That rumble you can hear in the not-so-far-away distance, that huge buzz of excitement making it’s way across the country, leaving people trying to tell their friends about something cool that’s happening but leaving them without the words to do so?
Well, that’s WWE NXT, hitting the UK on their first-ever tour over here (full dates and ticket info below), leaving jaws well and truly embedded in the ground. Bringing you the stars of tomorrow, today, WWE’s developmental brand is the place to see the next Triple H; the next Roman Reigns; and the next Paige. How about we let current NXT Champion, Finn Bálor, tell you more about how NXT is the “rock’n’roll wrestling show” and why you either get it, or you never will…
Hey, Finn! You’re essentially the ‘face’ of NXT, being the current NXT Champion – especially all painted-up and in your instantly-recognisable attire. So, how important has NXT been in developing you as a superstar, and how vital is NXT in general for the wrestling world?
“I think NXT has morphed from being developmental into what I consider the most influential brand in all of wrestling, and I think that all of the superstars at NXT have the responsibility to serve everybody in wrestling with the most exciting and ground-breaking product that’s out there right now. I’m very happy to be at the forefront in leading the charge of this wrestling revolution that we’re causing, and I’m very proud to be champion.”
Apart from yourself, of course, who are your top picks from the NXT roster to go onto superstardom in the WWE?
“I think there’s some very obvious ones, like Apollo Crews, but two for me that have really started to stand out in recent times are Jason Jordan and Chad Gable, as a tag team. I think someone who I don’t think gets enough credit is Aiden English, and I think in the future he’s definitely one of the unsung heroes of NXT – and I think he has a very bright future, be it as a tag-team wrestler, as he is currently, or as a singles wrestler in the future.”
So then, to the people heading down to an NXT show, or considering getting down to one, what’s to be expected?
“Well I always like to describe NXT as more of a rock’n’roll wrestling show. It has that kinda underground, indie feel that I was so accustomed to in the independent circuits that I loved so much. So, for me, it’s been a beautiful coming together of working with the WWE but also still having that raw organic feel of being an independent, so that’s the one thing that makes NXT so different than anywhere else. It’s kinda having the hybrid of both very different styles.”
You just said you feel NXT is a “rock’n’roll wrestling show”. Rock and wrestling is a combo that’s been super-strong for years and years. Why do you feel that is?
“I guess the high-tempo, high-energy, adrenaline, buzz, testosterone, but I kind of got it the opposite way. I know a lot of people who like to listen to rock’n’roll music to amp themselves up in the locker room before a match. I’ve been notorious for going and listening to some real ambience like Ulrich Schnauss or The Album Leaf before I go out, because I like to be nice and mellow and chilled-out when I go out there.”
So, which one band would you want to play while you made your entrance to the ring?
“It would really depend on what music I’m gonna come out to, ’cause if I’m gonna come out to my own music, I would love to have a collection of my friends from home [Bray, Republic Of Ireland] that are all local independent artists, like Big September or Columbia Mills, playing my current WWE tune. I’m a huge Miles Kane fan, I could really picture myself walking out to Come Closer or Inhaler. I like The Kooks, too… Or maybe even some Action Bronson with some hip-hop. The most important thing is that you have an emotional connection with the piece of music, it has to change your mind-set – it has to be an ‘on’ switch that lets me know, ‘Okay, it’s business time… Finn is here!’”
A super-important one now… what is your all-time favourite wrestling entrance? What gets the hairs on your neck standing, without fail?
“Stone Cold Steve Austin, when the glass breaks. It just gets you every time, doesn’t matter if it’s a small house show or a big-bang show, just once the glass breaks it gets everyone riled-up, so that’s easy!”
Finally, then, say if someone has stumbled across this page, interested by your cool ring get-up, but aren’t yet fans of wrestling. Why should they get involved, especially with NXT?
“Well, for me, I was always under the impression that for people that get sports entertainment, no explanation is necessary. And for people that don’t get sports entertainment, no explanation will ever do. So, I think that I like to keep an open mind with everything in life, and to close yourself off from something as beautiful as the art that we perform in the ring – and that’s what it is; I consider it art – it’s very close-minded, so I would say open your mind to some full-blown adult-orientated action, violence, sports-entertainment art!”