Armchair Booking: The Fiend vs The Demon King

Noble Horvath

The WWE has been about crafting larger than life characters since its inception. For almost as long, it has also been about latching onto whatever is the most mainstream of pop-culture. In recent years, this has meant marketing several of their Superstars as “real life superheroes” and in some cases, […]

The WWE has been about crafting larger than life characters since its inception. For almost as long, it has also been about latching onto whatever is the most mainstream of pop-culture. In recent years, this has meant marketing several of their Superstars as “real life superheroes” and in some cases, this brings us really cool things like the Neville/Stardust feud a few years ago that also included Stephen Amell. But for the most part, the way it is marketed to us is awful at worst, cringeworthy at best.

The worst of these has got to be Finn Balor’s “The Extraordinary Man Who Can Do Extraordinary Things.” What does that even mean? Up until recently, one could honestly question everything the main roster did with Finn. Upon “The Prince’s” return to NXT, though, he found a whole new fire. He was probably one of the active guys whose booking was hit hardest by the pandemic, as it was hinted that he may have had a showdown with UK Champion WALTER at some point, but when everything shut down, he became sort of directionless.

Of course, almost overnight, he became NXT Champion.

A testament to how quickly things can change in wrestling, in the time it took me to pitch this article and write it, Finn went from NXT aimless wanderer to NXT Champion. “The Prince” has returned to his throne, but who was it that sent him back there? What was the event that caused Finn Balor to find that savage element of himself and return to stake his claim at the top?

Ah, yes. He was The Fiend’s first victim.

The Fiend 1

At Summerslam last year, Bray Wyatt’s seemingly insane flip to being a children’s TV show host built up to the debut of The Fiend, an entity that seemingly has a hitlist of taking down every single Superstar that ever did wrong to the original Bray Wyatt character. Balor was his inaugural victim, and as fans have noticed, everyone who encounters The Fiend changes dramatically post-feud. And when it comes to larger than life characters, there is no one in the current WWE landscape that even comes close to the otherworldiness of The Fiend.

Except, perhaps, Finn Balor’s own “Demon King” persona. The Demon hasn’t shown up since his return to NXT. The direction both Balor and Wyatt have gone could possibly warrant a clash unrivaled by anything in the very reality-based era of the current product.

It is the most comic book worthy match-up on the current roster; a King Kong vs. Godzilla sort of feel between two, depending on who you asked, horribly booked supernatural characters. Today, I attempt to, in a vacuum, pit these two monsters against one another in a way that makes some kind of sense in a very short month-long build. For two larger than reality characters, less should be more. It is The Demon vs. The Fiend and it should not be overcooked or overbooked.

I can’t make it as bad as a room full of corporate writers can, could I?

 

The Set-Up and Challenge

Finn Balor
Finn Balor

Because of recent happenings, I’ve had to shift around the timeline a bit. Let’s say this happens about a month from now and Balor has lost the NXT Championship. A title reign cut short; a throne usurped far too early. This leaves Balor seething, his mentality in a worse place than when he was drifting directionless for a while. It gets bad enough that he lashes out on an episode of NXT, destroying equipment, talent, and production crews. GM William Regal has no choice but to suspend him from NXT for a spell.

Oh, but loopholes. Shockingly, Balor shows up on Smackdown Live just a few days later. That sounds like something WWE would do, right? He cuts a promo, goes over how much soul searching he’s had to do of late, especially regarding the man he has become. He’ll always be “The Prince,” there’s no taking that away from him. But maybe there’s something, an itch from his past he can’t scratch because it disturbs him how it has affected him. And so, he calls out Bray Wyatt, the man who sent him on this path.

He gets nothing. An uncomfortable silence, even in the Thunderdome. All he gets is escorted out by security considering he is still technically suspended.

