WWE Great Balls of Fire 2017 – Review

Before we begin, apologies for delayed reporting. Currently in Tokyo and Danny Simms said my diligent output was putting him to shame. Top tip for site editors: don’t hire staff more talented than you are, you’ll only begin to feel inadequate. While in Japan, an eye has been kept on WWE, so here comes the first of two reviews.

After choosing the worst name for a PPV, WWE had its work cut out. It was either going to bomb in style or redeem itself on air. Overall, it kinda swung to the latter. Just about.

The theme of the night, for this fan, was how – finally – WWE Creative haven’t been scared to create the correct results. In the case of this PPV, for differing reasons.

First bout of note was Bray Wyatt versus Seth Rollins.

These two have been billed as the future but sold down the river with misdirection. But at this point, a Wyatt defeat would be like serving him his P45 (for non-UK fans, firing him). A man can only claim deity status so many times before it becomes white noise during regular defeats.

Okay, so this wasn’t a classic clash. Which is surprising given the talent on show. But it doesn’t matter. It was always going to be about the result here and they handed the win to Wyatt. He needed an eye gouge but it’s hardly the type of cowardly move that could condemns him.

The Kingslayer has enough in the bank to move on and seek revenge. Wyatt is fighting for his WWE career.

Cesaro and Sheamus against The Hardy Boyz in an Iron Match was further example of WWE investing in the Hardy’s legacy. The result was secondary to allowing them another type of bout added to a career retrospect that’s second-to-none.

The levels maintain throughout the bout were exemplary.

The brothers trailed by a deficit that appeared unattainable . . . until the final minutes. Cue the high-risk spots – one of which left Matt bleedy profusely – and last second drama.

It was the Swiss Superman and the faux Irishman that left with the gold but the Hardys are surely taking slow steps to a Broken story.

The best thing that can be said about Alexis Bliss and Sasha Banks ending in a count-out is that we’ll get to see it again. Nice to see an original gimmick as Bliss used her double-jointed nature to fool opponent and ref.

Dean Ambrose and The Miz is another match that needed the right result, regardless of in-ring quality.

WWE needs to move past these two; The Miz doesn’t deserve to drop a belt only he has made credible in the last year.

So, the only thing that matters, is to say WWE Creative got it right again.

Then they did the unimaginable. They let Braun Strowman beat Roman Reigns in their ambulance match.

It was a brutal bout and Reigns didn’t look weak (golden boy protection). If the shock of the fall wasn’t enough, Reigns did something that was pure heel: he attempted homicide on a live PPV.

After fighting out of the ambulance, he threw Strowman in the back, drove out of the arena into the parking lot and then reversed – at pace – into an overhanging trailer.

The ambulance was partly crushed, Strowman inside.

My beady eye noticed the stunt was pre-recorded but this can be forgiven.

Oh, and The Monster Among Men eventually walked (hobbled) away from the wreck.

Which leaves us the main event. Lesnar v Joe.

Some will say Samoa Joe deserved a chance with the strap. I can’t disagree with the sentiment but we have to remember, he was here through chance. Injuries to others, thus, changes to the programme, meant this was a placeholder.

But Creative allowed Brock to once again appear beatable. Joe took his best, and for a while, traded with Lesnar.

He attacked him before the bell and never let up.

Brock Lesnar left your Universal Champion but the seed has been planted that he can be overthrown.

Expect Joe and those involved in the ambulance match to make that come true at SummerSlam.

6/10

WWE WrestleMania 33 – Review

The Thrill Ride is over, the dust has settled, now’s the time to look back at The Showcase of Immortals. This year’s WrestleMania had much promise going into the event. Many storylines were poised to be resolved, although the majority had an obvious conclusion. Did WWE think outside the box and still deliver great moments and a few shocks? Read on to find out.

With a five-hour show – that’s the main show, not including the bouts on the pre-show – WWE had made a rod for its own back. The fans would need more stamina than the superstars on display. This is why the running order needed to be perfect. One misplaced bout could derail the whole event.

With Shane McMahon and AJ Styles given the curtain raiser, there was a slight concern. This has been a match many have been dismissive of. Even Cory Graves said the prospect did nothing for him. So it was a gamble, a potential switch off after just switching on.

There should have been zero worry. AJ could wrestle a dustbin and make a good match. What he had was a Shane O’Mac that gave his best show of in-ring ability. He’s never looked this good before. Why did he always go for gimmicks when he could do the “real” thing?

That’s not to say it was a totally pure bout. The old ref getting knocked out to bring in weapons trick allowed a trashcan followed by a dive from the top rope. But still, a great start and some fears allayed.

