WWE heads to Los Angeles, CA tonight as the build up to Great Balls of Fire continues. Last Monday, Braun Strowman returned to Raw and made it clear that he isn’t finished with Roman Reigns. The two will meet in an ambulance match at the pay per view in two weeks. Strowman is fresh off of elbow surgery but showed that he is still the monster among men by decimating Reigns after his match with Samoa Joe. Also, Brock Lesnar heads into Los Angeles this week. With Samoa Joe under the same roof as the Beast, will the two men need to be separated by security and other talent yet again? Last week also saw the end of the team of Enzo Amore and Big Cass. What will Enzo do now? Will he recruit Big Show to help him fight the battle? Will Goldust show R-Truth “the Golden Age” tonight?
Show Open, Live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA;
Then, now, forever. And Roman Reigns. And BOOOOOOOO! That’s how our show kicks off from LA. Cole told us we were live from the “jam packed Staples Center” in Los Angeles. He set up a recap of Reigns vs. Joe then the return of Braun Strowman from last week. After comments from Corey, Cole mentioned the Ambulance Match that Reigns and Strowman would have at the GBOF pay per view, and Booker called Reigns a stud.
“We want Strowman” chants are audible, and there was something else dueling with it that I couldn’t make out. Reigns waited for that, along with the boos. He said he would call it like it is, before getting cascaded with boos. He said Joe put the Clutch on him and put him to sleep. “When he was done, Braun Strowman returned. And while I was down he came out here like a coward and picked the bones.” He referred to the ambulance match and said he hadn’t ever been in one – “so I accept your challenge.”
He told Strowman that when he’s done he will throw Strowman in the ambulance, lock it up, and take him straight to hell. “Because this is my yard, and I make the rules.” An ambulance backed into the arena with sirens blaring to cut him off. Reigns stared at it, then started walking toward it. Some fans chanted for Strowman.
Reigns approached and looked in the back window before yanking the doors open. No one home. Strowman blindsided Reigns and threw him on the stage. Good lord. Reigns fought back and tried to set up the Superman Punch, but Strowman caught him and threw him into the side of the ambulance. Ouch. Strowman threw him in it and shut the doors. The ambulance left and Strowman headed to the ramp. He posed to some cheers and some boos.
A short and effective segment to set up the match with the two men. I don’t feel Reigns was over-exposed on the mic and Strowman was effective when he delivered his power moves. Definitely didn’t overstay its welcome and was well received by the live crowd.
Cole hyped Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe being under the same roof, and Finn Balor and The Hardys vs. Cesaro, Sheamus, and Elias Samson for next.
Back live, Cole recapped what we just saw between Reigns and Strowman, just in case you forgot. Cole said that Strowman did this in short order. Booker T said that Reigns got jumped and Reigns would be up for the battle in Dallas.
In the ring, Elias, Cesaro and Sheamus sat in a spotlight. Samson introduced himself and sad that under the bright lights he would form a trio tonight. The three prepared to sing a song but the Hardys thankfully cut that off. That probably wouldn’t have ended well.
Match #1 – The Hardys and Finn Balor vs. Cesaro, Sheamus, and Elias Samson;
Winner; The Hardys and Finn Balor
The Reax: Big welcome for the Hardys and for Finn. I don’t care what anyone says, Finn’s got a bad ass entrance. I had to take a phone call so I missed part of the discussion while Finn made his entrance. Early on, the Hardys took it to Sheamus, teaming up for Poetry in Motion. They hit Cesaro with a double suplex, then Finn went at Samson who escaped before a break.
AJ Styles and Natalya did an anti-smoking ad. Scripted, yes, but AJ Styles showed why he is so much better than his TNA days. Josh Dumel stopped by the announce position so they focused on him more than the match, which Finn was controlling until the heels took over on him. Sheamus hit his beats of the battern and Samson took a cheap shot. Sheamus and Cesaro double teamed Finn then turned it over to Samson. Finn sold for the heels.
