THE ROAD TO WRESTLEMANIA MEANDERS THROUGH HERE – 4/10.
Yes rasslin fans it’s the one you’ve been waiting for; the PPV that isn’t the Royal Rumble or Wrestlemania, the one that used to be Elimination Chamber but is now sort of… just there. The WWE desperately wants you to be excited by Fastlane, much in the same way that they desperately want you to be excited by Roman Reigns. The announce team have rambled on for weeks about this being the last stop on the road to Wrestlemania, they’ve even added a race car sound effect to the graphics just in case you missed the subtle analogy. But there really isn’t much to get excited about. The card feels like an episode of Raw, and not a very good one at that. It kind of makes you wish that there was, oh I don’t know, an elimination match or something?
It’s even harder to get excited about a PPV where the heavyweight championship isn’t defended and the main event has been so obviously booked that Mystic Dave, the worst psychic in Bumbsridge, could predict the result. But even then, as if this turd sandwich of a card wasn’t hard enough to swallow already, said predictable outcome is so deeply unpopular with the majority of the audience that the turd sandwich analogy stops being figurative and actually becomes literal. Vince McMahon has literally prepared a turd sandwich and is currently flying to your house in his private jet to feed it to you…. Suffice to say I am not too excited for this one. But hey, let’s keep an open mind and try to remain a bit objective. Plus AJ Styles vs Y2J should be good.
Of course I jest, it won’t be that bad… wait, is that Eva Marie? I take it back kill me now.
BECKY LYNCH & SASHA BANKS vs NAOMI & TAMINA
WINNERS: SAHSA & BECKY
This match really serves two purposes; to separate Sasha from Naomi and Tamina (why was she with them in the first place?) and to give the crowd some Sasha action so they don’t chant for her during Brie Bella’s match. Putting Becky and Sasha together as a team just feels like a mistake, one of the major problems with the failed ‘Diva’s revolution’ is that all the girls got clumped together in teams that made no sense and completely diluted their characters. Becky and Sasha were feuding; they were building towards a triple threat with Charlotte, now they are team mates. This kind of inconsistent booking hurts the women’s division and pairing Becky off with a more popular wrestler doesn’t do her any favours, especially as she was just starting to get over with the fans.
The match itself is pretty solid. Sasha and Becky are both very talented performers and Naomi is actually criminally underrated as a wrestler. Sasha and Becky get off to a rocky start, but soon end up on the same page. The commentary is as frustrating as ever with the announcers ignoring the match in favour of making idiotic comments about the girls’ hair and endless references to the ‘Diva’s Revolution’ that never actually happened. After a sluggish start the pace starts to pick up, particularly when Becky is able to gather some momentum, however she is soon halted by a surreal Cossack dance attack from Naomi. The crowd is desperate for Sasha to get involved in the match and they go crazy when she finally makes the hot tag.
Sasha’s comeback on Tamina is absolutely fantastic, taking her down with a double knee drop to the face, followed by a Back Stabber and the Bank Statement. Naomi tries to make the save but she is caught by Becky and ends up in an arm bar, after a few moments Team B.A.D taps out in… UNITY! This wasn’t a bad match to start the show, the crowd actually got pretty in to it and I am pleased to say that a healthy portion of the cheers were directed at Becky. But there is no doubt as to who was the crowd favourite. Vince has a huge star in Sasha Banks and he is going to make a lot of money with her, unless of course he totally devalues her by putting her on Total Divas or jobbing her out to a Playboy model.
Oh look, Machine Gun Kelly is here. I really don’t like that guy; I don’t know what it is. He’s like a hip hop version of Bono, there’s no reason for me to hate him but I do. I used his performance at Wrestlemania 28 as a toilet break and when I came back to my seat 78,362 other people were booing him. I had no idea why, but I knew it was my destiny to help round that figure up to 78,363. Anyway he’s there, hopefully Kevin Owens will throw him off of the stage again… or a building.
KEVIN OWENS (C) vs DOLPH ZIGGLER
FOR THE INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP
WINNER: KEVIN OWENS
Speaking of KO, here he comes and it’s good to see him carrying some gold. Owens really is the perfect heel. He’s not trying to be cool or a bad ass, he’s just unpleasant. When the smart crowd tries to cheer for him he instantly turns it on its head and uses it to gain even more heel heat. Something he repeatedly does in this match against Dolph Ziggler, the hometown hero. While the crowd is pretty evenly split with their support, Owens loudly announces to Ziggler that his hometown likes him more. It is little things like that that make him such an enjoyable performer to watch. Ziggler is as effortlessly flawless as ever, the only problem is the WWE has tainted his brand so much it’s impossible to even entertain the idea of him winning this match and that’s a real shame.
