NEWS

Ladies burn the guys at Great Balls of Fire

WWE’s post Wresltmaina slump seems extended this year. The notable absence of Universal Champion Brock Lesnar has exacerbated this situation. While Smackdown had it’s chance to shine last month with Money In The Bank, this month it was Raw’s turn with their first ever Great Balls of Fire event.

Alexa Bliss taunting the crowd while an injured Sasha Banks is attended to by a referee

There’s a couple of things I learned from this event:

  1. Never underestimate the ladies to put on a better show than the guys.
  2. Don’t underestimate the crowd’s role in making a match memorable.

The lack of Lesnar has really contributed to the fans dissatisfaction with the current direction of RAW. Having a Universal Champion completely absent since Wresltemania over three months ago with only his manager there to hold up the hype (regardless of how great a manager Paul Heyman is) seems completely ridiculous. However, Samoa Joe being put forward as the number one contender for the title following the fatal five way main event at Extreme Rules was a good move. Could this be the guy who would credibly stand a chance against the beast incarnate? Would it make sense to hand the title to someone who would at least be present on RAW from week to week?

I like Samoa Joe. I sincerely hoped so.

Let’s rate the matches.

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Bray Wyatt v Seth Rollins

The best word to describe the feud between these guys is “meh”, so probably fitting that they were the curtain raiser. Historically both guys are very strong storytellers in the ring so they should deliver.

Wyatt’s schtick is getting tired. I think that the WWE don’t know what to do with him and the crazy, chuckling, fat jolly cult leader with a god complex isn’t really working.

Could this have be a turning point for Bray Wyatt? Well the match went through the motions until the last few minutes. Taunting from Wyatt leads Rollins to lose it, Wyatt delivers an eye gouge from outside the ring as Rollins is attacking from above, sneaks back in, nails Rollins with a Sister Abigail and gets the pinfall.

Bray Wyatt celebrates while Rollins lies on the canvas

Nothing much to sell here, I think the WWE were pretty certain that this feud was not really going over with the crowd and hopefully that will be the end of it.

They really need to write something decent for Wyatt. His character seems quite lost and his talent is wasted.

Winner: Bray Wyatt 🍿🍿

Enzo Amore v Big Cass

In what has to be one of the biggest and best heel turns of recent times you cannot get a better sell than the lone tear rolling down the cheek of Enzo Amore prior to having his head kicked in by his closest friend in Big Cass.

Enzo is definitely a master showman, especially behind the mic, he’s always been the mouth to Cass’ muscle. His speech tonight started off great, but proceeded to go for a few minutes too long.

Definitely one of the best recent storylines though and the crowd were salivating for this match, in spite of the obvious physical mismatch between the two.

Enzo came out strong but Cass is 7 foot tall, and tonight it was very apparent that you can’t teach that.

Enzo on the mic

So Cass beat the shit out of Enzo, as expected. Threw him out of the ring, Enzo showed guts, got back up, the fans rallied behind him as he got back into the ring and on his feet. Then Cass connected with a big boot to the head.

Basically set up to close that chapter in both character’s careers but a pretty boring match.

Winner: Big Cass 🍿

Tag Team Iron Man Match

The Hardy’s v Shamus and Cesaro

Ok. This is a pay per view and so far the bar has been set low. Sheamus and Cesaro claim not to set the bar because they are the actual bar. What does that even mean?!?!

This is a great rivalry and a lot of their story telling has taken place in the ring as opposed to their predecessors, and their promo sideshow. This was brilliantly augmented by Sheamus kicking out Jeff Hardy’s tooth at Payback a few months earlier.

So maybe we can get our first decent match of the night? If anyone can do it, it’s these four guys and the most pinfalls in 30 minutes to win the title was a compelling idea.

In the opening seconds a distraction from Cesaro sees Sheamus administer a brogue kick and pin Matt. Which was a great way to set the pace for the match.

10 minutes in a double team on Jeff from Sheamus and Cesaro sees another pinfall.

The Hardy’s score a pin with 18 minutes to go when Sheamus goes for a spear on Jeff. He moves out of the way, Sheamus goes through the ropes and collides with the corner post.

17 minutes and the Hardy’s get a pin via a combo Poetry in Motion, Side Effect and Twist of Fate on Cesaro and they have a pin.

