Life in the fast lane ain’t all its cracked up to be.
Emanating from Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Announcers: Corey Graves, Byron Saxton, Michael Cole
SAMI ZAYN VS. SAMOA JOE
RAW TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP- LUKE GALLOWS & KARL ANDERSON (c) vs. ENZO AMORE & BIG CASS
SASHA BANKS vs. NIA JAX
CESARO vs. JINDER MAHAL
RUSEV vs. THE BIG SHOW
WWE CRUSIERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP- NEVILLE (c) vs. JACK GALLAGHER
BRAUN STROWMAN vs. ROMAN REIGNS
RAW WOMEN’S CHAMPIONSHIP- BAYLEY (c) vs. CHARLOTTE
WWE UNIVERSAL CHAMPIONSHIP- KEVIN OWENS (c) vs. GOLDBERG
WARNING: MATCH SPOILERS AHEAD
Welp, Wrestlemania is nary a few weeks away, and with the Showcase of the Immortals almost upon us, WWE’s biggest challenge was to make sure that Fastlane didn’t feel like an utterly forgettable and underwhelming transitional show with painfully predictable, and at times, outright baffling booking. You can probably already guess how well that little mission went for WWE now that Fastlane has been and gone.
I’m not really sure when precisely this show really started going downhill for me- although its worth mentioning it didn’t exactly start uphill. I suppose if I was going to put it down to one thing, it was how much frustratingly (and often unnecessarily) padded this show ended up feeling. I mean, its not like they didn’t already have a pretty robust card in place, but for some reason WWE felt the need to shove several impromptu matches onto the show, not to mention a completely throwaway Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon segment, and a New Day segment that really didn’t end up going anywhere. I understand that they probably just wanted to get everyone onto the show, but this is the kind of stuff that belongs on RAW, not pay-per-view: it completely disrupted the flow of the show, and since the filler stuff started early, it meant that the show was being disrupted pretty much the whole way through.
The matches themselves weren’t bad by any means, but just about all of them fell flat in a lot of ways. Much of this has to do with the staggeringly predictable booking at play: it resulted in a series of matches that felt utterly banal and going through the motions: even reliably excellent performers like Zayn and Samoa Joe couldn’t inject that much excitement into their match when every result was so painfully obvious. Lack of excitement was a recurring theme: as jazzed up, as the crowd seemed to be for the show, not a lot of that excitement actually translated to the matches themselves. On the bright side, the high point of the show actually went to the Cruiserweights this time around, with Jack Gallagher and Neville putting on a fantastic display that almost made the whole thing worth watching. You don’t know how happy it makes me to be able to praise the Cruiserweights given all their recent troubles with getting over with the mainstream RAW crowd.
On the other hand, the show hit its absolute low point in the Reigns/Strowman match: with not just predictable booking to contend with, we also had to suffer through a slow, plodding slug-fest that rarely felt like it kicked out of first gear. I think I was more entertained marveling at Roman’s bizarre choice of boots than anything he actually did during the match. And while its awesome to see Big Show in such incredible shape and looking better than ever, his surprise clash with Rusev definitely went on way too long, which when you have a match with two big hosses, is never a particularly good idea, and the match ended up sucking a lot of the energy out of the crowd.
Even the two biggest matches of the night couldn’t really save Fastlane, although admittedly that wasn’t exactly shocking to me. The Women’s Championship match was by and large a well-worked, exciting contest…and I would like to stop at that, but then the finish that made no sense at all happened, so unfortunately I have to persist. Sasha’s interference didn’t feel remotely properly motivated, and just ended up making Bayley look bad for apparently just being entirely okay with Sasha cheating for her. Also, throwing away Charlotte’s vaunted undefeated PPvV streak on a secondary show? When ‘Mania is only weeks away? What the hell is up with that? I have no clue what’s going to happen going forward with all this, but as far as this show is concerned, that was a profoundly frustrating finish to an otherwise fine match.
And that of course brings us to the Universal Title match…well, I think everyone knew that we were getting Goldberg squashing Owens for the title, but seeing it coming doesn’t really make it much better. The surprise appearance from Jericho was actually kinda brilliant and made for a nice bait-and-switch given Paul Heyman’s teasing of Brock Lesnar making an appearance earlier in the night, but it doesn’t really change the fact that Goldberg and Brock’s Wrestlemania match really doesn’t need the Universal title to make it special, and all putting the belt on Goldberg served to do was embarrass Owens and throw a spanner in the works with his long-awaited match with Jericho. The feud between RAW’s best act the year round is high enough in stakes and emotional investment that it deserves to have the Universal title involved, to say nothing of how appropriate that would be given how much Jericho has saved Owens’ title for him. Of course, I’m a KO fan boy so perhaps take this opinion with a grain of salt, but it still feels like a waste and the whole thing still ultimately left a bad taste in my mouth.
To be clear, I wasn’t expecting much of anything from Fastlane, since the whole show just came off as a throwaway filler PPV anyway, but its truly remarkable just how much more underwhelming it was than I could have possibly anticipated. Yet another main event featuring Goldberg that was over in 90 seconds, a bunch of limp, lifeless matches, and infuriating and wasteful booking somehow managed to make a harmless transitional show actively harmful to Wrestlemania by stripping away a bunch of potentially interesting angles and Wrestlemania moments.
So in short, screw this show and screw it hard: you’re better off skipping it and just being pissed off at RAW the next night than watching both and being twice as pissed off.