John: Welcome to the TJRWrestling WWE Great Balls of Fire preview featuring the Raw brand. The show takes place this Sunday, July 9 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.
I think this is the best card for a Raw brand PPV this year. I preview them all, I watch them all and I review them all in depth. I feel like so many times this year I’ve scratched wondering why the Raw brand can’t put on a better PPV show. Finally, they have a card that I really like and I’m genuinely excited about it.
There are eight matches on the card with one title match on the Kickoff Show. I thought Finn Balor vs. Elias Samson or Goldust vs. R-Truth would be added to the show. However, neither match is on there yet and I’m posting this on Friday afternoon. If they do add either match late that’s fine, but I don’t see why they need to wait so long.
Joining me for the preview are Kurt Zamora, Matthew J. Douglas and Mike Holland.
(Note: All graphics are from WWE.com. The banner up top is courtesy of our friend Melo Man.)
Cruiserweight Championship:Neville vs. Akira Tozawa (Kickoff Show)
Kurt: My biggest problem with this match is the fact that I’m not sure if Tozawa/Titus Worldwide is officially a babyface or not. I suppose the act doesn’t matter enough for it to be a big deal, but it’s just one of those things that the Raw writers do where they don’t make things clear. I’ve said it before but if Neville is the only good thing about the division, what does that really say about him? I have an idea for him for SummerSlam but more on that in an upcoming match. As for this one, it really should be a decisive win for Neville because Tozawa does not feel like a credible contender. Hence why this ended up on the Kickoff show.
Prediction: Neville retains
Mike: WWE has made plenty of mistakes when it comes to their reigning champions and how they are booked, but Neville is one they have gotten absolutely right. Being the self-proclaimed “king” of the cruiserweights could be played for laughs, but Neville has demolished any and all competition and is backing up his egotism. Nothing plays better for a heel, and it’s well deserved as I’ve mentioned in many a TJR preview.
Tozawa was highly enjoyable during the Cruiserweight tourney, but like most of those guys he’s blended in rather anemically with everything else on Monday nights since then. I never thought I’d say it, but the addition of Titus O’Neil and his brand to this match actually helps it even further. O’Neil’s pursuit of Tozawa and over-the-top ring announcing furthers the idea to the average fan that he’s got a chance, and that’s what you want in any championship match.
All of that said, he has no chance to win here. If Neville didn’t drop the strap to Austin Aries, I don’t see him losing it to Tozawa. WWE’s attempt to make the cruisers relevant takes another unfortunate detour. It’s hard to be wowed on a preshow.
Winner (and STILL Cruiserweight Champion): Neville
Matthew: It is disappointing that the Cruiserweight Title is relegated to the pre-show on this hilariously named PPV. It is a division that is begging for anything to legitimize it, and at nearly every turn the WWE has managed to make it into a side show of obviously lesser value than everything else.
The match will most likely be good because of who the two performers in it, but as I’ve always said, it takes more than just a good match to hook me. My favourite matches always have a narrative thread, a storytelling hook, that takes the objective quality of a match to the next level. The best we can hope for here is the further cultivation of Titus Worldwide’s brand and reputation as an “Agent” that really cares about the growth and success of his clients.
Winner and Still Cruiserweight Champion: Neville (because nothing in this story suggests Tozawa has much of a shot here)
John: The argument could be made that Neville is the best booked champion in the company. He’s a cocky heel that backs it up in the ring and has shown no signs of slowing down. I’m not sure when he’s going to lose this title or who might beat him for it, which is perfectly fine because I enjoy Neville’s work a lot. This feels like a good match that will be hurt by a dead crowd that may care about Tozawa’s shrieking, but not much else. Look for Neville to win here and move on to some new rival at SummerSlam. Cedric Alexander perhaps? That’s who I would pick.
