Fergal Devitt debuted in NXT as Finn Bálor in late 2014, and although he was only in his early 30’s, Devitt was already a 14-year veteran of the sports entertainment industry at the time of his signing. He’s the longest reigning NXT Champion in the brief history of the promotion, and his charisma and abilities in the ring have many people predicting he could be one of the biggest stars in WWE today as soon as he makes the jump to the main roster. WWE will no doubt find a bombastic and noteworthy way to introduce The Demon to the masses, but there are plenty of things they won’t tell you about Bálor, too.
Bálor has wrestled all over the world, and already has a great deal of experience in nearly all areas of wrestling. His personal style is influenced by Mexican, Japanese, European, and American wrestling, and he’s spent enough time behind the scenes he could be considered a full-time promoter and trainer in addition to his time in the ring. For fans curious about where he came from, though, keep reading to learn 10 things WWE won’t tell you about Finn Bálor.
10. He Loves Comic Books
Like many other wrestlers, Bálor was a big fan of comic books when he was a child, and that fandom continues to this day. However, unlike most comic book fans, Bálor isn’t particularly drawn to their unique style of fighting or the heroic sense of justice, but rather the colorful characters and the bright imagery. Prior to deciding to become a wrestler, Bálor considered a career as an artist, and comic books played a big inspiration in that interest. Bálor would transition his love of comic book art into his wrestling persona, with his Demon character painted in a manner inspired by a huge variety of popular comic book characters. He says his favorite to imitate is Venom, mostly because it was the first.
9. He Started NWA: Ireland
Devitt was born in Ireland, but he trained with the Hammerlock wrestling company in England, because there aren’t a whole lot of wrestling promotions in his native country. In response to that fact, once he moved home, Devitt did the only thing a person who really, really wanted to be a wrestler did in those circumstances, and he opened his own wrestling company called NWA: Ireland. Bálor was destined for big things from the beginning, and he only spent a few years in the company he created before deciding to take his talents around the world, starting in Japan. These days he rarely gets the chance to return to Ireland and perform for his hometown fans, but he does have one early fan nearby in WWE…
8. He Trained Becky Lynch
Becky Lynch is currently one of the wrestlers spearheading the women’s division in WWE. She started to do so in NXT against wrestlers like Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks, but in a way, Becky had actually been doing so for longer than either of the other women had been wrestling. While those women are very early in their careers, Becky is a 10-year veteran already, and she got her start in Ireland training under Finn Bálor. Becky has since received training from dozens of other sources, and her time in NXT was far more integral to her current talents than her time with Bálor, but the fact remains he introduced her to the business and taught Becky how to take her first bump. Perhaps Bálor could’ve lead other women out of Ireland and into WWE, but he wasn’t long for the country himself…
7. He Was A Prince In Japan
After Bálor spent six years building an early reputation in Ireland, he moved to the Land of the Rising Sun when he was 24 years old. He had been wrestling under his birth name of Fergal Devitt up to that point, but he quickly learned the Japanese wrestling fans were more or less physically incapable of pronouncing his first name. Thus, Fergal adopted the ring name he initially would become famous under: Prince Devitt. Prince Devitt debuted for New Japan Pro Wrestling in October of 2006. Devitt debuted in a loss against El Samurai, but it wouldn’t be long before he became one of the bigger gaijin (non-Japanese) stars in New Japan. There would be a brief hiccup along the way, though…
6. He Named One Of His Characters After Chris Benoit
While Bálor started wrestling under his real name and merely tweaked it for the character he would become best known for in Japan, he briefly wrestled under a different name in reference to one of his early inspirations. For a short period in 2006, Devitt worked for the NJPW subsidiary promotion Wrestle Land under a mask as the new Pegasus Kid. The idea of tributary gimmick is actually fairly popular in Japan, and is considered anything but a rip–off, but the problem is who the original Pegasus Kid was. Unfortunately for Devitt, the original Pegasus Kid was Chris Benoit, and Devitt borrowed his name less than a year before he would commit the shameful crimes that ended his life. WWE probably won’t mention any of these facts on television, but this is the one they probably downright wish didn’t happen.
5. Prior To NXT He Was A Super Junior
For a long time, WWE has been fighting an unfortunate and seemingly immediate stigma that says men over a certain size aren’t big enough to be champions. For a long time, WWE featured Lightweight and Cruiserweight divisions, but eventually they decided to do away with them in part because wrestlers who started in those divisions had trouble being taken seriously against bigger athletes regardless of their popularity, talent, or charisma, due to the fact they were once part of the smaller division. Bálor’s past in Japan might have given him this same stigma, as not only was he in Japan’s comparable Cruiserweight division, but he was their version of Super Juniors. The term Super Junior paints a very small picture, while WWE wants their talent big and explosive, so this is another one they probably wish we’d all forget.
4. He Was In A Stable With Shinsuke Nakamura
Japanese wrestling is focused on stables and teams, with virtually every important wrestler finding some kind of association with a huge and important group. Devitt’s time in Japan was no different, as he immediately found himself thrust into several of the biggest stables in recent Japanese history. He debuted as a babyface foreign star, but quickly turned heel and joined the Control Terrorism unit lead by Japanese legend Jushin Thunder Liger. After CTU fell apart, Devitt joined with current NXT superstar Shinsuke Nakamura as a member of RISE. Nakamura was the group’s leader, and Devitt mostly wrestled in tag competitions with Minoru Tanaka, but the two occasionally did team up in 6+ man tag team matches. Regardless, neither of these big stables were Devitt’s most famous team in Japan…
3. He Formed A Tag Team Called Apollo 55
In 2009, Devitt teamed with Ryusuke Taguchi to form Apollo 55. The team is considered one of the most successful junior heavyweight teams in the history of Japanese wrestling, and proved it by winning the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team titles a record four times. The true mark of a champion not being how many times they win the title but how many times they hold on to it, the team successfully defended the titles 7 times during their second reign, which is a record in Japan. In an impressive move for a major tag team, Taguchi and Devitt managed to maintain hugely successful solo careers during their time as a team, with Devitt winning the IWGP Super Junior Championship 3 times while they were still together. They both managed to win another accolade while together, too…
2. He Is A Two Time Best of the Super Juniors
In Japan, it’s easily arguable that winning tournaments is as or more important than winning major world titles. By that regard, Bálor’s career in Japan is even more impressive, as he is one of only five wrestlers to win the Best of the Super Juniors tournament on more than one occasion. The prestigious tournament has also been won by the likes of Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, and Jushin Thunder Liger. Other wrestlers who have since become famous in North America including Owen Hart, Fit Finlay, and Too Cold Scorpio have all participated in the tournament, as well. The fact Bálor won not once but twice is proof he consistently wowed the Japanese crowds, just as he continues to do to American crowds in NXT.
1. He Founded The Bullet Club
After his successes in the tag and junior divisions, Devitt turned on his partner Ryusuke Taguchi and joined with American wrestler Karl Anderson to team with Bad Luck Fale and Tama Tonga in a group they named The Bullet Club. WWE fans no doubt are familiar with the fact Anderson would bring that group to Monday Night Raw in early 2016, but Devitt was notably absent from the ensuing WWE version of The Club. Despite being thus far blackballed from the WWE version, Devitt was actually the leader of the group for the first two years of its existence. His time with Bullet Club came to an end when he left NJPW for NXT, at which point his leadership position was taken over by another wrestler who is slowly becoming a huge name in WWE: A.J. Styles.