Undertaker's retirement opens the door for Finn Balor
The Undertaker may have seen the sun set on his career, but Finn Balor and The Demon will now bring the darkness to WWE
Finn Balor finally made his return to WWE on the April 3 Monday Night Raw after WrestleMania 33. The first ever Universal champion was the mystery partner for Seth Rollins against Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe. While Balor’s return wasn’t exactly a surprise, it does signal a new day for a company still reeling over the surreal retirement of The Undertaker.
The Deadman presumably fought his last battle against Roman Reigns and came up short in his efforts to take down The Big Dog. Like Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven, ‘Taker’s time as an outlaw had come to an end, and he found himself heading into the sunset for what could be the last time.
But when one door closes, another one opens. The Deadman may be gone, but The Demon has returned. While no one could ever take the place of The Undertaker in the hearts and minds of the WWE faithful, the company must move on and cultivate a new generation of stars. Now it’s time for Balor to do what he does best.
Finn Balor the man is one of the most entertaining Superstars in WWE today. He’s not loud, he’s not boisterous, and he’s not egotistical. But his confidence is strong, his determination is solid, and his heart is obvious. Finn spent an entire career outside of Vince McMahon’s company, learning his craft and honing his skills.
When the time was right, he brought those skills to WWE.
Some fans may believe that had it not been for Triple H, Balor would never have been given a chance in WWE. But Balor’s work and talent could not be denied. He would have made it to the big dance eventually, and there are very few guys around him that deserved it more than he did. But that’s just one side of the man.
Finn Balor as The Demon is one of the most captivating characters that WWE has ever known. He comes from another place in Balor’s psyche, a dark place that allows him to get completely absorbed in the moment. The Demon looks like something out of a horror movie, not a pro wrestling ring.
That is the connection to The Undertaker, and it’s one that has not been seen since Mankind. Mick Foley was able to tap into a very unsettling part of his mind, and redirect that bizarre behaviour toward a seven-foot gravedigger who knew exactly what the supernatural was all about.
That is the biggest reason why Mankind was such a perfect foil for The Deadman. The two were cut from the same cloth; two scarred sides of the same twisted coin. Mankind not only lived in the darkness, he loved it there. He didn’t fear The Undertaker; he wanted to be destroyed by him.
Only through pain and suffering was Mankind able to find himself, and he only grew stronger as a result.
Had Balor come to the company 10 years ago, he and Undertaker likely would have had a rivalry for the ages. Of course coming from the same dark corner as The Deadman does not mean The Demon will eventually conquer the WWE as ‘Taker did. It’s still very early in Balor’s WWE career to know for certain where the path will take him.
But if the booking is right and if he continues to enthral fans the way he has, then anything is possible for him.
If there was ever a time for new blood to step up and take the reigns in WWE, it’s now. Undertaker was one of the last remnants of The Attitude Era. Triple H and Chris Jericho both lost at WrestleMania 33.
John Cena is down to a part-time schedule. The Big Show’s contract is up in 2018, and it’s unclear whether or not he’s hung up the boots. Stone Cold Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels have long since put their wrestling careers behind them.
WWE’s veteran leadership is falling away, but there is hope. Much of that hope lies with Finn Balor. He may not be seven foot tall. He may never work a Buried Alive Match, and he may never call down lighting from the sky. But he doesn’t have to do any of those things. Balor just needs to be Balor.
Balor is the ideal face of The New Era. He’s a legitimately good wrestler who can work with anyone on the roster, yet he’s also one of the flashiest characters in the company. He’s the kind of worker that The Undertaker respects, and he’s also the kind of worker to help carry WWE into the future.
Balor gets it. He understands that today’s professional wrestling requires much more than just a strong work-rate.
It requires show business and a full understanding of how to connect to an audience. It’s not enough to be a good hand anymore, especially in WWE. Guys have to find a way to make themselves memorable and to keep a crowd’s interest long after they’ve left the ring. Balor knows that and embraces it.
When The Demon steps into the ring, fans know they’re seeing something special. When they look into his eyes, they know he’s completely in the zone. When they watch him perform, they know they will get their money’s worth.
The same has always been said of The Undertaker. The two are more alike than anyone knows, and with any luck, Balor’s career will one day be mentioned in the same reverent tones as The Deadman.
Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Sportskeeda. His podcast, Tom Clark’s Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online here.
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