Enzo Amore vs. Big Cass
Kurt: Raw has been left with no babyface tag team besides The Hardys, Enzo and Cass have the most items for sale on WWE Shop than anyone else on the roster, so this seems like a perfect time to break them up, right? Ugh. I hate this angle so much. Not only do you have those points, but Braun has the giant heel gimmick on lockdown right down, so what use is Big Cass at this point? After his sure to be match with Big Show (much like Braun had), where does he go? Anything they try to do with him will just feel like copying Braun.
As for Enzo, the only thing I think they can do to salvage him is put him in the 205 Live division after this match. It’s an idea Jericho had in an interview recently and I think it would do a lot for that group. He’s so charismatic that people would pay attention more simply because Enzo would talk them into it. Neville vs. Enzo at SummerSlam could be really entertaining.
Prediction: Big Cass (decisively I hope because any other result would kill him dead before he begins)
Mike: The good news here is that the breakup of Big Cass and Enzo Amore has made both men far more compelling than their hackneyed comic opening ever did. We got the “mystery” of who Enzo’s attacker was, though it was much less difficult a case to wrap up than Laura Palmer’s murder. We got a fantastic reveal of Cass, followed by a startling admission of guilt and attack. And we’ve also gotten several pointed and emotional promos from both men in the weeks that have followed. Solid stuff.
The bad news is that Big Cass’s coming out party has been the worst-kept secret in the WWE, and they’ve imploded a team that never really had a decent run on Raw in order to do it. Enzo likely deserves to be the sacrificial lamb, but I do feel that Raw’s tag scene suffers a major blow with this pairing calling it quits without a title run. (They’ve mentioned this fact in the build, though, so props for that at least.)
Monsters are ruling the day on MNR right now, from Strowman to Lesnar. No reason to think Cass will be any different. Enzo can look forward to color commentary.
Winner: Big Cass
Matthew: The big break up angle between these two was handled pretty well, despite the fact that I personally feel that these two had more to accomplish as a tag team and further down the line as allies. I get the decision to have Cass turn and become a 7 Foot monster heel, but I personally feel like Enzo has been and continues to be the single most important commodity to Big Cass. Yes he can wrestle and move well for a guy his size, and yes his promo work is fine most of the time. With that said it’s always been Enzo’s mouth, characterization and ability to stand out, that drew attention to Big Cass, in my opinion.
During this transition period, where Cass doesn’t have his own music or t-shirt or catchphrase, he has been pretty good, but Enzo in my humble opinion has been better. On the night of the break up, Enzo’s single tear was the greatest part of their segment and made it transcend being a run of the mill, cliche, stab in the back. He added the emotion. Same with the fake reunion. Enzo sold the emotion through his performance and mastery of his character. His opening Promo on Raw this week was phenomenal.
You can’t teach being 7 feet tall, and that will take Cass farther than Enzo can ever dream of getting… but Enzo has a gift on the mic and somehow makes the over the top character he’s playing feel natural, relatable, sympathetic, engaging, and most importantly authentic. And you can’t teach that. He’s been the star of this angle in my eyes.
Winner: Big Cass (because they will likely blow this off here, even though Enzo has been phenomenal as a character and performer during this angle and has knocked my socks off at every turn. The guy is simply an incredibly engaging and authentic performer and I will gush about him as much as possible)
John: I don’t expect this to be a long match or a good match. The crowd may be into it because they are strong characters, but once the bell rings their weaknesses come out. If Big Cass loses it would be damaging to his new heel persona. If Enzo loses it’s no big deal because people think of him as a loser anyway. Cass wins, beats on Enzo after the match and Big Show makes the save leading to Cass beating Show at SummerSlam.
Winner: Big Cass
Intercontinental Championship:The Miz vs. Dean Ambrose
Kurt: I got really afraid on Monday that Kurt Angle was going to make this match a Triple Threat match with Heath Slater just so he could take the fall and they could stretch Miz and Dean into SummerSlam. There has been some really entertaining moments in this storyline, Maryse in particular has been fantastic, but it needs to end immediately.
