Historically, July has been an uneven month for WWE on Pay-Per-View. We’ve had classics like Canadian Stampede 1997 and Money in the Bank 2011, but we’ve also had duds like The Great American Bash 2005 and Battleground 2014. And the level of quality for this latest “Double Feature: Great Balls of Fire & Battleground 2017” DVD seems to reflect that, with one show being very good, and the other show being a contender for Worst PPV of 2017!
One is a RAW-exclusive with Brock Lesnar defending his Universal Championship, and the other is a SmackDown-exclusive with Jinder Mahal defending the WWE Title. You can probably already guess which card was better than the other, but this review will go into more detail, match-by-match.
Before we start, I should mention that for some reason, unlike in the previous “Double Feature” sets, the Kickoff Show matches aren’t here. There are no extras with this one, so you’ll need to go to the WWE Network if you want to see Neville vs. Akira Tozawa or Aiden English vs. Tye Dillinger. And as WrestlingDVDNetwork.com previously revealed, the GBOF disc also lacks the Jerry Lee Lewis song Great Balls of Fire as its theme, which pretty much removes the whole point of the supershow having that particular name. Hopefully, the same won’t happen in 2018 if that moniker remains (unless WWE changes it to Heartbreak Hotel or another mid-20th century song).
The hullaballoo surrounding the name of this show overshadowed the fact that the card looked really promising for a single-brand PPV event. A dream match main event, the latest chapter in the year’s hottest feud and several potentially exciting mid-card bouts suggested that this could be truly memorable. On the night, the show mostly lived up to expectations with a spectacular angle thrown in for good measure. It wasn’t flawless as I shall explain, but Great Balls of Fire was definitely a worthwhile PPV.
Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt
As an opening match for a PPV, this was okay. But the feud felt somewhat thrown-together, and their rivalry was essentially killed off after their RAW rematch the following night, making the whole thing a bit pointless. The action is fine and the right man has his hand raised (Bray), but don’t expect anything more from this.
Enzo Amore vs. Big Cass
This serves its purpose of giving the recently-turned Cass a decisive win in his first PPV singles match. Enzo doesn’t get a great deal of offence in here, which suggests that his fortunes as a singles performer beyond the cruiserweight division may not be so great, but Cass should have a very bright future ahead of him once he recovers from his torn ACL injury in 2018.
RAW Tag Team Championship 30-Minute Iron Man Match
Cesaro & Sheamus (C) vs. The Hardy Boyz
I really enjoyed this match, and the feud as a whole for that matter. For the most part, it’s nothing spectacular; just logical, believable tag team wrestling which peaks in the closing minutes. Though it uses a familiar formula, the frantic finish is as dramatic as any that you will see on a WWE PPV this year. The 30-minute length may put some people off, but if you do give this a chance, you will be rewarded with some top-notch action.
RAW Women’s Championship Match
Alexa Bliss (C) vs. Sasha Banks
Providing a respite from the Alexa vs. Bayley series, Alexa vs. Sasha is a good effort by both ladies, though it comes with a lame finish of Alexa deliberately being counted out (which is a mirror image of what The Usos did against The New Day at Money in the Bank three weeks earlier). Admittedly, this marked the first chapter of their rivalry, but with a few more minutes and a better finish, this could have been something special.
Intercontinental Championship Match
The Miz (C) vs. Dean Ambrose
This feels rushed, at least compared to their lengthy clash at Extreme Rules. The interference of The Miztourage gives Ambrose an excuse as he loses to Miz again, but the match itself doesn’t have much heat, partly because the feud had been going for so long by this point (an original one-month spat on SmackDown was revived when both men came to RAW in April). Not a must-see match whatsoever.
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
In contrast, this Ambulance match is one of the most memorable PPV bouts of the entire year. The action is fast and furious, both men take big bumps, and the finish is creative, with Roman essentially sending himself into the ambulance with a Spear. The big talking point, though, is the chaotic post-match angle where Reigns backs the ambulance, with Strowman inside, into one of the 18-wheeler trucks backstage.
Heath Slater vs. Curt Hawkins
You’d be better off locating fan footage of this match on YouTube because, for most of this match (including the finish), we’re instead shown backstage footage of Kurt Angle leading the rescue operation to help free Strowman from his, erm, predicament. Braun walking away under his own power makes for a great visual, though with no official turns for either man being confirmed in the aftermath, and with Strowman returning on July 17 (and the angle not being acknowledged since then), the fall-out ultimately dragged down what was a shocking angle (by 2017 standards, anyway).
Universal Championship Match
Brock Lesnar (C) vs. Samoa Joe
If this had gone another 5-10 minutes, this might have been the Match of the Year. But it’s still a gripping, physical battle between two of the most dangerous wrestlers in the company. The big reason why this match works so well is because, throughout the build-up and on the night, Joe was booked to be Lesnar’s equal; a ruthless competitor who did not show fear when being faced with The Beast. It worked so well that many were expecting a title change here, but Joe wasn’t harmed whatsoever in losing to the F5, and despite injury recently slowing him down, Joe is likely to remain in the main event scene on RAW for a good while yet.
Battleground 2017 was one of the greatest WWE PPVs I have ever seen. Every match was excellent or better, the booking was first-class and… okay, I’ll stop being sarcastic now.
Battleground did boast a hot opener, and it marked John Cena’s first PPV appearance since WrestleMania 33. Otherwise, the show had little redeeming value, with the matches mostly proving to be predictably mediocre or very disappointing.
