February 21, 2016
Last year’s Fastlane was a filler PPV in between Royal Rumble and WrestleMania with the sole purpose of forcing Roman Reigns down the throat of the WWE Universe. Let’s see how much Vince McMahon has learned in the past twelve months shall we?
I’ll give you a clue; the answer is zero.
We’re in Cleveland, Ohio. Hosts are Michael Cole, JBL and Byron Saxton. The best part of the marketing for Fastlane (aka Brmm, Brmm Racing Cars the PPV) is they’ve finally found something Eva Marie can do. Which is wave flags around while looking hot. One interesting thing of note regarding the announce teams; they’ve got a German team out there including the evergreen Carsten Schaeffer. He’s worked for WWE for a very long time.
Sasha Banks & Becky Lynch vs. Naomi & Tamina
Good idea: kicking the PPV off with a hot act like Sasha. Bad idea: having her feud with former Team BAD members Naomi and Tamina. I don’t understand why Team BAD couldn’t simply stay as chums with Sasha chasing the title. Instead they’ve just abandoned the whole thing to go with old NXT booking. I don’t dislike seeing aspects of NXT getting recycled on the main roster because more often than not NXT booking worked but it enforces the concept that WWE’s writers don’t have any worthwhile ideas. Naomi is the most interesting talent out there, trying new things and attempting to out-shine the Horsewomen. At one point she lifts Mike Bailey’s kick rush. The heels work heat on Becky, which she can take capably. Sasha’s hot tag would lead to a submission on Naomi only for Tamina to save. The suggestion being that Team BAD are on the same page, whereas Sasha only has a partner because she can’t beat both heels by herself. Sasha debuts a sensational satellite set up for the Banks Statement and gets the tap out from Tamina. Interesting to note Becky saving the pin by hooking the Disarmer on Naomi. The faces had to win here to set up their probable double title shot at Charlotte at WrestleMania.
Final Rating: **3/4
WWE Intercontinental Championship
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler
They’ve probably overdone this match already but it’s always good so here we are again. It is only a filler PPV. It’ll be interesting to see where the IC title goes regarding WrestleMania. Last year it found itself in a multi-man ladder match. That wouldn’t be a terrible idea to repeat. The trouble is, we don’t really know anything about the ‘Mania card. It feels fairly unplanned at this point. Have they even nailed down who Undertaker is facing? Owens is getting a lot of heat. More so than local hero Ziggler. “Your home town likes me more than you” yells Owens at Dolph. Getting massive reactions might be the one thing to persuade the McMahon Family than Owens can be a main event for WWE. He can certainly talk. That’s the usual issue when they sign Indie darlings. This is a solid pairing because Owens is great at dishing out a beating and Ziggler is great at taking one. Everything is fine until Ziggler mounts a comeback and his comebacks have started to get incredibly dumb. The air guitar strumming elbow drop is awful. It’s getting hard to shake the feeling that Ziggler has jumped the shark and probably should have left the company last year when there were murmurs of him doing so when his contract was expiring. After both men land superkicks JBL points out we’ve got a “superkick party” referencing the Young Bucks, a team who will likely never work for WWE due to their lack of fucks given. They certainly shoot for epic here, which makes me forget how dreadful Ziggler has been at times and Owens finishes with the Pop Up Powerbomb to retain. They took a routine defence here and spruced it up a bit. Another fine showing from Owens and Ziggler didn’t grate at the nerves all the way through. I like that Owens learned from Ziggler’s first counter of the Pop Up Powerbomb and didn’t whip Dolph into the ropes on the finisher.
Final Rating: ***1/2
The Wyatt Family (Luke Harper, Braun Strowman & Erik Rowan) vs. The Big Show, Kane & Ryback
Show looks optimistically around for a decent pop after his excellent podcast interview with Steve Austin on WWE Network last week. I must admit I like him a lot more for his brutal honesty during that interview. The Wyatt Family have suffered from booking and talent issues. There’s no doubt they were saddled with Strowman before he was ready to be here. Rowan has had no luck whatsoever in his WWE run but he’s not done anything to prove he’s anything more than a lackey. Which makes it all the more puzzling that the Wyatt Family got split up in the first place. Luke Harper is the one guy who deserves better but when he got a singles run he couldn’t get anywhere. Not even Bray, the star of the team, can seem to get anywhere on his own. Not since last year where his interviews all started to blend together. This match is a snoozer, as you might expect. The match peaks with Ryback vs. Harper as they’re the only two guys who can actually go. “Taking out walkers like Ric Grimes would” quips JBL bringing his weekly pop culture reference from the Walking Dead and comparing the Wyatt Family to zombies. Which is about true when Ryback pins Harper clean with the Shellshock. It had to be Harper didn’t it? Well, the Wyatt’s are dead. They’ve jobbed to everyone now and if a gang can’t beat anyone there’s no point to them. It’s not like they’re entertaining anyway.
