Finlay's first match was for his father's promotion in Glynn in 1974, when he filled in for a wrestler who no-showed. He began wrestling on a full-time basis in Carrickfergus and throughout Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland for the next four years before moving to England in 1978. In England, he wrestled for various companies under the Joint Promotions banner. Finlay defeated Alan Kilby on 9 June 1982 to win his first title, the Joint Promotions British Heavy Middleweight Championship. At this time, Finlay's then-wife, Princess Paula became his manager.
He then won a tournament to crown a new British Light Heavyweight champion and fill the vacant position, defeating Ringo Rigby in the finals. Finlay soon lost the championship, but later pinned Marty Jones to win the World Mid-Heavyweight Championship. He traded it back and forth with Jones for over two years before losing it a final time to Jones via disqualification. He defeated Jones to win Joint Promotions' British Light Heavyweight Championship. In the second half of the 1980s, he defeated Frank 'Chic' Cullen on television for the British Heavy-Middleweight championship, but later lost it to Danny Collins. In 1995 he became a champion at the top of the weight range when he won All-Star's British Heavyweight Championship. Finlay often competed on ITV's World of Sport programme as David "Fit" Finlay and had many matches against "The American Dream" Steve Adonis.
During this time, Finlay also began to wrestle in Japan, then in Germany and Austria for the European promotion Catch Wrestling Association. While holding the All-Star championship, he teamed with Jones to win the CWA tag title from Tony St. Clair and Miles Zrno. After losing the All-Star championship to Dave Taylor, Finlay began to focus more on the CWA, winning many of their championships.
Finlay appeared at a WWF event, as they continued with their national expansion in late 1989 at a dark match, teaming with Mark Rocco, and Skull Murphy, to defeat the team of Al Perez, Dusty Wolfe, and Tim Horner. This appearance was far away from the time in which Finlay would sign a full-time contract with the promotion in 2005.
Finlay debuted in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in 1995 as the Belfast Bruiser, a nickname he had previously used while in the UK. He feuded with Lord Steven Regal in 1996, including a parking lot brawl on Monday Nitro. During the feud, the Bruiser's matches were often interrupted by The Blue Bloods. At Uncensored, Bruiser won a stiff encounter with Regal by disqualification when the Blue Bloods again rushed the ring and assaulted him; Regal suffered a broken nose during the match. The feud died down thereafter and the Bruiser disappeared into the midcard.
After a hiatus off WCW television, he abandoned the Belfast Bruiser persona and returned under the ring name Fit Finlay while sporting a short, bleached-blond buzzcut and shaved his moustache off. He was given a push upon his return, which culminated in his winning the World Television Championship on 4 May 1998 after pinning Booker T on Nitro, thus setting off a three-way feud with Booker and Chris Benoit, who was also vying for the title. After Finlay lost the belt to Booker at The Great American Bash on 14 June, he fell out of the TV title picture. He then entered a feud with Alex Wright, who was angry at Finlay for having ended the wrestling career of his father, Steve Wright. The feud led to a matchup at Halloween Havoc, where Finlay was pinned by Wright.
At Bash at the Beach, he won a Junkyard Invitational involving Ciclope, Jerry Flynn, Johnny Grunge, Hak, Horace Hogan, Brian Knobs, Hugh Morrus, La Parka, Lord Steven Regal, Rocco Rock, Silver King, Squire Dave Taylor and Mikey Whipwreck, winning a "hardcore trophy". He legitimately suffered a badly lacerated nerve in his leg during a hardcore match at a house show in Jackson, Mississippi on 25 July 1999, which nearly cost him use of the leg. As he was wrestling Brian Knobbs, he was thrown into a table in the corner of the ring, causing it to shatter and the shards to cut into his leg. He managed to regain use of the limb and came back later in the year, but by that point, all momentum he had from the Junkyard Invitational win was lost. In 2000, Finlay formed a trio of "Hardcore Soldiers" with Knobbs and The Dog. They feuded with Vampiro; the feud included a match between Finlay and Vampiro at Uncensored, which marked Finlay's last appearance on a WCW pay-per-view. His final match in WCW was at a German house show in November 2000, losing to Norman Smiley in a hardcore match.
When WCW was purchased by the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), Finlay began working for the company as a trainer for new wrestlers. He trained future WWE champions John Cena and Randy Orton and was eventually put in charge of training the WWE Divas for their matches. He is credited with having enabled the transition of the company's presentation of the WWE Divas from bra and panties-style gimmick matches to critically acclaimed traditional wrestling. Former WWE Diva Victoria said: "He made us and molded us. He got to know what made us tick, exposed that, and there was nothing we couldn't do. Today, the girls pick and choose what moves they want to do. If Fit Finlay wasn't around, that wouldn't happen. We worked stiff. We made contact."
