Goodness, gracious, great balls of fire! Without a doubt the show had one of the lamest names in pay-per-view history but the pay-per-view itself was one of the best not only of 2017 but in WWE history.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Great Balls of Fire proved one thing: the WWE is at its best when they roll back the overall tone of the company to the Attitude Era. Stop trying to cater to parents and children. Stop towing that ridiculous PG line and appeal directly to teens and adults. It is what the leading comic book companies realized years and years ago and it is the path the WWE should follow.
The mature, ruthless, no-holds-barred, lay-it-all-on-the-line tone in each and every match elevated the product in so many ways. Now, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for humour and fun but when it comes to the pitch and tenor, the WWE needs to turn back the clock and get as serious as a life sentence. That is when the WWE is truly at its best and gets the best from all of its talent.
Topping off the outstanding show was the Universal Championship match between challenger Samoa Joe and…what his name again? Brick Lesnar? Brendon Lesnar? You know, the mixed martial artist who won the belt three months ago and hasn’t defended it since.
Yeah, THAT guy.
As has been his modus operandi since he set his sights on the title, Samoa Joe jumped Bruce Lesnar from behind before the bell even rang. As Brad was being introduced by his advocate, Paul Heyman, Joe hit him from behind and knocked him out of the ring. Joe flung him into the ringside barrier and then slammed him through the announce table.
A dazed Barry Lesnar stumbled back into the ring with a smile on his face as the crowd chanted…Joe is gonna kill you! Brent Lesnar nodded to the official to start the match.
Joe stormed across the ring mauling the champ. Head butt after head butt drove him to his knees. Brennan Lesnar reversed things assailing Joe with knees and shoulder tackles. Joe locked on the Coquina Clutch but despite Lesnar grabbing the ropes several times, the official refused to make Joe break the deadly submission hold. That made absolutely no sense. The champ finally drove Joe into a corner and broke things up.
Now, it was time for Joe to visit Suplex City. Brendan Lesnar put down the Samoan Submission Machine three times. As Lesnar went for a fourth, Joe grabbed the ropes and while he had the official tied up, mule kicked Lesnar in his Great Balls of Fire.
Joe survives his visit to Suplex City to apply the Coquina Clutch once again. Bradley Lesnar drove Joe to the mat to escape. Lesnar charged Joe but missed and hit the steel ring post. Joe attempted to grab the champ from behind but Brady amazingly slid through his legs and delivered three more punishing German Suplexes.
Bryan Lesnar struggled to end the match with his trademark F5 but Joe slipped out and…you guessed it…secured another Coquina Clutch. Bentley dropped to one knee. Out of nowhere, The Beast summoned up enough energy to break the hold, hoist up Joe and hammer him to the canvass with an F5 to retain the title.
The man who challenged the winner of the Universal Title match to a bout at SummerSlam, Roman Reigns, lost his marbles at Great Balls of Fire. After being defeated by Braun Strowman in their wild Ambulance Match, Reigns attacked him from behind, threw him into the ambulance, drove to the backstage area and then drove the ambulance into a parked tractor trailer.
So, Roman committed what amounted to attempted murder just because he lost a match? It boggles the mind but it made for great TV.
As Reigns fled the scene, a frantic Raw General Manager, Kurt Angle, and other officials arrived but no matter how hard they tried, they naturally couldn’t pry open the ambulance doors.
Minutes later, we cut away from a pointless Kurt Hawkins and Heath Slater match, to see emergency officials use the Jaws of Life to free a bloody Strowman who refused any medical attention preferring to lumber off into the night bellowing like a wounded bear or something.
While the entire segment was goofy and ridiculous and over the top, it was enthralling from beginning to end just like the entire show. Steal a page from The Doctor, WWE, and get into that TARDIS and take the company back to the Attitude Era and while you are roaming through time search for Finn Balor because he has apparently has gone missing.
O Finn, where art thou? Not at Great Balls of Fire, that’s for sure. What a waste of the one of the greatest wrestlers working today.
Great Ball of Fire Results: July 9th, 2017
Singles match for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship – Neville (c) vs. Akira Tozawa (with Titus O’Neil)
A gratuitously grumpy Neville argues with fans before sliding in the ring. A smiling Titus O’Neil brings a focused Tozawa to the ring. Both men go nose to nose before the bell even rings. The war chants begin right away and an incensed Neville spits a chant right back in Tozawa’s face. Tozawa has Nevile confused countering everything he throws at him. A kick to the head knocks Neville off the apron to the floor but when Tozawa charges Neville, he gets clocked with a kick and stomped into the mat.
