By Jason Powell
These predictions were made with no help from the betting lines because what fun would that be? Join me for live coverage of WWE Great Balls of Fire beginning with the needlessly long Kickoff Show at 6CT/7ET. Dot Net Members will be listening to an audio review that Jake Barnett and I will record after the show. Join us on the ad-free version of Prowrestling.net to gain access to over nine years of audio content via the Dot Net Members’ Signup Page.
Finally, a month where the opening paragraph is not dedicated to pointing out that the show looks good on paper yet suffered from a poor storyline build. Vince McMahon and his creative team finally provided strong creative support for the top matches and even some of the mid-card matches. In fact, it’s arguably the best creative build to a Raw pay-per-view there has been since the roster split. It was good enough that it almost made me forget to point out the silliness of the pay-per-view name. Way to be hip, with it, and now, WWE.
Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe for the WWE Universal Championship: Joe has already benefitted from being paired with Lesnar. He was given a chance to show off his over the top angry persona and, more importantly, the version of his character that calmly states his violent intentions. It was once again proven that Calm Joe is the best Joe. That said, I did enjoy Joe working himself into a frenzy on the go-home Raw while Lesnar played the role of the calm and taunting champion. The outcome feels predictable. Lesnar is coming off a feud in which he was beaten and even dominated on multiple occasions by Goldberg before finally beating him at WrestleMania. I can’t imagine WWE going back to Lesnar losing again this quickly. So while I don’t see Joe winning, I would hope that the match and the finish are laid out in a way that not only protects but even elevates Joe in defeat.
Brock Lesnar retains the WWE Universal Championship.
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman in an Ambulance Match: Reigns already declared himself the No. 1 contender heading into the SummerSlam pay-per-view, yet I don’t recall Kurt Angle ever endorsing that in his role as the general manager. Would the number one contender change if Strowman wins this match or would Reigns go into the SummerSlam challenger role having just lost to Strowman? The easy answer seems to be putting over Reigns in the ambulance match in a manner that also protects Strowman. The issue with this is that the rumored plan was to save Lesnar vs. Reigns for WrestleMania. Of course, plans change, and I’m all for them doing something that shakes up that particular WrestleMania plan. Strowman dominated the build to the ambulance match. That’s typically a sign that Reigns is the one going over, but they don’t always play by their typical booking rules when it comes to Strowman. I don’t feel strongly about my prediction or where things are headed for SummerSlam or WrestleMania, and that’s a good thing. The direction for SummerSlam should be clearer coming out of this show, but hopefully there will continue to be some degree of mystery regarding the WrestleMania main event.
Roman Reigns wins the Ambulance Match.
Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks for the Raw Women’s Championship: Creative breathed new life into Sasha Banks by having her win the gauntlet match and force Bliss to tap in a glorified handicap match. This feels like a setup match for a rematch at SummerSlam, so I’m going with the champion to retain in a manner that sets up the need for a rematch.
Alexa Bliss retains the Raw Women’s Championship.
Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt: A mixed bag in terms of the build. Wyatt was at his absolute best when he specifically responded to things that Rollins said in a back and forth exchange, not when he stood in the desert and delivered a promo that felt like it could have been used before a match with any opponent and only got Rollins specific at the very end. This feels like another setup for SummerSlam rematch. It could be a schmoz that no one wins, but if there is a pinfall then I’ll go with the heel.
Bray Wyatt wins.
The Miz vs. Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Championship: What did I write about this match last month? Or the month before that? Or the month before that? The point is that this feud has overstayed its welcome and both men need new dance partners. I enjoy the work of both men, but I can’t even pretend like I care about who comes out of this with the IC Title.
The Miz retains the IC Title.
Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy in a 30-minute Iron Man match for the Raw Tag Team Championship: The creative approach on Raw would seem to suggest that they are not on the verge of wrapping up this program. After all, no other teams are being positioned as potential challengers. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson have inexplicably been positioned as an undercard tag team. The Revival are out there and hopefully they will eventually be positioned as the next opponents for the Hardys. During Thursday’s Dot Net Weekly audio show, Jake Barnett predicted that these teams will be tied with the same number of falls when the time limit expires. It’s not the most exciting finish and the risk is that fans will be pissed at the company if there’s not an overtime period as there has been for similar situations in the past. One way around this is for Kurt Angle to come out and give the teams the opportunity to go to overtime. The Hardy Boyz accept. Sheamus and Cesaro balk. One way or another, I suspect this is another feud that carries over to SummerSlam, so I’m going with the champions to somehow retain.
Sheamus and Cesaro retain the Raw Tag Titles.
Enzo Amore vs. Big Cass: The reveal of Cass as the mystery attacker of Enzo was a bit clunky, but the mic work by both men since then has been strong enough to make this feel like a good mid-card grudge match. Enzo shined when he was able to do more than the usual pre-match schtick, and Cass exceeded my expectations during the mystery reveal promo. The big test for both men is how they perform in the ring going forward. I’m anxious to see how they do in their first pay-per-view attempt. I could see Cass dominating only to have Enzo sneak out a fluke win and then take another beating afterward. I’ll keep it simple while also wondering when/if Big Show fits into this.
Big Cass wins.
Neville vs. Akira Tozawa for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship (Kickoff Show): This match looks great on paper. So why did WWE feel the need to make this as much about Titus O’Neil than either wrestler or the cruiserweight championship? Neville and Tozawa are talented enough that they could contend for the best match of the night, but the involvement of Titus and the placement of the match on the Kickoff Show suggests that the wrestlers won’t get a chance to do that. This feels like match one of a lengthy feud, so I don’t expect a clean finish, yet I assume Neville keeps the title.
Neville retains the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.
Prowrestling.net Live returns Monday at 3CT/4ET at PWAudio.net. John Canton will be filling in for the traveling Will Pruett, and he and I will be taking your calls during the live audio show, which airs the Mondays after each WWE pay-per-view event.