Wrestler of the Day – January 31: Fit Finlay

Today we look at one of the most well traveled wrestlers of all time: Fit Finlay.

Of course Finlay got his start in Europe, working for his father’s promotion in Ireland. It’s almost impossible to find anything that regional, but there’s some more available stuff from his time in England. Here’s a match against Young David, more famous as the British Bulldog, from March 12, 1982.

Fit Finlay vs. Young David

Finlay is Irish Middleweight Champion. As is traditional with British wrestling, this is under a round system (eight five minute rounds here) and it’s 2/3 falls. The ring is fall smaller than most that you would see in America. David cranks on the arm to start and gets a quick one off a sunset flip. They hit the mat for some arm work until Finlay grabs a wristlock. David spins around and grabs one of his own as we’re firmly in technical mode here.

Finlay comes back with a leg lock as the well dressed crowd looks on intently. David grabs a wristlock but Finlay bridges out and snapmares David down. Off to an arm lock by Finlay as this is being treated as something serious. It’s very interesting to see something as different as we’re getting here. Finlay goes back to the wristlock and even a David slam can’t break the grip. A snapmare puts Finlay down and the first round ends.

The match is clipped to the start of round four (every version I can find of this has the clip) and they stare each other down. Finlay takes over with some elbows to the back of the head before bending David’s leg around Finlay’s neck. David escapes by KICKING HIM IN THE FACE but it’s right back to the hold. Finlay drops a leg on David’s leg and cranks on it even more until the Young one spins out to escape.

Not that it matters as Fit grabs the leg again and we can hear some fans shouting boring. David escapes again and, say it with me, it’s right back to the hold. The round ends and they actually shake hands while going back to their corners. No clipping here so it’s straight to round five. They put their heads together and try to ram the other for a few moments until Finlay grabs a front facelock.

A hard whip across the ring has David in more trouble and Finlay puts him over his shoulder for a backbreaker submission hold. David won’t give up because he’s a good blue eye (British term for face) but Finlay clubs him down and pins him for the first fall. Apparently the sixth round automatically begins after the previous fall.

Finlay cranks on the arm but David falls on top of him in a slam attempt for two. Now it’s David slamming Fit down as the fans get into it a little bit. A cross body out of nowhere is good for a pin on Finlay to tie things up. Due to the fall we automatically start round seven and it’s Finlay tripping David down to the mat. David reverses to a chinlock before hitting his powerslam (impressive as he’s TINY here) for one.

Finlay goes right back to the armbar before David kicks him in the chest to escape. They slug it out and a quick suplex gets two for David. Back to the leg hold by Fit but David reverses into a body scissors. Finlay pushes off the mat but can’t break the hold, even as he’s standing on his feet. He finally flips David down and grabs a standing arm hold, only to be backdropped down for two. Finlay does the same thing to him and the round ends with Finlay throwing David down.

Last round now and both guys are clearly tired. Finlay cranks on the arm again before they slug it out with forearms from their knees. David grabs a headlock and cranks on it so much that Finlay can’t slam him for the break. A piledriver, the high spot of the match, gets two on Finlay but he comes right back with a suplex for the pin and the match.

Rating: C+. This is an entirely different kind of match and I would understand why most fans today would find this boring. That being said, it’s actually entertaining when you get down to the style here. You had two guys working on each other’s bodies for thirty seven minutes until any big move was going to beat the other. Well other than the piledriver but you get the idea. It’s not my style of wrestling but it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re interested in something that is as pure as you’re going to find.

Since he wouldn’t get to WCW for thirteen years and stuff from England is really hard to find, we’ll stop in New Japan for a tag match from April 30, 1992. You should know most of the people involved.

Eddie Guerrero/Negro Casas vs. Fit Finlay/Chris Benoit

Finlay and Casas get things going with Finlay cranking on a headlock before driving Casas down with an armbar. Casas changes it to a leg lock but Finlay quickly makes it to the ropes and takes it to the floor for a quick chop off. Back in and we hit the chinlock on Casas before it’s off to Benoit for a moderate pop. Casas rolls out of an armbar and we get the match that would be the backbone for several WCW shows for years to come.