Finlay began working on a comeback in 2004, wrestling in a match against Jamie Noble at a house show in Glasgow, and promos began airing for his impending in-ring return in December 2005. His gimmick was that of a proud native Irishman who loves to fight. At the age of 47, Finlay made his first televised WWE match on the edition of 20 January 2006 of SmackDown! against Matt Hardy, which ended in a disqualification loss for Finlay. After the match, Finlay dragged Hardy to the steel ring steps and smashed Hardy's face into them with his boot, quickly establishing himself as a villain. This helped to give him the nickname, "The Fighting Irish Bastard". Finlay continued to establish himself on the SmackDown! roster. During February and March 2006, Finlay was involved in a feud with Bobby Lashley which began when Finlay cost Lashley his unbeaten streak by interfering in Lashley's match with JBL at No Way Out. This feud would see the pair brawl on many occasions, including a parking lot segment in which Lashley tried to overturn a car onto Finlay. Later, the pair competed in a Money in the Bank qualifier lumberjack match that Finlay won. During this time, Finlay began to wield a shillelagh as a weapon. On 2 April, Finlay competed at his first WrestleMania, WrestleMania 22. He faced five other WWE Superstars, from both the Raw and SmackDown! brands in a Money in the Bank ladder match which also included Lashley, who won a last chance battle royal. This match was eventually won by Rob Van Dam. Finlay next entered the King of the Ring tournament on SmackDown!, defeating his first round opponent Chris Benoit before being beaten by his rival Lashley, who advanced to the finals at Judgment Day. Finlay helped the other finalist, Booker T, defeat Lashley in the King of the Ring finals. At the same pay-per-view, Finlay lost to Chris Benoit.
Beginning on 26 May episode of SmackDown!, Finlay was joined by The Little Bastard, who came out from under the ring to attack Finlay's opponents. Finlay then joined forces with William Regal as loyal subjects of the newly renamed King Booker and his Court. Both men were later "knighted" by the King, and Finlay briefly used the name Sir Finlay. During his time as part of the court, Finlay picked up a win against World Heavyweight Champion Rey Mysterio in a non-title match before defeating the court's main foe Bobby Lashley to take Lashley's United States Championship. Finlay defended the championship on several occasions, often with help from Little Bastard, and even defended it against fellow court member William Regal at The Great American Bash. He lost the title to Mr. Kennedy on the edition of 1 September of SmackDown! in a Triple Threat match that also involved Bobby Lashley. After the title loss, Finlay continued to attack and wrestle threats to court leader Booker and his newly won World Heavyweight Championship, including Lashley and Batista. Finlay defeated Booker in a non-title singles match and lost in a four-way match at No Mercy for the title.
After leaving the court, Finlay continued to feud with Batista. On the edition of 10 November of SmackDown!, he returned to fight Batista in a singles match which he lost after Batista pinned him following a spinebuster. At Armageddon, Finlay and King Booker faced Batista and his partner, the WWE Champion John Cena from Raw, but were defeated.
Shortly after the Royal Rumble, Finlay began a feud with The Boogeyman. At No Way Out, he and Little Bastard defeated The Boogeyman and The Little Boogeyman. Finlay earned a place in the Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania 23; however, Mr. Kennedy won the match. Following this loss, he would feud with Kennedy, after an attack on Little Bastard (now known as Hornswoggle) during the Money in the Bank match, and Jamie Noble for assaulting Hornswoggle after he won the Cruiserweight Championship. Finlay's feud, however, would quickly redirect to Kane after Finlay spilled coffee on him. The two also became involved with Batista and The Great Khali. At Saturday Night's Main Event, he and Khali lost to Batista and Kane. Kane beat him at SummerSlam. Finlay defeated Kane in a Belfast Brawl rematch a few weeks later.
Finlay and Hornswoggle briefly separated when Hornswoggle was stripped of the Cruiserweight Title, and briefly moving to Raw with his "illegitimate father". Finlay then feuded with Rey Mysterio by attacking him during a confrontational interview with John "Bradshaw" Layfield. At No Mercy, Finlay faked an injury after taking a bump to the outside. Once placed on a stretcher, Finlay suddenly rose and attacked Mysterio, forcing Rey to be carried out on a stretcher. The feud continued at Cyber Sunday, where fans voted for the two to face-off in a Stretcher match. Mysterio came out on top, but Finlay retaliated with a victory on the edition of 9 November of SmackDown! The feud intensified further when the two faced on opposite teams at Survivor Series.
