13th Mar2018

‘WWE Fastlane 2018′ PPV Review

by Phil Wheat

We’re officially on the road to Wrestlemania and Fastlane marks the final pay per view stop for the Smackdown brand (and the last Smackdown-only PPV given that all pay per views are going multi-brand after Wrestlemania 34) with – frankly – a number of filler matches that look like they will add nothing to the build up to the biggest wrestling event of the year or add anythig to the careers of those involved.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev


When this match was announced no one expected anything other than a squash match for Nakamura – after all “Rusev Day” was a inside joke that has gained traction with the fans and become more over with fans than I’m guessing the WWE ever wanted. But surprise, surprise this was anything but a squash match…

Rusev, despite the comedy gimmick of Rusev Day, is still a bad ass wrestler when given the chance, and with Nakamura he got the chance. The duo put together a fantastic opening match that the audience were REALLY behind, giving this lesser-billed match more of an atmosphere than many others on this pay per view. Yes, there were no real consequences, nothing really on the line for either wrestler but that didn’t stop Shinsuke and Rusev putting on one hell of a back and forth, both getting a number of spotlight moments and near falls (VERY near falls in the case of Rusev) before Nakamura finally got the win with the Kinshasha.

Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura

Randy Orton vs. Bobby Roode


If Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev turned out to be the surprise of the night, then Randy Orton vs. Bobby Roode was the exact opposite. A totally expected match between Roode and Orton that only served to show fans that, for some reason, the WWE still thinks Randy Orton is a huge draw. Yet for many he’s not. Orton is – at this stage in his career – seemingly sleep-walking his way through matches and appearances. There’s no fire, no urgency, to his performances; he’s literally a walking meme.

Oooh, so if Orton wins he gets to be a Grandslam Champion… OK then. More like “let’s put the belt on Orton to keep him sweet” and to fuel an unwanted three-way title match between Roode, Orton and Jinder Mahal at Wrestlemania. Fair enough, Orton and Roode have what it takes to put on a decent match and this one was pretty good – but not spectacular. It felt like two men who had been told to put on a technical display rather than tell a decent, and more importantly, exciting story. Some good spots, including a fantastic superplex off the top rope, couldn’t really save this match from mediocrity.

Orton took the win with yet another RKO seemingly lining up Roode to take it back at Wrestlemania (hopefully), though Jinder Mahal butting his nose in post-match will do nothing for Roode but drag him down to the mid-card when he should be in the top tier main event.

Winner (and new US Champion): Randy Orton

An extended promo for Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle vs. Stephanie McMahon and Triple H is up next, playing out the ENTIRE storyline since Rouseys debut at the Royal Rumble… Just to remind you that Smackdown is now the lesser of the two WWE brands thanks to Raw stepping up its storytelling in recent months. Which leads us into…

Natalya and Carmella vs. Becky Lynch and Naomi


Speaking of having no storytelling in Smackdown. What the hell is going on with Becky Lynch these days? One of the WWEs best female wrestlers, on any of their brands, has seemingly been sidelined into tag matches and aberrant storylines with Naomi and the rest of the womens mid-card. Hell, when you’re in a match against Carmella you know you’ve hit the doldrums.

Though after being forgotten for weeks on end it looks like the WWE have finally remembered that Carmella has the Money in the Bank briefcase – referencing how long Carmella has held it for as if it was some kind of Championship. It’s not. It’s a briefcase that James Ellsworth won for Carmella just for shock value on the night, with no plans for what they were going to do with Carmella in the future. In fact this entire match just went to show how WWE has no idea what to do with ANY of the women involved, the Riott Squad having taken their place in the Championship scene…

A waste of all involved, with the announce team trying to sell backstage catiness and drama as the catalyst for this match (how cliched can you get WWE?) Natalya and Carmella eventually picked up the win when Carmella hit a superkick on Becky Lynch. The only highlight to this match, honestly, was Carmella kneeing Naomi in the head whilst she was lying on the apron – it looked stiffer than intended!

Winner: Natalya and Carmella

Another promo – this time building the anticipation for The Usos vs. New Day which is up next… and SHOULD be a classic match between the two best tag teams the WWE has on the main roster. I particularly love the way the WWE is selling the Wrestlemania rivalry (in terms of number of appearances, etc.) between the two.

