By Jason Powell
WWE Great Balls of Fire Hits
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman in an Ambulance Match: Another big slugfest style match that made Strowman look like a monster to the point that even Reigns was backing away from him. The missed spear by Reigns that resulted in him diving into the back of the ambulance was a cool finish that protected him while giving Strowman the win. The post match angle with Reigns attempting vehicular homicide was over the top, absurd, and totally entertaining. Ideally, this was a double turn, but I can’t rule out the possibility that creative saw the strong positive reaction that Strowman’s stunts received and felt like this was a way to get Reigns over. Either way, this was one hell of a spectacle and it will be interesting to see how they follow this up on Raw and what it means for the WWE Universal Championship match at SummerSlam.
Brock Lesnar vs. Samoa Joe for the WWE Universal Championship: It’s a testament to both men and the match build that the crowd bounced right back from the big ambulance angle and was hot for the main event match. It certainly helped to have Joe attack Lesnar from behind and make the champion look vulnerable. I wasn’t a big fan of Lesnar simply powering out of the Coquina Clutch to hit his F5 finisher, but I still enjoyed the match and came away feeling that Joe gained a lot over the last month. That said, the key is where they go with Joe from here starting with the follow up on tonight’s Raw. The finish was decisive and left no need for a rematch at SummerSlam, but the match was entertaining enough that they could and should book a rematch down the road.
Sheamus and Cesaro vs. Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy in a 30-minute Iron Man match for the Raw Tag Titles: A beautifully laid out match. This is probably the first time in Iron Man match or best of three falls history that I didn’t despise an early pinfall. I hate when two wrestlers or teams who normally require at 15-20 minutes for one fall suddenly rack up quick pins in those stipulation matches. In this case, there was a story of good strategy by the heels told and it felt perfectly acceptable and put the Hardys in the hole right out of the gate. I expected this to be a draw, especially when Corey Graves told viewers that the champions would retain in such a scenario. Thus, it was a pleasant surprise when Sheamus and Cesaro scored the late pin and actually won the match outright. It was the type of finish that provided a boost to Sheamus and Cesaro while doing no damage to the Hardys. Very well done.
Alexa Bliss vs. Sasha Banks for the Raw Women’s Championship: An entertaining match with an intentionally unsatisfying finish, presumably to keep their feud alive heading into SummerSlam. Bliss’s double jointed elbow is quite the visual even if we have seen it before. I remain surprised that they didn’t incorporate that into a major finish rather than using it at random times during her matches. The post match double knee press off the stage looked dangerous and one can only hope that Bliss walked away without any significant damage.
Bray Wyatt vs. Seth Rollins: More of an in the middle for a decent opener that ultimately felt inconsequential. It was nice to see Wyatt get a win. At the same time, it’s not uncommon for him to win a match early in a feud before he ultimately loses the feud. A reader mentioned that Rollins, Reigns, and Dean Ambrose all lost their pay-per-view matches and said he hopes it leads to The Shield running roughshod over WWE. It doesn’t seem like anything is imminent, but I would enjoy the trio reuniting as heels.
Overall show: The build to the show was better than we’ve seen on the Raw side in a long time, and the actual event managed to exceed the hype. There was a heel heavy win count on the undercard, which is logical in that this was a SummerSlam setup show. The heavily hyped Universal Championship match and the Ambulance Match both delivered and it all made for a highly entertaining night.
WWE Great Balls of Fire Misses
The Miz vs. Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Championship: The feud that never ends struggled to get the live crowd invested. The fans eventually came around late, but it’s clearly time for this marriage to end. The Miz is in a decent place with the championship and his new entourage. Unfortunately, Ambrose has lost momentum and feels lost in the Raw mid-card shuffle.
Big Cass vs. Enzo Amore: Enzo delivered another good promo before the match and had the fans behind him. The Kickoff Show team and Booker T were so insistent that Cass was going to dominate that I actually started to believe he was going to slip on a banana peel and lose the match. Instead, Cass dominated the match to the point that it didn’t feel like there was any need for a rematch. They could attempt to heat things up on Raw again, but I wonder if they are rushing to get to Cass vs. Big Show at SummerSlam. If so, where does Enzo go from there?
Heath Slater vs. Curt Hawkins: Not a true Miss, but it had to go somewhere on this list. I would say it served a purpose, but I’m still not really sure what it was. History buffs, is this the first time in WWE history that a match finish was not actually shown on the live broadcast?
Neville vs. Akira Tozawa for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship: The in-ring work was Hit worthy, but the involvement of Titus O’Neil in this program continues to make it feel bush league.
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...