The final push for WWE’s Great Balls of Fire event took place on this week’s Raw. The two biggest matches at Sunday’s pay-per-view event are Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe for the Universal Title and Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns in an Ambulance Match.
Both of those matches had key segments on the show, even though WWE said Reigns wasn’t going to be there for three hours until he showed up at the end of the night. Guess what? They lied! It happens.
Samoa Joe and Brock Lesnar Took Part in an Interview
In the first hour of Raw, there was a video package about Joe and Lesnar similar to what aired last week with the added clip of Joe nearly choking out Lesnar on last week’s show.
Samoa Joe and Brock Lesnar were shown on a split screen with Michael Cole trying to moderate this interview. We were told they were in separate parts of the arena, which was true, because Raw GM Kurt Angle didn’t want them to start fighting before their Great Balls of Fire match on Sunday.
The interview didn’t get very far because Joe tried to talk trash about how he beat up Paul Heyman, so Lesnar pointed out that Joe is facing Lesnar, not Heyman. Joe kept getting angry during the interview with Lesnar sitting there looking like a confident champion that encouraged Joe to come look for him. Joe was furious, which led to him ripping off the microphone he had on and went looking for Lesnar.
As Joe left to look for Lesnar, officials, referees, agents and Kurt Angle showed up to try to stop Joe from getting to Lesnar. Eventually, Joe found out where Lesnar was in a room, the door was open and Joe nearly got to him, but security guys pulled Joe back. That meant Joe and Lesnar didn’t touch each other although they did a successful job of hyping up their match.
The segment was well done in terms of leaving us wanting more. I’m very excited about Lesnar vs. Joe on Sunday. I think it has had the best build of any Raw feud in WWE this year. The only thing that bugged me a bit is that Joe came off more like the face wanting to get at the heel and the security guys keeping Joe back made me like Joe more because I wanted to see him break free. It’s not a major complaint by any means. Just saying that I would have tweaked it a bit so it didn’t make me feel that way.
I’m going with Lesnar on Sunday and I hope it’s not their last match because one match isn’t enough.
Braun Strowman wanted competition
Strowman was featured in a backstage segment with Raw GM Kurt Angle saying that he wanted competition because he didn’t think Roman Reigns would be at Great Balls of Fire. Angle said Reigns would be there. Strowman pointed out that Reigns wasn’t on Raw, so he wanted some competition and he told Angle to figure it out.
There was a backstage segment with Titus O’Neil and Apollo Crews where O’Neil volunteered Crews to fight Strowman later.
Strowman beat Crews easily in about five minutes. Crews got in a few kicks for offense, but Strowman won easily after hitting two running Powerslams and picking up Crews’ head both times. Strowman hit a third running Powerslam to beat Crews. After the match, Strowman hit a running Powerslam on O’Neil as well.
After his victory, Strowman threw Crews into the back of an ambulance that was in the arena. Strowman slapped the back of the ambulance to tell the driver to take it away, but there was no movement. Strowman went up to the driver’s door and was met with a punch from Roman Reigns.
Reigns and Strowman fought on the ramp with Reigns managing to get the advantage by sending Strowman into the video wall. With Strowman staggering at the side of the stage, Reigns charged in and hit a Spear off the ramp onto some tables that just happened to be there. It wasn’t a big fall by any means, but it looked cool and sounded great.
As the show ended, Strowman was shown getting back to his feet with the announcers wondering what Reigns could do to keep him down.
It was a strong ending to the show with fans wondering, just like the announcers, if Reigns can keep Strowman down long enough to win the Ambulance Match. That’s a tough match to call because it can go either way. I’m leaning towards Strowman although I could change my mind too.
Before I get started looking at the matches, please check out my Monday column here on The Comeback where I looked at some of the biggest winners and losers in WWE in the first half of 2017.
This Week’s Raw Matches
There were some pretty good matches this week on Raw and others that were short. Nothing really stood out as great, although there was one title on the line at least.
