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 Extreme Rules 2017 – Review

The build to RAW’s latest PPV wasn’t a smooth affair. Okay, put simply – it was underwhelming. The ratings don’t lie but a number of factors are at play. As ever, we can point fingers at WWE “Creative.” It’s also easy to say that the forever MIA Brock Lesnar hiding the much-derided Universal Championship doesn’t help.

The worst offender in recent times has been lazy bookings. Back to meaningless or repetitive matches and title changes signposted with future plans no longer a surprise.

This being said, the opening bout – the Intercontinental title match between Dean Ambrose and The Miz – should have been a damp squid. We’ve seen this mix months previous on SmackDown Live and those in the know have told us The Miz is being lined up for gold in order to play sacrificial lamb to Roman Reigns further down the line.

The stipulation here went against the ethos of the PPV. Instead of doing anything, it was a case of Ambrose losing the title should he get a DQ. That – obviously – played a large part of the narrative. As it should. But congrats to WWE for avoiding some contrived way to get Ambrose disqualified. Sure, they hinted at it, and made out he was close to doing something silly. But he didn’t.

The action in between these teases was good. The Miz really deserves all his props lately. He has always been strong on the mic, now he mixes it like a champ in the ring, and does bring prestige to belts.

He took the gold here by way of distraction. Not the obvious Maryse one. It was her expulsion to the back that allowed The Miz to throw The Lunatic Asylum into the ref and allow the official to debate his intention.

A skull crushing finale later, and we had a new IC Champ.

Extreme The Miz

That was a solid base to the show. The filler that came was weak, topped with a healthy bun.

So why did the show fail between curtain opening and shutting?

It was a mix of things, individual to each match.

Take Sasha Banks and Rich Swann v Naom Dar and Alicia Fox. This one failed for a few reasons. First off, the style and pacing was something you’d expect to see on Main Event. In doing so, the joint-best female performer, Banks (Charlotte is the other), is degraded to making Alicia Fox look like an almost equal.

That’s like asking Roman Reigns to beat Undertaker then go twenty minutes with Heath Slater the next night.

Except here, the match was thankfully short. It wasn’t PPV billing, nor PPV class.

Alexa Bliss v Bayley didn’t actually fail for the reason some are crying about (crying like Bayley). It was wise to make Bliss look so dominant. She has been given the baton and the WWE needs to let her run with it.

It failed by allowing Bayley to go stale before our eyes. When she’s on screen, a feeling not dissimilar to the Cena effect occurs. But she doesn’t have his backing – just impending disconnect. There should have been a post-squash match change in attitude displayed by Bayley.

The steel cage match for the Raw Tag Titles was all about too many matches between the opponents in the weeks before, and tepid action once it began. It doesn’t help that the Hardyz are being begged to turn Broken by the WWE Universe. A cage match teased that chance.

Instead we got a few certainties. A Whisper in the Wind from the top of the cage and a Sheamus and Cesaro win. See, in wrestling, if a superstar (or team in this case) win too much en route to a PPV, it means the ones that seemingly have no momentum win.

They cash in the jobber tax (not to be confused with Jinder Mahal as WWE Champion, that’s the Jobber Lotto coming up trumps).

A final nail in this match’s coffin was how the idea of both teammates escaping didn’t fully explain the rule about reentry (which invalidates the initial escape).

Refer to Payback 2017 review regarding the Cruiserweight division. As a side note: if I were to offer any review for Neville v Austin Aries in their submission match for the gold, I’d have said it was very good. A good advert for 205 Live (which shouldn’t be a RAW element).

The Fatal 5-Way to become number one contender was a lift that brought the event back to the level The Miz and Ambrose set – and took it on a few more notches.

After a generic start – wrestlers taking it in turns to fight, hide, and showcase – an alliance of Samoa Joe and Bray Wyatt formed. This better controlled the traffic from Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Finn Bálor. It wasn’t long after this partnership broke down that Bálor went on the rampage.

Samoa Joe Bray Wyatt

The kick Reigns took to the face from The Demon King from the ring apron looked legit and painful. As did a multiple body pile-up spear through the barrier from Reigns, and a Rollins splash through an announce table.

Reigns and Rollins was teased as the finishing pair before it became Reigns and Bálor. As the Big Dog ate a Coup De Grace from the Irishman, Joe snuck up behind and locked in the Coquina Clutch.

A well-balanced packed main event and a good choice of winner moving forward. He may be visiting Suplex City to take a defeat but he’ll still leave looking strong.

5/10

WWE Payback 2017 – Results and Review

To some degree, this year’s edition of Payback manages to live up to its name. Also, we got matches that went against the predictions of many fans and pundits.

To kick us off was the United States title bout between former best mates Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho. Beforehand two things were continually repeated. The first was it’d be match of the night. The second, there was no way Y2J could beat Owens.