Finn started fighting back but Sheamus blind-tagged in and got a two count. Finn avoided a charge and hot-tagged to Jeff, who opened a flurry on Sheamus and got a two count. Hardy called for the Twist of Fate, but Sheamus countered. Jeff went top rope but Cesaro saved Sheamus from the move. Jeff jumped on both men out on the floor instead. Samson grabbed Jeff’s leg which let Sheamus hit a big knee to the face for two. Commercial.
Back live, the heels were back in charge with Samson working on Jeff. The heels worked quick tags, with Sheamus getting a two off of a backbreaker. Cesaro tagged in and continued the offense. Cesaro threw a big boot at Finn then took a backdrop. Sheamus tagged in, but took a stunner – Cole fucked up and called it a Twist of Fate – from Jeff and he hot-tagged to Matt.
Matt fired up on offense on Samson, hitting a bulldog then the Side Effect for two. Sheamus broke the cover, then Cesaro ran him to the post. They teamed up for their finish, but Finn broke the cover. Hardy tagged to Finn, who went on a rally. Hard clothesline to send Cesaro and Sheamus to the floor then he hit a dive. Finn followed with the Slingblade and the shotgun drop kick, then went top rope.
Balor waited while the Hardys took out Sheamus and Samson at ringside. A bit of a contrived spot. Balor hit the Coup de Grace to score the victory. The Hardys and Finn celebrated while Cole thanked Josh for stopping by. They ran recaps.
A solid show-opening six man tag that took up a fair chunk of show time. The fans were into the match throughout and popped for the big moments. Interviewing Josh kind of took away from the focus of the match from the commentary position (as it always does) but wasn’t offensive. The finish felt a bit contrived as Balor seemed to be up on the ropes for forever before hitting the move, but that’s a minor complaint.
We got a Goldust promo where he called it “showtime” and said there’s something magical in the air. “Can you feel it? Can you taste it? Are you on the edge of your seats?” He said tonight “The Shattered Truth” hits Hollywood, and told Truth to not be nervous. He told Truth that even the biggest stars get stage fright but when the red light comes on they must perform. He promised to put the finishing touch on his masterpiece and said the Golden Age is back. Cole hyped that it would be Truth vs. Goldust, next.
Match #2 – Goldust vs. R-Truth;
Winner; No Contest
The Reax: Goldust has his own cameraman, and everyone’s in gold. No rapping for Truth – he headed straight to the ring with purpose. Goldust shielded himself with the cameraman, then Goldust used the distraction to hammer away on Truth. Booker called it a masterpiece. The bell hadn’t rung, so this really wasn’t a match. Goldust posed on the ropes.
More of an angle than anything else. I suppose we’ll see more of these two.
Charly talked to Paul Heyman. She said social media was on fire but Heyman cut her off. He said the Staples Center is on fire and Lesnar would call out Joe for a fight tonight. Joe jumped him from behind and teased locking in the Clutch, but didn’t. He told Heyman that it wasn’t meant for him, but for his client. “You look good.”
I’m liking the tone with Joe. They’re teasing him being able to lock his trademark submission on Lesnar – who is an MMA fighter and should be able to defend it for real – which is an interesting dynamic. Let’s see where it goes tonight.
They hyped Steph McMahon being named one of the most powerful women in sports. Um, wait, Vince always calls this “entertainment.” Cole hyped a gauntlet match to determine Alexa Bliss’ next contender for Great Balls of Fire (GBOF). They recapped how things got set up with chaos breaking out last week.
Kurt Angle is rolling the drum backstage to pick entry order for the gauntlet match. Bayley made the first pick and smiled. Out in the arena, it was time for Miz TV. He has the Ball family as his guests. Cole hyped Rocket League as the sponsor of GBOF.
He said that now he has exposed Dean Ambrose for the fool he is, he and Maryse are as happy as they’ve ever been. She’s still giving the cold shoulder. He said that he has an announcement, and hyped his guest as one who has been talked about as much as he has been over the past year. He welcomed LaVar and L’Amelo Ball to the ring. “Big Baller Brand in the house!” LaVar introduced his other son, Lonzo – he’s a new Los Angeles Laker after the NBA draft from last week.
