Last night at a random, untelevised NXT event in Lowell, Massachusetts, Samoa Joe defeated Finn Balor to win the NXT Championship. He had failed to do so twice before at NXT TakeOver: London and NXT TakeOver: Dallas, but somehow, for this show, luck was on his side.
So was it a good idea for WWE to book this, or was it a mistake? Whether this is a legitimate plan that was set up in advance or something called on the fly, is this the course of action WWE should have gone? Let’s examine both sides of the argument.
Obviously, if you’re a Samoa Joe fan, you’re probably elated and the rest of this article might not even matter, as it could be as simple as “yay, he won, so this is great.” Even if you’re not necessarily a supporter of him, there are still positives that are embedded in this situation.
First and foremost is the shock factor. One of the criticisms of house shows is that they border on the edge of uselessness. Sure, there is still value to them by allowing those wrestlers to hone their craft and test new things out as well as the audience being able to watch WWE action live, but the overall picture that is painted is that nothing important will happen. In a way, with all the rematches that take place that we’ve seen on television already and the predictable outcomes, it kills part of the fun. But every once in a while, something like this happens that drives up interest.
If a title as important as this can change hands at any show, suddenly the value of every live event goes up. Who cares if you’re in the middle of nowhere—that could be the night where someone debuts or the course of NXT changes dramatically with a title change. Do you think any of the people in attendance last night thought they would see Joe defeat Balor to win the belt? Nope. Are they going to remember that for as long as they’re friends and most likely tout that they got to see that to everyone they know? Of course.
Another benefit to this is if the injury angle turns out to not be an “angle” so much as a legitimate fact. Finn Balor going down with ankle problems likely stops him from wrestling for quite a long time and with no champion in NXT, the company would have to scramble to get someone to fill that spot. We’ve had tournaments as of late (and one currently going on for the Tag Team Championship title shot) so they run the risk of that being tiresome to do that again. Rushing a new champion with a battle royal or Beat the Clock challenge always feels a bit flat, too, and having a Fatal 4-Way or something along those lines would still need to be set up as well. Having Samoa Joe beat Finn Balor makes him a credible champion and allows him to fill that role with added clout having done it out of the blue.
Then again, if the injury was faked, then that could signify Balor is moving his way up to the main roster soon. With Payback coming up on May 1st and AJ Styles claiming to not be involved with Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, perhaps Finn Balor is pulling the strings. After all, he does have ties to them and WWE has not silenced the three of them on social media referencing each other with The Balor Club. Fans could get a new stable with one of their favorites kicking ass and taking names on Monday Night Raw instead of them being separated from main roster and developmental.
Doubters of this move could start off by saying it’s ridiculous to have a title change hands at a house show because so few people are there to witness it. If you had a preference, you’d likely rank in order that you’d rather see a title change happen with you in attendance, then you watching it live on television, and then the house shows come into play, with the only worse option being just a random announcement on WWE’s website, which is what this amounted to for so many people.
Also, if you’re not a fan of Samoa Joe, you’re probably upset that he won the title to begin with. No matter what the scenario, you might think that this was a bad idea purely because having him as the champion is a mistake. Perhaps there are others that you wish could have dethroned Balor, or you merely wish Balor would have kept the title for a longer period of time in general.
And what about that injury? If that’s true, Balor being off television means NXT is missing the biggest cog in its wheel. That leaves a hole that needs to be filled in regards to challengers for Joe. Right now, there aren’t many babyfaces who could stand up to the challenge. Austin Aries and Shinsuke Nakamura are popular, but they are still very new, and Hideo Itami’s yet to return, while folks like Apollo Crews and Sami Zayn are on the main roster. Nobody wants to see Mojo Rawley against Samoa Joe for the title at the next TakeOver, do they?
Even if Balor comes up to the main roster (which still creates a hole), that’s not to say he won’t get lost in the shuffle. A multitude of NXT stars have come up recently and once the injured talent starts returning, they’ll have to fight for screen time with Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, John Cena and more. Dropping the title and coming up now could be a mistake for Balor where a little more patience and a main roster debut several months down the line could be something that pays off more in the end when an influx of something new needs to change things up.
Lastly, to come back around to the setting, if Balor and Joe don’t have some kind of conclusion to this on WWE television, to many viewers who aren’t as tapped into the internet as others, there will be a jarring transition where out of the blue, Joe is the champion at some unseen event and we’re moving on to something else with no closure.
In the grand scheme of things, this is what truly matters. Even within a week, we’ll have a better idea of the positives and negatives of this situation. The injury reports will come in to clarify whether or not Balor is hurt or okay, which could rule out a good portion of the negatives immediately, and the way the title change is addressed on the next episode of NXT is going to indicate the direction WWE will go with Samoa Joe’s title reign.