Finn Balor hypes NXT title match on 'Out of Character,' hopeful for main roster return
By Ryan Satin
FOX Sports WWE Analyst
For some people, the glass is half-empty. For Finn Balor, however, it’s definitely half-full.
Even when reflecting on moments in his career that set him back – such as being forced to relinquish the Universal Title in 2016 after becoming its first champion – Balor is able to locate the silver lining with a calm presence of mind.
"It was such a great experience and something I look back on really fondly," Finn said this week on "Out of Character" while discussing his debut on Raw and championship win a few weeks later at SummerSlam.
The infamous Universal title match against Seth Rollins saw Balor suffer a shoulder injury that kept him out of action for nearly a year, so hearing him speak positively of such an experience might surprise you.
One thing evidently clear from our 45-minute interview with him this week, though, is that having a positive attitude is crucial to his mindset.
"A lot of people talk about the injury, like, ‘What if you hadn’t got hurt?' and ‘What would’ve happened?’ I really look at it the opposite way and say that I got to debut on Raw, beat Roman Reigns, three weeks later be in the main event of SummerSlam, beat Seth Rollins and be the first Universal Champion. For a kid starting out at 18 years old in Ireland trying to be a wrestler, to achieve that was such a monumental task that nothing can spoil that for me.
"In reality, you get the title, you defend it a couple of times, you’re on bided time, and you’re gonna have to do the favor eventually," he added in reference to every wrestler losing their title at some point.
"The injury gave the title reign so much more mystique because I never had to defend it or lose it. I had to relinquish it. It’s a very poetic way to look at it, but I feel like I had the climb, I had the glory, then I gave it away gracefully and didn’t have to lose any integrity really because of that. It’s maybe a different way of looking at it, but I always try and look at the positives."
That PMA carries over when talking to Balor about returning to NXT in 2019, where he has been able to completely overhaul his character over the past year and a half.
Happy-go-lucky Finn from Raw and SmackDown is almost a distant memory at this point, as he has been washed away by a more ruthless, confident version of the character that Balor says more closely resembles his true self.
"The current Finn Balor character is the most accurate to my personality in real life, the way I’m performing it now. I think in the past, it was a little different, but I feel like this is the closest I am to actually performing as myself in my career.
"When you come to WWE, it’s such a well-oiled machine that has different departments that kinda help you reach your potential. I tried to keep a lot of those departments happy, but maybe I lost sight a little of who and what was true to myself or my character."
To get back on track, Finn took two months off from WWE and completely unplugged from the wrestling business. He then returned to NXT with a new attitude and has remained there since.
Initially, however, this detour wasn’t planned for very long.
"The office came to me and said, ‘Hey, we know you need a little time to regroup and refocus, and we could use your help in NXT. Would you be open to the option of returning there for a little while? Maybe it’s three months. Maybe it’s six months. But you recalibrate your character and then go back to Raw or SmackDown.’
"Three months turned into six months, turned into winning the title, turned to a year and a half now. I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s been a great learning experience for me."
Balor’s title reign (referenced above) came to an end in April, when he was defeated by current champion Karrion Kross at NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver.
Tomorrow night, the two competitors face off in a rematch for the belt, and Finn says he’s more excited for Tuesday’s match than he was for their previous encounter.
"I really had no idea what to expect when I stepped in the ring with him. I knew he was strong. I knew he was talented. I knew he had a lot of potential.
"When I was in the ring with him, when we locked up, I knew this guy has it. On every level.
"I’m eagerly looking forward to the rematch on NXT. And I’m looking forward to it for a lot more reasons than I was the first one. The first one I knew there was gonna be a big match aura, obviously. Two entrances, the similar stories of relinquished titles, came back, now fighting over the same title, and it had a built-in story. Now I’m just looking forward to the fact that I just get to wrestle him again because I think he’s got all the tools. He’s gonna be a huge star in the future."
That potential in Kross, combined with Finn’s star power, caused Paul Heyman to make a brief appearance on NXT last week in which he announced that Universal champion Roman Reigns is keeping a close eye on their match.
While it’s possible that nothing will come from Heyman’s threat, Balor says he’s absolutely still interested in shifting back to Raw or SmackDown one day, as he still has unfinished business against Reigns, Brock Lesnar, AJ Styles, Bray Wyatt and other Superstars.
"I grew up as a wrestling fan watching WWE, and that’s, essentially, where I want to be performing. I feel like in my last run there, I wasn’t doing myself justice. I needed to change something, and the change came with NXT to kinda figure out who I was again. I’ve managed to do that to some level, and I’m definitely hopeful that a return to Raw or SmackDown will happen in the future."
"The Prince" challenges Karrion Kross for the NXT Championship at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday LIVE on USA Network.
Watch the full "Out of Character" interview with Balor for more on his first NXT title run, taking time away from work to unplug and the creation of "The Demon."
Ryan Satin is a WWE analyst for FOX Sports. Satin previously appeared on FS1's "WWE Backstage" and founded Pro Wrestling Sheet, where he broke countless news stories as editor-in-chief.