The Road To Wrestlemania is long underway, but we as fans would not know it by watching this year’s Fastlane PPV. The Raw exclusive PPV Fastlane happened and that might be all one could really say about it. There was absolutely little to no build for Wrestlemania, no payoff, and spots that should have been saved were used on a lesser PPV. At Fastlane, WWE had every chance in the world to do things different and they did, but different sure does not mean it was right.
Let me starts with some notes that I made from the Fastlane kickoff show. First note I made was “did anyone else notice the death glare that Booker T was giving to Pete Rosenberg when the show kicked off?” It felt like there was a slight bit of hostility there. Charley Caruso says that Tom Phillips has stepped aside to allow her to handle things in the social media lounge, making a person think that this may also be tied to the recently reported personal life issues that Tom Phillips is currently dealing with.
Cesaro and Sheamus join the kickoff show panel making a person wonder if it is potential foreshadowing for later in the night or for Wrestlemania potentially. We were also then treated to a segment backstage of Stephanie calling Mick Foley to say her plane is delayed and she may not make it to the event. This seemed like a setup for something bigger later in the night, however we would find out later it had absolutely no effect at all. Alright, now let’s start off with the very first match of the night from the Fastlane kickoff show.
Akira Tozawa & Rich Swann vs The Brian Kendrick & Noam Dar
I want to start off with how amazing Austin Aries continues to be on a microphone and as an announcer. Aries saying that we are starting the show with the main event and then cutting to a package about his time in the ring, what a great way to hype the build for Aries joining the cruiserweight division. I am surprised that The Brian Kendrick has not had a segment where he complains to the workers in the truck for putting his name on the screen as Brian Kendrick and not The Brian Kendrick.
The match itself was a hard to get invested in, especially when WWE felt the need to cut to commercials halfway through the match itself, and the worst thing yet is they played a Fastlane commercial while we were watching a match on the Fastlane Kickoff show. Not sure why WWE feel their fans are so incredibly moronic that we need to be reminded Fastlane takes place right after the Fastlane Kickoff show we are already watching. The match did pick up the pace once we got back from the commercial but it seemed a little too late for us viewing at home. The match also suffered from no real build but hey, it is a free show to lead into the Fastlane PPV so really who can complain about that?
Sami Zayn vs Samoa Joe
Like I stated in my Fastlane predictions, it would not matter how many Ole chants the crowd provided, Sami Zayn was going to lose to Samoa Joe. Credit to Sami Zayn as he sells better than almost anyone on the entire roster and he helped assure Joe looked like a legitimate bad ass. Not that Joe needs someone else to make him look like a badass at all, but Sami Zayn is remarkable at assisting in making this possible. Sami surprisingly got in more offense than I had predicted but ultimately he fell victim to a very strong looking Samoa Joe. The match was entertaining enough and a solid way to start off Fastlane.
We then go to a backstage segment featuring Bayley. She seemed to undersell her chances as a performer and undersells the importance of the Raw Women’s Championship as well. This was a great chance to have Bayley say that Charlotte may have her PPV streak but does not have the heart, the fight, and the WWE Universe behind her like she does. This would have sold how Bayley would fight with everything she has to conquer that steak. Nia then enters and made her claim to the championship.
Anderson & Gallows vs Enzo & Cass
Enzo & Cass seem to be having Mick Foley write their cheap pop microphone talk, as everything they say just sounds like a scripted cheap pop. Anderson got in a lot of really nice offense in this match, often keeping Enzo down and Cass out of the match entirely. The teases towards the hot tag were great. But then the actual hot tag fell short, as it did not seem like it was a real struggle to make it at that point.
I am also taken out of the matches when Gallows slams and hits his opponents only to see little or no sell at all. Gallows is a very large man and when he hits a move on someone, especially the size of Enzo, it should be sold like it hurts – not like it’s a small little trip up that you can immediately bounce back from. The match was not all bad and the finish was good enough to keep Anderson and Gallows looking strong, but it did not map out any real direction for the Raw Tag Titles at Wrestlemania either.
We then once again go and almost do the entire same backstage segment with Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon about her not being able to make it for the night. Once again, if you are going to have a backstage segment then it should go somewhere, have some sort of effect on the night, but once again like the rest of the night this segment meant nothing at all.
Nia Jax vs Sasha Banks
Now I did not do a prediction for this match and frankly it is not one I could get really invested in. I am not the biggest fan of Sasha Banks as a character, especially when she is a face character. Sasha is easily one of the smallest competitors but seems to have little to no drive. Where someone like Alexa Bliss over on Smackdown Live uses her larger than life attitude to make herself a winner despite her small size, Sasha does the opposite and hopes that smiles and kindness will get her by.
Nia Jax is a victim of too much smiling and not in the right way. Nia seems like she is happy to walk out there and be seen by the WWE Universe, which works if you are someone like Bayley. But Nia is being built as a strong asskicker, yet when she smiles it really takes away from the mean streak we are supposed to invest in. This match was extremely flat almost all the way through. The finish was decent enough with Sasha taking advantage of a rookie mistake made by Nia. But after spending so much time having Nia dominate the match it really felt like a below average Raw match rather than a match as high up the card as it was.
Speaking of being too high up the card, we now move on to what was one of the most confusing and useless portions of the entire show. I do not even want to waste too much breathe on all of this. Rusev and Jinder Mahal now have an issue with each other after their loss on Monday Night Raw, so instead of them settling their differences in the ring they would instead each be given seperate one on one matches.