Mixed reaction for this – the Ball family has gotten a bit of heat for being as vocal as they have been in the media, especially dad. Miz called it an honor to be in the ring with him and partnership with them. LaVar cut him off and said there’s no partnership and Miz is a “bit too low for them right now.”
Miz got indignant and said he’s a proven champion. They compared championships and trash talked back and forth. “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of them.” LaVar told his son to handle his business. This is terrible. Miz and LaVar stood down and Dean Ambrose’s music hit, and he’s got a BBB shirt on.
Ambrose said the Ball family wanted someone to represent their brand going into the Great Balls of Fire pay per view. “Plus I like free t-shirts.” Cole noted it would be Ambrose, Slater, and Rhyno vs. Miz, Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas next.
Ehhh….not a good segment if you ask me. LaVar was way too far over the top, and it overall just didn’t click with me.
We’re right into that six-man tag match.
Match #3 – Dean Ambrose, Heath Slater and Rhyno vs. The Miz (w/Maryse), Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel;
Winner: Miz, Dallas and Axel
The Reax; The faces controlled the early going, with Slater working the arm of Axel. They worked quick tags, with Rhyno knocking Axel down and continuing the assault. Axel got Rhyno into the heel corner and Miz started to work on Rhyno. Rhyno fired back with chops in the corner but Miz whipped him hard to the opposite corner. Rhyno continued to sell for the heel team.
Rhyno started a rally by firing out of the corner with a big clothesline on Axel. Tag to Ambrose, who fired off fast shots, then hitting a bulldog on Axel while clotheslining Miz. Ambrose set for Dirty Deeds, but Miz fought out. Slater and Rhyno threw Miz over the ropes onto Dallas and Axel going to a break.
Out of break, Axel was controlling Slater. Slater fired back with punches by Axel got him back down for two. The heels continued to control Slater. Miz hit his corner clothesline spot and looked at the crowd before hitting his “Yes!” kicks. Slater flapjacked Miz, who taunted Ambrose before turning into the move. Dallas cut off a possible tag and continued the offense. The heels continued the onslaught on Slater.
Slater hit a neckbreaker on Axel, then tried to tag out but Miz cut him off. Miz took a heel kick and Slater tagged to Rhyno, who went on a flurry of offense on Dallas. Dallas hit some headbutts but took a spinebuster. Ambrose started chasing Miz, and in the distraction Axel hit Rhyno, and Dallas rolled him up for the win.
Typical heel group win, which makes sense. I’m really hoping this helps move Dallas and Axel up the ranks a bit because they are talented guys that just haven’t been well utilized. I’m having a hard time with the Miz/Ambrose part of this, but they can pay it off at GBOF and move on from there. I just don’t know who that person is immediately.
Paul Heyman was pacing backstage waiting for Lesnar. Cole shifted gears to talk about the breakup of Enzo and Cass at the end of last week’s show. They did a video package to recount the story. With a laptop in front of me, I don’t get an appreciation for how some folks reacted to that whole segment and they showed some fan reaction and they were really invested. They showed Enzo backstage, and he would be up next.
Enzo Amore made his entrance to a pretty big reaction, and the fans did his gimmick with him. “So you wanna know how I’m doin’? I’m not doin’ too good.” He said this was about the realest guys in the room and talked about how he tried to reach out to Cass. He said he wanted to address this in private, but called Cass out to talk “man to man, right now.”
Cass made his way out, oddly enough to the same music. Figured WWE would come up with new music in a week’s time, but I guess not. Cass got heat, so there’s something to that. Enzo addressed the reaction and said he knows that the reaction hurts Cass because he knows Cass better than anyone. He said he bled out already and noted Cass said a lot of hurtful things.
Enzo admitted that Cass was right about a lot of them. He admitted to having a big mouth that had bit off more than he could chew, but they ate together. Enzo pleaded with him about being brothers and said Cass might have broken his heart and nearly broke his face but they’re brothers and he refused to give that bond up. Enzo pleaded with Cass about how they’re brothers in life and how when Cass hit the gas, he was there to ride shotgun.
