BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Finn Bálor first stepped in a WWE ring as a Raw Superstar four weeks ago.

Tonight at SummerSlam, he left the squared circle as the first WWE Universal Champion, defeating Seth Rollins with the Coup de Grace to capture the new title and building to a legacy of success that’s spanned Europe, Japan and NXT.

Moments before history was made, Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon and General Manager Mick Foley unveiled the new WWE Universal Championship. And then the mind-games began as The Demon King stalked to the
ring through a thick cloud of red smoke with a neon green tongue painted on his chest and a giant eye on his back.

Rollins could not get away from his opponent early on. Bálor blindsided him when the opening bell rang. When Rollins rolled to the outside to catch his breath, Bálor caught him with a senton over the top rope. He then began to target Rollins’ surgically repaired left knee.

Bálor had Rollins reeling, until “The Man” powerbombed his opponent into the ringside barricade, flipping momentum entirely.

Rollins tried to slow down The Demon King by targeting his nose. He repeatedly punched and kicked Bálor’s face, then used his wrist tape to stretch Bálor’s nose even further. With The Demon King struggling to breathe after the attacks, Rollins went in for the kill with a Frog Splash from across the ring.

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Bálor somehow kicked out of the subsequent pin, then regained control by countering Rollins with a devastating DDT. The Demon King was rolling with a dropkick on the ring apron, and Rollins’ attempt to slow his momentum with a Pedigree turned into a backdrop reversal, a Pelé Kick and 1916 — Finn’s underhook DDT.

When Rollins kicked out, Bálor positioned him in the corner for the Coup de Grace, bringing the Barclays Center crowd to its feet. But Rollins had the move scouted perfectly, rolling away from Bálor’s feet at the last moment and pulling him in a Triangle Lock. Since the Universal Champion could only be crowned by pinfall or submission, a rope break was not an option for Bálor, who struggled to maneuver out of the hold.

He finally escaped by rolling outside the ring, but Rollins dragged him back in and powerbombed him into the turnbuckle.

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“You think you can hang with me, Demon King?”
Rollins asked. “This is my ring.” Unable to keep Bálor down, Rollins dug deep into his arsenal, using a small package driver to plant The Demon King to the mat. That only served to light a fire in Bálor.

The Demon King inexplicably kicked out, then went on the attack. His dropkick into the barricade helped to set up a top-rope stomp to the back of Rollins’ head. Rollins rolled away from the Coup de Grace, though, and drilled Bálor into the canvas with a Pedigree.

When Bálor kicked out yet again, Rollins shook his head in disbelief. His best moves couldn’t keep Bálor down for the three-count. Rollins had one more trick left, climbing to the top rope for a Phoenix Splash. But Bálor dodged the high-risk move and greeted Rollins with a dropkick.

Rollins landed on the mat in perfect position for a Coup de Grace, and The Demon King rushed to the top rope. “The Man” met him there, though, leading to a ridiculous yet heart-stopping chain.

Rollins superplexed Bálor, then rolled into the Pedigree. Bálor countered the Pedigree, though, before dropkicking him from turnbuckle to turnbuckle. The fury allowed Bálor to finally connect with the Coup de Grace to secure the three-count and become the inaugural WWE Universal Champion.

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When Mick Foley drafted Finn Bálor, he said it was “with an eye toward the future.” With Raw’s top prize around The Demon King’s waist, it’s clear the future is now.

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