WWE Raw presented “Great Balls of Fire” (an ace name for a PPV if you ask me), a show that was highlighted by one of Brock Lesnar’s rationed appearances in the main event as he defended his Universal Title against Samoa Joe. The match summed up what is good and bad about Lesnar in the WWE in 2017 in one neat package. The build up had been superb and Joe had looked a real threat (both Lesnar and Paul Heyman had done their best to put him over in the weeks leading up to the match) but WWE logic dictated that this would have to be a relatively quick match that Lesnar won. And that’s how it turned out. Joe did look strong throughout but whether the WWE have capitalised on this in the weeks and months since is open to question. It was a main event that I liked, but I can see why some wouldn’t.

    The undercard had some interesting match up’s. Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman continued their feud in an Ambulance Match. It was a hard-hitting, entertaining affair that showed an intense effort from both men. Of course nothing will change the minds of those who hate Reigns, but if you can’t see past the booking to appreciate his matches that is your problem. A Braun win but a protected finish/post-match for Reigns did the trick.

    As good, but in a completely different way, was the Women’s Title match between Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss. Unburdened by constant references to the “women’s revolution” this match was a good back and forth affair only let down by the (intentional) Count-Out finish which may have been a cowardly heel device to prolong this feud but even in the days of $9.99 doesn’t really belong on a PPV. It was interesting to compare this heat packed match with the Intercontinental match between The Miz and Dean Ambrose that followed it; for a supposed grudge feud there was very little heat and/or reaction for the most part to it.

    Much better was the 30 minute Iron Man match between Cesaro & Sheamus and The Hardy Boys for the Tag Team Titles. The deliberately slow pace in the early going may not have been to everyone’s taste but if you stuck with it the match paid you back in spades. The last ten minutes or so in particular were intense and packed full of sporting drama.

    Rounding off the undercard were a couple of non-title matches. Bray Wyatt and Seth Rollins was a disappointing; it never really got going and the whole set-up for the match had seemed very lazy too meaning there was little to get invested in. Enzo Amore against Big Cass wasn’t any better in terms of actual wrestling, but told the story it needed to and gave Cass his inevitable win without completely burying amore. Typing the words “Heath Slater and Curt Hawkins had a match” wastes more than enough time on describing that slice of card filling “action” so we’ll leave that there.

    The kickoff match between Neville and Akira Towaza is included; a spirited effort from both men, albeit one that struggles to get past the idea that the Cruiserweight division is worth anything when it only seems good enough in the bookers eyes to be a pre-show diversion.

    Could Smackdown match a very spirited Raw PPV with their own Battleground 2017 show? The answer would prove to be “hell no”.

    First of all regardless of your thoughts on the “Punjabi Prison” gimmick, putting Jinder Mahal in it makes sense from a “gimmick” point of view. Putting him in it for a near 30 minute match with Randy Orton and then having the Great Khali effectively win the match for him does not. You can bang on all you want about “a new name being given a shot” but Mahal is 2017’s version of JBL. He isn’t and never will be a credible World Champion.

    Still as bad as the main event was it may not even have been the worst match of the night; that “honour” may go to the Flag Match between John Cena and Rusev. On seconds thoughts, as this went around ten minutes less than the main event it might have been a little more palatable. Consdireing this was a comeback match of sorts for both men it was just awful. It had a passé gimmick that hadn’t really got any place in their “feud” and for that reason no-one seemed to care until the inevitable patriotic finish. Baffling booking didn’t do the participants any favours here.

    With the two biggest matches on the card delivering absolutely nothing the rest of the show would have had to have been brilliant to compensate. It wasn’t.

    Kevin Owens and AJ Styles had a decent match over the US Title but it never felt like anything other than a leisurely stop along the way to something more important in their feud. Still you can’t expect the WWE to just let two great wrestlers, you know, wrestle. The five way Women’s match felt more important in a way thanks to its stipulation but whilst fun in places, the usual cluster of quick-fire eliminations didn’t do anyone many favours.

    Shinsuke Nakamura against Baron Corbin was the mis-match of styles many may have worried about beforehand but did have it’s moments and whilst it was good to see Sami Zayn pick up a win on PPV, Mike Kanellis must have already been fearing the worst so soon after his debut. The only match that really excelled all night was the opener for the Smackdown Tag Team Ttiles as the New Day defeated The Uso’s in a fast-paced high octane battle that unfortunately was as good as it got for the show as a whole.

    The kickoff match between Tye Dillinger and Aiden English is on as a special feature. It’s nothing to write home about but is a solid enough “get the crowd going” match.

    So this is very much a release of two halves. Great Balls of Fire is a, well, great “B” / set up show that offers excitement, great matches and storyline progression. Battleground is less successful and the latter show’s best moments can’t outshine the sheer drivel that the “main” matches offer. Still, overall it just about sneaks into thumbs up territory for the Raw show alone.

    Photos courtesy: Fetch, Fremantle Media, WWE

    Format reviewed: DVD

    Thank you to our partners, and Fetch for providing our review copy of Great Balls of Fire / Battleground 2017 which is available on DVD in the UK from Tuesday 19 September. You can buy your copy from now by clicking here