The pace so far has been pretty good, but the crowd don’t really seem to be feeling it.

Sheamus has Jeff Hardy in an arm bar

13 minutes to go and Sheamus and Cesaro score another “pin” via count out after taking both Hardy’s down from outside the ring..

Sheamus and Cesaro are dominating the match, here’s hoping the match picks up and we get to see Jeff fly with 10 minutes to go. The crowd seem to be murmuring back to life.

7 minutes to go and Cesaro finds himself double-teamed by the Hardy’s, a turning point and Jeff is starting to ramp things up. The match is getting exciting.

4 mins remain and Matt moonsaults off the top rope and almost pins Sheamus. The crowd finally are into this match and seem to be finding their voice.

At 3 minutes they tie it when Matt drops Sheamus off the top rope with a Twist of Fate slamming his face into the canvas. Spectacular.

Cesaro ambushes Jeff after a Swanton Bomb and pins him with 20 seconds to go and they run the clock out.

Matt’s face is busted open. It was a slow build but a spectacular, albeit predictable ending.

Winners: Sheamus and Cesaro (retaining their title) 🍿🍿🍿

Raw Women’s Title Match

Alexa Bliss v Sasha Banks

I have to say that the event has been pretty lacklustre so far, with the previous match giving me a glimmer of hope that things were picking up. I’m pessimistic that this match is going to kick things up a gear. Turns out I completely underestimated these girls.

Alexa Bliss is a great heel and I feel like she was let down in that rubbish kendo stick match against Bailey at Extreme Rules so I was hoping this match would be a bit more even.

Banks is brutal and the match is going fairly well when fuck me, Bliss dislocates her elbow on purpose (she must be double jointed) and suckers Banks in for a cheap shot.

Alexa Bliss with a dislocated elbow

The match is brutal and Bliss is deliciously evil. There are some really spectacular acrobatics and awesome sells from both competitors. Banks sells a back injury off the apron to devastating effect.

I got the feeling these two had been watching in the locker room and saw the opportunity to really create something special. And they took it.

Take note boys, the girls have put the opening competitors to shame.

This had everything, twists, turns, collisions, high flying, both in and outside the ring. For the first time of the night the crowd start to lose their shit.

The only disappointing part was how it ended, but further cements Bliss’s position as a heel with her not returning to the ring and being counted out.

Banks wins but no title change due to countout, The brawl continues however and Banks goes after Bliss after the bell resulting in a great holy shit moment off the announcer’s table when Banks get some serious air and delivers a double knee to Alexa’s pretty face!

I could have watched those two go at it all night. That dislocated elbow was some fantastic storytelling. Match of the night so far.

Winner: Sasha Banks, by count out. Bliss retains the title. 🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿

Intercontinental Championship

The Miz v Dean Ambrose

This rivalry has been a lot of fun and really has a Roadrunner and Wile E Coyote tone.

Both wrestlers come into this match with a lot of intensity, perhaps inspired by the girls who went before them.

Regardless of whether or not you’ve enjoyed the schtick outside of the ring you come to realise that these guys know how to put on a match. This Miz is sensational as always too, I really think that every time he’s in the ring he puts on a masterclass on how to be a good heel.

The Mix dropkicks Ambrose while he is hung up in the ropes

There’s intensity, pace, twists and turns. Of course the Miztourage are at ringside but Dean is not gonna get fooled again and he starts kicking arse. All the while selling a knee injury to perfection.

Maryse’s intervention adds to the tension putting the Miz’s foot on the ropes following a taste of Dirty Deeds.

The Miztourage interferes, Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel interfere just as Ambrose is ramping up and he’s blind sided by Axel, pinned and it’s over. Ambrose looks like a dummy again.

Just when it was getting started. Bummer.

Winner: and still champion, the Miz 🍿🍿🍿

Ambulance Match

Roman Reigns v Braun Strowman

Fuck Roman Reigns and fuck the WWE for trying to get him over as a face. It’s not working and they need to cut the shit.

I didn’t really know what to expect but I had high hopes for destruction with this match.

The premise is simple, bash your opponent, put them in the back of an ambulance, shut the doors and you win. No other rules.

It’s funny seeing the fans cheer Strowman as a hero and boo the shit out of Reigns as he enters. It’s a just a massive middle finger to the organisation from the fans, they have made Reigns a heel and there’s nothing the WWE can do about it.

