KELLER’S WWE GREAT BALLS OF FIRE PPV REPORT
JULY 9, 2017
AIRED LIVE ON WWE NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Booker T.
-The “Great Balls of Fire” song played with 1950s footage.
(1) BRAY WYATT vs. SETH ROLLINS
Graves said many believe it’s a “must win” for Bray because it’s one thing to spew your beliefs, but it’s another thing to back it up with victories. Cole talked about this being a match between two of the young foundations of the Raw brand. They went to the announcers on camera as Seth entered the ring. He threw to the German and Spanish announce teams. After some back and forth to open, Bray punched Seth in the face at ringside as Seth was diving through the ropes a minute into the match, giving Bray the first sustained offense of the match. Bray threw Seth off the ring apron head-first into the stairs, and next the barricade. Bray looked to the crowd, then turned and charged at Seth at ringside. He settled into a chinlock mid-ring. Seth attempted a comeback and teased a powerbomb or sunset flip off the to rope, but Bray countered with a superplex. He scored a two count. The announcers wondered if Seth’s damaged knee took a lot of the impact. Bray spiked Seth on the ring apron, then settled into a chinlock again. Seth avoided a running senton a minute later. Both were down.
Seth rallied and hit a springboard forearm for a two count. He hit a sling blade and a blockbuster for a two count. Bray came back by catching Seth’s foot on a kick attempt and went for Sister Abigail. Seth blocked it, but as Seth charged off the ropes, Bray nailed him with a clothesline. Seth came rich tback with a Falcon Arrow. Bray came back with some big moves of his own including a urinage for a two count. Bray started slapping at and yelling at Seth to fight him. He looked menacing. Seth fought back with a barrage of quick strikes, but bray kicked his knee and rolled to the floor to try to stop Seth’s momentum. Seth reached for him at ringside, but Bray jabbed Seth in the eye as the ref was trying to separate them. Bray then quickly ran in and hit Sister Abigail for the win.
WINNER: Bray in 12:00. (**3/4)
(Keller’s Analysis: Really solid opener. Bray needed the win. A good mix of big moves in the ring and a few at ringside.)
-A WWE Network commercial aired.
-Charlie Caruso interviewed Matt & Jeff Hardy. Hardy said he watched super villains in cartoons and now they face two super villains in a 30 minute match. He said it’s delightfully ironic. Matt said Sheamus isn’t afraid to kick teeth out of Jeff’s mouth. Jeff said he’s willing to lose more teeth to get their tag team titles back. He said they’ve been in a lot of firsts – the first tag team tables match, first tag team ladder match, and first ever TLC match, and tonight they’re in the first-ever Iron Man 30 Man Tag Team match. He said they make history and break barriers and break bars. Caruso reacted to the interview and said, “Guys, back to you at ringside.” That is so much better than staring off into space for a few seconds contemplatively.
-A video package aired on Big Cass and Enzo Amore.
(2) ENZO AMORE vs. BIG CASS
Enzo came out first and did some talking. He said the fans showed love for him and Cass when they first arrived, but tonight is about war. He said all is fair in love and war, and Cass can attest to that. He said the same cannot be said about life because life ain’t fair. He said some people get their kicks stompingon a dream. He invited Cass and his size-16 boot to give it a try, but he’s a dreamer who plans to keep on dreaming. He said he no longer sleeps because his real life has become better than his dreams. He went on a little longer about spreading his wings and planning to fly. He said Cass is seven foot tall, but he’ll always be in his shadow because he’s about to become larger than life.
(Keller’s Analysis: This, again, would have benefited from a little editing. It just went on two short stanzas too long and feels memorized by the time there’s that many “clever lines.” I still like his delivery and there is an emotional connection with his words and the camera (and fans) that few have at his level.)
Cass came out second with his new entrance music. He walked out with his right arm raised in the air. Enzo went after Cass quickly. Cass powered him down hard and then threw some punches in the corner with some trash-talk mixed in. Cass dominated for several minutes. He pressed Enzo into the air and dropped him at ringside. Enzo beat the ten count, but could barely stand upon rolling back into the ring. Cass just stood and watched, then took him down with a big boot for the clean decisively win. Cole asked, “Where does this leave Enzo?”