Titus encourages Tozawa to get up because he is the “real” champ. Neville throws Tozawa into the barricade. Titus continues to cheer Tozawa on as the momentum switches Neville’s way. Neville smiles as he says: “Is this all you’ve got?”. Tozawa chops and kicks Neville down to the canvass. As Neville flees the ring, Tozawa dives onto him not once but twice on the floor for a two count back in the ring.
From on top of Neville’s shoulders, Tozawa masterfully maneuvers him into an amazing Octopus Stretch. Tozawa is caught in the ropes. Neville chops and kicks him as Titus yells at the official to back Neville up as per the four count. Neville misses the Red Arrow and Tozawa gets a 2 count. A Shining Wizard and a Senton from the top rope for Tozawa…and Neville rolls to the floor. Tozawa is crotched on the top rope by Neville. Titus goes mental. That’s cheap!…he yells. One kick later and Neville wins? What the hell? I cannot remember the last time a match was decided by crotching someone on the top rope. A very cruddy ending to a very decent match.
Winner: At 12 minutes and 5 seconds…and still WWE Cruiserweight Champion Neville.
Match Rating: 7.5 / 10
Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt
Graves says if Wyatt has his way his match with Rollins will look like an old grindhouse film. Nice one, Corey. Graves: Wyatt has to back up all of his rhetoric with a win tonight. Very true. It is what fans have been saying for years and years.
Rollins takes control early and Wyatt backs off into a corner and laughs, smiling to himself. Rollins baseball kicks Wyatt into the announce table. As he attempts a suicide dive, Wyatt just leisurely punches him in the face. Rollins blocks a DDT on the apron but Wyatt hurls him face first into the steel steps by the hair and then charges him into the barricade mowing him down. Wyatt laughs and smiles as he beats on Rollins some more before he is Superplexed off the top rope for a two count, landing on his “sensitive” knee.
Wyatt viciously DDT’s Rollins onto the ring apron for another two count. Rollins shakes and rattles as he powers out of headlock. Wyatt misses a running Senton. Rollins bowls Wyatt over with a Suicide Dive on the floor. A flying forearm from the apron results in a two count for Rollins. Rollins punches his way out of Sister Abigail but is driven to the mat with a clothesline. Rollins lifts Wyatt into a Falcon Arrow for another two. Wyatt slaps Rollins around demanding that he fight him and declaring that he is a god. As the official moves Rollins away from the ropes and from pounding Wyatt, Wyatt pokes Rollins in the eye and hits Sister Abigail. A lot of innovative offense and a very strong effort by both superstars. Here’s hoping this feud isn’t over just yet as they could really evolve into something really great.
Winner: At 12 minutes and 5 seconds, Bray Wyatt.
Match Rating: 8/ 10
Enzo Amore vs. Big Cass
A replay of the entire Amore/Cass saga. There is only one way to spell out “annoying”. A-M-O-R-E.
br> Amore’s Titantron says : “Certifed Protection” now. Not sure what that means. Is he going to become a one-man APA? The crowd launches into the One Nation Army chant. Another brilliant promo by Amore. Amore: “All is fair is love and war.” Amore says his real life is better than his dreams because of all the fans and he will become larger than life and Cass will always be in his shadow. Amore leads the S-A-W-T chant against Cass. Cass has some new formidable, stomping entrance music.
Cass enters the ring without saying a word as the crowd taunts him, calling him “Casshole”. Amore uses his speed but nothing he does seems to harm Cass who shrugs him off. You want to hit me in the face?…yells Cass as he stomps and punches Amore to the ground as the crowd continues to get on his case. Cass slaps Amore in the corner before hitting a fallaway slam and a big splash. Amore is laid in the corner and punched, slapped and kicked by Cass. How are you doing? How many fingers?…Cass mocks. The crowd tries to will Amore on. “Come on, tough guy,” laughs Cass as he picks up Amore and power presses him over the top rope into the ringside barrier. Amore barely gets back into the ring in time to beat the count. Cass shakes his head as Amore struggles to get back to his feet. A big boot to the face and that is all she wrote. Short, sweet and to the point.
Winner: At 5 minutes and 14 seconds, Big Cass.
