Earlier this week, NXT General Manager William Regal made the blockbuster announcement that next month’s NXT TakeOver event will be headlined by the brand’s first ever cage match, when NXT Champion Samoa Joe puts his title on the line against former champ and long-term adversary Finn Balor.
The pair have been involved in grueling rivalry which has now spanned three separate TakeOver events, and the Irishman thinks the match is the natural end to a feud and yet another milestone in the NXT career of the man they call ‘The Demon’.
Speaking with Gorilla Position this week, Balor said: “I’ve had a lot of firsts in NXT, I had the brand’s first ladder match, against Kevin Owens at TakeOver: Brooklyn, and now this third match with Joe will be in the first in a cage.
“I believe William Regal said it’s to ensure the safety of the fans, but I think really it’s so that Joe doesn’t runaway this time.
“We’ve been going a long time with this one and now I think it’s best we finally settle it in a steel cage.”
WWE is, of course, no stranger to cage matches – you can go back to the days of Hulk Hogan and King Kong Bundy in the old blue steel cage at WrestleMania II to see that – but of all the classic caged contests there’s one that stands out more than most for the man who’s been a wrestling fan his entire life.
“The Hell in a Cell between Undertaker and Mankind at King of the Ring has to be my favourite,” added Balor.
“The image of Mankind coming off the top of the cage is one that has lived in everyone’s memory and one you’ll never get tired of watching and wincing at every time you see it.”
When you hear Finn talk about big WWE moments from the past, you can still see the wrestling fan inside him and it’s no surprise given it’s all he’s ever wanted to do since he was a young boy growing up in Bray, Ireland.
“I grew up watching the old World of Wrestling on ITV, you know, watching guys like Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy with my Granddad,” he told Gorilla Position.
“I remember being drawn in by these larger-than-life characters and it never left me. I wouldn’t say there was one defining moment when it hit me, but I just knew I wanted to be a wrestler. When I got to finishing secondary school and they ask what are you going to do, I didn’t want to study business or electronics at college – why waste your time on something you’re not passionate about?
“I wanted to study wrestling and be a wrestler, so at sixteen I packed by bags and headed to England, and now fifteen years later I’m here talking to you and ready to go into another NXT TakeOver event.”
That TakeOver event kicks-off a hectic month for Finn; after his title match with Joe he’ll be back on the road with the rest of the brand for NXT’s second tour of the UK.
The return of NXT to these shores after a successful first stint last December, will see the Superstars in venues across the country and for the first time ever performing at Download Festival in Donington Park, an unique environment Balor can’t wait to be a part of.
“It’s incredible we’ll be performing at an international festival for the first time,” he said. “We’ve done a couple here in the States, and the atmosphere is always different.
“It’s good to push yourself out of your comfort zone, and wrestle in different environments. The festival atmosphere is a little grimier, little dirtier but I’m not shy about getting my hands dirty and I’m really looking forward to it.”
And who from the NXT roster will go this time around? Recent months have seen a number of call-ups from NXT to the main shows, so how does the 34 year-old see the current NXT roster?
“When you look around at the locker-room at the moment, you think, God we’d be lost without this person, or lost without that person,” he continued.
“But then you think back to a year ago and we had Neville, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Apollo Crews, Baron Corbin and you’d wonder then what would happen if they got called up to Raw and SmackDown.
“However, as we’ve seen this brand has a funny way of regenerating itself, and it feels to me that the current roster is more raw and more exciting than two years ago. You know I’m still here and we also have Shinsuke Nakamura who’s a huge star in Japan and can transcend wrestling into the main culture, Asuka, Austin Aries, Samoa Joe just to name a few.
“I’m sure in a few months time a couple of them will be gone too, and new faces will step into their shoes and the brand will regenerate itself once again.”
Will one of those faces be that of the Demon himself? Fans are longing to see Finn part of the main roster on Raw and SmackDown – especially given his old pals from Japan Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows are now causing havoc on the main event scene.
So surely it’s only a matter of time before Balor becomes the latest NXT star to get the big call?
“Everyone’s on their own journey and everyone has a story to tell,” Balor said.
“You know, Mexico made me a better wrestler; Japan made me more polished as a performer and gave me the confidence to make it to that next level. To make the next step, I’m fully confident in myself and my ability so we’ll see what happens.
“First I have to look towards the match at NXT TakeOver and then the UK tour. After that I’ll keep performing and doing what I can.”
You’ll also be able to see Finn Balor as part of the NXT UK tour next month on the following dates;
Friday June 10-12 – Download Festival, Donington Park, Derby
Monday, June 13 – 3Arena, Dublin, Ireland
Tuesday, June 14 – SSE Arena, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Wednesday, June 15 – Echo Arena, Liverpool
Thursday, June 16 – Bournemouth International Centre, Bournemouth
Friday, June 17 – Plymouth Pavilion, Plymouth