By John Moore, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@liljohnm)
WWE Fastlane Kickoff Show
Aired live March 21, 2021 on WWE Network and social media
Tampa, Florida at Tropicana Field
-The kickoff show was hosted by Kayla Braxton who was joined by Booker T, Peter Rosenberg, and Jerry Lawler. Braxton made sure to hype the $2.50 discount code for WWE Network on Peacock. The panel then ran through the advertised card for the full show. Matt Riddle vs. Mustafa Ali for the WWE US Championship was announced for the kickoff show. It also looks like Braun Strowman vs. Shane McMahon is back on the card according to the rundown.
-A hype video aired to promote the Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus match. The panel debated weather Drew should be caring more about Sheamus or more about his match against Bobby Lashley at Mania. The panel then gave their predictions (which you should expect after every one of their recaps.
-The recapped the Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax title match from Smackdown. Kayla segued to talking about Sasha Banks vs. Bianca Belair for the Smackdown Women’s Championship at WrestleMania.
-A highlight video aired which recapped the Randy Orton vs. Fiend feud which would eventually involve Alexa Bliss playing the role of Bray Wyatt’s surrogate.
John’s Thoughts: If a returning viewer saw that package, I feel like they’d immediately try to watch something else because of how hokey it was. Heck, people made fun of this back in the day when Ultimate Warrior puked chocolate due to Papa Shango. Where WWE dropped the ball with Wyatt is his character was so good when it was built around mind games and Nihilism. They shifted him towards supernatural super powers. This is why I fear for what might happen to Karrion Kross and Scarlett when they get called up because their characters are also tied to nihilism.
-A highlight package aired of Apollo Crews’s feud with Big E as well as his heel transformation to his Nigerian prince character.
John’s Thoughts: While it’s a bit rough at points, I’m a huge fan of the new Apollo Crews character. WWE is usually terrible when it comes to presenting people of non-white ethnicities. This character shift feels more like cultural appreciation as opposed to WWE’s usual generalizations of cultural stereotypes (and I’m talking about WWE main roster, because NXT usually properly writes for people of different cultures). For some reason, I feel like Paul Heyman has a hand in this because he was usually good with doing good by other people’s cultures.
-After the Crews package, Sonya Deville joined the kickoff panel. The panel talked about the evolution of both Big E and Apollo Crews in their recent feud.
-The panel cracked up when they were discussing the Shane McMahon and Braun Strowman feud, which included clips of Shane tossing Nickelodeon slime on Braun.
-A still picture showed that Shane McMahon may have suffered a leg injury while training. He was shown on the ground in the “Peter Griffin in leg pain” pose. Sarah Schreiber checked in in front of Shane McMahon’s locker room. Schreiber said that the Shane vs. Braun match may or may not happen due to Shane’s injury.
-Seth Rollins was interviewed backstage. Rollins bragged about his “drip”, where he looked like a cow with paint all over him (as opposed to the vodka bottle he looked like on Friday). Rollins talked about how he’s going to teach Shinsuke Nakamura and Cesaro respect.
Tom Phillips, Samoa Joe, and Byron Saxton checked in on commentary for the United States Title match.
1. Riddle vs. Mustafa Ali (w/Mace, T Bar, Slapjack, Reckoning) for the WWE United States Championship. Riddle started the match with a double leg takedown and some MMA ground work. Riddle got to his feet and hit Ali with a Gutwrench Suplex into a running senton. Ali kicked Riddle in the gut to slow down Riddle’s momentum. Riddle got a counter but Ali got the boots up to block Riddle’s running senton. Philips noted that Ali caught Riddle in the back of the neck which may be injured. Ali used a baseball slide knock Riddle off the apron.
Ali got a two count after he gloated to his Retribution teammates a bit. Ali got another two count after a knee to Riddle’s gut. Ali worked on Riddle with a bodyscissors. Ali reversed a Bro Derek into a dropkick, which sent Riddle into the middle turnbuckle. Ali got a two count after a backstabber. Phillips noted that Ali was selling a knee injury. Riddle reversed a neckbreaker into a Rear Naked Choke. Ali reversed into a pin attempt which Riddle kicked out of.
Riddle hit Ali with a series of his signature moves. Riddle hit Ali with a power bomb and Final Flash for a two count. Riddle went for a corkscrew moonsault, but he dove right into Ali’s knees. Riddle blocked a Tornado DDT. Riddle hit Ali with a Fisherman Buster for a two count. Ali locked Riddle in a Koji Clutch. Riddle escaped the hold with a little bit of a deadlift, but then he sold an arm injury. Riddle went high risk, but was tripped. Riddle recovered and gave Ali a sleeper. Riddle deadlifted Ali to the top rope and hit him with a Super Bro Derek for the victory.
Riddle defeated Mustafa Ali via pinfall in 9:16 to retain the WWE United States Championship.
John’s Thoughts: A standard match to start, but it really picked up in the final three minutes. This is a good sample of what we could get if these guys were given five more minutes and a bit more freedom. Riddle is not allowed to show the best he can do when he’s doing the WWE-style which is just him doing a string of moves without storytelling. I wouldn’t mind Ali and Riddle having a match on a main card down the road where they can one day tear the house down due to their immense wrestling talent alone.
Mace and T Bar tried to help Ali up but he flipped out on his team and yelled at them for not helping him. Ali singled out Reckoning (Mia Yim) and told her to get back in line. Reckoning walked out on Ali. Ali then yelled at Slapjack (Shane Thorne). Slapjack walked out on Ali. Ali then went on to yell at Mace and T Bar. Mace and T Bar turned on Ali and gave him a double team chokeslam. Mace and T Bar walked up the ramp with Ali left lying.
John’s Thoughts: This means that stupid ass Retribution is over and done with right? Hopefully? Ali, Dominik Dijak, and Mia Yim deserve a lot better than being pigeonholed in this horrible gimmick. I wouldn’t mind Thorne being put back on NXT where he has the potential to be a strong singles wrestler. I’m intrigued by the Dijak and Mace double chokeslam. Brennan Williams and Donovan Dijak are close friends outside of TV and I wouldn’t mind seeing them form some sort of big-man tag team. Hopefully it’s with their natural personas and not the fake-purge Retribution personas.
-A highlight package aired to hype up the Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan Universal Title match for later in the show. Kayla then sent the show to footage from Talking Smack where Paul Heyman cut a promo about Daniel Bryan having no chance to win at Fastlane. Heyman said that Reigns is like the sun and the rest of WWE is orbiting around him. Booker T gave the Reigns vs. Bryan the Shucky Shucky Quack Quach moment of the night (the black part in me cringes every time I hear Booker T Shucky Shucky). Once the clock ticked down, Kayla sent the kickoff to the main show.
[End of kickoff]