Fergal Devitt is the latest Irish superstar to gain momentum stateside in the realm of professional wrestling.
Currently plying his trade in the WWE’s development territory NXT, Devitt is one of the best wrestlers worldwide, with the potential for superstardom.
At the age of 33 Devitt is a hugely experienced grappler. He’s wrestled all around the world, from Japan to Mexico, England to the US, picking up championships, accomplishments and a reputation all along the way. Despite his success, he remains a largely unknown quantity to the casual wrestling fan.
After training for years across Ireland and the UK, the Bray native took a big risk at the tender age of 24, moving to Japan to follow his dream. A different culture, a different language, a different style of wrestling, it was a challenge Devitt would overcome with ease.
‘Prince Devitt’ made his debut in March 2006 in the Puroresu promotion New Japan Pro Wrestling, scoring his first major title win in 2008 – the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. This would be the first of many, and only the beginning of Prince Devitt’s storied career in Japan.
Devitt added a further five reigns as a Junior Tag Champion to his resume, and he’s also held the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship on three occasions – a huge accomplishment and no mean feat. Devitt was a star in NJPW.
It’s important to note that wrestling in Japan is quite different to wrestling as we know it in the land of the WWE. While the word wrestling is a dirty word in the American land of sports entertainment, wrestling is where the emphasis lies in Japan. Less time spent on character development, more time in the ring. The crowd don’t boo characters, they applaud talent.
The Irish man’s skills in the ring were never in doubt, as he proved himself to be an exceptional wrestler and performer, captivating the audience on numerous occasions. Acrobatic and aggressive, Devitt put on numerous five star matches during his time in NJPW. Clashes against foes such as PAC (NXT’s Adrian Neville), Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Kouta Ibushi garnered international acclaim.
Yet it was a heel turn (when a wrestler turns from a fan favourite to villain) that really allowed him to showcase his abilities, and to prove what a rounded performer he really is.
The popular NJPW star thrived as an arch nemesis of the Japanese audience. Leading a team of fellow gaijins (non-Japanese wrestlers) known as the ‘Bullet Club’, Devitt & co. dominated the scene of New Japan Pro Wrestling, taking on all comers. Here Devitt brought a different character to the world of Japanese wrestling, and brought in a way that worked. He was the hottest property on the roster.
In April 2014 Devitt parted ways with NJPW after an epic eight year stint with the company, amidst rumours that he was chased down by Vince McMahon and the talent relations experts of the WWE. Devitt however played it coy, with his status rumoured about for weeks. Three months later Devitt officially signed with the wrestling giant, making his NXT debut in October.
Under the moniker Finn Bálor, Devitt has already captured the intrigue of the masses. He’s spectacular in the ring, while he continues to develop his own persona and character. There’s a certain edge to Devitt, and it draws fans to him.
In the WWE’s world of gimmicks, storylines, and character development, Devitt is a showman who never looks out of place. Devitt’s in ring look is something special too, where he regularly adds complex bodypaint and facepaint to his ring attire before big fights – heavily influenced by his love of comics. It’s something extra that is certain to identify Devitt from his counterparts, as he cements his status in the mind of the WWE universe and beyond.
Many have earmarked Fergal Devitt to succeed in the WWE and to quickly ascend throughout the ranks of the famous wrestling phenomenon. With Daniel Bryan and CM Punk rising to stardom in recent times, we’ve seen the smaller more technical wrestlers begin to get opportunities at the top of the card – a rarity in the WWE, who traditionally favour bigger brawlers.
For Vince McMahon, Triple H & co. to see the money in the likes of Bryan and Punk is only a positive for Devitt, whom the company are said to be high up on.
Still early in his NXT days, the Finn Bálor character has had a great start to his career in the WWE. But it’s a long road, and many dreams and aspirations lie shattered on the brutal boulevard that leads to a career in the famed World Wrestling Entertainment. It won’t be an easy ascension to the upper echelons of the WWE card, but Devitt is primed for a fight.
A tremendous wrestler, a natural showman and an all-round athlete who brings it all together in his own original way, Fergal Devitt is an exceptional talent. He has all the tools to excel in the WWE, and many have touted him for it.
Tune into RTE 2 tonight at 9 for a greater insight into the man who could become Ireland’s next big WWE superstar.
Jonathan Fitzpatrick, Pundit Arena