With WWE’s highly-anticipated brand split fastly approaching, wrestling marks are certainly licking their chops at the prospect of seeing Finn Bálor’s main roster debut. Fuel to that fire was added when news surfaced that The Demon was given a send-off following his June 24th Full Sail University loss against Nakamura. During the in-ring toast, Bálor — real name Fergal Devitt — reportedly posed for photos and thanked his NXT supporters.
Unbeknownst to many in the WWE Universe, Devitt, 34, is no spring chicken when it comes to the wrasslin’ biz. He cut his teeth in 2000 — at age 18 — at the now-defunct NWA UK Hammerlock. That same year, he captured the NWA British Commonwealth Heavyweight strap. From that moment on, he became an indie darling in the United Kingdom, United States and his native Ireland. After an eight-year run in New Japan (2006 - 2014) and less than two years competing at NXT, Devitt — and his numerous assets — now finds himself on the cusp of springboarding to a promising WWE career.
15 He Has the Experience
As mentioned, Devitt is a 16-year wrestling veteran with quite the reputation on the independent circuit. In 2006, he was billed in New Japan as the second coming of the Pegasus Kid; the previous moniker was given to a then well-received Chris Benoit. Devitt continued coming into his own as a Control Terrorism Unit (2007-08) stable member and as Ryusuke Taguchi’s tag team partner in Apollo 55 (2009 - 2013). During his pre-WWE days, his impressive resume also includes Kenny Omega, Justin Thunder Liger, and a beardless Daniel Bryan (then Bryan Danielson), among other notable matches. Arguably, none of those matches and/or storylines went over as well as his work with the oh-so-popular Bullet Club (more on them later).
After 14 years, Balor’s in-ring work and drawing power could no longer be ignored as the WWE inked him to a deal on May 15, 2014. While Devitt likely wanted his WWE inception to be sooner rather than later, his experience will undoubtedly pay the company — in NXT and soon-to-be WWE — very large dividends.
14 He’s a Good Teacher for WWE’s Other Roster Newbies
With Devitt’s experience comes a helluva lot of valuable lessons that he can pass on to the WWE locker room. Once called up to the main roster, he could provide some priceless insight to several of the lower card talents.
In the early 2000s, he opened NWA Ireland; his very own wrestling school and promotion. His vision spurned from his belief that there was no shortage of Emerald Isle talents. Fellow Irishmen — and soon-to-be fellow WWE superstar — Becky Lynch spoke to Irish America in late 2015 about honing her craft between Devitt’s walls. The female “Lasskicker” had no qualms admitting that his school wasn’t up to par with the company’s present-day Performance Center.
“It [Devitt’s school] was about an hour and a half away from me. And it didn’t even have a ring at the time. We wrestled for three months on just six blue mats on the floor in this tiny little hall at Saint Andrew’s national school. We’d go down there every Sunday and that’s how we learned, on the mats.”
13 He Has In-Ring Chemistry With Many Current Talents
Having the ability to wrestle around the world — and in NXT for that matter — has allowed Balor to work with some of the industry’s finest performers. More importantly, he’s already grappled with a handful of the WWE’s premiere talents such as Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows. Additionally — during his 292-day NXT title run — Balor beefed up his resume with a slew of five-star matches against the likes of Samoa Joe, Kevin Owens, Neville and Apollo Crews, to name a few. Hence, in-ring chemistry should not be an issue when he begins working his way up the card and into WWE’s main event picture.
We already know Balor will have no shortage of rivalries when called up onto the main roster. Whom he feuds with will depend on whether he is a face or heel. Either way, he's going to make it work.
12 He’s The Club’s Founding Member
Whether it’s in Ring of Honor, New Japan, or WWE’s PG-friendly version — The Club — The Bullet Club has garnered itself a cult-like following amongst wrestling marks since its May 2013 formation. It all began when “Prince Devitt” turned on his longtime partner Taguchi and joined Anderson, Tama Tonga & Bad Luck Fale. Soon after, The Young Bucks — Matt and Nick Jackson — and Gallows were added. Others soon followed. The immense reaction to the BC gave birth to CMLL’s Bullet Club Latinoamerica in October 2013. The stable’s success ultimately catapulted Devitt into the IWGP Heavyweight title hunt. WWE’s logical play would be to add him to The Club (AJ Styles, Anderson, Gallows) upon his roster arrival. Another possibility is Balor feuding directly with The Club if WWE wants to keep him as a face.