WINNER: Cass in 5:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Well, that answers the question of whether the break-up here was to give Cass a big heel push or do a sustained feud with the smaller Enzo. Some good angles and promos from Enzo pointed to the possibility that they’d extend this feud beyond a single squash. This was a drawn out squash. As for Cass’s new music, generic and forgettable. Maybe it’ll grow on me.)
-A commercial aired for Kurt Angle’s “24” special, with the theme being that he was “hell bent on self-destruction” and eventually got addicted to pain pills because he wanted to keep going. It included clips of Dixie Carter talking about his time in TNA, but then his homecoming so he could be back “with a company I can be part of the rest of my life.”
-They showed Miz, Maryse, Bo Dallas, and Curtis Axel all hanging out backstage being obnoxious. Maryse and Miz looked like they were on the same page again as Maryse was all smiles after smooching him.
(3) THE HARDY BOYZ vs. SHEAMUS & CESARO
Cole said a win here would move the Hardys within one tag team title win of the Dudley Boyz, who hold the record. The Hardys came out first. Graves talked about Sheamus’s extra cardio he’s been doing to prepare for this match. Sheamus surprised Matt with a Brogue Kick after an initial charge by Cesaro and scored a three count just seconds into the match. Graves called it brilliant strategy.
SCORE: Cesaro & Sheamus 1-0 lead.
They beat on Jeff for another ten minutes methodically and eventually scored a second pin.
SCORE: Cesaro & Sheamus 2-0 lead.
Matt eventually got the hot tag and then Jeff recovered rather quickly and landed a running Poetry in Motion. Matt then hit the Side Effect. Jeff then hit the Twist of Fate and scored a three count at 13:00. Jeff went back to selling the ten minute beating he took as he approached Matt in their corner. Jeff chose to stay in the ring, though.
SCORE: Cesaro & Sheamus 2-1.
When the action went to ringside, Cesaro threw Matt into the ringpost. The ref counted him out.
SCORE: Cesaro & Sheamus 3-1.
The announcers talked about Cesaro & Sheamus firing on all cylinders. At 13:00 Cesaro had Matt in a sharpshooter. Jeff broke it up. Sheamus ran over and yanked Jeff off the ring apron. A minute later Matt tagged in Jeff who dropped his legs onto Cesaro as he was rolled onto his back and he scored the leverage pin at 23:00.
SCORE: Cesaro & Sheamus 3-2.
Jeff scored a near fall seconds later. The heel duo took over. Jeff knocked Cesaro off the top rope and went to work on Sheamus with rapid-fire offense ands cored a couple of two counts. Matt signaled for a Twist of Fate at 25:00 on Sheamus. Cesaro interfered. Sheamus then went for a top rope move, but Matt elbowed him off of him. Matt then landed a moonsault off the top rope for a two count, broken up by Cesaro. Jeff ran in to knock Cesaro out of the ring. Cole declared it an incredible match, but noted the clock ticking with under four minutes left for the Hardys. Matt then gave Sheamus a Twist of Fate off the top rope for the pin.
SCORE: Tied 3-3
Booker said this is like having a Best of Seven all in one night. The ref checked on Sheamus’s condition as he was slow to get up. The ref cleared him to compete. Jeff went for a top rope move, but Cesaro yanked him out of the ring. Jeff dove onto both Cesaro and Sheamus. Back in the ring, Matt and Jeff leaped off of opposite top ropes and landed on Sheamus. Cesaro made the desperation break-up of the in attempt. They rolled into a series of near fall and fast-paced action. Matt blind-tagged in Jeff, who landed a Swantonm but Cesaro ran in and snuck the pin on Jeff with 27 seconds left. Cesaro rolled out of the ring and began running from Jeff. Jeff caught him and threw him into the ring. He hit another Twist of Fate and the time expired as the ref was counting.
WINNERS: Cesaro & Sheamus (4-3) in 30:00. (****)
(Keller’s Analysis: They did a great job with that format. The first ten minutes were a bit monotonous, but that’s better than doing a bunch of unrealistic pins early to rack up the score. The first pin in the opening seconds was like a trick play at the start of a football game, and it worked for me. The rest was dramatic and well executed, with just the right balance of big yet not overly dangerous spots that each meant something to the subsequent near falls or pitfalls. Smart, high-IQ execution of this concept. The drama felt real, the crowd was engaged, and the announcers really helped during the climactic closing moments. Even Booker!)
