The Universal Title match at the 2018 Royal Rumble was an underwhelming affair. For those who missed it, and it might be fair to say lucky you, Brock Lesnar defeated both Kane and Braun Strowman in a triple threat match to retain his Universal Championship and all but guarantee his ‘road’ to Wrestlemania.
However, according to reports at the back end of 2017. Brock was meant to defend in a very different type of match, a one-on-one bout against Finn Balor. Balor was finally going to get his rematch for a title he was first to win and never to lose. Those best-laid plans were apparently nixed because Vince McMahon felt that Finn was not ‘over’ enough to warrant a shot at the main title, especially against the all-conquering Beast Incarnate.
To say the WWE Universe was dismayed by this turn of events would be an understatement. The idea that Finn was not over–wrestling terminology meaning a character getting a decent crowd reaction–was ridiculous. When Finn joined the main roster, he was arguably the most over guy in the company, so-much-so that they put the brand new Universal title on him to great acclaim in the main event of the second biggest PPV of the year: Summerslam.
Unfortunately for him, he was injured in that match and had to give up the title and was put on the shelf for nearly a year. He returned the night after Wrestlemania the following year, but with the dye already cast for the next Wrestlemania–Brock Lesnar to lose to Roman Reigns in New Orleans–any chance of Finn getting his title back was gone.
Through no fault of his own, Finn was put into dead-end feuds simply to keep him busy because the path he should have been taking was closed off.
With Finn Balor, WWE had the most interesting gimmick to come through their doors in a long time and they have made little to no use of it, even after his injury in 2016. I am of course talking about the Demon King. And the removal of him from the main event of The Royal Rumble is the peak of their ineptitude and lack of vision.
Finn Balor’s demonic alter ego could and should be a major part of his overall package, instead, it is a gimmick, in the worst sense of the word, trotted out every now and again to simply win matches. It has no back story, no motivations, no stakes, it’s just Finn Balor in some face paint with the correct booking.
Having a character with two different personalities each just as over as the other should be a massive money spinner for the WWE. Imagine, for example, If Finn Balor said that he hated using the Demon King; that when he uses his alter ego, he loses part of himself, that it takes more control over his psyche. Imagine if he said he would only use it if he absolutely had too, in order to win the biggest matches with the highest of stakes, but in reality, he had no control over it. Immediately you have a long-term and interesting story and a reason why the Demon King is so rarely seen. In time, that story could come home to roost. Maybe Finn goes to the well one too many times and the Demon does take over. The Demon is more aggressive, dangerous and deranged than Finn, a true demonic heel in the vain of Kane or The Undertaker in their prime. The Demon could go on a tear through the roster, now not shackled by his other half. Now, you have a character in which one half is a face and one is a heel. WWE is forever levelled with the accusation that is doesn’t do long-term booking, this story could be a reaction to that. It could take years to resolve itself. Instead, what we have is an incredibly over talent, not given the stories he deserves, with a non-existent alter ego, who is treading water–and slowly sinking–while the higher-ups focus on someone else to the detriment of all.
I’m not going to sit here and lament Roman Reigns, I actually like the guy. And I am not going to say Finn deserves to be pushed over him. What I am saying is it is fine that Finn isn’t in the main event scene, but the WWE has an amazing gimmick to get Finn by as he bides his time and they either do not have the writing talent to get the best out of it or have refused to even acknowledge it. As a result, Finn is not as over as he might be and he doesn’t get his shot. It is a never-ending circle.
Now, I realise as we speak that Finn is going to Wrestlemania with an Intercontinental title shot. No doubt it will be a great match between him, The Miz and Seth Rollins, but will the Demon be anywhere to be seen? If it is, will it just be trotted out for a cheap pop? Will there be any stakes involved? Will It even win the match? The answer to each of those questions is depressingly obvious. What is even more jarring is that in the absence of the Demon King, WWE is half-arsing an attempt at a Bullet Club-type stable with Finn and the Club, to the point that no one even knows what the deal is. Are they together? Are they heels? Does anyone care? Is anyone being made to care?
WWE are rapidly coming up to a fork in the road with regards to Finn Balor. Either they fully invest in one of the great potential gimmicks in the companies history that is coupled with one of the few wrestlers in the world charismatic enough to pull it off, or they kill it dead. Either way, what they are doing now is not working, and that is a reason, as a Finn fan, to be wary of his standing in the company. Those who believe and want to see him at the summit of the company may well never have their wishes fulfilled and that is a true shame because as a performer, Balor is one of the very, very best.