WWE Great Balls of Fire 2017 Review: Top Highlights and Low Points of Raw PPV
Great Balls of Fire suffered constant struggles due to its name, its logo and the old-timey gimmicks surrounding the event, but history has shown that the best promoted shows can still be awful and the biggest messes can turn out to be amazing.
On paper, the majority of the card for this event looked solid with Brock Lesnar facing Samoa Joe, Enzo Amore and Big Cass splitting up to clash for the first time ever, and the Ambulance match that should have been at Extreme Rules carrying over into this show, instead.
With the event now concluded, how did things pan out? Were there more positives or negatives throughout the night, and what moments stood out from the pack for better or worse?
It's time to look back on what happened at WWE Great Balls of Fire 2017 and single out the biggest highlights and low points of Sunday evening, presented in order of appearance.
Low Point: Pre-Show Kickoff Segments
Nearly every pay-per-view pre-show is a downer, as it predominantly consists of recaps of footage we've seen a thousand times and a wasted hour. This was no exception.
The social media lounge segment with Paul Heyman and Charly Caruso had no entertainment value to it and was as bland as expected.
Our panel of analysts brought nothing to the table as far as noteworthy predictions or perspectives of the feuds. They might as well have all just been reading press releases.
For a moment, it seemed like something interesting could happen when Emma interrupted Dana Brooke to ask to talk, but that was simply a way to get her off the panel. Nothing came out of it.
This was also the time when we had to see all the video packages and flair that reiterated how strange of a title and a gimmick this event had going for it, which was strange and didn't fit the rest of the atmosphere whatsoever.
Here's hoping WWE rethinks bringing back this name and goes with a different title in 2018, as the nostalgic drive-in movies and Happy Days-style diners have nothing to do with building up hype for an athletic contest.
Michael Cole at the beginning of the main card even had to say "it may be a throwback feel here at Great Balls of Fire, but it is indeed the new era for Monday Night Raw."
The only saving grace could have been the Cruiserweight Championship match between Akira Tozawa and Neville, but while that was halfway decent, it was nothing special, and the end of the match was awkward.
After so many kickoffs following this same pattern, it's sadly expected for this first hour to be something you might as well skip over, so for this one to fall victim to the same problems is no surprise.
Highlight: Big Cass Squashes Enzo Amore
Big Cass absolutely needed to destroy Enzo Amore for this storyline to have any credibility and for his career to keep heading in the right direction.
A fluke victory by Enzo would have done no favors for either man in the long run and only had any value for a momentary shock that fans would have forgotten about by the end of the night.
Admittedly, not everything was perfect in this segment, as Big Cass' new theme is incredibly strange.
The song comes off like a sound test of noises from Michael Bay's Transformers franchise rather than an actual entrance theme, and it's disappointing that Cass didn't receive new ring attire to change his look up enough to really differentiate him from what came before.
Ignoring that, though, this was everything it needed to be, from Enzo's impassioned speech hyping himself up before being hit with the alarming reality that he's simply the smaller of the two and he doesn't stand much of a chance against his former friend.
Where WWE goes from here will be interesting to see, but this feud is off to a good start.
Highlight: Raw Tag Team Championship 30-Minute Iron Man Match
After having had so many matches together, the prospect of another match between Cesaro and Sheamus against The Hardy Boyz with the gimmick being an Iron Man match seemed daunting at first, but these four men made it work.
Part of the reason this was so good was how the time frame allowed them some room to breathe instead of compacting everything into a shorter length.
Also, the action kicked off with a super fast pinfall in favor of the champions, putting the challengers at an immediate disadvantage they had to fight back from—classic storytelling.
The final minute of this match, in particular, was hectic and a lot of fun, as the chaos of the ticking clock really heightened the anxiety of whether we would get new champions or not.
The heels found a way to retain with only 30 seconds left, leaving the crowd upset and frustrated, but in a good way.