-A video aired on Xavier Woods at the Rocket League Championship Series.
-A vignette aired on John Cena’s return to Smackdown last week.
(4) ALEXA BLISS vs. SASHA BANKS – WWE Raw Women’s Title match
More announce pairings got face time to greet their viewers during Sasha’s ring entrance. Graves said Bliss always felt like an outcast because she wasn’t part of the Four Horsewomen. Cole said she’s an outcast because she doesn’t endear herself to others in the locker room. Great comeback by Cole. More of that from the pro-babyface perspective. Bliss yelled for the ref to get Banks off of her when she was against the ropes. Bliss gave her an extra shove and smiled. Bliss took time out at ringside. Cole said she asked Bliss how things have changed for her lately and she told him it’s because she’s having fun again. Bliss pretended to have a dislocated elbow. Banks look on like it was awful. She then suckered Banks into walking toward her and punched her. The announcers wondered if she is double-jointed.
Banks eventually took over again, including taking it to Bliss at ringside when Bliss tried to get a breather at ringside. Bliss yanked Banks by her legs off the ring apron. Banks hit her back on the edge of the ring on her way down. Booker complimented her game plan. Bliss threw Banks into the ring and continued the attack. She did a moonsault into a double knee driver into Banks’s back in a cool spot. Banks twisted Sasha backwards on the mat. She yanked her backwards across her knees. The announcers sold it big and the slo-mo replay looked good. Bliss grew frustrated. Bliss eventually went for a turning splash off the top rope, but Banks lifted her knees, then suddenly applied the Bank Statement. Bliss reached the bottom rope to force a break.
Bliss bailed out to ringside to catch her breath. Graves said it might not be popular, but this is a good way to retain if you’re Alexa. Bliss reached down and grabbed her hair. Bliss slapped her across the face. The ref continued to count and ended up counting Bliss out.
WINNER: Banks via countout, so Bliss retained in 12:00. (**3/4)
-Banks went after Bliss in anger afterward. They fought on the stage. Banks leaped off the announce desk stage and double kneed Bliss. Nasty looking. Banks was very slow to get up as Banks looked down on her from the announce table perch.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good match! I like the finish at this stage of the feud. The post match brawl added fuel to the rematch.)
-An ad aired for WWE Battleground.
-The announcers talked about A.J. Styles winning the U.S. Title on Friday night at MSG. Then they replayed footage of Neville beating Akira Tozawa in the Kickoff Show match to retain the Cruiserweight Title. They showed a clip from earlier of Tozawa telling Titus to get him a rematch because of the low-blow finish. Titus said he’d get to work on that request.
(5) THE MIZ (w/Maryse, Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel) vs. DEAN AMBROSE – Intercontinental Title match
The show must be running long as they skipped ring intros, which is unusual for a title match. Ambrose had a bloody mouth about five minutes in. After Miz worked over Dean’s leg for a while, Dean made a spirited comeback. He took it to Bo and Axel at ringside. He climbed to the top rope, but ended up diving to the floor. When he went for another top rope move in the ring, Miz caught him. Dean countered Miz and delivered Dirty Deeds. Maryse put Miz’s leg on the bottom rope, then scurried away. The ref saw the leg on the rope and stopped his count. Graves said she is a god send and a wonderful wife. Dean dove at Miz through the ropes. Bo and Axel interfered and that gave Miz an opening to hit the Skull Crushing Finale for the win.
WINNERS: Miz to retain the Intercontinental Title 11:00.
-A WWE Network commercial aired.
-The announcers hyped Raw Talk with Miz and his Miztourage, Sasha Banks, and Big Cass.
-A video package aired on the Braun-Reigns match.