The Usos vs. The New Day


You can [almost] always guarantee that when these two tag teams face off that the match which will anything but dull. And this match did not disappoint. Kofi took control early on with his high-flying manoeuvres, with some sly jabs at Jimmy and Jey AND their father Rikishi before The Usos counted with their own dig at the New Day and their outlandish behaviour. A great idea for the teams to mimic each others movesets and show just how well this pairing know each other… Such as shame then that the WWE creative team decide to give us a dusty finish on this one, setting up ANOTHER triple-threat match at Wrestlemania as The Bludgeon Brothers come out after both teams clean house in the ring, scooping up The Usos and The New Day like rag dolls demolishing them with ease. Its a brutal sell that actually looks brutal for once.

Now if only WWE creative will actually allow The Bludgeon Brothers to be this dominant in matches, squashing all the opposition then maybe I’ll believe the hype. Otherwise its another waste of the talents of Harper and Rowan – two of the companies best, and most under-utilised, performers IMO.

Winners: No Contest due to interference

And yet another Raw promo… Hey Smackdown! How about selling your OWN stories rather than Raw’s? Especially considering the blue brand is now floundering behind the once sub-par “main” show.

Charlotte Flair vs. Ruby Riott


I’m not going to lie. I knew Ruby Riott was not going to win this one. Charlotte HAS to have her Wrestlemania moment as Women’s Champion so the outcome of this match was a forgone conclusion. But that’s not to say this duo didn’t put on a great show.

In fact, if anything this match proved that Ruby Riott deserves to be in the main event scene despite only been on the main roster for a short while – she held her own against the WWE’s golden girl, putting the pressure on Flair on numerous occassions. Both women pulled off some great moves: with Riott pushing Flair off the top rope onto the barrier ringside a particular “Holy Sh*t” moment that actually kicked the match up a gear. The interference from Becky/Naomi and Sarah Logan/Liv Morgan was unneeded but at least led to some fun scenes as they were all ejected from ringside.

Flair swiftly won the match after that, putting Ruby Riott in a Figure Eight after a fantastic corner move stunned the WWE newcomer. Speaking of coming to WWE… It seems Asuka has chosen her opponent for Wrestlemania, coming out to challenge Flair for the Smackdown Women’s Championship rather than take on Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Title.

Winner: Charlotte Flair

And with that we’re down to the last match (already?), the 6-man title match between AJ Styles, John Cena, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler and Sami Zayn!

AJ Styles vs. John Cena vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler vs. Sami Zayn


Another match whose final outcome was somewhat obvious – after all the WWE wouldn’t want to screw up the opportunity to have AJ Styles take on Shinsuke Nakamura at Wrestlemania 34 would they? Well… Maybe. It is the WWE after all!

Joking aside the 6-Pack Challenge could’ve been a ridiculous mess yet somehow, somehow, the WWE managed to rein in the match and focus on Cena vs. Styles early on before Cena got a five-on-one beatdown for inserting himself into the match! A whole bunch of back and forths between the six men kept the action going at a pace, with the commentary team on hand to keep reminding us that Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn had “issues” – wouldn’t want to let this ridiculous storyline which also features Shane McMahon, who just happens to be sitting ringside for this match, end anytime soon would we WWE?

There’s plenty of decent spots for all involved, with plenty of near falls broken up just close enough to amp up the excitement and give the match a sense of danger, especially given that Styles didn’t need to be pinned to lose this one. Whilst Ziggler and Corbin are almost completely sidelined in this match Zayn and Owens get a decent amount of time to progress their storyline whilst the finish is sullied somewhat by interference from Shane McMahon which costs Owens AND Zayn the win(s). Again, top further this long-running and convoluted storyline which, fingers crossed, will end at Wrestlemania.

In the end it’s left to AJ Styles to take the win with a phenomenal forearm on Kevin Owens (actually out of nowhere, unlike Orton’s RKOs) after a substantial match that did not disappoint, even if it was predictable.

Winner: AJ Styles

Final Thoughts:

Another overall unremarkable pay per view, Fastlane opened strong with a great (if unexpectedly so) match and closed with a great match, with a great women’s match in between; but beyond that it was another case of a PPV spinning its wheels on the road to Wrestlemania, with very little in terms of long-term storytelling helping to sell what’s coming down the line… And no, I’m not counting the ridiculously overdrawn, overlong and well past its “should be all over by now” Owens/Zayn/Shane/Daniel Bryan pantomime that Smackdown thinks is interesting.

Now can we get some fresh life in Smackdown’s creative before the B-show becomes the C-show?

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