So it is now official, Finn Balor is a member of Raw. Let the rumors begin; how will Balor be booked? Will he feud with Seth Rollins? Will he align with The Club? Will the company ease him in instead? Questions are a plenty, though most of us don’t really care what he does, we’re just glad to finally see him up on the main roster.
Whether you realize it or not, all the hype around Finn is because of the fact that he represents change, something he played off perfectly during his long run down in NXT. Fans hope he can bring this element to Raw every Monday and pave the way for a new and exciting era of wrestling that we are desperate for.
For now, let’s put aside all the hype about his debut, and look at some lesser known facts that you may not have known pertaining to The Demon. We hope this article will get you more familiarized with Raw’s newest asset. Here are 15 things you never knew about Finn Balor. Enjoy!
15. His Origins Before Japan In The Wrestling Business
As you will see in this article, his brand value really took off as a performer once he was shipped off to Japan and got accustomed with the style, but we’ll have more on that in plenty over the next couple of entries. His route in the wrestling business did not start in Japan, however, it all began back in 2000 for Balor when he was only 18 years old. He began wrestling with NWA UK Hammerlock and later would take his talents on the indie scene performing in Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In 2002, Balor took things a step further and launched his own wrestling promotion in Ireland which became a junior division for NWA Ireland.
His biggest break would occur in 2005 during a match in Nashville, Tennessee, wrestling Dru Onyx, a close friend of his to this day. Following the encounter at the NWA’s Anniversary Show, both Finn and Dru were approached and offered deals to join a Japanese Dojo in California. A year later, the wrestlers would head to Japan and learn the art of the Japanese style, and this move would be huge for Finn in starting his legacy.
14. The All Japan Man
Finn forged his legacy in Japan (as you will see in this article). Since his early days training the Japanese style back in 2006, he really never looked back and built a special legacy overseas which nearly spanned a decade. He made his debut for New Japan all the way back in 2006. During that timeframe he underwent some significant gimmick changes which we will cover. His build was steady and in 2013, he would become a megastar for the promotion putting his talents on the map all over the world, including with the WWE whose eye he caught.
After a tremendous run for Finn in Japan, it all came to an end at Invasion Attack 2014, which saw Finn lose his final match. It was later announced that he left the company and would officially ink a WWE deal in May once he finally got his hands on a North American working Visa.
13. Pegasus Kid
After losing the British Commonwealth Championship to Karl Anderson (out of all people), Balor officially made his way to New Japan, signing a deal with the promotion in March of 2006, a historical date to say the least. He first entered the mix under the name of Prince Devitt; it was later found out that the change was made because the promotion could not pronounce his actual name Fergal (you can’t make this stuff up, folks).
He was then sent to the Wrestle Land promotion which shared some co-brand events with New Japan. Balor would be repackaged into the second ever Pegasus Kid supporting a mask. Comparisons were quickly made between himself and Chris Benoit for the fact that they supported similar physical traits and because Benoit was the initial Pegasus Kid. The gimmick was short-lived (as you can probably imagine), as he was later repackaged as his real self playing the role of an Irish wrestler.
12. The Losing Streak
It’s inevitable, at some point every wrestler goes through it, but thankfully for Finn the losses piled up sooner rather than later. Even WWE great Chris Jericho experienced a similar ordeal during his WCW and WWE days, where finding a win was extremely hard to come by.
For Finn, this rocky streak took place following his masked gimmick; this time he was changed to an Irish wrestler playing himself with no real gimmick. The company then finally decided to make Balor turn heel and he would join the Control Terrorism Unit, a heel faction. He became the “loser” of the group. Losses started to pile up against Finn and this angered his stablemates. He was eventually given the boot from the faction only to rejoin the team after he would finally accumulate some consistent victories. He later rose up the ranks with the faction and became the group leader; a crazy turn of events. His stable momentum was eventually stopped after he would sustain a serious leg injury, and he would later return as a Tag Team wrestler, believe it or not.
11. Apollo 55
Although it was sad to see Finn leave the New Japan ranks, it should be noted that the guy literally worked every possible angle with the company, which included a prominent run as a Tag Team wrestler under the duo of Apollo 55, alongside Ryusuke Taguchi. The duo quickly became a hit with their fast-paced talent. Alongside one another, they quickly rose up the ranks capturing the IWPG Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships after defeating North American stars Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin. The Tag Titles were initially Finn’s first biggest accomplishments with the promotion.
The team would go on to absolutely dominate the Junior Tag division winning the Championships on four separate occasions. After a tremendous four-year run together, the duo finally parted ways in April of 2013 when Balor began to turn heel, becoming an arrogant partner. After a Tag Team loss, Balor would attack his partner Taguchi, ending the team’s magical run together and cementing their legacies as the greatest Junior Tag Team of all time for the company.
10. His First Major Singles Championship
Similar to the likes of so many greats (like Shawn Michaels), being a Tag Team wrestler eventually opened many doors for Finn, which included his first solo run with a major Championship. After several tournament failures and heartbreaking losses, Finn finally broke through with a deep run in the 2010 Best of the Super Juniors Tournament. He would advance to the finals taking on none other than Japanese Superstar and WWE CWC tournament star Kota Ibushi. Much to everyone’s surprise, Balor was put over the young star, earning himself a shot at the IWPG Junior Heavyweight Championship.
He finally stamped his legacy with a major Singles run winning the title against Naomichi Marufuji. Just days later, Finn would add to his collection winning yet another tournament, this time with Apollo 55. This would later earn the team another Junior Tag Team Title shot which they would also win. It was becoming rather obvious, Balor was going to be a megastar.
9. Never Won The IWPG Heavyweight Championship
Momentum was on his side following some big title victories, and at that point a Heavyweight Championship run seemed like it was next on Balor’s New Japan journey. The promotion truly built him up tremendously over his run and it was safe to assume that at that point in 2013, it was his time.
His most influential rise following his Apollo 55 stint came with the Bullet Club, joining forces with Fale, Karl Anderson and Tama Tonga who attacked Hiroshi Tanahashi and launched the group. He became unbeatable and then set his focus on becoming the first ever wrestler to hold both Junior and Heavyweight Championships at once.
This goal was never met; after facing Okada for the Championship, Balor lost the match despite his Bullet Club mates interfering in the match. He would later drop the Junior Heavyweight Championship losing to megastar Kota Ibushi, ending his monumental title run which lasted over a year (14 months, to be exact).
8. He Was Later Replaced By AJ Styles
Many believe that had Finn prolonged his stay with the promotion, he’d eventually end up claiming the Championship. Instead, he would lose the title match and later drop the Junior Heavyweight Championship as well. This was all done to accommodate his departure from the company. His run came to an end, losing to his bitter rival and former Apollo 55 member Taguchi. Following the match the two shook hands and Finn left the company for the WWE.
Following Finn’s departure, The Bullet Club was later reignited with AJ Styles taking the reins as the dominant heel figure leading the faction. Some call his work with the group, the best of his career landing him an eventual contract with the WWE for recreating his entire identity. He would end up defeating Okada for the Championship and working a full time role with the company, dominating the Japanese wrestling scene.
7. Origins Of The Name Finn Balor
May 15th, 2014, was a historical day for the NXT brand to say the least, as their future golden boy would ink a deal with the developmental brand. After his Visa was finally obtained, Finn made his debut in September. Fans predominantly knew him as Prince Devitt or by his real name, Fergal Devitt.
During his debut, he shocked the WWE fans by re-identifying himself to the world as Finn Balor. The origins to his new name are also quite interesting. Obviously the name is part of his heritage, stemming from Irish decent. The name comes from the Irish mythological creatures of Balor and Fionn mac Cumhaill (it also means Demon King, hence his crazy face paint which is a play off of his name). He would later debut the body paint at NXT TakeOver: R Evolution, teaming up with Hideo Itami. His new name was a great move in cementing a different North American legacy for the traveled veteran.
6. Knee Injury Halted His Initial NXT Momentum
We’ve seen this countless times in the wrestling business; how many times have we seen a wrestler’s momentum get stopped because of an untimely injury? Seth Rollins and Sami Zayn are the latest examples; Balor as well received a similar threat early on in his NXT run.
Booking-wise it was obvious, NXT was quickly making Balor a star and the future face of the company. He dominated early on and would cement his legacy as a big time player quickly during an NXT number one contender’s tournament for the Championship. In his run, he would defeat Curtis Axel, Hideo Itami and the former longest reigning champion in NXT history Neville, solidifying his status as the new number one contender for Kevin Owens’ Championship.
