Thursday, April 7, 2016

Let Me Explain: Bálor Should Stay Put

Bálor is NXT's rock, and he should probably remain that for some time
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Finn Bálor, the NXT Champion since July 4th of last year, has found himself in the rare position where his immense talent has prevented his career from progressing. But he’s helping the business move forward as a result by staying put.

Let me explain. But first, an introduction.

My name is Brian Coulter. By the grace of God and a clearly delusional man in charge of TWB, I have been afforded this chance to write on occasion for this site. I am not a professional writer. I’m not in the wrestling business. Since the day in 1997 when my best friend at the time asked if I could see what secret Paul Bearer had regarding The Undertaker (a brother?), I’ve been hooked. This is an incredible form of entertainment, and the respect I have for those who step into the ring is always high, regardless of how bad my Twitter jokes are.

My admiration grew in 2008 when I first discovered independent wrestling via Ring of Honor and Chikara. The first wrestling shirt I ever bought, and will wear to most shows still, features Larry Sweeney because he made me understand the concept of wanting to buy a ticket to boo someone in an age where it was cool to cheer the bad guys. He was unique. And I grew to enjoy unique characters from that experience. Few could match the uniqueness of an Irish wrestler in Japan who would transform into a Demon when the spotlight shined brightest.

Prince Devitt arrived at NXT in a time that will be looked at down the road as the point where the direction of the entire WWE changed, for better or worse. After slowly building up their developmental program for several years, NXT stepped out with several successful specials on the WWE Network in 2014. Momentum grew, and a possibility to expand the roster with ready-made talents from all over the world became realized during the year. Kevin Steen and KENTA joined Devitt in a short period of time, leading to a situation described by Steen in an interview with Jericho where all 3 men had to sit and watch practice for weeks before they could begin training. An image we can only imagine.

As Devitt, now Bálor, began his NXT career the popularity of the brand surged. They began running shows outside of their home in Full Sail to surprising results, such as nearly 5,000 in California during WM 31 weekend. There was a legitimate buzz, but one without a babyface champion to carry them forward. The joy of Sami Zayn is in watching him chase down a title or a big win. Kevin Owens is his perfect foil as a talent who isn’t there for you, he’s there for himself and his family. And as such, they weren’t destined to be with the brand long after they first interacted. The decision to make him Champion was a mix of Bálor being the right kind of talent NXT needs to take the next step, and being someone the fans could rely on to stay as that step was being taken.

NXT Takeover: Brooklyn symbolized that next step. Finn Bálor was winning the main event match in front of 13,000+ fans that were there just to see talent not used on television. A remarkable accomplishment that officially recognized NXT as a brand that carried enough weight to tour more than once every few months. And as Champion, Bálor was leading the charge into a new era of this “developmental” company.

Therein lies the rub with him as it stands currently. With NXT continuing to grow and attract all talent, Bálor remains the constant of the last 18 months. He hasn’t missed time due to injury. He’s consistently putting on great matches, and is drawing crowds to see him as a result. Let’s not get it twisted; NXT isn’t a profitable venture in any stretch for the company. But it’s harder to convince the man signing the checks to keep paying for something the fans aren’t going to be into. And the people are into Finn Bálor. His title reign is closing in on one year and his character still has stories to be told that can captivate audiences. Who will beat him for the title? How long can he keep it? Will he get help to keep it?

RAW and Smackdown have plenty of returns and debuts to keep things moving another year, despite whatever issues you or I have with the direction they go in. Calling up Finn Bálor this year is exactly the type of thing the fan in me wants to see. And that’s why it can wait.