When Cesaro and Sheamus came out it felt to me like we were going to see Cesaro vs Mihal, which we got, then Rusev vs Sheamus, which could then even potentially lead to these two teams being used in a fatal four way for the Raw Tag Team Titles at Wrestlemania. But once again how wrong I was. After Cesaro defeated Jinder Mahal we were again treated to a scrap between Rusev and Mahal. Then the Big Show came out to take on Rusev. Aside from the three Machka kicks from Rusev, and having him comically mention that three of them did not do the job, that was about the only spot out of this entire segment really worth a mention. Other then that I would consider this to be the funeral of Rusev.
Neville vs Jack Gallagher:
Once again, before I start to talk about the actual match, I want to give props to Austin Aries who said: “The world is talking about my package, so let us once again take a look at my beautiful package”. This line had me in stitches and once again proves just how incredible Austin Aries can be when he is given a chance to talk. On commentary, Michael Cole referred to the corner handstand that Gallagher does as classic Gallagher. Earlier in the night he mentioned Rich Swann’s moves being vintage Swann. Now I am no expert on when something officially becomes classic or vintage, but I feel that these guys are so new to the WWE Universe these moves are far from classic or vintage at this point.
That aside, the match was incredibly well-paced. Jack Gallagher is amazingly well over with the WWE Universe and it led to Neville finally getting some real heel heat. This was finally a match where fans wanted to get behind the face character and so credit to both men for delivering on that front. Every bit of this match became very exciting and showed just how incredible the cruiserweight division can be when it is given the chance. I say that we as fans need to give more time and attention to 205 Live, because we will continue to get incredible matches such as Neville vs Gallagher if we show we want to support the division itself. This match hands down was the best match of the night and really the only match worth a damn on the entire Fastlane PPV.
After the match we go backstage to Paul Heyman who states that Brock Lesnar has every right to be at Fastlane tonight. This would be an alright statement again, if this was going to go anywhere. However, we got no Lesnar at all and really no tease to anything for their Wrestlemania match.
New Day then showed up with a Ice Cream Bike, yup that sure did happen. This seemed again like another poor Raw segment where someone backstage said “Oh yeah we almost forgot The New Day sells merch, let’s get them on screen for a bit.”
Roman Reigns vs Braun Strowman:
After Neville and Jack Gallagher set the bar and woke people up, it was time for the two heavy hitters to finally go at it. Braun continues each and every week to impress me. His movement and skill set for a big man is something to be treasured. The match was very back and forth with both men getting in some hard hits. Braun going over the top ropes on two occasions looked incredible. The table spot where Braun slammed Roman was exciting. The spear to Braun was solid and Braun actually kicked out of a very protected move. Strowman went to the top rops. Yes, I said that right. A giant man went to the top rope and went for a diving head butt. He may have missed it but the “Holy Shit” chants were more than warranted at this time.
Roman won clean here, and I am not one who hates Roman Reigns so much I do not like to see him win – but I did not want it here either. Braun has not been pinned or submitted one-on-one yet and we get it at a B-grade PPV like Fastlane. Much like most of the night a lot was done here that was unexpected, but will ultimately fall victim to being forgettable, as it happened on Fastlane and not on a much larger event such as Wrestlemania. Couple all of this with the fact that we got no Undertaker and no clear picture who Taker is going to battle at Wrestlemania and this entire match fell flat outside of the few high spots the guys delivered during the match itself.
Bayley vs Charlotte:
I think all in all this was one of the matches I was looking forward to the most. I am not afraid to admit that I feel Charlotte Flair is one of the best Women’s wrestlers WWE has ever produced. That is no disrespect to any of the other women at all, Charlotte is simply just amazing. This match itself was nothing more than a big mess. The two women got in the standard moves, but Charlotte got in some way better looking moves through the match.
Then we get Sasha Banks coming out and scrapping with Charlotte, which in any other match would mean a DQ finish where Charlotte wins, keeping her PPV streak alive but then keeping the title on Bayley. On this night, that was not to be the case though as it would continue, allowing Bayley to get a very botched and almost heel like win over Charlotte, which is all sorts of confusing. The PPV streak ended on a subpar PPV like Fastlane making it now meaningless and against something that easily could have been saved for a Wrestlemania moment.
Once again we go backstage to a segment with no meaning. Samoa Joe looks like he is leaving the building and Mick Foley stops him, warning him not to show up to assist Kevin Owens tonight. First of all, we have not exactly established that Joe is aligned with Owens outside of their mutual respect for Triple H, and so this really makes little to no sense here. I mean sure, some of us see the writing on the wall for a possible alignment between the two, but as far as what has been seen on TV we have yet to see much to truly cement this.
Owens vs Goldberg:
I do not even know where to begin with this one. I still feel sick to my stomach this morning knowing I was right about the WWE and their booking choice here. I have no issue with part time wrestlers being in the company. Big names that can draw money are good for big card matches but none of them require a title to make them worth the watch. I will be the first to admit that I do not like Goldberg and I hate Brock Lesnar even more. I do not enjoy their in-ring work and feel the two of them may be two of the laziest workers to ever main event a card in professional wrestling.
This match was not even a match and was a bigger mess than the Women’s match was. Owens got distracted by Jericho coming out on the ramp and was hit with a spear, then a jackhammer, and we have a new Universal Champion. Why would Jericho want Owens to lose the Universal title, especially if there is any chance he may get a shot at the title at Wrestlemania himself? Again there wasn’t really anything to get excited about at all. No real build for Wrestlemania outside of the already booked Lesnar vs Goldberg match and a tease of Owens vs Jericho, which is going to lose a lot of the excitement now it will be placed lower on the Wrestlemania card than a Universal Title match would have been.
Sadly, Fastlane was a victim of some awful booking decisions. This is the time of year where we should all be getting excited about the build to Wrestlemania, but yet here we are with less than a month to go and really nothing to get overly excited about. If WWE wants to turn things around and get us excited for Wrestlemania then they have got a lot of work ahead of them in a very short period of time.
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