Match Rating: 6 / 10
30-minute Iron Man match for the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship – Cesaro and Sheamus (c) vs. The Hardy Boyz (Jeff and Matt Hardy)
In 18 seconds, Cesaro and Sheamus score the first fall. Here’s how: Sheamus enters the ring against Matt Hardy. Cesaro runs into the ring to distract Matt. Sheamus hits the Brogue Kick for the three count. An irate Matt slams Sheamus’ head off the ring apron like 57 times. The Hardys double team Sheamus cutting off the ring until Sheamus just throws Jeff to the floor. Cesaro blindsides Jeff with a forearm to the face. Matt takes exception to the dastardly move and attacks Cesaro.
Sheamus misses Jeff and hits the steel post full force. Cesaro is tagged in as is Matt. Matt bashes Cesaro off of ALL the turnbuckles and then hits a clothesline and a running bulldog for a two count. Poetry in Motion. Side Effect. Twist of Fate. The Hardys pin Cesaro.
A Cesaro and Sheamus double team allows them to take the lead by 2 to 1.
Jeff runs across the ring, jumps off Matt’s back, over the top rope and torpedoes Cesaro and Sheamus. Cesaro bashes Matt’s head off the steel post. Matt doesn’t beat the 10 count back into the ring. Another decision for Cesaro and Sheamus. It is now 3 to 1 in favour of Cesaro and Sheamus.
Sheamus delivers 10 Beats of the Bodhrán but decides…What the heck?…and throws Matt to the floor. Matt is put into the Sharpshooter but Jeff saves him. Sheamus pulls Jeff off the apron to the floor. Cesaro misses a forearm, he is dumped in a backslide by Matt and leg dropped by Jeff. Pin fall for the Hardys to make it 3 to 2. Matt lands Twist of Fate off the top rope on Sheamus to tie up the match.
Jeff is about to Swan Dive Sheamus but Cesaro pulls him out of the ring. Jeff splashes both Cesaro and Sheamus. A double top rope splash by the Hardys, one from each corner, but Cesaro saves Sheamus from a pin fall. Matt is busted open. A Swanton Bomb by Jeff on Sheamus but Cesaro is the legal man and pins Jeff to take back the lead. Cesaro runs outside the ring. Jeff chases him back into the ring and hits the Twist of Fate but the clock runs out.
Absolutely astounding work rate by all four men for one of the most unpredictable and hard fought matches of the year thus far. You couldn’t ask for any more from the two teams.
Winners: At 30 minutes…and still Raw Tag Team Champions: Cesaro and Sheamus.
Match Rating: 9 / 10
WWE Raw Women’s Championship – Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Sasha Banks
This has to be said. What is with Alexa’s entrance music? It sounds like an eighties arcade machine that has gone on the fritz?
Graves says Bliss was an “outcast” in NXT. I guess Graves forgot all about her managing Blake and Murphy. Banks catches Bliss with a drop kick to the jaw knocking her out of the ring. Sasha’s arm drag, which is inspired by Eddie Guerrero, almost tears Bliss’ arm out of her socket and it looks awkwardly bent out of shape. It is all a ruse though as she punches a suckered Sasha. Sasha tries to lock on the Bank Statement but Bliss rolls out of the ring. “I am the champ! I don’t need this!” yells Bliss as she attempts to leave. Sasha drags her back to the ring and bashes her head off the apron. Bliss pulls Sasha off the apron. Sasha lands hard on her back. Bliss focuses her attack on Sasha’s spine. Bliss grabs Sasha by the back of the hair and slams her over her knee. Why won’t you give up?…Bliss yells in Sasha’s face.
Bliss tries a splash off the top rope but Sasha gets her knees up. Bliss is in the Bank Statement but gets to the ropes to survive. Bliss rolls outside the ring. Bliss guillotines Sasha on the ropes but gets thrown into the barricade for her troubles. Bliss takes an intentional count out to win the match.
An enraged Sasha attacks Bliss from behind and throws her into the video screen. Bliss bounces Sasha’s head off the announce table and tries to DDT her but Sasha pushes her off to the floor. Sasha dives off the table and just batters Bliss with her double knees. Sasha stands on the announce table and mocks Bliss.
Winner: At 12 minutes and 7 seconds…and still Raw Women’s Champion: Alexa Bliss.
