I was contemplating waiting until Wrestlemania to start my WWE weekly updates but after watching Fastlane, there was plenty to talk about. I’ll start by stating that although I know more about wrestling than the standard fan, I’m in no way die hard. I watch Raw and Smackdown weekly and try to tune in to the PPV’s before social media ruins all of the results. I don’t follow the indie scene or NXT, simply because who the fuck has the time to watch that many hours of wrestling a month!
Fastlane, the worst named of all ppv’s is the Raw only ppv that comes somewhat ironically after Roadblock: end of the line, the final chapter in the road to Wrestlemania. This years offering focused on three major matches:
- Reigns vs Strowman
- Bailey vs Charlotte
- Owens vs Goldberg
In this review I’ll be going through the full show card from top to bottom. Excluding of course anything that happened on the pre-show because fuck watching pre-show matches. I mean really, fuck that. If your match isn’t good enough to make a ppv that gave 10+ minutes to Cesaro vs Jinder Mahal then I can’t imagine it will be that ground breaking.
From here on out, expect spoilers!
Sami Zayn vs Samoa Joe
Winner – Samoa Joe by submission
Now, as I’ve previously mentioned, I don’t watch NXT. I know that won’t be a very popular stance with the sort of people likely to take interest in a WWE PPV review, but oh well. Even with my lack of wrestling knowledge outside of the WWE universe I was still very aware of Samoa Joe and this was one of the few matches on the card I was looking forward to from a wrestling perspective, as opposed to a sports entertainment view point. Sami Zayn seems to have just fallen into the position of Joe Jobber purely due to Seth Rollins ‘Bryaning’ himself (i’m coining it, new phrase!) before the ppv.
Zayn as a character is starting to grow on me, but WWE’s obsession with these ‘never give up’ unpinnable face’s is getting a little old. Zayn’s previous plotline saw him compared to the immortal Mick Foley which I thought a little generous, I’d rather say he’s 2 parts Ziggler, one part Cena. Let’s just hope he makes a more convincing heel than Dolph ‘i’m grumpy coz i’m old‘ Ziggler.
The in-ring chemistry between Zayn and Joe is evident every time they encounter, and not to sound like a broken Michael Cole record but Joe’s strike speed is an incredibly impressive spectacle. There were a few punches and kicks that looked a little too real!
All in all a strong opening act of no real consequence. Having seen only 2 Samoa Joe matches ever, I predicted the finish before the sleeper was even applied. It’s a shame Tazz isn’t still around, they could have been a submission tag team with a Russian doll theme.
Score – 7 / 10. Predictable but entertaining wrestling and our first chance to see Samoa Joe on a WWE PPV.
Anderson and Gallows vs Enzo and Cass
Winner – Anderson and Gallows by pinfall
I’ll admit I was slightly disappointed that Enzo and Cass didn’t leave with the titles and I am equally embarrassed to admit that fact. There is something infectious about Enzo’s simplistic wordplay and complete lack of any discernible talent in the ring, it’s like a modern take on the team of Kane & Hurricane. I truly hope the rumours I’ve heard of splitting the duo up in favour of giving Big Cass a push which I sincerely hope are just rumours, his mic segments always give off a slightly brain damaged vibe and that’s when he only has to spout the same 5 letters each week.
This match fell a little short of my expectations, I had hoped for some good scraps between Anderson and Enzo before the two big guys clobber each other for a while taking it in turns to break up falls and play the ‘oh he needs to tag, can he reach the corner, oh not quite’ game… And yes although that is pretty much exactly how the match did pan out there just wasn’t really a single memorable moment or horrific botch (looking at you Enzo) to really talk about.
As for the ending, I can’t help but wish for anyone to take the titles off Anderson and Gallows. As talented as they are they’re tailor made back up goons. I don’t care how decorated they have been in their careers there’s just nothing about them to like or even dislike (with the exception of that ‘NERDS’ catchphrase Gallows occasionally spouts).
Score – 5 / 10. Disappointing result and an incredibly unmemorable performance from both teams.
Sasha Banks vs Nia Jax
Winner – Sasha Banks by pinfall
The overly forced secondary women’s match of the night. My review for this one will be short, I am a big fan of both of these ladies, I think they are key pieces in driving the women’s division forward, but this match was definitely not a part of that ground breaking movement.