Eddie charges right at Chris with a dropkick but it’s off to Finlay almost immediately. Casas comes back in as well and slugs it out with Finlay, which is a stupid idea no matter who you are. A few hard shots send Casas flying across the ring but he punches Finlay square in the jaw to get a breather. Eddie comes back in for a double team leg crank, only to miss an elbow drop.

Back to Benoit who drops Eddie with an enziguri but takes too long going up, allowing Eddie to score with a superplex. Eddie’s top rope splash (not the amphibious type yet) hits Benoit’s knees but he comes back with a victory roll for two. Finlay gets the tag and hits a hard shoulder to Eddie’s ribs in the corner and a Vader Bomb for two. Eddie easily makes the tag to Casas who takes Finlay to the floor and sends him into the barricade.

Finlay sends him into something much more painful: a Benoit clothesline. Back inside and it’s Benoit hammering on Casas but getting taken down by a headscissors to pop the crowd. Benoit reverses a crucifix attempt into a slam and hits the Swan Dive for two. Eddie and Casas get in some double teaming on Finlay before taking him to the floor to drop him onto the barricade.

Everything breaks down with Finlay and Benoit sending the opponents together, only to have them reverse into stereo dropkicks. Everyone but Eddie heads over the barricade so Eddie hits a HUGE springboard plancha to take them out. It’s Eddie vs. Benoit in the ring again with Guerrero reversing a tombstone but being reversed back into it for two.

Casas makes the save and launches Eddie into a dropkick on Benoit for two but Finlay makes the save. Everything breaks down again and Benoit accidentally baseball slides Finlay. Back in and Eddie’s springboard missile dropkick hits Casas, allowing Benoit to reverse an Eddie hurricanrana into a sunset flip for the pin.

Rating: C+. Not the best match in the world to start but the last four minutes or so were very exciting. Finlay didn’t look used to this style yet but he was still looking decent out there. Benoit vs. Eddie is a match that you can’t mess up no matter how hard you try and Casas was fine so the match worked quite well.

It was off to America and WCW for Finlay, who was immediately placed in a feud with fellow European tough guy William Regal. The two would meet in a match ahead of its time on August 29, 1996: a parking lot brawl.

Belfast Brawler vs. Steven Regal

This is joined in progress and is in the parking lot with a circle of cars around them. It’s a rematch from Uncensored and they fight over a cinder block. A bumper comes off a car and it goes into Regal’s stomach. Very stiff shots here. It’s so weird to see Regal being all young and flexible. Finlay gets choked by a seatbelt and Regal does as well.

I know this probably sounds commonplace by today’s standards but this was unheard of at the time. It helps that it’s a very stiff fight also and feels more like a street fight than a match called a street fight. Finlay goes through a windshield and the throw punches until Regal grabs a bumper. Tombstone (Finlay’s finisher) on the concrete doesn’t work so Regal tries a Piledriver of his own on the car. They’re on a wide shot here as Regal manages to get the Piledriver on the hood for the pin. Brain: “He’s out of gas!”

Rating: B. Like I said by today’s standards this isn’t a great match but for its time this was awesome stuff. They were pounding on each other out there and it made people want to watch WCW and find out what was going on here. Good stuff overall and a rather fun match which is still talked about today.

After a few months off TV, Finlay would come back and do very little. Eventually he would get a TV Title shot on May 9, 1998.

TV Title: Fit Finlay vs. Booker T

Fit takes him into the corner to start and hits a hard kick to the champion’s back. Finlay cranks on the leg as Tony is thrilled to have Nitro back to three hours next week. Booker fights up with a good looking spin kick to the face before backdropping Finlay to the floor. Back in and Finlay hits a hard clothesline, only to be taken down by a running forearm. The ax kick puts Finlay down and the whip spinebuster does the same. There’s a flapjack from the champion as Benoit saunters down to the ring. The distraction lets Finlay tombstone Booker down for the pin and the title.

