WWE Fastlane is a new pay-per-view gimmick, following in the grand tradition of former car-related shows such as WWF Breakdown, and Hermie Sadler Presents TNA #1. The show emanates LIVE from Memphis, Tennessee, and tonight’s Panel features BOOKER T, COREY GRAVES, BYRON SAXTON, and RENEE YOUNG. Renee is the first female broadcaster with any credibility in well over a decade, and possibly since Sunny. She’s fantastic. Byron Saxton is not.
The big pre-show angle features Paul Heyman on MizTV. Half of that sounds awesome, and it's not coming the guy whose gimmick is based around that very concept.
Sting and Triple H’s saga is looked at. In essence, at Survivor Series, Sting appeared for Some Reason and helped Dolph Ziggler stop the Authority for roughly 4 days. Since then, Triple H has maintained Issues. Booker T speculates that Sting’s actions were the deep down hatred WCW has from the time DX drove up to the WCW arena in April of 1998. If that’s the case (it’s not the case), then dude – seek therapy. Bret Hart is the most bitter, vindictive wrestler on the entire planet and even HE found closure with Shawn Michaels faster than that.
Dean Ambrose expresses his desire to capture the IC title, causing Booker to fondly reflect on his first IC title win over Christian … you know, the one that came long after he was an established main eventer, until Triple H destroyed his cred by pointing out the black man had no place atop the company, and then proved exactly that.
Lots of discussion about Paige. She grew up in a wrestling ring. She became a woman in a wrestling ring. Did she date Jerry Lawler or something?
Meanwhile, John Cena is Old. This angle is nothing until he’s offered a Legends Contract and is banned from appearing on RAW unless they need a Serious Person to tell Roman Reigns that Brock Lesnar is too tough for any one man.
THE USOS celebrate their father Rikishi going into the Hall of Fame this year. In particular, the prospect at seeing him for the 4th time in their lives has them almost giddy!
Sheamus Returns! Not now, but at some point.
Hosts MICHAEL COLE, JOHN “BRADSHAW” LAYFIELD, and JERRY LAWLER welcome us to the show.
THE MIZ and DAMIAN MIZDOW head down to fire up MizTV, but Mizdow steals the fans adulation and he’s banned to the corner as a result. Miz chose to skip the Oscars (Rock took his place apparently) in order to see the Daniel Bryan / Roman Reigns match. PAUL HEYMAN power walks to the ring, and is asked if Lesnar’s here tonight. To quell everyone’s fear, no, he’s not. Miz reminds us he once defended the belt successfully in a Wrestlemania main event (UGH), and asks if Lesnar’s concerned about Daniel Bryan seeing as how he defeated all of Evolution in last year’s show single-handedly. Heyman angrily asks why Mizdow is staring at him, and Miz berates him for acting like a Caliber Winfield and forces him to face the corner for the rest of the interview. Heyman talks Roman Reigns, a savage warrior coming from the Island of Sam Hoa. Either way, no matter who wins, Lesnar leaves Mania with the belt.
And with that, the fireworks display kicks this baby off, on the Road to Wrestlemania. Your line for Sign Points is set at 5.5 wrestlers. Take the Over and don’t question it.
TEAM EXPLOITED COMMON BOND vs. LOS AUTHORITATOS (with J&J Security)
Cole takes us through the Exciting History that brought this match together 3 days ago. I will never understand why this company always takes the most convoluted ways to get to what they want. It’s easy: the Authority fired Team Exploited, they got their jobs back, and now it’s stompin’ time. Erick Rowan’s continued insistence in wearing the sheep mask is going to do him no favors, seeing as how it’s been like 6 months since he left Bray Wyatt. A new look might go a long way, otherwise he has no hope in doing anything but tread water as a heatless midcarder scheduled to be wished well in about 17 months. Speaking of Big Red, a pumphandle backbreaker on Rollins looks great, and gets 2. Korporate Kane is slammed with ease, and a big leg drop keeps Rowan in command. Kane powers him back to the corner, and turns over to Big Show, who beats down Erick like a frozen hunk of beef. Rowan gets dumped, but he clumsily shoves Show into the ringpost before missing a spin kick and injuring himself. Back in, Kane starts to stomp on Rowan’s leg, as we get our first glimpse at our SummerSlam 16 main event: Big Red vs. Big Red Machine. You won’t be laughing when it’s announced the show is being booked in Cincinnati. Show botches the Indian deathlock, so he stops that and goes for a Chokeslam. Rowan blocks with a DDT, but Show tags in Rollins to stop the momentum. A dropkick to Ziggle sends him sprawling, but Rowan fights him off and tags in Ryback. Ryback nails Rollins with the Dick to the Face, but misses a big splash. He dodges a Curbstomp, nails Kane with a meathook, but interference from J&J get a schoolboy from Rollins for 2! Superkick gets 2! A top rope Curbstomp misses again, and Ryback catches him coming off the top again with a Shellshock. Show dives in with a splash to stop him from getting a pin, as Ziggler is only now getting back to his feet after selling that dropkick for the last 48 minutes. He gets the latest hot tag, walking right into a Chokeslam from Kane – but he dances backwards and DDTs Kane for 2! The Fameasser is blocked with a sidewalk slam, but Ziggler escapes and nails a Superkick. Rollins takes the Fameasser now, and Kane faces the wrath of 4 punches before Show hits him with the KO punch behind the referee’s back. Kane gets the easy pin at 12:58. Post-match, Ziggler takes a Curbstomp anyway, and the other two get beaten down. Hot enough opener, but the babyfaces looked like total chumps, getting virtually no offense except for a couple of quick bursts of energy. I get that Rollins needs all the protection he can get, but Kane and Show? In 2015? **1/2
RANDY ORTON returns to chase off the heels since the other 3 are completely incapable. J&J take RKOs, but Rollins bails before he can pay his receipt for putting Orton out, firing up his Wrestlemania program.