Miz needs to take the title into a BIG storyline for SummerSlam because he deserves it. Roman perhaps? It’d be fun to see. Ambrose reeks of someone that needs to turn heel but I don’t know if WWE will pull the trigger on it. If he’s going to stay babyface, I’d like to see Axel and Dallas get involved in the finish of this match so that he can help elevate them moving forward. Find him a partner (cue the Shield possibilities) and have a solid mid-card feud moving forward.
Prediction: The Miz retains
Mike: It feels to me like Miz and Dean Ambrose have been feuding for a year and change at this point, going back to before the superstar shakeup and potentially into when dinosaurs roamed the earth. This is a major bone of contention for Raw in general, as they tend to recycle the same matchups again and again until even the most talented and captivating performers are reduced to a case of the blahs. Miz has been excellent as champion, and his microphone work has never been better. Teasing a Maryse split is smart business. He should just teach promos at NXT every week at this point.
Ambrose has always been compelling as a worker, almost despite himself. It’s certainly not his fault that WWE’s creative screws him over by sacrificing the “unhinged” aspect of his persona in favor of goofy comedy that rarely plays well for anyone. A heel turn would be welcome, but Raw is stacked on that side of the ledger. That leaves only the tantalizing prospect of a Shield reunion, which would benefit him the most of all three.
Miz has too many folks in his corner to lose this one. Interested to see the Miztourage develop.
Winner (and STILL Intercontinental Champion): The Miz
Matthew: The Miz is my favourite heel in the WWE, not only because he’s a spectacular performer, but also because his biting criticism of babyfaces he’s engaging with is often so harsh in it’s accuracy that it makes me wince. His critique of Dean Ambrose from this past week’s Raw was particularly enjoyable for me, as it’s what I’ve been saying about Dean for the better part of a year or so. The guy was cool in The Shield and his potential was immeasurable, but he’s become wacky Dean Ambrose and spends more time doing weird comedy with potted plants and ketchup and mustard, than being the cerebral lunatic he has been and still can be.
I hope that this is the beginning of the end of the wacky, Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck style Dean Ambrose. The conclusion of Dean Ambrose as a silly cartoon character. I want to brooding, rebel without a cause, dangerously unhinged, and crazy like a fox version of Dean Ambrose back. I want the dangerously thoughtful lunatic, not the inebriated uncle version Dean Ambrose in a Big Baller Brand T-Shirt. I don’t think I’m asking for too much.
Winner and Still Intercontinental Champion: The Miz (because there’s no reason to get the title back on Ambrose. Despite being over-qualified for his current position, Miz is good where he’s at for now)
John: This match makes me groan because of how many times they’ve done it. Why is it still going on when they did a title change in January on Smackdown? It’s July. Please move on! I like both guys, but I think they have been hurt a bit because of how long this rivalry has lasted. I’m going with a Miz win thanks to help from Maryse, Curtis Axel and/or Bo Dallas. Miz can move on with the title for a feud with Rollins, Balor or Reigns, but this feud with Ambrose should be over.
Winner: The Miz
Raw Women’s Championship:Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks
Kurt: Now that they’ve announced the Ironman match for the Tag Titles, I understand why they didn’t, but I wish they would’ve done the gauntlet match here on the PPV and just had Bliss come in last against Sasha if that’s who they wanted to program against her. I have zero interest in this match for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which being there were far better options such as a multiple person match as stated above, but I just hope they don’t do a title switch here. Bliss hasn’t had a chance to really assert her dominance yet as champion due to how botched the Bayley program went. She needs an extended run. If anything, stretch this out into Brooklyn and tie-in the title change with the venue that Sasha had her best match ever against Bayley at.
Prediction: Alexa Bliss retains
Mike: Raw has really found its footing with dominant heel champs, and Miss Bliss is another example. Alexa didn’t seem like as big of a get for Raw as she was, but with the head-scratching way creative has dropped the ball with Bayley it’s ever more evident how important the Bliss/Charlotte swap was. Remember when it was understood that it was a matter of time before Boss Banks took this belt? The booking of this division has been nearly criminal.
