By Jason Powell
WWE Great Balls of Fire 2017 Kickoff Show
Aired live on WWE Network and social media
Dallas, Texas at American Airlines Center
-Renee Young, Peter Rosenberg, and David Otunga hosted the show from their usual spot on the main floor. Rosenberg said this might be the best non-WrestleMania card in nearly a year. Otunga spoke about Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe as a dream match.
-Charly Caruso checked in from the social media lounge and said she would be asking Paul Heyman (the worst of the) questions submitted via social media.
-Young set up a video package for the Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns ambulance match. Rosenberg picked Reigns to win, Otunga went with Strowman.
-Backstage, Mike Rome interviewed Seth Rollins, who spoke about how much Bray Wyatt babbles. He said Wyatt has made it clear that he considers himself a god and has singled him out because he doesn’t buy into his BS and labeled him a false prophet. Rollins said Wyatt wants to play mind games with him, but the last year of his life has been one big mind game so Wyatt doesn’t have a chance. Rollins said Wyatt is not a god, he’s a man and he will pay for his sins.
-Young and company discussed the Rollins vs. Wyatt match, but they were interrupted. Wyatt delivered a backstage interview and spoke about how his fists will tear through Rollins’ spirit. He said Rollins will face the force of over a thousand men. He said he would make Rollins a believer. “Tonight, Seth, you’re gonna burn,” Wyatt said before laughing.
-Rosenberg and Otunga both predicted a Bray Wyatt win.
Powell’s POV: With all of this talk from Wyatt about burning Rollins, could we see the return of a, well, ball of fire?
-The focus shifted to the Raw Tag Title match and the Iron Man match rules. Otunga went with Sheamus and Cesaro to retain, while Rosenberg went with the Hardys.
-Young set up a video package on the Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks match for the Raw Women’s Championship.
-Dana Brooke joined the panel at their desk. She said you can hear a pin drop in the women’s locker room. Emma showed up and motioned for Brooke to join her. Brooke said she would have to speak more with Emma, but stuck around long enough to predict a Sasha Banks win. Otunga predicted a Banks win, and Rosenberg went with Bliss.
-Next up was a discussion on the Intercontinental Championship match. Otunga said there was a method to Dean Ambrose’s madness in that he tried to create a rift between The Miz and Maryse. Otunga and Rosenberg both predicted a Miz victory.
-Young set up a video package on the Enzo Amore vs. Big Cass match. Young questioned whether there was any way that Enzo could get a win over Cass. She said the size is too different. Rosenberg and Otunga both said there is no way.
-Paul Heyman was interviewed by Charly Caruso in the social media lounge. Heyman stood behind his chair and said he wasn’t going to put himself in a vulnerable position for Samoa Joe, who likes to jump him and Brock Lesnar from behind. Heyman was asked what his reaction would be if Joe beat Lesnar. He said it would be a joke. He said Joe took his best shot and him and Lesnar, and now he has to go face-to-face with The Beast. The next question was whether he would ever align himself with Joe. Heyman questioned in what capacity and said he is the exclusive advocate for Lesnar, then sang Lesnar’s praises. “I’m going to trade up Brock Lesnar for Samoa Joe, who has to jump people from behind?” he asked.
Finally, Heyman was asked if Joe is Lesnar’s most dangerous opponent. “Unquestionably,” Heyman said. “No doubt in my mind.” Heyman said this is no cake walk for Lesnar. He said it won’t be a quick trip to Suplex City and Lesnar will not walk away the same way he walked in. He said Joe will take a pice of Lesnar, and this is a fight for Lesnar’s well being. Heyman said the only person who understands this more than him is Lesnar himself. He said to imagine what Lesnar will do to keep that title away from Joe and around his own waist.
-Young said it seemed like Lesnar and Heyman were taking Joe seriously. Her sidekicks agreed.
-The broadcast team of Vic Joseph and Corey Graves checked in from the broadcast table on the stage for the Kickoff Show match.
1. Neville vs. Akira Tozawa (w/Titus O’Neil) for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship. Tozawa did his yell on the way to the ring and then again once he was in the ring. Tozawa connected with an early kick and senton. Neville caught him with a foot to the face in the corner, but Tozawa kicked him off the apron. Tozawa ran the ropes, but Neville was waiting with another kick. Neville remained in offensive control heading into the ridiculous commercial break for WWE Network (no new programming listed).
Coming out of the break, Neville connected with a running kick and got a two count. Titus shouted encouragement to Tozawa, who came back and with a run of offense. Tozawa went up top, but Neville rolled to ringside. Tozawa performed a pair of suicide dives and rolled Neville back inside the ring for a two count. Neville caught Tozawa on his shoulders, but Tozawa countered into an octopus hold. Neville reached the ropes to break the hold at 7:55.
Neville cut off Tozawa with a punch and then kicked him multiple times while up against the ropes. Neville performed a running dropkick to the chest of Tozawa and got a two count. Neville went for a flashy dive from the middle rope, but Tozawa moved. He rolled up Neville and got a good near fall. Tozawa connected with a Frankensteiner and then a shining wizard. Tozawa performed a top rope senton. Neville rolled to ringside. Tozawa followed and threw him back inside the ring where Neville crotched Tozawa on the top rope and kicked the top rope. Neville threw a spinning kick at Tozawa and then pinned him…
Neville defeated Akira Tozawa in 11:40 to retain the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.
Powell’s POV: A good match with Tozawa protected by the low blow style finish. I assume this is the first of several matches between the two. The involvement of Titus still does more harm than good for this feud and the cruiserweight division. A comedic undercard act suddenly playing a big part in the top feud of the struggling division sends the wrong message.
-A video package focussed on the Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe main event.
Join me for live coverage of Great Balls of Fire with a separate report available on the main page.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Ricky Starks on his NWA run, doing enhancement work for WWE, leaving NOLA due to Hurricane Katrina, the January 24 NWA Hard Times PPV on FITE.TV, his relationship with Nick Aldis, and much more...