If it seems like WWE has been running a lot of pay per views lately, that’s because they are. Since April 30th (including this Sunday’s show) WWE has had five pay per views. Add that onto the 5 hours of live programming that Raw and Smackdown Live bring to the table every week, and you have a metric shit ton of wrestling.
That brings us to the latest Raw pay per view, the hilariously named Great Balls of Fire. Nothing is going to get that precious 18-35 demographic ready for a pro wrestling show like a 53 year old rock and roll song. As silly as the name of the show is, the match card is anything but silly. 5 titles will be on the line, including Brock Lesnar defending his Universal championship against Samoa Joe. Let’s get to the preview and predictions!
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Cruiserweight Championship Match – Neville (C) vs. Akira Tozawa
Ever since he returned to the WWE at Roadblock in December 2016, Neville has been the literal and figurative King of the Cruiserweights. He won the Cruiserweight title a month later at the Royal Rumble, and has been dominant ever since. After Austin Aries was unable to dethrone Neville, the newest challenger to face the King will be Akira Tozawa. Akira was a CWC standout and a veteran of the Dragon Gate promotion who is finally getting his shot on the WWE main roster.
Tozawa has been paired up with Titus O’Neil and the Titus Brand recently, which takes the pressure off of him to deliver some of the over scripted dialogue that would be written for him. Tozawa and Neville match up pretty well, and both possess an explosive style that is hopefully highlighted during this pre show match. While it’s nice to see a fresh matchup for Neville, his reign has been too impressive to end on a challenger’s first title shot. If WWE is smart, they’ll keep building Neville until a worthy challenger (Mustafa Ali?) will finally take his title.
Prediction: All hail King Neville
Enzo Amore vs. Big Cass
The Enzo Amore character has been a tale of highs and lows. He doesn’t look like a professional wrestler, but thanks to his unending charisma and self proclaimed gift of gab, he’s made a name for himself both in NXT and on Raw. He and Big Cass were one of the most popular teams in NXT, and while they never did win the NXT tag titles, their overall run was a resounding success. During their early run on Raw, that success translated to the main roster, but as the weeks and months went on, it was becoming clear that seeing Enzo’s shtick every Monday night was starting to get old. Enzo & Cass lost match after match as the Raw tag team division struggled to find it’s identity, and then the mystery attacker angle started.
By the time Cass revealed he was the one attacking Enzo, I understood Cass’s vantage point more than Enzo’s, because everything Cass was saying was rooted in truth. Enzo was holding the team (and Cass) back and he continued to run his mouth with no sign of ever being able to back it up. Enzo’s performance during the initial reveal and his promo’s over the last two weeks have reminded me why I loved NXT Enzo so much, and now all I want to see is Enzo duke it out with his former best friend & partner. Enzo has always been a better character when he’s allowed to mix in the funny catchphrases with his very real passion for pro wrestling, and that’s exactly what he’s done during the build to this match. I don’t know how well these two will mesh in the ring, but the build up has been terrific. These two have to have fight again in Brooklyn where the crowd will be on fire, so I’m expecting some sort of double DQ here.
Prediction: Double DQ brawl
Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt
Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt is the anti Enzo vs. Cass. There’s been no buildup outside of Rollins asking if Wyatt is a God or a coward, and the two have barely been in the same arena together. The character of Bray Wyatt is a wrestling tragedy, and the main reason for that is the monotonous build to all of his matches. He’ll sneak attack someone via spooky teleportation, cut dark room promos on them for weeks, and then lose the match at a pay per view. Rollins called Wyatt a false prophet, Wyatt attacked Rollins and has now spent the last two weeks talking about his god-like powers, including a bizarre, sweaty rant in the desert on Monday night. If you think this is going to end with anything besides Bray Wyatt losing clean to Seth Rollins, you haven’t been paying attention.
Prediction: Seth Rollins
Ambulance Match: Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
The Braun Strowman/Roman Reigns rivalry has been one of the highlights of many 2017 Raw’s, and outside of the bizarre booking of Strowman during WrestleMania season, Braun has looked like a legitimate monster against WWE’s new top dog. Whenever I’m trying to analyze a Reigns match, I look at it the same way I would a John Cena match. Reigns isn’t your prototypical wrestler, and there’s always a chance he’s going to power up and win the match, but his odds always decrease when there’s a wacky stipulation involved.
Enter the AMBULANCE MATCH, where you can only win by stuffing your opponent in the back of an ambulance where he’s presumably driven to the hospital (or just left in there for all eternity). The stipulation definitely favors Strowman because 1. he’s consistently gotten the better of Reigns and laid him out and 2. he doesn’t have to pin Roman to win. With this being Braun’s first PPV match since his return from injury, I think he has to pickup a victory and regain his momentum heading into Summerslam.