SmackDown Tag Team Championship Match
The Usos (C) vs. The New Day
Though The Usos have been one of WWE’s top teams since 2013/4, and The New Day enjoyed great popularity during their record-breaking run as RAW Tag Team Champions, it isn’t an exaggeration to say that this rivalry has been the in-ring highlight of both team’s careers. This is one hell of a doubles match which has the Philadelphia crowd on its feet, and it ultimately proved to be the match of the night (not that this was a major accomplishment under the circumstances).
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Baron Corbin
This is the first low point of the show. Nakamura, for whatever reason, has only truly shone in the ring on a couple of occasions since coming to the main roster, and Corbin is far from the finished article at this point. Add to that a pretty poor finish (a disqualification caused by a low blow) and an underwhelming post-match attack on Nakamura, and you end up with a match which many are likely to skip through when watching this DVD.
Winner Faces Naomi For The SmackDown Women’s Championship At SummerSlam
Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Lana vs. Tamina
This Fatal-Five-Way is a solid match. The big issue here is that it was the fourth consecutive multi-woman clash involving the SmackDown females on PPV, making this feel like incredibly lazy booking. A better option would have been to hold this on television, have the same result (Natalya winning) and then present the Naomi vs. Natalya title match here instead of at SummerSlam (since Naomi doesn’t wrestle on this card at all).
United States Championship Match
AJ Styles (C) vs. Kevin Owens
AJ vs. KO could have been the in-ring feud of the year, akin to past rivalries such as Chris Jericho vs. Rey Mysterio or Rey vs. CM Punk which stole the show on spring and summer PPVs. But despite previous great matches in 2016, Styles vs. Owens didn’t quite measure up to expectations this year, which is unusual considering the talent of both men. Here, their series hits rock bottom, with the match ending abruptly and with a finish which Jericho, coincidentally, has since revealed to have been a botch, hence AJ reclaiming the title two days later.
John Cena vs. Rusev
Unlike some, I didn’t mind the Flag match stipulation. The problem to me was that Cena vs. Rusev was done to death in 2015, and with Cena’s character being tweaked to include some killer shoot-style promos in early 2017, it was disappointing to see him revert to the bland patriotic persona for this match (or at least for its stipulation). Plus, the outcome is entirely predictable. Overall, it’s a fairly enjoyable match, but it just feels like a second-rate presentation; fans expect more from major PPV encounters in 2017.
Sami Zayn vs. Mike Kanellis
There isn’t much to say about this bout: it’s a filler match prior to the main event, with Sami surprisingly handing Kanellis a defeat in his first big match since joining WWE. I would try to go into this match in more detail, but again I’m not sure what to say, so let’s move on.
WWE Championship Punjabi Prison Match
Jinder Mahal (C) vs. Randy Orton
I was going to say that booking the average-at-best Jinder against the slow, occasionally-unmotivated Orton for nearly 30 minutes inside a structure which included poor sight-lines for fans in the arena, in Philadelphia of all places, was a bad idea in hindsight. But truthfully, everyone predicted beforehand that it would suck. Watching this again, the big problem to me was not so much the two bamboo cages reducing one’s vision of the match, but the four one-minute periods of struggling/stalling to try and escape whenever a trap door was open. There has to be a few minutes of action between each of these to build tension, hence why Punjabi Prison matches drag out so much.
It’s no coincidence that the match heats up once both wrestlers are between the inner and outer structures, and The Singh Brothers take some brutal punishment, as usual. The Great Khali’s appearance at the finish is unexpected, but WWE not acknowledging this on television since makes Khali’s cameo pointless and damaging to Orton; those who didn’t watch this PPV were left to assume that Jinder beat Orton cleanly in their feud-ending collision. The booking of this match pretty much sums up the PPV as a whole, to be honest. At least WWE got to use the expensive-to-build Punjabi Prison cage again, though.
When writing DVD reviews, I hate to be repetitive. Yet this is the third consecutive “Double Feature” set where the RAW card is greatly superior to the SmackDown show, and the divide in quality is bigger than ever here. Admittedly, Great Balls of Fire benefits from Lesnar-Joe, a chaotic Roman-Braun bout/angle and other good matches, but on paper, Battleground did feature several stipulation bouts (Punjabi Prison, Flag), a couple of potentially great matches (Usos-New Day, AJ-KO) and John Cena’s PPV comeback. Yet it still underwhelmed, with the booking playing a key role in that. It doesn’t look like things will change when we come round to reviewing No Mercy and Hell in a Cell, with No Mercy set to feature Lesnar vs. Strowman and Cena vs. Reigns, whilst HIAC will be another PPV focused on Jinder’s reign as WWE Champion.
So, similar to previous “Double Feature” DVDs this year, I would suggest primarily buying this one for the RAW side, that being Great Balls of Fire, and then simply watching The Usos vs. The New Day opener from Battleground (unless you were a big Great Khali fan back in the late 2000s and you want to see his return appearance). In summary, Great Balls of Fire 2017 is one of the better WWE PPVs this year, whereas Battleground 2017 is likely to go down as one of the year’s worst.
What do you think? Do these 2 WWE PPVs make a “Double Feature” worth adding to your collection? Let us know by leaving a comment below!
Get WWE’s new GREAT BALLS OF FIRE & BATTLEGROUND 2017 DVD…
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