WWE – Great Balls Of Fire/Battleground 2017 (Cert 15)
2 Discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 177 minutes/ 186 minutes approx.
Another month, another two-for-the-price-of-one release from WWE Home Video featuring two PPV extravaganzas that took place back in July.
Once again, it is necessary to warn anyone in advance coming to these shows fresh that the back cover of this DVD kindly spoils the results of the two title matches. Sigh…
Great Balls Of Fire
You can imagine the fun social media had when the title of this show was revealed, once the disbelief subsided that is, with many scallywags wondering when we would get shows entitled Tutti Frutti, Chantilly Lace or All Shook Up! To make matters worse, WWE were hit by a copyright infringement suit from legendary rocker Jerry Lee Lewis over the use of the name, which was settled with the condition that WWE use his classic song in promotional materials (meaning more royalties for Jerry Lee!).
Perhaps the other newsworthy thing was that Universal Champ Brock Lesnar felt rested enough to get back to work after three months off and actually defends his title against Samoa Joe, the unexpected but welcome winner of the main event at Extreme Rules the month before.
Taking place on July 9th 2017 at the American Airlines Centre in Dallas, Texas in front of a reported crowd of 16,579 fans, with commentary from Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Booker T.
As ever, while my match reviews won’t contain any results, expect plenty of opinion.
Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt
Given that Bray Wyatt has already jobbed numerous times on PPV to the other two Shield members it was inevitable that Seth would one day get his turn, and that day is finally here. Surprised to see this as the opener since Rollins is among the RAW elite but someone had to start the show. Solid match all told but nothing spectacular outside of the interesting finish.
Enzo Amore vs. Big Cass
At a time when the tag divisions on both brands need to be rejuvenated, Vince McSenile splits up one of the hottest acts and a team which could have done big business as champs on the RAW brand. Then again one of these guys is 7ft tall (well 6’8 but who is counting) and we all know Vince likes big guys, while the other is a mouthy so-and-so with heat in the locker room for being a mouthy so-and-so; you can figure out the rest.
Enzo’s pre-match promo lasted longer than this nothing match itself, a case of “parity” booking since he spent 99.9% of the bout being beaten up.
RAW Tag Title 30-Minute Iron Man Match – Sheamus & Cesaro (c) vs. The Hardy Boyz
Speaking of tag teams, the feud between the Hardys and Sheamus & Cesaro continues with the first ever tag team Iron Man match in the WWE. Presumably this was to make up for the underwhelming steel cage match at Extreme Rules. In some smart booking Sheamus score the first fall inside 20 seconds putting the Hardy’s at the bottom of an uphill struggle from the start.
Another hard worked encounter that built to a incredible crescendo in the final few minutes that saw Matt Hardy get busted open, the first of three people to bleed on this show. Best match so far.
RAW Women’s Title Match – Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Sasha Banks
Sasha won a gauntlet match on RAW to earn this title shot now that the Bayley feud is over. If this match seemed extraordinarily stiff it’s because Sasha and Alexa genuinely dislike each other in real life. It apparently stems from their time in NXT when Sasha busted Alexa’s nose during a match and complained on Twitter where they sniped at each other.
Despite this they have a god match and show tremendous chemistry, presumably because of this hatred, but the McBooking finish ruins it. A post match beat down offers some compensation, leading to our second blood sighting of the night but it is a pyrrhic victory at best.
WWE IC Title Match – The Miz (c) vs. Dean Ambrose
It would appear that no-one else is available to challenge the Miz for the IC title so we get Ambrose as his opponent once again, making this their 600th PPV match together. This time Miz has his Miztourage of perennial jobbers Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas, a promotion in the sense that the get to appear on RAW and not just the C shows no-one watches. Oh yeah, the match – well, nothing you’ve not seen before. Moving on….
Ambulance Match – Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
After the Payback PPV in April, Reigns injured Strowman’s arm with an ambulance door, putting the big man out of action. Braun returned a few weeks later and beat Reigns to a pulp – to chants of “Thank you Strowman” – putting Roman in an ambulance hence this match. The usual hard hitting affair in which Braun would chuck Roman around while he plucky hero fights back to a chorus of boos.