DUSTY RHODES, mistaking this show for WCW Saturday Night, remains completely incomprehensible. Goldust reflects on going to see Dusty’s matches with Cody, when Cody was a kid. Cody was born in 1985, what matches were these? Dusty running around with Jim Duggan looking for Thweet Thapphire?
STARDUST vs. GOLDUST
JBL reflects on all the great brother battles from years back, and somehow having the gall to name Rick vs Scott Steiner. That’s just laziness, now you’re just naming known brothers, their matches were AWFUL. Goldust wears his solemn face tonight, while the fans root for “CODY” because they suck. Dustin’s been doing some of the best work of his life for the last 2 years, give the guy a break. Goldust goes for a piledriver, but Cody quickly reverses. Goldust falls backwards into a Curtain Call position, but Cody escapes and hits the floor. Cody tries a bulldog, but Goldust hangs on and turns it into a backbreaker. Cody takes a quick break, but comes back in for more abuse, getting set up for the Golden Globes. He escapes, so Goldust goes up instead but leaps right into a big boot. They brawl to the floor, where Cody drives Goldust into the ring apron kidneys first and rolls him back in. According to the announcers, Cody’s been wearing the makeup at home and genuinely believes he’s Stardust. Well shit, that sounds like a perfect opportunity for a series of vignettes, why haven’t these been produced? It’s easy character development. Cody stops working over Goldust long enough to ask the camera “who’s your favorite?” A rear bearhug is applied to work over the softened up ribs, as the fans try to rally Goldust. He tries a springboard elbow, but Cody sidesteps and Goldust eats canvas. Crossrhodes is blocked with a reversal, and Goldust somehow sneaks in a cheap pin at 8:57. Goldust looks like he’s going to cry, perhaps because he just had such a lousy match with his brother on pay-per-view. The pair shake hands, reluctantly, and the ghost of Dusty Rhodes lets out a sigh of relief in the back. Can we put them back together now? *1/2
After a quick vignette on Jon Stewart, Stardust attacks Goldust in front of Dusty. He blames daddy for killing Cody Rhodes, because he’s tired of living in his shadow. A superkick to Goldust’s head against Mr. Dressup’s Tickle Trunk is the cherry on top. Sad.
