News of Finn Bálor’s shoulder injury that forced him to immediately vacate the Universal Championship was heartbreaking. To be snatched from the jaws of a victory that portended a fantastic championship reign is not only a huge downer on the career of Finn Bálor, it almost makes one of the few great things of the last month of Raw.
The buildup of Finn Bálor seems like it all came to nothing. We felt the same when Daniel Bryan twice secured championships, only to have to take time off for injury – the latter of which proved fatal to his career.
Completely out of the blue, a deux ex machina has ensued, as Raw had to get its sentimentality out of the way and immediately restart the journey to crown a new Universal Champions. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
That Finn Bálor was able to get himself completely over with mainstream audiences in such an incredibly short amount of time, and was immediately given the faith from creative to take a main event spot at one of the biggest shows of the year, is a testimony to his chops as a wrestler. A lengthy absence from television isn’t going to hurt “The Demon King” in the slightest – once he’s fit to return to the ring, a storyline and title pursuit is right there waiting for him.
Not only that, but Finn Bálor’s lengthy absence has suddenly left a gaping hole at the top that the WWE needs to fill, and one thing that the WWE has always done extremely well is to pluck someone from the mid-card when their hand is forced into developing a new top guy. The company functioned just fine when John Cena and Randy Orton were sidelined with major injuries, while the lengthy absence of Seth Rollins demonstrably had no effect whatsoever on his popularity, with his spot being duly resumed upon his return.
At present, it doesn’t seem as though the WWE is willing to use this opportunity to test the waters with some of its main eventers in-waiting, such as Kevin Owens and Cesaro. Instead, the makeup of next week’s Fatal-4-Way for the Universal Championship is taking very familiar shape. It is highly likely that Kevin Owens is in the mix to be a steady hand for a multi-man match (as he so often is), that Big Cass has been elevated to see how well he can hang outside of a tag team match, and that Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins is the well-worn path that the WWE seeks to trod again.
This is based on a balance of probability. For whatever reason, creative decided that four weeks was enough time for Roman Reigns to earn his stripes in the mid-card and swiftly killed the highly entertaining feud with Rusev, and it is unlikely that they would put their top guy back at the epoch only to slap him straight down again a week later.
But, the WWE has six months to play with here, and fans aren’t likely to be receptive to six months of Reigns and Rollins going at it. If they can draw it to a close in the space of two months, creative can really start to rummage through their chest of talent and make main event players of their hungriest wrestlers.
And all the while, Finn Bálor is going to be at the back of everybody’s mind. Whatever’s next for “The Demon King,” it promises to be immense, and the new landscape that will inevitably take shape in his absence will be extremely interesting to watch over the coming months.