NXT Champion Finn Bálor was recently interviewed by Brian Fritz of SportingNews.com. Check out the full interview below or at this link.
It was just over a year ago when Prince Devitt (Fergal Devitt) decided to take a big leap of faith.
After making a name for himself in New Japan Pro Wrestling, he made the decision to leave his comfort zone and join the WWE. With it came a lot of changes for the Irishman: a new country with a different lifestyle, a new form of wrestling along with a new identity.
Now as Finn Balor with NXT, he hasn’t disappointed with his exciting in-ring style coupled with a captivating ring entrance that he breaks out for big shows, painting his body as he transforms into the demon he sees in himself.
WWE and Balor are pairing up with professional athletes and Hollywood celebrities in an online auction at Charitybuzz.com to support “Answer the Call” with proceeds helping provide assistance for the families of fallen first-responders in New York City.
BRIAN FRITZ: How is life treating you these days Finn?
FINN BALOR: Brian, life is incredible. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster over the last year. The roller coaster is only going up so it’s pretty cool.
FRITZ: Yeah, you’ve been with WWE for just over a year now. What’s been the biggest surprise so far for you?
BALOR: Biggest surprise? I think the biggest surprise has to be how helpful everyone has been, helping me adapt to a new company, a new country, a new working environment and kind of a new style of wrestling. The powers that be have bent over backwards to make sure I’ve settled in which is very humbling.
FRITZ: What has the transition been like for you? As a fan or someone on the outside, it seems like you’ve adapted very quickly and caught on with the WWE system.
BALOR: Well, I’m not sure who it looks from the outside but for me personally it’s been very difficult. There’s a lot of subtle differences that go into changing your style up and adapting to a new style of work here in WWE. It’s something that I’ve very grateful for the help I’ve been given by the company. It’s not just in the ring but outside and in the back and life. It’s been a bit of a struggle getting used to life in the states, adapting to a new lifestyle. I was used to getting home maybe once a month while I was in Japan. Trying to battle a bit of home sickness at the moment but professionally it’s been going great. I feel like I’ve been improving every day and learning. I thought that maybe I peaked in Japan. I feel like now I’m starting at the bottom again and working my way up. I had to apply myself differently to different things. It’s been a real learning experience over the last year and I’m looking forward to the next couple of years.
FRITZ: Your connection with the audience has been great. When you came over to the WWE, it was so highly anticipated. I’ve been to NXT shows and other WWE shows and the number of Finn Balor shirts and even Bullet Club shirts has been enormous.
BALOR: It’s really humbling. And I always go back to this one point. It was first appearance for NXT at Full Sail when I came out to help Hideo (Itami). You kind of forget how big the reach that pro wrestling has around the world. I guess I got stuck in my own little bubble in Japan thinking that what I was doing in Japan was only available to the New Japan fans. But when I first walked out on NXT and they flashed Prince Devitt and the reaction that it got. And then I came to the ring at Full Sail University, the crowd was just on fire. From there, it’s just kind of snowballed around the WWE Universe. It’s very humbling that my work — my previous work — has had. Just the extent of the reach that the WWE Universe has around the world is incredible. I just got back from Australia and there were Finn Balor shirts and kids painted as Finn Balor and down in Australia where I’ve never wrestled before. It’s really a very humbling experience.
FRITZ: You mentioned Japan. You recently got to go back to Japan and won the NXT Championship on the Beast in the East show that aired on the WWE Network against Kevin Owens. What was that experience like for you getting to go back to Japan as Finn Balor?
BALOR: It was kind of like the meeting of two chapters in my life. It was a place that became a second home for me. I had a lot of friends, a lot of incredible memories there that I kind of stepped away from and left behind and I was never sure if I was going to return. To return a year later to challenge for the NXT Championship was very kind of a surreal experience. It was almost like the storyline couldn’t have been any better with the location. It was the same building (Sumo Hall) that I had my last match for New Japan. To return there with WWE to wrestle Kevin Owens who is someone who came into NXT at the same time as me. We kind of experienced a lot of the same difficulties of battling with a new style. We kind of went through that struggle together. And to be in a championship match with someone who has become a very close friend of mine, it couldn’t have been any better. It’s a night that I’ll never ever forget for the rest of my life. It’s definitely a milestone night in my career for more than just the fact that I won the NXT Championship but for many personal reasons too.
