WWE Great Balls of Fire 2017 [LIVE TWEET STREAM/REPORT]

The nameย Great Balls of Fire doesn’t exactly inspire high-expectations. This is, partly, why I found myself unable to get too excited for it. Of course, i’m not that shallow and it’s not the only reason. In addition, certain elements of my personal and professional life became too demanding in the past month to spare time for weekly editions ofย Raw. This meant that this was another PPV that I went into somewhat blindly. I was peripherally aware of certain storylines; it’s been hard to ignore the rumblings between Big Cass and Enzo Amore, for example. Also, the wildly anticipated clash between Samoa Joe and Brock Lesnar was a clear selling point.

Although I wasn’t particularly invested going intoย Great Balls of Fire, I found myself impressed by much of it. Having said that, it doesn’t quite live up to previous PPV offerings from 2017. It seemed to be an event more concentrated on the advancement of narrative than anything else. At times, the wrestling suffered as a result. I would have liked to see longerย matches, but at least the stellar Iron Man Match ticked that box. With post-show buzz surely focusing on the Braun Strowman ambulance incident, i’d much rather give credit to the show as a whole.

The Kick-Off Show

Neville vs. Akira Tozawaย (w/ Titus O’Neil)
(WWE Cruiserweight Championship)

In hindsight…

This kick-off show sailed along on autopilot. It seemed to be just going through the motions and fulfilling all the cynical promotion necessary. In the past, this year, kick-off shows have been a little more innovative. They’ve featured some intensely memorable matches too.ย One of their strengths is in the level of their promo-packages. This time, I just wasn’t all that sold. In fact, they were a fairly boring affair that didn’t do much toย get the adrenaline going. Perhaps I was just overwhelmingly annoyed by the nonsensical theme of the entire PPV.

The match between Tozawa and Neville can be described in very similar terms. It’s not that they did a bad job; both talents are gifted and capable. The problem came from a distinct feeling that they were just phoning it in. It doesn’t help that i’m sick of Tozawa’s pointless roaring, which served as a constant reminder throughout of how little respect WWE give to foreign talents. While this was, indeed, a kick-off match, evidence from this very year proves that doesn’t have toย be a guarantee of middling standard. Bear in mind that it was aย championship match too. Didn’t feel like it, though.

Bray Wyatt vs. Seth Rollins

In hindsight…

At first, Wyatt took complete control of this match in a way that I actually enjoyed seeing. Wyatt has frequently found himself in my bad books lately, generally speaking. His character’s just become altogether too silly over the past couple of years. Although he’s wonderful at what he does, and a fine athlete, it’s been a while since I’ve seen much more than brawling and finishers from him. Conversely, he was so on it, at the beginning of this match, that his harsh squashing seemed a bit too far.ย I expected this to go somewhere nevertheless, with a strong, energetic return from Rollins seeming inevitable. Unfortunately, this was rather too much to ask.

By the time heย didย bring himself into the match, it was only a bit of tussling later before he lost in a blink-and-you’ll-miss it disappointment.ย Of course, both performers contributed a smattering of great spots and bumps. Due to an overstuffed card, this is one of the matches that suffered the most. It should have been so much more. In essence, all this needed was a handful more minutes to let it flesh-out. That way, we could have seen something with a real psychology instead of of exaggerated “mindgames”.ย I particularly feel that Rollins shouldn’t be losing matches like this at the moment. On the other hand, Wyattย shouldย be winning matches like this. Odd.

Big Cass vs. Enzo Amore

In hindsight…

Obviously, this was never going to be a fair bout. I had hoped that Amore might pull a few more tricks out of the bag regardless, by thinking outside the box. Instead, this was exactly the squash that you might expect. It wasn’t any kind of match in the strict sense, of course. It basically consisted of Amore being thrown around for a little while. Even though this element of the match was a disappointment, it’s done wonders for Cass’ extremely compelling heel turn. To illustrate this, he was as ruthless as he was charismatic. After all, Amore and Cass were in need of a jolt to the system; that’s exactly why this is so interesting to see.

The most memorable thing about this otherwise was Amore’s spine-tingling mic-work before the bell. When he gets talking it’s sure to be entertaining, but this took things to an entirely new level. It’s possibly the best live promo I’ve seen cut this year. The only thing i’m still confused about is where this entire story is going to end up. It’s going to work out alright for Cass, but where does that leave Amore? If you ask me, it would be ill-advised to bring the two back together for some time. So, that leaves Amore on his own for now. He’ll either have to step up his game, or find a new partner; each are intriguing prospects…

Cesaro and Sheamus vs. The Hardy Boyz
(Iron Man Match – WWE Raw Tag Team Championship)

Fall One

Fall Two

Fall Three

Fall Four

Fall Five

Fall Six

Fall Seven

In hindsight…

All in all, this was quite easily the very best match of the card. Surprisingly, the Hardyz offered almost as much as their opponents. Even though it took them a bit of extra time to really get their momentum flowing, the veterans were a large part of why this was as exhilarating as it turned out. When they did, you have to be fair to their daring athleticism. To be clear, I just didn’t think they had it in them anymore. I’m very pleased to be shown otherwise. They also took a strong portion of punishment, which is to their credit. Indeed, Matt Hardy ended up significantly busted up by the conclusion of this intelligent Iron Man Match.

