WWE Raw Superstar Finn Bálor Ready to Slay 'the Beast' Brock Lesnar at 'Royal Rumble'
Finn Bálor was at the peak of his WWE career at SummerSlam when he became the first Universal champion in 2016. However, before the celebration could truly get started, an injury in the match against Seth Rollins took it all away and sidelined him for an extended period of time.
Now, more than two years later, the popular Irishman is looking to earn back what he lost, challenging Brock Lesnar for the title at this Sunday's Royal Rumble. It’s the ultimate test for the Raw superstar, who gives up almost 100 pounds and several inches in height to the imposing “Beast Incarnate.”
“Everyone knows my story in regard to the Universal championship,” Bálor said, days before the big showdown. “This is definitely a full-circle moment for me to redeem myself.”
Many fans are anticipating Bálor will transform into “The Demon,” his alternate in-ring persona, very similar to Clark Kent turning into Superman. That may not be the case.
“I feel like maybe I leaned on ‘The Demon’ a little much in the past with regards to heavily relying on and hiding behind the paint,” he said.
“This is David vs. Goliath, and David was a man. Finn Bálor is a man. And Finn Bálor is going to walk in to face the Beast. People laughed at David when he said he was going to stand up to Goliath. I’m sure there are people laughing at me, but we will see who is laughing when the Beast is slain at the Royal Rumble.”
The underdog challenger got a confidence boost pinning John Cena in a Raw main event to secure his slot against Lesnar. Social media was abuzz when the WWE franchise player and Hollywood heavyweight raised Bálor’s hand in the air to signify he believed in him. Was it a passing of the torch moment?
“I think it would be a big torch to carry, being from the greatest of all time,” Bálor responded. “That was an impromptu, unplanned, classic John Cena moment. Obviously, John is someone I’ve looked up to since he came on the scene in WWE. When I came to NXT, he was someone who I spoke to and looked to for advice.
“He was someone who has always been there for me through my journey in NXT and in WWE. Him being the professional role model that he is for all of us. He continued to do that in the ring. I’m humbled by his words. Hopefully, I won’t let him down going forward in the future.”
And if the last few weeks are any indication, Bálor’s future is quite bright. His tenacity and positive messages of universal inclusion have resonated with audiences. Despite winning over crowds and peers like Cena, the verdict might be out in getting the true stamp of approval from the boss.
“I got to be honest, I’m not sure what my relationship is with Vince McMahon. I’m not sure if he believes in me or not,” Bálor said candidly. “He can be a man of few words. When I show up to work, I find out what I need to do and go handle my business in the ring.
“That’s kind of how I’ve handled my career for the last 18 years. I’m not the type of guy who is going to be knocking on doors trying to pitch storylines and work inside angles. I’m just going to show up and do my job. I will say he has shown nothing but respect to me face-to-face, but that is as far as our relationship goes.”
Given the recent uptick, he must be doing something right. Bálor’s success has and continues to inspire with many. Among them is one of his prize pupils in Becky Lynch, currently setting SmackDown Live on fire. She is challenging Asuka for the women’s championship at the Rumble.
“I’m incredibly proud,” Bálor said on Lynch’s resurgence. “Becky has always had that in her the moment she walked into the wrestling gym I was coaching at. She was 14 and lied about her age so she could train. She has had that in her.
“To see it flourish and blossom in recent months, she has really found herself and step into the person we all knew she was. It’s tremendous. I think she has a very bright future, and I’ll be watching front row.”
International sensation Bálor recently returned to old stomping grounds at NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool to a hero’s welcome. He made a surprise appearance facing another former student in Jordan Devlin.
“The response we got not only from me showing up, but for every match on the card of NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool, was phenomenal. The boys and girls there are working incredibly hard and really changing the game.
“Hopefully, with their hard work and the launch of the NXT UK Performance Center, WWE is getting a stronger foothold in the United Kingdom and Europe. Hopefully, down the line it leads to another SummerSlam down there, or the first WrestleMania at Wembley [Stadium]. Wouldn’t that be a sight?”
Bálor would like nothing more than to headline if that dream becomes a reality. Until then, he has his sights set on Lesnar at the Royal Rumble. For the lifelong fan, it’s especially meaningful that the match is taking place on such a beloved annual show.
“I remember when Shawn Michaels was almost eliminated [in 1995],” Bálor reminisced. “He hung on and hung on, and one foot touched. He skinned the cat back into the ring and hung on. That’s a moment etched in my brain.
“Shawn Michaels being one of my childhood heroes and idols, he is a role model for me now at the Performance Center. That moment for me was the biggest when you think about the Royal Rumble.”
Bálor is aiming to create another big moment this Sunday inside Chase Field in Phoenix.
WWE Royal Rumble, Sunday, January 27, 7/6c live on Pay-Per-View and WWE Network