Nothing against the actual wrestling, both ladies put on a great performance and it’s nice to see someone sneak a legitimate win every now and then. The motivation for the match was just so pointless. This whole rivalry has felt incredibly fake, but when you only have 4 women in your locker room capable of putting on a good fight and one belt then I guess two of them are going to be forced into fighting for fighting’s sake.
Score – 4 / 10. I only remember the finish, and I watched the match less than 24 hours ago.
Jinder Mahal vs Cesaro
Winner – Cesaro by pinfall
I can’t help but love Cesaro and Sheamus’ entrance, especially with the added risk that the Swiss Superman’s tearaway clothes may decided to fail at their one job. I was a little confused by this match-up, the only reason I could think of splitting Rusev and Mahal’s team up so abruptly would be to give one or both of them a push, but it looks like the angle leading up to Wrestlemania is going to be Rusev vs Mahal… If that doesn’t scream preshow I don’t know what does. In fact at Wrestlemania that might not even make the preshow, we might have to watch the match via cell phone footage on YouTube outside a bus shelter.
Either way, I was excited to see what Jinder could do in singles competition at a PPV and besides that when do you ever see a bad Cesaro match?
At Fastlane apparently… Cesaro sold a lower back injury which limited his more outlandish move set and really grounded the match in an unnecessary way. This might have at least given the opportunity for Mahal to capitalise and gain a little momentum, but no, he still lost… To an ‘injured’ Cesaro. Which really begs the question, what the fuck was the point in this match?
Score – 3 / 10. The lack of motive, fake injury and ultimate jobbing by Mahal felt like a Thursday night Thunder match-up, not something you bring out on the road to Mania.
Rusev vs The Big Show
Winner – Big Show by pinfall.
This won’t be a popular opinion, but I much prefer face Big Show over heel Big Show. He seems to genuinely get a kick out of the crowd liking him. Probably because they stop asking him to retire. I am a huge fan of the world’s largest athlete, but I have to say, his newly crafted physique although impressive hasn’t had much of an effect on his mobility. He still seems to be getting progressively sluggish in the ring, but I’ll take it as long as they don’t turn him back into a giant jobber.
It’s funny how much difference a year makes. It wasn’t much longer than a year ago that Rusev was running rough shot on the roster, including the Big Show. After watching Fastlane it’s hard to imagine Rusev being dominant over the giant, I guess that should go to his credit, as it definitely didn’t feel unlikely at the time.
The climax to this match was satisfyingly brutal, 3 choke slams and a knock out punch against the turnbuckle. It made me smile.
Score – 7 / 10. Personal bias definitely weighing in on this one, the crowd didn’t seem overly staggered, but what can I say. I love that slow motion KO punch.
Neville vs Jack Gallagher
Winner – Neville by pinfall
This was easily one of the highlights of the night. Now I don’t watch 205 live, mainly because I am not overly interested in most of the roster, but these two are definite exceptions. My first impressions of Gallagher was that he would never amount to much more than a jobber, I’m so glad I was wrong. His headbutts alone are enough to warrant a spot on the ppv card. I’m a little worried that this rivalry will die with Gallagher’s loss, but it was always destined to end this way. Neville’s emphatic return as ‘The King of the Cruiser weights’ couldn’t end just yet, he needs to knock off a few more contenders before he can really get stuck in to a meaty title back and forth with anyone. I just hope Gallagher cycles back round by that time, or if not Austin Aries and his magnificent package.
This rivalry resonates especially with me because of the British narrative behind it. As someone born and raised in Britain I can attest that we are much more like Neville than Jack and Neville acknowledging that caricature made for a really interesting segment.
The match itself was head and shoulders above the rest of the card, ironic given the heights of the two involved. The red arrow made its return as the finisher but not before we saw possibly the most magnificent top rope shoulder headbutt I have ever witnessed. All in all, it was probably the right decision to let Neville keep the title right now. I just hope Jack doesn’t get lost in the ever growing locker room of 205 live… It’s getting awfully big for just the one title belt.
Score – 8 /10. Truly enjoyable match, just animated enough to be humorous whilst still displaying the athletic prowess of both competitors.
The New Day vs Their Rapidly Decaying Relevance
Winner – Nobody.