I like the idea of putting the belt on Sasha, as I have previously, but WWE likes to save those moments for the proper time and place and I’m not convinced it’s here. Nia Jax is looming, which at least is a bit of a fresh matchup, and a phony fearless Bliss being afraid of that development is a great hook. I really felt like the Bayley/Banks friendship would have imploded into a series of matches by now, but they could do that here if they wanted with Bayley trying to be supportive.
Either way, I think Sasha has done enough to get over whatever odd invisible hurdles management seems to have with her. The boss will have to wait a little longer for her promotion, though.
Winner (and STILL Raw Women’s Champion): Alexa Bliss
Matthew: I don’t have a lot to say here. I thought how they determined the number one contender was compelling TV and appreciated seeing all the women on Raw featured in the Main Event. Since then I haven’t found much of the build to this specific match incredibly compelling, but do think this match will work on paper.
These two are very good performers and should be good foils for one another. They match up great as far as their size and style, and I’m hoping for a compelling match from the two for sure. I just wish there was more of a narrative hook there for me.
Winner and Still Raw Women’s Champion: Alexa Bliss (because taking it off her here doesn’t make too much sense to me)
John: With only a two week build there’s not much to get excited about it with this match. Bliss makes for a solid heel champion that is excellent when it comes to out of ring performance, but in-ring she still must improve. That standing on the back move she does looks very weak, for example. Banks will bring out the best of Bliss and the crowd should be into most of it. I feel like Bliss keeping the title makes the most sense, but it’s possible it could be a disqualification or countout or maybe a cheap ending with Nia Jax costing Banks to set a triple threat at SummerSlam.
With all that said, the Raw Women’s Title is the hardest title to predict with the way WWE books random title changes. I just feel like Bliss needs to hold onto it more.
Winner: Alexa Bliss
Raw Tag Team Championships (30-Minute Ironman Match):Sheamus & Cesaro vs. Hardy Boyz
(Note: The winners of the bout will be the team with the most pinfalls or submissions once the 30 minute time limit has been reached.)
Kurt: The first ever tag team Ironman match in WWE and they absolutely could not have drawn less attention to the stipulation. This should’ve been announced weeks ago with a lot of buildup being such an attraction match, but instead it was just thrown out there in a throwaway backstage segment that I bet a lot of people forget Sheamus and Cesaro were even in. The Hardys are clearly going to win this match because of the fact that they are the only babyface team going and that Sheamus is leaving to film a movie. The real question is what do they do with Cesaro in the meantime? He and Sheamus have made a good team and I would hate to see them force a breakup now. If for whatever reason Joe and Lesnar doesn’t live up to the hype, I would expect this to steal the show. Just keep the total number of falls to 3 or under.
Prediction: New Tag Team Champions, The Hardy Boyz
Mike: It’s another Hardys vs. S&C match, so get excited. Or don’t. Similar to Miz v. Ambrose, I’m ready for this feud to be over and done with. Unlike that feud, though, I’ve enjoyed just about all of this one, as both teams got fairly substantive runs with the belts and every match they’ve had with each other has been solid. You can surely expect that to continue with the rarely-seen Iron Man match, which guarantees you both a half-hour of wrestling and plenty of falls from some solid risk-takers.
The backstage scuttlebutt surrounding the “Broken” gimmick and if/when the Hardys will get to use it in WWE has mildly overshadowed the fact that they don’t even need it right now. The brothers are as popular now as they were in their heyday, and that’s marketing power. Of all the current champs, Sheamus & Cesaro are to me the ones most in danger of losing their (don’t call it a belt, dammit!).
I imagine some may predict the Hardys lose here, and that would fit with the idea of Matt going all “Broken.” Careful what you wish for as this is still Titan Tower. It will be Sheamus and Cesaro that break. Up.
Winners (and NEW Raw Tag Team Champions): The Hardy Boyz
Matthew: These four guys have been engaged in a very fun and entertaining rivalry since Wrestlemania. I was skeptical, but the heel turn for The Bar Boys has been fine. The Bobby DeNiro Taxi Driver look is working for them in an odd way, and without either side having to say much on the mic, they have continued to be compelling rivals.
