Finn Balor believes NXT stopped preparing talents for the main roster, explains how that hindered talents

The newly crowned WWE U.S. Champion Finn Balor speaks about NXT, hoping to be on WrestleMania 38 and more during his After The Bell appearance

Photo Courtesy: WWE

Balor weighs in on NXT’s changes throughout the years.

This past Monday on Raw, Finn Balor won the WWE United States Title for the first time. He joined Corey Graves and Vic Joseph on After The Bell to discuss his title win and his transition back to the main roster from NXT.

Balor dove into the changes in NXT over the years and how the philosophy and mindset seemingly changed in 2016 after he left. He feels that at some point, NXT stopped preparing talents for the main roster and the success of NXT as a brand hindered talents. He mentioned that the first wave of NXT talents to be brought in from elsewhere such as himself, Shinsuke Nakamura, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens were actually being prepared for Raw and SmackDown.

There’s a lot of guys that came into NXT that weren’t given the full NXT experience, right? I feel I was very fortunate that I was in Japan for a long time. I moved to NXT, I got retrained in a very different WWE style and then moved onto Raw and to SmackDown. After I had moved, NXT had kind of developed its own style of wrestling and kind of changed and it wasn’t really preparing people for Raw or SmackDown. It was just putting people on NXT and then they were just kind of wrestling, they’re saying independent style or Japanese style or European style on NXT and then they were getting pulled onto Raw or SmackDown but they hadn’t been given these key nuggets of information by people like Matt Bloom or Terry Taylor at the Performance Center that — you know, Triple H or Road Dogg. They were kind of explaining to me that you need to make stuff mean more. My indie mind [would’ve] been like, ‘Hey, give them explosions, give them bombs. Give them action movies.’ But, if every match is an action movie, who wins the Oscar? The drama, you know? So like, the drama is obviously way better than the blockbuster Hollywood action movie.

And definitely I feel like a lot of guys were hindered by the success of NXT in the fact that it changed its style and then stopped preparing people for Raw and SmackDown and maybe that was the difference between maybe me, Shinsuke [Nakamura], Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, that we were in that first kind of wave of NXT guys that were actually being prepared for Raw or SmackDown and they were really tinkering with our style and I was really compromising my style — going back to that word earlier — and then the next generation that came in were kind of just like, ‘Ah, just go do your thing man. That’s what we wanna see’ and they weren’t maybe as criticized as much, picked apart as much and I feel like a lot of guys suffered because of that because they weren’t given the same knowledge that we were given.

While speaking about his on-screen presentation and in-ring style when it relates to NXT versus the main roster, Balor says it is drastically different to the point that he does not recognize it. He told the story of when he was told in NXT that he was smooth in the ring.

Initially, Balor took that as a compliment but soon came to the realization that there needed to be struggle and fight displayed in matches and that’s what gets people invested.

I’m gonna just go back to the first part of the question where you said like I haven’t compromised. Well I feel I’ve made a huge compromise. I really do. The compromise in my style or the change in my style I feel is so drastically different that it’s almost unrecognizable for me to watch it and it’s to the same way where Finn and ‘The Demon’ are separate. I feel like Finn-NXT-wrestling versus Finn-Raw-wrestling is completely different. It’s just like the same image, the same gear maybe some days. But like it’s — I feel like it’s a completely different style. I feel like the one that’s so underestimated and that I took as a compliment when I came to NXT the first time and that I realized wasn’t really a compliment was that I was told I was ‘too smooth’ and I thought, ‘That sounds like a compliment. That sounds good,’ you know? ‘I’m smooth. That’s cool.’ But, I don’t think that’s a compliment. Everything should be difficult. It shouldn’t be easy to do anything in a fight. A fight’s not easy. You need to struggle before you succeed before people really appreciate it, right? You need to go through the struggles in life. You need to struggle for years; through high school, through college, through apprenticeships to finally get there and then you really appreciate it and I feel like that’s the same with someone doing a backflip. He doesn’t really struggle to do it and it’s just a backflip.

If I’m thinking about how I apply myself, if I go out there and do the foot stomp first, well, people are gonna go, ‘Eh’ and that’s it, right?

At TakeOver: Stand & Deliver in 2021, Balor dropped the NXT Championship to Karrion Kross. He admitted that it was difficult for him to watch WrestleMania 37 take place later that week and not be a part of it. He’s hoping he’s on this year’s WrestleMania card and does not care where he’s slotted. He just wants to be on the show.

Yeah look, you can be jaded in any walk of your life but, when you’re a kid and you know, you watch wrestling, you love wrestling and the idea of being involved in a WrestleMania is just so far-fetched that you know, every time WrestleMania comes around, you wanna be involved and even though I wasn’t involved last year, I watched and I’ll be honest, it hurt and I just had a killer match with Karrion Kross in NXT and then the next day, I’m sitting at home on the couch watching WrestleMania and like, I wasn’t part of the brand so I shouldn’t have been on the show but it’s still like the competitor in me or the person that wants to prove something. It did hurt not being involved in the second night. It hurt not being involved because if there’s a wrestling show on and there’s people at it and there’s a ring set up and everyone’s watching on TV, I wanna be on that show, I don’t care. So, you know, it definitely did hurt last year not being involved even though I wasn’t at all available. So yeah, I’m super excited. I wanna be involved. I wanna be on WrestleMania whether it’s first night, second night, Axxess, I don’t care. I wanna be on there.

The NXT brand is presenting their 2022 Stand & Deliver show on April 2nd. Currently scheduled for the show is Carmelo Hayes defending the North American Championship in a Ladder match.

If the quotes in this article are used, please credit WWE After The Bell with an H/T to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions.

About Andrew Thompson 4650 Articles
A Maryland native and graduate of Norfolk State University, Andrew Thompson has been covering wrestling since 2017.