Finn Balor has developed a mean streak as of late. You may not have noticed it, but I have. This observation stems almost entirely from one move he has started to use more in the last several months – that semi-springboard stomp to downed opponents by the bottom ropes. It looks like a typically heel manoeuvre, something reserved for the Randy Ortons and Baron Corbins of this world.
When I first saw him pull the stomp out, it hit me how well a decently orchestrated heel turn for the Real Rock ‘n’ Rolla would be. His promos aren’t exactly excellent, but he has that cool edge to him that could make for a brilliant heel persona. If the crowd weren’t going nuts for him, his entrance could be perceived to be an atypical bad guy introduction; leather jacket, over-the-top production, all-eyes-on-me poses, etc.
On last night’s episode of Raw, in a handicap match against the Miztourage, Balor was saved by a debuting Hideo Itami, picking up from their last successful tag match together in… oh blimey, uhh… look, I’m not great on dates, but I certainly remember Balor and Itami tagging together at least once before Hideo’s worked/storyline injury heading into what I believe was a multi-man number one contenders match for the NXT Championship some years ago.
Now, if you recall, Itami picked up a legit shoulder injury and was subsequently written off TV with a barely touched upon ‘Who Dunnit?!” in the car park of Full Sail. Hideo was found writhing on the floor by the undergraduate NXT camera crew, who also captured a smug Kevin Owens walking away from the scene, muttering “that’s a shame.”
So, obviously we are being led to assume that KO was behind this assault. But it has always been my belief that Owens wasn’t the one responsible for said shoulder boo-boo. As I mentioned previously, Itami and Balor had been tagging together in the weeks leading up to this attack, and Itami was scheduled to face both Balor and Tyler Breeze in a number one contenders match at that evening’s NXT Takeover: Unstoppable event.
It is my belief, and pretty much always has been, that Balor was the one who was kayfabe responsible for Hideo’s injury. After tagging for weeks on TV, dissension had set in and it was clear to Balor that both he and Itami were very well matched. So, Balor took Hideo out hours before their triple threat to even the odds of him winning against Tyler Breeze and subsequently winning the NXT Championship from Kevin Owens at the WWE Network event Beast in the East just over a month later.
As previously mentioned, Itami and Balor ended up teaming again on Raw last night for Hideo’s main roster debut. In a backstage promo shot for the WWE YouTube channel afterwards, Balor was the only one talking out of the two about how happy he was that Itami was finally on the main roster, and while they didn’t touch on the injury angle (which took place almost two and a half years ago) it was clear from Hideo’s silence (he is a Japanese native, but his English is far better than Nakamura’s, so that wasn’t an issue) and the video’s title, ‘Finn Bálor and Hideo Itami look back on their storied history’ that there’s certainly more to uncover here.
Plus, from a financial perspective, with 205 Live hitting the road with their own tour soon, it would be good for them to add another big name to their nightly cards, with either Hideo and Balor tagging together or facing off in one-on-one bouts sure to draw a bigger crowd.
I sincerely hope that we see a feud between Itami and Balor, with Finn as the heel and Itami looking to kick start his spluttering tenure in WWE/NXT by beating the man who seemed to start all of this bad luck for him.
Let’s Go Hideo.