Remember when there was Fastlane AND Roadblock? When WWE was really god damn intent on selling the very literal “Road” to WrestleMania? They should have kept that theme up. They could have added a few more of these nothing shows leading into April!
WWE Traffic Jam! WWE Fines Doubled Zone! WWE Last Reststop For 62 Miles! I love themes. Give me more driving themed pay-per-views! Move the Elimination Chamber to, like, September. I’m sure we can throw something else in February.
Oh! WWE Fresh Oil And Chips On Road. That sign always makes me hungry. Oil and chips? That sounds delicious!
Alas, there is no more Roadblock, and only Fastlane stands as an exit on the Road To WrestleMania. It’s… historically not been a great show. For example: Quick! Pop-Quiz, hotshot! Name five Fastlane matches ever from before 2021! You have twenty seconds.
How did you do? I knew two! Daniel Bryan vs Roman Reigns from 2015 and Kevin Owens vs Goldberg from 2017. I don’t… I have no idea if there even WAS a Fastlane last year. Was it maybe cancelled due to COVID? Maybe the Road was down to one lane due to construction. The FastLane was being paved.
What’s that? No, I don’t think that’s enough road references yet.
I missed most of the pre-show while I was finishing up a movie I had to watch for a podcast recording on Monday night. But I did tune in just in time to see Ali lose to Riddle, leading to the dissolution of Retribution. Can you imagine a world where WWE has EVEN LESS for people like Dominik Dijakovic or Mia Yim to do? Because we are about to see it!
I actually hope Dijakovic and Dio Madden stay a tag team and get a nice run.
MATCH 1: Women’s Tag Team Titles Match
Did Shayna Baszler eat some kind of poison in the last 12 months? The stat reduction she has gone through is alarming! She has gone from eliminating 8 women in the Royal Rumble and eliminating every single opponent in the Elimination Chamber to losing a lot in singles matches, and quickly. I feel like we should occasionally be seeing little red -1’s popping out of her head at this point.
Regardless, she and Nia still somehow manage to fluke their way to tag title defenses because it feels like no one else wants those belts. After losing to a Monday Night Raw level distraction roll-up finish (speaking of Shayna, watching her crawl around on her back and impatiently wait for Sasha to get into roll-up position was a highlight), Sasha slapped Bianca.
So is Sasha a villain again? This conflicts me; I feel conflicted. Sasha excels as a heel, but how can she be one on a brand where Bayley co-exists? You know they would end up teaming on a random Smackdown sometime by June.
MATCH 2: Intercontinental Title Match
Apollo Crews has pulled the rare Inverted Kofi. He went from being himself to be a foreign version of himself with an accent.
The Internet tells me Apollo was born in Sacramento. And yet, my wrestling sense also tells me that Vince McMahon just watched Black Panther. Either way, you’d think that Apollo could do this gimmick without the cartoon accent. “I’m descended from Nigerian royalty and I will start taking what I want”. You can do that in your California voice, guy.
This was a beat down from Big E to start, with his ongoing taunting really selling how much Apollo’s attacks have gotten to him.
And then… WWE gave us one of those “Wait, was that supposed to happen?” endings when Big E countered a small package, then kind of turned it into a bridging position, while the referee counted three during the transition. See also: The main event of WrestleMania 34; the one pay-per-view match between Kevin Owens and AJ Styles.
I don’t know why we needed this here, but I also don’t think it was a botch. Maybe it was a botch. Here’s how you know: whatever I think it was? It’s the opposite. I’m not very good at this.
Also! Apollo Crews does a frog splash! Who DOESN’T do a frog splash? The frog splash is to the 2010’s and 2020’s what a bodyslam was to the 1970’s and 1980’s.
MATCH 3: Elias vs Braun Strowman
There was an Old Spice 24/7 Title skit between matches, but the less said about it, the better.
This match was supposed to be Braun vs Shane McMahon, but Shane seemed to have tweaked his knee in training. Elias pestered him, so he made Elias his replacement.
I guess we are pushing Braun vs Shane off to WrestleMania, so hurray! Several more weeks of childish taunts and pranks. WWE is a weird place, guys. Like, they’ll do some stuff really well, but then later on the show we have an actual bucket of green slime being dumped on someone. The same company that is giving us THIS, is also giving us the compelling Roman Reigns/Daniel Bryan/Edge storyline. It’s really hard to reconcile.
MATCH 4: Seth Rollins vs Shinsuke Nakamura
Two things happened before the match:
First, Shinsuke ran into Matt Riddle backstage for some WWE Comedy. For one of the first times ever, I wondered: why do so many wrestlers stand in a random hallway and shadowbox? Don’t they have dressing rooms? Catering? I’ll never understand how they are so frequently just standing there and throwing light jabs at the air until someone talks to them.
Secondly, my WWE Network spontaneously decided to sign me out mid-feed. That’s new, though I suppose it’s not a problem I’ll be encountering much going forward. It gave me a reason to give ol’ Peacock a test drive for the rest of the show. And you know what? The video quality on Peacock was better than the typical WWE Network experience.