THE USOS (with Naomi) vs. CESARO and TYSON KIDD (with Nattie Neidhart) (for the WWE world tag-team titles)
This feud was set up when Jey Uso called Tyson Kidd an Initt Jackass on a date. With the girls, not with each other. For WWE dates, it was a long way from topping the Dean Malenko / Terri / Perry / Sherri quartet, but we can’t all top the comedy stylings of the former WCW cruiserweight champion. Cesaro chop blocks Jimmy and gives him a European uppercut. Kidd starts to work over the leg, and Cesaro smells what he’s cooking by stomping on it from the second rope. A one-legged swing is both vicious and creative, and Kidd comes off the top with a guillotine to the leg to add to the pain. An Indian deathlock is applied, but fails to yield a submission. Jimmy fights off Kidd for a second, long enough to get the hot tag to Jey who hits Cesaro with a Samoan drop. Enzuigiri has Cesaro seeing stars which fail to include himself because he’s too Swiss, and Jey gets 2. He comes back with a superplex, and Kidd comes off the top with an elbow getting a near pinfall. A Sharpshooter attempt is shoved off, and a monkey flip is blocked, getting Jimmy involved again. An assisted Samoan drop is only saved by Cesaro, and all hell breaks loose. Uso takes Kidd off the apron in position for a Samoan drop, but he stumbles backwards and both guys crash hard into the security wall! Nice looking spot. Jimmy recovers first and heads in with the Superfly Splash on Kidd, but Tyson lifts the knees and gets 2. Shaprshooter is applied dead centre of the ring, but Jey stops it with a superkick! Cesaro brawls with Jey, taking them both down to the floor, as Jimmy rolls over and gets 2. The fans start an overused “THIS IS AWESOME” chant. Come on guys, that used to be saved for four star matches or better. Somewhere in the mess of this, Kidd comes back in and hits the Roll of the Dice to score the win and claim the tag-team titles at 9:36. Kidd and Nattie swap spit, and then in tribute to her father, she tugs on her beard. ***
TRIPLE H makes his way down to the ring for his confrontation with The Vigilante Sting, and he’s serious because he’s hauled out an old t-shirt, the leather jacket, and spits water all over himself. He brings up his conversation with “two time hall of famer Ric Flair”. I love that we’re keeping count now, and quietly thank god that Russo’s not around to inflate that total. “13-time Hall of Famer John Cena might be over the hill, but he’s still got heart Maggle!” STING and his Horrible Theme Music makes his way out. One passionate fan tries leading a “WCW” chant, and to quash all rumors; no, it’s not me. Triple H reminds us that Sting backed the wrong horse by sticking with WCW, and that his legacy was putting Sting’s legacy out of business. After all, failure is what Sting is all about. Still, Triple H offers him a chance to win his legacy back, if they can do a little biznezz. He offers him spotlight on the WWE Network, DVDs, merchandise, wrestling figures, making him bigger than he’s ever been before. In fact, he might even put Sting in the Hall of Fame someday if he plays his cards right. But if he continues to show Triple H disrespect, he’ll erase him from history like that Chris Benoit guy. Before Sting can answer, Triple H tries a cheapshot, but Sting fights him off … for like 2 seconds, before Triple H takes over and beats him into the mat. “I GAVE YOU A CHANCE!” Now, since we’re playing Retroactive Triple H tonight, it should come as no surprise he’s got a sledgehammer hidden under the ring. Of course, he didn’t take into account that Sting’s always got a black bat nearby, and it’s pointed at Hunter’s throat. The sledge is dropped, and takes a number of fantastic bounces for an allegedly heavy metal object. The bat is moved from the chin, and towards the Wrestlemania sign. As he walks away, Triple H charges, but Sting’s got the peripheral vision of a Bumble Bee and cracks Helmsley in the ribs. Then, a Scorpion Deathdrop because that’s how we do. I really, really, really want to be excited for this, but I’m not feeling it. It just seems at LEAST 5 years too late (and probably closer to 10), and with the wrong guy. If anything, this just seems more about Triple H’s legacy, than Sting’s.
PAIGE (with clothes) vs. NIKKI BELLA (with Brie Bella) (for the WWE divas title)
Nikki takes Paige to the floor where she tosses the challenger into the security wall. Back in, a double leg slam gets 1 (or 2, if you’re Michael Cole). Paige hits a dropkick, but can’t capitalize because a stomp is blocked with a schoolboy for 2. Paige tries to go for her finisher, but Nikki fights out, so Paige is forced to hit a superkick instead for 2. They slowly make their way to the top, and Nikki comes out ahead with a sunset flip into a running powerbomb for 2. Paige recovers and puts on a PTO, but Nikki makes the ropes to break. A handful of tights from Nikki a second later gets the pin, and Bella continues her reign at 5:34. I don’t pay a lot of attention to the divas typically speaking, but Nikki seems to have come along a bit in the last few months. She’s still not great, and Paige has yet to back up any of the hype, but this was ok. *
BREAKING NEWS: Triple H and Sting has been signed. “It’s hard to believe that the two icons of the two respective companies …” Triple H, the WWE Icon.