Enzo said he had no time to dwell on the dead and wanted to focus on the future. Cass asked for the mic and took it without incident. He told Enzo that he doesn’t know when to shut up. He said he had never been so ashamed after what he did last week. He accepted Enzo for who he is, and said neither man would change the other. Cass apologized for what happened last week.
Cass offered a handshake and Enzo, off mic, said it was real. They shook hands and hugged. Cass said if anyone thought they would throw away all of this, then there’s only one word to describe them – SAWFT. The two celebrated and hugged and made their way to the stage where they posed. Cass hit him with a clothesline, which drew boos and chants – along with a few “do it again” chants. Cass picked Enzo up and tossed him down the ramp, then pie faced him and walked away to boos.
Yet again, a well done segment with these two. Cass had me buying in that he was willing to put it all behind him and repair the team, but yet there was that little bit of me waiting for the other shoe to drop – and there it was. I like this new side of Cass and I’m curious as to where he goes from here.
They hyped Sasha Banks being nominated for the Best Female Athlete, and talked about the gauntlet match. Big Cass showed up and threatened Graves and told him to stay out of his business. Seth Rollins made his way to the ring for the next match.
Match #4 – Seth Rollins vs. Curt Hawkins
Winner: Seth Rollins
The Reax: As Rollins made his way to the ring, they recapped the interaction between Wyatt and Rollins from last Monday’s show. Hawkins got the jobber entrance but did cut a promo. He asked who thought he would lose, and who thought he would win.
Hawkins got the early offense, working punches on Rollins. He hit a belly-to-back slam for two and kept up the pressure. At the ropes, Rollins hit an enzugiri then followed with a dive. Rollins fed Hawkins in and hit a Slingblade then a blockbuster. Rollins followed with a springboard clothesline and a low superkick. He hit his big knee to the face to win.
Rollins celebrated but Wyatt interrupted. He told Rollins that he took a leap of faith last week and it seems that Rollins thinks that mankind has forgiven him so that he thinks his soul is clean. He accused Rollins of carrying around a corporate flag and tells everyone to be like no one. “If you truly value your redemption, you would give in to your true self.” Wyatt claimed he would save Seth and told him to be honored he would be cleansed by the flame of a true god. Wyatt claimed he was inside Seth’s mind and he is everywhere. Wyatt said July 9 would be his day of reclamation and encouraged him to give in to his true self.
Looks like they’re going with Wyatt/Rollins at the pay per view. Wyatt is such a smooth presenter of the material he’s given. I really hope they find a way to make him look good in this feud and make make him matter. Right now, I can’t shake the feeling that he’s just going to job out to Rollins.
Backstage, Dana Brooke and Mickie James picked their slots for the gauntlet match, then they showed Lesnar arriving in the parking garage to a waiting Paul Heyman.
Out of break, Sasha Banks picked her slot for the gauntlet match. Obviously, she was happy with it.
Paul Heyman was in the ring and gave his introduction, saying he was the advocate for the beast that instills fear in everyone he conquers. He said there is an exception that defies the rule and that’s Samoa Joe. He said Joe doesn’t fear Lesnar, and stepped in the ring and pulled a cheap shot. He said if he were to start a fight in the locker room, he’d do a cheap shot too.
He recounted the second cheap shot that Joe landed, with a kick to the face. “One would think by now that Samoa Joe would have some fear in his heart for Brock Lesnar.” He said that it proves Joe is a Samoan dumbass. He said Joe isn’t burdened with intelligence, but everyone has a point where they start to fear. He told Joe that now is when Joe should fear Lesnar. Heyman introduced Lesnar to the ring to call Joe out to fight.
Lesnar made his entrance, but Joe cut him off and locked in the Coquina Clutch. Lesnar broke it twice by driving Joe to the LED board, but Joe went back to it a third time, driving Lesnar to a knee. The locker room ran out to break things up, and Joe yelled at Lesnar that “I did this to you!” and “You’ll go out!” Lesnar sold the hold on the stage, and staggered to a knee.