Rating: D+. Nothing special here but it furthers the Booker vs. Benoit feud, which has already had developments since the last time we saw them. Over the last week, Booker and Benoit traded the TV Title at some house shows, but neither of Benoit’s two wins were acknowledged tonight. Instead we need Finlay to get the title. That’s not a knock on Finlay, but he hasn’t done anything of note in months and he gets a title?

Finlay would defend the title against random opponents for a month and a half before dropping it back to Booker T. The rest of the year wouldn’t go anywhere for Finlay and he would head into 1999 with nothing going on. Eventually WCW would start doing hardcore stuff and a tough guy like Finlay would be perfect for something like that. The first big hardcore match was a junkyard battle royal at Bash at the Beach 1999.

Junkyard Invitational

Ciclope, Jerry Flynn, Johnny Grunge, Hak, Horace Hogan, Brian Knobbs, Fit Finlay, Hugh Morrus, La Parka, Steven Regal, Rocco Rock, Silver King, David Taylor, Mikey Whipwreck

It should be noted that no one knew who was going to be in this match until it starts and it just starts with no intros or anything. And yes, they’re actually in a junkyard with almost no lighting. This must be THRILLING for the live audience too. Oh and Hak (Sandman) made the invitation. Now remember, we have no idea who is in this, you can’t see anything, and since they’re in a real junkyard it’s all over everywhere. We go to an aerial shot for no apparent reason.

Public Enemy, who are here for one night only, throw a car over off a pile of them. Jimmy is running around with his helmet. We have sparks. No idea how to call this because YOU CAN’T SEE ANYTHING. Ciclope (I think) dives off a car with a swanton that misses, sending him into another car. Steven Regal and Dave Taylor are here and no one can believe it. Seriously this looks like an action scene from a bad movie and since they’re in fighting clothes rather than ring gear, it’s almost impossible to tell who is who.

It’s very clear that most guys are just walking around and not really doing anything. Occasionally they’ll do something but it’s not very much at all. Morrus jumps off a car and misses an elbow to Finlay. Various weapons shots go around and La Parka has a tail pipe. Bobby: “I hit a guy from behind with a transmission once but never a tail pipe.” Some luchador dives off a car onto a bunch of people.

Horace throws Rocco through a windshield. Heenan goes into a used car salesman pitch which is kind of funny. La Parka has a chair. This is just boring anymore. Finlay hits people with various objects. No one has gone for the exit yet. Tony and Bobby suggest ways to escape. Morrus misses a charge at a car. Finlay gets all superheroish and blocks a shot with a garbage can as a shield.

Dave Taylor gets a tire put over him and is stuck on the ground. Rocco and Horace finally try to get out. Rock gets halfway over the gate but Horace makes the save. Finlay rams a bumper into someone’s chest. Taylor finally dances out of the tire. Hak gets smacked in the head with something and just keeps walking. He and Finlay go over by a Chevy and Finlay is put in it. Someone comes over with a forklift and picks up the Chevy. Finlay gets out of it and the car gets crushed, exploding for no apparent reason at all. Finlay kicks over a barrel of fire and climbs out as something else blows up.

Rating: N/A. This wasn’t wrestling. I don’t know what it was but it wasn’t wrestling. I’ve seen a lot of stupid stuff in my time, but this very well may have been the stupidest. I mean seriously, who in the world thought this was a good idea? This apparently cost over $100,000 to put on, no one in the audience would have been able to see the video of this (remember that they more or less had to sit around for fifteen minutes) and about four of them got hurt in the process and were out for a long time. So freaking idiotic. This company deserved to fail

Unfortunately Finlay would be injured later in the month at a house show, putting him out for most of the year. Again in 2000, Finlay would have nothing to do and would be done with the company in November. That was pretty much it for Finlay as an active wrestler for several years as he would spend most of 2001-2005 as a trainer, basically building the Divas division from the ground up. Eventually he would return to the ring in late 2005 and win the US Title shot on the July 14, 2006 episode of Smackdown. He would defend it against old rival William Regal at the 2006 Great American Bash.