This match should be better than their last PPV match, which was the ill-conceived Cage Match, where no wrestler involved made anything resembling a rational decision or strategically prudent thought. This stipulation is a lot more straight forward and gives them a fun mechanic to play with for 30 minutes of action. Will the Hardys be Broken, or will they regain the Titles and Bend The Bar?
Winners and New Raw Tag Team Champions: The Hardy Boyz (because the way I see it, The Revival vs The Hardy Boyz is the ultimate clash of styles. No Flips Just Fists vs. The Death Defying Hardyz!)
John: I’m a fan of these four guys and I like the stipulation because we don’t see Ironman matches used for tag teams. Most of the matches they’ve had have been above average. This could approach the levels of an outstanding tag match depending on how they book the falls. Expect a slow pace in the first 15 minutes and they’ll crank it up.
It’s not an easy match to predict. I’m not a fan of one-month title reigns, which is what would happen if Sheamus & Cesaro lost. Looking ahead, there aren’t that many other face teams for Sheamus & Cesaro to feud with if they get by the Hardys. If the Hardys win then there’s obviously The Revival waiting in the wings now that they are healthy. I want to see Hardys vs. Revival a lot. I’ll predict a tag title change happens soon, but for this match I’m siding with the champs to retain. It’s a tough match to call, though. I’m going with Sheamus/Cesaro winning 3-2 with the Hardys trying very hard in the last few minutes to get a fall, but they can’t get it done.
Winners: Sheamus & Cesaro
Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt
Kurt: I’m sure if given the time, this match will be off the charts. Both guys go 100 MPH in their matches and have tons of talent. However, I can’t get behind this match because what does it ultimately mean? It’s not for a #1 contendership and I really don’t feel any personal animosity between the two. Bray is calling Rollins a bit of a hypocrite for pandering to the WWE Universe now and Rollins is calling Bray a fake God. They’re both right. Good for them. It’s unique to see someone call out someone turning babyface the way Rollins did, so I like that aspect from Bray’s perspective. Bray being a fake God though is true because after he won the WWE Title and should’ve been “The Guy” finally, well you know the rest. We can’t take anything he says seriously, because nothing he promises comes to fruition. He’s the boy who cried wolf. I don’t know that either of these guys “need” the win, because I don’t know what the win would do.
Prediction: Bray Wyatt (I literally flipped a coin for this)
Mike: How can it be that two of the more charismatic performers on the red brand are poised for a match Sunday that feels so rudderless and random? I love me some Bray Wyatt desert promos, and heaven knows we’ve not needed to understand a bloody bit of anything he’s been babbling it since forever, but this is scattered even for him. He’s upset with Seth because he’s a God. So he thinks he’s JBL or Shawn Michaels’ tag partner? Unsure.
As for Rollins, he’s cooled considerably since the payoff of his feud with Triple H. While Samoa Joe has had a rapid ascent to relevance, the Architect has stumbled and this plays like a B-movie main event more than something I actually care about. Both gentleman need a better feud once this thing is settled, and there are plenty of options available when guys like Finn Balor didn’t even make the card.
It’s well-known how awfully WWE has booked Bray, who got the short end of an abbreviated title run that brought back to me memories of Daniel Bryan losing to Sheamus despite his immense popularity. That’s my main logic for figuring it doesn’t matter if he ever wins. Call me an atheist.
Winner: Seth Freakin’ Rollins
Matthew: Don’t care about this match. I tried to. Simply don’t. Incredibly over Bray Wyatt in his current incarnation and despite Seth Rollins’ ability as performer in the ring, he’s not nearly enough of a draw to make me give a damn about this silly, ultimately meaningless match.
Winner: Seth Rollins (because who cares?)