Final Rating: *1/4
Video Control gives us a brief opportunity to see how well received Roman Reigns will be this evening. Here’s a clue…BOOOO! Dean Ambrose arrives to a much better reception and makes the funnies about having already booked his ticket to WrestleMania. “I got a great deal on Priceline”. The one thing the Shield “brothers” can agree on is that Brock Lesnar isn’t main eventing ‘Mania this year. The idea of Lesnar vs. Triple H again upsets me so I would probably agree with that.
WWE Divas Championship
Charlotte (c) vs. Brie Bella
WWE are milking Daniel Bryan’s retirement for all its worth, which is a Brie title shot, which she’s not winning. Charlotte’s “goat-faced vegan babies” line is the kind of killer heel mic work she’s been lacking. I’m glad she’s discovered her inner heel. Brie has her husband’s kick pads on from WrestleMania XXX, which is a nice touch but they don’t really fit in with her gear. Also she doesn’t wrestle anything like Daniel Bryan. The only real highlight of the match is Byron Saxton taking JBL to school for trampling all over his analogy about family life. Also Charlotte’s face when Brie does the Flair strut (badly). She looks so annoyed. She looks even more annoyed when Brie busts her open hardway on the bridge of the nose. Otherwise the match is a grind with occasional nods of the head to Nikki Bella and Daniel Bryan because Brie doesn’t have a move set of her own. The match has too many hesitations and awkward pauses where they can’t get on the same page. Charlotte vs. Nikki was a much better match as Nikki was keen to demonstrate her superiority and bossed the contest. Brie’s submissions are surprisingly great though including hooking a half crab to go with an armlock (Konnan’s old Tequila Sunrise finish). Charlotte powers out and hooks the Figure Eight for the submission. This was clunky but the mat countering was better than expected.
Final Rating: **
AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho
It still feels weird that AJ is in WWE. I’m a little surprised they had Jericho get a equalising win over Styles to turn this into a rubber match, even if it was hidden away on SmackDown but at least it gives this match a little extra something. The RAW match was really good, although I may have overrated it slightly due to marking out for AJ being in a WWE ring. This match is very technically strong, especially using the last match as a contrast. Jericho doesn’t quite have the pace to push AJ and you’ll certainly see more from Styles when he gets to wrestle someone who can push him when it comes to speed. It’s almost as if the Jericho feud has been a way to gently break AJ into WWE in-ring style. The commentary is pretty amazing during this as JBL references everyone from Giant Baba to Toshiaki Kawada in putting over Styles’ importance to a Japanese promotion and Byron even references Jericho’s debut in 1999 having parallels with AJ’s at the Rumble. AJ decides this would be a good time to debut the quebrada inverted DDT and naturally it’s botched but the resultant improvised neckbreaker manages to pop the announcers so it’s not a total loss. They have some interesting ideas, playing off the moves used in the first two matches. Like Styles doing the springboard elbow and Jericho springboarding to dropkick him off the top (albeit with the set up being super safe to the point of telegraphing it). They screw up another spot off the top with Jericho falling and managing to land a perfectly serviceable powerbomb before switching to the Walls of Jericho, which is what he’d intended to do. Sometimes pre-planning is your worst enemy. The weird part is that AJ Styles is supposed to be all nervous and it’s Jericho, the cagey veteran, who’s making the silly mistakes. His trash talk is awful too. “You’re stupid. A stupid man. You know that?” AJ plants him with the Styles Clash and Jericho kicks out? What? I don’t get that at all. Calf Killer finishes immediately afterwards so there was no point in having anyone kick out of the Styles Clash at this point. Bizarre. The RAW match was marginally better as Jericho made less mistakes in that. Good match though, especially from Styles. Now he needs an opponent he can genuinely show off with. Neville would be good.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Video Control shows us clips from Alberto Del Rio vs. Kalisto, which got bumped to the pre-show. Del Rio got disqualified for fall one. Then pinned Kalisto to level it up but got pinned by a cheeky Kalisto roll up for the loss. Kalisto is now definitely the US champion, having seen off Del Rio twice.
