Here we are, ladies and gentlemen. Great. Balls. Of. Fire. This is what we have come to in WWE in 2017. I could sit here all day and bemoan the name, but we’ve got a wrestling show to discuss! The Universal Champion is back to defend his belt and the Unstoppable Force meets the Immovable Object in an Ambulance match! Let’s take a look with the Great Balls of Fire 2017 preview.
Neville vs. Akira Tozawa
for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship
First things first, the Titus Brand (or Titus Worldwide) has been one of my favorite parts of Raw and I think the unlikely addition of Tozawa to the team has been perfect. Affiliations aside, both Neville and Tozawa are excruciatingly talented and together undoubtedly will produce an amazing match. Neville will walk away champion, but I do hope this lays the groundwork for a true feud between these two.
Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Sasha Banks
for the WWE Raw Women’s Championship
While I certainly won’t complain about these two dynamos mixing it up for a championship, I am a tad miffed that there has not been much build-up for the feud. Sasha is a top-tier talent; it would be a gross misuse of star power if this is just a transition piece for another feud. That said; this is a refreshing change of pace from the Bayley/Alexa feud. I am very excited to see what comes of these two squaring off one-on-one. As for a victor, Alexa needs to remain strong and the Raw Women’s Champion to keep any semblance of legitimacy. This shouldn’t come at the cost of Sasha – which I hope the minds at Creative realize – so I would not be surprised to see a screwy finish of some sort.
PICK: Alexa Bliss
Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt
This is definitely in the running for worst built match of the card. I am certainly not dreading to see these two gentlemen go at it – quite the contrary. However, I cannot say the convoluted vignettes and odd promos have done anything to stoke any semblance of excitement within me. As far as I am concerned, this is a pretty ‘nothing’ feud meant solely to take up space on the card. I hope the match is fun, but it will – at its core – remain pointless. Seth will most likely have his hand raised at the end of it all, but either man could really use a rub.
PICK: Seth Rollins
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman: Ambulance match
What can I say about this match? Braun Strowman – possibly the single best part of the Raw roster – comes up against the object of his brutality, Roman Reigns, in a match with a stipulation of Braun’s dreams. I am ready and waiting for the unchained savagery that I do hope this match delivers on. This is the perfect match to get Braun a deserved victory over Reigns without costing Reigns a coveted pinfall loss. I love a great feud with nothing more than pride on the line.
PICK: Braun Strowman
Enzo Amore vs. Big Cass
After weeks of mystery, we got our reveal a few Raw’s ago that it was disgruntled Cass who had been attacking his partner. This was undoubtedly the shake-up the team needed to keep things interesting between both men. I do, however, worry that the one-on-one between Enzo and Cass comes a bit too soon. Unless something unexpected occurs, either Big Cass destroys Enzo or somehow Enzo rolls up Big Cass and we have our man on top. I have no desire to see more than one match out of these two (unless the ending is muddled), so the matchup here – in my opinion – is a waste. Still, I am curious to see what comes of this.
PICK: Big Cass
The Miz vs. Dean Ambrose
for the WWE Intercontinental Championship
Sometimes I feel like Miz and Ambrose have been feuding since 1985. Generally speaking, I have no issue with this. Both men are extremely skilled on the mic and between the ropes. However, we are verging on territory where it feels like too much. I want to see someone else compete for the Intercontinental Championship. It would feel odd to have the blow off match for this lengthy feud at a ‘B’ event, so I fully expect to see one more confrontation at SummerSlam. With that in mind, the winner of this specific match does not matter much, but I fully expect it to be The Miz. With the Miz-tourage at ringside, I cannot believe Ambrose has more than a snowball’s chance in Hell.
PICK: The Miz
Cesaro and Sheamus vs. The Hardy Boyz
30 Minute Iron Men match
Speaking of feuds that have lasted for longer than memory, we are finally getting the cap to the tenuous feud between Dublin Oh-Seven and The Hardy Boyz in a 30 Minute Iron Men match. Could this finally be the match that ‘breaks’ Matt Hardy? Seeds have long been planted, but it feels even a bit too telegraphed. Sheamus and Ceasaro have been doing phenomenally as a team and I would love to see them hold on to the belts for a little while longer.
The ‘breaking’ of Matt Hardy – I feel – should come in a situation where the tag titles are on the line to emphasize the drama. Thus, I think the drama should either come to head here in this very match, or the Hardyz should take back their titles and move on to another feud. Maybe Matt could be ‘Shattered’ instead of ‘Broken?’
PICK: The Hardy Boyz
Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe
for the WWE Universal Championship
If you asked me before Extreme Rules what I thought would come of Brock Lesnar’s Universal Championship defense at Great Balls of Fire, I’d have said that the Beast Incarnate would probably face off against a babyface Finn Balor in a very run-of-the-mill mini-feud culminating in a beat down of gargantuan proportions. Instead, we’ve gotten the most compelling feud around a top title in the WWE in almost a year’s time. Samoa Joe has been the perfect foil for Brock – two men who sit in a strange, morally-grey area motivated only by their primal desire to show their physical dominance. I am mostly certain Brock will retain, but I do have considerably more doubt about that than I did three weeks ago.
PICK: Brock Lesnar
Great Balls of Fire, despite the bizarre name, has shaped up to be one of the most enticing Raw-exclusive shows since the brand split. There is a lot on the line, both titles and pride, and the chance for a handful of feuds to reach their climax. Make sure to tune into the Pre-Show at 7 p.m. and the main show at 8 p.m. Meet me back here next week to discuss the fall-out and speculate on the landscape of Raw ahead of the march to SummerSlam.
–by Dat Man S.Fran