John: I don’t think creative thought about this very much. Bray has been doing the same “I’m a God” promos for like four years and Seth fired back saying “no you’re not” so now they have a feud. There hasn’t been much in the way of physical interaction either. There’s not much to get excited about here. I’m picking a lot of heels on this show, so I’ll go with the face Rollins for the win in what could be just a one month rivalry for them. There’s no reason for it to continue.
Winner: Seth Rollins
Ambulance Match: Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
Kurt: I don’t know about you guys, but I didn’t hear a mixed reaction for Roman this past Monday, I heard a full crowd in favor of Roman when he appeared from the ambulance. Is this a sign of a change for the way crowds will react to him moving forward? I doubt it, but it was nice to hear for once.
This has been a terrific storyline and I’m actually kinda sad to see it end but both men clearly need to move on. In a perfect world, Braun wins this match and goes on to face Lesnar at SummerSlam and Roman loses valiantly and goes on to a feud with The Miz which would be highly entertaining to see. I know these guys are going to pull out all the stops as it should’ve been the main event for Extreme Rules, but now are playing second fiddle to Lesnar/Joe. I’d love to see Braun end this match with some sort of crazy bump like slamming Roman through the roof of the ambulance.
Prediction: Braun Strowman
Mike: Ambulance matches are fairly rare, so I like the use of the stipulation to make this feel different. Both men have been booked very evenly going into this, with Strowman having already tossed Reigns (rather easily) into the vehicle previously. That also adds to the dynamic of this as a big deal kind of match as opposed to a one-off. What’s both tough and obvious is that this thing has way less to do with either gentleman as it does with the Universal Title picture moving forward.
Both Roman and Braun have been positioned as potential opponents (and victors) over Brock Lesnar when it comes time for him to put someone over, so it’s a question of when. Whoever wins this is essentially handed the next shot at the Beast, which will be at SummerSlam. WWE always stacks WrestleMania, so I don’t see them rushing to their determined conclusion of Roman as the man. They’ve worked too long and hard to see that through to risk rushing it now.
Strowman was on an absolute tear before his injury and had he not gotten hurt, he’d be main eventing this show. Roman will take the temporary hit in favor of a long con.
Winner: Braun Strowman (and he’s finally finished with Roman)
Matthew: I’ve made no mystery about my feelings on Braun Strowman. I think he’s a god among men, and the simplicity of his character is incredibly refreshing, as is the fact that he’s legitimately monstrous and hasn’t been made to look stupid or weak constantly. Sure some of the stuff with him has bordered on goofy, but he’s such a monster that it’s never really bothered me.
I really have hated that the announcers have lamented Braun taking cheap shots at Roman, conveniently not remembering that Roman took Braun out with a chair when he essentially was a one armed man in a sling. Yet they wonder why some people can’t really get behind Roman. It’s one thing if he’s going to stuff like that, but to gloss over it as if it’s fair game for him, but Braun is a coward for the same kid of actions. Consistency is key.
Winner: Roman Reigns (because the rumours of him winning the Title at Summerslam only make sense if he wins here)
John: This is probably the end of this rivalry that has lasted a few months now. It’s been delayed because of the elbow injury that Strowman had. Looking ahead to SummerSlam, I know there are rumors out there about each guy winning this match. I’m sticking with the Strowman/Lesnar rumor because that’s the kind of match that would get a lot of attention as the SummerSlam main event. I think Vince McMahon has Lesnar vs. Reigns on his mind for WrestleMania and we probably won’t see that match before then.
An Ambulance Match basically means anything goes with the match ending when you put somebody in the ambulance. That could mean somebody costs Reigns the match, but I’m not sure who that would be. It’s just an idea to throw out there to do a cheap finish. I’m going with the Strowman win in what should be a very physical match that could be very good too.
Winner: Braun Strowman
WWE Universal Championship:Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe
Kurt: The match that people dreamed would headline WrestleMania but also thought would never happen, is headlining a show called Great Balls of Fire. If this match has done nothing else, it’s at least made the five weeks of promotion for the show tolerable every time we have to hear what it’s called. Any other main event and the ridicule would be at DEFCON 1. Only in the WWE, right? All the credit in the world goes to Samoa Joe. Not only has he single-handedly made this match even more anticipated than expected, but he’s maximized his minutes and made sure to show the people backstage that he’s not going anywhere. He’s not just a one month placeholder. He’s a main event player and he’s here to stay.
