Last time we saw Balor adorn his sultry layers of body paint, he pinned Seth Rollins to become the inaugural WWE Universal Champion. However, Balor sustained a shoulder injury during the match that would force him to forfeit the belt the next night on RAW. Balor's untimely injury turned what was supposed to be the beginning of an era into a disappointing footnote.
We wouldn't see Balor again until April 3rd of this year. In his big WWE comeback, Finn has beaten a few jobbers, gotten concussed, been put to sleep in his only significant match in 2017, had a guitar smashed on his skull, and most recently was covered in strawberry syrup by a voodoo butcher.
Finn Balor has never looked so mortal.
His brief wearing, leather jacket rocking, vacant cool guy character has quickly become one of the most arbitrary wrestlers on WWE's roster. In order to transcend his mediocrity, WWE and Finn Balor have summoned The Demon - almost an exact year since we last saw him.
"I've been waiting on this for a long time — Demon Finn Balor. That's been my one gripe about Finn Balor. I think we need less Finn Balor and more Demon. I realize that's cumbersome and time-consuming to get into that character and to become the Demon. But I think it's worth it," said WWE Hall of Famer, Jerry Lawler, on a recent episode of his podcast, Dinner With the King.
Finn Balor's plight on the main roster is eerily similar to that of Bayley's. Both he and the Hugger were the simultaneous matriarch and patriarch of their NXT class. Like Balor, Bayley was supposed to revolutionize the sport of professional wrestling when she finally arrived in WWE. There was an actual narrative out there that she was going to to be the female version of John Cena. Balor had the same hyperbolic expectations as some fans sincerely believed that his Demon character would become WWE's next transcendental star a la The Rock or Steve Austin.
As irony has it, it's Bayley who's now on the shelf with a shoulder injury. While Balor maybe has had a forgettable 2017, no one has had a worse year the Bayley. In her program with Alexa Bliss, Bayley's weaknesses were exploited and she was egregiously outclassed, not as a wrestler, but as an entertainer. To stop the bleeding, WWE kept her TV appearances to a strict minimum. Like Brick Tamland in Anchorman after a fresh murder, Bayley needed to "lay low for a little while."
So when WWE decided to make her Bliss' opponent for SummerSlam, it was surprising, to say the least. The Wrestling Gods decided against it, though, and Bayley turned up hurt after a match with Nia Jax. Bayley was set to miss some significant time and the last stop on her farewell tour landed on a Toronto RAW. Somehow, the WWE Superstar with an unprecedented amount emotional goodwill, Bayley, the epitome of a do-gooder baby face (while wearing a sling for God's sake), was booed.
The fact that so few were sad to see her go, may mean that few will be excited to see her return. Wrestlers who can't inject excitement after an injury driven hiatus are effectively dead. Somehow the most imminent female wrestler in NXT history, finds herself clamoring for just a whiff of relevance.
Finn Balor isn't to that place yet, but a loss Sunday would put him in a coffin next to Bayley's. You see, without paint, Finn Balor won't make it in WWE. At a glance, it would seem perplexing that a guy like Balor had to wait till his mid-30's to sign a WWE contract. He's handsome as hell, owns an impeccable body, and can work as good as anyone in the company. With all of these tools, WWE would have been wetting themselves at the thought of employing him, right? Well, not exactly. Traditionally there are two things you just cannot be in WWE: small and boring. Finn Balor, without paint, is both of these things.
Well here are some unconventional thoughts: Bray is the epitome of a WWE guy; his lineage is laughably perfect. Finn Balor is an indy-journeyman who did not debut with WWE until he was 35. Bray Wyatt is 30. Who's more likely to compete at WrestleMania in 10 years?
Despite his profound ability to lose big matches, WWE is invested in Wyatt. While the Demon may appear to be the novelty that gets the nod on Sunday, do not think for second that WWE has any type of loyalty to Balor and his creation. In fact, WWE is rumored to be building Bray for another main event push. What better way to launch him than by having him beat WWE's version of "Sunday Tiger" at SummerSlam?
While Bray is quite the betting underdog (+700) this may be fans putting their hearts before their wallets. Just because Balor will be the Demon does not protect him from a clean loss. WWE specializes in unceremonious defeats - streaks always end, and the Demon's may never get started.