A campy rivalry with Bray Wyatt is hurting Finn Balor badly.
And not in the "getting slammed to the canvas" sense, either. WWE Creative has been scrapping away at Balor's rock-star aura during this Raw storyline.
Balor vs. Wyatt was destined to be a strange tale. It featured a man with a demonic alter ego and a backwoods revivalist with a god complex. But WWE hasn't shown itself capable of handling this outside-the-box venture.
This feud regularly has been clearly the worst part of Raw each week. It's been a punchline, a groan-inducer and a farce.
Last week, Balor had to keep a straight face as Wyatt "transformed" into Sister Abigail. The Eater of Worlds essentially slipped on a veil and spoke through a voice box to channel a female spirit he had long talked about.
The effects were hard to swallow, as was the concept.
WWE didn't ease off the gas at this point. On Monday's Raw, Balor responded by undergoing his own metamorphosis. He appeared to turn into an orange-faced phantom of some sort.
Finn Bálor @FinnBalor
Bray may have his tricks , But I have a little trick too https://t.co/8z56B532F62017-10-17 04:13:21
This was no creepy, mysterious second self—this was straight-up corny.
Jokes filled the internet. Balor's new look was compared to everything from pumpkin spice to Cheeto dust. And critics like Wrestling Observer Newsletter founder Dave Meltzer pleaded for this all to end:
Dave Meltzer @davemeltzerWON
Please save Finn Balor from this program2017-10-17 02:05:37
And now, Sister Abigail and Balor's Halloween-themed persona will collide at the TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs pay-per-view Sunday. It's hard to imagine that going over well at all. It's looking to be a bout that becomes inadvertent comedy.
This showdown follows Wyatt dumping a bucket of red goop WWE refused to call blood onto Balor's head in August and a "man vs. man" match at No Mercy. The feud has had minimal momentum to speak of. And it's gone on too long for its own good.
Which of these stars is better off after all these battles and mind games? Certainly not the former NXT champion.
Balor is now far removed from where he stood before this story began and where he was when he first stepped onto the Raw stage.
The Irishman is magazine-cover handsome. He looks like the lead singer of a band only the hippest people have heard of. And WWE rightly put him on its list of coolest Superstars.
This Wyatt-Sister Abigail mess, though, has taken away from that. As Jake Barnett of ProWrestling.net tweeted, it feels as if the company is intent on robbing him of one of his greatest assets:
Jake Barnett @barnettjake
They are bound and determined to strip the marketability off of Finn Balor.2017-10-17 01:08:19
The leather-jacket wearing badass will sell merchandise. As will the fearsome Demon King he becomes via body paint. But it's harder to sell fans on a guy everyone's laughing at. It's harder to connect with someone who is a key figure in a feud in the running for worst of the year.
The Wyatt tale is taking the shine off Balor in a hurry. It makes one wistful for the days when he was gutting it out against the powerhouse Samoa Joe or even butting heads with a midcarder like Elias.
One of Raw's most promising stars is caught in a ludicrous angle, and escape can't come soon enough.