I hope this won’t be booked like Brock and Goldberg was and a “legit fight feel” that makes this match last less than five minutes. This needs to be an all out war for 15 or 20 minutes. Lesnar has not been unleashed for a match like that in almost two years! (Hell in A Cell vs. Taker in October 2015) Orton and Ambrose have both come out and talked about how Lesnar wants to do things his way and wasn’t interested in much about their matches. I can only hope that Lesnar sees the dollar signs in this match with Joe and how this could easily keep going, and not just as a one match blowoff that’s a stepping stone to SummerSlam.
This could easily be one of the best matches of the decade or the biggest disappointment. It’s riding a fine line and I hope WWE and Lesnar can book this in a way that makes all of our wildest dreams come true. I wouldn’t be opposed to some sort of Double DQ finish so that Joe doesn’t have to take a clean loss, but if it’s a must that he does, it needs to take multiple F-5’s to do so.
Prediction: Brock Lesnar retains (but not necessarily by pinfall)
Mike: I love everything about this match other than the fact that there’s no way Samoa Joe will be winning it, and I refuse to let that admittedly major sticking point dampen my enthusiasm for watching this. I won’t go so far as to say that you could skip everything that comes before and just watch this main event, but it’s a major heavyweight bout and it’s been scripted brilliantly in my view. The biggest notable feature of this for me is that the traditional face vs. heel has been thrown out the window. Both guys are acting like badasses, and both are less worried about how they come across than getting in the head of their opponent. That’s how you do it.
There is plenty to like here. We can start with the simple fact that Paul Heyman, possibly the best talker in the business, has had very little to say other than the speech which resulted in his choke out. Normally Heyman has to elevate the importance of his client’s matches. Not here. It brings all kinds of interesting scenarios to mind where perhaps he is doubting the truth of his words. As for Joe, he’s delivered in a major way. While AJ Styles has been the biggest addition to WWE’s roster with what’s happened inside the ring, SJ has brought a reality to his persona that’s stood out immensely. You believe he might be capable of what he says because you look in his eyes and believe he has no fear. Not easy to do, and worthy of serious commendation.
The biggest thing for this match is that both guys must be protected regardless of the outcome. Lesnar has sold majorly for Joe, and there’s no doubt submission is applied at least once. This will not be a Goldberg/Lesnar blink and you missed it affair. I expect this to set the bar higher for Raw moving forward, and establish Joe as a big deal even though I don’t see him unseating Brock before SummerSlam. His time will come.
Winner (and STILL Universal Champion): Brock Lesnar
Matthew: This has been a star turn for Samoa Joe and he’s been absolutely incredible. He’s showing that he should have been in this spot for years and has captured that thing that only Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar have. They come across as legit dangerous bad asses. The way Joe has taken the fight to Lesnar and attacked this entire rivalry has sold this PPV and this match. He’s been the star. He’s grabbed the brass ring if ever there was one to grab. His performances have been building blocks on a road to bigger and better things going forward, and I truly hope that the powers that be have taken notice.
This should be a fun little match, despite my general skepticism of every Brock match. I hope it’s more than just suplexes and F5s, but with Brock you can never be certain he’ll try to rise above the basics. I’m hoping for a physical slugfest with a couple of nearfalls/almost victories for Samoa Joe. But…
Winner and Still WWE Universal Champion: Brock Lesnar (because of the aforementioned Roman SummerSlam rumours, which is a shame, because I can honestly say I want the title on Joe right now)
John: I’ve said it for a few weeks now: This has been the best build for a PPV main event on the Raw side this year. I think it goes for Smackdown PPVs and the joint PPVs as well. It’s a big match that I’m excited about watching even though I think the outcome is obvious.
