WWE Fastlane Recap: It Gets Better, I Promise
In the past, during our long slog on the Road to Wrestlemania, we've made our last pit stop at the Elimination Chamber. This year however, WWE has taken the scenic route and we've found ourselves taking our final break at the dirty interstate restroom that was WWE Fastlane, the punny-named event is, at least for now, our Elimination Chamber replacement as the former finds a new home in the summer months.
This being another month in which new subscribers can enjoy the WWE network free of charge, one would have assumed that we would be in for an above average show. Sadly, WWE played a very tight hand and treated us to a bland, predictable, promo heavy show that was more akin to a bad Raw than a bad PPV. Maybe consider borrowing Bray Wyatt's spare tire, because during our trip on the Fastlane, the wheels come off this one rather quickly.
Six Man Tag Match
WWE opened the show with a culmination of matches seen on numerous Smackdowns before. Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan and Ryback faced Seth Rollins, Kane and Big Show in a six-man tag match, the purpose of which became clear about two minutes in. After a strong showing by Ziggler and a continuation of poor showings for Erick Rowan, the tide turned and Team Authority took the upper hand. Thankfully, WWE made sure the performer who needed the pinfall most, Kane would score the Victory.
The event would be capped off by the shocking return of Randy Orton, no doubt seeking revenge on Seth Rollins for the curb stomp he suffered on Raw many weeks ago. Orton cleared the ring with his crowd pleasing finishers, getting what would go on to be one of the biggest pops of the night. Seth Rollins would then turn tail and run, looking more like a scared damsel in a Friday the 13th film than he did Mr. Money in the Bank.
While this was a decent match that had some solid ring work from your typical players, the obvious set up to a Randy Orton return completely sucked any excitement or suspense that may have existed prior to the bell ringing. In addition, given that there was little to no build for this match, our expectations shouldn't have been that high, but the mediocre results and build would set the tone for the rest of the night.
Goldust vs. Stardust
Goldust is, hands down the greatest Attitude Era performer that has never held the WWE big belt. There have been many articles that have claimed that Goldust has only gotten better with age, and they are absolutely correct. Putting him against his brother only seemed fitting, a chance to pass the Goldust persona onto Cody Rhodes, a man who has shown immeasurable potential during his time as Stardust.
Prior to the match,Goldust would cut a promo with his father, legendary Dusty Rhodes. Goldust promised to his father that he wouldn't hurt Cody, only beat him to free him from the clutches of Stardust. To say that he kept that promise was an understatement. The two men would go on to execute a match with some of the poorest pacing and timing seen on a Pay Per View in some time. Goldust would spend most of his time, squatting in the ring, staring at the shirtless Stardust, occasionally making the effort to reverse his maneuvers. Cody on the other hand, would show a large level of aggression and energy only further drawing attention to Goldust's awkward behavior.
Capping off this dreadful match would be what appeared to be a botched pinfall, made clear by the referee's hesitation on the final count. The only saving grace to this match was the epic promo that Stardust would go on to perform backstage during an attack on his brother. Cody Rhodes should truly be celebrated for his effort here. Despite a poor and downright lazy showing in the ring, Cody Rhodes in the span of three minutes put over a gimmick that many in the internet community said wouldn't work or was a product of the past. Cody took Stardust to a different level during that promo and it was quite impressive, something that hopefully others on the roster, and in creative paid attention to.
These two are capable of much better and hopefully are given more time to build this feud and put on a true match at 'Mania. Hopefully the Stardust character will continue to be a part of the roster as Cody showed how capable he is working in the role.
Usos vs. Tyson Kidd and Cesaro
Coming off the Goldust/Stardust disaster, WWE delivered the only surprising finish of the night with a Kidd/Cesaro upset over The Usos to capture the tag team belts. The match itself slightly above average, featuring signature moves and decent ring work from all four competitors. However, much like the rest of the event, it was ultimately forgettable.
Its a shame as well, considering Tyson Kidd and Cesaro are both woefully underrated performers, the latter further marred by poor booking decisions. While its great to see Kidd and Cesaro with gold around their waists, one wonders how WWE's obsession with Total Divas will effect their momentum into 'Mania and a likely challenge from The Ascension.
Sting confronts Triple H
Sting is a once in a life time event. There will never be another situation that WWE has with Sting and the legacy of WCW. End of story. Therefor, its no wonder that WWE is making a spectacle of any amount of screen time he gets. Tonight was no exception. If you've been watching any WWE programing since this encounter was announced, you may have thought that this was the main event. WWE knows that Sting is special and fans will go nuts at the mere sight of the man.
The promo itself was pretty by the book. Triple H gives Sting a chance to join The Authority after accusing him of trying to sink WWE. After Sting stands silent and motionless Triple H instigates a confrontation, even retrieving his trademark sledgehammer. Sting would counter with his trademark bat and a standoff ensued. After holding Triple H at batpoint in a corner, Sting would go on to point at the Wreslemania sign, deliver his finisher, and leave.
It was a fun moment to see the two finally go at it in the ring. While fans may long for Taker/Sting, for now this is the best we're gonna get it seems. Sting is well into his fifties, so it will be further interesting to see how he can handle himself in a ten minute match against another ring veteran.
Paige vs Nikki Bella
In what was, for many, The Restroom Match, Paige would fail to capture gold (pink?) against the bustier of the Bellas. There wasn't much to gain here. Typical dirty finish as Nikki would grab Paige's tights during the three count. Typical botched spots and stiff moves. Typical selling of the PTO as unbreakable and constant shouting of Brie from ring side, doing her best Bea Arthur impression as she cheered her sister on.