Cutting Edge Peep Show
Edge and Christian are in town to sell their Network show, which debuts after the PPV; The Edge and Christian Show That Totally Reeks of Awesomeness. “If I can be serious for a minute” says Edge, mimicking Lance Storm, who he then references. Their guests this evening are The New Day. They make some comically disrespectful references to age so Edge brings up history and talks about The New Day’s early months where they were not impressive. “I’ve never seen so much chocolate act so vanilla”. Christian then brings up Kofi Kingston’s fake Jamaican accent and Edge claims they are E&C copycats. “If we had a threesome with Beyonce, you’d be our love child”. The interplay here is wonderful as everyone is so good at their characters. E&C provoke New Day into talking trash about the League of Nations, which results in the arrival of Sheamus and company. The heels take over the ring so New Day and E&C take the party up the ramp where Edge starts throwing dollar bills at a dancing Kofi and much fun is had by all. I laughed a lot during this. I’m actually looking forward to the Edge & Christian show. They’re funny guys. Having scoped opinion on the show after writing this it seems I’m alone in my appreciation for this, which is weird because normally I hate drop-in promo segments and prefer grappling on PPV’s. “You changed, man” screams a voice in the back of my head. It’s Eddie Murphy in the strip club in Beverly HillsCop. I love that movie.
R-Truth vs. Curtis Axel
The Social Outcasts talk about the Road to WrestleMania and debate what kind of car they would be. Bo wants to be a Volvo due to their safety ratings. This match just screams filler and reminds me how weak this PPV line up was on paper. They couldn’t find four guys to work against the ‘Casts? Goldust shows up to help Truth and demonstrate just how worthless the Social Outcasts really are. Axel uses the distraction to roll up Truth for the pin. I’m not sure what this was supposed to achieve but I know that I ain’t gonna fall for no banana in my tail-pipe.
Final Rating: ½*
WWE Championship #1 Contenders Match
Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns
As Roman makes his way to the ring through the crowd my mind starts racing. I wonder how many people Roman has fist bumped? It must be well into the thousands. He could be on for a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. Brock starts taking bitches to Suplex City from the opening bell. Dean looks particularly out of his element and everything Ambrose attempts results in him being suplexed. The crowd doesn’t much care for Roman but they express this more through support for Lesnar. Brock pretty much has Reigns beaten clean with the F5 inside five minutes, which is slightly longer than ‘Mania last year. The crowd get to play count-along with Brock as he throws Ambrose all over the ring (I love that when he hits his tenth suplex everyone is doing the Tye Dillenger gimmick. He’ll go far). Lesnar has Dean beaten until Roman hits a Spear to prevent the F5. This is the point where the fans really turn on Reigns, hating his comebacks. The Shield boys team up to table Lesnar, thus effectively eliminating the Beast. It’s Dean who turns on Roman first, spending a while gazing up at the WrestleMania sign afterwards to demonstrate why. Neither man can get a pin so they’re forced to team up again when Lesnar recovers. This sees Lesnar powerbombed through another announce table and then buried under the remains of it. This time Roman turns on Dean, remembering what happened last time. Dirty Deeds gets a near fall but Lesnar returns again and this time the ‘brothers’ don’t see it coming and he stackerplexes them. It’s really weird because I immediately stop rooting for Lesnar when he hooks a kimura because I don’t want to see Lesnar vs. Triple H again. Ambrose suddenly has this moment of clarity where he realises he can use a chair, wears out Lesnar and Roman hits him with a Spear to win. Of course he does. One year on and Vince has learned nothing whatsoever. ‘You’ll like who I tell you to like’ is such a dated mentality but that’s Vince. He won’t be told he’s wrong.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Post Match: WWE World Heavyweight Champion Triple H strolls down to get a look at the man he’s facing at WrestleMania. I still have no idea why the Authority, who hate Roman, would even bother allowing him the chance to get into the WrestleMania main event. It doesn’t make any sense. At least have something like a re-match clause for losing the belt in the Rumble or something.
Summary: The show was okay. A few of the matches worked fine but it felt like the same old, same old with the exception of AJ Styles and even he managed to get booked into a match he’s already had twice since joining the company. WWE Japan’s Twitter actually blew up my feed more than Fastlane as they released video footage of Shinsuke Nakamura visiting the Performance Center for the first time. I found myself marking out like crazy. It’s really happening. This PPV? It really wasn’t happening. I fear for the state of this years WrestleMania to the point where I’m glad I didn’t follow through on my origin plan to get tickets.