Balls are incredible things. Footballs, basketballs, baseballs, tennis balls. Each one pivotal to our lives as manly men. Now imagine all of those incredible ball-based sports but except with a flame-filled twist. Imagine all of those balls being covered in fire and ask yourself, how great would those balls now be? Well ladies and gentleman, in this latest WWE PPV we finally got our answer! That’s right it’s finally here, the first ever main roster PPV Report Card! They’re hanging from the Fightful rafters and rightfully so as I’ve built this up to a level that it will likely never meet. Luckily, I’m fully aware of that problem so if anything good comes of this it’ll be a surprise to both of us. With that out of the way, let’s dive into this PPV extravaganza.
DISCLAIMER: any wild predictions I make that you disagree with will likely be proven completely wrong in the coming weeks, months and years anyway so don’t worry too much. Basically, take everything you read from this point forward with a grain of salt as its credibility is preposterously low.
ANOTHER DISCLAIMER: it's currently 4:30 am and I'm running off of nothing but Pepsi Max, Doritos and Popcorn. Basically, the level of actual insight is likely to be minimal.
Neville vs. Akira Tozawa
Firstly, this Tozawa and Titus gimmick is incredible to the point where just watching them walk out together is hysterical to me. He’s obviously very good at wrestling too but who cares about that right? Neville is also very good and right now has the perfect blend of offense that’s believable and crisp but still works for a heel. It isn’t too over the top either. I must say that I didn't love the spot where Neville fed his chest for Tozawa’s chops though but that’s because I’m just always against men accepting damage in a fight scenario. On the other hand, Tozawa’s suicide dives are phenomenal because they actually look like an effective offensive maneuver. That alone makes them better than 99% of suicide dives in all of wrestling.
This match was hurt by the presentation for me though as it was hard to buy into a potential Tozawa win when this was on the pre-show. Couple that with the “time for some action” lead in it was given and a title change seemed highly unlikely. Nonetheless, these guys worked hard enough to capture me in the end and Titus deserves a nod for that too, he’s really doing a great job at ringside thus far as a manager. The eventual finish was rather weak but I’m letting it slide as it was balls related with Neville targeting Tozawa’s groin and getting the win. Neat match.
It was now main show time which meant that we got to see the greatest PPV opening of all time. This whole Great Balls of Fire idea has been an absolute delight. Can't wait for next year!
Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt
This match has struggled to garner heat in the build-up so it was a smart call to open with it here whilst the crowd was still hot. In recent PPV outings both men have struggled to really capture the audience in singles matches but the crowd was fresh enough to respond with some energy on this occasion. Wyatt is fun to watch in a lot of ways and his heat segment always has good character work but at times it lacks aggression and intensity in my opinion. It’s a little slow and uninspired but not in a particularly focused way. Seth’s actual bumping was excellent, as always, due to his immense athleticism but I find his overall selling frustrating at times.
I get the sense that he almost takes that aspect for granted and views it as the necessary break between the flashier sequences. I know that means nothing to some but it does hinder my own enjoyment unfortunately. I really enjoy the way both guys, especially Bray, are able to up their pace in an instant with explosive offense and that helped this particular match quite a bit in my mind. Seth and Bray worked hard though and it really was a good match until the cheating Wyatt win. Bray probably needed the victory more so that’s all good with me.
After Wyatt’s win we next went to an interview with The Hardy Boyz. I’m personally tired of the ‘Broken Universe’ references but as was shown later it’s all still very over so good luck to them. Jeff is still absolutely brutal on the mic but has charisma and is super popular. This whole thing left me unsure as to why they got promo time but Alexa or Sasha didn't.
Enzo Amore vs. Big Cass
Enzo cut a lengthy promo before the action here and whilst I should probably share my thoughts on it, I instead spent the promo eating Doritos (Cool Original) and talking to the people unfortunate enough to be watching with me. It’s almost like he spoke for ten minutes just this past Monday…..
WARNING: the following comments about Big Cass are completely over the top and unnecessary considering that this is his first match as a singles heel wrestler:
I have to say that whenever folks would ponder a split between these two I’d always be kind of confused. To me they were a perfect unit as they hid the other’s weaknesses. That kind of showed to me here too because whilst on paper Cass looks like a sure-fire top guy in waiting, he lacks a presence and charisma in my opinion and I’ve felt that way for quite some time. Nonetheless the match began with Enzo shooting a double leg takedown and this would’ve made me laugh but sadly I was still eating too much to do so at the time.