The match itself is actually very good, but we’ve seen these two fight each other so many times before that it really doesn’t have a very special feel to it. That said they give it their all and it is a highly physical bout with some spots that genuinely made me grimace. Ziggler may be the best seller on the roster and he makes every move look as if it could be potentially deadly, KO’s Fisherman Buster Suplex from the top rope was a particular stand out moment. Like HBK, Ziggler works best on the receiving end of a beat down, however he does manage to get some strong offence in as well, at one point reversing an attempted powerbomb outside the ring into a hurricanrana in to the steps. Luckily Owens is able to block most of the impact with his head.
The men continue to trade power moves, ending when Dolph goes for a superkick which Owens manages to avoid and turn into a Pop Up Powerbomb for the win. This was a decent enough match, but it didn’t feel like it warranted a place on a PPV. Owens really needs to be moved up to a big make or break feud, as much as I love Dolph he really isn’t the man to help launch KO up to the platform where he belongs. After the match Owens indulged in his favourite past time of shouting at Michael Cole before walking directly past Machine Gun Kelly without hitting him in the face with a chair. Thanks for nothing Kev!
We now get treated to a Big Show, Ryback and Kane promo, which is only marginally worse than having to watch a Big Show, Ryback and Kane match. They seem to be having some sort of cliché throw down where they try to see who can be the most tedious and irrelevant. The thing is I actually really enjoy listening to Paul Wight, Ryan Reeves and Glen Jacobs speak, but I have literally zero interest in anything Big Show, Ryback and Kane have to say. I also have no interest in the next match either but I have taken a solemn vow not to hit fast forward. Oh they’ve finished talking, good.
LUKE HARPER, BRAUN STROWMAN & ERIC ROWAN w/ BRAY WYATT vs BIG SHOW, KANE & RYBACK
WINNERS: BIG SHOW, KANE & RYBACK
Why is this match even happening, just to give the Wyatts something to do? Don’t act like you care about the Wyatts, only one of them matters and he is stood outside wearing a frankly glorious Hawaiian shirt. I really don’t understand how they have managed to drop the ball so badly with Bray Wyatt. He could have been huge, he should have been, but creative’s continued refusal to pull the trigger on him has led to total viewer apathy. It seemed for a while as if he was going to have to take a backseat to his own enforcer, the black hole of charisma that is Braun Strowman, but they seem to have given up on that idea as well. So now Bray is just stood by the side of the ring watching as a thrown together team trounces his boys.
Speaking of things that make no sense how is Big Show a babyface again? That man has had more turns than a rotisserie grill. Nothing about this match makes sense; in fact the only comfort I can find in any of it is by just looking at Bray’s shirt, it really is very nice. The match itself is your standard big man match, but times three. The Wyatts spend most of it on the defensive, even big bad Braun. Strangely enough the only real highlight of the bout comes when Ryback suddenly forgets that he is a super heavyweight and starts hitting running knees in the corner as a big FU to his old buddy CM Punk, who he once again decide to troll on Twitter this week. Of course Ryback being Ryback, he messes it up and nearly sends himself flying over the top rope in the process.
Actually as much as I am not a fan of ‘the big guy’ no one tries harder than Ryback. He actually manages to pull out a dropkick from the second rope in this match, more credit to him. It’s at this point that I start zoning out and find myself reminiscing about the time that they tried to get Rowan over by saying that he was an award winning winemaker, now there’s a gimmick the kids can get behind. Big show launches Harper over the top rope into the award winning winemaker and his large friend which is pretty impressive truth be told, then delivers a spear to Strowman. Ryback hits Harper with Shell Shock for the win, although it seemed like Harper got hurt in the process. Somewhere CM punk is laughing… although wherever it is, it definitely isn’t a UFC ring.
I can’t see the benefit of jobbing out the Wyatts again; this really does makes all of them look weak. It’s anyone’s guess as to how they will fit in to the landscape of Wrestlemania beyond Braun winning the turdfest that is the Andre Memorial Battle Royal. I especially can’t see how this does anything for Bray Wyatt, although to be fair at least he is wearing a very nice shirt, so it’s not all bad.