Highlight: Raw Women's Championship Match
Count-out and disqualification endings on pay-per-views are always frustrating, as it points to how WWE no longer values special events as being as separate from normal episodes of Raw and SmackDown as they used to be.
However, they made up for this lackluster ending by having a brawl on the outside to act as a button on the segment, which happened to be entirely great leading up to that finish, too.
From start to finish, this match was very solid, with one of the biggest highlights, in particular, being Alexa Bliss's fake-out of a dislocated elbow just to get a cheap shot in on Sasha Banks.
Good chemistry and interesting scenarios like that are always a healthy combination, so if this feud is going to continue, we can trust that Bliss and Banks will keep the fun coming.
Low Point: Intercontinental Championship Match
While the Intercontinental Championship match between The Miz and Dean Ambrose was certainly nothing horrendous, it was completely unimaginative.
This feud has been going on since the tail end of 2016 when both were still on SmackDown, so for this to be continuing seven months later, this was too mediocre.
Multiple matches on every episode of WWE television end with a heel winning due to a distraction of outside interference, and this was exactly that and nothing more.
That type of booking is bland without having some kind of twist to it, which this was lacking, so it felt as though it was every other match the two have had from the past few months.
There's no way this feud can continue and still have the attention of the audience, but this also felt like it wasn't a good enough finality to the program, so it's almost a complete wash and might as well have not even happened.
Highlight: Ambulance Match
This match and everything surrounding it was absolutely amazing!
First things first, the action during the match itself was incredibly fun with Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns trading blows like two powerhouses should.
Both had their chance to shine as it was an even contest, although Strowman came out looking like the more physically imposing of the two.
No-selling chair shots is one thing that helped tell that story, which the crowd completely ate up.
We saw part of the set get ruined, some stretcher equipment used for weaponry and it all ended with such an intelligent finish—contrary to two other matches from earlier in the night.
Having Reigns miss a spear that Strowman dodges, leading to the doors being shut and Strowman declared the winner was the smartest decision that could have been made, as Reigns technically loses while still looking strong.
This was reiterated when he immediately came back out of the ambulance to keep the brawl going, leading to one of the best backstage segments WWE has done all year.
In an attempt to top the ambulance flip Strowman did a few months back, this time, the next logical step was a car crash.
Reigns drove off with Strowman in the back of the ambulance and backed it up into another production truck, forcing the fire department, EMTs and personnel to use the Jaws of Life to get Strowman out.
In a masterful touch, an impromptu match between Curt Hawkins and Heath Slater was put on to act as a distraction for the crowd. To help sell this moment even more, the finish of it happened off screen!
Strowman then left on his own accord while stumbling away a bloody mess, sealing the deal that he is one of the toughest guys on the roster and a true monster.
How WWE can put on such quality content like this and then struggle with so many simpler storylines is astounding, as this was simply amazing.
Highlight: Universal Championship Match
Finding a way to book Samoa Joe strong while still keeping the title on Brock Lesnar was a gargantuan task, but WWE managed to concoct a strategy to pull off just that.
With Herculean strength, these two heavyweights clashed like titans with a big-match feel that could have easily been the headliner for one of the "big four" pay-per-views like SummerSlam or WrestleMania.
At this point, Lesnar retains the same level of credibility he had before as a dominant champion while also making sure everybody knows that Joe is the real deal and can't be counted out.
Whoever Joe feuds with after this should watch out, as his momentum should skyrocket based off his performance in this program—that's for sure.
This could have been a travesty with Lesnar squashing Joe as they've made the mistake of doing in the past, but WWE's writers put in the extra effort to do only positives for the future of their Superstars. They both look better leaving this event than they did going in.
Again, how can we have so many problems with the past few events and weeks of television with both Raw and SmackDown, yet this show was banging on all cylinders?!
Keep this up, WWE! Great Balls of Fire was a rousing success with just a few hiccups along the way.
What do you think were the highlights and the low points of the evening? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below to keep the discussion going!
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.