While the finish is goofy it provides us with one of the funniest visuals of the year in WWE but the real story is the aftermath, in which Reigns commits attempted vehicular homicide in an act clearly befitting a top babyface that continues to leave Vince baffled as to why fans still boo Reigns. Unless this signalled a double turn but we can’t trust Vince these days.
During this fracas they sent Heath Slater and Curt Hawkins out to have an impromptu match, to create the impression of this being a shoot, only to cut way to the back and ignore the whole thing. Slater apparently won by the way.
Universal Title Match – Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Samoa Joe
It was a surprise to see Joe get the win at Extreme Rules but not a disappointment since this not only gives us a fresh match up but Joe is one of the few people who can match Lesnar toe-to-toe. To prove this Joe jumps Lesnar before he bell and puts him through an announce table causing Paul Heyman to have kittens. A short match – offensively so for a main event – but one of the more physically intense bouts we have seen in a while and Joe at least got to make the statement we’ve been waiting for him to make since he joined RAW in January. Shame the finish was so sudden and anticlimactic.
It’s frustrating enough that Brock Lesnar only works a few dates a year but when he can’t even last 10 minutes in a match, especially if that match is the main event, it exposes the lack of value he brings to the company in relation to his multi-million dollar contract. That said, this was the first time in a LONG time that Brock was involved in such a hotly anticipated match which was down to Samoa Joe.
However many have felt this was a Wrestlemania calibre match making the decision to give it away on what is referred to as a “B” show (outside of the Big four of the Royal Rumble, WM, Summerslam and Survivor Series) quite baffling to outsiders. But with the word being that the WM shot against Lesnar is being saved for Roman Reigns (Vince just won’t give up, will he?) Joe will have to settle for being a second thought.
Since we got more of the same with this show, this summary will be a repeat of all the previous ones lamenting the poor McBooking and lack of any forward motion for any of the talent. Considering the ambulance spot was supposed to be a major talking point, it instead stands a further example of Vince trying to compete with regular entertainment shows whilst failing to adhere to wrestling’s bespoke logic that precludes such stupidity from being effective.
Great Balls of Fire? More like mildly singed pubes.
Best Match – 30-Minute Tag Team Iron Man Match
Rating – ** ½
The WWE’s tour of India has yet to take place at time of writing so the WWE Title remains in the possession of Jinder Mahal. Having lost twice to Jinder on PPV, Randy Orton is inexplicably give the opportunity to do it again – this time in a Punjabi Prison Match.
What’s that, you may ask? A disaster of epic proportions that has only been contested twice for that very reason. It’s a double cage structure but made of bamboo (actually metal painted as bamboo) in the wrestles have to work their way out from the inside or risk being trapped or something.
It was the creation of Kevin Dunn, head of WWE TV production and a gormless idiot who hates wrestling, and has too much influence with Vince McSenile, making him 50% to blame for much of the crap we see on WWE TV. You have been warned.
Taking place on July 23th 2017 at the Wells Fargo Centre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania before 12,500 of the most difficult to please wrestling fans in the world, with commentary courtesy of Tom Phillips, JBL and Byron Saxton.
Smackdown Tag Title Match – The Usos (c) vs. The New Day
The New Day got a rematch against The Usos after exchanging insults on SD during a rap battle, in which the Usos made a veiled reference to Xavier Woods’ amateur adult film career that upset WWE management. Despite the lame route heading into this match and the equally lame way the first one ended, all is forgiven as both teams came out and stole the show with a sold match that turned into a heated exchange with some the closest near falls you’ll ever see and a superbly executed finish.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin
Boring Corbin won the MITB briefcase last month and you can still hear the groans. In NXT Nakamura got to face Sami Zayn, Austin Aries, Samoa Joe and Finn Balòr in his first matches; on SD he gets Dolph Ziggler and Corbin. Nak’s charisma and uniqueness wasn’t enough to hold much interest in this match and the lousy cheap finish didn’t help either. With this kind of garbage to contend with, I honestly wouldn’t blame Nak for giving NJPW a call to see if he could get his old spot back…
Fatal Five Way Elimination No 1. Contenders Match – Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Natalya vs. Tamina vs. Lana
Yes, I know, Lana doesn’t deserve to be in this match but Carmella is Miss MITB (having to win it twice after the horrible end to the PPV match) therefore has her guaranteed shot and there is no-one else to fill out the line-up. At least Tamina is no longer the weakest worker in the ring but that still leaves the other three to carry the load which they do as usual. Both women’s divisions need a fresh injection of new blood to bolster their numbers as this match abjectly illustrates.