They have really done a fantastic job of doing little things right to build up the anticipation and leave us wanting more. There were segments that they did in this story that made me frustrated because it was stuff like a Samoa Joe attack on Lesnar, then they’re gone for the rest of the night. Remember that brawl? It was great, but it was brief. At first, I’m mad that they didn’t do more because it was over very question. Then when I take a step back and look at it closely, you appreciate that they didn’t do more. Save it for the PPV, which is what they’ve done in every segment in the last month.
I hope they have a competitive match with Joe getting a lot of offense, Lesnar selling for him (Lesnar is good at selling when he does it) and the crowd buying into the possibility that Joe might win. Make them believe, boys. That’s the best way to tell a story. I’m hopeful that they go 15 minutes, that Joe gets a few moments in the match where it looks like he’s going to win and I expect Lesnar to get the victory. If they go 6-8 minutes, Lesnar dominates and wins easily then that’s disappointing. I want Joe to put up a fight and for Lesnar to keep fighting back to get the job done. This could be a classic. I sure hope it is.
If you want a lot more of my thoughts on this match, I went really in-depth on The Comeback talking about Joe vs. Lesnar, so check that out.
Winner: Brock Lesnar
Match I’m Looking Forward To The Most
Kurt: Joe vs. Lesnar clearly.
Mike: If you didn’t get the idea from the prediction, it’s the main event by far. Special and compelling. I fully expect a MOTY candidate out of this.
Matthew: Braun vs. Roman for sure.
John: Lesnar vs. Joe by far. I’ve wanted to see that match for over a decade. Glad it’s finally here.
Match I Care About The Least
Kurt: Tie between Sasha/Bliss and Seth/Bray, but for different reasons.
Mike: Seth/Bray would be my “winner” if I didn’t think the match would be solid. Ambrose/Miz has turned into a snooze for me. Next please.
Matthew: Even though it will be fine on paper, Seth vs. Bray because it’s pointless.
John: It’s Miz vs. Ambrose because it’s gone on too long. I like both guys and I love Maryse, but this should have ended over a month ago.
Kurt: It’d be awesome if Lesnar/Joe somehow went longer than the Tag Title match, but I don’t think it will.
Mike: I don’t see another match going a half-hour on a card this loaded, so the tag title match wins by default.
Matthew: Iron Man with the Hardy Boyz and The Bar Boys.
John: The Ironman match going 30 minutes is the right choice here. Braun/Roman is probably second longest.
Kurt: Big Cass vs. Enzo.
Mike: Enzo will be squashed in short order by Cass. Anything else is delaying the inevitable.
Matthew: Enzo vs. Cass unfortunately.
John: It will be Enzo vs. Cass because I wouldn’t expect them to have a good match that gets over ten minutes. Five minutes is probably enough.
Excitement Level on a Scale of 1-10 (1 being low, 10 being high)
Kurt: It’s in my hometown and I’m not going. Anything over a 5 would be hypocritical of me, but because of Lesnar/Joe it’s a solid 5.
Mike: This is a very solid card, especially given Raw’s past history. I see no less than five very good matches, with three being fantastic, and the result could be higher. The most ridiculously named PPV gets the highest score of my preview year with a 9.
Matthew: 7.5 On paper the matches are pretty great.
John: It’s about a 7 for me. I love the main event because it’s one of the best built main events this year and the best on a Raw brand show. Three of the matches are rematches that we’ve seen several times in the past few months, so it’s hard to get too up for that. Rollins/Wyatt and Bliss/Banks seem thrown together to give them something to do without much of a story. I think in terms of match quality it could be a 8/10 type show if everything goes right, so I’m excited about it in that regard.
John: I think we’ve covered it all. I will have a live review of Great Balls of F’n Fire on Sunday night, so check it out on TJRWrestling.net during the show or after it’s over for all of my thoughts, ratings and analysis.
Kurt – @KTankTMB
Mike – @DharmanRockwell
Matthew – @MJDP_GSE
John – @johnreport
If you want to send an email, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org as well. Thanks for reading.