Next up was the match more knowledgeable fans were most looking forward to: Chris Jericho vs Kevin Owens for the United States Title. It was also one where the expected outcome didn’t matter. We all know Jericho will soon return to the rock world with Fozzy. What we knew was these two had a great story and compelling chemistry.

Jericho Owens WM33

They didn’t let us down. The match swung, the story told well. The impact of the end (it was a powerbomb, can you guess where?) a fitting WrestleMania moment.

Skipping over the Raw Women’s Championship – because a five-hour show doesn’t need a six-hour review, and WWE “Creative” can’t use this talent correctly – we’ll come to the Ladder Match for Raw’s Tag Titles instead.

The takeaway is the returning Hardy Boyz. They have been touring independents after release from TNA (or Impact Wrestling, or Wasted Opportunity to be a Viable WWE Challenger Wrestling that made No Impact) and claiming numerous titles. They held seven simultaneously at one point.

Hardyz WM33

Now they have the big one. WWE’s. The stunts were provided in classic fashion but this is a new team. The fans acknowledged the Broken Matt Hardy and chanted “Delete.” WWE need to follow suit. Matt Hardy had complete creative control in TNA, this is his creation. WWE should throw the lawyers behind bringing it to Raw every week.

Next is the conclusion of a greatly told story with Cena and Miz facing off, women alongside. And oops, the story telling was better than the conclusion. For some reason, Cena sold to Miz all match. It was a suspension of disbelief. “Big Game John” was ground to the mat and desperately needed a hot tag.

Now don’t get me wrong: I’m The Miz’s biggest fan. I totally am. But it would have been more believable had he fought back from some sort of beating, earnt respect, and managed to look like a threat to Cena. Instead it brought back memories of Shawn Michaels and Hogan at SummerSlam.

The Miz WM33

Oh yeah, and Cena won and he proposed in his cringe life to his cringe future wife Fearless (very whiny for someone with no fear?) Nikki Bella.

I’m not Cena’s biggest fan.

Seth Rollins and Triple H was a little like the Y2J/KO bout. Characters that you can be invested in, a conclusion that didn’t need a swerve. It was simple and delivered as expected. Perhaps a little too simple. Maybe Trips shouldn’t be here next year to put over more upcoming talent and should just let the New Era play alone.

The WWE Championship followed. Yep, the “Most Prestigious title in Sports Entertainment” was nowhere near the night’s climax. And thank the maker for that. The betrayal on Wyatt should have come here, not a month prior. Failing that, Luke Harper needed to appear in a shock heel turn to help Bray.

Failing that we needed anything that meant Randy Orton didn’t deliver an RKO from Outta Nowhere to win. He did. And with it the Wyatt experience has been killed once and for all. What a shame. An unforgivable waste from WWE “Creative.”

Another bout, another expected result. Brock Lesnar and Goldberg. To be fair, it wasn’t the squash match we’d feared. It did run like a highlights package for big impacts but it worked. Lesnar had to dig deep, Goldberg still looks strong. The Beast Incarnate is a Universal Champion with an even bigger chip on his shoulder.

Lesnar_Goldberg WM33

SmackDown Women’s Championship Six-Pack Challenge returned the Women’s Revolution to the Dark Ages (should we call them “Divas” again?). It was quick, lazy, and Naomi got the soulless WrestleMania moment in her home state.

The finale was Undertaker vs Roman Reigns. The placement on the card revealed the result. ‘Taker goes last because this would be his last match ever. Which meant he was passing the torch. WWE will not reconsider the relentless Reigns push.

Undertaker WM33

There’s only one man worthy enough to call the match: Jim Ross. He’s been through personal tragedy lately, and the entire world of wrestling, fans and performers alike, are united in sending him their love and best wishes.

JR called it with the expertise and delivery that appears to come so natural and has been so sorely missed on WWE programming. And it happened to be a decent bout. There was a very noticeable spot where Reigns couldn’t get Undertaker up into position for, what I’m guessing, was a Tombstone Piledriver. This is probably the final piece of evidence that Undertaker’s wrestling days should be over.

My gut instinct says he was originally heading for a bout with Cena. It’s why he first reappeared on SmackDown LIVE. But his body must has served its final notice. So ‘Taker being an old-school man (maybe the last) followed the tradition of leaving the ring on his back, passing the torch to the next generation.

At the end, he disrobed his Undertaker gimmick, both garments and aura. It was as if the kayfabe spirit finally left the old gunslinger. He became a normal man before our eyes.

A man will can all respect and will miss forever.

Undetaker Last Stand

(6/10, overall event rating.)

