Posted July 8th, 2017 by 1Wrestling News Team

By Don Murphy

Goodness Gracious! Sorry, but I think when you have a pay-per-view event called “Great Balls of Fire,” this is the only acceptable way to open this column. Despite the questionable judgement in naming this show, Sunday night’s Raw brand event, emanating from the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, is newsworthy from several standpoints. It’s the first in-ring appearance of WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar since winning the title at WrestleMania. I also believe it’s the first time Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe have ever faced each other, and it is certainly Samoa Joe’s first Universal Championship opportunity since joining the Raw roster. I’m interested to see how Enzo Amore and Big Cass are presented in their first one-on-one encounter since the two parted company. Each managed to cover their partner’s weaknesses, in a way, so it will be interesting to see how they match up as opponents. Finally, we’ll see the first-ever thirty-minute Iron Man match when the Hardy Boys meet Sheamus and Cesaro for the Raw Tag Team Championship. For those of you who are historians, WWE has presented “Iron Man” tag team matches before, but this is the first time one has been scheduled for thirty minutes. And, as both teams have matched up very well together over the past several months, this has the potential to be a standout match on the show. So, we’ll see a lot of firsts, in addition to the continuation of some ongoing feuds, which will likely result in a solid night of WWE action. Let’s run down the card….

Main Event/WWE Universal Championship Match: Brock Lesnar defends the WWE Universal Championship against Samoa Joe

Analysis: The creative team has an interesting challenge on their hands. Prior to WrestleMania, Brock Lesnar’s position as an unstoppable beast was put into question during his program with Goldberg. As this is his first match post-Mania, with a rumored plan to of a high-profile showdown with Roman Reigns at next year’s WrestleMania in New Orleans, Brock should come out of this match looking strong. On the other side, as Brock is a part-time attraction, the Raw brand needs credible, main-event level performers, particularly heels, as they’re the ones that are on the road at live events and on weekly television shows most of the year. So, Lesnar squashing Joe wouldn’t help the main event picture either. Ultimately, I think we’ll see Brock retain the title in a highly competitive match, so that Joe can keep some credibility in the loss. There will be several submission spots, suplexes and a stiffer style than we’re used to seeing in WWE matches, which is OK when done properly. It will also be interesting to see who the crowd gravitates toward. Technically, both are heels, but at different times during the buildup to this match, they’ve traded roles, so I’m curious to see where the crowd lands, in terms of rooting interests.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Brock Lesnar retains the WWE Universal Championship

Ambulance Match: Roman Reigns meets Braun Strowman

Analysis: When Braun Strowman was sidelined with an injury in May, I was concerned that the creative team would have a difficult time inserting him back into the main event mix with the same momentum he had pre-injury. I was also worried, given that Reigns and Strowman have feuded for the better part of the year, that this match wouldn’t seem fresh. My fears have been alleviated in the buildup to this match, as Strowman hasn’t missed a beat and the addition of the ambulance was a logical stipulation to keep this feud fresh. I’m intrigued to see how this plays out with SummerSlam on the horizon. Reigns continues to be WWE’s top attraction, but, prior to the injury, Strowman was slated to face Lesnar for the Universal Championship. They could book Strowman-Lesnar for SummerSlam, but that would require Strowman going over Reigns or losing on some technicality where he doesn’t lose any heat. Reigns going over puts him in line as the logical next contender for Lesnar, but I believe they are saving that match for WrestleMania. While this is a toss-up, in the end, I think we’ll see Strowman taking the ambulance ride, but will do so in a way where he’s protected in the loss. Then, if the plan is Brock-Braun for SummerSlam, I’ll be interested to see how the build to the match plays out over the next several weeks. I’ll also be curious to see where Reigns ends up on the SummerSlam card.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Roman Reigns defeats Braun Strowman

WWE Intercontinental Championship Match: The Miz defends the WWE Intercontinental Championship against Dean Ambrose

Analysis: This is another match where I was concerned that the creative team would have a challenge keeping things fresh. You have to remember, Miz and Ambrose feuded on Smackdown for several months before beginning this long program on Raw. I do like that this program has resulted in the attempted elevation of Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel and I do expect that they will play a role in Miz retaining here. In terms of the match, I’m sure it will be fine, though I’m not sure if they can present anything that we haven’t already seen in their past matches. I suppose an added point of interest will be the potential that the recent storyline issues between Miz and Maryse re-surface, though it seems that they’ve been moving away from that over the last couple of weeks. I’m not sure where Ambrose goes after this program ends, while Finn Balor would seem to be the logical next contender for Miz, possibly at SummerSlam.

