The internet was abuzz this afternoon after the announcement on Twitter from Daniel Bryan that he’d be retiring. There will be more on tonight’s show regarding that and although it has felt like it’s been coming for a while (his last match was in April of last year) it is a crushing disappointment. We open the show with a career retrospective of Bryan’s run from the gyms and Indies to main eventing WrestleMania XXX. It’s been one hell of a ride. Here are just a few recommended Daniel Bryan matches:
We’re in Seattle, Washington, which is where Bryan is from. Washington State that is. Hosts are Michael Cole, Byron Saxton and JBL.
Contract Signing for main event of Fastlane
The crowd don’t care about this at all and chant “Daniel Bryan”. Why even bother starting the show with this? Nobody cares, Steph! Not until Dean Ambrose joins us. I’ve been hearing rumblings that WWE is leaning toward Ambrose headlining WrestleMania due to his crowd responses. To be fair to the chosen one Roman Reigns gets a decent pop too. Steph’s only worth is to point out to Ambrose that Roman keeps stealing his spotlight. Brock Lesnar also gets a hearty pop. It’s actually tough to discern who the crowd favourite is although I suspect the Fastlane crowd will turn on Roman first. Steph gets everything signed and leaves allowing Paul Heyman to mock “little brother” Dean. The IC champ takes exception so Brock flips the tables on them sumbitches and hits the F5 on Ambrose. Triple H finally shows up to have a stare down and I notice he has “ferrum pugnus” on his Titantron. That’s Latin for “Iron Fist”. Is he trying for yet another nickname? Or has it been there forever and I’ve just never noticed?
Video Control takes us backstage where Dean Ambrose promises to “get” Brock Lesnar tonight.
Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler
Crowd is really into the aggressive Owens. He’s like this big bear, man. Owens secondary focus is yelling at Michael Cole. “Nobody likes me much, I guess” mumbles Cole, showing a chink of fragility and self-awareness. Owens’ aggression is par for the course, especially against Ziggles who gets beaten up for a living. When Ziggler gets going and the match becomes competitive it’s solid. Dolph is suffering from the past year or so of booking where he’s been reduced to typical midcard work. If WWE is planning on using him he needs some rebuilding. The crowd favour Owens due to his sturdy booking and motor-mouth. Ziggler dodges a Cannonball and pins using the ropes. Was that babyface cheating or a hint at something deeper? Either way it was a decent enough match, although the 50-50 booking is killing me.
Final Rating: ***
Video Control takes us backstage where the Usos are playing hard in the paint, or something. The Dudley Boyz turn up and seem upset at not being asked to be in a tables match with The New Day. The Dudleys talk their way into the match. Does that make it a triangle match or a four on three? It turns out it’s an eight man match with New Day having a mystery fourth man.
Charlotte vs. Alicia Fox
Nikki Bella is off being injured and Brie Bella is too busy with her husband, who’s the focus of this show. This leaves poor Foxy on her own. Alicia can’t take half of Charlotte’s spots properly, including the headscissors driver business. Her body position is all wrong. Charlotte does far better taking the comeback spots, including a satellite backbreaker, like a champ. Ugly spear sets up the Figure Eight. Foxy taps. Charlotte is doing a decent job as women’s champion. The Brie Bella match at Fastlane is most likely a combination of wanting to save the big match for WrestleMania (Charlotte vs. Sasha and perhaps Becky) and the timing of Bryan’s retirement.
Final Rating: ½*
MizTV: Chris Jericho
Miz is a bit upset with AJ Styles for breaking one of his teeth last week. He refers to AJ as a “redneck rookie” (last I checked, rookies hadn’t been wrestlers for 15 years but hey, it is the Miz talking), takes responsibility for Daniel Bryan’s career and generally acts like a total jerk until Chris Jericho turns up to be the guest. Jericho points out that Miz only ever talks about himself and isn’t very good at hosting talk shows. This is generally agreed so Jericho switches this over to the Highlight Reel instead. We get a lovely replay of Styles knocking the cap off one of Miz’s teeth with a spinning backfist on SmackDown. Miz is pretty fragile. It’s a good job he doesn’t work in Japan. Not that anyone would hire him over there. Miz’s claims to have an audition with Steven Spielberg are absolutely ridiculous. They throw to footage of AJ beating Jericho and low and behold he can take the backfist because he can actually work, unlike Mizanin who’s never graduated from the rookie class in terms difficulty. Miz vomits forth a load of company line about people outside of WWE not being as good as anyone in the company. He is a shill and a scumbag. Eventually Miz and Jericho stop running their mouths and AJ Styles shows up. The faces clear out the useless Miz and do a showdown to sell SmackDown. Hell, I’m sold. Despite Miz’s boring and worthless contributions to this segment it ended up working because of the talent involved.