Prediction: Braun Strowman
30 Minute Iron Man Raw Tag Team Title Match: Cesaro & Sheamus (C) vs. The Hardy’s
Cesaro/Sheamus & The Hardy’s have been feuding since WrestleMania, and this 30 minute iron man match can go one of two ways. 1. Cesaro/Sheamus outlast The Hardy’s, defend their titles and move onto some Top Guys or 2. the match ends in a draw and we stretch this feud out until Summerslam where we’ll hopefully get a match with a definitive ending. I think a lot of this hinges on how soon Matt Hardy gets the rights to his broken gimmick, and judging from his Twitter account, it could be very soon:
Matt is very active on social media and has been using his broken character almost exclusively since this tweet on Sunday. As good as the Hardy’s still are as a team, I think there’s more legs in singles runs for both guys, especially if Matt is given the creative freedom to be his insane alter ego. The only thing that could delay the broken transformation is the lack of depth in the Raw tag division. Enzo/Cass & Goldust/R-Truth split up, so that literally leaves Revival, Gallows/Anderson & Cesaro/Sheamus as the only teams on Raw if the Hardy’s go their separate ways. With such a severe lack of depth, my pick is for this match to end in a draw and culminate at Summerslam.
Prediction: Time limit draw
IC Title Match: The Miz (C) vs. Dean Ambrose
Watching paint dry. Driving in traffic. Lighting all my worldly possessions on fire. Sorry, I was just listing all the things I enjoy more than watching another Miz/Dean Ambrose match. The most frustrating thing about this feud is how GREAT Miz has been since being paired back up with Maryse, which shows you how awful the Dean Ambrose character is. Miz tore Ambrose down on Raw with a great promo about how he can’t handle pressure and can never win the big match, and Ambrose responded by slouching in the announce chair and pretty much agreeing with him.
The only looney thing about his character is that people still care about him, and all I can think about his how much better a Miz/Elias Samson or Miz/Finn Balor program would be. Hopefully the plan is for whoever comes out on top of the Balor/Samson feud to pair up with Miz next, and Dean Ambrose can move onto literally anything else.
Raw Women’s Title Match: Alexa Bliss (C) vs. Sasha Banks
Alexa Bliss has been the best women’s wrestler on the main roster for 2017, but unfortunately she’s been paired with the neutered versions of both Bayley and Sasha Banks for the last few months. Bayley is out of the title picture for what should be the foreseeable future, but Sasha Banks is currently the #1 contender to Bliss’s Women’s title. As much as I love Bliss, it’s tough to get into this match when there’s been negative momentum on Raw lately. The gauntlet match was pretty great, but there’s no character progression from anyone outside of Nia or Bliss, and every time you hear that Sasha is already a 3 time Women’s champ, it reminds how often the title has been switched around.
The best story in the women’s division is still Bliss/Nia Jax, so I hope she retains here and Sasha and Bayley can be paired up as something other than insufferable friends and hopefully get some of their NXT magic back in their characters.
Prediction: Alexa Bliss
Universal Title Match: Brock Lesnar (C) vs. Samoa Joe
When Samoa Joe became the #1 contender at Extreme Rules, it seemed like a bittersweet moment. Joe has been incredible in both NXT and on Raw, but the majority thought was that he’d be a minor speed bump for Brock Lesnar on his way to facing Reigns or Strowman at Summerslam. The booking leading up to this match has changed my mind dramatically, and Samoa Joe now looks like a valid threat to Lesnar.
The best part is that Lesnar hasn’t lost any of his shine either, because he can dismiss all of Joe’s actions as sneak attacks. And while he’s technically correct, Joe has still not backed down from Lesnar, and he still choked him out on the entrance ramp, and he still has outsmarted Brock at every turn. There’s still a chance that Lesnar destroys Joe, but it wouldn’t make sense when you look at how this feud has progressed. This is one of the most well built main events for a ‘B’ PPV in a long time, and I can’t wait to see these two destroy each other.
Prediction: As great as Joe has been, 100% healthy Brock Lesnar isn’t mortal. Lesnar retains in a brutal fight.
10 days ago, Carmella won the first ever women’s money in the bank ladder match. Not only was it a crappy match that seemed to end right when things were starting to happen, but Carmella only won when her sidekick/lackey James Ellsworth climbed the ladder for her, pulled down the briefcase and dropped it into her lap. Pro wrestling should not be the medium we gravitate towards when we’re looking for progressive storylines featuring their female wrestlers, and while times have changed, this is still the same company that had women wrestling in their underwear, or in pillow fights, or in kiddie pools full of pudding.
That still doesn’t excuse the fact that the WWE promoted this match every chance they got as a historic ‘first ever’ match for the five women involved, and that good, bad or indifferent, people would be talking about this match for a long time. When Ellsworth casually climbed the ladder and pulled down the briefcase, it was a slap in the face to every women on the roster and to all the fans. In what should’ve been a defining moment for Carmella, all anyone could talk about was how bogus it was that Ellsworth had to climb the ladder and get the briefcase for her. That wasn’t the right time to drag out a storyline; it was the time to back up all their ‘historic’ talk and let the women go out and make actual history.