US Title: Finlay vs. William Regal

 

Lashley was supposed to get the shot here but was sidelined by legitimate high liver enzymes. JBL goes on a hilarious rant before the match. “LIVER ENZYMES??? AS MUCH AS I’VE DRANK I’M LUCKY TO HAVE A LIVER!!! MY LIVER LOOKS LIKE JAKE ROBERTS’ AND MY LIVER ENZYMES HAVE NEVER BEEN HIGH!” I’m having issues having Cole as a neutral commentator. Regal is worried about Horny (not yet named) interfering. Regal goes a-leprechaun hunting and before the match starts.

 

Regal says he’ll just leave but Finlay tries to roll him up anyway. They lock up and go all the way to the floor without breaking it. They walk around and back up the steps and into the ring without breaking that lockup. Regal grabs a single leg and works the leg but that gets him nowhere. Regal throws him to the floor and here’s Horny! He pops Regal in the leg and JBL freaks out. “I want one for Christmas!”

 

Regal loses track of him and stands on the steps instead of, you know, GETTING IN THE RING. Horny sneaks up on him and Regal nearly jumps out of his skin. Back in Finlay gets a clothesline for two and it’s off to a nerve hold. This heel vs. heel thing is only kind of working so they’re going for comedy. JBL gives us a European soccer lesson as Finlay takes over. Regal gets in some kicks and a butterfly suplex for two.

 

Horny is back! He bites the fingers of Regal and Regal has to rake the eyes of the tiny leprechaun to escape. Back in and Finlay takes over, working on the hand. Regal gets in a shot to the leg to break the momentum. This is a highly technical match to go with the comedy which is an interesting mix. Regal hooks a chinlock but Finlay fights out with some shots to the ribs.

 

Back to the floor and you can hear them hitting each other incredibly hard. This was the same thing they did back at Uncensored 96, although this is a more entertaining match. Now Finlay hooks the chinlock. Regal throws him into the corner and they ram heads. In a great old school heel move, Regal drops to a knee, putting his leg on Finlay’s throat, while he talks to the referee. Exploder suplex puts Finlay down and there’s a knee drop for two.

 

The fans call this boring. I call them uncultured slobs. This is a European style match and it’s entertaining to see a different perspective. Regal runs off the apron and gets crotched on the apron skirt. Finlay hammers him back into the ring and takes Regal’s shoe off. It’s possible Horny stole it. Finlay misses a charge and hits the post. The fans are loudly booing now. Regal gets the Irish club that I can’t spell. Horny slips Finlay Regal’s boot though and a shot with that is enough for the pin to keep the title on Finlay.

 

Rating: C-. I’m going to be in the fairly extreme minority here but I enjoyed this. The technical aspect of it is really good but the comedy stuff is going to be very hit or miss. To be fair though, this was a hard one to work out as the styles really clashed. I was entertained by it though and that’s the point of this.

2006 would continue to be a good year for Finlay as he would get his only PPV main event in a four way for the Smackdown Title at No Mercy.

Smackdown World Title: Booker T vs. Lashley vs. Finlay vs. Batista

No tagging here. Cole talks about the numbers and JBL replies with this gem. JBL: “QUIT WITH THE MATH!!! I count money jackass!” Batista goes after Booker as Finlay throws Lashley to the floor. Finlay hooks up with Booker as Cole keeps talking about percentages. Lashley back in now and he throws Finlay to the floor. Batista is down in the corner. Spinebuster gets two on Booker.

 

Finlay pulls Lashley to the floor and a double teaming begins. Back in and the double team is on Batista until Finlay double crossed Booker. JBL freaking out is great but Cole is just awful at giving him stuff to play off. We’re down to Finlay vs. Booker with the pale one taking over. Lashley tries to get in but Finlay casually knocks him away. Booker is knocked to the floor so Finlay works on Big Dave’s arm.

 

Batista hits a Samoan Drop but Finlay hangs on. Cool. Lashley comes in but Finlay takes him down too. Cole calls Finlay Lashley because they look so much alike. Half crab to Lashley but Booker superkicks Finlay down for two. Booker takes Batista down with another sweet kick for two. Big Dave sideslams him down for two. Their one on one match is over as Lashley clotheslines Booker to the floor.