Bray Wyatt vs. Ryback
Ryback’s costume makeover has turned him into a Goldberg clone, which is how he started out. Is the snazzy weightlifting belt supposed to make him more unique? The crowd immediately chant “Goldberg”, showing what a foolish decision the change in gear was. Why would you draw attention to your similarity to Goldberg after spending years trying to get away from it? The match is bland, unconvincing and has way too many co-operative spots. Ryback walks into Sister Abigail’s Kiss for the pin. The way they’ve repackaged Ryback makes me think he’s about to get released. That’s how much they’ve killed him.
Final Rating: ¼*
Video Control takes us to The New Day who are “working on the taaaables” according to Big E. Xavier Woods says there can’t be an 8-man tag because they’re a trio. Big E’s sense of self belief has multiplied to ridiculous levels over the past twelve months. He has so much confidence in everything he does. He knows he’s money now. Elsewhere Dean Ambrose tells Roman Reigns he doesn’t need his help to fight Brock Lesnar. Trouble a brewin’ in the remains of the Shield.
Titus O’Neil vs. Adam Rose
Rose is representing the #SocialOutcasts. I’ll give them props; the jobbers are trying really hard to get this angle over. However the sheer lack of talent in the group can’t be good for them in the long run. They see Heath as a leader and mouthpiece but he’s not a good promo. However the New Day showed that having a good time and going with whatever WWE give you can produce success. JBL compares the Social Outcasts to Leicester City, which isn’t a bad analogy if they weren’t still losers. Despite this being a virtual four on one Rose barely wins with a roll up and gets creamed by Titus while celebrating. The 2k16 Job Squad needed to win this one but barely did. At least Heath Slater looks like he’s enjoying himself.
Final Rating: ½*
Promo Time: Dean Ambrose
Ambrose is eager to fight Lesnar tonight, despite taking a kicking in the opening segment. Dean was unimpressed by the earlier F5 and requests another “with some stink on it”. Ambrose then reels off a list of abuse to provoke Brock into fighting him. Lesnar is amused at Dean’s provocation and I love that about him. He doesn’t need to take Ambrose’s challenge seriously until Dean does something to make himself a threat. Dean takes a beating and an F5 but begs for more. This time Roman Reigns runs down for the save, thus allowing Ambrose to punch Brock in the groin and get a measure of revenge. Albeit in somewhat cowardly fashion. This worked as Ambrose got the chance to show that a) he wasn’t just a third wheel at Fastlane and b) he’s not afraid of Lesnar because he’s nuts.
The Lucha Dragons vs. League of Nations (Alberto Del Rio & Rusev)
Sin Cara is back in action after a knee injury took him out for a short while. In the meantime Kalisto won the US title. The League of Nations feels completely redundant already with Sheamus having lost the WWE title despite their existence and nobody else having any motivation beyond Del Rio’s former US title push. The crowd wants Lana and Rusev agrees. Is she being punished for some locker room slight again? The match is sluggish when Sin Cara is in there but Kalisto raises the temperature with his high speed, high impact offence. Del Rio hits the double stomp with Kalisto treed for the pin. Why does anyone stay in place for that spot? Surely you know it’s coming, so just drop into a hanging position. Holding yourself in position for a spot just makes it look fake.
Final Rating: *1/4
Video Control takes us to R-Truth and the wacky Goldust, who’s impersonating Jimi Hendrix. Goldust smashes up his guitar. “Oh no, I destroyed Little Jimi”. Both guys say the names of Jimi Hendrix songs and it’s really awkward. And not in the way WWE’s writers were hoping.
Becky Lynch vs. Tamina
Sasha Banks joins commentary, pointing out her allegiance with Becky is the same as in NXT where they were a team. That and she has to team with someone because she has no friends and needs to fight former Team BAD buddies Tamina and Naomi. Sasha calls herself the “Beyonce of the group”, which is both accurate and appropriate. Becky & Sasha vs. Tamina & Naomi has been booked for Fastlane as Brie Bella is getting the title shot. Pleasing to see two women’s matches on the same PPV card. The crowd doesn’t care about this until Sasha gets provoked into action. Becky is protective of Sasha and gives Naomi the Exploder to save her but walks into a kick to the face for the loss. Of all these four girls they put Tamina over? I guess they needed to make Tamina look like a legitimate threat but the big story here is the uncomfortable team of Becky and Sasha. I like that they’re actually attempting two main show women’s storylines and they both make sense.