I liked that a lot. Joe came off looking like a total badass by being able to finally get his signature hold onto Lesnar, even if he didn’t completely take him out with it because the locker room came out to break things up. Overall, the build up to Lesnar vs. Joe has been coming off pretty well, regardless of what happens at GBOF.
They recapped the situation that just went down between Joe and Lesnar. The commentary team discussed what just happened then hyped the match for GBOF. Cruiserweight time!
Match #5 – Lince Dorado vs. Neville
The Reax: Akira Tozawa was watching on from an area called the Titus VIP Area. Tozawa stared at Neville as he made his entrance. Neville got the early advantage, putting his boot in Dorado’s face. Neville continued to control Dorado by running him into the corners. Dorado cut a move off and fought back with some strikes but Neville took him down with a headlock takedown.
Dorado fired off with strikes and hit a drop kick that sent Neville to the apron. Dorado followed with a dive through the ropes then hit a cross body for two. Neville started firing off strikes again, then locked in the Rings of Saturn to get the submission win. Neville and Tozawa stared at each other.
Neville dared Tozawa to get in the ring, and he did. Titus’ music hit and he made his way out. He asked why they’d fight for free when he just finalized a match for the pay per view. He announced that it would be Neville vs. Tozawa for the title and said that he’d see if the Neville Level has anything for the Power of Tozawa.
The match wasn’t special, but was a means to get to the pay per view announcement so I don’t really have an issue there. The match at the pay per view should be very good. I just am not a fan of Titus being a part of this – I’d like to see Tozawa get himself over and I believe he can.
Back live, we got a recap of the Roman Reigns segment from the open of the show, where Braun Strowman got the better of him. Cole said that Reigns escaped the ambulance and is looking for Strowman. Cole hyped the match at the GBOF event.
Paul Heyman was backstage and Charly asked for his reaction to what happened between Joe and Lesnar. Heyman said this proved his point about Joe being the Samoan everyone doesn’t want anything to do with because unlike other Samoans, Joe needed to jump Lesnar from behind. He admitted Lesnar could be in trouble if Joe gets the Clutch on him and there will be a new Universal Champion. Heyman said that it’s not going to be a simple trip to Suplex City, an F5, and good night. He said it would be a knock-down dirty fight that would end with Lesnar eventually taking Joe to Suplex City. He said Joe would wake up in the trainer’s room and say “goodness gracious great balls of fire!”
Nia Jax left Angle’s office and Alexa Bliss stopped her. She asked what number she got, then said they have more alike than they thought. Bliss said everyone thought she would fail and Jax knows how that feels. “It’s not easy being us and being judged.” Bliss said no one in the match can drag Jax down and wished her luck. Jax said she knows…”I don’t need it, and I’m going to see you and that women’s championship at Great Balls of Fire.”
Match #6 – Women’s Gauntlet Match to determine the new #1 Contender to Alexa Bliss;
Winner: Sasha Banks
The Reax: Bayley started the match against Nia Jax. Cole hyped the heat in Phoenix and said it would get hotter when Raw rolls in to town next week. Gauntlet rules here – two start, then once one is eliminated the next woman enters. After some jawing, Bayley delivered some shots. Nia delivered her own version of Snake Eyes then ran Bayley over with a clothesline.
Jax took over with slow striking offense. She delivered shoulder blocks then backed off and yapped at the official, which let Bayley recover enough to avoid a charge. Bayley hit a series of strikes in the ropes then a top rope elbow drop for two. She followed with kicks to Nia’s legs to weaken the leg. Jax pushed her off into the corner.
Bayley tried to go top rope but Jax cut her off and hit a Samoan Drop to send Bayley to the showers.
Mickie James’ music hit and she headed to the ring as the next opponent. Out of break, Jax controlled Mickie with a bear hug. I’d give Mickie a bear hug. Sorry, Magnus. Anyhow. Mickie tried for a sunset flip but Jax got the bear hug locked back in. Mickie threw punches to break the hold, then tried to baseball slide between her legs but no go. Mickie started throwing kicks to the legs again.