 

Finlay brings in a chair but Lashley kicks it away. Horny comes in to low blow Lashley and the club to the head gets two for Finlay as Booker saves. Everyone gets in for a bit and Batista hits a Jackhammer to take Finlay out so it’s face vs. face. Batista is like screw fighting and spears him down for two. Lashley comes back and somewhere (even Cole isn’t sure where) Batista gets his head busted open.

 

Batista gets thrown to the floor as does Finlay but Booker comes in with a Bookend for two. Just the two of them in the ring now and Bobby counters a suplex for two. Booker doesn’t know what to do here so he takes his hair down. Finlay breaks up the ax kick and gets two. Batista hits spinebusters on everyone and a Batista Bomb to Finlay. Lashley spears him for no apparent reason, allowing Booker to steal the pin on Finlay.

 

Rating: B-. Not bad here at all with the formula working pretty well. I like the four man matches much better than three man as you get more combinations out of it. Booker winning was obvious but it was still good enough at times. Finlay was really impressive here as he ran most of the match, which is what he’s great for.

A few months later, Finlay would be entered into his biggest storyline ever. Vince McMahon was revealed to have an illegitimate son in the form of Hornswoggle, but this would eventually be retconned to Finlay really being the father but having Vince hide the fact for reasons that were never quite explained. JBL attacked Horny, setting up a Belfast Brawl at Wrestlemania XXIV.

John Bradshaw Layfield vs. Finlay

This is a Belfast Brawl which means street fight. Finlay was revealed to be Hornswoggle’s dad and JBL beat up the tiny man as a favor to Vince. Tonight it’s about revenge. Horny comes out with Finlay to appeal to the kids. Finlay charges at the ring and gets drilled by a knee to the head. JBL pounds away on the floor but gets sent shoulder first into the steps. We head inside for the opening bell and Finlay slides right back out to find some trashcans.

As he gets back in though JBL CRACKS him with a can and picks up some cookie sheets. Now the steps are brought in but JBL can’t powerbomb Finlay onto them. Some cookie sheet shots to the head put JBL down for two but a big boot does the same to Finlay. JBL stops to yell at Horny, allowing for the shot with that Irish club that I can’t spell. Since this is a WWE hardcore style match, it’s table time.

The table is set up in the corner but Finlay picks up the steps instead. JBL bails to the floor and beats on Horny, only to be rammed into the announce table by Papa Horny for his efforts. A trashcan lid to the head stops Finlay and gets two back inside, allowing JBL to pick up a trashcan and LAUNCH IT at Horny. That looked great.

Speaking of trashcans, a shot to JBL breaks up the Clothesline and Finlay blasts him with a lid for good measure. JBL is sent through the table for two and the fans are pleased. Finlay picks up the steps but gets blasted in the knee by a kendo stick, allowing JBL to knock him out with the Clothesline for the pin.

Rating: C+. This was fine. The whole point of this was to have a power brawl with some basic weapons which is what we got. I’m really not sure on JBL winning as the fans were solidly behind Horny and Finlay, but at least the match was entertaining and there were some hard shots in there. Good stuff here.

The partnership with Hornswoggle would continue in an actual team at Night of Champions 2008 where the pair actually received a Tag Title match.

Smackdown Tag Titles: John Morrison/Miz vs. Finlay/Hornswoggle

Please make it short. They already did that didn’t they? Do I need to explain to you why this is a dumb match? And the fans pop for the challengers because that’s what Satan told them to do. The tall guy and the Monday Night Delight start us off. Ross and Foley are a weird pairing on commentary. Horny is listed at 4’4. Why did Vince wonder why we didn’t like the company in 08?

We do get a spot that I haven’t seen before as Morrison jumps over the rope and gets crotched on the ring skirt. I’ve never seen that before. Finlay starts throwing Horny into Miz and Morrison as a projectile. This is a comedy match that forgot the comedy. How weird is it to think that two years later Miz could be a potential MITB winner? I wouldn’t be surprised if he won it. Miz and Morrison were really starting to get good here but wouldn’t hit their stride for a few more months.