Oh God, someone has given JoJo a microphone, even worse they are letting her point it at Roman Reigns. No good will come of this. Reigns goes over the same old shtick; he’s going to Wrestlemania, he is throwing his friendship with Ambrose out of the window, yadda, yadda, yadda, last man standing, etc. Dean interrupts the interview and they enter into one of the strangest conversations of all time about hitchhiking on the road to Wrestlemania. I think Dean believes that it is an actual, physical stretch of motorway, I wonder if it will show up on WWE Ride Along (available on the WWE Network for just $9.99). JoJo brings up Brock Lesnar, Roman and Dean agree that he’s not getting through them. Roman says he belees dat, and you know he means it when he says he belees dat.
CHARLOTTE (C) w/ RIC FLAIR VS BRIE BELLA
FOR THE WWE DIVA’S (ugh) TITLE
Do you remember when Eddie Guerrero passed away and Rey Mysterio was suddenly pushed to the high heavens to try and make us all feel a bit better about it? Well that is sort of what is happening here, or at least it’s what the WWE wants to be happening here. Everyone loved Daniel Bryan, especially me, but Brie Bella hardly carries the same good will as Rey Mysterio. Even worse she has stepped in to a spot that was already occupied by Sasha and Becky. No one really wants this match and while Brie has definitely improved in the ring, she really isn’t at the level where she can carry a PPV match. The match itself starts slow with Charlotte mocking the ‘Yes’ chant, Brie mocking the Flair ‘woo’, and both of them sounding like idiots.
It takes a while for the crowd to get into it, but to my surprise they actually do start to get behind Brie. But this is only really because she is mimicking Daniel Bryan and people want to chant ‘Yes’, Brie and Charlotte try to put together a couple of sequences but something doesn’t quite click and it ends up as a horrible tangled mess on the floor. While the ref tends to a cut on Charlotte’s nose Byron Saxton randomly announces that Brie loves sitting at home with Daniel Bryan and listening to the birds chirp. Eat your heart out Jim Ross, or cry your eyes out, either one. It is at this point that Brie switches in to Brie Mode, which is a bit like going Super Saiyan only a lot less effective. She hits a dropkick from the top rope, hurting her leg in the process.
Charlotte works the leg for a bit but ends up in a Yes-lock. Ric Flair has remained strangely subdued for this match but finally interferes, giving Charlotte a chance to escape the hold. Brie is able to turn the hold into a Single Leg Boston Crab before she is apparently flung across the ring by a ghost. I literally have no idea what happened, I don’t think the Nature Boy does either but I don’t think he has known what was going on since 1987. Charlotte locks the Figure 8 on Brie and she quickly taps out. That match was straight up horrible; I don’t understand why it happened especially if Brie didn’t win. I am guessing the hope was that it would gain Charlotte some heel heat but that only works if the crowd cares about the person she is screwing over, which they don’t.
AJ STYLES vs CHRIS JERICHO
WINNER: AJ STYLES
Now this is more like it, a match I actually want to watch. AJ styles has been in the WWE for just over a month now so every new interaction still feels fresh and exciting. His mini feud with Jericho has been shaping up nicely over the last few weeks. While the idea is to get AJ over with the casual fans it has also done a lot of good for Jericho. His current run has felt stale and this rivalry has allowed an arrogant heelish side to emerge, which is far more entertaining than a man in a scarf chanting “rooty, tooty, booty” in the desperate hope that it might trend on Twitter. Anyway, there is no one better at reinventing themselves than Chris Jericho, so it will be exciting to see what he does next after this rubber match closes off his feud with AJ.
The match starts with some solid chain wrestling that shows off just how capable these men are. The crowd is in to it right away with duelling chants for both men. Jericho goes for the Walls early on and AJ responds with a Calf Crusher. AJ brings out a lot of his best offence for this match, flying around the ring and even pulling out his Springboard Moonsault Inverted DDT, which is a thousand times cooler than the Styles Clash. I really am a huge AJ fan, but I have this horrible feeling that he will eventually just end up being fed to Roman Reigns as a plucky babyface underdog. That makes me a sad panda. AJ and Y2J continue to go back and forth until AJ goes for a suicide dive through the ropes but is caught by a dropkick from Jericho.
Jericho remains in control for a while, hitting a Lionsault which still looks absolutely perfect even after all these years, AJ responds with a Pele Kick which is a thing of beauty in itself. They continue to hit each other with stiff blows and heavy signature moves, AJ isn’t shifting that Japanese hard style anytime soon but Jericho is more than capable of rolling with it. AJ goes for his Springboard Forearm but is cut off by a Springboard Dropkick from Jericho. Jericho hits AJ with a Codebreaker through the ropes as he tries to get back in the ring but is only able to get a two count. An amazing sequence of moves and counter moves leads to a Styles Clash which Jericho is able to kick out of, but AJ quickly locks Jericho in the Calf Crusher. Jericho works the crowd as his hand hovers above the mat before he finally taps.
