Great Balls of Fire, despite its silly name, is shaping up to be one of the best events of 2017 in the WWE. Sunday's eight-match card doesn't feature a single weak match, and promises to set the stage for a lot of what SummerSlam will ultimately become.
With five titles on the line, including the first Universal title defense since WrestleMania, there's a lot to ingest -- but we've got you covered. With some help from ESPN Stats & Info's Sean Coyle, we've got everything you need to know heading into Great Balls of Fire.
(c) - indicates defending champion
Universal championship: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Samoa Joe
After Seth Rollins got injured at the hands of Samoa Joe during the latter's Raw debut, Joe meandered somewhat. He didn't appear at all at WrestleMania, but even as he looked to establish who he was and what he was going to accomplish on the main roster, Joe managed to pick up big wins over almost every heavy hitter on the Raw roster. He beat Roman Reigns, Chris Jericho, Sami Zayn, Cesaro, Bray Wyatt and Finn Balor, before ultimately winning the Fatal 5-Way match at Extreme Rules to become No. 1 contender.
If anyone was expecting Joe to slow down once he faced off with Brock Lesnar, they'd be sorely mistaken. After beating Rollins, and Reigns (for the second time), Joe choked out both Lesnar and Paul Heyman in recent weeks. He even charged head-first at Lesnar and had to be held back by a crowd of security and staff, as Lesnar grinned a knowing smirk.
With Reigns awaiting the winner, and this being Lesnar's first title defense since defeating Goldberg three months ago, most would point his direction as the clear winner. But the speed with which WWE fans have connected with and gotten behind Joe leaves at least a moment of pause. Even if he walks away with an L at Great Balls of Fire, Joe has firmly established himself as a top-level talent in recent weeks -- and this clash of titans should be a wonderfully entertaining encounter.
Key stat: Great Balls of Fire will be Lesnar's first title defense since he won the Universal Championship at WrestleMania 33. The 98 days between title matches is the longest in the short history of the Universal championship, and the longest drought between title defenses for any world champion since Lesnar went 126 days between WWE championship defenses in 2014-15.
Ambulance match: Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns
When Braun Strowman was laid out with a devastating injury a few months ago, and WWE projected a six-month layoff, few could have realized that Strowman and Reigns would be clashing again in such short order. But Strowman's return, in the back of an ambulance no less, was one of the best surprises of 2017 so far. If we're making a list of superstars who have taken most advantage of the opportunities given to them since the 2016 WWE draft, Strowman is top three, no question about it.
As fun as this matchup has been, it certainly seems to be building towards its end at Great Balls of Fire. With Reigns unilaterally declaring himself the No. 1 contender for the Universal championship heading into SummerSlam, this ambulance match could, for the time being, mean Strowman has to be finished with Reigns. This twist on a last-man-standing match should provide plenty of opportunities for moments akin to Strowman throwing Reigns head-first into the side of an ambulance, and each has shown a proclivity to go all-out in their conflicts.
Logic would point toward Reigns getting the big win going into his return to the title picture, but win or loss, Strowman is absolutely going to get his licks in.
Key stat: This will be the fifth one-on-one match between Reigns and Strowman. Reigns won the first two matches, the third was a no-contest, and Strowman won their most recent encounter at Payback, in April.
Raw women's championship: Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Sasha Banks
The build for this match was short, but sweet, and every note has rung true to this point. The gauntlet match that Sasha Banks won served as a showcase for both her and Nia Jax, and there has to be a sneaking suspicion that Jax will insert herself into this equation again Sunday night. Banks picking up the submission finish on Alexa Bliss despite being a partner down (after Bayley got taken out) is a nice touch, but unless Jax has a change of heart, it seems to make sense for Bliss to walk away with the win. After so many matches against larger competitors, the Bliss-Banks showdown pits each against a more similarly-sized opponent than usual, which should make for an interesting dynamic.
The trio of Bliss, Banks and Jax could easily make sense for a SummerSlam match going forward.
