We Review WWE Fastlane 2017
After WWE put on a stellar show with Smackdown Live’s Elimination Chamber, it is time for Raw’s turn at a pay per view, and not just any pay per view. This is the last major show before WrestleMania. So let’s run down Fastlane.
Samoa Joe vs. Sami Zayn
This was old school storytelling at its finest, with Zayn playing the plucky underdog to Samoa Joe’s monster heel. Zayn showed off his athletic prowess and craftiness. There was one enjoyable spot where Zayn pretended he was knocked out. Joe went for the pin, only to reveal Zayn was playing possum and tried to pin Joe. As enjoyable as this match was, there were also a few too many rest holds for me to say this was one of my favorites. The match ended when Joe choked out Zayn with the Coquina Clutch. These two could probably do better, but this was a solid opener.
Match rating: 3.5 stars (Out of 5)
Enzo and Cass vs. The Club – Raw Tag Team Title Match
This match was alright for the most part. It started off with some decent double team action from The Club. They played the classic story where Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson double-teamed Enzo Amore mercilessly before Big Cass entered the match like a man on fire. This match probably would have been passable if not for the anticlimactic ending. Anderson just hit Amore with a big boot and pinned him, despite Enzo having his foot under the rope, but Gallows knocked it away… and that was it. The match had a real “wait, what just happened?” vibe.
Match rating: 2.5 stars
In between matches, Bayley and Nia Jax cut promos on each other. I like the idea of these two dueling it out in the ring… not so much on the mic.
Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks
The best way to summarize this match is Nia Jax beats up on Sasha Banks, Sasha wins anyway. Instead of Super Cena, we have super Sasha. Someone needs to tell the booking team Sasha Banks does not play the underdog well. We got a little creativity where Sasha scored a sneak victory over Jax. However, this match was still a wash.
Match rating: 2 stars
Next, we have a segment where Rusev and Jinder Mahal argue over… something. So Raw GM Mick Foley books the two in separate singles matches.
At this point, I must again remind the reader, I’m reviewing a pay per view, not an episode of Raw.
Mahal and Rusev brawled a little bit before Mahal knocked Rusev into the crowd. Then out came Cesaro and Sheamus. (I wonder how much Sheamus made for just posing with Cesaro in the entrance.) And with almost no build, we have…
Cesaro vs. Jinder Mahal
After we got back from commercial, I mean once the match gets started (lol), not much happens. The match was decent enough. However, the match was so devoid of a good story or intrigue, I just could not get into it. God bless Cesaro for still bringing his A-game. He was whipping out top rope uppercuts and “619s”. Seriously, it takes work to make me not care about a Cesaro match this much.
Cesaro won…and water is wet.
Star rating: 2.5 stars
Rusev was on deck next and his opponent was The Big Show.
Big Show vs. Rusev
This match was another in the long line of matches that were serviceable but felt like Raw matches. Rusev and Show put on a fairly competitive match, but Show got the duke.
I can’t say I’m too upset about Show winning. The man deserves credit for getting back into unbelievable shape, and he seems to be in the “He’s still got it” phase of his career. However, it is alarming to see someone as talented and exciting as Rusev be consistently jobbed out. (I guess with Wade Barrett gone, someone needs to be the victim of Vince McMahon’s stop-start pushes.)
Also annoying was ANOTHER anticlimactic ending. Show gave Rusev three chokeslams which would have been a pretty good way to put away a monster like Rusev. However, he followed that with a pretty weak-looking KO Punch in the corner.
Match rating: 2.5 stars
Paul Heyman cut an excellent promo where he said that by challenging Goldberg at WrestleMania, his client Brock Lesnar will be a winner no matter what.
Neville vs. Jack Gallagher – Cruiserweight Championship
This was a match I was certainly excited about.
Neville and Gallagher are two of the most exciting members – if not THE two most exciting – of the cruiserweight division. Even if a lot of it is for their mic work. Granted, two engaging characters should bring more excitement to the usually drama free cruiserweight matches.
And boy did this deliver!
There was some early submission from Neville, but that was only a warmup. We saw some crazy offense from these two, including Gallagher’s trademark headbutts, some aerial offense from the normally grounded Gallagher. We already saw tonight how good work rate can mean little if there’s no story, and boy did these two sell the story that they were trying to do ANYTHING to vanquish the other and win the Cruiserweight Championship. Neville even broke out the Red Arrow for the first time in a while, with the announcers rightfully selling it as a Hail Mary move.
The match felt a little like a good 205 Live match, but that’s a step up from the mediocre Raw matches on most of the card.
Match rating: 4 stars
After this was a pallet cleansing promo where the New Day introduced their new bike/ice cream cart. I thought this was effective because after a match like that, it felt like a good idea to brighten the crowd’s spirits and if anyone can do that, the New Day is the right choice.
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Stroman
I was… cautiously optimistic about this match.
