Two of the hottest young superstars in the WWE today are Kevin Owens and Finn Balor. Owens made his emphatic debut last May when he brazenly entered a feud with John Cena to kick-start his main-roster career. But as much of an impact as that was, it still may have paled in comparison to what Balor has done in less than a month since his promotion in July.
As you know, Finn Balor was the fifth overall pick in the WWE Draft, a full 13 picks ahead of Kevin Owens, with both getting drafted to Monday Night RAW. There’s no doubt that their paths will cross on the main roster, but with rumors circulating about Owens getting traded to Smackdown Live, that confrontation may have to wait for a while.
There’s plenty of history between Owens and Balor, primarily in NXT. Owens won the NXT Championship just two months after being signed to his developmental deal by defeating Sami Zayn. He held the title for 143 days when Balor beat him in Japan, the place Balor became a huge star while performing under the name of Prince Devitt and leading The Bullet Club. Like many NXT Champions before him, the loss actually propelled Owens to the main roster, a move that was made permanent after Balor beat him again in the rematch.
That rematch came at NXT Takeover:Brooklyn, which will be rehashed this coming Saturday on a card headlined by Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura. It was Joe that captured the title from Balor before Finn was finally called up three weeks ago. Owens agrees with many fans and wrestling pundits that Balor’s call-up was long overdue, but explained to ESPN why the delay was necessary.
“NXT really built some momentum and became something pretty special. Then Hideo (Itami) got hurt and I got called to the main roster. Neville got called up as well and he was a big part of NXT, and Sami Zayn got hurt. That could’ve taken the wind out of NXT’s sails a little, because at that point we were the focal point. Then within a month four of us were gone and Finn was the only one still there. Without Finn, I don’t know if NXT would’ve reached the level it has today… Everybody there works so hard to make it into something, but you always kind of need one person to hitch your wagon to. Finn was the guy for it. It was pretty obvious he was — look at how big NXT has become, and now look at how Finn did on his first night on RAW.”
Clearly, Owens and much of WWE/NXT management, for that matter, believed keeping Balor down was in the best interest of the NXT brand. They couldn’t promote him until Samoa Joe and Nakamura were ready to carry the flag. Those two are also more than ready for the WWE, but they, like Balor, will have to wait for a main-event replacement. That is the cyclical nature of this new system WWE has developed. Bayley is in the same boat, and Owens knows there’s a method to the madness.
“I don’t know why they’re still down there, but I’m sure there’s a reason for it. To be clear, NXT is a great place to be at, you know what I mean?… Obviously everybody aspires to be on Raw or Smackdown. That’s why they sign with WWE, because they want to be able to perform on that stage, and at Wrestlemania and Summerslam. But I was in NXT for six months and it was some of the best times I’ve had in my career. I think Finn would say the same.”
Everything is about timing in the WWE. Owens had a cup of coffee in NXT, and Balor was there for nearly two years. Yet it’s Balor who finds himself in one of the main events at SummerSlam competing for the newly created WWE Universal Championship. Both wrestlers will certainly be key components in WWE’s creative plans for years to come.
[Image via WWE]