Winners: Neville, Bray Wyatt, Big Cass, Cesaro and Sheamus, Sasha Banks, The Miz, Braun Strowman, Heath Slater, and Brock Lesnar.
One last time: why? Why!? Why, in 2017 (2017!) is the WWE running a pay-per-view event called Great Balls of Fire? Ugh!
Anyway, so the cruiserweights got relegated to the kick-off show once again with Neville successfully defending again Tozawa. You don’t even need to go back to WCW to see how a cruiserweight division should be run; just look at the division in the original brand split. Hell, even TNA (now GFW) was running more lucrative and exploitive matches earlier this year with their nonsense multi-man X-Division matches. Anyway, I guess it turns out that Titus O’Neil is a face now? Either way, he didn’t really factor into this match and Neville’s reign continues, as it should. At this point, especially with Austin Aries having taken his ball and gone home, who is going to be able to topple Neville and supplant his reign with a comparable face run?
Bray Wyatt shocked the world by actually winning his match against Seth Rollins. I’ll say that again: Bray Wyatt won his match! It wasn’t exactly the greatest, strongest win or most competitive match but Bray actually won. The problem, though, is that his character and audience’s involvement in him is at an all-time low; sure, Seth can take the loss as he’s untouchable at this point, but all we’ve come to expect from Bray is empty threats and losses. If he’s actually going to be built up as a credible competitor, this win needs to be capitalised on and the WWE machine needs to get solidly behind him.
Big Cass debuted new, albeit rather generic, theme music to match his new heel persona, but no revised name, unfortunately. He then proceeded to murder Enzo Amore in what was clearly, and always meant to be, a showcase of Cass’s strength, aggressiveness as a heel, and ability to kick someone’s ass. I don’t expect this will be the end of their feud but it’s a pretty good start for Cass, I’d say, who has future star written all over him.
Cesaro and Sheamus successfully defended the Raw Tag Team Championships in a 30-minute Iron Man match. You may recall I previously said I don’t care for Iron Man matches as they are guaranteed to be long, dragging affairs, but both teams spiced this up with a whole mess of falls, trading wins until the match ended in a barely decisive 4-3 in favour of the champions. The real story was that, once again, Matt Hardy got the shit kicked out of him, even being busted open, sowing the seeds for his transformation into his Broken persona.
Sasha Banks defeated the Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss by count-out, ensuring that this feud will continue you and that Sasha will continue to hog the limited and restrictive limelight of the Raw women’s division. Speaking of hogging the division, the Miz defeated Dean Ambrose once again to retain the Intercontinental Championship in yet another decent-enough match between these two. No wonder Dean’s so unmotivated, as they claim; he’s constantly facing the same opponent all the time. Dean lost due to a bit of interference from the Miz-tourage so…I guess this nightmare will continue even longer!
Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns then made up for this by smashing the hell out of each other in a true clash of the titans; nothing but hard-hitting, big-man action here until the dodgy finish. So, get this, Reigns goes to spear Braun and, when Braun sidesteps him, ends up running head-first into the back of the ambulance and lose the match. Reigns then beats up Braun and tries to kill him by backing up the ambulance, with Braun in the back, into a trailer. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen. This is great for Braun, as he ended up walking away under his own power like a true monster, but not massively great for Reigns; he’s seemingly done nothing but lose since defeating the Undertaker at WrestleMania and now he’s looking like a complete nutjob by trying to kill his opponent. I know we’ve seen similar stuff from Stone Cold Steve Austin in the past but…Austin was cheered and had fans when he did that.
Finn Balor, Elias Samson, Goldust, and R-Truth are given the shaft and left off the show entirely for a nothing match between Heath Slater and Curt Hawkins because the WWE is, in a word, retarded sometimes.
Finally, Brock Lesnar successfully defended the Universal Championship against Samoa Joe. Joe, who fought like a rabid pitbull and was desperate to choke Lesnar out, ended up falling to a punch of German Suplexes and a single F5. it’s great exposure to put Joe in the main event for the belt and against Brock Lesnar but this wasn’t exactly a dominating or impressive showing, or loss, for Joe. I never expected him to win but I think even Dean Ambrose put up a better fight in his WrestleMania match against Lesnar.
