The WWE celebrated the 25th anniversary of Monday Night Raw on Monday night, with dozens of WWE legends including Shawn Michaels (link to JWS interview with HBK), Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Undertaker participating in the celebration. Just prior to the conclusion of the show, the Balor Club defeated The Revival; celebrating the win in ring with a reunited Degeneration X (must watch). JWS met up with Finn Balor, the leader of the Balor Club and one of the WWE’s biggest stars, at Manhattan Center and got the chance to ask him about his rise from the indie circuit to the WWE and his favorite NFL team (hint: they are playing in the Super Bowl).
Editor Note: The 2018 Royal Rumble PPV event is Sunday evening. Finn Balor is competing in the 30-man Royal Rumble match. WWE.com is offering a 2-month free trial of the WWE Network, for fans interested in watching the event.
JWS: Do you get nostalgic about being in the ring with the guys you grew up watching?
Finn: Yeah, it’s still pretty surreal. Just seeing Shawn Waltman (X-Pac), Scott Hall (Razor Ramon), backstage; Billy Gunn, Road Dogg, it’s really cool. I’ve been fortunate to have gotten to meet and work with most of these guys during my career and to learn from them; especially since I came to NXT and WWE, and it never gets old.
JWS: You spent a lot of time on the indie circuit before making it to the WWE. How has the lifestyle changed?
Finn: Coming up on the indie circuit you’re wrestling in community halls, churches, warehouse basements and old theatres, now we’re wrestling at Madison Square Garden (MSG) and stadiums but the lifestyle is the exact same because no one that is in WWE is doing this for the money. Obviously, that’s a benefit but we’re all doing this because it’s our passion. You wouldn’t get here (WWE), if you were strictly doing it for the money. It took me 16 years to get here and I wasn’t making any money (along the way). There was no incentive to go out there and perform for the money. You had to go out there and perform because it’s an addiction.
Howie Long-Short: The transition from the Attitude Era (the Degeneration-X tagline was suck-it!) to the family/female friendly product the WWE sells today (the Balor Club tagline is too sweet!), has made the company particularly attractive to advertisers. 70 new brands have signed on since the start of 2015 and corporate sponsorships grew 29% YOY in 2017. It’s not just the demographic that is appealing though, the audience numbers are impressive too. RAW averages 3 million viewers/week. For comparison purposes, ESPN/ABC & TNT (i.e. national broadcasts) are averaging 2.2 million viewers per NBA game this season.
Fan Marino: I read Finn was a Patriots fan, so I had to ask if that was fact or internet rumor?
Finn: Actually, I heard something about Tom Brady having hand surgery to apply a 6th finger for a 6th ring on his left hand? It is true, Matt Bloom (best known as Prince Albert) converted me.