WWE Fastlane 2017 – Review

Clive Balls back at the helm with another WWE review. I now realise why Danny Simms brought me to the site, for events like 2017’s Fastlane. Sure, it’s tops when I’m smashing out detailed match-by-match analysis (as seen with the recent Elimination Chamber) but he wanted that viscous WWE-knocking viewpoint I’d printed elsewhere. I really didn’t want to do what The Rock always insisted and Just Bring It, but WWE “creative” forced me. Made me, in fact

They did that when they served up the crock of sh*t that will go down as this year’s WrestleMania foreplay PPV. Being honest, we can’t act surprised, the signs were there (in blazing big neon, more distracting than a Chris Jericho jacket) that Kevin Owens would be made to drop the belt to Goldberg.

But come on. Man. There’s always hope they won’t be so dumb. And if they are, at least be creative with it.

Before we get to that travesty. Let’s skim the other key matches from the night. I’m not going too in depth – because quite frankly, if WWE don’t care and can’t be creative, why should I? – but a look at some highlight the points that will close this piece out.

A semi-positive note is Samoa Joe’s submission victory over Sami Zayn. The big man is being portrayed as Triple H’s newest henchman. But unlike so many before, this one can handle himself without the need for mob mentality. A clean win here is a major step to injecting him into a major feud. Maybe even Triple H and Seth Rollins?

As for Zayn, he has been painted as the popular trier that will more often than not, come up short. The readymade Dolph Ziggler replacement. So a loss means nothing.

We’ll tie the two women’s results into one thought because those four women will (probably) go to WrestleMania in a four-way for the title. First up Sasha Banks avenged her Royal Rumble defeat to Nia Jax. This is clever booking (see, they can do it sometimes). Jax still looks strong, it was her application that let her down. Banks scores a needed victory over a dominating figure.

Flick to the Raw Women’s Championship bout. Bayley seems out of place in this division as a leader of the pack. Interference from Banks prevented Charlotte Flair from reclaiming gold. The match itself wasn’t great, the result at least makes some sense. The belt has been passed around too much. Now we have a weak but fan-favourite heading into the year’s main PPV with a strong chasing pack.

The Cruiserweight match deserves a mention. Indeed, it was for many the best match of the night. That’s like picking your favourite illness. I guess you need to be invested in the division. When I see the purple ropes, my mind wanders. It should be a good division but it’s an annoyance on Raw and its PPVs.

WWE Jack Gallagher

Speaking of annoyances, Jack Gallagher got over despite losing to Neville. Ooops. That wasn’t the plan. This was a placeholder bout. Filler. Instead “creative” has an extra ball to juggle.

Okay, let’s get it done. Roman Reigns defeated the unstoppable, invincible, monster of destruction, unassailable Braun Strowman. Are we surprised? Not any longer. It’s the WWE way. Feed talent to their chosen characters. It’s been pointless building Strowman for this result to occur.

Reigns Strowman

We didn’t even get the expected Undertaker interruption to set-up a WrestleMania bout and protect Strowman from a clean loss. Just more of the same Reigns bull.

Speaking of bull, I can’t skip around the houses for another minute. The main event. The main disappointment.

Let’s be clear, Brock Lesnar vs Goldberg at WrestleMania will sell perfectly well on its own. It didn’t need the Universal Championship attached. But Vince McMahon in his wisdom believed otherwise. After Sunday’s shenanigans, it may actually turn some viewers off.

What we got was a match that lasted 21 seconds. The longest reigning Universal Champion dropped the title in the time it takes to sneeze.

Let that sink in for a moment.

I’ll make no bones about it: Goldberg is being protected because he’s physically unable to wrestle a bout of any note. That’s WWE’s problem heading into the next PPV. We’ll probably get a two-minute match where Lesnar destroys Goldberg and the veteran will retire again with less than five minutes of wrestling to add to his history.

On Sunday, Kevin Owens delayed the match, rolling in and out of the ring. It was pointless. It wasn’t tricking the audience, we know how long these things run and there was less than four minutes on the clock.

WWE Owens Goldberg

Jericho did come out – as expected – but it didn’t validate how Owens can be caught off-guard and make it okay to let Goldberg have another smash-and-grab.

It’s creative suicide from the WWE. They have devalued a new title and the credentials of every top guy on the active roster. All for a former WCW man they never really liked during his first run with the company.

It’s madness. At least KO and Y2J will give us a good US Title match at WrestleMania.

3/10

Jim Ross Tweeted the only thing WWE deserve applauding for during Fastlane:

WWE Royal Rumble 2017 – Review

Thirty years of the thirty man battle royal (apart from when it was forty men or included Chyna) brings us to a unique moment in WWE PPVs: there are no clear winners to choose from in this year’s Royal Rumble.

