When Finn Balor debuted for NXT in 2014, he would fair extremely well in the black and gold developmental brand. The former Bullet Club leader went on to become the now second-longest reigning NXT Champion of all time. He also was the inaugural winner of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic with partner turned rival, Samoa Joe. It was during Balor’s tenure in NXT that he turned his occasional body paint cosplay from his time in New Japan Pro Wrestling into an alter-ego dark character known as The Demon King. The Venom inspired look would make its debut at NXT Takeover R Evolutionwhere it completely entrenched the Full Sail faithful. Balor would use the character sparingly, only opting to inhabit the character when the time was right, to avoid overexposure. He became NXT’s top star and would be booked strongly with and without the war paint before floundering on the main roster. Ever since his turbulent run on Raw, Balor hasn’t been the star he should’ve become. It’s clear that World Wrestling Entertainment only ever got behind Balor when he dawned the body paint. And while he is finding success again on NXT; if he wants to be treated as more than a good hand in WWE, he needs to be the Demon King indefinitely.
Ever since he introduced the alter-ego, Finn’s most successful moments in WWE have been as the Demon. When he beat Kevin Owens for the NXT Championship at Beast in the East, he did so as the Demon. When he defeated Seth Rollins at SummerSlam and became the first-ever Universal Champion, in just one month on the main roster, he did so as the Demon. When Finn Balor finally ended his godawful feud with Bobby Lashley and won the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 35 he did so as, not surprisingly, the Demon! Finn Balor’s Demon persona was protected heavily in WWE; having only lost one match to Samoa Joe at NXT Takeover: The End.
However, when Finn Balor was the “Extraordinary man who does extraordinary things” he lost when it counted most. He lost the Intercontinental title to Shinsuke Nakamaura at Extreme Rules, he lost to the Fiend Bray Wyatt at Summerslam last year, and to Roman Reigns multiple times on Raw. WWE orchestrated Finn’s feuds so that, when the time came, he could get his wins back as the Demon. Unfortunately, the character was used so inconveniently and sporadically during his time on Raw it appeared as though Balor couldn’t win anything meaningful unless he was the Demon. In 2017 Demon Finn won a highly competitive and entertaining match at Tables, Ladders, and Chairs against AJ Styles in a battle between Bullet Club leaders that was labeled a dream match. A mere 24 hours later on Raw Finn would lose to Kane in only seven minutes.
When Finn returned to NXT on October 2nd, it was a perfect opportunity to rehabilitate his character. He turned Heel and embarked on a string of victories such as defeating Matt Riddle at NXT Takeover: War Games, Johnny Gargano at NXT Takeover: Portland, and Damien Priest at NXT Takeover: In Your House. He would morph into a tweener before teasing a feud with WALTER that has been put on hold due to Coronavirus. Finn’s new character has seen him abandon the paint and adopt similar mannerisms to his time as Prince Devitt in New Japan. While Finn is winning the bulk of his matches, competing for titles, and is used as a key player instead of enhancement talent, he needs something more to propel him greater. It appears as though Balor is wandering aimlessly again in his quest for gold and is coming up short when it matters most, a common thread in his vareer. When he challenged Adam Cole for the NXT Title on December 18th he lost due to interference from Gargano. Most recently he lost a triple threat match for the NXT North American Championship on July 8th involving a now heel Gargano, and Keith Lee.
The problem is regular Finn Balor doesn’t stand out in NXT, let alone WWE. A lot of modern wrestlers also wear leather jackets, do foot stomps, and possess the same independent style of wrestling. WWE has been on a binge signing spree for years; collecting and stockpiling wrestlers like Pokemon. Having recently turned 39 years old, Balor is no spring chicken. With NXT currently featuring its younger wrestlers more prominently Balor has a decision to make regarding his career. What Finn has that is truly unique to NXT is the Demon King. With WWE heavily investing into cinematic matches; Balor’s Demon persona is perfect for this pandemic era style of wrestling. With the right filming and booking; The Demon King could have a cinematic match as iconic as the Boneyard Match or the Firefly Funhouse Match. With NXT currently running shows in the Performance Center now is the perfect time for Finn to go all out and return to this character to claim back his crown.
If fans are worried the character would overstay its welcome and become overexposed, they shouldn’t. While seeing Finn with the paint regularly will not be as memorable as two or three times a year it will allow NXT to tell stories with the character and develop it into something more than perceived cosplay. The only active wrestler in WWE who paints his face is Jeff Hardy and he certainly doesn’t need it. Balor has an opportunity he needs to capitalize on by cementing himself as a larger than life permanent face painted icon akin to Sting, The Ultimate Warrior and The Great Muta. Those wrestlers wore face paint regularly for decades which helped to set themselves apart and appear more unique among other wrestlers.
Finn Balor is a star, no question. Having had an exceptional career in New Japan and NXT; fans are right to consider Finn as a main event worthy player. Unfortunately, without the Demon paint, WWE holds Balor back from becoming a bigger star. Without the war paint, Finn is in danger of becoming just another face in an overcrowded locker room. Finn Balor needs to be the Demon indefinitely in order to avoid being overlooked again. With the right booking and well laid out cinematic match, the Demon King can rise again over NXT.
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