It is official. A few months after Shane McMahon declared a new era of pro wrestling, Finn Bálor and the WWE made that statement come to fruition. On Sunday night at SummerSlame, the Demon King defeated Seth Rollins to become the first ever WWE Universal Champion.
Obviously, it is worth noting that if Rollins won the match it wouldn’t have meant the new era wasn’t here or anything. It is just that Bálor winning makes it crystal clear that the route the company is going is one that will at least try to focus a lot of attention on brand spanking new talent.
It is a risk what the WWE is doing, too. While the Internet Wrestling Community – and my wife for that matter – drools for Bálor since knowing about him for a long time, the casual audience still barely knows the Superstar. After all, he has been on the main roster for only a month now, and rare is it that the WWE will give the keys to the place to a talent mostly unproven on the main roster.
But that’s exactly what the WWE did. Bálor becomes the first wrestler to ever win a world championship during his Network Special (PPV) debut.
The possibilities moving forward are limitless, but it is also worth pointing out how crucial this period of time will be in wrestling history.
For how much the IWC kills the WWE, Vince McMahon and crew are putting nearly all their eggs in the IWC-basket. Bálor is one of theirs, not one of the WWE’s. He is by no means someone McMahon would historically want being his main champion. He is smaller, not American, and not considered a WWE guy.
Instead, he is everything the IWC has claimed it has wanted for the better part of 15 years. A dynamic in-ring worker who can transcend the main roster because of his multiple gimmicks.
This New Era is going to be judged harshly, though. Thanks to the Brooklyn SummeSlam crowd, some of Bálor’s wow-factor has already been lost. In what was a good match with huge historical ramifications, the same type of crowd – one filled with smarks – who would otherwise swear Rollins vs. Bálor is an Internet dream match decided to chant about the color scheme of the belt and everything else under the sun than appreciate the wrestling gift it spent years swearing it yearned for.
In turn, this is going to make a probably already skeptical McMahon even more so down the line. Each segment Bálor is in as champion will be monitored with great fury. If the ratings dip, or the crowd isn’t into, we shouldn’t be shocked to see the WWE quickly change back to the era of big-man wrestlers.
This New Era of pro wrestling from the WWE is mostly designed to placate to the lauded, but forever annoying and often hypocritical IWC. There are so many of the IWC’s favorite indie darlings playing major roles on WWE programming, that any complaints coming from the IWC should be minor.
Thing is, if there continues to be massive amounts of IWC complaints and/or a ratings drop, the WWE will stop doing it “our way.”
So, yes, a New Era has begun. The WWE is going to give Bálor a honest shot at being the face of Monday Night Raw. It will probably work too, as he is an incredibly gifted talent who has two gimmicks in one, who can also be a heel or a face with no issues. Still, none of this means we are in safe distance from the days of John Cena very literally being the face that runs the place.
The WWE has, at least for awhile, been trying to appease wrestling die-hards. With NXT, AJ Styles on the main roster, and so much more. And now we have an official representation of this change holding the WWE Universal Championship. How this all plays out next isn’t up to the WWE, but the WWE Universe.
Where are we with this then? Are we all going to continue to find whatever flaws we can to bash the WWE or are we going to finally come to the realization that the WWE in 2016 is everything we all swore for years we were clamoring for?