With “Elimination Chamber” off the books for awhile, WWE is trying out a new WWE Network Special — Fastlane. “Fastlane” sounds a bit too market focus group conceived and doesn’t immediately strike me as a wrestling/sports entertainment title, but it won’t matter so long as the action delivers in the last special before Wrestlemania.
Apparently, even WWE considers this to be a two-match show as John Cena vs. Rusev and Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan were the only contests covered in the opening video.
Erick Rowan, Dolph Ziggler and Ryback vs. Seth Rollins, The Big Show and Kane
Nice to see the Survivor Series teammates still being aligned. One of my biggest annoyances with modern sports entertainment is how few alliances and friends exists so it was nice to see this partnership continuing.
I hate how Rollins is relegated to opening match status, but at least he looks like the star especially walking between Kane and The Big Show. Michael Cole tries his best to explain the convoluted booking of how the faces contributed to the demise of The Authority, then The Authority returned and fired them, but even he sounds confused. This booking was way too convoluted
The commentators are busy focusing on the Rollins’ exchange with Jon Stewart from “The Daily Show.” Please tell me, Rollins won’t be spending Wrestlemania in the Bam Bam Bigelow spot.
Why is Lawler talking about how excited he would be for the prospect of Big Show vs. Brock Lesnar? Has he already forgotten Royal Rumble 2014? Rollins does some quality trash talking, but I’m at a loss for how exactly his status has dramatically improved from a year ago from a storyline perspective. He was part of a dominant three-man unit where he was a former tag team champion and now the only difference is he has the Money in the Bank, which he arguably could have won just as easily as a member of The Shield.
Have to give the WWE a lot of credit for how they’ve managed to rehabilitate Ryback. Ziggler is the most popular member of the face team, so of course he takes the loss courtesy of a Big Show knockout punch and a Kane chokeslam. This end result was fine, but Rollins needed to get the pinfall victory far more than Kane. Rollins starts curb stomping everyone as the fans chant for Randy Orton and he obliges by hitting the ring and laying out J&J Security and Kane with a trio of RKOs. Orton wants payback after getting turfed out of The Authority last November, but doesn’t get his hands on Rollins. The fans were stoked for this return and it seemed a bit premature to have that big moment kick off the show.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Goldust vs. Stardust
Look at the long in the works split between Goldust and Stardust. Nice promo with Goldust and dad Dusty Rhodes, who looks so much older than the guy I started watching in 1987. Goldust says he’s gonna beat on baby bro until he no longer wants to put on the paint of Stardust. Stardust has a new shirtless costume.
Cole tries to JBL reminds them of all the brothers that fought in the past: Bret vs Owen, Dory vs Terry Funk, Rick vs Scott Steiner and Booker T vs Stevie Ray. Cole tried to correct JBL with his reference of Michael and Fredo, saying “I think you meant Frodo.” Cole, my friend, let’s find something else you’re “good” at buddy. Cole is trying to sell this like it’s something we’ve never seen before and JBL hilariously continues to bring up more instances of brothers battling.
The fans are into the feud taunting Stardust with a “Cody” chant. So much better than quiet indifference. In the midst of Stardust’s heat sequence, Goldust counters with a crucifix that leads to the unexpected pin. Looked like the ref screwed up there as he tried to hold up his three count but Stardust didn’t get his shoulder up so he called the three count. Stardust sorta shakes Goldust’s hand before walking off. This was going fine until the botched ending.
Rating: 2 out of 5
Goldust and Dusty talk in the back. Stardust attacks Goldust in the back before delivering an awesome promo about Goldust being a bag of bones, Attitude Era relic and Dusty being in his shadow.
Tag Team Titles Match: The Usos (with Naomi) vs. Cesaro and Tyson Kidd (with Natalya)
I’d rather see Naomi and Natalya going after the Divas championship instead of being relegated to glorified valet status. This match delivers exactly what anyone who’s watched an Usos match lately would expect — fast action, good pacing and solid chemistry. If you’re a fan of old school tag team wrestling, this is your match. Cesaro and Kidd spend the majority of the match targeting both Usos’ leg while Jey and Jimmy use their quick tags and aerial arsenal to keep their opponents off guard. Surprisingly, the Usos lose clean as Kidd hits his pumphandle finisher to get the “upset” win. Now time for the hard part for the WWE — coming up with a name for the new champs.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Sting confronts Triple H
Triple H comes out old school with his leather jacket, jeans and water bottle. Triple H regrets shoving Ric Flair, but meant everything he said about fighting Sting to protect WWE.
I like Sting’s WWE music. Still can’t believe I just wrote that. Some poor guy tries to get a WCW chant going. Triple H gets it. Sting was a loyal soldier for WCW and when it went down, Sting stayed with it. “My legacy is putting your legacy out of business. Failure is what you do.”
Triple H offers a never ending legacy through the WWE Network – action figures, DVDs, T-shirts and more. “Hell, one day I may even put you in the Hall of Fame.” This is the first guy this Faustian deal makes sense with as Triple H actually has something he can hold over Sting. On the other hand, Triple H promises if Sting doesn’t want to deal there’s no legacy, no nothing. “It’ll be like you never existed.”
Triple H tries to sucker Sting in, but Sting fights off the sneak attack for a moment. Sting grabs his bat when Triple H goes for the sledgehammer. He does the Wrestlemania point. Since this isn’t early era Crow Sting, I don’t get the point of keeping him silent as Sting’s charisma is one aspect of his skills that haven’t atrophied. Triple H goes for another sneak attack, but eats a bat shot and Scorpion Death Drop. So was The Authority all still hiding from Randy Orton and couldn’t be bothered to help their boss?
