The question was never if Finn Bálor was going to arrive on Raw; it was always when. A five-tool player who held the NXT Championship for a record 292 days, the Irish-born Superstar has been seemingly simmering just under the radar for months now, waiting for his opportunity to shine on WWE’s biggest stage. After being drafted at No. 5 overall to Raw, Bálor finally got that opportunity. His debut this past Monday (his birthday, coincidentally) was about as perfect a night as he, or anyone, could have asked for: He defeated Cesaro, Rusev, Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns all in the same night to become one of the No. 1 contenders to the new WWE Universal Championship. He’ll battle Seth Rollins to see who will earn that brand-new title at SummerSlam, but as Finn’s road to the championship match begins, WWE.com caught up with Raw’s newest sensation to get his thoughts on his epic debut.
WWE.COM: First off, a belated Happy Birthday to you, and congratulations on the debut.
FINN BÁLOR: [Laughs] Yeah, unbelievable. I can’t even try and describe the feeling of what happened Monday. It’s quite surreal, to put it mildly.
WWE.COM: Your debut was the source of a lot of speculation and rumors. Now that it has finally happened, did it live up to your own expectations of how you wanted to arrive on Raw?
BÁLOR: I guess it’s always something I’ve imagined was going to happen eventually, and I think it far exceeded any expectations that I’d ever imagined. I always had this kind of vision that I’d be turning up as a surprise, maybe an interference or jump the barrier. But the way it all happened was exactly the way it was meant to be. I’m glad my debut wasn’t left up to my imagination, because it wouldn’t have been anywhere close to being as good as it was on Monday night.
WWE.COM: What did it feel like to get that reception from the crowd in Pittsburgh?
BÁLOR: Yeah, incredible. NXT has been in Pittsburgh a lot, and to stand on that stage at the beginning of Raw and get the “Finn” chants really helped put a lot of anxiety and nerves at ease. NXT is its own kind of animal, and you’re never quite sure how much of that transfers over into WWE and into Monday Night Raw. To get that response instantly was a big reassuring pat on the back from fans saying, “We got you, dude.” I was happy about that.
WWE.COM: And you’re going to be one of the first Superstars to challenge for a new title. That has to feel pretty good, too.
BÁLOR: Yeah, man! To say it’s a fairytale is an understatement, the way everything has panned out. I spent two years at NXT and a lot of times questioned, “When is this going to happen?” or “Is this actually going to happen? Am I going to make it to Raw?” For what felt like such a long wait, now everything seems to be happening so fast. It has made literally every minute of that two-year wait worth it. I’d wait two years again just for that opportunity to walk out on Raw and have the same kind of feeling I had last Monday.
WWE.COM: Pivoting to NXT for a second, you had said for a long time you wanted to be a leader in that locker room and help guide it for as long as you could. Now that you’re transitioning to Raw, looking back, how do you think you left NXT versus how you found it?
BÁLOR: You know, it’s a very bittersweet moment. Going to NXT, obviously, the goal is to make it to Raw or SmackDown Live, and now that the opportunity came up to be on Raw and challenging Seth Rollins for this new WWE Universal Title, I’m kind of looking back and going, “Man, what about NXT?” I still miss the boys and I still very much feel a part of it.
Wrestling has a funny way of regenerating itself, and I’m sure in the past a lot of people have asked questions about “Who’s going to replace Sami Zayn in the locker room?” or “Who’s going to replace Kevin Owens in the locker room?” People always step in. There’s a lot of hungry up-and-coming talent in NXT that I’m sure will be more than willing to step in and fill my boots. Shinsuke Nakamura, obviously. Oney Lorcan, who I think has enormous potential to be not only an in-ring talent, but he’s a natural leader of the locker room. In the next couple of months, I think he’s going to be a real breakout star for NXT. Rich Swann is there as well; he’s a real good up-and-comer.
[There are also] the names people won’t have heard of, guys like Riddick Moss; he’s someone who started the same day as me at the Performance Center, but he was a transfer from football with no wrestling background. He has made incredible leaps and bounds, and he’s really a team player and will be a real locker room leader in the future. So, Finn will move on, but NXT is in good hands, you can rest assured.