Horny comes in and beats up Miz, hitting a Stunner and a bulldog. None of these do anything of course since HE IS TINY. The problem becomes clear here very soon: the heels have to either beat up Horny or have him get the hot tag. Finlay beats up everyone after such a tag and the fans care for some reason. Horny goes up for the splash and Morrison finally realizes how stupid this is and more or less chokeslams him to the mat, ending this annoyance.

Rating: D. I mean seriously, it’s a freaking midget and an old man against a good and young team. Was this really the best option they had? They wanted this to make this a serious match and it just completely failed. It was a hybrid comedy match and mess and just didn’t work. They wanted Horny to be something serious and it just didn’t work so of course they kept going with it forever.

It would soon be off to ECW where Finlay would be one of the old guys putting over the youngn’s, including in a Championship Scramble at the Bash in June 2009.

ECW Title: Christian vs. Tommy Dreamer vs. Jack Swagger vs. Mark Henry vs. Finlay

This is a Scramble match which is more or less a gauntlet. Every three minutes someone else comes in and whoever gets the final pin is champion but you have to pin the champion for the pin to count. Uh…sure. Christian and Swagger start us off. Wow it’s weird to see Swagger as champion before Christian. I miss the pushups.

Ok so if Swagger pins Christian he’s IT more or less? I guess that makes sense. I’m assuming that there will be a clock once everyone comes in. Striker implies a heel turn for Christian but nothing ever came for that. The clock begins far before three minutes is up and it’s Finlay. Striker talks about Irishmen from centuries ago as no one cares at all. Swagger pokes Finlay in the eye and rolls him up to become IT.

Christian and Swagger do a nice little sequence that gets two for the Canadian. He beats Christian down as Dreamer is number four. Dreamer beats up everyone with incredibly basic stuff but throws out a Sky High. Ok apparently it’s not Swagger that has to lose the title as it’s just the last pin. Uh…that kind of makes sense I suppose.

They blow a spot where Christian is on the mat and Dreamer gets thrown onto him. It just looked really awkward. Finlay finally comes back to life and hits the Celtic Cross on Swagger to become IT. Finlay and Dreamer don’t work well together to put it mildly. And here’s Henry to suck the life out of the match. Ok so now we have five minutes left and whoever gets the last fall is champion. Got it.

Dreamer takes the World’s Worst Finisher with 4:15 to make Henry IT. Everyone not named Dreamer beats Henry up and the people start booing for some reason. Finlay hits a freaking suicide dive onto Swagger. Have to love old men flying all over the place. Henry teases a top rope dive but for the sake of the gravitational pull, Swagger saves him and gets the pin to become it with about 2:20 to go.

I like knowing how much longer to go at times and this is one of them. Christian hits the Killswitch on Swagger but Dreamer DDTs him at 1:20 to become IT. It becomes a big mess now which makes sense at least. On instinct Dreamer goes for a cover which they don’t point out the stupidity of. Everyone goes for covers but the clock runs out and Dreamer retains. He screams “I WON???” in a funny moment.

Rating: C+. These matches are hard to call but I liked it. Thankfully they haven’t killed them by having them every two weeks or something like that. This still feels fresh though and it comes off as a good way to be different. Also it makes Dreamer look like a competent champion and not a jobber which I can’t complain about. This worked but was still a little bit weird.

We’ll wrap it up with a win from Smackdown on January 22, 2010.

Finlay vs. Batista

Batista, the heel here shoves him into the corner to start but Finlay comes out with some hard right hands before raising a boot to stop Big Dave. Finlay slugs him down and hits the rolling fireman’s carry followed by a running seated senton. They head outside with Batista gouging at the eyes and throwing Finlay over the announce table for the very fast DQ.

Finlay is a guy that was never a focus of an American company but he could work a very physical style and make anyone look interesting. His British and European stuff certainly isn’t for everyone but it’s a very different style and interesting if you can get into the style. Finlay in America was a very tough guy who worked an entertaining style and that’s all a veteran like him was supposed to be. He’s an underrated talent who really has been all around the world.

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1 comment

  1. Dan says:

    I would like to point out that the match against Guerrero/Casas was on the same day I was born.