His title run was unsuccessful initially because of a leg injury. Although, he would later return and defeat Owens for the title at The Beast in the East event which took place in his second home in Japan. The injury proved to be a minor bump in his successful journey to the top.
5. Personal Life: Hobbies, Interests & Favorite Wrestlers
If you follow him on social media, you know Balor is quite the character outside of the ring. As opposed to his serious in-ring demeanor, Finn is a loose character outside of the ring. He has several interests outside of wrestling, which include collecting Legos and reading comic books. His motivation behind his face and body paint is to pay homage to some of his favorite comic book characters.
Finn is also a big Gaelic football fan. He pursued the sport before entering into the pro wrestling scene. Balor also enjoys soccer, with his favorite team being the Tottenham Hotspur’s of the English premier League.
In the ring, Finn had a wide range of childhood favorites growing up. Like so many current wrestlers like Rollins and AJ Styles, Balor looked up to Shawn Michaels as a youngster. In addition, Balor liked a wide range of performers which includes the great duo of the British Bulldogs, the late great Curt Hennig, The Undertaker and another late great, Ultimate Warrior.
4. His Age
Although he seems relatively new to North American audiences, joining the NXT ranks in 2014, Balor is older than you think. Born in 1981, Finn is set to turn 35 on July 25th. We tend to forget because he still looks so young and durable, not to mention he seemingly looks like he hasn’t missed a step. But Finn has now been wrestling for over 15 years spanning from his days in Ireland, to his tremendous legacy which was forged in Japan for nearly a decade; spanning from 2006 all the way till his final days in 2014.
Despite his age, Finn has a tremendous future with the company (AJ Styles is a perfect example of an older wrestler thriving with the WWE at the moment, despite his age of 39 and being one year away from 40). Styles is not only performing at the greatest level, but Vince apparently regrets not signing him to a “ten year deal”. His age certainly won’t hold back his tremendous potential.
3. He Trained Becky Lynch
To this very day, Becky Lynch gets emotional when speaking about the impact Finn Balor had on her career. After hearing that Balor had opened a wrestling school alongside Paul Tracey in Ireland, Lynch joined the school alongside her brother. After joining the indie scene, Becky went through a difficult period in her life which saw her lose faith in her abilities. She would go on to leave the scene and work as a flight attendant for over two years.
Her tale is one of great courage and more importantly, heart. She returned to the ring and worked harder than ever on the Indie scene wrestling all over the world, including a stint in Japan like Balor. Her journey turned into a dream in April of 2013 when the WWE signed her to a two-year developmental deal. To this day, she is forever grateful for Balor always believing in her. Still not even in her 30s, the future looks insanely bright for the Dublin native.
2. Why His NXT Run Was So Long
His NXT run was monumental to say the least; Balor cemented his legacy as arguably the greatest performer in NXT history. It’s hard to find a wrestler that carved such a path in the developmental branch. What made his run so historic was the fact that he stayed for such a long time; a rarity especially when you consider his obvious talent. Finn set a record becoming the longest reigning NXT Champion, spanning over 292 days.
So the question is: why was Finn kept down there for so long? Two main reasons: 1. The NXT brand needed a legitimate draw, and with so many wrestlers being called up it was necessary for Finn to stay as long as he could have. With the introduction of Nakamura, the developmental brand finally found a suitable replacement to carry the torch that was held by Finn for so long. 2. The WWE is being very cautious with Finn knowing how much potential he has. We’ve seen so many top tier NXT talents flop (including the recent class of Neville, Tyler Breeze, Baron Corbin and Apollo Crews). With this in mind, the company decided to use a brand split in order to showcase more of these younger stars. The split will give more wrestlers time and opportunity, hence the decision to call up Finn at such a time which will ensure he will not be lost in the shuffle.
1. Heel Or Face Doesn’t Really Matter
What many North American fans do not know is that Balor can easily play as good of a heel, as he can a babyface. This truly is the beauty of Balor who can switch from either persona with ease.
Some of his best work has actually been as a heel. Similar to AJ Styles, Balor thrived with New Japan becoming one of the most villainous faces in company history, leading a group of rebels in The Bullet Club. Although some believe that he is too over with crowds at this point to be a heel, at one point we will see the beauty and range of Finn as a heel as well. For now, let’s all sit back and enjoy his legacy play out in the front of our eyes under the bright WWE lights. Creatively, it’ll be interesting to see how this all unfolds. All we ask as fans is that he’s given the proper opportunity to thrive.