Not because he’s not good enough or worthy, but because he’s leaving WWE again soon to tour with Fozzy and it’d undo putting KO over at WrestleMania.

Don’t cha just love it when a certainty goes the other way.

It was a good match – as expected. The story of the characters translated into clever spots. Owens reading the Jericho playbook and pouncing with various counters. And the finger stretch of KO. Well, that happened again and it made Jericho go ballistic.

Jericho Owens Payback 2017.png

An injured finger meant no ability to reach the rope and Jericho secured gold with The Walls. Expect him to drop the title on SmackDown Live this week.

New rule for these WWE PPV reviews: unless it’s a 205 Live event, I refuse to comment on the Cruiserweight Division. With such a strong identity, it shouldn’t be present on RAW or its PPVs.

No problem welcoming The Hardy Boys (or Boyz, whatevs). They defended the tag gold against Sheamus and Cesaro. This was a better match than expected. Matt took the ring to start and the crowd once again shouted “Delete.” This time he acknowledged and used the chant himself.

Whether this means WWE has given permission or if Broken Matt Hardy is willing to face legal trouble, is something we’ll find out in the passage of time. We’ll also see if the heel turn from the contenders after their defeat means their beatdown will be a catalyst for The Hardys becoming broken in the WWE.

Broken Matt Hardy.png
Broken Matt Hardy?

Another shock result was Alexa Bliss beating Bayley. The smart money was on Bayley retaining but with the heat growing between these two. It’s easy to see why Vince wants to pull the trigger on Alexa’s push. She has a good look and is convincing in the ring. The problem WWE has now is the RAW Women’s Division feels flat.

Alexa Bliss Payback Champion.png

This match summed it up. It wasn’t bad but it won’t live long in the memory.

Unlike the House of Horrors match. It was horrific, alright. Okay, elements were conceived well. The music was eerie, the camera work decent (apart from when you could see the cameraman’s shadow, d’oh) but this wasn’t the supernatural fright fest Bray promised, we expected, and the match needed.

A reincarnated Sister Abigail? Nope.

Monsters coming out of walls? Nope.

Dangerous props hurting Randy Orton at will? Nope.

A dirty kitchen with a heavy refrigerator? Er, yeah, that’s about the sum of it.

WWE House of Horrors.png

Maybe Bray Wyatt loves watching reality TV shows where filthy houses get cleaned and he sees messy ones as horrible? In this case, it was a House of (cleaning) Horrors. But a scary place Randy “can never leave”? Please. It’s best for everyone concerned if we leave the concept fast.

Wyatt jumped in the limo back to the arena.

To fill the gap, The Kingslayer faced one of HHH’s henchmen, Samoa Joe. These two are a great example of wrestling in this world of entertainment. No doubt that Seth Rollins is the more agile but Joe holds his own.

To tell the match they went down the old path of Rollins still suffering from a dodgy knee. It’s a leveller and gave Joe something to focus on. It gave us a Texas Cloverleaf to admire – and we just don’t see enough of those nowadays.

Rollins won as expected but with a clever reversal into a pin from a submission position. It was intelligent and doesn’t harm Joe at all.

What isn’t intelligent is the continuation of the House of Horrors match, as per the stipulation – it ends in the ring. Why was Wyatt still staggering around after a cosy limo drive to the arena? I mean, no matter the beating, you ain’t so bad after 30 mins of chilling.

Michael Cole trying to big-up the House as a place of purgatory is almost as laughable as the match itself. And guess what . . . yeah, Randy made it back from that place and looked fresh as a daisy. At the match restart, only one thing was expected – RKO from Outta Nowhere.

We got that but also Jindar Mahal with the WWE Championship as a weapon. That same title Bray Wyatt has suddenly lost interest in when it comes to the rematch he is owed. WWE messed up transferring him to RAW. It robbed him of a legit WWE Title rematch and all of his momentum.

This meaningless win just places him in further limbo.

Two men far away from that are Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman. They faced off with the former Shield man heavily bandaged. There’s always the fear with Roman this means he’ll suffer only to look like even more of a Superman.

Roman Reigns Braun Strowman Payback 2017

 

But this match showed WWE Creative can listen at times. The best way to keep Reigns face (although, why on earth do they want to?) is to garner sympathy. He suffered through this match with only a slight comeback. Strowman’s victory came from a clean pin. Reigns kicking out with one surprise before falling.

After the match, more shocks came. Strowman took the steel steps into the ring, stood them tall on their side, and dropped Roman onto them. Then – this was the kicker – he picked them up, lifted them tall over his head, and slammed them into a defenceless Reigns.

The blood was pouring from Roman, and even the chants of “Thank you, Strowman” didn’t take away from the impact. This was brutal and even I felt sorry for Reigns.

Overall, a decent PPV.

7/10

Roman Reigns Payback 2017

 

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: