By Anish Vishwakoti, ProWrestling.net Staffer, (@AVX_9001)
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In another edition of WWE’s modern Road To WrestleMania, we hit the speed bump that is Fastlane. How the tides can turn within weeks as WWE went from not having anything on the block for WrestleMania, to having so many exciting possibilities, to now having a plethora of potentially exciting characters all treading water in different and seemingly unnecessary side quests that lead to Fastlane. Either way, as the last PPV before WrestleMania 35, Fastlane should, in some sense, answer questions about WrestleMania, and potentially be entertaining.
Daniel Bryan vs. Kevin Owens for the WWE Championship: A strange series of events led Kofi Kingston to replace Mustafa Ali as a WWE Title challenger in the Elimination Chamber. And in a combination of brilliant performances by Kofi and eleven years worth of loyalty of the fans to the New Day member, KofiMania started running wild. An awesome Elimination Chamber match led to calls for Kofi to get his own title shot and while that was fleetingly granted, Vince McMahon pulled him out in order to announce his Owens as his replacement.
The build for this match has certainly been compelling to watch, because WWE has allowed the fans to get invested in all of the three key parties involved in Bryan, Owens, and Kofi. While Kingston remains on the outskirts of this program, I am still of the belief that a Kingston singles title match is coming at WrestleMania. Owens returning makes me think that he might get the win, seeing as it would certainly help his stock after really taking a beating pre-injury. However, I suspect that WWE is reacting to the Kofi groundswell, and their method of doing so is to rather obviously to stall that match until Mania. Still, I don’t mind it and see that coming in to play.
I’m sure Bryan and Owens will have a great match and ultimately, I see KO losing to Bryan after some interference from Rowan to keep it from being a clean loss. I see the New Day rushing the ring to even the odds, however failing as Bryan manages to get the win. I also think that after the match, while The New Day are commiserating, Owens will turn on them and begin his true return as a full blown heel, and giving Kingston another obstacle to overcome before his singles shot at WrestleMania.
Daniel Bryan retains the WWE Championship.
Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch (If Becky wins, the Raw Women’s Championship Match at WrestleMania becomes a Triple Threat): The buildup for this match has been all over the place. WWE seemingly had a very straight road to just have Becky face Ronda in a singles match. Even the addition of Charlotte could have been interesting as someone for Becky to get past on the way to the main event, but right now Charlotte’s presence has really stripped most of the heat that Ronda and Becky had towards each other, with all three now having too many people to focus on.
Rousey’s declaration that ‘WWE is fake’ and that nobody can touch her in her recent viral promo has added a weird edge to this program, something that I don’t think it needed given how convoluted the whole three-way dance is. However, I understand why they had Ronda turn completely heel, and I believe that she will be involved in this match come Sunday.
It doesn’t really make sense for Becky to beat Charlotte clean again as they head to WrestleMania if they want Charlotte to have some heat. Therefore, I see Ronda interfering in the midst of what could certainly be a great match and beating the hell out of both competitors, probably after a ref bump. I see Ronda pulling Becky on top of Charlotte and asking to face both of them at WrestleMania because she wants to beat everyone up or something of the sort. I don’t think this does much favors for Becky or Charlotte, but it saves either of them from getting beaten clean.
Becky Lynch defeats Charlotte after interference from Ronda Rousey.
The Shield vs. Bobby Lashley, Drew McIntyre, and Baron Corbin: Seth Rollins has been holding up a very one sided feud with Brock Lesnar due to the WWE Universal Champion’s absence. Roman Reigns made his return after his leukemia diagnosis and I have not the slightest clue what WWE’s plan for Dean Ambrose is. I understand why WWE has reunited the Shield in this way as it does make for a great triumphant moment for Roman’s return.
However, the Shield reunion so soon after Ambrose turned on Rollins just makes the whole situation a little odd and hard to follow, especially when it comes to understanding Dean’s motivations. The Shield are undoubtedly going to win this match. I really don’t see any reason in having Roman lose his comeback match, or Rollins lose a match with his brothers on the way to WrestleMania.
The question is what will happen after the Shield win. Will Roman and Dean stay a team and close out Dean’s WWE tenure at WrestleMania with a tag match, while Rollins attempts to conquer Lesnar? Or will Dean once again turn on his brothers and prompt a match versus Roman at WrestleMania? Just because of how chaotic WWE’s booking has been in recent weeks, I tend to believe that it will be the latter.
The Shield wins, then Ambrose turns on Roman and Seth once more.
Asuka vs. Mandy Rose for the Smackdown Women’s Championship: The build to this match has been unbelievably lackluster, as has the entire Smackdown women’s division since Becky and Charlotte started focusing on the Raw Women’s Championship. It baffles me that WWE didn’t simply keep Charlotte on Smackdown to feud with Asuka, but instead dumped Asuka and the Smackdown Title into a feud with Mandy Rose. Rose getting a roll up victory on Asuka didn’t really do anything to help the feud in my eyes. I don’t think anyone remembers it happening and it certainly doesn’t make me believe that Mandy will pick up the win on Sunday.
I can’t even remember the last time that I saw Asuka on Smackdown TV doing something of substance, and it’s a shame because she could have a great storyline with the right opponent. I see this match being a squash in favor of Asuka, WWE need to make her seem strong going into WrestleMania and find somebody to compete with her, I don’t think it does Mandy a disservice to lose either.
Asuka retains the Smackdown Women’s Championship.
The Usos vs. The Miz and Shane McMahon for the Smackdown Tag Titles: The one thing I can say about this storyline is that all four men involved have been putting in absolute commitment in order to make this work. The Usos are always compelling as champions and The Miz doesn’t leave anything on the table when selling this fatherly bond with Shane McMahon. Other than that, the feud has been falling pretty flat because it just doesn’t make sense for Miz and Shane to be a long-term thing. I think most of us can see that this is leading to a match between the two, while the Usos will clearly be facing someone else at WrestleMania. I tend to believe that Miz will be the one to turn on Shane and set up a match between them, and I think that it will happen here at Fastlane, probably after Shane doesn’t pull off a big maneuver, leading them to lose.
The Usos retain the Smackdown Tag Titles.
Bayley and Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax and Tamina for the WWE Women’s Tag Titles: I like that the buildup to this match has been fairly simple. Bayley and Sasha are doing well as the beloved babyfaces, while Nia and Tamina as a monster tag team works in a straightforward fashion. I see Bayley and Sasha holding these titles until WrestleMania where I could see them engaging in a feud with the Iconics on Smackdown given that Peyton Royce and Billie Kay are a proper tag team. It doesn’t really make sense for Nia and Tamina to win here as the only tag team they would have to face would be Bayley and Sasha in a rematch. I don’t see this match being a showstopper, though it could certainly be good, and could help Bayley and Sasha carry some momentum into Mania with a big win.
Bayley and Sasha Banks retain the WWE Women’s Tag Titles.
The Revival vs. Aleister Black and Ricochet vs. Chad Gable and Bobby Roode in a three-way for the Raw Tag Titles: Why WWE saw fit to bring up two NXT singles stars only to shove them in an already crowded and faltering Raw tag team division, I will never know. I have to say I wasn’t excited at all when Ricochet and Black made their way to the main roster because it just reeks of WWE overcompensating. When fans ask for new wrestlers, they don’t want new wrestlers for the sake of it just so we can see their faces on the main roster. It makes no sense to waster potential great moments and sensible singles entries to the main roster, especially right before WrestleMania when everyone is clambering for a Mania spot, as opposed to after when there is more room.
That being said, I feel The Revival will retain here. It makes even less sense for Ricochet and Black to win the titles right after coming up If WWE has no real plans for them. The Revival are digging into this ‘Unbeaten in Championship Matches” moniker and for that, I see them retaining until after Mania.
The Revival retain the Raw Tag Titles.
The New Day vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev: I have no idea what the point of this match is. Who would have guessed that Tokyo Dome main eventer Nakamura and stalwart of NXT would be doing a tag team pre-show match with Rusev against a New Day, who have considerably more momentum than he does. Well, I guess that’s WWE for you sometimes. Maybe this is WWE’s way of letting everyone know that the New Day is here so that when they are involved in the main event it isn’t a big surprise. Considering that Kofi seems to be positioned for a title match at WrestleMania, I see the New Day winning clean, leaving Nakamura and Rusev to do who knows what in to WrestleMania.
The New Day wins.
Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade: These guys have been going at it for weeks and I could definitely see them taking this feud all the way until WrestleMania. I actually like the idea that this is a pre-show match because they have the opportunity to steal the show from this spot and give them some push to be on the main card at WrestleMania. Because I see Andrade getting the overall win in this feud, I think Mysterio will take this match at Fastlane.
Rey Mysterio wins.
Check below for the new Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Ian Riccaboni discussing his decision to re-sign with Ring of Honor, getting emotionally invested in matches, the March 15 ROH 17th Anniversary show, the G1 Supercard at MSG, and much more.