The Rise of the Demon in WWE: Will 2019 be the Year of Finn Balor? – by Mike Sanchez

I think it’s fair to say that Finn Balor’s WWE run has had more ups and downs than most of the roller coasters in the Floridian theme parks. The massive high of capturing the Universal Title in the first attempt (at SummerSlam 2016) to the depths of having to relinquish the belt less than 24 hours later due to an unfortunate shoulder injury. Finn relinquished that title on the 22nd August 2016 and as we approach almost two and a half years after that moment, only now is he (hopefully) being pushed back into that main event status he so deserves to be part of.

One can argue why they believe Balor hasn’t been put back in the title contender category in that space of time, but save for his awful injury, he just couldn’t force out the dominant Brock Lesnar, the office push of Roman Reigns or the spectacular rise of Braun Strowman. For me, I think he’s just been plain unlucky to have been pushed right to the top with those three stars right around the corner. Had he not been injured, I don’t think too much would have changed in that title picture. I think he may still have dropped down the pecking order in favor of Brock and the others.

That was then, and this is now. Roman is sadly sidelined for the foreseeable future, Brock looks like he’s off after April and Strowman has had chances to capture the gold, yet Vince McMahon doesn’t seem too keen on the idea for some reason. So, who does that leave to fight it out for the top spot? Seth Rollins continues to amaze and with Kevin Owens rehabilitating himself, and hopefully close to a return, perhaps this is the time for the non-beasts and ‘smaller’ guys to have their chance at leading the line for Monday Night Raw? In that case, Finn Balor could, no, must be part of it. So what to expect in the coming year, and why do I think that WWE has barely scratched the surface with Finn? Let’s take a look:

He has a connection with the WWE Universe – My son loves to watch Finn Balor on TV and will ask me to rewind Raw so he can copy his entrance by thrusting his arms into the air. Just this past week on Raw, you could see thousands of men, women and children all copy Balor as he makes his way to the ring. Balor’s size also gives him a vulnerability that you believe when he’s up against the odds. Many in the WWE tower over him and it gives his matches that extra impact by always portraying him as the underdog.

Whether it’s the ‘everyman’ aspect of his character – something that made Stone Cold Steve Austin so relatable to the fans – or his underdog attitude, Balor has a special connection with the audience that will always side with him in his quest for glory. Then there’s his public support for LGBT issues and his wearing of the rainbow colors to show his support to their cause. This shows the man himself, rather than the character, and though Balor isn’t alone in this in WWE or other forms of entertainment, it gives him yet another connection with the audience that many other sports don’t show on a regular basis unless it’s for a special event or recognized day. For example, the English Premier League (soccer, to those outside of the UK) support LGBT issues by promoting the wearing of Rainbow Laces over a two week period at the end of the year.

He has the Demon to fall back on – I’m happy that WWE hasn’t had Balor break out the makeup for a while now, as I think the Demon Balor gimmick is too good to be brought out each week. It’s a very special thing that should be kept hidden for as long as possible. Overexposure of it can lead to the dilution of its impact and that’s not a good thing. Sure, the scary, eerie look worked for The Undertaker for a long time, but he was special, plus if Balor did it week after week, it would lose its impact.

The demon look also plays against everything I’ve said above. It gives him a boost in his performance, changes his attitude and demeanor. The demon doesn’t smile and if WWE wants their babyfaces to have that connection with the fans, the smiles to the kids and the chatty media tours, the demon isn’t the way to do that. Should he never use it again? No way, but it should be saved for when the odds are really stacked against him or if the match on the horizon is on a massive stage and the time for games are over. Then, and only then, should the demon be released.

He has a heel side that has yet to be seen – I’ve always been a believer that to be a really popular face in WWE, you should start off (or have an early run) as a heel and make the face turn some years down the line. It worked out fine for Stone Cold, The Rock, Triple H and others, but the same can’t be said for Finn Balor just yet. Yes, I know he dabbled with his heelish side outside of WWE and before he arrived in NXT, but when it comes to the main roster, it’s something he’s yet to even slightly explore. I’m not calling for the heel turn at the Royal Rumble, but you have to think; there really is so much they haven’t even explored with him isn’t there? Perhaps that’s down to him just being that damn good that WWE sees no reason to alter his character? Perhaps he’s a solid, dependable hand that they trust with doing his best for the fans and the company?

Whatever the reason, he’s been on a steady course this last year and with his upcoming Universal Title match against Brock Lesnar at the Royal Rumble (which I think he’ll lose, but will elevate him even more) Finn Balor has risen up the card and perhaps, just perhaps, this is the moment when they can really pull the trigger on him and give him a long run in the main event. He can take his place right at the top of the card so he can once again capture the title that was so cruelly taken from him and lead WWE forward in a post-Lesnar era.

It’s time to believe in Finn Balor if you didn’t already. After all, John Cena believes in him too.