WWE righted the ship a bit last night, but I’ll never understand why this wasn’t the finish booked for the first match. James Ellsworth climbed the ladder, almost had the briefcase, but Becky Lynch saved the day and pushed him off the ladder, crotch chopping himself on the top rope. That allowed Carmella enough time to knock Becky off the ladder, hit her a few times with a chair, and grab the briefcase. Storyline wise, that’s a smart heel using the match stipulations to her advantage to pickup a win. Reality wise, a woman is the one at the top of the ladder grabbing the briefcase, which is a mind boggling thing to have to be specific about in your inaugural women’s money in the bank match. I’m glad that Carmella still won, because that saves us from the ‘I’m the REAL money in the bank winner’ storyline between her and whoever else could’ve won last night, but this should’ve been the finish from the get go. Either way, congrats to Carmella, the first ever Ms. Money in the Bank.
Although there were rumors that Mauro Ranallo and WWE were going to part ways in August when his contract expires, it looks like he’ll be the voice of NXT going forward. Ranallo’s personal battles along with the bullying culture of WWE were an immediate bad fit, and coupled with the release of former ring announcer Justin Roberts’ book that put WWE on blast, it looked like Mauro and WWE weren’t meant to be. I’m extremely happy to see that they came to terms, and the NXT atmosphere might be exactly what Mauro needs. He’ll start tonight where NXT is taping at Full Sail for the next four shows or so, and his enthusiastic style is going to mix perfectly with the NXT brand. Mauro was scheduled to call the Floyd Mayweather/Conor McGregor mega fight in August for Showtime Sports, and I have to imagine he’s still in line to do that. Another bonus of working for NXT is the much lighter schedule with it being taped, especially for announcers. Mauro’s debut will most likely be on next Wednesday’s show.
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The SmackDown LIVE Women’s division is once again about to prove just how ground-breaking it can be. At WWE Money in the Bank, Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Natalya, Tamina and Carmella will compete in the first-ever Women’s Money in the Bank Ladder Match. – WWE
The Women’s Revolution has been an uneven ride so far. While there have certainly been highs (WrestleMania 32 triple threat) there have also been lows (Bayley’s ‘This is Your Life’ segment from RAW) and the storytelling has been inconsistent at best. There’s no doubt that these current crop of women are talented, but if the creative direction could catch up with their skill level they’d really have something special. While the Women’s division have main evented a pay per view and fought inside Hell in a Cell over the last year, the next logical step was a MITB ladder match.
I’m not overly excited to watch Tamina Snuka slowly climb a ladder, but there’s a ton of talent in this match that I’m hopeful are given some creative spots to steal the show. While Charlotte and Becky will be the favorites, this could be the best time to give Natalya her long overdue spotlight. She’s far and away the veteran of the Women’s division, and winning the first ever Women’s MITB match would be a great tip of the cap to her.
WWE has announced that the first-ever Mae Young Classic women’s tournament will take place Thursday, July 13, and Friday, July 14, from Full Sail Live in Orlando, Fla.
Tickets will go on sale this Friday at 10 a.m. ET via www.nxttickets.com.
The tournament, named after WWE Hall of Famer and one of the greatest WWE Superstars in history, Mae Young, will feature 32 of the top female competitors from around the world participating in a single-elimination tournament. The unprecedented event will stream later this summer exclusively on WWE Network.
“The Mae Young Classic will mark a significant moment in the evolution of WWE,” said Paul “Triple H” Levesque, WWE Executive Vice President, Talent, Live Events and Creative. “We are proud to provide this unique opportunity for the best female talent from around the world.”
Additional information on the Mae Young Classic will be announced in the coming weeks. – WWE.COM
There’s been rumblings for some time now regarding a WWE sponsored women’s tournament, and now we have an official name and dates. The Mae Young Classic, named after women’s wrestling pioneer Mae Young, will take place July 13 and 14 at Full Sail University (the home of NXT). The Cruiserweight Classic and UK Tournament that WWE put on over the past year were both excellent, so I’m excited to see which women from around the world WWE can get for this event. Tournament’s like this really open your eyes to all the great wrestling that is happening on a daily basis, and I’m sure I’ll fall in love with a few new faces like I did with Kota Ibushi, Cedric Alexander, Tyler Bate & Pete Dunne.
Modern day fans might only know Mae Young as the crazy old lady who gave birth to a hand and got power bombed through a table by the Dudleyz (which happened a day after her 77th birthday!) but she was wrestling as far back as the late 30’s. Mae Young had a match in the 1930s and the 2000s, which might be one of the craziest things I’ve ever typed. She’s a WWE Hall of Famer, and someone who’s name deserves to be attached to what should be a fantastic showcase for women’s wrestling.
The San Antonio Spurs got walloped by the Houston Rockets in game 1 of their series. The Spurs had a 10 point lead heading into halftime last night but that clearly wasn’t going to be enough to hold off a red hot Rockets team. Enter The World’s Strongest Man™ and a steel chair, and the next thing you know the Spurs win the game by 25 points. I’m not saying that Mark Henry attacking the Rockets mascot with a chair was the reason the Spurs won, but I’m also saying that that’s exactly why they won. I think we need to book Mark Henry on a flight to DC just in case the Celtics need some halftime inspiration this weekend.