Match Rating: 7 / 10
WWE Intercontinental Championship – The Miz (c) (with Maryse, Bo Dallas, and Curtis Axel) vs. Dean Ambrose
You have seen it all before and not much is new. When the bell rings, Ambrose goes outside the ring to attack Bo Dallas and Axle. Eventually stressing about the Mizterage takes its toll and Miz takes control for quite a long while. Ambrose starts building momentum and a clotheslines rocks Miz. Ambrose is tied to the Tree of Woe. The Miz drop kicks Ambrose’s knee twice. Ambrose clotheslines The Miz but is favouring his knee. Ambrose, bleeding from his mouth, makes it to the ropes to break the hold. Ambrose cannot even stand and Graves says the official should end the match. All of a sudden, Ambrose can climb to the top rope and deliver a flying clothesline? Maryse distracts the official and the Mizterage attack him. Ambrose fights them off and splashes them from the top rope. Ambrose hobbles his way to the top rope misses the clothesline but spikes The Miz with Dirty Deeds. Maryse saves The Miz. Ambrose is distracted by the Mizterage allowing The Miz to put Ambrose away. Enough of this recycled feud. Time for them both to move on and Ambrose to take his rightful place in the mid-card ranks where his awkward and unconvincing character and skill set belongs.
Winner: At 11 minutes and 15 seconds…and still WWE Intercontinental Champion…The Miz.
Match Rating: 7 / 10
Ambulance match – Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
Before Roman is even introduced, the boos and chants begin. Roman takes a glance at the ambulance before heading to the ring. The announcers all seem to be stumbling over their own words to try and hype the match. Strowman collides with Roman delivering two running Stinger Splashes that shake the very ring. Roman throws off Strowman into a steel post but Strowman counters by driving Roman’s back into the post and steel stairs. Roman is flatted as Strowman batters him with the steel stairs. Romans throws all manner of kicks and punches at Strowman but he won’t go down. Strowman punishes Roman with a Powerslam and mistakenly goes for a pin fall. The announcers fall all over themselves making excuses for Strowman’s mistake. Roman executes a weak Samoan Drop on Strowman. The Monster bumbles into the steel post and Roman attacks the “sensitive” arm of Strowman.
Roman batters Strowman’s arm with a chair. One strike too many just angers Strowman. He stomps forward. Roman hits him again and that just makes Strowman even more ticked off. Stroman bounces Roman off the barricade again and again. Strowman clears off the announce table but Roman fights back with haymakers. Just like on Raw, Strowman hurls Roman off the stage and into the side of the ambulance. Strowman is favouring his arm and elbow. Strowman has his head smacked off the back doors of the ambulance. Roman clobbers Strowman with two Superman Punches but Strowman is still on his feet as they battle by the back of the ambulance. Strowman levels Roman with a massive backboard then rips a stretcher out of the back of the ambulance. Strowman throws Roman back up onto the stage but misses a charge. Romans shoves Strowman through the LED wall. The crowd starts cheering…This is awesome!
Strowman stirs and Roman stares in disbelief. Strowman pushes Roman off the stage and almost into the ambulance. Roman suckers Strowman in and hits him with a light fixture. Roman runs for a spear or a Superman punch but Strowman sidesteps Roman who lands in the ambulance. Strowman wins but Roman spears him from behind, slams the ambulance door numerous times on Strowman’s arm. He then hijacks the ambulance with Strowman inside and backs it up into a parked tractor trailer perhaps committing homicide.
A stunned Kurt Angle arrives with emergency officials who cannot seem to open the doors of the ambulance.
Winner: At 16 minutes and 31 seconds, Braun Strowman.
Match Rating: 8.5 / 10
Heath Slater Vs Kurt Hawkins
Heath Slater runs to the ring still wrapping his wrists up. The announcers act as if the match was not planned because they have “extra time”. The crowd stands up as they hear emergency vehicles arriving in the backstage area. The screen is divided in half as a firetruck arrives and eventually we say adios to Slater and Hawkins. We don’t see how the match ends. We just hear the bell and that Slater won. What in the world? What was the point of that?
Winner: Heath Slater.
Match Rating: 0 / 10
WWE Universal Championship Match – Brock Lesnar (c) (with Paul Heyman) vs Samoa Joe
Winner: At 6 minutes and 11 seconds…and still WWE Universal Champion…Brock Lesnar.
Match Rating: 8 / 10
Overall Event Rating: 9 / 10
One of the founding managing editors of SLAM! Wrestling, John Powell is a veteran entertainment journalist currently covering Big Brother., Survivor for Shaw and the video game industry for G4TV.. Check out his comic book Cover 2 Cover blog and his Nerd TV YouTube updates here . John can be reached at [email protected] or @POW2112 on Twitter.