By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
WWE Fastlane Hits
Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan for the WWE Universal Championship with Edge as the special enforcer: The show hinged on the main event and it delivered in a big way. Reigns and Bryan came through with a terrific match. The twist with Edge snapping and costing Bryan the match points to the WWE Universal Championship at WrestleMania becoming a Triple Threat. While fans are happy to see Edge back in the ring, he just hasn’t caught fire as the top babyface challenger heading into WrestleMania. Meanwhile, Bryan feels hot again despite all the losses he’s had in recent months. If they do go with the Triple Threat, it will take pressure off of Edge to deliver a Mania worthy main event in a singles match, and the addition of Bryan will make the match more interesting in general.
Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus in a No Holds Barred match: A notch behind the main event for best match of the night honors in my book, but this was still another good slugfest. The show suffered from predictability with the match outcomes and this was no exception. With that working against them, it’s even more impressive that McIntyre and Sheamus produced another great brawl that kept this viewer engaged from bell to bell. McIntyre had to win heading into his WWE Championship match against Bobby Lashley, who was inexplicably absent from Fastlane. I really hope WWE creative has a plan for Sheamus coming out of this match. He’s been a consistent performer over the years and he’s really risen to the occasion once they started pushing him again. It would be a shame to see him return to mid-card purgatory.
Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura: A solid match. Nakamura appears to be in better shape and seems more motivated these days. Rollins continues to be one of the best in-ring performers in the company, but his character feels ice cold. He needed a change following his paternity leave. And while he did tweak his character from The Messiah days, it’s still way too similar and makes him feel mid-card.
Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair for the WWE Women’s Tag Titles: A solid show opening match. The involvement of Reginald continues to be a groaner, but the match accomplished what it needed to in terms of creating more friction between Banks and her WrestleMania challenger. Now that the tag team games are finished, hopefully creative can find a way to make both women look strong again while closing out what has been a disappointing match build thus far.
Riddle vs. Mustafa Ali for the U.S. Championship: It’s finally over. All signs point to WWE pulling the plug on the awful Retribution faction. Now we just have to hope that Vince McMahon isn’t looking for scapegoats. Ali did his best to make the mess of a faction work and doesn’t deserve the blame. The actual Retribution members are talented people who were stuck in bad Purge costumes, and they don’t deserve the blame either. The blame for this falls on McMahon’s own creative work. Likewise, creative gets the blame for Riddle becoming the dumbest character in the company and being positioned as a guy who is so annoying that even fellow babyfaces can’t wait to get away from him.
WWE Fastlane Misses
Randy Orton vs. Alexa Bliss: Is this Extra Crispy Fiend thing here to stay or will he magically turn back into Original Recipe Fiend soon? Leave it to WWE creative to produce a horror movie style story that involves no likable characters. The horror movie equivalent would be if the final girl was written to be a narcissist who possessed no redeeming qualities and was just as unlikable as the killer. But in WWE’s warped storytelling, we’re apparently supposed to feel pity for the would-be killer because he was set on fire just moments after he tried to burn his igniter alive in a match where it was all perfectly legal. Even the late Ed Wood may have passed on this drivel.
Big E vs. Apollo Crews for the Intercontinental Championship: A disappointing match with a poorly executed finish. It seems like they want to go back to this match at WrestleMania, so they went with a brief match at Fastlane. Hopefully the wait will be worth it. By the way, whatever happened to the No Limit Soldiers or whoever those guys were with Crews when he debuted his new character?
Braun Strowman vs. Elias: The Miss really goes to Strowman and Shane McMahon. It’s very telling that WWE advertised Strowman vs. Shane for this show and yet no one seemed to care that they didn’t actually deliver the match. Sure, they gave us a bit of a heads up by pulling it from the advertised lineup at one point, but even then the fan indifference was telling.