WWE Hot Take: Finn Balor Needs to Go to SmackDown in 2019 to Become a MegastarNovember 24, 2018
It's time for WWE to scoop Finn Balor out of the purgatory known as Raw.
Fans have plenty of fingers to point when it comes to underutilized talent across WWE, but none stick out worse than Balor—even when he is splashed in paint.
Balor's obvious path to getting his career back on track is through SmackDown, not the red brand. We're talking about the inaugural universal champion here. Cursed as the belt seemingly is, it's more about the fact WWE strapped the rocket to Balor's back and fast-tracked him to superstardom with wins over the likes of Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins than it is anything else.
Yet since his return from a dislocated shoulder, which he popped back into place so he could finish the match in which he won the title, Balor has taken losses to guys like Kane, Bray Wyatt and others before now being presented as filler, randomly thrown into tag matches and used as a prop while Drew McIntyre passes him by on the way to the top.
SmackDown wouldn't present Balor with the same problems, especially now with a heel champion like Daniel Bryan and top performers such as A.J. Styles and Randy Orton able to change on a moment's notice. The blue brand is clearly the show with more opportunities, so like we've seen from Styles and otherwise, he could improve on the mic while working his way to the top.
Other than the injury itself and an overabundance of talent in WWE, perhaps the biggest criticism of Balor is that he isn't anything special on the mic despite his ability in the ring. Even that can be boring at times (dropkick, slingblade, suplex), but it hasn't stopped someone like Reigns from sitting on the throne for so long.
Fresh opposition and a chance to re-invent the character could await on SmackDown. And the character needs some work, because the recent Raw approach has been smiley-jacket Balor being vulnerable, with The Demon almost nonexistent.
But remember how exciting the shocking return of The Demon at SummerSlam was? How loud that crowd was? Remember the curb-stomping of Baron Corbin, how much Corbin begged the ref to call it off?
That's the sort of Balor fans deserve. He doesn't need to be Samoa Joe on the mic. Few are. But there isn't another Balor, and there arguably isn't a character dynamic as interesting as his switch between himself and The Demon.
Which also makes him the perfect fit for the blue brand as it transitions to Fox and what is presumably a more sports-focused offering. Balor has the perfect mix of elite athlete and character work to bridge both audience gaps. The Demon getup is the perfect marketing tool for an uber-popular character in the same way that it was for Sting when he transcended the wrestling scene in the late 80s/early 90s, not to mention the heavy comic-book influence at a time when things like Marvel are out-of-this-world popular.
Balor also has the Balor Club is for Everyone movement, which made waves at WrestleMania:
A versatile figure with the classic wrestling mystique to boot, Balor is the ideal top dog for a 2019 SmackDown offering looking to forge ahead in a new environment. Styles is probably the best in the world, but he's not a household name outside of wrestling circles. Bryan flirted with that territory briefly, but predominantly due to a chant.
And for those who don't have an interest in helping craft a major star outside of the WWE ecosystem, think of the sheer possibilities available on the blue brand. If Styles remains, there's The Club backdrop, never mind the classic the two had at TLC in 2017. A heel Bryan is an obvious foil. Ditto for Shinsuke Nakamura. Samoa Joe vs. The Demon? Yes please. Randy Orton trying to take Balor out sounds good too.
But those might even risk keeping Balor as a cookie-cutter good guy when he doesn't need to be. Some of Balor's best career work came as a villain, and WWE have often been more successful getting people over as bad than good. Think Dean Ambrose and Bryan, for starters.
Either way, SmackDown makes more sense for Balor in 2019 so he can spread his wings. There's too much going on at the top of Raw, with McIntyre clearly on the rise and a final boss of a champion who hardly defends the title in the first place. If WWE had built Balor's Demon properly, he'd have a realistic shot at Brock Lesnar. The WWE Championship on the blue brand would not only always be the obvious target for Balor, but always within reach.
Funnily enough, SmackDown hasn't desperately sought out wrestlers who appeal to more casual fans and has felt more in tune with hardcore fans from the beginning of the brand split. But the winds of change are blowing, and they seem to poetically coincide with Balor's desperate need for change. What he brings to the table in all facets could serve as the ideal compromise as WWE tries to walk a new tightrope in 2019 with SmackDown.
Maybe WWE has had this plotted out all along, zeroing in on Balor as an obvious brand-swap candidate. The megastar plan went out the window with the injury, but a move to SmackDown could realize that potential anyway with an organic swelling of momentum on a show that is simply a better fit.
While it's a little strange WWE hasn't capitalized better on what Balor has to offer, a move to SmackDown seems to provide a situation in which fans wouldn't leave them any choice but to revisit Balor as a megastar.