champion in history, losing very sparingly during his time in developmental. Upon being drafted to Raw, Balor won a Fatal 4-Way match and defeated Roman Reigns clean consecutively, before becoming the first ever Universal Champion in his first PPV match. This progress was curtailed due to his injury and hampered by a lack of ideas for him when he returned, but just a few weeks ago Paul Heyman cut a promo essentially labeling Balor as the only legitimate threat to Brock Lesnar's title reign.

Heyman must not be watching Raw when Brock isn't in town, because it would take a huge leap of faith to assume Balor can beat Lesnar in any scenario. If they do end up squaring up at Great Balls of Fire (ugh) for the Universal Championship, Balor is either soundly defeated and sent back to the midcard for a while, or wins in an even clearer demonstration how big the support for him backstage his despite his lack of charisma or exciting features.

And I hate to break it to you but here goes nothing: Roman Reigns is just as good in the ring as Balor, he is more charismatic and cuts better promos and he always gets a reaction from the audience, be it positive or negative. While I don't believe either should be being as forcefully pushed as they are at the moment, Reigns appears the much better fit for the main event scene than Balor, whose support only exceeds Reigns because of his status as an 'indie darling'.

There's no denying Finn Balor's potential, but I think hot-shotting him into the main event scene as those backstage seem intent to do will end up backfiring. He would benefit from a much slower build - he'd be a fantastic fit for the Intercontinental Championship, or an extended feud with Bray Wyatt that really explores the inner workings of his Demon side. Maybe even a heel turn down the road, as his run as a cocky, wise-cracking heel in the Bullet Club was arguably the best character work of his career.

Just compare Balor to his opponents on Sunday. Roman Reigns is arguably a broken character playing the wrong role, but he always elicits a response from the crowd. Seth Rollins is finding his feet as a babyface, but needs a few more strong wins to ensure the crowd stays behind him. Samoa Joe due to his intense promos, size and sheer aggression could be presented as a legitimate threat to Brock Lesnar in the ring. Bray Wyatt fluctuates due to his inability to dominate feuds, but his force of character and engrossing charisma keeps him in the upper echelons of the roster. Judging his character impartially against these four alternatives, few can argue Balor is in their league.

In time maybe my opinion on Finn Balor changes, and I hope it does. But you're not going to change my mind by having Paul Heyman say that this guy is the real deal. He has to show me that is the case, not through wins and losses, but by giving me a reason to invest in his character. Explore his motivations, have him face adversity in storyline, put him in meaningful feuds on the way to being considered a rightful main event star. Don't just put him there and say he belongs.

For now, while far from dead weight, the Demon isn't catching fire in his current role.

Do you think Finn Balor is flourishing or floundering on Monday Night Raw? Who are you backing to win the Fatal 5-Way at Extreme Rules? Have your say in the comments below!

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Callum Wiggins hails from Essex in the United Kingdom. He recently graduated from the University of York with a degree in History and has been a fan of professional wrestling since 2002. Outside of wrestling, he is also a fan of Arsenal FC and enjoys video games, darts, and Formula One. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.


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