These two teams were rather dull at the previousย Rawย PPV,ย Extreme Rules. While Cesaro and Sheamus’ potential has shone through for a while, I had started to wonder if they were ever going to live up to it.ย In case anyone still doubted their synergy and abilities as a team, this is definitive proof of their skills. Not only were they magnetic, and perfectly in-tune, but they consistently provided heavy-hitting bumps that were well-executed and indicative of expansive tag-team sensibilities. That is, of course, massively high praise. When they can put on a match like this, in the way that they did, it’s evidentย they deserve it.

Sasha Banks vs. Alexa Bliss
(WWE Raw Women’s Championship)

In hindsight…

If this is the best that Bliss can do as champion, I think i’m going to stop heralding her as some enormous talent. Herย Extreme Rulesย appearance was a waste of my time too. I’ve held Bliss up as being one of the very finest talents on the roster, male or female, but I would have thought she could pull some better PPV matches out of the bag if so. Besides the credibility of the two participants, this offered nothing worth seeing. It, in fact, seemed to be the very model of pointless filler. That’s not to mention the finish either. Forced count-out victories always feel like a slap in the face, and I believe Bliss would be a far more engaging character if she could show her strengths in the ring more. I expect her to be brutal, whereas WWE seem set on portraying her as a coward.

The Mizย (w/ Maryse, Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas)ย vs. Dean Ambrose
(WWE Intercontinental Championship)

In hindsight…

There’s no denying that Miz and Ambrose work perfectly together in-ring. As I mentioned in my tweets, the last time these two clashed at a PPV was something to behold. That’s surely why this match seemed a little beneath them to me. As soon as the bell rung, they got into some nice stuff together, but nothing seemed to stick. Worse, just as things started taking steps towards getting somewhere, it came to a close. Like Bliss’ match, it had the overwhelming feeling of being a place-holding time-waster. Also in common with the women’s battle is how much more itย couldย have been.

Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns
(Ambulance Match)

In hindsight…

Now, before I get to the madness that occurred after this match, I thought i’d talk about what actually happened in it. I think this was a lot better than my initial reactions describe. It was slow, to the point of being glacial in its pace at times, but incredibly impactful. I like Reigns, though I don’tย loveย him, but I still believe Strowman’s too green to be this far up the card. In fairness, he carried a well-constructed brawl-fest, far more so than I’ve seen from him before. In the end, the way Reigns lost – by literally spearing the ambulance itself – was deeplyย stupid. It could have been more subtle, and shouldn’t have made Reigns look like such a brainless dolt.

The Ambulance Incident
(Heath Slater vs. Curt Hawkins)

In hindsight…

As can be seen from my live reactions, I was in quite a silly mood by this point of the PPV. It could have been mere fatigue, but I suspect there was more to it than that. Through this whole segment, I couldn’t get certain vibes out of my head. The whole thing rang a lot of bells back to when the New Age Outlaws lobbed Mick Foley and Terry Funk (as “Chainsaw Charlie”) off the stage in a dumpster. It was played off in very similar ways, only the differences in scale say a lot about the changing expectations of audiences. While it was practically the same as that founding Attitude Era moment, in tone and circumstance, i’m actually quite seduced by how they’ve gone about it. Slater and Hawkins were necessary window dressing, but the whole presentation of this segment was near-flawless.

Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe
(WWE Universal Championship)

In hindsight…

I could write an entire article about why I despise Lesnar so much, but that’s for another time. It appears, unfortunately, that we could be stuck with his hulking idiocy for some time. I’m not saying he’s devoid of talent, but I don’t believe he ever really uses it. I can say the same about Joe’s WWE tenure, which doesn’t really seem to have kicked into full gear yet. The match we ended up with between the two was almost exactly as I imagined it; boring. I’ve read some positive reception to this match, but I just don’t see it myself.

Joe’s opening gambit of laying directly into Lesnar was enjoyable, not least because people don’t usually take it to the beast incarnate like that. I always get a kick out of seeing Lesnar red-faced and gurning in pain. Since I got to see that, i’m even willing to extend a respectful nod to him for his smooth suplexes. The problem with this match is the same problem that always crops up with Lesnar. He’s just not actually good enough to make his finishes believable. In my eyes, it damages the PPVs he’s booked on as much as the wrestlers he fights. I always find it sad to see. Joe deserves more than the lazy finish he received. Then again, this is the WWE…

In conclusion…

The main thing that I took away fromย Great Balls of Fireย was its overall lack of strong in-ring product. There were flashes over the entire event, with the tag-team championship flying the flag the highest, but it never really felt like there was enough actual wrestling. As I look back over it, and after writing all of this, i’m beginning to consider much of the PPV rather pointless. I’m interested to see where things are going to go with Amore and Cass, as well as Strowman, but everything else seemed cobbled together purely for the sake of it. Maybe when WWE aren’t tied to a corporate theme they could do without, they can concentrate on making the card deliver a bit more.

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