Finlay reunited with Hornswoggle by coming to rescue him in a match against The Great Khali, turning both Finlay and Hornswoggle faces. At Armageddon, Finlay was placed in a match with Khali. Finlay scored an upset win after Hornswoggle interfered by hitting Khali in the groin with a shillelagh. Still battling Khali and his translator, Ranjin Singh, with Hornswoggle, he qualified for the Royal Rumble. He drew number 27, but was immediately disqualified when he entered before his time to save Hornswoggle. Hornswoggle, who was also a competitor in the Rumble, was disqualified as well. Finlay fought in the Elimination Chamber match at No Way Out, ultimately being pinned after a chokeslam on the steel floor by The Undertaker.
Finlay then began making occasional appearances on Raw to protect Hornswoggle from Mr. McMahon, who had been showing him "tough love". After Hornswoggle was injured in a Steel Cage match by John "Bradshaw" Layfield, Layfield revealed that Finlay was Hornswoggle's father, and not McMahon. A week after, on 3 March, Finlay admitted to this fact. At WrestleMania XXIV he was defeated by Layfield in a Belfast Brawl, where Hornswoggle also reappeared.
As part of the 2008 WWE supplemental draft, Finlay was drafted to the ECW brand. He and Hornswoggle challenged The Miz and John Morrison for the WWE Tag Team Championship at Night of Champions, but lost. Throughout the rest of 2008, Finlay challenged for the ECW Championship. He, along with Matt Hardy, Chavo Guerrero, The Miz and ECW Champion Mark Henry participated in the first ever Championship Scramble match at Unforgiven which Matt Hardy won. He defeated Mark Henry on an episode of ECW to earn an opportunity for the ECW championship, but was defeated by the champion Matt Hardy. Then he started a feud with Henry, and the feud ended when Finlay defeated Henry in a Belfast Brawl match at Armageddon. Finlay became the first person to defeat ECW Champion Jack Swagger on 3 February 2009, edition of ECW, and, as a result, became the number one contender and challenged Swagger at No Way Out, but was unsuccessful. In the 2009 Supplemental Draft, Finlay and Hornswoggle were separated when Hornswoggle was drafted to Raw. In late May 2009, Finlay suffered a legitimate eye injury, sidelining him temporarily. He returned on 16 June, attacking ECW Champion Tommy Dreamer, Christian, and Jack Swagger. At The Bash, he participated in a Championship Scramble match for the ECW Championship, which also included Christian, Jack Swagger and Mark Henry, however the defending champion Tommy Dreamer retained. Finlay did not return to ECW after that.
He was traded to the SmackDown brand on 29 June 2009. His first match returning to the brand was against Ricky Ortiz, which Finlay won. He went on to form part of John Morrison's team at Survivor Series, but he was eliminated by Sheamus. In late 2009, he began pursuing the Intercontinental Championship by feuding with Drew McIntyre. In 2010, Finlay became a full-time trainer and agent.
Finlay was released in March 2011 after authorising the interruption of the American national anthem by The Miz during a house show, which offended many, including National Guard members who were in attendance. Finlay stated that his intention was to intensify the audience's dislike of The Miz in preparation for the latter's WrestleMania XXVII main event appearance, but accepted full responsibility for his dismissal.
After being released from WWE, Finlay was contacted by Total Nonstop Action Wrestling several times, but was unable to agree upon contractual terms. He began to wrestle again on the independent circuit, making his first appearance on 26 July 2011, defeating Sami Callihan at Evolve 9.
On 20 August 2011, Finlay made his debut for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, taking part in the 2011 Battle of Los Angeles tournament. He was eliminated from the tournament in the first round by PWG World Champion Kevin Steen.
On 28 October 2011, Finlay's debut for Yoshihiro Tajiri's Smash promotion was announced, when he was revealed as the mysterious "King of Terror", Michael Kovac had promised to bring to the promotion and named first ever Smash Champion StarBuck's first challenger for the title. On 24 November at Smash.23, Finlay defeated StarBuck to become the new Smash Champion. On 19 February, Finlay made his first successful defence of the Smash Championship, defeating TAJIRI. Prior to the event, Smash had announced that it would cease its operations on 14 March, which led to Finlay vacating the Smash Championship after the title defence.
On 6 November 2011, Finlay wrestled in the main event of a Stampede Wrestling show in Barrie, Ontario in a losing effort against Harry Smith.
On 21 January 2012, Fit Finlay returned to DOA Pro Wrestling in Portland, OR to face Ethan HD for the DOA Heavyweight Championship.