“The Predictor” Predicts: The Miz retains the WWE Intercontinental Championship

Singles Match: Seth Rollins meets Bray Wyatt

Analysis: I’m not sure how I feel about this match. It’s interesting – three years ago, both were in factions, on opposing sides, having fantastic matches. Now, they’re both talented and they’re both capable of a main event-level match. But, I’m not sure what the story is that they’re trying to tell, as Seth hasn’t been the white hot babyface the Raw brand was hoping for when he returned, and Bray is just, well, Bray. His promos are generally the same from program to program and the character really hasn’t evolved in a way where the audience is left wanting more. Don’t get me wrong – this will be a good match, but I don’t know how it fits into the big picture. There’s really nothing for either of them to move on to, so I think this is only the first chapter, with Wyatt going over. Perhaps, this is the beginning of a Shield reunion, along with the re-emergence of a new Wyatt family. I’m not sure how you get there, but with both of their histories in factions, it’s something to think about. There was also a hint of a Wyatt-Balor feud, but those plans look to have been scrapped for the time being. This is another match where I’m interested to see how things play out.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Bray Wyatt defeats Seth Rollins

WWE Raw Women’s Championship Match: Alexa Bliss defends the WWE Raw Women’s Championship against Sasha Banks

Analysis: Alexa Bliss remains one of my favorite female performers, but she’s been spinning her wheels since her program with Bayley ended. She and Banks should be able to put together a solid effort, with Bliss holding on the title in the end. This is another situation where I’m not sure how the result of this match will impact the bigger picture in the months ahead. I think the plan is to still have Bliss face Nia Jax at SummerSlam, with Sasha eventually turning heel to face Bayley. I could see a scenario where both Jax and Bayley get involved in this match, with Jax interfering on Bliss’ behalf to keep her promised title shot secure and Bayley making the save, only to cost Banks the match and title on a miscue, leading to the beginnings of a rift between the two. Eventually, I think Sasha has the potential to be a top heel champion, representing Raw, but there’s a lot of confusing and poor booking decisions that have to be addressed and in some cases, undone, before we get to that point.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Alexa Bliss retains the WWE Raw Women’s Championship

WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match: Sheamus and Cesaro defend the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship against The Hardy Boys

*This match will be contested as a thirty-minute Iron Man Match. The team with the most falls at the end of the time limit will be the winners*

Analysis: As I mentioned in the introduction, this could be one of the best matches of the night. These four work really well together and, surprisingly, Sheamus and Cesaro have gelled together quite nicely as a tag team. Aside from the Revival, I don’t see any major tag teams poised to enter the title picture, so I see Sheamus and Cesaro retaining the titles, with the match potentially ending in a tie, to continue to the program, with the final chapter of the feud at SummerSlam. After that, it’s anyone’s guess as to what direction the tag team division takes, as the roster is really thin on credible teams. There may be the opportunity for a team to move over from Smackdown, but I’m not sure we’d see any more roster shifts, after the last major one in April.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Sheamus and Cesaro retain the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship

Singles Match: Enzo Amore meets Big Cass

Analysis: As a tag team, each managed to cover the other’s weaknesses. Enzo could provide the entertainment, where Cass was a bit flat, and Cass could outperform Enzo in the ring. I think the split was needed, particularly to see if Cass could fare better on the heel side. Raw is known for having monster heels, so I am hoping Cass doesn’t get lost in the mix. For Enzo, I’m not sure where he fits on the show, other than a lower card comedy figure. He might make a good mouthpiece for someone, but it doesn’t appear that the WWE sees the value of managers. I don’t think this is a “one and done” match. I see Enzo getting a fluke win here to continue the program. I also see him getting beat down after the match so that Cass is somewhat protected.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Enzo Amore defeats Big Cass

Pre-Show/WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match: Neville defends the WWE Cruiserweight Championship against Akira Tozawa

Analysis: It’s a shame that this match has been relegated to the pre-show, but with the poor booking and storytelling that is “205 Live” and the Cruiserweight division in general, it’s not surprising. Without all the fluff, this could have been a marquee match-up. On the plus side, I am one of the few that appreciate the involvement of Titus O’Neil for what it is. It’s not the best storyline, but it’s something and at least it makes this appear slightly more than a throw-away pre-show match. Given the poor build for Tozawa’s character, I don’t think it makes sense for Neville to drop the title to him here. They could certainly find a way to continue the program or move on to someone else. I had the chance to see Neville face Cedric Alexander this past Friday night at Madison Square Garden. They had a short, but fun match, which could be a sign for things to come in the Cruiserweight division.

“The Predictor” Predicts: Neville retains the WWE Cruiserweight Championship
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Category: Wrestling.

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