WWE – Finn Bálor – Iconic Matches (Cert 12)
1 Disc DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 73 minutes approx.
Release Date: April 17th
There have been some very bold titles for WWE Home Video releases but this one has to be a top contender to take the biscuit. No disrespect to the subject of this *ahem* “collection” but it is hard to shake the flimsy premise behind it. If it were a give away with a magazine or as a bonus disc for another release then fine, but the cavil is that it contains just THREE matches and one of them is already available on another DVD.
But it only costs less than a tenner and runs for over an hour so perhaps it is a little churlish to be completely critical of it but for us reviewers it doesn’t give us much to talk about. So, while the matches are hardly “iconic” since the star of this release only has a tenure of barely three years with the WWE and most of the last year was spent on the injured list, let us take a look at the Demon King himself Finn Bálor.
Since there is little to discuss match wise, which we’ll get to in a moment, perhaps a little background information on the man behind the face paint for fans who are unaware of his career prior to arriving in WWE. Born Fergal Devitt in Bray, County Wicklow in Ireland in 1981, he started his wrestling journey in the now defunct NWA Hammerlock UK promotion in 2000 aged just 18 and was soon winning championships.
Two years later Devitt opened his own wrestling school-cum-promotion NWA Ireland, which boasts current WWE star Becky Lynch as a graduate, working in conjunction with NWA Hammerlock UK. In late 2005 after competing for the US based Millennium Wrestling Federation (MWF), Devitt was invited to train in New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s (NJPW) main dojo in Tokyo, before signing a contract with the main company in 2006.
Rechristened Prince Devitt (because the Japanese couldn’t pronounce “Fergal”) his career took off, winning the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Titles six times – with Minoru Tanaka (twice) and Ryusuke Taguchi (four times) – and as a solo wrestler, holding the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight title three times, as well as winning the annual Best Of The Super Juniors tournament twice in 2010 and 2013.
In 2013, Devitt turned heel and formed a group with Bad Luck Fale, Karl Anderson and Tama Tonga which became known as The Bullet Club. They were later joined by The Young Bucks and became the hottest act in NJPW, with Devitt scoring title shots against IWGP Heavyweight champs Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada.
However, in January 2014 the Bullet Club turned on Devitt and was replaced as leader by AJ Styles, signalling Devitt’s departure from NJPW. Five months later Devitt, under the new name Finn Bálor debuted in NXT having inked a deal with WWE. His first appearance was helping out former Pro Wrestling NOAH star KENTA aka Hideo Itami from an attack by The Ascension.
Which brings us to this release. The three matches featured here are from early in Bálor’s NXT run, the first two never before released commercially. Opening this trilogy is match from NXT TakeOver: Rival held on February 11th 2015. This was the final of a No 1 Contenders tournament for the NXT title and pitted Bálor against (Adrian) Neville in a clash of the high flyers.
This turned into a damn good match but at just under 15 minutes felt it could have gone longer. It started of slow with some nice chain wrestling then an exchange of highflying offence before hitting second gear for an exciting final stretch of great near falls. As Neville was a former NXT champ and Bálor was the newcomer the winner wasn’t so clear-cut at the time but including on this disc does make it more obvious.
Following this hot bout comes Bálor vs. Tyler Breeze from NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable on May 20th 2015. This again was to determine the No 1 contender for the NXT title, but on this occasion, it was supposed to be a Triple Threat match with Hideo Itami but he suffered a shoulder injury and was sidelined (explained by a video of him after being attacked in the car park, supposedly by NXT champ Kevin Owens), making this a singles match.
Another fun match the result was definitely not in question but if you’ve only seen Breeze as the comedy jobber on Smackdown then watch this match to see what he really can do and how his main roster run has been a waste of his talent. Again, it only just cleared the ten minute mark but it wasn’t a squash and Breeze held his own against the Demon King, scoring some close near falls.
Closing this set is Bálor’s NXT title win over Kevin Owens from the Beast In The East show in Japan already reviewed on this site, a reign that lasted 292 days and has yet to be bested. A fitting way to end but as we know the story doesn’t end there by a long stretch, which suggests this was a hastily put together compilation sometime over the past two years. Had it continued we would have got a match or two against Samoa Joe or Shinsuke Nakamura.
Similarly, we can also assume that this wasn’t meant to be a major retail release for the WWE, maybe part of a promotion with a US shop or part of an offer with the action figures (explaining the Mattel logo on the front cover). Either way it is here now and if you are a new fan of Finn Bálor and missed out on his NXT run then these three matches at least give you an idea of how it went down and how important Bálor was to NXT’s growth over the past few years.
Hardly “iconic” but a fun way to spend 73 minutes at any cost.
Rating – ***
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