Sasha Banks & Bayley defeated Alexa Bliss & Nia Jax
This match really put over Banks in a big way while making Bayley look bad. Jax attacked Bayley on the floor with a running knee and Bayley was helped to the back. I thought Banks would lose since it was essentially a 1 on 2 match, but Banks was able to win by making Bliss tap out to the Bank Statement submission.
Banks faces Bliss for the Raw Women’s Title at Great Balls of Fire on Sunday, so this was done to give Banks some momentum going into that match. I don’t think Banks will win the title, but it’s a possibility. As for how Bayley has been booked, I really don’t understand it except to say that management must really be down on Bayley in the last few months.
Cedric Alexander defeated Noam Dar
It was a three-minute match with Alexander winning easily even though Alicia Fox was there to try to help Dar win. This feud went on for months, Alexander got hurt, now he’s back and maybe it’s over now. I like Alexander and hope he can get in the Cruiserweight Title picture soon.
The Miz defeated Heath Slater to retain the Intercontinental Title
This match was set up when Miz was hosting his Miz TV segment. Miz bragged about how great he was, insulted LaVar Ball and his family and talked about how Dean Ambrose has failed to live up to his potential. Ambrose interrupted to challenge Miz to an IC Title match on Raw. Miz didn’t want to do that. Heath Slater showed up to say he was the last guy to beat Miz (in a tag match), so he wants a title shot. Raw GM Kurt Angle appeared to announce Miz vs. Slater for the IC Title and the winner gets Ambrose at Great Balls of Fire on Sunday. That makes sense to me.
Miz wrestled the match in white dress pants, which split open during the match. The idea was that Angle made Miz wrestle when Miz wasn’t ready, so fans might believe that Slater had a chance of winning. The crowd was into most of the match and bought into a few moments where it looked like Slater might win. I liked some of the spots they did including the powerslam off the top by Slater. The finish saw Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas, the Miztourage for The Miz, attack Rhyno on the floor, so Slater was distracted by that and Miz hit the Skull Crushing Finale. It went 14 minutes, so it got a lot of time too.
I thought Miz was fantastic during the promo before the match and in the match. He’s doing a great job of making everybody around him look better. The last year or two has been the best run of his career. With that said, I’m tired of Miz vs. Ambrose matches. They feuded on Smackdown back in January and it’s still going. Please let both men move on.
Seth Rollins defeated Curt Hawkins
Before the match, Hawkins asked the crowd if they think he’s going to lose the match. The crowd cheered. Rollins asked the crowd if Hawkins needs to shut the hell up and of course the crowd cheered that too. Rollins punched Hawkins to start the match. Rollins hit a knee to the face and pinned him to win in about ten seconds.
After the match, Rollins did a promo about Bray Wyatt to hype their Great Balls of Fire match that hasn’t done much to generate interest.
Neville defeated Mustafa Ali
Ali got some offense in including an incredible tilt-a-whirl DDT where he planted Neville into the mat. The crowd let out a big “oooohhhh” reaction for that. Neville came back by countering another high flying move, hitting a clothesline and slapping on the Rings of Saturn submission to win. It got about five minutes as Neville retained in this non-title match.
Neville defends the Cruiserweight Title against Akira Tozawa on the Great Balls of Fire Kickoff Show. No sign of Tozawa on Raw.
Finn Balor defeated Cesaro
Match of the night. Cesaro asked GM Angle for a match against Balor and Angle gave it to him. The Hardy Boyz were on commentary for the match since they’re facing Cesaro & Sheamus for the Raw Tag Team Titles at Great Balls of Fire in a 30-minute Ironman Match, which should be awesome.
There was a bit of a slow start to the match and the crowd wasn’t into it that much since it was in the third hour, but the last five minutes were excellent. Elias Samson went down to ringside to distract Balor, so the Hardys showed up to even the odds. That led to some big moves on the floor with everybody hitting signature moves and Balor ended it with a dropkick on Cesaro that sent him into the barricade. Back in the ring, Balor hit the Coup de Grace double foot stomp on Cesaro to get the win. It went about 15 minutes.
