In the world of professional wrestling, a wrestler has a lot of control of their own destiny. They can train harder, spend more time working on promos, and bounce ideas off of fellow wrestlers in order to help enhance their character as they try to climb the long ladder of success to the top of a company like the WWE. And of course, the most important thing is to get on the good side of one Vince McMahon, the most powerful man in all of professional wrestling.
But at the same time, how much success a wrestler has in the industry and the amount of time they will spend on RAW or SmackDown Live every week depends on convincing the backstage creative team that they can bring a product to the table that is worthy of being on TV week in and week out. One wrestler who currently finds himself in creative team limbo also happens to be one of the more popular guys on the WWE roster, Finn Balor.
The Curious Case Of Finn Balor
Finn Balor came to WWE as part of the NXT brand in 2014 after finding success on the independent wrestling circuit, particularly in New Japan Pro Wrestling. He gained a worldwide following by becoming a founding member of the faction, Bullet Club, which to date is widely regarded as the most popular wrestling faction in the world.
Once in NXT, Balor became a favorite of Triple H and the creative team and eventually took the NXT Title from Kevin Owens. He then went on to have the longest NXT Title reign in the history of the company at 292 days and was eventually drafted to RAW as part of the 2016 WWE Draft. In his first appearance on the main roster, he won a fatal fourway match for the right to compete for the newly created WWE Universal Title, which he went on to win over Seth Rollins at SummerSlam.
Unfortunately he had to relinquish the title the very next night on RAW because of a shoulder injury he sustained during the match with Rollins which would leave him sidelined for over six months, but it was clear that the WWE creative team had huge plans for Balor going forward.
Or So We Thought
Fast forward to his return from injury, and it’s clear that the creative team has far, far different views of Balor now compared to how they felt before. For starters, Balor, the inaugural Universal Champion who never lost the title, has never been given a one-on-one opportunity to reclaim the title that he never lost. The closest Balor has come to reclaiming the crown was being placed in a fatal five way match at Extreme Rules in June, in which he wound up eating a Coquina Clutch from Samoa Joe, who subsequently went on to get defeated by Brock Lesnar in less than 10 minutes in his earned title match. Other than the five way match, Balor has been stuck in creative limbo for six months.
Balor initially came back from his injury by picking up lackluster wins over Jinder Mahal and Curt Hawkins, which you were hoping would help him build momentum into something bigger. But then came awkward confrontations with Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, his former running mates in the Bullet Club, and Elias Samson, who has a solid character but is still trying to find his way in the WWE. While Balor was eventually able to come out on top in these feuds, they did little to captivate the audience, despite the fact that Balor is one of the more “over” characters on the WWE roster.
And then, the feud with Bray Wyatt happened. On paper, a Finn Balor/Bray Wyatt feud appeared to be a solid program that could help the two, and they put on a solid match at SummerSlam, which is where, for the benefit of both guys, their program should have ended. But unfortunately, the feud would continue, with Wyatt’s video vignettes getting weirder by the week while Balor awkwardly stood in the middle of the ring watching. It did nothing to help either wrestler, especially when Balor defeated Wyatt yet again at the following pay per view, No Mercy.
Despite the fact that Balor won the match, it lacked value because Wyatt’s similar promos and actions every week did nothing to help advance the feud. Things got even weirder when Wyatt would eventually be revealed as also being the “Sister Abigail” character that the WWE had been teasing for a couple of years. And while Wyatt struggled heavily to get the character over on screen, Balor felt the effects too, as he had to awkwardly stand in the ring week after week along with a silent WWE audience and watch, which gave no help to either superstar in advancing their characters on screen. A match would eventually be booked between Balor’s “Demon” persona and Wyatt’s “Sister Abigail” persona for the TLC pay per view, but the match would not happen because Wyatt came down with a viral infection and had to be pulled from the card.
In the end though, Wyatt being pulled from the card worked out better for Balor, because he got a step up in competition at TLC in the form of another former Bullet Club member, AJ Styles. This led to another interesting turn in Balor’s booking, because he went on to pick up a big win over Styles on the show. It seemed like it would be a turning point in Balor’s booking and stance with the creative team, because Styles was the hot commodity on SmackDown Live and would go on to defeat Mahal for the WWE Championship a couple of weeks later.
Balor needed the big boost with Survivor Series looming around the corner, but just when you think Balor was in position to return to the top of the card, he goes out on RAW the very next night and gets beaten in what was practically a squash match by Kane (yes, 50 year old Kane), who had just returned to the WWE after a long layoff while focusing on his political career. Balor wound up being part of the star studded RAW team at Survivor Series which also featured the likes of Braun Strowman, Samoa Joe, Triple H, and Kurt Angle, but he wound up being the second member of RAW to be eliminated after eating an RKO from Randy Orton.
Sad But True
The only clear thing about the standing of Finn Balor with the backstage creative team in WWE is that his position doesn’t seem to be solid at all. Since his injury return, Balor has experienced a couple of solid booking positions, but for the most part, Balor has been involved in a lot of feuds that haven’t seemed to do much for the first Universal Champion. This is really unfortunate considering that Balor is a superstar who is one of the most over with the WWE Universe. And with the stretch run to WrestleMania fast approaching, it is unclear what lies ahead for the former longest reigning NXT Champion, which could be dangerous considering the other superstars he finds himself up against in the shuffle of top talent on RAW.
So what do you think? Will Finn Balor be able to find his way back into the good graces of the WWE creative team as WrestleMania season approaches? Or will he find himself stuck in creative limbo along with other mid-card talent? Sound off in the comments section or let us know on Twitter @Sports-Stack or @McFleegle!