After the match Jericho confronts AJ, it seems like they are about to fight again but then Jericho offers AJ a reluctant hand shake. This was easily the match of the night; it was also the only match that felt like it actually belonged on a PPV. Cole referred to it as a dream match, truthfully I would have loved to have seen these two fight when Jericho was at his prime, but even now Jericho is still better than almost everyone else. It will be interesting to see where both these men go from here. I am hoping that AJ’s next stop is Kevin Owens.
THE CUTTING EDGE PEEP SHOW feat NEW DAY
Edge and Christian and New Day in the same segment! What’s not to love about that? E & C have always been entertaining as hell and The New Day are pretty much the most fun act in the WWE right now. I’m really looking forward to watching Edge and Christian’s new show so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for my review of that. Edge and Christian come out to a great reception but they are soon interrupted by the New Day. The men exchange insults with E & C getting the clear win by bringing up Kofi’s abandoned Jamaican accent and commenting on the New Day’s failed babyface run by saying “I’ve never seen so much chocolate act so vanilla.”
New Day begin to insult all the other tag teams on the roster including The League of Nations, who end up coming out to confront them. This is strange as The League are not babyfaces so the crowd isn’t going to cheer for them. New Day leave and the League immediately begins to threaten Edge and Christian, after some heated words Edge and Christian exit the ring and join New Day who dance erotically while Edge and Christian fling dollar bills at them. Look, I have a lot of love for Edge, Christian and The New Day but what the hell was that? It started strong and then just totally fell apart. Why was the League there? Are Edge and Christian friends with New Day now? Was Edge’s comment about chocolate and vanilla racist? I have so many questions!
KURTIS AXEL vs R-TRUTH
WINNER: KURTIS AXEL
What the hell is this? Why is it happening? I hate when stuff like this happens at a PPV. It just shows how rubbish the card is when you put something like this on it. Anyway, here come the Social Outcast and you can’t question the effort these guys are putting in. The only problem is that there is no cohesion with them as a faction. Everyone is cutting a different promo, but I guess that is kind of the gimmick. Adam Rose points at the Wrestlemania sign; he is actually the first person to do it during the PPV so he gets 10 points. That said I am not sure why he is pointing at the Wrestlemania sign. Put your hand down Adam, you just look silly. R-Truth comes out next doing his rap; it feels like he has been doing it for 20 years, it feels like this PPV has been going on for 20 years as well.
So Axel and Truth have a match, I am going to be honest; I zoned out for this one and started looking at toys on amazon. I ordered myself a couple of Funko Pops which really made me feel a lot better about what was happening on my television. As expected the rest of the social outcasts interfere in the match causing Goldust to run down to the ring. They’ve been working an angle for weeks where Goldust wants to be Truth’s partner. I loved the Goldust character in the 90s and Dustin is in the best shape of his life, but it is hard to care about anything that is happening here. Goldust attacks Adam Rose throwing him in to the ring; Truth has to jump over him which allows Axel to roll him up for the win. Thankfully this is over, I wonder how many rasslin fans just went to the toilet.
ROMAN REIGNS vs DEAN AMBROSE vs BROCK LESNAR
NUMBER ONE CONTENDOR’S MATCH FOR WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
WINNER: ROMAN REIGNS
Okay, so we all know how this is going to go down but hopefully the match itself will be entertaining. Dean comes out to a healthy pop, followed by Reigns who of course gets booed and then Brock who the crowd absolutely loves. The match pretty much begins how you would expect, with Dean and Reigns taking it in turns to get suplexed to hell. Dean in particular makes it look as if every suplex is tearing him in half. Brock goes to give yet another suplex to Reigns but is caught by a missile drop kick from Ambrose. Ambrose tries to suplex Brock but The Conqueror just laughs it off, delivering a brutal belly to belly of his own. Reigns fights Lesnar outside of the ring, Ambrose goes for a suicide dive but is caught by Brock and suplexed on to his head.
