The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of WrestlingInc or its staff
Last week I was pretty bullish on Great Balls of Fire; after all WWE had done a really solid job building up the show with some long-term feuds and well-executed segments on RAW that had interest at a high point, particularly for a July PPV that is typically a dead time of the year for WWE. While the show wasn't horrible by any means, I can't say it was very good either, and in my opinion did not come close to fulfilling the potential that it appeared to have heading into the show.
Brock Lesnar vs Samoa Joe: ***
I understand that I am probably lower on this match than a lot of fans. I thought the build for the match was some of the best they have done for a new superstar in a long time, and the fans did react like it was a really big match, but WWE really should have given the fans something more than just a six minute match. Lesnar hadn't wrestled a match since April, and they did a ton of stuff building up for the match in the week's leading up to the match, but all that did was make you feel a bit disappointed by the end result.
Lesnar hasn't wrestled a match longer than 12 minutes since last February. It is one thing to have a really short match against Bill Goldberg who physically isn't capable of having a long match, but with Joe there is no excuse to not go at least 15 minutes or so. I also don't care for having Joe dominate the match, then get caught with the F-5 and get pinned. Nobody in WWE gets pinned after one finishing move during a world championship match, and guys kick out of the F-5 all the time. I get the idea of establishing a finishing move as a devastating move, but when everyone kicks out of the F-5 all the time, it makes the one guy who does not look particularly weak. I think you could have gotten away with it if you had a longer match and Lesnar just exhausted Joe and was able to finally hit the move; but doing it in a super-fast main event match doesn't tell the same story. The good news is that hasn't seemed to harm Joe that much, since the following night on RAW fans seemed really interested in seeing a rematch.
Lesnar really is a fascinating star because he does so little but remains so over. Lesnar misses a ton of RAWs and skips PPVs, wrestles only about a half-dozen matches a year, almost never talks, and when he does wrestle, works short matches and only does two significant moves. Yet, the crowd always reacts to him, WWE pushes him like crazy and he makes a ton of money, both off his contract and his merchandise sales. I've never seen a guy get so much basically based off of aura, presence and name value. Even when Hogan was at his peak, he still was working all the time and talked a bunch and obviously worked extremely hard; Brock has to do almost nothing to be a top star. I'm not really faulting him for that; but there is no impetus for him to do more or evolve when he is getting anything he wants in his current form.
Roman Reigns vs Braun Strowman: **¾
Interesting match because the finish, which was made to look like a fluke followed by Reigns attempting vehicular manslaughter on Strowman, was the most noteworthy thing on the whole show. If you like the entertainment aspect of wrestling with the firemen coming in with the jaws of life and all the faux-serious reactions by Angle and the announcers, you probably liked it. If you don't like the hokiness of WWE and all the nonsensical stories, you probably hated it. I personally don't really care for it, but a lot of fans seemed to like it and there was interest the following night on RAW so you could argue that it was a big success.
The match itself was okay, it didn't feel like it was really anything special until towards the end. Strowman matches are very formulaic; he dominates the match and then they do a spot where he runs into the post or the turnbuckle and the babyface starts his comeback. Until you got to the spots on the entrance ramp and with the ambulance, this match didn't feel any different than a typical Strowman vs Reigns match.
One thing that I will say is that the match really undermined the concept of winning and losing being important. Reigns lost the match, but he came back and beat the crap out of Strowman, then attempted to kill him in an auto-accident and fled the scene after. In any other world Reigns would have been charged with a crime, yet somehow he was the babyface in all of this. Instead, Reigns appeared on RAW the next night and was not only not punished, he was rewarded with a number one contenders match the next week. If you condition the fans enough to think that it doesn't really matter if someone wins a match, only if they win the confrontation, then you are not going to be able to generate interest in the matches themselves because nobody will care who wins the match, which is the pillar of the entire concept of wrestling.
The Hardys vs Sheamus and Cesaro: ***½
I thought this was the best match on the show. I was skeptical that they would be able to pull-off a 30-minute match; but both teams worked hard and the crowd never got bored with the match. Making it an Iron Man match helped because they were able to use the multiple falls to string the match along and keep it full of action. The crowd was hot for the final few minutes and the finish was honest with Jeff hitting the Twist of Fate just a second too late and being unable to secure the tying fall. It looks like The Hardys are finally getting close to getting the rights to the Broken gimmick; and I think that actually going through this lull when they couldn't do the gimmick will make it more impactful if they finally do the gimmick.
Alexa Bliss vs Sasha Banks: **
The match itself was not that bad, however it lost some points due to the lame finish. The old retaining the title by count-out finish really needs to be retired. The idea is to get heat on the heel and you don't have to beat the babyface clean, but there are better ways to do that. I know this is wrestling, but if this was boxing or any other combat spot, if the champion refused to get in the ring and fight, they wouldn't be disqualified and allowed to retain the championship. It just feels cheap and no other wrestling promotion would do this kind of a spot (maybe GFW) and it is just lazy writing. If you are hell bent on doing the count-hot, why not just have Banks and Bliss fight on the outside while the referee counts? Isn't that a more interesting way to build another match?
Dean Ambrose vs The Miz:**¼
This just felt like a nothing match. These two guys have been feuding forever and with the exception of the match at Extreme Rules where The Miz would lose the title if he got disqualified, all of these matches have felt the same. It is pretty strange to see guys feud for eight months and yet on PPV they are still having regular, one-on-one matches. They don't have tremendous chemistry in the ring and the match was pretty basic, with Ambrose losing when the Miztourage interfered.
Bray Wyatt vs Seth Rollins: **½
Not a bad match but not as good as a typical Rollins match. Wyatt won after an eye poke and his finisher; that is an older trick than the count-out spot but at least this one makes sense.They are at an interesting point with these two guys because Rollins hasn't been as relevant after beating Triple H as he was before and Wyatt needs to actually win some feuds. Considering Wyatt got the win tonight and another win the next night on RAW, it looks like Wyatt is getting the nod. Before his injury, Rollins was probably one of the five or so top names in WWE. Now you would say that Lesnar, Reigns, Cena, Mahal, Orton, Owens, Styles, Strowman, Joe and now apparently Wyatt are all valued higher than Rollins is right now in the company. I suspect that eventually Rollins will rise higher, but it is tough sledding right now.
Big Cass vs Enzo A'More: *½
Not a particularly exciting match but it accomplished the desired goal which is to get Big Cass over. Enzo cut a good promo at the start of the show about how tough he was and then got annihilated by Cass. There was some good heat on Cass, and it was real, old-fashioned heat where the fans were upset with something Cass had done in storyline, which was break up a tag team that the live crowd enjoyed. It was probably the worst match on the show but it was more progressive from a storyline point of view than almost anything else on the show.
One last thing I'd like to note about the event is that I think it was a mistake for WWE to not have Finn Balor on the show. You don't have a time limit necessarily and they have the pre-show, it seems insane that a guy that just a month ago was in the main event of Extreme Rules and was being put over as a future star couldn't get on an over three-hour RAW exclusive PPV event.
Great Balls of Fire could have been a great and memorable show, but instead it came across like a show that was just a placeholder for SummerSlam. They didn't capitalize on a lot of potential, but they also didn't screw up in such a way that they can't get anything out of it next time. SummerSlam could actually be built up even better than Great Balls of Fire depending on how some things shake out, so the potential is still there for WWE to really hit a homerun here. I will say that since the start of the Samoa Joe vs Brock Lesnar feud the RAW ratings have curiously been trending upwards, which I don't think is a pure coincidence.