Big Cass opened the show to put the entire Raw locker room on notice because he wants to be the Universal Champion. Hah, good luck with that; with Raw’s bloated main event scene and a champion who’s never around, he’ll be lucky to get a shot within the next three months. Anyway, this brings out the Big Show, who beats him up a bit and steals Cass’s nicely-built-up heel heat quite a bit in the process.
Finn Balor then defeated Elias Samson in a match that should’ve happened at Great Balls of Fire but, whatever. This wasn’t a great match for Samson as he got beaten in a pretty decisive manner; he looks good for hanging with someone like Balor but their feud surely could’ve been continued in another way, perhaps with the two winning matches against some jobbers or something.
After the Hardy Boys came out and further hinted that they might be Broken, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson came out and, shock of all shocks…they won a match! The Revival then came down and further compounded the Hardy’s injuries by beating them up a bit. This was a great re-debut of the Revival and nicely gets the Hardy Boys away from the belts and it helped a lot that the Club got a win. Why do I get the feeling that the Hardy Boys will turn Broken and get all new music, attire, and looks just as WWE 2K18 comes out to render the game complete out of date right away?
Dean Ambrose gate-crashed the Miz’s self-indulgent award ceremony, only to have Seth Rollins run out and save him from a beatdown, teasing a Shield reunion, before Sasha Banks and Bayley defeated Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss. Then, the long-awaited and also-stupidly-bumped-from-Great Balls of Fire match between Goldust and R-Truth finally happened, with Goldust pinning his former partner in quick, decisive fashion. I would’ve much rather seen Goldust continue his humiliations and assaults against R-Truth and let Ruth get the big win, and a bit of a push, at a pay-per-view. If the dastardly heel has already pinned the face, why should the heel want to face him again?
Kurt Angle hosted a bit of a chat with Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman, Samoa Joe, and Roman Reigns. Basically, because of Braun Strowman’s injuries, the two losers from Great Balls of Fire will face off next week to decide who faces Brock at Summerslam. I guess Reigns still has a legitimate claim with his defeat of the Undertaker at WrestleMania but, while I do want to see Joe in the main event for the belt, it would’ve been even better to have Joe maybe attack Lesnar here and force himself into next week’s match rather than simply come out and say “you know I can beat you”. I mean, Brock doesn’t know that because Joe clearly can’t beat him because he didn’t!
Akira Tozawa and Cedric Alexander then furthered the lacklustre and never-ending rotation of matches by beating Neville and Noam Dar, with Tozawa taking the low road to victory and pinning the Cruiserweight Champion. I guess this is to continue their feud on to Summerslam, but will anyone really care by then?
Stop the presses and call your friends, Bray Wyatt then beat Seth Rollins again! Bray Wyatt just won two consecutive matches against a main event-calibre opponent; it truly is the end of days! This time, Bray took advantage of Seth’s injured eye to win; here’s hoping this feud picks into a higher gear and both guys can gets some major attention on themselves as the feud progresses further.
AJ Styles opened the show to show off the United States Championship he won at a house show earlier in the week; AJ promises to bring back the Open Challenge and John Cena comes out to take advantage of the restored gimmick. If you ask me, it should be a prerequisite of the United States Championship that it is defended every single week on SmackDown! Live against a variety of opponents. That really made the belt stand out and seem important before and would be a great way of putting focus back on the belt again. Anyway, Kevin Owens and Rusev then interject themselves into the proceedings to set up a tag team match later on the show.
Jinder Mahal then defeated Tye Dillinger in a non-title match. Similar to the Finn/Drifter situation on Raw, it’s a great look for Tye to be in the ring with the WWE Champion but hardly a great look for him to be losing matches when he really needs to be building momentum and setting himself on a course for the United States Championship, or something.
The inevitable face-off for the SmackDown! Live Tag Team Championships continues with, refreshingly, a singles match between, even more refreshingly, Xavier Woods and Jey Uso. I like that they’re mixing things up by having singles matches between the two teams and actually allowing Xavier to have a match for a change.
After Natalya and Tamina defeated Becky Lynch and Charlotte (I swear the exact same match happened in the Raw women’s tag team match, but with the faces winning?), Sami Zayn then continued to tease his upcoming feud with Mike Kanellis, before the show closed with the tag team match set up at the opening. AJ Styles and John Cena managed to stay on the same page and even showed that they have a newfound mutual respect for each other to take the win against Kevin Owens and Rusev. These four do some great work together, as you might expect, but I’m still not massively excited about the prospect of Cena and Rusev facing off again.