Cass’ offense is decent though and Enzo really did sell well both physically and facially. That helped this dramatically and though the end was flat, that was by design so this absolutely served its purpose. Cass got the win and I’m fascinated to see what’s next for him as he has a lot of competition on the RAW heel side. There’s dudes bigger, meaner and simply better than him so time will tell as to what’s next.
Sidenote: my notes (seriously) suggest that at one point Booker T compared the duo to Don King and Mike Tyson. Booker, you may now look like Whoopi Goldberg but that doesn't change the fact that I absolutely love you.
RAW Tag Team Titles
Cesaro and Sheamus vs. The Hardy Boyz
Can we discuss that in the hope of getting a clear winner, Kurt Angle booked a match in which a draw is a distinct possibility. Bless his heart. This one looked rough for me on paper but the start was rather genius with the heels fooling poor Matthew as Sheamus kicked his brain off for an immediate fall. However, the heat that soon followed it struggled for reasons not down to the performers. It’s real tough to get actual heat when there’s a clock showing that 25 minutes are remaining. Speaking of such I have to say this, I find Cesaro’s heel character work to be real forced and half-hearted, especially when contrasted with Sheamus amazing natural awfulness. The score quickly began to build but not at a pace too quick for me.
My main issue though was that this match never felt like it needed to be an ironman and that kind of showed throughout in my mind. The work was good but not particularly spectacular and it just seemed to kind of meander for me. Matt’s clearly a little affected physically but he’s very smart and works around his weaknesses well anyway. I think in many ways your enjoyment of this match hindered on your investment in the characters involved but the final few minutes were brilliant regardless of any of that. Shesaro retained their belts in a good match that I just wasn't overly invested in personally.
I will say though that I’m convinced that this was the final stage of Vince McMahon’s master plan to actually murder Matt and Jeff. Luckily, they both came out alive in the end.
RAW Women’s Title
Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks
I’ve been joking about ‘shoot fights’ in the build up to this match but don’t let my immaturity fool you, I was legit more excited for this match than anything else on the card barring the main event. That feeling felt validated by the showing these two women put on too, from start to finish. I loved the big match approach early as the two felt it out and then the pace picked up after Alexa’s preposterously dope arm break sell which baited Sasha into her deadly forearm smash. Saying this now, Alexa Bliss has some of the best strikes on the main roster as far as the females go. Don’t see how this can even be debated to be honest.
Sasha controlled things early before being cut off on the apron, landing heavily on her back in the process. It’s not an exaggeration to say that for me, Banks is one of the best sellers in the industry. She bumps hard but doesn't waste it afterwards and remembers her injuries throughout. This focus on the back led to a wonderful heat segment in which Banks’ sold great and Alexa worked her over with creative offense, all whilst being aggressive enough to keep the people invested in both parties. Alexa does a lot of cool old-school heel stuff from the multiple pin attempts to just talking trash regularly. Banks garnered the people’s sympathy with brilliant babyface work and eventually came back to secure the Bank Statement.
Alexa sold the submission perfectly and had me absolutely convinced that this match was over. Unfortunately, the end would come in a less fulfilling fashion as Alexa stayed out of the ring for a count-out loss. Banks then chased Alexa up the stage before hitting her double knees off of the announce table in a pretty wild spot. Sasha is an immaculate wrestler but don’t get it Twisted Bliss, Alexa more than held her own here. It’s so cool to me that these two women have such an understanding of psychology and selling considering how young they both are. I also liked how the match went back and forth and didn't stick to a basic formula.
Basically, this was really good. Both women worked hard but smart and I can’t wait to see the rematch. My only real nit-pick is the finish but that’s why it worked and made sense in the first place. Alexa is continually struggling to get heat though which is a slight shame, she’s almost like Kevin Owens before his most recent incarnation. People seem to like her too much right now.
The Miz vs. Dean Ambrose
It’s at this point I have to apologize. I was sweating profusely following that last match and of all the things I wanted to do, watching Miz and Dean part 928 wasn't one of them. They were in the death spot of all death spots and that combined with the amount they’ve wrestled made for a tough situation. It was fine though even if glaringly basic and formulaic after the last match. The work on Dean’s leg was pretty good but I just couldn't get invested unfortunately. The finish came with Miz winning due to Miztourage interference. This was the weakest match on the show for me and I really don’t have much to say. Just a bad mix of circumstances and I’ll be glad to see both performers now move on.
