Finn Bálor, more than any performer, is symbolic of Vince McMahon’s lamentable creative decline.
He wasn’t signed as part of some greedy, near-spiteful strategy to deny other promotions of his star power. Courted for years by WWE—and this is the sad part—Bálor refused on several occasions, citing to the now defunct UK-based Power Slam magazine his desire to become a complete sports entertainer, first and foremost. He wanted to star stateside only after equipping himself for it and fulfilling a sense of loyalty to New Japan Pro Wrestling, in which he elevated his profile with several stunning junior heavyweight wars. As both high-flying babyface wizard and vicious, venom-spewing heel sadist, Bálor as Prince Devitt wasn’t a mere elite-level talent; as onscreen figurehead of and creative mind behind the Bullet Club stable, he was a genuine revolutionary.
For a time, the bet Bálor placed on himself appeared to have paid off. Bálor was always a scintillating worker—any recent Twitter critics have certainly been worked by bad booking—but through his 2014 experiments in face paint, Bálor literally covered himself in money. From the copyright law-triggering early drafts to the Demon WWE unleashed on the RAW main event scene two and a half years back, Bálor evolved from a super-worker to a veritable merchandise sensation. A performer whose work the adults slavered over, with a supernatural aesthetic that haunted the bank accounts of parents everywhere, Bálor wasn’t merely the Extraordinary Man Who Can Do Extraordinary Things. He was all things to all men. Except one: