Finn Balor’s injury at last year’s SummerSlam set in motion a series of events that WWE officials weren’t planning on as they turned the page on 2016 and prepared for their road to WrestleMania. Around the time of his injury, we uncovered the WWE’s plans for Finn Balor and the Universal Championship, but those creative blueprints were drafted well before Goldberg arrived, and subsequently decided to stay through next Sunday’s extravaganza.
As the first-ever Universal Champion, Finn Balor was originally penciled in to successfully defend his title at Clash Of Champions in September and then again at Hell In A Cell in October. He would have defeated Kevin Owens in a singles match at CoC and followed that up with a triple threat victory against Owens and Chris Jericho inside the cell.
Beyond that is unclear, but it became moot once the Finn Balor title reign was abruptly cut short due to the severe shoulder injury he suffered during the inaugural title match at SummerSlam. Seth Rollins was to be taken out of the championship picture regardless of whether Balor was healthy or not, but he did take Finn’s spot in the title matches against Owens in those aforementioned pay-per-views, coming up short on both occasions.
Goldberg’s original deal called for one match with Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series, but once he agreed to an extension, plans for the Universal Championship were laid out for the next six months, and the company has stuck to them. The quick squash finish at Fastlane may have minimized Owens’ reign, but WWE officials had long-term plans for Finn Balor, and since he was out of the mix, they felt comfortable going with Goldberg and Brock Lesnar for RAW’s marquee program.
The WWE was hopeful that Finn Balor would have been cleared for an original return at the Royal Rumble, but that was not to be and stayed consistent with the original timeline laid out last summer. Balor did return to action at the beginning of March but just appeared at non-televised WWE live events as the company was scripting its storylines for WrestleMania. Just this past weekend, in fact, Balor teamed up with Sami Zayn and Chris Jericho to take on the mega-team of Owens, Samoa Joe, and Triple H.
Those Royal Rumble hopes that were unfulfilled coincided with major plans for Finn Balor as well. Had he been cleared for the big event this past January, he would have entered the eponymous main event and carried out the angle with the Undertaker instead of Roman Reigns. Once Balor was deemed unable to return for that show, WWE officials moved forward with a Reigns-Undertaker feud for WrestleMania, as we originally laid out last month.
It’s believed that if Finn Balor got clearance from the doctors, Roman Reigns then would have faced off against Braun Strowman at WrestleMania with Balor taking on the Undertaker. The other two top matches from the red brand would have remained intact with Kevin Owens facing Chris Jericho and Triple H battling Seth Rollins.
However, much like Finn Balor, Rollins’ injury from January threw a monkey wrench into some marquee plans. Rollins and Triple H was once the plan for last year’s WrestleMania, and when Seth tore his MCL this January, the match was again put in jeopardy for this year’s event. Triple H remained adamant about competing in the show because ultimately he believed NXT would benefit from him being showcased. ‘Mania’s proximity to the Performance Center was also a key factor.
Hunter and top WWE officials held several meetings in regards to what they should do in the event Seth Rollins wasn’t cleared. Shane McMahon’s name resurfaced, but they ultimately moved forward with Shane staying on SmackDown and facing AJ Styles. However, according to a new report, a former WWE writer revealed that if Seth couldn’t recover in time, Triple H would have faced Finn Balor on the grand stage.
Again, the point is moot, but it’s clear how highly Finn Balor is thought of by WWE management. Even though it appears that Balor won’t return at WrestleMania, it’s expected he’ll show up the night after on RAW. As we reported late last week, Balor may come back on Monday and immediately confront new Universal Champion Brock Lesnar to set up a major program between the two moving forward.
Because Lesnar is currently penciled in to face Roman Reigns at next year’s WrestleMania for the Universal Championship, it may be a sign that Finn Balor would not recapture the belt right away. However, it’s entirely possible that Brock will drop the title in the interim only to regain it later and defend against Reigns next April if they stick with the current plan.
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