After the debut match of Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows on the April 25th edition of Raw, and many interactions with AJ Styles throughout the show, it would seem as though the long-rumoured Bálor Club is in full swing.
However, it has not gotten off to a good start.
The first mistake of WWE was giving away the debuts of Bálor Club members. Anderson and Gallows viciously attacked the Usos – cousins of Roman Reigns – on April 11, and ten days later, in Lowell, Massachusetts, Finn Bálor lost his NXT Championship cleanly to Samoa Joe. As soon as the unexpected title change took place, social media erupted with speculations of Bálor Club’s debut at WWE Payback.
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Some of the biggest pops in sports-entertainment history have been given by the fans when they are genuinely surprised and overjoyed by the debut, return, or appearance of a wrestler or team. Thus, by giving away their trump card so soon, WWE has failed to launch Bálor Club with the catapult that was set in place. Furthermore, the house show took place ten days before the Payback pay-per-view, providing sufficient time for the fans to digest the news and prepare for the debut.
Having lost the element of surprise, WWE Creative had to book the pre-Bálor Club members strongly. On Raw, they failed to do just that.
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Anderson and Gallows defeated The Usos in their first WWE match but were booked to look as if they won due to resiliency. For many debuts, resiliency is one of the best characteristics to tout, but for two dominant men who have won the prestigious IWGP Tag Team Championship thrice, a squash match should have occurred.
The attack post-match from the two big men was promising, displaying their aggressive and villainous sides. All of that changed, however, when Roman Reigns ran to the ring, and single-handedly punched both men out of the ring, who then retreated up the ramp, clutching their faces.
Are we, as fans of the product, to believe that arguably the best tag team on the planet cannot defeat one Roman Reigns? Are we to believe that Anderson and Gallows would cower from Reigns?
The answer appears to be a resounding “Yes!” as it happened once more at the end of the night. After Anderson and Gallows failed to distract Reigns from picking up the victory against Alberto Del Rio, they pounced on a vulnerable champion.
After a rare flash of brilliance by WWE Creative, when AJ Styles appeared and called off Anderson and Gallows to further confuse the audience as to the existence of an affiliation between the men, Reigns punched Styles in the face. Then, he punched Gallows in the face… and then punched Anderson in the face.
Although AJ Styles would deliver the Phenomenal Forearm to Reigns to close the show, continuing his relatively strong booking since his debut, the enforcers of the Bálor Club have been decimated. Anderson and Gallows looked weak, divided, and intimidated after the events of Raw, leaving fans to wonder whether Bálor Club will live up to its astronomical expectations.
By recreating the hottest stable in sports-entertainment, one that was established by a competitor who has consistently delivered matches of higher quality, WWE has taken a great risk of losing viewership to NJPW. If WWE cannot deliver the same storyline as well as, if not better than, NJPW, then why are fans supposed to watch an inferior product?
WWE is a giant in the sports-entertainment industry, with enough capital to recruit the hottest free agents and stars from other promotions. Unfortunately, the company has ignored the clear need for better writers and a change of managerial direction, and talented wrestlers have been wasted.
Bálor Club may be the biggest storyline for WWE since the Monday Night Wars, but the stakes have never been higher. If Bálor Club turns out to be a colossal failure, it may encourage fans to change the channel – for good.