This has been pretty typical of WWE programming as a whole for a while now. There have been countless articles and pundits that have all come to the same conclusion: The Divas division is a joke. With any luck, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Charlotte will stay in NXT a tad bit longer and give Triple H and Stephanie some time to fix the colossal mess that John Laurinaitis helped create.
Dean Ambrose vs. Bad News Barrett
In a match, the ending of which tried it's damndest to compete with Gold and Stardust for low point of the night, Dean Ambrose tried to put on a good, fun match. Creative would make sure that that couldn't happen. Ambrose and Barrett would go on to trade momentum and spots in a clean, tightly worked match. Ambrose would hit his typical crowd pleasing maneuvers, twice falling through the ropes and using his momentum to propel himself back into action. A truly funny moment occurred as Barrett, after having his Bullhammer finisher reversed, sought to get himself counted out. After trying to exit, Ambrose jumped over the top rope and threw him back in. Only to see Barrett barrel roll from one side of the ring and out the other. However, the fun would quickly stop.
Ambrose threw Barrett back into the ring and drove him into a turnbuckle. Ambrose hit Barrett with numerous punches while the referee counted to five. At the count of five, rather than pulling Ambrose off and warning him as happens in literally every other match ever, he was disqualified. For the fourth time that evening a feud was set up that would continue into Wrestlemania. Ambrose would try to salvage the situation by channeling his inner Swiper the Fox by stealing the belt and leaving the ring, but the damage was done. A silent crowd spoke the loudest as we collectively realized we were merely watching a three hour long commercial rather than an actual event.
John Cena vs. Rusev
I personally disagree with the majority of internet fans who felt that a United States Title match was better suited for a Smackdown or Main Event as opposed to the end of a Pay Per View. Its no secret that the undercard belts are in some serious need of help when it comes to prestige. Dean Ambrose cut a promo during the pre show reflecting that same feeling, albeit towards the Intercontinental Championship, a higher tier belt. In a reality in which there is no clear number one contender any longer, Cena would challenge Rusev for his U.S. title, a belt that, prior to this night, rarely got any screen time.
The match itself was by no means memorable or stand out. Rusev did show great range during the contest, landing a rather stiff, but still passable ddt on Cena. However, like the match before it, WWE creative would step in and kill any momentum that could have been gained from the match. The ending would come in the way of a typical heel distraction as Lana made her way to the ring. The referee was occupied long enough for Rusev to score a shot to the beanbag. Of course, Cena was then left to mercy of the Accolade.
For some time now, Rusev has been booked as an unstoppable monster. Never suffering a pinfall or submission. However, winning via cheap over used heel tactics only grounds him. It sucks away anything that may have made him special. Now, he's the Miz, or any other performer who can only win by cheating.
The undefeated streak cannot go on forever obviously. Tonight would have been a great time for all involved for this streak to have been broken. Rusev, who has done an amazing job bringing relevance to the U.S. Title, could have been free to move on to bigger gold, better feuds and bigger matches. Cena could have his cinderella story, getting his first WWE title back. This would bring some prestige back to the besl and, best of all, it would pull Cena away from the Main Event scene for a bit, giving him and his character some time to retool. Instead, we're treated to yet another “to be continued moment,” as Fastlane shows its true purpose.
Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan
In what was truly the biggest shock of the night, Roman Reigns did not enter the ring to a shower of boos. Conversely, the pop for Bryan was nowhere near where it has been prior. While likely this is a symptom of a crowd that had lost interest after the Divas match, it was an interesting facet to have been added to a match like this.
More interesting was creative's decision to be rather hands off with this match. The entire night had been marred by botches, dirty finishes and promos. Many things could have gone wrong at the conclusion of the contest. However when the dust settled it was Reigns that won... and he did it clean, no tricks, no distractions, no Lesnar. Daniel Bryan would stand up and demand that Reigns, “kick Lesnar's ass at Wrestlemania.”
The match itself gave us one brief memorable moment in the way of Reigns' kicking out of the running knee. There was hardly any reaction from the commentary team, the only mention was from JBL in passing. However, at that point the writing was on the wall that Bryan didn't have a chance. While Bryan did put on a great performance, protecting Reigns like an Abrams tank, the match was only marred by the two and a half hours that preceded it. One would have expected, after such a hostile reaction from the previous PPV crowd, that Reigns would have been booed from the building. However, after experiencing first hand WWE creative and Vince McMahon's vision of the future, the crowd was worn out and seemed glad for the whole thing to be over.
Its truly sad that Daniel Bryan is being treated like this. While serving Bryan the company on a platter isn't the answer, he deserves better than this. Not since Chris Jericho have we had a fan darling and underdog like Daniel Bryan. They both had to fight for their respective places in the company and both eventually, with the backing of the crowd, made it to the top of the mountain. Daniel Bryan doesn't need the belt back right now, but he deserves much better than what is coming to him.
There was a decent chance that many of you watched WWE Fastlane for free, and if so, you surely got what you paid for. The inaugural edition of Fastlane left us with more questions than answers. Only two actual Wrestlemania Matches were set based on events from Fastlane, and of the matches that took place, no storyline was meaningfully advanced.
For viewers new to wrestling, WWE Fastlane was a chance to see wrestling at its worst, formulaic, boring, and predictable. For long time viewers, we were able to expose the newer viewers to everything wrong with the direction that WWE is headed. I'm sure a phrase that was uttered to a non wrestling fan that was watching with a friend was, “It gets better...” Lets hope that it does get better, because as of now, the Road to Wrestlemania is better left as the road less traveled.