Strowman is rad, the fans love him and he unloads on Reigns early in this mach. Even if they hate reigns the fans are really starting to rise with this match in the leadup to the main event.

The match suffers from a limited moveset though, especially in the case of Reigns, so there’s lots of running towards each other and colliding and props like steel steps employed early in the match.

Strowman keeps it interesting showing off his strength with a few slams. It’s actually quite amazing to see a bloke like Strowman manhadle someone like Reigns, who is a pretty big guy himself. Another reason why Reigns’ ‘Big Dog’ gimmick fails—Strowman is a much bigger dog and he is just brutal.

Kick, punch, clothesline, ooohhhh aaahhh and a spear. Fuck off Roman, and stick that stupid Superman Punch up your arse while you’re at it. Reigns attempts a Samoan Drop on Strowman but his timing sucks, it’s a low point.

Strowman shrugs off chair shots and walks towards Reigns like the Terminator at one stage and it’s a high point.

There’s lots of props employed in this match to keep it interesting.

The match ends with Strowman spearing Reigns into the back of the ambulance and slamming the door. For an extra twist Reigns exits the ambulance in a rage, counterspears Strowman, repeatedly slams him in the back door of the ambulance, bundles him in and speeds off with him to the backstage area. Conveniently the cameras are there and Roman reverses the ambulance at full speed into a truck with Strowman supposedly in the back, high drama! Holy shit, holy shit!

Strowman spears Reigns into the back of the ambulance

Great ending but take away the props and there’s a not a lot of actual wrestling.

Winner: Braun Strowman 🍿🍿🍿

Filler match Curt Hawkins v Heath Slater (pre main event interlude)

Both wrestlers look confused on entering the ring, like they weren’t supposed to be there today. Slater wins.

The match is filler so they can cut to the backstage footage of Strowman being pried from the back of the ambulance with the jaws of life.

The bloodied face of Braun Strowman

A concerned Kurt Angle looks on while the fire and rescue do their thing. A bloodied and confused Strowman stumbles out the back of the ambulance. Gathers himself and walks off. Rock and roll!

Is this the heel turn for Reigns that everybody has been hating for?

Winner: Slater? I can’t remember they didn’t even show the ending. No rating.

Universal Championship Match

Brock Lesnar v Samoa Joe

I’m invested in this match, the lead up to the number one contender in Samoa Joe had been long and reasonably well hyped. Paul Heyman’s role in this cannot be understated in Lesnar’s absence as he has carried and contributed to this exponentially.

These guys really need to put on a show to make this PPV worth it.

Joe walks out to a somewhat mediocre response from the crowd. Lesnar walks out and the crowd are on their feet but surprisingly quiet. I honestly expected them to lose their shit when he arrived, it’s been over three months. It was pretty underwhelming to be honest.

Heyman introcduces Lesnar and the crowd start to rise. Joe cuts him off and attacks Lesnar, it spills outside and Joe spikes him through a table, the bell hasn’t even rung.

NOW the crowd are into it.

Lesnar gets back into the ring and Joe is relentless. Samoa Joe is such a great wrestler. Finally, we have match from the guys tonight that is at the level you would expect from a PPV event.

Joe clinches a Coquina clutch within about three minutes but Lesnar breaks and takes Joe to suplex city.

Lesnar suplexes Joe

Another Coquina Clutch and Lesnar’s face goes purple. He breaks the hold, slams Joe and we go to Suplex city again.

Some more back and forth and a third Coquina Clutch that Lesnar breaks out of and goes straight into an F5. Joe is down and Brock gets the pinfall.

Short and sweet. Joe carried the match as far as putting on a show. Lesnar is Lesnar—he was always going to win but I hope one day the WWE puts Samoa Joe over, he’s a great talent.

Winner: Block Lesnar 🍿🍿🍿

Conclusion

In summary an average pay per-view by WWE standards that started with some pretty ordinary matches. I don’t think all of the blame can go on the performers though (well most of the blame, but not all) as I have heard more vocal crowds at some of the weekly tapings.

Mad props to Alexa Bliss and Sasha Banks for stealing the show from the headliners. They truly put onthe match of the night, although that should probably put the blokes on notice, lift your game fellas. They’ll be talking about that dislocated elbow stunt for years to come!

What do you think?

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