WWE NXT Champion Finn Bálor Is Ready for Kyle O'Reilly Rematch at 'New Year's Evil'
Finn Bálor is back.
This past October, the NXT championship had successfully defended against Kyle O’Reilly at TakeOver: 31, but the physical battle left the popular WWE superstar with a broken jaw and his challenger with broken teeth.
After some time on the shelf Bálor is ready to put the gold on the line against the Undisputed Era member. With their first encounter voted as the "NXT Match of the Year," there's a lot of anticipation regarding the rematch set for a special edition of the Wednesday night show on January 6, billed as New Year’s Evil. TV Insider chatted with “The Prince” ahead of the main event.
What do you think made working with Kyle O’Reilly at TakeOver so special?
Finn Bálor: It was a matchup people hadn’t seen before. I think people wanted to see him step out of the faction that he's in and paddle his own canoe up river. We took our time. It wasn’t rushed. I feel like it was a unique experience for both of us because we were getting to know each other in the ring while people were watching. It’s hard though to put your finger on what made it what it was and why people liked it so much. Hopefully, we can have something similar this week.
How are you approaching the rematch?
There are a lot of expectations. I’m going to make sure I have my wheels under me and that my breathing is good. I’ll be flat to the mat, foot to the floor, full steam ahead. I feel it will be very much classic Finn Bálor. I’m sure Kyle will have prepared himself adequately. I think it will be Finn Bálor versus Kyle O’Reilly 2: more of the same.
You’ve had such great outings with newer talent in the world of NXT. What is it like for you to be in a position to help elevate others?
Most of the time you’re seeing me lock up with guys on NXT TV or on TakeOver events for the first time. There's an element of uncertainty. When I faced Matt Riddle, Johnny Gargano, [Tommaso] Ciampa, Damian Priest, it was the first time on live TV. It's very much a learning experience for me as it is for them. I feel grateful for the opportunity on NXT to be pushed out of my comfort zone.
On Raw and SmackDown I was competing against the same guys night in and night out; [now I'm] cast into a new pool of talents with fresh opponents — guys hungry, eager, and wanting to prove themselves. People may say Finn Bálor is helping push these guys up, but they're pushing me to the limit and helping me at the same time.
How do you like the atmosphere of the Capitol Wrestling Center?
We miss the environment with the big crowds, but WWE has done a great job with the Capitol Wrestling Center. It was surreal walking out the first night. I felt like I was back in a big arena in a sense. But I hope it will be a different feeling in that I won’t be rushed to the hospital after.
There seems to be more collaboration among companies in a throwback to the territory days. What are your thoughts on having traveling champions working in other places?
I've been very outspoken about how I believe we should have a revolving door policy with all companies. I love the fact I’ve been able to go from NXT to Raw to SmackDown back to NXT. I don’t necessarily feel there should be a ladder you have to climb. I believe in linear movements. I feel that across all of wrestling.
I would love to open the doors and perform in Japan. I would love to perform in Mexico. I think the business has evolved so much in the last eight years. With everything that has happened recently with the WWE Network and how WWE’s changed and evolved, I feel like the next step is to start interchanging top talent with promotions. That’s something I would love to lead the charge in.
NXT is still a relatively young brand, but has accomplished so much. What would you like to see more or less of this year?
NXT has grown far beyond my expectations. Five years ago we were an up-and-coming brand with a chip on our shoulder trying to prove ourselves. In the time I’ve been gone, the talents and NXT evolved into a unique brand of its own with a unique style of performer. I feel like after the pandemic when we get back on the road we’ll start touring again and hopefully we can start doing more work inter-brand with NXT UK. I think in the next year there will be a lot of change for good.
When this pandemic era is over, what will you take from the experience ?
I feel like what's going to stick is how much I missed the road. Having been on the road for 19 years, when the pandemic hit and you are fatigued and tired and a little grumpy, a break is good, but when the road is taken away from you for such an extended period of time, you realize you take certain things for granted.
WWE NXT New Year's Evil, Wednesday, January 6, 8/7c, USA Network