Heath Slater vs Curt Hawkins (partially lost footage of professional wrestling pay-per-view match; 2017)
Left: Curt Hawkins with the advantage over Heath Slater. Right: Kurt Angle calling in emergency services to free Braun Strowman.
Status: Partially Lost
On 9th July 2017, as part of WWE Great Balls of Fire, professional wrestlers Heath Slater and Curt Hawkins competed in a singles match. The encounter saw Slater emerge victorious, continuing Hawkins' losing streak throughout the year. The match was kayfabe booked as an impromptu clash following the fallout from the Braun Strowman-Roman Reigns ambulance match, which saw Reigns reverse the emergency vehicle into a parked lorry container with Strowman trapped inside. WWE opted not to show the match's finish in favour of focusing on an angle featuring emergency workers attempting to free an injured Strowman.
Heading into the match, Heath Slater was in a tag team with Rhyno, which saw them become the first SmackDown Tag Team Champions, reigning for 84 days from 11th September to 4th December 2016. The two were drafted to Raw during the 2017 Superstar Shake-up. Meanwhile, Curt Hawkins returned to WWE in 2016 but had suffered an extensive losing streak since November 2016. In kayfabe, neither of them was set to compete at the Great Balls of Fire pay-per-view.
What was advertised for the show was an ambulance match pitting Roman Reigns against Braun Strowman. The finish saw Reigns miss a spear that resulted in him landing in the ambulance, with Strowman subsequently shutting its doors to win. However, Reigns then proceeded to attack Strowman post-match, forcing his opponent into the ambulance before taking over at the wheel. After driving the ambulance into the parking area, Reigns reversed it into a parked lorry container, with Strowman trapped within the now-wrecked emergency vehicle. Following this, Raw General Manager Kurt Angle called for emergency services to free a severely injured Strowman.
As that was being done, the decision was made to draw attention away from it, by booking an impromptu match between Slater and Hawkins. Both wrestlers were still taping their wrists and tying their shoelaces as they made their way to the ring. The match's beginning primarily consisted of chain wrestling, but Hawkins got the upper hand by avoiding Slater's leapfrog, before proceeding to land an elbow to the back of the One-Man Band's head. Hawkins performed a chin lock on Slater, but the latter escaped and retaliated by landing a bicycle kick. Commentators Michael Cole and Corey Graves barely focused on the match, instead discussing with a sombre tone their concerns over Strowman's health following the collision.
Most of the match was showcased via a split screen, with footage of Angle and others assessing the situation backstage. Eventually, as the emergency services arrived, WWE opted to fully focus on a rescue crew attempting to free the stricken Strowman. A few seconds afterwards, it was announced Slater had won the encounter. Meanwhile, a freed Strowman was battered and bloodied, but refused medical assistance and was able to walk away independently. WWE never showed how Slater won the two-minute match during the remainder of the pay-per-view broadcast. Hawkins never won a match in 2017, and he would not end his 269-match losing streak until 7th April 2019, when he teamed with Zack Ryder to win the WWE Raw Tag Team Championships against The Revival at WrestleMania 35. Their reign lasted for 64 days. Meanwhile, Great Balls of Fire marked Slater's WWE pay-per-view singles debut, amazingly maintaining an unbeaten record as he has never competed in another singles match at any WWE pay-per-view event since.
Not only was the Slater-Hawkins match finish never shown on pay-per-view, but it was also never uploaded to YouTube or WWE.com. The encounter's impromptu and seemingly redundant nature, combined with the finish not being shown, led to it trending on Twitter and Reddit as r/squaredcircle users began to speculate on the result. Most posts humorously called it the match of the year and even suggested Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter was going to give it an unprecedented seven-star rating. Others speculated the finish saw Slater deliver one of the most highly impactful moves in professional wrestling history.
Slater and Hawkins also joined in, with the latter proudly proclaiming that he suddenly went from catering to participating in the semi-main event, behind only the WWE Universal Championship match between Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe. He also jokingly claimed that Slater won via a Canadian Destroyer off the top turnbuckle. Alas, the match's finish remains a complete mystery to those not in attendance that night.
- WWE biography on Slater. Retrieved 11th Aug '23
- ESPN listing the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship's history. Retrieved 11th Aug '23
- WWE biography on Hawkins. Retrieved 11th Aug '23
- The Sportster reporting on Hawkins ending his 269-match losing streak at WrestleMania 35. Retrieved 11th Aug '23
- WWE summarising the match. Retrieved 11th Aug '23
- Bleeding Cool reporting on the match, the Strowman angle, and the event trending on Reddit. Retrieved 11th Aug '23
- Bleacher Report reporting on the ambulance match between Strowman and Reigns. Retrieved 11th Aug '23
- Cageside Seats reporting on Slater and Hawkins' reaction to their match. Retrieved 11th Aug '23
- Wrestlezone summarising the match and its seemingly redundant nature. Retrieved 11th Aug '23
- WhatCulture summarising the encounter as among "Wrestling Matches That Were Sent Out To Die". Retrieved 11th Aug '23
- ESPN listing the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship's history. Retrieved 11th Aug '23
- Cage Match noting Slater has a 100% WWE pay-per-view singles winning record. Retrieved 11th Aug '23
- r/SquaredCircle discussing the match and speculating on how it ended. Retrieved 11th Aug '23