Monday Night Raw emanated from Phoenix Arizona and featured the final build towards the Great Balls of Fire PPV. Enzo Amore produced arguably the best work of his career, the Miz defended his Intercontinental Championship, Samoa Joe & Brock Lesnar had their final showdown before their blockbuster clash, and Braun Strowman issued a challenge to anyone in the locker room.
Enzo Amore starts the show and gives what is easily his best promo of his career on Big Cass. He ran down Cass in every way, it had the sense of realism that’s needed for a blood feud like this. He was sharp, furious and incredibly passionate. Enzo Amore vs Big Cass has been made official for Great Balls of Fire. Big Cass gives a quick response in an interview backstage but is jumped by Enzo. This was absolutely perfect, despite the fact he probably has no hope of winning at Great Balls of Fire this was phenomenal work by Enzo, easily the best work of his career. For someone who previously had been sick to death of Enzo, this segment was enough to have me completely behind Enzo going into the PPV.
A battle of the best friends sees Alexa Bliss & Nia Jax take on Sasha Banks & Bayley. Nia Jax takes out Bayley early on making it essentially a two-on-one handicap match. Despite this Sasha Banks is able to knock Nia Jax off the apron and quickly lock in the Bank Statement forcing the Raw Women’s Champion to tap out. A good way to make Sasha look strong going into Great Balls of Fire after definitely being the second most important in that Gauntlet Match last week. Makes Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss look a bit silly but last week and hopefully Great Balls of Fire can redeem that easily.
A nice video package hyping Brock Lesnar vs Samoa Joe is shown. It does an excellent job of making Samoa Joe look like a legitimate killer while showing Lesnar as the beast who isn’t bothered by Samoa Joe. Neither man fears the other, this is going to be something special at Great Balls of Fire.
Cedric Alexander defeats Noam Dar who was accompanied by the returning Alicia Fox. This was a very quick match, as the go home show to Great Balls of Fire & Neville’s match with Tozawa perhaps this is the end of the feud, allowing Alexander to build momentum towards maybe a Summerslam match with Neville for the title.
The Miz absolutely trashes LaVar Ball, Lonzo Ball and the whole Ball family. He says that Lonzo Ball will be the biggest bust in NBA History and then trashes Steve Nash (in Phoenix). Miz quickly turns his attention to Dean Ambrose and says that Ambrose has never lived up to his potential. Having heard enough Dean Ambrose comes out and challenges the Miz for his rematch to the Intercontinental Championship right now. Heath Slater comes out and says he was the one to beat the Miz and so he should have a shot at the Intercontinental Championship. If Slater can pick back up the whole ‘I got kids’ thing as he indicated at, that’d be fantastic. Kurt Angle comes out and announces that at Great Balls of Fire Miz will defend against Dean Ambrose, but right now Miz will defend against Heath Slater. The Miz has to be one of the very best in the world on the microphone right now.
The Miz retains his title against Heath Slater. Dean Ambrose was absolutely hilarious on commentary, making fun of the name Great Balls of Fire and along with Corey Graves making fun of Jeff Horn’s victory over Manny Pacquiao. After the match the Miz, Axel and Dallas all beat down Ambrose. This is a great spot for Curtis Axel and Bo Dallas, Miz is the perfect guy to bring them back into relevancy. Always good to see the Intercontinental Championship defended on Raw, being the workhorse title it should be.
Titus O’Neil backstage tries to convince Apollo Crews to challenge Braun Strowman after Strowman earlier demanded competition from General Manager Kurt Angle.
Goldust presents his film The Shattered Truth but is jumped by R-Truth who gets the upper hand and stands tall. A nice advancement of the story here. Hopefully this match happens on the main card of Great Balls of Fire as it surely won’t make Summerslam’s main card, and deserves more than the pre-show.
Backstage Kurt Angle is approached by Cesaro & Sheamus and announces that at Great Balls of Fire they will defend their titles against The Hardy Boys in a 30 minute Iron Man Match. The match should be fantastic as always but surely this feud is approaching an end, however with the breakup of the Golden Truth and Enzo & Cass the Raw Tag Team Division is running a bit thin at the moment
Seth Rollins quickly squashes Curt Hawkins once again. He then gives a quick promo on Bray Wyatt. This feud really has not taken off the way many hoped it would, and is nowhere near its full potential. The whole thing has been quite disappointing really, hopefully it continues after Great Balls of Fire and really kicks into overdrive. Later in the show Bray Wyatt gives another video package promo, talking about his match with Rollins at Great Balls of Fire.
Samoa Joe and Brock Lesnar give a sit-down interview with Michael Cole as the moderator. This quickly turns into Joe firing verbal shots at Lesnar. Lesnar actually spoke quite well in this in his own unique way. Joe eventually goes looking for Lesnar through the building before finding him, but Joe is quickly pulled away by security. This was intense and brilliant. Brock Lesnar still seems like the monster that he is, but Samoa Joe has made it very clear that he wants Lesnar and has absolutely no fear of Brock. Even if Joe inevitably loses, he is going to come out of this looking like the biggest superstar in the world. I don’t think a loss for Joe will hurt him at all given this build. It would be incredible to see Joe win though, he would make a perfect Universal Champion, and Brock seeking redemption at Summerslam would be great.
After a reasonably competitive start, Neville destroys Mustafa Ali to build momentum towards his match at Great Balls of Fire against Akira Tozawa. Shame it had to be Mustafa Ali handed this loss however, he is well into a feud with Drew Gulak and is one of the very best in the Cruiserweight Division, he definitely doesn’t need the loss and surely there was someone else who could have taken the loss here. A full Mustafa Ali vs Neville title feud is still money to me.
Finn Balor defeats Cesaro in what on paper should be a dream match to many. While it definitely was far from the best these two can produce, this finished chaotic and was awesome. The Hardy’s were on commentary but found themselves getting involved once Elias Samson distracted and took out Balor. All hell broke loose but Balor & the Hardy Boys stood tall. This was a clever way to advance both the Hardy’s vs Cesaro & Sheamus as well as the Elias Samson vs Finn Balor feuds.
Braun Strowman says at Great Balls of Fire Roman Reigns is leaving in the back of an ambulance just like last week. Titus brings out Apollo Crews to challenge Braun Strowman. The Titus Brand should be kept as far away from Braun Strowman as possible. This is not the way to make the Titus Brand feel important; nothing good can really come from it. In saying that Apollo Crews was impressive and it’s fantastic and well overdue seeing him in the main event. Of course Strowman dominates, toying with Crews. It makes Braun look as unstoppable as ever, but where the Titus Brand or Apollo Crews goes from here I have no idea. Hopefully this leads to Apollo leaving the Titus Brand for putting him in that situation, leading to a feud between the two. As Braun takes his victim up towards the ambulance Roman Reigns appears and spars Braun off the stage in an incredible spot to end the show.
Great Balls of Fire is absolutely stacked! Despite the ridiculous name this has shaped up to be one of the most hyped and anticipated PPVs of the year.