I’ve stuck my neck out for Roman Reigns, and Braun Stroman is slowly proving himself. The match started off with some exciting brawling outside the ring – including an impressive spot where Stroman threw Reigns into the steps and Roman flipped over them.
One demerit was a long stretch of rest holds. Fortunately, it didn’t go too long.
The action picked up later with Stroman reversing Roman’s attempt to spear him into the barricade with a wicked power slam. Roman did get the victory, but Braun still looked like a star in defeat. He even kicked out of the first spear attempt. This was far from perfect, but it was a fairly exciting and intense big man match.
Match rating: 3.5 stars
Bayley vs. Charlotte – Raw Women’s Championship
Well, the Raw booking team completely dropped the ball on saving Bayley’s title win until WrestleMania.
Instead, they’re running with a story where she has to prove herself, especially to Charlotte, who claims she’s “just a fan” (She says it about 15 times in this match in case you missed it). I’m not digging this story, and honestly, the lack of depth in Raw’s women’s division is feeling more apparent, especially with how good Smackdown Live is doing.
So how was the match itself?
Despite my disdain for the story, the match was solid. I thought Charlotte whaling on Bayley wore out its welcome, but there was some exciting action.
Bayley did gain the upper hand, including a great spot where Charlotte shoved Bayley and Bayley just landed straight on her feet, looking ready to fight. Towards the end of the match, Sasha Banks came out and interfered on Bayley’s behalf, including catching Charlotte trying to hold Bayley’s tights. We got some neat spots such as Bayley giving Charlotte a Bayley-to-Belly Suplex on the outside then one in the ring for the win.
With Bayley already holding the women’s gold and having conquered Charlotte’s undefeated streak, there is little for her to accomplish at Mania. Having been wrong about things before, I don’t want to speculate too much, but I don’t like where this is going.
Having said that, I still thought this was a solid match – it stopped a few steps of being great, but it was enjoyable.
Match rating: 3.75 stars
Goldberg vs. Kevin Owens – WWE Universal Championship
I will admit, I was curious to see how things were going to go.
Even though Goldberg has only had one squash match and his appearance in the Royal Rumble since his return, I also figured if anyone could carry him to a good match, Kevin Owens was the man to do it. Besides, even if Goldberg has not been the best worker in his career, he definitely has a presence about him, even now.
Goldberg has at least been looking like he belongs while Owens has been looking like a true heel for the first time since his feud with John Cena.
Still, I was keeping my expectations in check, maybe we’d get something like Goldberg’s match with Diamond Dallas Page from Halloween Havoc 98.
Instead, Owens came out and stalled… and stalled… and stalled some more. He finally entered the ring and Chris Jericho’s music hit. One spear and one Jackhammer later, and Goldberg was the champion.
Yeah, I did not like this.
I don’t want to play Chicken Little and say Owens is finished because he was squashed. Clearly, the company values him since they put the Universal Championship on him, to begin with.
Maybe he could parlay this loss into becoming a BIGGER heel. Time will tell.
However, I can not say I am a fan of a current star getting squashed in a 26-second match, putting a top title on a 50-something-year-old part timer. Say what you will about The Rock winning the top title in 2013, he at least proved he could carry full matches.
We also see the pitfall of WWE failing to make Owens a big enough heel. If he had been a bigger jerk, his quick loss to Goldberg MIGHT have been more satisfying.
Also, I remember how I felt after Goldberg squashed Lesnar at Survivor Series. I disliked it at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how satisfying it was in hindsight – seeing a conquering hero just quickly dispose of a beast. It came as a legit surprise: No way would Goldberg beat a top level guy in a squash, but he did!
Here, there was a vibe of “Hey, remember how you liked Goldberg squashing Lesnar? Here it is again!” A huge difference is this time any possible surprise was undercut by timing. This show went past 11:00 PM, so it was pretty clear there was just going to be a quick match.
I get the feeling that maybe, just maybe, this may have been a little more palatable as the closing segment of Raw. But as the final shot of a pay per view (a pay per view that was skating on thin ice as is), it was no good.
Match Rating: Zero stars
So that was Fastlane. And it…was…not good.
Comparisons between the Raw and Smackdown brands feel inevitable, and boy did this show emphasize what a superior show Smackdown is. I figured the Raw team would have to try hard to top Elimination Chamber, but I question if they tried.
A few good matches saved this from being as bad as something like Battleground 2013 or King of the Ring 95. However, this is easily one of the worst shows WWE has done in a long time. Very little of the show was satisfying and half the show felt like an episode of Raw.
- - Cruiserweight Title Match - Bayley vs. Charlotte - Stroman vs. Reigns was surprisingly good - Zayn vs. Joe
- - Lame, squash match main event - Most of the show felt like an episode of Raw - Weak storytelling undermined even the good matches - Show lasted too long