The WWE careers of Kevin Owens and Finn Bálor have had a lot of parallels thus far. Both drew major buzz when they signed with WWE. Both won the NXT Championship early on in their respective runs. Both were given major pushes upon their arrival on the main roster, and both were drafted to Raw last month.
However, there is one major difference between them: their amount of time in NXT.
For Owens, he won the NXT Championship in only his second TakeOver match, and he debuted on the main roster while still holding the title just months later. Bálor, on the other hand, was in NXT for over a year and a half, and was the brand’s main attraction for most of that time period.
Owens was recently interviewed by ESPN, and while he noted that Bálor’s call-up to the main roster was a long time coming, he also noted that NXT may not be where it is today if The Demon hadn’t stayed down for as long as he did.
“NXT really built some momentum and became something pretty special. Then Hideo got hurt and I got called to the main roster. Neville got called up as well and he was a big part of NXT, and Sami Zayn got hurt. That could’ve taken the wind out of NXT’s sails a little, because at that point we were the focal point. Then within a month four of us were gone and Finn was the only one still there. Without Finn, I don’t know if NXT would’ve reached the level it has today.”
When you think about it, Owens is totally right that Bálor bridged the gap between eras of NXT. With Neville and Owens called up in the spring of 2015 and Zayn and Itami both hurt, NXT was lacking in star power. If Bálor had gone up at the same time, NXT would have lacked that top marketable star that it needed to have to continue to grow. Now, NXT has Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, Bobby Roode, Austin Aries, etc. etc. with more stars continuing to grow every week, and it no longer needs Bálor to hold down the fort.
While it was assuredly frustrating for Bálor to have to stay down in Full Sail as long as he did, it was needed for the company, and he is being rewarded for it now by being pushed into one of the main events of SummerSlam in his first WWE main-roster PPV match.