Either way, the company surely knows that he’s capable of launching another top-notch faction in the foreseeable future.
11 He Has Production Value
Rightfully so, Finn Bálor’s demon character was not overdone in NXT nor should be on when he receives his call-up. Regardless, when Balor does don his Marvel-inspired body paint — assumingly for select monthly events — it will be a sight for impressed eyes. Pre-Attitude Era, body paint was more predominant than it is today ala the Legion of Doom, Ultimate Warrior and Kamala. However, there are select superstars that still use it, including Goldust, The Usos and The Ascension, who are lucky to make it to TV these days. With none of those superstars’ product wear near as intricate as Bálor’s, the WWE will undoubtedly reap the production value that the wrestler’s “dark passenger” will. Picture Finn Balor with body paint at WrestleMania 33. Need I say more?
Balor is easily marketable and should have no problem enthralling audiences, especially when it comes to the big events.
10 He Can Play a Good Babyface
After Styles did the job to then-WWE champion Roman Reigns at Extreme Rules, it appeared that WWE’s creative brass was dead set on having “The Phenomenal One” go his own way from Anderson and Gallows. However, that turned out not to be the case when Styles turned heel by taking out Cena alongside his Club cohorts. With that said, it seems most logical to pit Bálor as a face against his former comrades. During his NXT run, he was warmly received as a babyface; a true testament to why the WWE would feel comfortable using him in that capacity.
The WWE has had trouble finding a babyface that can really connect with crowds. They clearly haven't embraced Roman Reigns so it's about time WWE pushes a top face that fans actually want to see succeed. You won't have to worry about boos raining down on Bálor if he wins a big match.
9 He Can Also Play a Mean Heel
Although he can play a good face, Devitt’s heel work isn’t too shabby either. If the WWE decides does go this route, the company should have little concern doing it as his reputation at garnering heat from international crowds precedes him. If the creative brass decided to go in this direction, Bálor would likely be added to the Bullet Club instead of feuding against them. Another possibility would be to have him oust Styles from the group; a move would make perfect sense if the WWE is having second thoughts about turning Styles — who’s gotten over extremely well with the WWE Universe — heel.
This likely won't happen right away, as Balor will immediately be cheered when he's called up to the main roster. This could however, be a good route for the WWE to explore when everything with the brand split is settled and they've built some successful faces.
8 He Has an Exciting Moveset
In terms of their impact, a Seth Rollins pedigree or Dean Ambrose double-armed DDT should — by no means —be discounted. However, such finishers — amid a slew of other moves — have undoubtedly been overdone. Fortunately, while several of Bálor’s moves aren’t exactly original, his Coup de Grâce finisher — a double-footed off-the-top-rope stomach stomp — indeed is. The Irishman primarily used it early on in NXT and the WWE could make it his go-to on the main roster. He presently uses a lifting single underhook DDT — best known as Bloody Sunday — to close out his victories. In May, the respective finisher was renamed “1916,“ after the Irish Rising On Easter Sunday” that year, according to the superstar’s Twitter account.
Finishers aside, Bálor also has a slew of other highly-captivating moves in his repertoire: the Pelé kick, a running front dropkick and a sling blade, among others.
7 He Could Add Freshness to the Midcard
The upper midcard is certainly not at a deficit with superstars such as The Miz, Rusev, Cesaro and Owens gracing it. However, the WWE Universe can only see Owens face Zayn and Miz take on Cesaro so many times. A true indicator of that very sentiment was the WWE’s rush job finding someone — with no built up program whatsoever — to feed to Rusev at Extreme Rules; no disrespect, but Titus O'Neil isn’t U.S. title-worthy. Although true-blue wrestling fans aren’t advocates of titles being passed around like hot potatoes, a program for the U.S. title — in the short term — could establish Bálor as a midcard staple. Or, better yet, how entertaining would a “pretty boy versus the demon” feud with “The Awesome One” for the Intercontinental strap be?
The Demon can step in and immediately be seen as a legitimate threat for a mid-card title and it will build to bigger things.
6 He Fits Right in With Today’s Crop of Stars
Former WWE superstars such as Daniel Bryan and Rey Mysterio paved the way for small wrestlers to reach the top of the food chain. While Vince McMahon still has an inclination for big horses, the present-day title picture — omit Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns — hasn’t veered too far off from having relatively small talents — think Styles and Rollins (both billed at 5’11) — in the main event picture; a telltale indicator that Bálor would fit right in. Regardless, seeing Bryan, Mysterio and Styles-types compete in “David versus Goliath” scenarios has proven over and over again to be a timeless winning formula.
While superstars such as Lesnar and Reigns have an immense aura about them, it’s the smaller opponents such as Bálor that can up the interest ante. This is a new era indeed and Bálor will be one of the main components of it.
5 He Can Flourish on the SmackDown Brand
WWE’s brand split will change the company’s creative direction as we know it. SmackDown — which currently tapes on Tuesdays and airs on Thursdays — is considered to be the weaker of the two weekly programs. This could change when the program, just like Monday’s Raw, begins going live after the draft. If done right, the move could be a goldmine for the WWE Universe. Chances are that several lost-in-the-shuffle superstars, both veterans and up-and-comers, will get a career rejuvenation of sorts when they are drafted to the blue brand. If SmackDown were used to elevate underutilized talents and roster newbies, then Bálor could flourish on the program at this stage in his career.
Feuding Bálor with superstars such as Dolph Ziggler, Sami Zayn and Baron Corbin could work two-fold by upping the crowd appeal for all involved. This itself could springboard Bálor into SmackDown’s upper card. The possibilities are endless, really.
4 He Truly Understands ‘Good Versus Evil’
Being a comics fan, Devitt truly understands a thing or two about the good versus evil dynamic; an asset that will come in handy in his feuds as a face, heel or tweener. Devitt’s fascination with paint began long before NXT as his complex body makeup has been inspired by some of Marvel’s top characters, including Punisher, Carnage and Spider-Man. Interesting to note: Devitt’s first body painting was as the villainous Venom.
On August 18, 2015, Balor dished on his superhero-villain inclination to Marvel’s Fightin’ Fanboys.
“I would always run through Marvel on Instagram. I would follow all the comic book accounts on Instagram. I’d be scouring through things I could possibly use in the ring.”
Food for thought: A “good versus evil” program between Bálor and the Wyatt Family. That has 'moneymaker' written all over it and it's easily a matchup we could see at a future WrestleMania.
3 He Can Carry a Promotion
Whether it was his Bullet Club dominance in New Japan, or presence in NXT, Devitt proved on countless occasions and stages that he could be “the guy;” no Reigns’ pun intended. NXT title run excluded, Devitt had a 14-month IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion reign. Upon giving his New Japan resignation on April 7, 2014, Balor began cementing himself as one of NXT’s top stars until becoming “the guy” by beating Owens at The Beast in the East event on July 4, 2014.
Clearly, WWE’s roster isn’t short of talents to proceed John Cena as the company’s new face i.e. a Reigns or a Rollins it should indeed bring them solace knowing that Bálor also has potential to be that guy. After all, last year’s plethora of injuries — Rollins, Orton, Cena, Cesaro — proved that there could never be enough top-tier talents.
Approaching 35, Balor has some good years left in him and should be given the ball as soon as possible.
2 He Adds More Diversity to the WWE Roster
“The Celtic Warrior” Sheamus and Lynch are just a few of the many Irish talents that have fared well in the WWE’s yard. Hell, Vince McMahon even has Irish blood in him being that his grandfather Jess McMahon — the famous family’s first wrestling promoter — immigrated from Ireland. Furthermore, who could forget Fit Finlay, his shillelagh, and Hornswoggle as Vince’s illegitimate child? With WWE continuing to make the rounds internationally, it’s imperative that they maintain a diverse roster. Although Devitt’s Irish descent isn’t the focal point of his Bálor character, his roots do benefits the company from a PR standpoint.
Sheamus has never quite been able to be a long-term solution as a WWE Champion, but Bálor has already succeeded in building a connection with the audience. That ability will serve him well on the main roster.
1 He Can Be a Tag Team Division Asset, if Absolutely Necessary
While it’s no secret that the WWE sees Bálor as a top draw in singles competition, he has also fared well in tag team competition. He received “Best Tag Team Match” honors when he partnered with Taguchi to face Makoto Oishi & Shiori Asahi on April 7, 2010. Devitt was also a six-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion; with Minoru Suzuki (2) and Taguchi (4). In 2015, he and Samoa Joe won NXT’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic and the tag team straps, but ultimately lost them. That was before Joe turned on him igniting the feud that led to Balor’s NXT heavyweight championship loss. Although the tag team division pastures are far fetched for Bálor, he has proven that he could do it well, if absolutely necessary.
A tag run for Balor can't be ruled out within the next few years.