I’ve not been looking forward to this pay-per-view event. Raw events tend to just run way too long and have little payoff for the time and effort spent watching it. I literally kept my fingers crossed for the final fifteen minutes of the pre-show, hoping that this event would exceed my expectations. Was Fastlane, the final pit stop on the road to Wrestlemania, worth the viewing? And did the results make sense for the storylines going forward?
SAMI ZAYN vs. SAMOA JOE: This match played out exactly as it should have. Joe got the early heat, putting a beating on Zayn. Zayn started to build a comeback, landing a clutch Blue Thunder Bomb. He wasn’t able to land the Helluva Kick as Joe countered with an STO and made Zayn tap out with the Coquina Clutch. While Zayn really cannot afford too many more losses in big match situations, this first main roster pay-per-view appearance of Samoa Joe needed to show Joe looking like a dominant monster. Zayn put him over as just that. WINNER: SAMOA JOE
There was a backstage segment where Bayley was interviewed by one of the backstage robots. She stated that she was up for the challenge of beating Charlotte on pay-per-view. Nia Jax appeared and stated that she was going to rip her best friend, Sasha Banks to shreds and that if Charlotte doesn’t take the title off of her, then she will.
ENZO AMORE & BIG CASS vs. KARL ANDERSON & LUKE GALLOWS (Raw Tag Team Championship): Enzo & Cass cut another one of their long winded and, to be honest, uninspired promos. Cass and Amore being number one contenders is still not to my liking, but the Raw tag division is pretty light as it is, so they had to get a title shot against The Club eventually. Anderson has been the fall guy too often to make other teams look good and have the bigger guy, Gallows, still look strong (a Vince McMahon staple). But this match showed what those in the know have been aware of for quite a long time; Anderson is one of the best tag team wrestlers in the world. Amore sold for quite a bit, taking a lengthy beating. Cass got the hot tag and laid waste to both of his opponents, landing his trademark EMPIIIIIIRE ELLLLBOWWW on Anderson. Anderson went for a pin, but Amore got his leg on the bottom rope. The referee didn’t see this and Gallows pushed his foot off the rope so Anderson could pick up the win. WINNERS: KARL ANDERSON & LUKE GALLOWS
Cut to a backstage segment where Mick Foley was talking on the phone to Stephanie McMahon. Steph stated that she and Triple H were stuck on the tarmac and their plane wouldn’t make it to the show in time. She stated that she didn’t trust Foley to handle the show correctly and wants to make sure the Women’s Championship match goes off without a hitch.
NIA JAX vs. SASHA BANKS: This feud has really done nothing for me other than to expose that Jax was NOT ready to be called up from NXT. Banks is quite a good worker, but she’s not great at carrying less talented workers through a match. Banks took the fight to Jax early on. Jax cut her off with a strong clothesline to the back of the head and then a backbreaker rack to further work on the back and neck of Banks. Jax did a variation of a Torture Rack which would not have looked impressive had Banks not been so adept at selling and ragdolling herself around. Sasha countered into a sleeper hold. Jax was stunned as Sasha Banks reversed a roll up pin and got the win. Nia Jax shows glimmers of brilliance at times. If she could work on her timing and allow her opponent breathers to sell the damage she’s dishing out, she’ll be something impressive to see. WINNER: SASHA BANKS
JINDER MAHAL vs. CESARO: The breakup of Mahal and Rusev couldn’t happen soon enough. It seemed that Jinder was holding Rusev back. Mahal started off by a test of strength, but there was no way he was going to win that against the Swiss Superman. Mahal is pretty damn good at selling and he got the opportunity to do so as Cesaro tossed him to and fro. He caught Mahal in mid air and turned it into a devastating powerslam. Mahal has a solid offense, but for every clothesline or suplex, Cesaro had an answer. Cesaro hitting a 6-1-9 as well as Rey Mysterio did impress the hell out of me. In the end, Cesaro picked up the win. Rusev, who sat at ringside to watch the match, then unleashed on his former partner, beating the holy hell out of Mahal. This was until the entrance music of Rusev’s opponent hit. WINNER: CESARO
RUSEV vs. BIG SHOW: Show wasted no time getting into his opponents face and drilling Rusev with several jabs and body blows. Big Show has gotten into the best shape of his entire career and this match showed a focus from him not seen in well over a decade. Show’s trademark frying pan like chops to the chest in the corner seemed a bit harder than usual. Could it be that the rumors of Shaquille O’Neal backing out of their Wrestlemania match are not that far off? Rusev tried to mount the comeback against the giant several times, but Show cut him off over and over. Rusev finally nailed a crucial chop block to the leg, taking the big man down. Rusev hit the big man with three Machka kicks and Show was still able to kick out of the pin. This match made both men look good and set them up for big things at WrestleMania. WINNER: BIG SHOW
Another backstage segment with another backstage robot. Kevin Owens stated that he doesn’t fear his opponent tonight because in the past decade, Goldberg has only beaten one man. Owens continued that he’d continue beating the opponents that are lined up in front of him just like he’s been doing since becoming Universal Champion.