(6) ROMAN REIGNS vs. BRAUN STROWMAN – Ambulance Match
Braun shoved Reigns. Reigns punched and kicked and punched and punched Braun. Then he charged, but Braun shoulder blocked him hard to the mat. Braun splashed him in the corner. Booker said Braun wants to destroy Reigns. Reigns began looking down at the mat like he was going to throw up. Braun took over at ringside. He hit some powermoves inside the ring. After Reigns kicked Braun in the face, he yelled to indicate he was going to make a comeback, but Braun kicked him the face. Braun then let out a yell. Strowman dragged Reigns to the edge of the ring and then picked him up onto his shoulder. He carried him away. Cole called it “a disgusting display of power.” Reigns slipped free and shoved Strowman.
Back in the ring Reigns gave Strowman a Samoan Drop. He sold it as a big feat of strength because, well, it was. Braun kicked Reigns off of him and then charged at Reigns. Reigns moved, so Braun went shoulder-first into the ringpost. Reigns went to ringside and gave Strowman a running kick to his surgically repaired elbow. Reigns worked over his left arm. Cole said he was supposed to be out six months, but came back in six weeks, “so it’s got to be a target.” Reigns swung a chair and hit the ringpost and the vicinity of Strowman’s dangling arm. Reigns bashed Strowman at ringside with the chair. Strowman no-sold it. Reigns swing another chair and Strowman no-sold it and yelled “son of a bitch” at Reigns. He then yanked the chair out of Reigns’s hands and threw him hard into the ringpost and then ringside barrier.
Braun dragged Reigns onto the stage and into the big screens. Then he went to the announce table and began pulling monitors off of it. Braun set up a powerbomb, but Reigns slipped out. Reigns then punched Strowman a few times. Strowman, though, tossed Reigns off the stage into the side of the ambulance below. The ref checked on Reigns. Braun went over to throw Reigns into the back of the ambulance. Cole said that would cement his legacy in WWE. Reigns fought back and tried to open the second door. Braun picked up Reigns and tried to shove him in. Reigns fought free and hit a Superman Punch. Braun fell back toward the opening. Reigns delivered a Superman Punch and tried to lift Braun all the way in. Braun hit Reigns with a backboard to take control.
Braun threw Reigns onto the stage. He charged at Reigns, but Reigns moved and Strowman bashed himself into presumably a reenforced part of the set. Reigns then shoved Braun into another part of the big screen, and this one he went through, knocking a huge hole in it. Cole said now Reigns has to carry Strowman from there into the ambulance. After a replay and some recovery time, Reigns got up and dragged Braun toward the edge of the stage. Braun shoved Reigns off the stage. Reigns hit Braun with a ringside lighting grid, but when Reigns charged for a spear, Braun side-stepped him and threw Reigns into the back of the ambulance and slammed the doors shut. As Braun celebrated, Reigns popped out of the ambulance and speared Braun. Reigns slammed the ambulance door on Braun over and over and then locked him inside. He walked up to the driver door and threw the driver out of the way roughly and drove away. (I hope the ambulance drive sues, because that was a dickish move by Reigns.)
WINNER: Braun in 16:35.
(Keller’s Analysis: Well, if you were going to give Braun a win without it seeming like he beat Reigns, but rather Reigns going for broke beat himself, that is it. And then he got to do what presumably a winner would do – which is drive away with the victim in the back.)
-After the match, Reigns got an idea and drove full speed backwards the ambulance into a tractor trailer parked in the back. He crushed the back of the ambulance ostensibly with Braun in it. Kurt Angle and referees and producers ran up. They tried to get the doors to the ambulance open to see if he was okay. Jamie Noble used a tire iron to try to pray the door open.
(7) HEATH SLATER vs. CURT HAWKINS
So much for WWE concerned about the show running long. They billed this as an “impromptu match,” with the idea being everyone was trying to get Braun out of the ambulance. The crowd chanted “We Want Balor” at the start of the match. What a bad position for wrestlers to be in when trying to have a match and nobody’s invested in it at all. Cole kept talking about Braun being caught in the back of the ambulance “and it doesn’t look good.” Graves said he thinks Reigns “went a little too far.” Cole said they need to get that human being out of the ambulance, not worry about who’s to blame. More sirens could be heard. The crowd stood and watched the big screen as Angle waved in firetrucks. Graves wondered if they should even broadcast this. The camera wasn’t even on the ring when you could hear Jo Jo announce Slater won.