Divas Title Match: Paige vs. Nikki Bella
The Bellas have improved a lot, but it’s going to be up to Paige to make this entertaining. Nikki has now advanced to being able to deliver big moves like the Alabama Slam and a powerbomb from the corner, but she’s still working on her transitions from spot to spot so there’s too much dead time in the match whenever she has the advantage. Paige doesn’t get a lot of offense here presumably so it doesn’t come off like such a fluke when Nikki escapes with the title.
Nikki uses the tights to roll Paige up for the win. Despite 40 divas, there’s no one else on the roster that would warrant getting the big Wrestlemania match other than Paige so I’d assume we’ll see a rematch then.
Rating: 2 out of 5
For some idiotic reason Cole mentioned the Oscars as “Total Divas” stars Cameron and Eva Marie are there. I get with the WWE Network, the monthly subscribers matter more than viewers for these types of monthly specials, but being as social media conscious as the WWE is, wouldn’t they rather have their audience tweeting about their show instead of the Oscars?
Breaking News – Sting vs. Triple H is set for Wrestlemania!
Intercontinental Championship: Dean Ambrose vs. Bad News Barrett
The big question coming into this match is if the WWE is content to keep jobbing Ambrose out at the risk of making the fans lose hope in him ever becoming a main event star.
JBL says he misses Jack Tunney as they debate Ambrose forcing Barrett to sign the contract for their match. These guys have decent chemistry, but there was a sense that they were holding back a bit. The fans are kinda out of this too as if they seem hesitant to get that excited until Ambrose wins the title. Top rope elbow on a standing Barrett. That was fun. Barrett counters the rope springing clothesline into The Wasteland, but as he preps for the Bull Hammer, Ambrose hits the rope spring and attempts Dirty Deeds. Barrett starts trying to leave ringside, but Ambrose keeps bringing him back in. As Barrett cowers in the corner, Ambrose keeps going after him “forcing” the ref to disqualify Ambrose. Ugh, well that was a terrible ending.
The WWE has a problem with guys getting over with the fans without their intent and like Zack Ryder and Dolph Ziggler before him, Ambrose is apparently going to lose or choke in every significant match for daring to get over more than the chosen one Roman Reigns. Now he’s just looking like a guy who can’t get the job done when it matters. Ambrose steals the IC belt to keep the feud going to Wrestlemania.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Droids come out to signal The Undertaker’s annual appearance at Wrestlemania. While I was completely in favor of Taker losing to Brock Lesnar, I don’t get the big fuss the commentators made of his reappearance. The droids roll out a coffin and Bray Wyatt emerges to say Undertaker is weak, broken and a shell of himself. Remember when the Wrestlemania matches were set up months in advance instead of five weeks to the big show?
U.S. Championship: Rusev (with Lana) vs. John Cena
Cena’s at a career crossroads. There’s nothing left for him to do except play the role of WWE measuring stick. This is a can’t win match for WWE. If Cena wins, he’s a 15-time world champion so he should beat a rookie even if he’s undefeated. Then for Rusev, beating Cena is cool and all, but Cena’s never been a star that refused to lose to guys and isn’t so bulletproof that beating him holds the same weight as beating Stone Cold, Hulk Hogan or Ric Flair pre-1995.
Rusev has defeated six former world champions. Both guys are game, but something’s just off here. The storyline is that has a decade of battling the biggest and baddest in the WWE, does Cena have enough left in the tank to beat an unstoppable force? Not sure if they need to play up the fact that Cena’s been around for over a decade.
The end gets interesting as Cena can’t finish Rusev off with his crossface, STF and repeatedly can’t hit the Attitude Adjustment. Cena goes for his top rope legdrop, but Rusev counters with a powerbomb and puts in the Accolade. Cena keeps fighting to break it and just when he escapes, Lana comes in the ring and distracts the ref giving Rusev time to hit Cena with a low blow. Another kick to the face and Rusev slaps on the Accolade again and this time, the passed out Cena can’t get out giving Rusev the submission (pass out) victory. Cena’s knocked out. Pass out victory for Rusev marking another weak loss for Cena.
The WWE needs to do a better job of making Cena losses meaningful. When Ultimate Warrior beat Hogan at Wrestlemania 6, he didn’t need another high profile win. He was set. When Edge beat Cena for the world title in New Years Revolution 2006 that meant something and Edge remained a main event mainstay until the end of his career. In the past few years, Cena has lost to Randy Orton, CM Punk and even John Laurinitis.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Match for the shot to face Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 31: Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan
Reigns may be the office choice to face Lesnar, but Bryan is clearly the fans’ choice. Bryan makes Reigns look main event ready, but given their size difference, Reigns’ moveset is going to look very impressive as he can toss Bryan all over the ring. Reigns started his WWE tenure fighting Bryan so he’s got a greater comfort level matching up against him resulting in one of his better solo main event matches. This was the clear match of the night.
Only problem is Bryan is carrying this match to the point we’re gonna have a pretty lackluster Wrestlemania main event if Reigns is just gonna take Goldberg’s place against Lesnar from Wrestlemania 20. Reigns counters the flying knee with a spear. Cole tries to sell it as Reigns redeemed himself, but I’m not buying it. Bryan does his part to get the fans to go all in with Reigns by shaking his hand and telling him he better kick Lesnar’s a$$
Rating: 4 out of 5
Of all the things you’ll want to track down from the WWE Network, “Fastlane” shouldn’t be high on your list of priorities unless you want to watch Bryan lose in a hard-fought match against Reigns. Most of the Wrestlemania matches are still being developed and this pit stop proved to not be nearly as important as the Raws and Smackdowns that will build to the WWE’s big showcase event.
**Pics courtesy WWE.com