Former Universal Champion Finn Balor made a one-off return to WWE NXT on Wednesday night. He appeared briefly at the NXT television tapings at the University of Central Florida and got physical in the ring for the first time since after undergoing surgery on his shoulder last year.
He made a surprise appearance late in the show after Andrade "Cien" Almas and the NXT Champion Bobby Roode double-teamed against former NXT champion Shinsuke Nakamura, who had just defeated the former Cruiserweight Champion TJ Perkins in a match taped for the March 22 NXT episode.As Almas and Roode attacked Nakamura, the lights went out, and Balor made a surprise entry, sliding into the ring just in time to help Nakamura take out Almas and Roode.
Balor clotheslined Almas, throwing him out of the ring, before hitting the current NXT Champion Roode with a Sling Blade. Nakamura also recovered from the initial setback when Almas and Roode double-teamed against him and stepped in to finish Roode with a Kinshasa.After the excitement, Balor got on the microphone to cut a promo, promising fans that although he was not yet "medically cleared" to return, he was coming back soon to claim "what's his." He was presumably referring to his former title, the WWE Universal Championship, held currently by Kevin Owens.
Balor then announced that he had a message for Nakamura. He reminded fans that it was Nakamura's birthday and wished him a happy birthday.But based on his nimbleness as he took out Roode and Almas, many fans were skeptical of the claim that Balor was not yet "medically cleared."
Several observers suggested that Balor's appearance was likely a dark segment only for the live crowd, and the footage would not air on the March 22 episode of NXT. This means that Balor's appearance is not expected to influence or impact a TV storyline.Balor's last appearance in the ring on WWE was at the SummerSlam 2016. He has been absent from WWE since late August after he defeated Seth Rollins to become the first-ever WWE Universal Champion at SummerSlam. The Irish Demon suffered an injury to his shoulder during the match against Rollins for the Universal Championship. He dislocated a shoulder after he was powerbombed into the ringside barricade.
Doctors confirmed the diagnosis of a shoulder dislocation and said at the time that he was expected to recover in four to six months, according to Bleacher Report.Although he finished the match against Seth Rollins and won the title, he was forced to relinquish it during the August 22 edition of Monday Night Raw.
While Balor was away, Kevin Owens won the WWE Universal Championship with help from Triple H in a Fatal 4-Way match that involved Rollins, Roman Reigns, and Big Cass.
Balor joined NXT in 2014 after a highly successful stint in Japan as Prince Devitt. He quickly established a dominant presence in NXT, defeating Owens for the NXT Championship.
His Demon character, enhanced by elaborate body art, was popular with fans. He moved to the main roster after he was selected by Raw and asserted his presence with a victory over Roman Reigns on Raw. The victory qualified him to face Rollins for the Universal Championship at SummerSlam.
The shoulder injury has resulted in a setback to the career of the 35-year-old star. But fans are hoping that he would reintegrate smoothly and successfully to the WWE programming as one of the most marketable stars at the main-event level once he returns.
He is now reportedly undergoing a tough rehab schedule in order to obtain clearance to participate in WrestleMania 33. But there is no information yet of possible matches for him at the show.
[Featured Image by WWE]