FRITZ: You’re going to be facing Kevin Owens again at the NXT: TakeOver Brooklyn show on August 22, the night before SummerSlam. It’s been announced that will be a ladder match. When is the last time you had a ladder match?
BALOR: Believe it or not, I’ve never, ever, ever had a ladder match.
FRITZ: Yeah I was wondering that.
BALOR: I’ve been involved in a few stunts and hardcore matches that have involved ladders but I’ve never been in a specific ladder match. So this is something very new to me. I’ve been doing a good bit of homework watching my good buddy Neville and his match against Bo Dallas for the NXT Championship. I know I may be considered the underdog going into this match with Kevin having a lot of experience in ladder matches but I’ve up for the challenge. I’m excited. It’s something new. I think the sold out Barclays Center in Brooklyn is going to be in for a treat.
FRITZ: Speaking of a treat, you along with WWE are involved in an online auction on CharityBuzz.com. Tell me a little about it and your part.
BALOR: Basically, we’re working together for the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund. It’s a great charity and we’re going to auction off the opportunity for someone to come to the Performance Center and get some demon painted up and get a tour of the Performance Center and it will be a good day.
FRITZ: There’s a lot of different auctions that people can bid on. Like you said, the chance to meet you and get painted, lunch with Ric Flair, you can meet Stephanie McMahon. Another one is meeting Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman backstage at a PPV. Have you ever met Brock?
BALOR: I met Brock quite a few times actually. Believe it or not, I met Brock maybe ten years ago when he was IWGP Heavyweight Champion at New Japan and I was a young boy kind of serving my time as an intern in New Japan. He was a very nice guy. He’s still very nice. He’s built like a beast but he’s still a very polite, humble man.
FRITZ: Thank goodness. I can only imagine if that wasn’t the case.
BALOR: (laughs) Yeah.
FRITZ: There’s so many different things to being a WWE superstar and all of the different opportunities. There’s now an action figure of you out. You’re going to be a part of the upcoming WWE 2K16 video game and we’ve already seen your entrance on it. What’s it like to see yourself like that?
BALOR: That’s been kind of one of those things I’ve had to adjust to because I’ve been wrestling for 14 years before I came here. It was very easy to kind of leave my work at work and go home and the kind of security of my personal life. Those things now, it’s kind of hard to separate the two. Obviously you have a lot more publicity but obviously, new doors have opened for me. As a kid, I played all those video games. As I kid, I had every action figure. Now, getting the opportunity to be in the video game and have an action figure, to say it’s humbling would be an understatement. I’m just kind of experiencing it now because I don’t really have a chance to sit back and really grasp or understand the extent of it. Hopefully I can be a good role model for kids and they can grow up to follow their dreams just like I am.
FRITZ: I got to speak with you a couple of days before WrestleMania earlier this year. You were talking about how much you were enjoying the experience but at the same time, you knew you would have a hard time watching WrestleMania because you wanted to be a part of it so badly. How hard are you pushing to be a part of WrestleMania 32?
BALOR: I think everybody in WWE and NXT want to be involved in WrestleMania. I can huff and puff and push all I want but that’s something you just can’t rush. I will sit and wait patiently and when my chance comes I’ll be ready to take it.
FRITZ: Last thing — who is the worse driver: yourself or Hideo Itami?
BALOR: (laughs) Ohhhh. Believe it or not, I took Hideo for his driving test here in the states recently. He had been driving in Japan for many, many years and I’m still just a rookie driver in my first year. I said you know Hideo, maybe you want to drive my car to the test center so you can get used to driving my car. Sure enough, as we were driving to the driving center he almost got in an accident and wrecked my car. Thankfully he didn’t. We’re both safe and he passed his driving test. He’s now a Florida state licensed driver as I am so it’s pretty much the blind leading the blind between the two of us. (laughs) I think we’re both as bad as each other.