Final Rating: *
Video Control takes us backstage where the New Day schmooze a potential tag team partner and it’s Mark Henry. “We need his big body” says Kofi Kingston when Mark wants to play Francesca II.
The New Day & Mark Henry vs. The Usos & The Dudley Boyz
Mark, complete with unicorn horn, clapping and dancing makes him look like he’s alive again, after a few years of looking comatose. I know this isn’t new news but how on Earth were the Usos the Slammy Award winners for tag team of the year? Jey was only healthy four months out of the twelve. Even Jimmy and Jey should have thought twice before voting for themselves. The New Day irritate Henry into leaving thus allowing a four on three. There is miscommunication with the tables, with it being repositioned twice by the Usos in one spot before the Dudley Boyz hit a 3D through the table for the swift win. The interesting part comes post match when the Dudley Boyz decide to turn heel on the Usos, who’ve been booed a lot recently so that’s probably not the best of ideas. Jimmy takes a 3D through a table, which draws a “one more time” chant followed by an “E-C-Dub” chant, showing WWE doesn’t have their finger on the pulse when it comes to who are heels, faces and borderline one or the other in the company. I’m sure they’ll retcon this into a genuine heel turn but the Dudleys were cheered wildly for beating up the Usos here.
Final Rating: *1/2
Daniel Bryan’s Retirement Speech
Daniel has trimmed his beard and especially his hair since we last saw him but he’s as over as ever, greeted by an enormous “YES” chant. Watching him soak it all in is incredibly touching. He doesn’t even need to say anything as the crowd chant for five minutes. Daniel talks honestly about his career and how he got three concussions in his first five months in the ring but he kept passing tests despite repeated head injuries. He talks about the business and how much he’s enjoyed it. “I have loved this in a way I have not loved anything else”. He talks about wanting to have kids and the crowd chants “yes”. “That’s what Brie says all the time!” “That’s what she said” chants the crowd. I’m glad this is a joyous occasion but it brings a tear to my eye. Having officially retired Daniel starts to amuse himself. He talks about the Seahawks and how he reacts to his pop with an uncontrollable smirk. He talks about loving topes and how they make him feel like Superman. “I have wrestled in the parking lots of gas stations and I have wrestled in front of 70,000 plus in New Orleans”. It’s a modern day Dusty Rhodes pork n’ beans analogy. Bryan puts over Kane, William Regal and Connor the Crusher. Daniel is grateful for the career he’s had. “We do this because we love to do this”. Bryan references a RAW from two years ago where the crowd hijacked the show on Daniel’s behalf and gets choked up talking about how his Dad got to see that and what that meant to him. The ongoing theme is that Daniel is grateful for everything he’s gotten from wrestling. It’s a touching speech, which makes me cry. And with that one of the greatest wrestlers of our time is retired. I will certainly miss him. Talent like his doesn’t come along very often.
THE RAW RECAP:
Most Entertaining: Daniel Bryan. Thanks for the memories.
Least Entertaining: The Miz. Appropriate that Daniel Bryan’s ‘mentor’ would have a terrible outing on Bryan’s retirement show.
Quote of the Night: “Brock Lesnar has gone soft. That sounds like a personal problem. What’s wrong Brock? Can’t get it up for the big fight” – Dean Ambrose pokes an angry dog with a sharp stick.
Match of the Night: Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler
Summary: There were a few decent attempts to push Fastlane, although the crowd were only really here for one person and he won’t be at Fastlane or any other WWE PPV from now on. Daniel Bryan’s retirement is unfortunate because he was such a phenomenal in-ring performer but if it means he gets to live a normal life from now on and doesn’t suffer a serious head injury that does worse than end his career then it’ll be worth it. There are hundreds and hundreds of Daniel Bryan matches out there for us to enjoy, both in WWE and around the world prior to his WWE debut. He will be missed but he can still be enjoyed. Thank you, Daniel Bryan for everything you’ve done as a professional wrestler. I can honestly say you’ve never disappointed me. You’ve always been a joy to watch.