With a depleted roster that has been plagued with injuries, World Wrestling Entertainment has had to work overtime to make sure that this year’s WrestleMania is the hit that they’re banking on it to be. Fastlane is the final pay-per-view event before WrestleMania, so any hopes of selling out AT&T Stadium and filling it with over 100,000 fans rests on this event delivering the goods.
SASHA BANKS & BECKY LYNCH vs. NAOMI & TAMINA: We rarely get to see women’s tag team matches on WWE pay-per-views, so given the level of talent in the ring and the weeks of buildup, I was expecting a match of the week contender. It didn’t appear that way at first as, despite a few high spots, suicide dives, etc, this looked like a match that could have been on SmackDown. But Sasha Banks put on a wrestling clinic towards the middle of the match, with several well timed reversals that would make Bret Hart proud. Slipping out of a double suplex, Sasha set up Becky to catch both women with a dropkick. Sasha caught Tamina with a head scissors takedown into her submission move, the Bank Statement. Naomi tried to make the save, but Becky Lynch delivered her submission, the Disarmer. Caught in the middle of the ring, there was only one conclusion to this match. Hopefully this sets up Becky to not be written to look so weak and sets up Sasha for a Diva’s title match. WINNERS: SASHA BANKS & BECKY LYNCH.
DOLPH ZIGGLER vs. KEVIN OWENS (Intercontinental Championship): My complaint about the heels in WWE not acting like true heels most assuredly does not apply to Kevin Owens. In the opening seconds of the match, the referee tried to separate the opponents who were locked up on the top rope and Owens delivered a vicious head butt, which disoriented Ziggler for several minutes. Ziggler tried to build momentum, delivering possibly the best dropkick in the business, but Owens hurled Ziggler, throat first, into the turnbuckle. This match had solid ring psychology, great pacing and didn’t turn into a bunch of high spots. The DDT spot that Ziggler does is a bit too high impact for my liking and every time he delivers it, I fear for neck injuries or concussions to the recipient. Both men unleashed a barrage of super kicks to each other, with Ziggler shortly after reversing a power bomb on the steel stairs into a hurrincarana, launching Owens into the steel. Owens was able to recover from a Fameasser quickly enough to deliver his Pop up Power bomb and get the pin. WINNER: KEVIN OWENS
THE WYATT FAMILY vs. BIG SHOW, KANE & RYBACK: I have had misgivings in the past with Bray Wyatt’s booking, as he was not being protected enough as a top heel of an elite faction. Thankfully, this match had his three minions doing his dirty work. Luke Harper is as total package of a menacing heel as one can be and Erick Rowan is damn near as good. Both men know how to dominate, but also how to sell to bigger and stronger opponents. Rowan sold Big Show’s slap to the chest superbly. Kane seems to be able to move around in the ring as well as he did when he debuted nearly 20 years ago. Braun Strowman appears to still be finding his footing, which is disturbing, given the rumors floating around about him getting a singles match at WrestleMania. Hopefully, more ring time between now and then can polish him and help get his timing down a bit better. Rowan possibly injured his knee as he came off of the top rope to stop a pin fall. Ryback came into the ring to clean house, but may have injured Luke Harper’s shoulder while delivering his finishing move, Shell Shock. It would be to the benefit of the Wyatt Family to not lose that often, but with the three opponents they went against, this is a justified
exception. WINNERS: BIG SHOW, KANE AND RYBACK
BRIE BELLA vs. CHARLOTTE (Divas Championship): This feud has felt a bit slapped together at the last second (highly likely to capitalize on the emotion from the retirement of Brie’s husband, Daniel Bryan). However, with a competitor like Charlotte, she is able to take these eleventh hour lemons and make lemonade. They took to the mat early with some pretty impressive back and forth technical wrestling. An impressive arm drag takedown by Brie was followed up by her mocking Charlotte’s manager and father, Nature Boy Ric Flair. Charlotte turned up the intensity and proceeded to inflict serious damage to Brie’s neck and back. Brie mounted a comeback, delivering a forearm shot that nearly knocked Charlotte out. While delivering a top rope dropkick, Brie tweaked her knee. But Brie fought on and attempted a single leg crab submission. Charlotte got out of it and applied the Figure Eight Leg Lock and cemented her victory. WINNER: CHARLOTTE
A.J. STYLES vs. CHRIS JERICHO: The previous two matches between these men were nothing short of amazing, so the rubber match had to take it to the next level. Booking/creative wisely had the match start off like a chess match, accentuating the fact that these men are now familiar with each others’ styles. A.J. went from the ground game to the air with a spectacular dive bomb over the top rope which Jericho scouted, catching Styles with a dropkick. They went hold for hold, strike for strike and high spot for high spot. Their similar styles are making for a great feud. Styles went for his flying forearm strike from the apron, but Jericho had it scouted and he did a second rope dropkick, taking out A.J.’s leg and almost causing Styles to knock himself out by landing face first on the mat. Jericho put Styles in the Lion Tamer several times, but Styles fought out. Styles hit Jericho with the Styles Clash, but Jericho kicked out. A.J. was finally able to lock in his submission, the Calf Crusher, and make Jericho tap out. WINNER: A.J. STYLES
R-TRUTH vs. CURTIS AXEL: For the life of me, I cannot understand why the U.S. Championship match between Alberto Del Rio and Kalisto was on the pre-show, yet this match somehow made it to the main show. The Social Outcasts are this generation’s version of the J.O.B. Squad, so them even getting this kind of screen time is questionable. Each time Truth tried to get his offense going, Social Outcast members Adam Rose, Bo Dallas and Heath Slater did their best to cause a distraction. Goldust came out to help even the odds. The two competitors would have been more than capable of having a solid match. But the fact that this only even occurred to push the brewing Goldust/R-Truth partnership made it a waste of a match and one that could have easily happened on Raw or SmackDown. WINNER: CURTIS AXEL.
DEAN AMBROSE vs. ROMAN REIGNS vs. BROCK LESNAR (Number One Contenders’ match for WWE World Heavyweight Championship): This match played out nearly exactly as I predicted, with Ambrose and Reigns both trying to attack Lesnar in the early going, but Brock taking the men to Suplex City. Ambrose broke up a pin fall by Lesnar, then slapped Brock in the face, further pushing how truly nuts Ambrose is. Lesnar attempted to deliver the F-5 to Ambrose, but Reigns caught him with a spear and nearly pinned Brock. Reigns and Ambrose then teamed up to power bomb Lesnar through the announcers’ table, keeping the Beast down for several minutes. Ambrose and Reigns then went back and forth, the crowd clearly not behind Reigns in any way, shape or form. Brock rebounded, but Reigns and Ambrose then power bombed him through a second announcers’ table and buried him beneath the debris and equipment from the destroyed table for good measure. The two remaining competitors fought on, with Reigns nailing Ambrose with a Superman Punch. Reigns attempted a Samoan Drop on Ambrose, but Lesnar darted back into the ring and did a German Suplex, launching both men. Lesnar locked the Kimura Lock on Reigns, nearly making him tap out. Ambrose then wailed on both men with a steel chair. Reigns regained his balance and got off the spear and pin on Ambrose. WINNER: ROMAN REIGNS
Not the worst WWE event I’ve seen, but the majority of these matches did not feel pay-per-view worthy and could have been on one of the weekly shows. Do you feel that this event was enough incentive to get fans not already subscribing to the WWE Network, to do so for WrestleMania? Or better yet, do you think this will encourage fans to buy tickets for WrestleMania if they haven’t done so already?