First up, we had the Raw Women’s Championship match. Charlotte is pound-for-pound better than her old man. He may have had the charisma, she has pure ability than not many male performers from any period of sports entertainment history can better. The Bayley match didn’t showcase this, the result wasn’t surprising.

Charlotte is the champ with only Sasha Banks on her level but they can’t fight every PPV.

Next up, was the Universal Championship. Even though most expected a Roman Reigns win, with it, another forced push at the top, the Chris Jericho subplot meant an Owens victory could lead to a fight between the buddies later down the line for the gold.

Fans clearly cheered KO, the Cena fans (kids) liked Reigns throwing Y2J into the shark cage. Roman being hated for being the next Cena isn’t a marker of success. He needs a character reboot.

The match had a good pace. A pyramid of chairs early on was a teaser. The first big spot was Owens frog-splashing from the top rope to the outside, putting Roman through a table in the process.

Of course, Reigns kicked out. The commentators played up broken ribs but considering The Beast Incarnate Brock Lesnar fell so fast to Goldberg with this kayfabe injury, it makes no sense Roman Reigns can shrug off the same ailment.

Jericho then provided brass knuckles (knuckle dusters, my UK friends). Owen provided a brass knuckle punch. Reigns provided a kick out at two.

Owens ended up going through the stacked chairs and an announce table. Then appears Braun Strowman to smash Reigns against another announce table, his head dangerously close to a monitor in the process. Then a slam through a table propped in the corner of the ring.

Again, head smashing against objects.

It gave Owens the win, keeps the rise of Reigns at bay, and raises questions about Strowman’s big game mentality.

It also increased Jericho’s chances of winning the Rumble later in the night.

In the following match, Neville took the Cruiserweight title but that’s all I’ll say about a division that hasn’t worked and should be given a separate platform on a permanent basis. Other than the awkwardness of changing the ropes every twenty minutes, it is sinking on the normal roster.

Styles and Cena in their WWE Championship match told a good story, the tease of tying with Flair’s record by winning with the figure-four was good.

Fair play to WWE, after seven hundred different finishers followed by two-counts, an AA from the top rope, followed by the look on Cena’s face, victory seem assured. Styles kicked out.

In the end, it took another AA, immediately rolling into another AA, for Cena to get the three count and record equalling sixteenth title.

The victory increased The Undertaker’s chance in the Rumble.

Remember Jericho’s chance improving early in the night? Well he started against Cass as the number two draw in the Rumble match. We’ve done this twice before with Y2J, there’s no suspense or enjoyment watch him set stamina records again. It would have been better to see him emerge in the last five.

So, this isn’t the place to deliver a blow-by-blow account of the entire Rumble. There are live feeds for that, and to be honest, there weren’t that many big spots. Even Kofi Kingston’s annual Rumble breath-taking escape was reduced to him landing on his chest on the top of the ring post.

Also, there were no surprise blasts from the past. No Kurt Angle.

If you can detect a slight disgruntlement it’s because once again, the modern WWE managed to build an event, add all the right ingredients, then not know how to use them.

The omission of Seth Rollins is a bizarre decision. As the entrants came and went, we quickly came down to a thin field with not too many names to follow. That trimming was thanks to Braun Strowman but again, he looked dangerous. His size should be storyline scary, his actions in the ring storyline devastating. The reality is, he’s one move away from ending someone’s career.

Baron Corbin relieved the wrestlers of Strowman and it set up the final act. We all knew Brock Lesnar and Goldberg were to come, along with The Undertaker. That was one potential combination to end the match.

When Lesnar finally appeared, he either threw people over the top rope or took them to Suplex City. Until Goldberg entered, speared and dispatched him over the top rope. Embarrassing for Brock, but more awkward for WWE that after that quick act, the aged superstar look immobile.

Chris Jericho had spent half the match hidden from the ring action. So was this to preserve him for a big finish? The KO v Y2J Wrestlemania main event? Nope. It was to serve zero purpose other than extend his record for longest career time in the Rumble match.

When the final man entered, the arena erupted – into a chorus of boos. It was Roman Reigns, a man no adult wanted to win. Again, he was booked to look strong, eliminating The Deadman who had taken the ring for his own with a dashing late appearance.

It was cheeky of WWE to tease the idea of another Reigns Rumble win. It riled the crowd and a match that started with several possibilities came down to Roman or the Wyatt family.

Thank the Lord that the RKO exists and a fresh direction, with a continuing storyline woven in, takes centre stage. Maybe WWE has finally learned, and Roman will have to earn his crust.

After this Rumble, it looks like that will be against The Phenom. And hopefully best friends Jericho and Owens can still book that big Universal Title bout.

6/10 (I’d have added 3 points for a shock The Miz win.)