Mickie went top rope with a Thesz Press off the ropes for two. Mickie followed with the Mick Kick then tried for a DDT but Nia threw her off then bulldozed Mickie down for the elimination.
Mickie James eliminated.
Dana Brooke cartwheeled her way to the stage for the next opponent. Brooke tried the cartwheel spring into the corner but Jax shoved her off and hit a leg drop to send Brooke packing.
Dana Brooke eliminated.
Emma was up next. Graves said she’s impressive on Instagram. Emma slipped into the ring then back out, which let her drape Jax over the ropes. She hit a drop kick and got a quick cover for two. She tried a cross body, but Jax caught her and hit a Samoan Drop. Four in a row.
Sasha Banks was the last one out. She went right at Jax with slaps and a jawjacker. Banks called for her to bring it and pulled the ropes down so Jax crashed to ringside. Banks tried a dive but Jax caught her and teased a Samoan Drop on the floor. Banks escaped and shoved her into the post, then followed with a double knee drop going into commercial.
Back live, Jax controlled Sasha with a headlock. They showed Sasha getting run over during the break which put her in control of the match. Sasha fell to ringside and sold, then rolled in. Sasha started using quick strikes to try and get an advantage, hitting several double knee shots in the corner but Jax cut her off with a clothesline. Jax threw Sasha to ringside and demanded the official to count.
Sasha went at Jax after beating the count, but Jax clubbed her down and stomped on Sasha’s back. Jax slammed her and dropped an elbow for two, then violently threw her to ringside again. That looked ugly and not really all that safe, unless that’s how Sasha sold it.
Sasha draped Nia over the ropes and tried to fight back but Jax cut her off yet again. She used a chinlock through the ropes on Sasha and held it as long as she could without being DQ’d. Two count. Nia got frustrated and slammed Sasha to the mat several times, following with a leg drop to Sasha’s leg. Back to ringside again.
Sasha struggled back into the ring, only to get caught in a bear hug. Jax pinned her then powered her up to resume the bear hug. Out of the bear hug, Jax hit a suplex for a near fall. Sasha blocked a suplex then tried a roll-up. No go, but she rolled out of the way of a leg drop. She followed with a shining wizard.
Sasha came up with a Bank statement attempt in a standing position. Jax came back with a Samoan drop but Banks rolled to the apron. Nia yelled at her then tried to load the Samoan Drop again but Banks repositioned herself to lock in a modified version of the Banks Statement. Jax fell to her knees and she eventually tapped out. Banks sold the effects of the match as the commentary team put over the performance of Jax (rightfully so).
Kurt Angle made his way out to a chorus of “you suck” chants that made him smile. Angle talked to Sasha then raised her hand. Alexa Bliss then made her way out to the ring and held the title up in her face. Sasha drop kicked her from the ring and held the title up. The two women jawed at each other as the show ended.
A solid performance out of Nia Jax, which made her look really strong here. She was far from perfect but she came off looking pretty dominant here. I would stop short of calling it a career-defining performance, but it was a very sound one. I went into this feeling like it would be Banks getting the win given the interactions with Bliss last week, and that’s what we got.
I think Bliss vs. Banks should be a good match. I will be interested to see how much heat they can get on it with only the go-home show in Phoenix yet to go before the pay per view.
All in all a decent Raw that seemed to go by quickly. It feels like they’re finally heating up the pay per view stories. I liked the Roman Reigns/Braun Strowman interaction and felt it was effective, and the build to Joe vs. Lesnar seems to still be on track and making Joe look like a real threat. The Enzo/Cass stuff was well done on this show and while there’s no clear payoff direction at this point, I’m willing to ride it out to see how it ends.
Next week’s the go-home show for Great Balls of Fire, so I expect we’ll get the card fully fleshed out and see some good final hype for all of the matches. We’ll see how that pans out. In the meantime, Drew Koscelek will be by tomorrow with Smackdown Live, 205Live, and Around the Ring to talk all things wrestling. I’ll join him on Wednesday for Ring Rap Audio. Don’t forget to send us your Favorite thing in Wrestling using the hashtag #FTIW on Twitter. See you then.