The first ever Universal Champion was crowned at Summerslam 2016 when Finn Balor defeated Seth Rollins. Unfortunately, the victory did not come without a loss, as he would be forced to relinquish the title the very next night due to a torn shoulder. This could not have come at a worse time for the NXT standout, because he was due for a major push. He had already defeated Roman Reigns clean and three other prominent faces on his first ever Monday Night RAW, and then proceeded to defeat Seth Rollins at the 2nd biggest PPV of the year. There was no telling what heights Finn could have reached if he had stayed healthy. However, it appeared his reign was not meant to be.
Then, he returned on the night after WrestleMania 33, but he did not do anything noteworthy. As a matter of fact, up to this point, Finn has pretty much just been another one of WWE’s repetitive, stale acts on RAW for the longest time now. We all know what we expect from Finn. he will come out half-naked in a leather jacket. He will make everyone in the crowd raise their hands at least twice during his entrance.
We all know what his moves are, and we pretty much can memorize when he will hit certain moves in his matches. Finn is not a bad competitor. He is actually extremely good and talented. The problem is that he has an act that has quickly become repetitive. The only times he seems to stand away from the norm is when he is allowed to competitively fight against folks such as Seth Rollins, or when he kicks into a next gear by painting his face.
The problem was that it was beyond evident that WWE’s higher-ups did not invest in Finn, and Finn made sure to tell Vince that himself this past Monday. At the start of the new year, we were promised fresh matchups and new matches. Beforehand, Braun Strowman was slated to face Brock Lesnar at the Rumble for the Universal Championship. Mind you, this was a match that Braun had to “earn” by defeating Baron Corbin at TLC. While some may view it as a slight to Braun, we cannot say that WWE isn’t holding true to its promise of new matches, at least in this regard. I hate to break it to Braun, but while expectations of a matchup with Brock Lesnar were initially high, the matches simply have not delivered. Whether it was No Mercy 2017, or that abomination at Crown Jewel, Braun has been made to look like a chump against Lesnar.
So of course, it would make sense to have his replacement be the man who never lost the Universal Championship to begin with and has had seldom chance to reclaim the title ever since then. Anybody who has watched Brock Lesnar knows that he competes far better when he’s in the ring with smaller competitors. There is a litany of evidence to justify this fact. Take a look at Summerslam 2013, Survivor Series 2017 and 2018. When he’s in the ring with smaller guys, he’s forced to change things up a bit, and the big/small man dynamic is a story that Lesnar plays extremely well because he’s a formidable adversary, and it’s always fun to root for the underdog and is their a current bigger underdog than Finn?
For many, the jury is still out on Finn because he has not had many opportunities to prove himself on a big stage. He has not won any titles since coming to the main roster, and has not been involved in any interesting feuds upon his return from injury unless you count his series of matches against Finn Balor on RAW early last year as a “rivalry”. I would like to be very candid with all of you. I am going into the Royal Rumble fully expecting Brock Lesnar to defeat Finn Balor. That’s just how the story goes. I’m thinking that Seth Rollins will win the Royal Rumble and he will have the privilege of defeating Brock Lesnar at the Rumble. However, the biggest victory Finn can win at the Rumble is not the Universal Championship. It is the approval of the top representatives of WWE.
It’s highly likely that Finn won’t get an opportunity like this any time soon. While there have been rumors circulating that Finn is due for a big push in 2019, it is not guaranteed that will reach fruition. We have heard similar things about The Revival about how their feud with Lucha House Party was going to lead to them doing something spectacular. Now, we have rumors circulating today that they have formally requested their release from WWE. I cannot vouch for how all of you feel about Finn, because let’s face it. He isn’t the greatest talker in the world, he can be boring at times, and can be viewed as annoying sometimes by making threats he cannot back up.
However, if he can deliver in the ring with Lesnar (and of course, we all know Lesnar has to be invested for the match to take on a different dynamic), 2019 could be the year we envisioned for Finn once we started speculating when he would get called up from NXT. He has the potential to be one of WWE’s premier faces going into the future, but for every superstar, it starts off slowly. This could be even something as putting the Intercontinental Championship on him. Seth Rollins was one of the best competitors in all of wrestling last year, and he held the title reserved for workhorses.
Overall, there is a lot riding on Finn’s shoulders for the Royal Rumble. Finn told the owner of WWE to his face that he didn’t believe in him, but that the people do. Modest as he sounded, not everyone is sold on Finn, but he has an opportunity to sell us all in two weeks. Do you believe 2019 may be the start of something special for an extordinary man who can do extraordinary things?