I feel Balor has been lost in the shuffle and he shouldn’t be. Balor’s not even officially in a match at Great Balls of Fire although he has had a rivalry with Samson for a few weeks. Hopefully Balor has a bigger role at SummerSlam. The tag title match should be great on Sunday.
Other Key Items From Raw
1. Enzo Amore talked about how tough he was
Raw started with a video package about Big Cass turning on Enzo Amore for the second time last week. Enzo started the show talking about how hurt he was by what Cass did while pointing out that he (Enzo) is the toughest guy out there. Enzo spoke about how confidence he was and how he’s going to reach the top. Enzo called Cass a seven-foot catchphrase that Enzo wrote. I guess that’s trash talk? Enzo spoke about how he’s an army of one now. The best part of it was when he called Cass a “Casshole” – that was clever.
I thought it was a good promo from Enzo, which is his strength. The problem is once the bell rings he’s below average in the ring and doesn’t have a lot of credibility. He can be useful in the cruiserweight division one day, but I don’t imagine WWE putting him over main roster guys that are much bigger than him. It’s not easy for a guy with his limited skills in the ring.
When Big Cass was interviewed backstage, Enzo attacked him from behind and tackled him to the ground. It got broken up by officials.
Cass faces Enzo at Great Balls of Fire on Sunday. I’d be shocked if Cass doesn’t win that match.
2. R-Truth attacked Goldust after a “movie premiere”
Goldust sat in the ring and called for somebody to play “The Shattered Truth” movie that he made about R-Truth. The movie was just highlights of Goldust attacking Truth last week on Raw. It aired for a couple of minutes. After it was over, R-Truth attacked Goldust for about 30 seconds, sent Goldust into the ring post and Goldust bailed to end it. The whole thing was fine, but nothing special or memorable.
I thought WWE might announce Goldust vs. R-Truth for Great Balls of Fire, but it’s not official yet. Two months of this rivalry and still no match.
3. Bray Wyatt claimed that he is everywhere
They were in Phoenix, so Wyatt did a promo in the desert. Poor guy wearing all that clothing in 110-degree heat. I’m surprised he wasn’t sweating more.
It was the same promo Wyatt does all the time about how great he is. The problem is he’s booked like such a loser who has lost all the momentum he had from being WWE Champion five months ago. I don’t think fans view him as a big star, even though that’s what he should be. Anyway, Wyatt faces Rollins at Great Balls of Fire on Sunday, so he talked some trash about him and that was it.
Looking Ahead To Great Balls of Fire
— WWE (@WWE) July 4, 2017
The next Raw pay-per-view event is called Great Balls of Fire and it takes place this Sunday, July 9 in Dallas, TX. It looks like a full card now with eight announced matches including one on the kickoff show.
WWE Universal Championship: Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe
Ambulance Match: Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt
Raw Tag Team Championships (30 Minute Ironman Match): Cesaro & Sheamus vs. Hardy Boyz
Intercontinental Championship: The Miz vs. Dean Ambrose
Raw Women’s Championship: Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks
Big Cass vs. Enzo Amore
Cruiserweight Championship: Neville vs. Akira Tozawa (Kickoff Show)
It’s possible that Finn Balor vs. Elias Samson gets added to the main card and perhaps Goldust vs. R-Truth for the Kickoff Show.
I will have an in-depth preview here on The Comeback on Friday with a closer look at Lesnar vs. Joe.
It was a slightly above average show with the two main matches being focused on with good out-of-the-ring segments that gave us more reasons to care about their matches. Balor vs. Cesaro was a better than average Raw match, so check that one out if you missed it.
I’ve said this before, but I think Great Balls of Fire has a lineup that is much stronger than every Raw PPV this year, so give the creative team some credit for making us care more about Sunday’s event.
I’ll be back Wednesday with a review of Smackdown Live featuring the WWE return of John Cena, who has been off for the last three months.