JACK GALLAGHER vs. NEVILLE (Cruiserweight Championship): Though the WWE production and creative teams have completely flubbed 205 Live and all of the goodwill with the fans since gaining it with the Cruiserweight Classic, the actual wrestlers on the program are quite talented and are trying their best. Neville as heel champion was the breath of fresh air that the division needed. The match opened with Gallagher toying with Neville, trying to get into his opponent’s head. Neville came back with some hard hitting offense, his stiff kicks in the corner for example. Gallagher’s unorthodox offense, like his diving spinning splash from the second rope out of the ring, made for an amazing sight. Neville cut his offense off and proceeded to beat Gentleman Jack down. His Phoenix Splash from the second rope, as well as his snap German suplex nearly put Gallagher down for the count. Gallagher’s head butt is probably the best in the business, but it wasn’t enough to slow down Neville, who nailed his opponent with a Red Arrow and retained his championship. WINNER: NEVILLE
The New Day came out for the next segment to hype up their brand of ice cream. The segment garnered a few laughs, but their gimmick is starting to run its course.
ROMAN REIGNS vs. BRAUN STROWMAN: I can definitely concede when I am wrong. I thought that Braun Strowman was a failed experiment that was not going to get over in 2017. But if there’s anything Vince McMahon knows how to do is get a big guy over. My only concern going into this match was that they were going to go through the trouble of having Strowman look like an unstoppable monster over the past few months, only to feed him to the other “experiment” of the past three years, all with the sole purpose of “making Roman look strong”. Strowman sought to eviscerate the big dog early on with punches and clotheslines that would pin lesser men. Reigns stayed in the fight, using his agility to his advantage, avoiding a tackle on the outside, causing Strowman to go careening into the ring stairs. Reigns went for a Samoan drop on the 385 pounder, but couldn’t get the monster up. Strowman countered, hitting Reigns with a Samoan drop of his own and revealed a sadistic smile. Reigns tried to deliver the Superman punch, but Strowman countered it nearly every single time. Strowman went for his running Mafia kick, but Reigns dodged, causing Strowman to get his leg caught on the rope and flip out of the ring. Roman thought his opponent was injured and went for a spear outside the ring. Strowman had it scouted and powerslammed Reigns through an announcer’s table. Two Superman punches and a spear couldn’t put away Strowman. Braun surprised the crowd by going to the top rope and delivering a splash which covered over half the ring. Reigns evaded the move and hit the monster with another spear, ending Strowman’s undefeated streak and effectively killing any monstrous momentum he had. Good job, creative team. WINNER: ROMAN REIGNS
CHARLOTTE vs. BAYLEY (Raw Women’s Championship): I used to be a huge mark for Charlotte. In NXT, she was the best all around athlete they had. On the main roster, she felt like the only legit dominant heel champ in the company. However, this obsessive need by WWE to keep her undefeated on pay-per-view is causing many problems with the Women’s division and with the championship. Her opponents beat her on random episodes of Raw, deflating their entire championship win. Charlotte wins it back the next pay-per-view, further making the changing of the title meaningless. She’s going to be a 17 time champion by SummerSlam at this point. Both she and Bayley went back and forth in the early minutes of the match since these former friends know each other well. But Bayley built momentum and she had a ferociousness that took Charlotte by surprise. She was nearly hit by the Bayley to Belly suplex and Charlotte exited the ring to rethink her strategy. Charlotte built the heat, keeping up a methodically paced offense on the champion, delivering a picture perfect moonsault in the process. A botched move to Charlotte while she was hanging upside down in the corner wasn’t enough to ruin this match. Sasha Banks came out to ringside, with the intent of preventing Charlotte from using dirty tactics to win. She warned the ref of Charlotte using the tights to gain leverage for a pinfall, so the ref called off the three count. Charlotte tried to take a swipe at Banks. While distracted, the champ delivered the Bayley-to-Belly suplex and broke Charlotte’s undefeated pay-per-view streak: WINNER: BAYLEY
GOLDBERG vs. KEVIN OWENS (Universal Championship): This was the match I feared the most. Vince McMahon only sees dollar signs in Goldberg and Brock Lesnar and it is likely that no matter how much Triple H has protected Owens, this belt was likely going to Goldberg to make his match against Lesnar at Wrestlemania a championship match. The opening minutes played out exactly as I predicted, as Owens took to the outside several times to “get into Goldberg’s head”. However, this really was to pad the match to make it not look like a typical Goldberg squash, but without a bunch of wrestling, which would expose Goldberg’s lack of wrestling skill. When Owens finally got in the ring, he asked for the ref to ring the bell to start the match. As they did so, Chris Jericho’s music hit and he came out, causing Owens to get distracted. Goldberg capitalized on this and annihilated Owens with a spear and then a Jackhammer, winning the Universal championship in the process. WINNER: GOLDBERG
In all, this pay-per-view event wasn’t a horrible one, but it surely had some peculiar booking decisions that make for a head scratching final stretch on the road to Wrestlemania.
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