Like most people I wasn’t the biggest fan of the New Day on their inception, their heel turn gave them a little credibility but it became tedious seeing the 3rd man interference every week. It wasn’t until their zany characters started to shine through that they stopped being an excuse to get up and make coffee. It’s really shocking for these guys to come off the back of a record breaking tag title run and be relegated to showing up with a fucking ice cream cart and not even having a match at a PPV.
Would it not have been better to find a permanent partner for Rusev and Tinder Mahal and put these three baby faces in a stop gap rivalry with some bad guy foreigners until you can think up a better way to utilise such a popular commodity? I really do hope the New Day bounce back from this, I miss Big E’s gyrating hips and sexual predator smile.
Roman Reigns vs Braun Strowman
Winner – Roman Reigns by a mentally ill writing team.
Why can’t Vince McMahon grasp that you don’t get someone over by making them beat every obstacle in front of them. People were finally starting to ease up on Reigns, his assisting of Rollins and sidestep away from the main spotlight were doing wonders to remove that ‘face of the company’ vibe. This was a perfect opportunity to give him a clean loss without making him look weak. It would have the added benefit of solidifying Strowman as a complete beast in the run up to Wrestlemania.
But no, Reigns just had to win. I actually like Reigns, I don’t think he’s as garbage on the mic as people claim and I hope he has a long and fruitful career… That being said I don’t think anyone over the age of 12 in the audience wanted to see a clean win for the Roman empire at Fastlane.
Braun truly is a monster, I’m just praying he doesn’t follow down Rusev’s rabbit hole. Once one big face beats you the next one has to too… and the next one… and the next. Until one day you realise instead of crushing every opponent that dares face you you’re being smashed through the barricade by a veiny Sikh that spend a great deal of his WWE career as a peon of Heath Slater.
Score – 5 / 10. The match was very physical and saw some great speed and physicality from both men, but I can’t get over how much better the match would have been if Strowman had popped Reign’s head like the Mountain in Game of Thrones.
Charlotte vs Bayley
Winner – Bayley by pinfall.
I’ve enjoyed this rivalry so far. Mainly because it wasn’t Charlotte vs Sasha which outstayed its welcome by about 5 ppv’s. Bayley was always going to win this somehow, I am foreseeing a Bayley vs Sasha Wrestlemania with a heel turn for ‘The Boss’ in the very near future. This also paves the way for an interesting rivalry between Charlotte and Nia Jax. At least I hope it pans out that way. If I have to watch Sasha vs Charlotte one more time I’ll be adding £9.99 to my Bank Statement (see what I did there!)
The women’s division is in a constant state of ‘one upmanship’ with itself lately, and it was now Bayley’s time to show she had what it takes to make an exciting ppv. I would say she did a fairly good job. The twist of bringing Sasha to the ring wasn’t one I had foreseen but does strengthen my belief in the women’s title match for mania. Charlotte was technically impressive as always and did outshine Bayley on occasion in terms of sheer ring presence, but that kind of works for the angle that the two were pushing, evidenced by the almost constant ‘she’s just a fan’ remarks from Charlotte.
Score – 7 / 10. There’s been better women’s title matches in recent history, but this was still a great contest. Glad to see Bayley retain and interested to see how they develop the story going forwards.
Kevin Owens vs Goldberg
Winner – Goldberg by Spear and Jerichammer.
Fuck you WWE. Fuck you so much. I hated Goldberg before it was cool to hate Goldberg, since his botchfest of a match against William Regal on WCW Nitro in 1998 I couldn’t believe so much effort and heat was being wasted on a man who literally cannot wrestle. I mean look at the picture above, that’s not even a spear! That’s sexual abuse and I’m sorry, but the jackhammer isn’t all that impressive when you have guys like Cesaro throwing people around like rag dolls on a weekly basis.
I’m all for sports entertainment, the most entertaining all round performer should be the one to receive the push, not always the best technical wrestler or the largest athlete, but fuck me. With all Kevin Owen’s talk I was so hoping for an actual match between these two. That was until I saw only 10 minutes left on the ppv and neither of them in the ring yet…
It was inevitable that Owen’s would lose though unfortunately, the prospect of adding the universal title onto the main event match at Wrestlemania was just too big to miss. It also paves the way for a Jericho and Kevin rivalry that can put Jericho out of WWE for a while, probably sometime around June when I go to see his band play at Download festival.
Score 1 / 10 – That 1 point is for Jericho. This match left a bad taste in my mouth. Nobody wants to see the competitors walking around the ring for longer than the actual main event.