DEAN AMBROSE vs. WADE BARRETT (for the WWE intercontinental title)
Barrett comes out with the aggression early, hitting Ambrose with those ham hocks, but Ambrose comes back and knocks Barrett to the floor. Back in, Ambrose nails the People’s Elbow for 2. Dean jumps to the top rope, but Barrett knocks him right off and to the floor with a boot to the face (getting some quality height!). Dean is slammed into the ring steps, and back in Barrett hits another boot to the face. Ambrose’s eyes roll as Barrett drives him into the ring, but he refuses to be tossed back in and clotheslines the champ. Barrett gives chase, walking right into a tornado DDT, and both guys get some air. Barrett tries to block a bulldog, but succumbs to the move, and an inside cradle gets 2. Barrett goes low and tries to go off the ropes, but Ambrose is right behind him and knees him in the midsection. Savage elbow off the top (onto a standing Barrett – hah!) gets 2. Barrett nails a mule kick, and follows with Wasteland for 2. Ambrose’s tongue takes on a life of its own as Barrett preps the Bullhammer. Dean ducks the move, and nails a violent clothesline that’d make JBL cringe. Barrett figures that’s about all he’s prepared to deal with, grabbing his belt and calling it a night, but Ambrose stops him on the way by with tope suicida! Barrett tries the crowd next, but Ambrose grabs him and introduces his face to the ring steps. Ambrose stomps on Barrett’s face in the corner, and the referee asks him to stop. Dean refuses, and the referee DQ’s him at 8:02?!?!? What … the … fuck? How many more ways are they gonna screw over Ambrose? They had, about 6 months ago, their next big star, and they have done everything in their power to slow and neuter his progress. It feels like Nick Patrick has been assigned to every one of his matches; except they are allegedly playing it straight. I just … this company man! Ambrose, thankfully, redeems the finish a little by stealing the belt. I’m HOPING this leads to a ladder match at Mania for possession of the gold, but we’ll see. **
THE DRUIDS make their yearly February appearance, and the gong hits – but I’ve gotta assume we’re looking at Bray Wyatt playing games here, as given away by JBL immediately screaming that the Undertaker is here. Sure enough, popping out of a casket is BRAY WYATT to a pretty good response. He remembers fearing the Undertaker when he was young, but he’s weak and broken now, a shell of his former self. He calls for the Undertaker to hear him, because he doesn’t fear him. He is the new Face of Fear (LOVE IT), and he vows to claim the soul of the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. And, with that, he lies back in the coffin and returns to the darkness. HELL … YES. This is the polar opposite of Sting / Triple H – Wyatt is easily the best mid-card guy ready to burst, and he’s targeting the right guy for the right reasons. Take ALL the rub from this that you can, Bray, and make yourself a star.
RUSEV (with Katy Perry) vs. JOHN CENA (for the WWE United States heavyweight title)
Will a xenophobia angle put Cena back in the good graces of the fans? Of course, it’s the easiest trick in the book, and I can’t believe they haven’t spent the last few years feeding him evil foreigners. Is Muhammad Hassan available? He’s already a jihadist, a quick jump to ISIS shouldn’t be an issue. Of course, the heroes’ response lasts until the bell rings, when the fans dive into their usual “LET’S GO CENA / CENA SUCKS” routine, but it took longer than usual. Cena attacks first, but gets a knee to the face for his effort and Rusev gets 2. A spinning heel kick misses by 8 feet, but Cena’s a pro and sells it for 2. The announcers point out that Rusev has pinned 6 former WWE champions, but one of those is Jack Swagger and shouldn’t count. Cena finds himself on the ring apron, where a hearty shove sends him crashing into the security wall. Back in, Cena surprises Rusev with a dropkick, but Rusev returns the favor with a much better dropkick for 2. A crossbody block is caught, and Rusev hits the fallaway slam for 2. Cena crawls to his feet, and Rusev stands there allowing it to happen, giving Cena a chance to start teeing off on his kidneys. Still, Rusev quickly turns it around and we find Cena locked in a cobra clutch. Cena suplexes loose and hits a clothesline for 2. The FU is countered with a DDT, but Cena won’t stay down. A Stinger splash doesn’t get the job done, and Rusev starts showing frustration. Cena starts in with a series of shoulderblocks, and the 5 Knuckle Shuffle sets up the FU, but Rusev escapes again and hits a superkick for 2. An STFU is countered with the Bossman Slam, and Rusev starts stomping around like an angry bull. A charge in the corner is blocked with the knees, and Cena comes off the second rope with a DDT for 2. Both guys start duking it out in the middle of the ring, and Cena goes for the FU for a 3rd time, but Rusev uses the ropes to escape again, so Cena turns to the STFU, dead centre of the ring. Rusev refuses to tap, breaking the hold with brute force, and he slams Cena for 2. Rusev, desperate, starts dropping elbows, and goes for the stomp to set up the Accolade, but Cena blocks and applies the STFU again. Rusev makes the ropes, but not without giving up a world of