The match was fine. What’s the lowest realistic score a Nakamura/Rollins match could get? two-and-a-half or so? It was better than that, but it never really wow’ed; Shinsuke is just Cesaro’s hype man at the moment, and he took the loss here so Cesaro can get the ‘Mabia build.
It was during this match that I finally realized what bugs me about The Thunderdome. I MISS being able to hear everyone talking. Rollins was yelling his typical Seth stuff mid-match (“I’m strong, too!”), and it reminded me of what a gift he was during the no-crowd, no-Thunderdome era. I hope when fans come back, they have to stick to golf rules so I can go back to hearing everyone.
MATCH 5: Drew McIntyre vs Sheamus
I love when WWE finds something that works and then NEVER STOPS DOING IT for a while. This is the, what, third Drew/Sheamus match in the last month or so? Glomp on hard, WWE.
Still, what’s to complain about? These two want to keep beating the holy hell out of each other for my amusement? It’s rude of me to not appreciate it.
This contest finally made me accept something I’ve been trying not to realize for months now: Samoa Joe is not nearly as good on commentary as you’d think he would be. I consistently forget he is even there until I hear a deeper voice say something not particularly poignant, and then I go “Oh yeah, that’s Joe, huh?”. I really want him to be better at this, but he’s so darn forgettable out there.
Today is the day I paid enough attention to see there are Thunderdome screens on the floor, behind the ringside barricade, and that just tickles me. Why are those even there? It brings to mind the image of tiny people crouching behind the barrier, and then you suddenly… see them. Thunderdome gnomes. THUNDERGNOMES!
Only I find this fun. MOVING ON…
Drew threw Sheamus through some Thunderscreens, leading to an explosion that was at least 35% more devastating than the one Mox and Kingston endured. And from now on, every time I see sparkles during a match–no matter how innocuous–I’m going to think “is that a dig at AEW?”. I’m sure it wasn’t. But I am just… skeptical… enough.
But yeah, this match was great. Again. Drew wins.
MATCH 6: Randy Orton vs Alexa Bliss
On the one hand: I hate this gimmick.
On the other hand: Alexa is just doing as picture perfect a job with it as you could ever want.
So do I WANT this match in my WWE wrestling? No. Did I laugh my butt off and enjoy this match a great deal when it was happening? Yes.
I am a hypocrite.
I enjoyed Alexa’s further descent into becoming the Dark Phoenix here, as she summoned walls of fire, shot Hadoukens, and telekinetically brought down a lighting rig. Soon she will away into the cosmos to eat a star, killing a planet full of broccoli people. Afterwards some bird aliens will put her on trial. She’ll momentarily turn good again, but kill herself to save the [WWE] universe. Tearfully before he dies, she will share a moment of love with Nikki Cross, then scream “NIKKI!” as a laser cuts her down. Nikki will, of course, yell “ALEXA!” in return, then start tag teaming with someone who looks eerily like Alexa Bliss.
I’ve never wanted an angle so much in my life now.
What we get INSTEAD of that is the Melted Candle version of The Fiend popping out from under the ring. He hits Sister Abigail, then Alexa pins Orton with the count of a referee that I swear to Christ wasn’t there all match. This was fun. How does WWE follow it up at ‘Mania when there are live crowds again and you can’t just piecemeal edit all of this stuff together? That’s the real challenge now.
MATCH 7: Universal Title Match
WWE worked me hard. I am okay with that! But they totally did.
Anyway, yep. Here we are. The same company that gives us Shane stuttering Braun Strowman’s name to… insult him, I guess?… also gave us this. As a wrestling match, this was very entertaining. As a story, it was picture perfect.
Here’s where Fastlane leaves us:
-Daniel Bryan got a visual win over Roman Reigns, forcing him to tap out while there was no official’s presence.
-Edge, whose role in this storyline has oddly made him feel like a heel (seriously, he gets a title shot at ‘Mania no matter what, so why does he care if Bryan gets a title shot before then? It paints him as petulant), got to embrace his inner ‘Tweener by costing Bryan the match, then assaulting both guys.
-Roman gets a pinfall victory (No Guillotine, huzzah!), but gets it on the back of Edge’s attack, not his own move.
Now you keep working until you get the Triple Threat at WrestleMania that we all deserve, and any result that doesn’t see Edge win the title is gravy.
Unless you want Edge to win the title.
Then I’ll be happy for you. You can make your own gravy.
Wait, I have more driving puns!
That’s it for Fastlane, so now we have to merge to the right so we can get off this exit and fuel up for the rest of The Road To WrestleMania. It seems like on the way, we might pick up 20,000-or-so hitchhikers because Vince sure as hell isn’t going to have two empty WrestleManias in a row, man. We’ll have to shift it into fifth gear and hope no one fails a field sobriety test on the way!
Man, I miss Roadblock.
Oh well. I’m going to go write more of my suddenly burgeoning WWE/X-Men fan fiction before work tomorrow. If you need something else to read, check out my breakdown of movies and TV that I enjoyed in early March, or the most recent edition of Pop-Tart Quest.
Until next time… take care!