WINNER: Slater in 2:00.
-The firemen opened up the door with “The Jaws of Life” tool. Noble and Angle looked on with grave concern. Noble yelled, “Hang in there, Braun!” Graves said it’s not a matter of if, but the extent of injuries Braun suffered. The doors were finally pried open after a couple minutes. Firemen went inside and moved Braun onto a backtrace. Angle told Braun to calm down because they were trying to help him. Braun was bleeding on his left arm and couldn’t stand. He fell out of the door and stood up, his face covered partially in blood coming from his mouth. Braun tried to talk, but he stumbled and fell as the officials and firemen tried to help him. Braun managed to walk away with a big limp and told them to leave him alone. The crowd began to cheer. Angle looked contemplative.
-They went to the announcers on the stage. Cole called it a miracle Strowman was able to get out of the ambulance and walk away, but he said medical personnel need to get to him and help him. Cole said he’s not sure he has ever seen anything like what happened after the match. He wondered what was going through Reigns’s mind. Booker said in 26 years he’s never seen anything like it. The announcers had their super-serious faces on. They replayed the ambulance backing into the trailer. They had three angles of that trailer for some reason. Cole said there was a human being in the back of the ambulance. He wondered what drove him to that point. Graves said it truly could have been catastrophic, “I’m talking beyond sports entertainment and our business.” They replayed Braun’s bloody face as he walked away, and Cole said it’s a miracle he survived that crash. He said WWE.com and WWE social media will update the situation between now and Raw.
(8) BROCK LESNAR (w/Paul Heyman) vs. SAMOA JOE – WWE Heavyweight Title match
Joe came out first. Before the match, Heyman from the ring apron (not inside the ring) introduced his man. Joe jumped Lesnar from behind during Heyman’s intro. He threw Lesnar to ringside and chokeslammed him onto the announce table. It collapsed. Graves said: “Samoa Joe, no fear.” Cole said Lesnar has no idea what just hit him. Cole said a tornado ripped through Lesnar. Graves wondered if the match would officially start. Joe entered the ring and waited. Lesnar gradually rolled himself into the ring. Fans chanted “Joe’s gonna kill you.” Graves said he doesn’t know why Lesnar got back in. Lesnar smiled and the bell rang.
Joe attacked Lesnar aggressively. Lesnar tried to battle back, but Joe shoved Lesnar into the corner and beat him up there. Joe wrapped his arm over the top of Lesnar’s neck, but Lesnar powered out. Joe maneuvered into a headlock. Lesnar escaped and gave Joe one of his suplexes. Cue the announcers saying “Suplex city!” Lesnar delivered a second. Heyman regained his confidence at ringside. Both were slow to get up. Lesnar hit a third. Lesnar stood and yelled to the crowd. He went for a fourth, but Joe leaned into the ropes. He grabbed the ref and then mule kicked Lesnar. Lesnar went down. Joe delivered a urinage for a two count. Booker said Joe is looking for a win by any means necessary. Joe came up behind Lesnar and applied a Coquina Clutch. Lesnar kept fighting it off and Joe kept shifting his arms to lock it on. Lesnar began to fade. Lesnar lifted and sideslammed Joe to break free. Both were slow to get up once again. Graves said he can’t remember the last time Lesnar was in so much trouble in a match.
Joe avoided a Lesnar charge, so Lesnar. Lesnar went shoulder-first into the ringpost. Lesnar, though, slipped under Joe’s legs and applied another suplex. Then he lifted him for an F5, but Joe slipped free and applied the Coquina Clutch. Lesnar pushed Joe back into the corner, but Joe just wrapped Lesnar with his legs. Lesnar dropped down onto one knee. Lesnar stood up, though, and delivered an F5 to score the three count. Cole said Lesnar was in a hell of a fight. Booker said Joe’s stock just went up in his eyes, despite losing. Lesnar left looking like he had been through a huge battle. The camera focused on Joe seething mad as he began to stand up and absorb what happened.
WINNER: Lesnar to retain the Universal Championship in 7:00 not counting pre-bell beatdown. (****)
(Keller’s Analysis: Really well done. That was the match that Joe could lose but still get over in the process. This had a big match feel all the way.)