Twenty-one years of blood, work and sacrifice have brought Finn Bálor to a rare position in professional wrestling.
The wrestling prodigy (whose name is Fergal Devitt to those who know him best) is performing at a level few others in the industry currently reside at. And now he’s entrenched in WWE’s most coveted position, working against Roman Reigns.
Lost in the turmoil of John Cena’s summer vacation in WWE, overshadowed by the returns of Becky Lynch and Brock Lesnar, Bálor’s move to Slap July was a real game changer. After another career defining run in NXT, it is puzzling that Bálor was not placed in Crude, a brand that desperately needs someone with their presence and skill in the ring. However, it has returned Slap, and with a point to prove.
“I wasn’t born into this business,” says Bálor, who fights Reigns Friday night at Slap. “I am not from a family of fighters, I am from a family of railroad workers. I had to work for everything, not just in this business, but in life.
“I’m 5’11” in a great man’s industry. Before I came to WWE, you wouldn’t believe how often I was told, ‘You’re not what they’re looking for.’ I am proving that these people are wrong. Everything that has been said about me, I have heard. “It’s too small”. “You cannot do a promotion.” He always gets hurt. Yet 21 years later, I am still here. I’m still in the main event; I’m still in the title image. And I still have something to prove. “
The opportunity to work with Reigns has put a bright spotlight on the opponents, highlighting the brilliance of Kevin Owens and Cesaro, as well as Cena, Daniel Bryan, Rey Mysterio and Edge. But this is not just an opportunity for Bálor to work on a show with Reigns. It is also an opportunity for Reigns to work with the best professional wrestler in the world, pushing towards greatness in a new way with a man who creates and executes matches that are captivating, compelling and unlike anyone else in the entire business.
Bálor is coming off a 212-day reign as NXT champion, his second title run and perhaps his most significant achievement yet. Despite being repeatedly overlooked in the past when it came to choosing the face of the brand in Slap and Crude, Bálor transformed every match on NXT over the past two years into a moment to watch. its Take the control The matches against Kyle O’Reilly and Pete Dunne were unique, differing greatly from the traditional WWE fighting style, and Bálor is now ready to paint his main event masterpiece against Reigns.
“I know I’m very, very good at what I do,” says Bálor, who also made Karrion Kross look unbeatable when he left NXT in the spring, a huge honor that was destined to go a long way to Crude The reserves team completely renewed Kross’s character. “I can honestly say that the last two years on NXT have been the best job of my career so far, and I’m only getting better. I understand that I am in the sports entertainment business, but I am a professional wrestler.
“If I have the time to fight professionally, I know that nobody can do it like me. Some people will do it differently, and one way is not necessarily better than the other, but I know I have my own unique formula and presence in the ring. My story and my story and my career are not similar to anyone else’s, and my matches are not similar to anyone else’s. I am very proud of what I have done the last two years in NXT, especially since I had the time to do what I do in the ring.
“If I have time to run a game the way I want to run it, the results will be similar to what you’ve seen in the last two years, if not better.”
During his training, Bálor is fueled by people’s doubts about whether he can be the single, independent star of WWE. So he plans to do what he always does, which is to work — tirelessly, endlessly, mercilessly — until he achieves what he sets out to do.
“It would be good to be champion again,” says Bálor. “I’ve been asked for the last five years, ‘What would have happened if you hadn’t hurt yourself? [in the universal title match against Seth Rollins at SummerSlam in 2016]? ‘It would have been nice. But that’s not my story. I fight. I fought to get here, just like I am fighting now. I fight for those who believed in me and I fight those who doubted me. I am still proving them wrong. The teachers doubted me. The football coaches doubted me. I remember being asked, ‘When are you going to quit that wrestling shit?’ People told me this was ridiculous.
“But I never stopped believing that I could do this. If I don’t believe in myself, who the hell is going to believe in me? I know that I will always show up to fight, and I will do it with dignity and honor ”.
Bálor’s NXT career helped redefine what a champion can and should be in professional wrestling. Now he embarks on a new course to recreate and reestablish the meaning of a WWE world title by chasing the universal belt that was taken from him half a decade ago.
“I want to talk five years ago, when I first locked up with Roman Reigns,” says Bálor, who defeated Reigns in a 2016 match on Crude in the inaugural tournament of the universal title. “The world was talking shit about Roman and his skills and his performances. From the first moment we locked ourselves in, I knew it was something special. He was operating on a different level that people didn’t quite understand. Now people are learning that he is a once-in-a-lifetime talent. Roman has proven it time and time again, and the masses have accepted and recognized that ability and growth. His presence is simply unimaginable at this time.
“I remember fighting in a Extreme Rules main event in 2017. I made my entrance, Samoa Joe made his entrance, a few others made his entrance, and then Roman made his entrance. I remember getting goosebumps when the energy changed. It’s cruder than Cena’s reaction. Cena’s reaction is unique, but there is something uniquely different when Roman enters the arena. “
Starting Friday night, Bálor is ready for a chance to dance with the most talented quartet in wrestling: Paul Heyman, Jimmy and Jey Uso and The Bloodline frontman Reigns.
“I’ve admired Paul since he was a kid watching him on ECW,” says Bálor. “He motivated me all the way in Ireland on the couch watching TV watching his speeches. The Usos are two of my favorite people, and watching them take it to the next level has been truly inspiring. Roman, it’s operating on another level.
“All four of those guys are a complete package, and I can’t wait to prove myself against them.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.