As the last WWE event before WrestleMania, WWE Fastlane 2017 bore considerable weight on its shoulders. Logically, this would be the launch pad for ‘Mania and the catalyst for all excitement leading up to the Show of Shows. Did March’s only pay-per-view live up to its expectations? In a word, no. Let’s take a look at the Best and Worst things to happen on Sunday night.
- The Booking
There was no shortage of good wrestling on Sunday night. To be fair, there was quite a lot of good wrestling. Unfortunately, those instances were bookended by some of the most confounding booking decisions I have ever experienced in one sitting. I blame myself after lauding the smart finish to the Tag Team title match. Sasha (a face) ran in to secure the victory for Bayley (another face), disrupting the most impressive ‘streak’ in the WWE since the end of Taker’s own before the biggest show of the year. Roman Reigns, who is the wrestler least in need of a boost before the Show of Shows, picked up a clean win off Braun Strowman, a growing talent the WWE invested a lot of time and energy into over the past year. And of course, Chris Jericho – instead of securing KO’s victory and challenging for the title himself – aided in Goldberg’s championship win. Nothing made sense.
- Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
This was a bad match with bad wrestling that was quite painful to watch and had a – simply put – absurd finish. Sasha needed a win, but putting her over a monster hell with a rollup was not the right way to do it. This was, by far, the hardest match to watch all night.
- Rusev and Jinder Mahal
A waste-of-time filler segment that had some good wrestling, but was far too out of place and nonsensical for the card. This really made Fastlane feel like a slightly special episode of Raw. I love Rusev; I adore his incredible comedic talent and wrestling ability. He deserves much, much better than this. Jinder, on the other hand, is right where he needs to be. However, with his obscene vascularity, he might not be there for much longer.
- Charlotte vs. Bayley
It kills me to put this match on the Worst Things list, seeing how talented both of these women are. However, between an average match that was peppered with botches and an awful finish, this was the disappointment of the night. I do not think I will ever understand why Charlotte’s win streak was broken on the B-show before WrestleMania. This would probably be the best example of the air being taken out of the tires, if it weren’t for Roman/Braun also occurring this evening.
- Neville vs. Jack Gallagher
The undeniable best match on the card from bell to bell. I had little doubt these two Brits would excel, but the extent to which they continue to impress is stunning. The excellent in-ring action and tomfoolery, from Neville’s impressive strength to Gallagher’s turnbuckle headstand, had me glued to the screen the whole match through.
To their credit, I must also mention the absolutely unparalleled Crusierweight announce team, featuring the frighteningly entertaining Austin Aries and his incredible package. Where they were once a drag, the Crusierweights have become the most consistently impressive and enjoyable part of any Raw show or event.
- Samoa Joe vs. Sami Zayn
Two of the best pure wrestlers of the past decade, two surely legendary NXT champions. This was never going disappoint. The match proceeded mostly as expected, but that took nothing away from the continually excellent ring work from both men.
It is a real treat to watch Joe and Sami go at it in a WWE ring on a WWE pay-per-view. I hope the creative staff allows Joe to continue his dominance and assert himself in the main event picture as a force to be reckoned with. This was certainly a step in the right direction.
- Cruiserweight Tag Team match
This was the right way to start off a PPV event. Kendrick, Tozawa, Swann, and Dar put on a vibrant and intense showcase of their immense talents that got Milwaukee right on their feet and the show off to an incredible start. I was floored by the energy elicited by these four, but there is no doubt it was well deserved. From start to finish, this match was excellent and a perfect kick-off.
- Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
Despite the laughably bad decision to use Strowman to put over Reigns clean, this was a very good match. The more I see of Braun, the more I am thoroughly impressed with his growth, technical capability, and willingness to execute risky/unconventional maneuvers. Six months ago, I would have scoffed at the idea of these two men putting on a thoroughly entertaining match. I am very happy to see the payoff of investment in and development of burgeoning talents – especially those with a high ceiling, like Strowman himself.
While it might not look like it on paper, this was a very weak show. A lot of promise wasted and a lot of strange and costly decisions significantly marred the evening. The Road to WrestleMania hit a serious speedbump. Here’s to hoping things pick up throughout the month of March. Hey, at least we’ve still got SmackDown.
Tune in the week before ‘Mania, as we run down the card for the Showcase of Immortals and anticipate what will transpire as the 2016 Wrestling Season comes to a close. Thanks for stopping by!
Photo Credit: WWE.com