 

A Prince Possessed

Finn Balor
Source: WWE

Balor doesn’t show up on WWE television the next week. At least not in person. Adhering to the suspension, Balor instead opts to record a promo and put it online. In said promo, Balor is not in the safest place. He may even be in his swanky little black jacket, but the composed, cold, and calculated Prince is very much coming undone. He’s not madly rambling or rocking back and forth or anything, still close to his usual demeanor. But it is obvious he’s got his eyes set on something and he will not stop until he gets it. This can just as easily spread over social media, but it wouldn’t hurt to show it on the next Smackdown LIve, would it?

Despite his demands, it all seemingly falls on deaf ears. But then, in the middle of that week’s Smackdown Live, the screen melts and we get one of those classic, beautiful, and disturbing editions of the Firefly Funhouse with Bray Wyatt. I’m not going to do Bray and the man who plays him a disservice here – no one can pull off any of that stuff but him and I’m not even going to try. There would probably be a few references to their old feuds, a poke at Finn’s days in Japan, maybe even a new alligator friend in a tattered Bullet Club shirt named “Devitt,” I don’t know. But the biggest points that get across is that Bray actually wants nothing to do with Balor. That “demon” has been exercised. Now it is just Finn and he has to live with who he has become right now. For the first time ever, the Funhouse is used to dismiss a challenge instead of instigate it.

The other major point is that Bray does some deflecting. It is not Bray Wyatt who Finn Balor needs to speak to about his changes. It wasn’t him who set him on that path. No, it was The Fiend. Now, Bray can talk to him if he wants, but no matter what happens, Finn won’t like the answer. It doesn’t take us long to learn that Finn doesn’t like that answer. Now, Finn Balor isn’t exactly a guy who uses social media a whole heck of a lot. But of course, something snaps. Posted across all of Balor’s platforms, mostly Twitter, is one phrase of three words, a madness mantra, aimed at getting only one kind of response from one man. No. One Fiend.

COME ON IN
COME ON IN
COME ON IN
COME ON IN
COME ON IN

 

The Return (and Healing) of The Demon

Bray Wyatt

On NXT the next week, Balor is still on suspension and is nowhere to be seen on the show, but in a twist, Bray Wyatt makes his first appearance in NXT since 2013. Granted, it is still via a recording, but the Firefly Funhouse is always exciting anyway. This first-ever Firefly in NXT takes everyone by surprise, with Bray letting Finn know that “he” has heard your message, and is willing to see him again. It will not be because of pride or some need for senseless violence, no, Finn will be a public experiment this time around for a power we haven’t seen yet. We have all seen The Fiend listening to the “Hurt.” But we have never seen him “Heal.”

If it is what Finn wants, The Fiend will oblige by trying to “Heal” him. But it will be in their own way and will take place iInside the Firefly Funhouse. Bray celebrates with all his little friends inside the Funhouse, only for the walls to start…oozing inky, black paint? Almost like a certain symbiote. Wyatt actually isn’t entirely sure what’s going on, but the feed for the Funhouse is interrupted by some extremely close up shots of Balor, gloating about getting his desired answer. He remarks a bit on his soul searching, saying he rediscovered a part of himself he tried to tuck away, but he cannot put it back. Balor says, if he’s going to have to face “him,” he’s going to have to summon “HIM.”

This is all complete with that incredible WWE production work, with shots of Finn’s appearances as The Demon glitching in and out before match-cutting to Finn’s sadistically satisfied smile, all this announcing the anticipated return of his Super Saiyan form. This is all before the segment ends with one of those jump scare shots of The Fiend’s face, wrapping it all up in one terrifying bow.

I would imagine this all taking place in October, so whatever the show may be, whether it is Hell in a Cell or a rebirth of Halloween Havoc, this fills the monthly zeitgeist and that ‘monster mash’ flavor and I’m sure the WWE would have more than enough marketing buzzwords to shove down our throats about it. Might even call it the “Monster Mash.” Ugh.