On 12 May 2012, at Border Wars, Finlay made his debut for Ring of Honor (ROH), unsuccessfully challenging Roderick Strong for the ROH World Television Championship. On 24 May, Finlay made his debut for Wrestling New Classic (WNC), the follow-up promotion to Smash, defeating Akira in the main event. Two days later, Finlay defeated Zeus in the main event of another WNC event. Finlay's first tour of WNC concluded on 27 May, when he, Akira and Syuri defeated Kana, Mikey Whipwreck and Tajiri in a six-person main event. On 24 June at ROH's Best in the World 2012: Hostage Crisis iPPV, Finlay was defeated by Michael Elgin.
Finlay returned to WNC on 20 September, when he defeated Ray Mendoza, Jr. in the main event at Korakuen Hall. Following the match, Finlay announced that he was done with WNC for the time being due to re-signing with WWE. Despite no longer scheduled to make appearances for WNC, Finlay was named the head of the WNC Championship Committee.
Following a stint in the independent circuit and a year after the house show incident, Finlay returned on 11 July 2012 as a backstage producer. The two sides had been negotiating since WrestleMania XXVIII, but there were situations that delayed the deal being finalised. Finlay made a cameo appearance on the 20th anniversary Raw episode in January 2013, as one of the officials who separated The Rock and CM Punk's brawl. He then appeared on the WWE Active set on the WWE app to talk about the Elimination Chamber match. He appeared again on 7 October 2013 when the Rhodes family were celebrating their victory after their match with The Shield at Battleground, and again the next night on Raw to separate Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton's brawl outside the ring. Finlay also appeared on 7 July 2014 episode of Raw along with returning wrestlers Jamie Noble and Joey Mercury, separating Roman Reigns and Kane. Finlay was then speared by Reigns. He made another appearance along with returning wrestlers Joey Mercury and Jamie Noble on the edition of 28 July 2014 of Raw, separating a brawl between Stephanie McMahon and Brie Bella. On the editions of 12 and 26 of September 2016 of "Raw," Finlay appeared with the authority to send Seth Rollins backstage after interfering on both a match and a promo on Mick Foley's orders. Finlay was one of the four wrestlers who presented Tyler Bate with the WWE UK Championship after winning the related tournament in January 2017. He appeared on the April 17th episode of "Raw" stopping Braun Strowman from assaulting Goldust & R-Truth.
Both Finlay's father, David Finlay Sr., and his grandfather were professional wrestlers, and his sister was a referee. His brother, Albert, was a goalkeeper for Glentoran FC in the 1960s and 1970s.
Finlay was previously married to his former manager, Princess Paula. He is currently married to a German woman named Mel and has three children, the eldest of whom, David, was born in Germany. His children are all amateur wrestlers; David made his professional debut on 22 December 2012 and is now wrestling for New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). His daughter has won the Georgia State championship. The family resides in Atlanta, Georgia.Finishing moves
Celtic Cross (Running over the shoulder back to belly piledriver) – WWE
Celtic Knot (Modified Indian deathlock) – WWE; 2007
Kneeling reverse piledriver – WCW/Smash/WNC
Finlay Press (Double foot stomp)
Rolling Hills (Rolling fireman's carry slam)
"The Belfast Brawler/Bruiser"
"The King of Terror"
"The Man Who Loves to Fight"
"The Shillelagh Swingin' Bruiser"
"Belfast" by Boney M. (CWA/Europe/WCW; 1977–1997, 2000–2001)
"Byakuen" by Osamu Totsuka (NJPW; 1991–1994)
"Pride (In The Name of Love)" by U2 (NJPW; 1998)
"Rock Energy" (WCW; 1996)
"Scattered" (WCW; 1997–2000)
"Lambeg" by Jim Johnston (WWE; January 2006 – May 2008)
"(Unknown Title)" by The Swaggerin' Growlers (WWE; March 3, 2008)
"Hes Ma Da" by Jim Johnston (WWE; May 2008 – June 2010)
Lisa Marie Varon
All Star Wrestling
British Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
World Mid-Heavyweight Championship (4 times)
Catch Wrestling Association
CWA Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
CWA World Middleweight Championship (4 times)
CWA World Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Marty Jones
Fighting Spirit Magazine
LL Cool J Award (2006)
British Heavy Middleweight Championship (6 times)
British Light Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
Pro Wrestling Illustrated
PWI ranked him #278 of the 500 best singles wrestlers of the "PWI Years" in 2003
PWI ranked him #33 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2007
Smash Championship (1 time)
World Championship Wrestling
WCW World Television Championship (1 time)
Hardcore Junkyard Invitational Tournament (1999)
World Wrestling Entertainment
WWE United States Championship (1 time)
Bragging Rights Trophy (2009) – with Team SmackDown (Chris Jericho, Kane, R-Truth, Matt Hardy, David Hart Smith and Tyson Kidd)