US Title Match – AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens
Styles won the US title at an MSG house show to give their non-televised events that “anything can happen” feel to them, just two weeks after losing a PPV bout via another lame finish. Surely they wouldn’t pull that stunt again here? Well, the match was good as expected yet these two still didn’t quite gel as well as I hoped they would. Something is off but I’m not sure what.
There was another terrible finish here but it turns out it was a botch which was rectified on SD two days later in a wonderful example of happenstance working out for the best.
Flag Match – John Cena vs. Rusev
With the WWE is pushing hard with their international expansion with the WWE Network and addition of more international talent to the roster, it stands to reason that they have a feud based on a patriotic US hero defending the pride of his country against evil foreign heel. While the jingoistic verbiage that Cena spouted to build up this match may work in the US, for the rest of the international audience (all 99% of it) this was emetic, offensive white noise.
Adding insult to injury, Rusev’s flag wasn’t even on the podium at the start whereas Old Glory was. Bias much? The rules were changed so instead of just claiming your flag from the ring post to win, you had carry it to the podium on the stage and plant it in the holder. All becomes clear as the match – which was all kinds of hot garbage with an added helping of dumb – continues. You already know who won because America.
Breezango presents the Fashion X-Files because the previous match clearly didn’t provide enough lame comedy for Vince McSenile’s liking…
Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis
Look up “DOA” in the dictionary and you’ll see a picture of Mike and Maria Kanellis. They debuted at the MITB PPV cold, then weren’t seen again for another two weeks until appearing on TV where they were interrupted by Sami who had a scheduled match. An argument ensued leading to Mike smashing a vase over Sami’s head then beating Sami in a match.
This is much anticipated rematch and by much anticipated I mean most people didn’t even realise it was on the card and didn’t care when it happened anyway. Maria and Mike who? Exactly!
WWE Title Punjabi Prison Match – Jinder Mahal (c) vs. Randy Orton
Here were lots of boos during this match but not because Jinder is such an effective heel but because people in the floor and lower tier seats couldn’t see the in-ring action through the double layer of bars of the cages! And the irony is Kevin Dunn has a history of holding people back and nixing things that won’t work because they look bad on TV!! But this monstrosity was his idea so it’s fine apparently.
If this wasn’t enough the rules are also convoluted and nonsensical. Both men start the match inside the inner cage which ash four doors on it which, if opened are permanently closed after 60 seconds, trapping one of the wrestlers. Nothing say they can’t just climb OVER the cage – which Orton does at one point – so that is one rule immediately negated!
Since Mahal can only win by outside interference or McBooking they pulled out a HUGE trick for the finish, spoiled on the DVD cover, but at least the fans that left the arena early because they couldn’t see or went to buy tickets for next year’s Royal Rumble to be held at the same venue now know what happened.
Each passing monthly event from both brands serves only to illustrate how diluted the WWE product is and how badly stretched the creative teams are. SD’s team is headed by Brian “Road Dogg” James and fans took to Twitter after this show with the hashtag “Fire Road Dogg”. Obviously the buck stops with Vince McSenile so this seems a little unfair but by the same token, one can’t fault the fans becoming increasingly disillusioned with the booking.
As it transpired the episode of SD that followed this show was a marked improvement and rectified much of the ill-feeling engendered by the PPV but if we go back to the core issue of there being TOO much product maybe there would be more time to fix things on the creative before they have a chance to get out of line rather than cram it all into three week window before the next PPV.
The opening tag match is great, the women’s match and US title match are solid affairs, everything else is the equivalent of those pieces of cold broccoli left on your dinner plate you have to force down otherwise there is no ice cream for pudding. Sadly the pudding isn’t too appetising either…
Best Match – The Usos vs. The New Day
Rating – ** ½
Man In Black