With Ambrose now dead on the outside that leaves Reigns and Lesnar to fight, the crowd is all over Reigns and they go crazy when Brock hits him with an F5. Ambrose breaks the pin and launches an attack on Lesnar but gets swatted off. Lesnar goes to F5 Dean but is speared by Reigns, he takes a Superman Punch and rolls to the outside. Reigns tries to hit another Superman Punch off of the ring steps but gets caught in the F5, only managing to escape when Dean low blows Lesnar. Fans of The Shield get a cool retro moment as Ambrose and Reigns drive Lesnar through the announce table with a two-man powerbomb. With Lesnar enjoying a little time-out, Ambrose and Reigns go to work on each other. The crowd is solidly behind Dean, not that that matters because who cares what the crowd thinks, right Vince?
Ambrose actually gets in a lot of offence here, including his flying elbow and the rebound clothesline from the ropes that I really wish he would stop doing; it just looks rubbish but everyone else seems to enjoy it. Around about this time Brock wakes up from the dream about caveman sex and red meat that I presume he was having. Reigns and Ambrose stop fighting each other and head outside of the ring where they promptly drive Lesnar through another announce table, proceeding to bury him under the wreckage. Roman then turns on Ambrose and hits him with several big impact moves. I think Dean may be up there with Ziggler when it comes to selling, although some of his facial expressions can be a bit cartoonish, especially the one where he looks a bit like a sad turtle.
Reigns hits Ambrose with a superman punch to a chorus of boos. Dean manages to dodge a spear, catching Reigns with Dirty Deeds for a two count. Dean points at the Wrestlemania sign, earning him 10 points, I wonder if he is going there with Adam Rose. Reigns catches Ambrose with a Samoan drop but is suplexed by Lesnar before he can deliver it, launching Dean into the stratosphere in the process. Lesnar proceeds to beat on Reigns who responds with a spear that Brock is able to turn into the Kimura lock. Reigns shows incredible strength by lifting Brock up using one arm, but Brock still keeps the move locked in tight. Ambrose rolls back in to the ring with a chair, he beats on Brock and Reigns but ends up getting speared and pinned by Reigns for the win.
Reigns celebrates in the ring as fireworks go off and the crowd boos, unless they are saying ‘Boo-urns’ which is always a possibility. Triple H’s music hits and he walks down to the ring to have a little stare-off with Reigns. This is your main event for Wrestlemania, whether you like it or not. This match was okay, but it just felt too set in stone to ever really commit to. It especially felt like Dean was only there to take a pin so Brock didn’t have to. Aside from a couple of cool spots and Brock being his normal glorious self, nothing really happened. The only positive I can take away from it is it looks like Brock will be fighting Ambrose at Wrestlemania, hopefully in some kind of street fight involving lots of blood and primal screams from Brock.
So that was Fastlane, the road to nowhere. It was another one of these ‘meh’ PPVs that ends up feeling like an overly stacked episode of Raw. There really wasn’t much to care about on this card due to illogical booking, irrelevant matches and predictable outcomes. We need to care if we are going to invest three hours of our lives into watching something. There shouldn’t be filler PPVs, there shouldn’t even be filler matches, everything that happens should feel like it matters. Fastlane definitely didn’t deliver on that front, which really is a huge shame as this is the road to Wrestlemania and this PPV felt like more of a road block than anything else. I described it as a turd sandwich at the start of this review and now it’s time to discuss the filling in that yummy treat.
Personally I have no problem with Roman Reigns. He deserves a spot at the top of the roster, but at some point Vince has to see that he just isn’t getting over as much as they’d like. Yes Cena gets a mixed reaction as well but he didn’t always, it was the huge crowd reaction that launched Cena to the top before people grew tired of his act. Reigns’ push reminds me of the one Vince tried to give Lex Luger in the 90s, letting him slam Yokozuna and ride around in the Lex Express, but the crowd didn’t take to Lex and so he moved on to Bret Hart instead. Vince seems totally unwilling to do that with Reigns, the whole point of HHH winning the Rumble was to give Roman his Wrestlemania moment this year and it just makes everything feel so predictable and pointless.
Anyway, that about wraps it up. I’ve written an awful lot about a pretty poor PPV, so if you’ve made it this far then I thank you. Wrestlemania is approaching fast and at the moment there really isn’t much to be excited about, hopefully that will change in the coming weeks. I am going to go and watch the new Edge and Christian show to try and cheer myself up. As a final thought, I am considering live blogging for Wrestlemania. Traditionally I tend to get blind stinking drunk from about lunch time onwards which should make for some really awful reading. If this is something you might be interested in seeing then let me know. Until then, thanks for sharing the turd sandwich with me.