Ambulance Match of Death
Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns
As one of the leaders of the official “BIG DOG IS DOPE” fan club, I have to immediately reiterate how awesome Roman’s strikes are. They are so good that they’re completely believable against anyone, even BRAUN. Speaking of “The Monster Among Men,” he really moves excellently for a man of his size. There’s not much clumsiness left with Braun at this point and that’s becoming clearer by the week. Strowman has recently stated his claim as the owner of one of the best powerslams ever but the one he hit tonight was absolutely next level and had me leaping out of my sunken chair at 3:20am.
All of Strowman’s greatness is highlighted exponentially by Reigns’ selling though of course. The man has absolutely made Braun with his selling and he knows how to vary it based on what moment of the match he’s in. Reigns not only sells well physically but he’s also become really good at emoting with his face, a skill as important as it is difficult. Reigns eventually turned the tables and violently focused on Strowman’s recently injured elbow. This was wonderful stuff that highlighted the immense danger of Reigns’ situation at that moment in time. The finish was hysterical but also pretty cool as Reigns missed a spear and instead dove head first into the ambulance, therefore losing the match in the process.
The match itself was great but what followed was spectacular. Roman fought back and put Braun in the ambulance before driving him backstage and then proceeding to actually murder him by reversing directly into a truck (I think?). Kurt Angle was panicked in wonderfully camp fashion and that’s always super fun.
Heath Slater vs. Curt Hawkins
The destruction of Braun led to Hawkins and Slater being sent out for an impromptu match. It made no real sense to send these men out there but it was still smart and perfectly spotlighted the drama of what had just happened, all whilst giving everything chance to breathe. We didn't even see the finish because we were instead rightly focused on Braun’s ambulance escape. Once the door was forced open Strowman refused any help and eventually walked out on his own, solidifying his position as the world’s greatest human.
Grade: A* due to overly silly Braun shenanigans
Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe
My excitement for this match was elevated by my immense fear of Joe getting squashed but that quickly vanished as he jumped Lesnar from behind and planted him through the announce table. The absolute intensity that Joe brought here was immense and set the pace for what would be a hellacious sprint. As Brock crawled back in the ring the crowd exclaimed with loud “Joe’s gonna kill you” chants. That was a cool moment and one indicative of how great Joe has been for this last month, a run he deserves after such a good career. Joe being aggressive is one thing but Brock’s part in it can’t be understated. He really sold for Joe and that helped this dramatically.
When the action officially started it was everything I’d hoped for as they simply fought each other, even trading clinch knees in a particularly memorable exchange. Joe got the advantage and began to pepper Lesnar with jabs in the corner. It was very gritty and looked legit. An atmosphere had suddenly arrived that is very, very rare in pro wrestling. These two men were fighting and it could end at any moment. Each momentum swing was of course emphasized by Heyman at ringside too, who was incredibly animated at all times. Brock began to dictate the action with his trademark German suplexes but the suddenly desperate Joe nailed a low blow when in trouble.
On paper that’s a cowardly move but I love how it felt with Joe in this case. It was a sign that Joe was a pure fighter at core and willing to do absolutely anything to win. Joe continually went for the choke and Brock sold it masterfully whilst also fighting the hands efficiently at other times. Those moments gave it just enough believability for me, even if it was overly dramatic by design. Joe bumped super hard on Brock’s suplexes and Lesnar eventually got the win by scoring an F5 out of Joe’s Coquina Clutch. The feeling was that Brock had merely survived and that was shown by Joe still staring him down as we went off the air.
Wonderful sprint and a basically perfect match. My one complaint is that the choke never quite clicked as a false finish due to Joe not getting the hooks in at any point. I get that it protected the move but it still hindered things a little for me. Brock’s selling made it work enough though. Great stuff overall.
I don’t know if this is a ‘hot take’ or not but I have to say that for my money, WWE is firing on all cylinders right now. This show was a great example of why I will always argue that this is the premier wrestling company in the world. Why? Simply look at the variety on tonight’s show. We had a couple real psychology-based title bouts, a match structured around dying inside an ambulance and even a hoss fight main event. We often over analyze every little segment and decision but honestly, there’s a lot to enjoy about WWE right now and I highly recommend that you appreciate some of these performers before it’s too late. A lot of future legends are roaming these events at the moment and that’s a super cool thing. God bless these men and women that went out there and shot for our enjoyment tonight. An excellent show!
Incredibly, this article wasn’t a complete disaster and that probably means that I’ll now be doing this regularly, maybe. Before then though I have to return to Full Sail for NXT so I’m sure my struggles will quickly continue. Please comment any thoughts on GREAT BALLS OF FIRE or just balls in general below and if not, simply tweet me abuse on Twitter like many others already do. @JoeHulbert5 on Twitter in case you were wondering by the way, guys.
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