At TakeOver 31 on Oct. 4, 2020, NXT champion Finn Bálor suffered a broken jaw defending his title against Kyle O’Reilly.
It took a few steel plates and three months before Bálor worked his next match - also against O’Reilly on Jan. 6. But the champ says the injury’s still with him, and even contributed to another injury he suffered in that rematch.
Getting ready for his next big fight this weekend at TakeOver: Vengeance Day against Pete Dunne, the 39 year old Irishman says he’s fine otherwise - even if he’s still getting over a bit of hesitancy about getting hit in the face.
Here’s what he told the New York Post:
“Yeah, a lot. Grinding my teeth still a lot. Still in pain, still very reluctant to get any type of strike to the face, which was actually something that led to the arm injury in the match versus Kyle (O’Reilly) the second one. I was protecting the jaw so much I actually weakened my arm.
One thing that still hasn’t come back is the feeling in my bottom lip. It’s still numb. It’s like I’ve been to the dentist and you get that shot. Pretty much my bottom lip down to my chin I’ve still got no feeling, but the doctors are a little hopeful that might come back in a couple of months. They say nerves take a little longer to heal. Sometimes you’ll see me out there now if I’m doing a promo licking my bottom lip more or I’ll be rubbing it a little bit. It still feels like there’s Novocain in there and it’s numb. It gets dry a lot. But apart from that, no, I feel 100 percent.
“Obviously you wrestle for 20 years and you are worrying about your own performance and what you want to do and now all of sudden you’re worried about, oh I need to protect this extra injury. It’s not necessarily an injury, it’s more like a weakness. It’s not, oh he has a torn hamstring or something. You got plates in your jaw. You really don’t have any trust in how strong they are until they take an impact and then you go, hey, yeah that’s fine. So it’s getting over that first impact that’s kind of the block in your brain. Slowly getting over that. I’m sure I’ll be 100 percent on Sunday because I have no doubt Pete’s gonna hit me a couple times.”
Like the series with KOR, Finn’s long-awaited showdown with Dunne should pretty brutal. It should provide him with ample opportunities to work on getting over what he describes “a weakness”.
Also of interest from this interview, Bálor addressed the rumors of an NXT championship match happening at WrestleMania 37:
“Ehh, it would be very cool but I feel NXT is something that is very close to my heart and NXT TakeOver at WrestleMania weekend is a huge event and a huge kind of flag bearer for NXT. And not having the NXT title match on TakeOver, if that’s gonna in any way damage the NXT brand, it’s something I’d rather stay away from. Once we’re protecting the NXT brand without having it diluted by the big show at WrestleMania it’s something I’d be willing to do. If there’s the possibility of defending the title back to back nights, TakeOver and WrestleMania, then I’m all for it.”
Doubt there will be a pre-’Mania TakeOver since the Showcase of the Immortals is again two nights this year, so Finn might not have to worry about diluting the brand in that sense. The bigger issue would probably be the NXT belt being promoted like a secondary or even tertiary title in comparison to Raw and SmackDown’s.
We’ll see what happens come April.
In the meantime, check out the rest of Bálor’s interview with the Post here, where he talks up the clash with a guy who followed him as a standard bearer for pro wrestling in Europe & the UK, discusses future challengers, and even ponders a dream match with Edge.