Key stat: Banks is 0-6 all-time in WWE pay-per-view championship matches -- the third-worst mark behind only Test (0-11) and Jacqueline (0-8).
Intercontinental championship: The Miz (c) vs. Dean Ambrose
Even with as enthusiastic as I've been of The Miz and his work with the Intercontinental championship over the last year-plus, it's time to move this rivalry away from Dean Ambrose. Both Miz and Ambrose are skilled at taking questionable-to-bad concepts and squeezing everything there is to get out of a moment. I'm curious to see if anyone has been keeping track of how many times Ambrose has been on Miz TV over the last year, because I'm sure it's a lot.
Miz will likely get a win here via questionable tactics, but I, like a lot of other fans, would love to see what each of these guys can do with the bountiful talent on the Raw roster. Bringing over a familiar rivalry together in the Superstar Shake-up was find, but it's time for this chapter to close. I have every bit of faith that this match will be good, but let it be the last.
Key stat: This will be the 10th one-on-one meeting between Ambrose and The Miz, and their sixth match for the Intercontinental title. Ambrose won six of their first nine matches, but The Miz won most recently, at Extreme Rules, to regain the title.
Thirty-minute Iron Man match for the Raw tag team titles: Cesaro & Sheamus (c) vs. The Hardy Boyz
This feels like, for all intents and purposes, the final chapter of the story between Cesaro & Sheamus and The Hardy Boyz. After the Hardys' surprise return in the Raw tag team title ladder match, the cage match at Extreme Rules and everything in between, they've fought on almost every platform imaginable. The first-ever tag team iron match on WWE pay-per-view (and just the third overall in WWE history) should give all four men a wonderful canvas to paint on, and could serve as a major boost to Cesaro and Sheamus, should they retain the title.
No matter who wins, after four head-to-head matchups between these two teams, it's time to bring The Revival and Gallows & Anderson bag into the fold. After a big debut against New Day and a high-profile return on Raw a few weeks ago, The Revival has inexplicably been relegated to Main Event in recent weeks. Heck, The Revival had what WWE.com described as the second-best match of 2017 thus far at NXT TakeOver: Orlando.
It's time to make a clean break and re-establish the Raw tag team division and this match, if history is any indication, should be a great way to kick off that process.
Big Cass vs. Enzo Amore
Enzo Amore got an unlikely upper hand on Big Cass on Monday by blindsiding him, but it stands to reason that this match will be a heavily one-sided encounter in Cass' favor. We've already gotten the best promo of Cass' career and the two best promos of Amore's career out of this acrimonious split, but the big question that remains is how each of these guys will come out of this break-up in the long term. Cass has the physical size to go on to big things, and it's clear he has his supporters in the WWE, but he's still got a ways to go to make his in-ring and on-mic performances more consistent. For Amore, is 205 Live in his future, or will he get another heavy to watch his back?
Bray Wyatt vs. Seth Rollins
Bray Wyatt and Seth Rollins have a ton of history, dating back to the epic clashes between The Shield and the Wyatt Family, but for some unknown reason, none of that has been used to build up to Sunday's match. With Rollins seemingly on an upswing after getting the nod as the WWE2K18 cover athlete, he finds himself opposite Wyatt, who is still largely struggling to establish himself on Raw post-Superstar Shake-up. This rivalry could heat up in a hurry and pick up some momentum with the right result or ending, leading to a properly built-up match at SummerSlam, but the simplest answer here is that Rollins should be the overwhelming favorite.
Key stat: Despite the multitude of Shield vs. Wyatt clashes, this will be only the second one-on-one encounter for Wyatt and Rollins.
With the built-in 30-minute Iron Man match and the rest of the card, there weren't a lot of great choices on this eight-match card for the kickoff show. But moving a well-built up cruiserweight title match to the pre-show -- again -- feels like another step backward for a division that has struggled to maintain relevance. Why not just put Goldust vs. R-Truth here and blow off a rivalry that's got no legs? Or Finn Balor vs. Elias Samson, and build upon what they've done over the last month.