Cleveland, OH played host to the final pay-per-view stop on the road to WrestleMania. The main event decided who would take on WWE Champion Triple H at the Show of Shows and the rest of the card saw WWE shuffle the pieces around on the booking chessboard. It’s the Fastlane Report…
1. Pre-Show – Two Out of Three Falls Match for United States Championship: Kalisto (c) vs. Alberto Del Rio
This was nothing we haven’t seen from these two men before and it was nothing short of baffling to see such an intriguing title match relegated to a nothing slot on the pre-show. Nonetheless, Kalisto and Del Rio worked very hard here. Kalisto won the first fall when Del Rio nailed him with a steel chair. This weakened the champion long enough that Del Rio could score his corner foot stomp to even the contest at a fall apiece. The third fall was a solid one, albeit lacking the time and big fight feel that could have made it even more exciting. Kalisto was able to roll up his heel challenger to retain the belt. The question now is where Kalisto and his United States Championship will fit into the WrestleMania card.
2. Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch vs. Naomi and Tamina
This match seemed like a dead cert for the pre-show, so it was a pleasant surprise to see it on the main Fastlane card. Naomi did a solid job as the aggressive heel early on, but things didn’t really get going until Becky Lynch made the hot tag to Sasha Banks. Banks exploded into the match and hit some really innovative variants of her signature moves on Naomi. She got the Bank Statement on Tamina and Lynch caught Naomi with the Disarmer when she tried to break Banks’ hold. Tamina tapped out to win the match for the babyface duo, who shook hands after the match, showing none of the dissension that should really have been the heart of the story here. It seems as if a triple threat Divas Championship match at WrestleMania is going to be the chosen direction.
3. Intercontinental Championship: Kevin Owens (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler
Owens and Ziggler have met too many times on television in recent weeks for this to be truly compelling, but it was certainly one of their better matches. They worked a measured pace early on, before Ziggler fired up and quickened the pulse of the match. Some close nearfalls followed as both men took some risky bumps. Owens took a series of superkicks, but was able to benefit from confusion involving the referee to score a Pop-up Powerbomb and retain his belt. Just as with Kalisto and the US Championship, Owens now faces the question of who he will defend his title against when WrestleMania rolls around. It’s okay to keep hoping for Sami Zayn, right?
4. The Wyatt Family vs. Big Show, Kane and Ryback
The Wyatts’ quest to take down the titans of WWE had become a quietly compelling story on WWE television in the run-up to Fastlane. The stage naturally seemed set for them to register a big win on pay-per-view in order to take on the ultimate titan, Brock Lesnar, at WrestleMania. That, in true WWE form, didn’t happen. After a bland six-man tag seemingly taken from a house show card, Ryback hit Shell Shock on Luke Harper to score the pinfall for his team. The Big Guy appeared to dump Harper directly on his shoulder in messy and reckless fashion. This is yet another ludicrous turn in the seemingly endless saga of the Wyatt Family being the least consistently booked set of performers in the company.
5. Divas Championship: Charlotte (c) vs. Brie Bella
Brie Bella wore Daniel Bryan’s kickpads from WrestleMania XXX and did a stellar job here as the plucky babyface battling the arrogant heel champion. Brie paid homage both to her husband and to her sister Nikki by pulling out some of their signature moves in an attempt to secure her second Divas Title reign. The finish came when Charlotte countered a single leg crab into the Figure Eight, forcing Brie to tap out. This was a nice placeholder feud for Charlotte, but she must now move on to the meatier feud awaiting her at WrestleMania.
6. AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho
Styles and Jericho have been having the most intriguing feud on WWE television since the night after the Royal Rumble, with Jericho’s slow burning heel turn providing real interest. This was the best of their matches by far, with the enhanced familiarity creating a really interesting dynamic. There were a few moments where the timing was slightly off, but there was real excitement in the final stages. Jericho, in a somewhat questionable decision, was able to kick out of the Styles Clash, but soon found himself tapping out to the Calf Crusher. A handshake after the match felt like something of a cop out and it’s unclear whether this feud has enough momentum to continue into WrestleMania. Despite the match quality, this felt like a missed character opportunity.
7. Cutting Edge Peep Show with New Day
If any segment from Fastlane could have been sent to the pre-show, it’s this one. Edge and Christian briefly plugged their WWE Network show before New Day turned up. They had a mildly funny exchange in which New Day ran down just about every other team in the WWE. The League of Nations arrived, upset at New Day’s gloating, and there was another five minutes of bizarre awkwardness. It was incredibly unclear what WWE was hoping to achieve with this segment, other than drawing attention to the dire state of the tag team division.
8. Curtis Axel vs. R-Truth
This got on the pay-per-view card over the United States Championship, which is about as damning an indictment of WWE booking as it’s possible to have. The only explanation is that a page of the script for this week’s episode of Superstars somehow got mixed up with Fastlane. Goldust-related shenanigans lost Truth the match via a roll-up, as if anyone cared.
9. Number One Contender: Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns
Rumours swirled around this main event, with many doubting the obvious outcome of a Roman Reigns victory. They needn’t have expected such invention from WWE, who approached the match in the most blandly conventional way possible. Lesnar dominated throughout, but found himself slammed through two separate announce tables by the brothers in arms. There was tension between the brothers, but this never seemed to come to anything. Lesnar exploded back into the match as it neared its conclusion, but Ambrose beat down the Beast with a steel chair. A spear from Reigns to Ambrose won the match and punched the Big Dog’s ticket to the Show of Shows. Triple H came down to the ring for the customary staredown. WWE had so many potential options for this match, so it’s baffling that they chose to do nothing of interest whatsoever. The wrestling was competent, but the stench of missed opportunity hung in the air.
Fastlane was not a bad wrestling show by any stretch of the imagination. It was, however, the most bland PPV offering in recent memory – a show that simply took the easiest and safest route in just about every match. The likes of the Wyatt Family and Dean Ambrose had their momentum forcibly stalled, whilst Reigns marched on to a WrestleMania main event that could be horrendously unpopular.
Tom Beasley – Follow me on Twitter for movies, wrestling and jokes about David Cameron.