energy, and he looks completely shot. Still, he charges, but Cena goes for the FU for a 4th time, but AGAIN Rusev gets loose. A kick is dodged, and the 5th attempt FINALLY hits, but Rusev kicks out! A closeup reveals some incredibly chapped lips on the Bulgarian Brute, and I’d encourage the producers not to do that again. Cena comes off the top, but he’s stopped and Rusev locks on the Accolade. Cena fights like hell, turning various shades of purple in the process, but every time he seems to get the grip broken, Rusev re-applies it even harder. Finally, in a last ditch burst of power, Cena powers to his feet, so Lana gets in the ring and Rusev kicks him in the nuts as hard as he can! Accolade is re-applied, and he ain’t going anywhere this time, passing out at 18:42. Perfect, it sets up the all American comeback at Wrestlemania, and the fans get their feel good moment in seeing the hero conquer the unbeatable badass. A shame Lesnar’s not hanging around, because there would be an argument to keeping him undefeated and rolling them out for SummerSlam. ***
ROMAN REIGNS vs. DANIEL BRYAN (for the WWE title shot at Wrestlemania)
Lawler: “Has there ever been more riding on a single match than this guys?” I don’t even know how to respond to that appropriately. This announce crew has been Mark Madden levels of bad for months now. The crowd, unbelievably, is split between Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns. I’m impressed. Daniel works a headlock, and it takes a number of kidney punches to fight loose. Bryan tries a drop toe hold, but a surfboard is blocked with a quick leg flip. A tilt-a-whirl slam puts Reigns in charge for the first time, and Bryan is clotheslined to the outside. Back in, Bryan kicks Reigns in the hamstrings, and the Indian deathlock is whipped out for an impressive 3rd time tonight. Reigns gets loose by punching Bryan in the face repeatedly, and a hot shot sets up a Samoan drop. Reigns charges in with a spear, but Bryan sidesteps and delivers a drop toe hold on to the buckle. Bryan rears back and charges, and nearly has his head taken off with the forearm shot to the face that’s delivered. Roman starts talking to his fist, setting up the Superman punch, but Bryan stops it with a kick to the ribs. Daniel refuses to let up, kicking away at the herniated area, and follows with a bunch of double leg dropkicks in the corner. He puts Roman on the top rope and tries for a super rana, but Reigns counters with a superbomb for 2. Reigns heads up, but Bryan crotches him and hits a superplex for 2. The fans are completely heatless for every single nearfall so far, and the wind is being sapped out of this place REALLY quickly. Bryan applies the YesLock, but Reigns quickly makes the ropes and hits the floor for a break. Reigns catches Bryan coming off tope suicida, and goes to boot him in the face by the ringsteps, but Bryan sidesteps and Reigns crashes in. Reigns barely beats the 10-count, and Bryan goes for the Flying Goat, but it’s stopped with a punch to the face and Reigns gets 2. Roman goes for the spear, but it’s countered by a cradle for 2. Bryan starts a YES chant to get the fans back into this, hits the flying knee, and as Cole screams “DANIEL BRYAN IS GOING TO WRESTLEMANIA”, you can feel the kickout at 2. The fans wake up now, starting a “THIS IS AWESOME” chant for god knows WHAT reason, because this has been anything but. Daniel kicks away at Roman, but the big kick is blocked, so Bryan bitchslaps Reigns and puts on the YesLock. Reigns looks up at the Wrestlemania sign, and it gives him a newfound inspiration to fight loose, and he immediately delivers a violent ground and pound assault on the former champion. Bryan applies an armbar desperately, but Reigns fights up and powerbombs him off. Bryan kicks his way to his feet, and a big spin kick knocks Reigns into next week. The Running Knee is blocked by a Spear, and Roman wins it clean as a whistle for the second month in a row at 20:15. Bryan tells Reigns he was the better man, and shakes his hand to a mixed reaction. **
Sorry Bryan fans, no more outs. Reigns has effectively wiped the floor with all the top challengers, and whether you like it or not, he’s main eventing Mania because Vince has decreed it so. Where this takes Daniel is anyone’s guess, but he’ll likely be shuffled into one of the backup plans of Sheamus or Ziggler; neither of whom has any momentum right now.
Look, as much as I want to join the bandwagon of declaring Reigns a disaster, I’ll give them credit for picking a new star and refusing to give up on the push after a slow start – because it’s pretty much the polar opposite of what they’ve done with everyone else for years now. The only way we’re going to get anything going is to start making some choices and running with it, and while there are probably a number of far more popular choices in Ziggler, Wyatt, or Ambrose, they could do a whole lot worse than Roman Reigns. Worst case, he tanks and is forced into a heel turn which might be the best thing for him anyway.
That aside, this show wasn’t particularly good, and we’re not looking at a promising Wrestlemania right now. 5 weeks is enough time to fix matters some, so we’ll see if they’re able to make lemonade and tighten the card up into something a little more palatable.