 

The Match

Finn Balor
Source: WWE

So this is the most difficult part of all of this. Putting it in the Firefly Funhouse allows one to do all kinds of things that many of us would never dream or imagine in a wrestling environment. Like the Funhouse promos, I’m not going to try and describe how every beat of the thing would shape out. I would imagine it would use tons of references to the Bullet Club and the importance that has on Finn’s career without ever actually calling it that. But as far as the booking goes, it is a tough call. Who wins? Both are incredible novelties that should be protected as otherworldly forces, but one of them has to lose some ground here. The Demon has been built for years as unbeatable with only one loss on his record and The Fiend being booked the very same way has already put WWE into booking pickles in the past. Would this be a case of supernatural full-timer vs. part-timer? The Demon hasn’t been seen in over a year and makes a possibly one-time appearance and could use the win, but The Fiend has been an awe-inspiring constant for the past year.

Given that it does take place in the Firefly Funhouse, though, I’d say it goes one direction easily dictated by character and story. The form and function of the Firefly Funhouse matches we’ve seen to date basically bring Bray’s opponent face-to-face with themselves or different parts of themselves. While I nor anyone may know the depth of creativity Wyatt might come up with, I can conjure quite a few images. The Bullet Club references are an absolute must, but so is the idea of Finn Balor, the (extraordinary) man, having to go toe-to-toe with The Demon himself. Bray being a very Earl Hebner style biased referee for Finn in this meeting would probably also be very welcome. Despite that, we get the surreal treat that is The Prince vs. The Demon King. Yes, this is the most “extra” part of this, and don’t ask me on the technical front what would need to be done to make this happen as I’d have no clue. Working a tad off comic book physics here.

Anyway, despite his best efforts, Finn can’t seem to defeat The Demon and what he represents. Quick kickouts after everything don’t make it seem fair. Even a double dose of the Coup de Grace can’t put him away. It isn’t until The Fiend makes his appearance and the two actually have their promised duel that The Demon gets his fill. The two have an incredibly hard-hitting encounter with a sprinkling of supernatural elements, like The Fiend’s short-range teleportation and The Demon conjuring fog on command. In the end, however, The Fiend prevails after showing us he’s listening to the “Heal” glove, perhaps even using that hand side for the Sister Abigail. He pins The Demon (with Wyatt still as the ref), but does not stay to celebrate his victory. The screen goes dark and he disappears.

The only people left in the ring when lights return are Finn and the downed body of The Demon. Finn, in a corner, looks to his alter ego, barely able to catch his breath. The Demon tries to exhaustedly crawl to him, a twist on that signature Demon crawl from his various theatrical entrances. Finn looks on, rather sad. If only for a moment. His face curls into anger and his fingers curl into the double handguns. Finn, and by this point the audience, realizes that this is the end of The Demon.

“Long live The Prince.”

Cut to black.

 

The Aftermath

What exactly are the lasting effects of his battle at the center of the mind? For the Fiend, this seems simple – if anyone needs a character supercharge, it’s him. The Fiend has been on the downturn for quite a while, probably since running into the absurdity that was the Goldberg loss and topped off with being made a transitional champion for Roman Reigns. This would give him a whole new spin, a new dimension as he tries to find people to “Heal.” May also give him a new list of targets, seeing as how the list of those who have done Bray wrong in the past is dwindling a bit.

For Balor, while he’s gotten a bit of a supercharge by becoming NXT Champion, this might push him to get it back after losing it in my set-up scenario but hold it for so much longer due to him rediscovering himself. He also gets to stay a heel without something else being over his shoulder. But what exactly did The Demon that he slayed represent? Was it Finn’s independent past? The troubles on the main roster? Perhaps the manifestation of all his successes that he hasn’t been able to maintain? It is whatever you may think it is. A little subjectivity in the storytelling works wonders, I think, because “The Demon” inside us all is different for everyone. And is this the end of The Demon? Is he truly dead? That remains to be seen as well, but at least use some theatrics if you want to write it off for a while.

One thing is for certain, however, and that is that this should be a one-and-done affair. I know the WWE or any promoter would love to milk this for all its worth, but in this vacuum of fantasy scenario, we let these men present their different sides, and go their separate ways – but never be the same again.

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