Welcome back to another edition of WFNY on WWE. This week we look ahead to Fastlane, the last pay-per-view before WrestleMania. It isn’t the most prestigious show on the WWE calendar, but it is still, you know, happening. Plus, it’s taking place right here in Cleveland! At the Q! Tickets are still available! Let’s dive in.
Derek: Clevelanders, assemble! The final pay-per-view before WrestleMania is coming to your town. You have the power to boo the New Day when they mention Johnny Manziel. (Ed’s note: If they’re really savvy, they’ll reference Varejao.) You have the power to boo Roman Reigns because everyone likes booing Roman Reigns. You get to chant “This is awesome!” even when it isn’t awesome, and you get to show the nation Cleveland’s rich motorsport tradition, which makes it the perfect city to host WWE’s racing-themed PPV.
Will: A word on what Fastlane is, as no reasonable non-wrestling fan would have any clue. The show debuted last year, taking Elimination Chamber‘s place on the February wrestling calendar. While many PPVs — Royal Rumble, King of the Ring, Hell in a Cell — take their names from special match types, Fastlane is a hackneyed way to drive home the fact that, not only are on the road to WrestleMania, we’re getting there as fast as we possibly can.
If that doesn’t get your juices flowing, then your juices are working just fine. Onward to the card!
Date: Sunday, February 21
Time: 8 p.m.
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland
Available on: WWE Network (or one-time PPV purchase)
Kalisto (c) vs. Alberto Del Rio
Two-out-of-three falls match for the United States Championship
Derek: A quick primer if you don’t know: Kalisto is basically the next Rey Mysterio. He’s a Mexican-American luchador and is a little guy at 5-foot-6 and 175 pounds (the same height and just five pounds lighter than Mysterio). He’s also completely insane. This spot is from December’s Tables, Ladders, and Chairs.
The singles push he’s getting is not something I would have predicted. He was just one half of the Lucha Dragons tag team a few months ago, and they weren’t even particularly successful or popular. They were good, and people generally liked them, but they were never given any sort of consequential spotlight. Nevertheless, Kalisto was pegged as the man to take the United States Championship from the man who took it from John Cena: Alberto Del Rio.
The two have engaged in Mexican-on-Mexican violence ever since, with Del Rio continuously spouting some variation of “You got lucky, [assorted Spanish insults].” This one has been relegated to the pre-show, so I’m not expecting too much. I’ll say Del Rio takes the strap back. He’s a bigger draw than Kalisto, and WWE needs as many of those as they can get after the recent onslaught of injuries.
Will: The fact that this match is on the pre-show speaks to how far the U.S. belt has fallen since John Cena gave it up. His open challenges worked as main events in a pinch, and now the U.S. belt isn’t even being defended on the main telecast? Both of these guys are talented, and Kalisto’s high-flying lends itself to a big match. Alas; if WWE ain’t gonna take this too seriously, then neither am I.
AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho
Derek: Styles debuted last month at Royal Rumble, making this his first singles PPV match at WWE. Early returns have been positive. Unfortunately, they haven’t gone anywhere with his Rumble run-in with Kevin Owens. Come to think of it, they haven’t really gone anywhere with any of the Rumble run-ins. Savvy.
Anyway, Jericho is known for jobbing to new guys he likes at this point in his career, and Styles is new and ostensibly well-liked. I say Styles takes this one, and hopefully he works with Owens, unless WWE has other plans for Owens that I’ll talk about later.
Will: As we discussed after Royal Rumble, Styles came to WWE as a known wrestling commodity. He has been slowly introduced over the past month or so, steadily building a feud with Jericho as well as the Miz (aka Mike Mizanin, from Parma’s Normandy High School by way of The Real World season 10). Styles has generally been put over by the commentary team, and this is shaping up to be his first big WWE victory. There’s a chance that the Miz or someone else intervenes, but I’m expecting a good, clean fight between two veterans.
Ryback, Big Show, & Kane vs. Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, & Braun Strowman
Derek: Apparently this is a thing. The Wyatt Family targeted Brock Lesnar at Royal Rumble, and they naturally haven’t interacted since. Kane and Big Show (who has apparently turned face again) joined up with Ryback in the waning moments of Monday Night Raw, and that’s about as much buildup as this match has received. So, uh, thanks for the bathroom break, WWE! I’m sure the Wyatts will win and inevitably interfere with Lesnar in the main event. What they did at the Rumble was too big to ignore any longer.
Will: This is a bad match unless you measure quality by weight alone. This is like eating three pounds of fatty ground beef in one sitting. I don’t understand why this exists. Show’s latest turn, however, gives us an excuse to examine the dozens of others he’s had over the years. (Turns No. 4, 10, and 14 are my favorites.)
From the enterprising minds at Syd Rock Sports:
Becky Lynch & Sasha Banks vs. Naomi & Tamina
Derek: The Surnames take on the No-Surnames in a match that came about when Sasha Banks (thankfully) broke away from the unfortunately named Team BAD. Becky and Sasha might be at each other’s throats this time next month, but they’re teaming up against Sasha’s former bandmates in what could very well be the last we see of them for a while. So if you’re really into Jimmy Snuka’s daughter or one half of the Funkadactyls, be sure to tune in and get your fill.
To me, this is the biggest lock of the card. I’ll be absolutely shocked if Sasha and Becky lose, unless Sasha turns on her mid-match for whatever reason. It’s more likely Sasha and Becky win, then have a stare-down or skirmish afterward.
Will: Some manner of Becky-Sasha clash has to happen, as they are the two most compelling characters in this match. Both struggled to find their footing a bit after being hyper-over in NXT, but after this match should be primed to head out on their own. Whatever happens Sunday will inform what WrestleMania will have in store for these two. I would not be the least bit surprised to see them involved in a Triple Threat match with the winner of our next contest…
Charlotte (c) vs. Brie Bella
Divas Championship Match
Derek: Rumor has it Brie Bella could retire in the next month or two so her recently retired husband, Daniel Bryan, can give her his seed. Brie is getting more love than usual because of her association with the over-for-life Bryan, which is why she’s in this much. Charlotte has been doing some impressive heel work lately, and Daddy Flair has done a good job of teaching her his ways. Her reference to Brie’s family not having enough money because of Bryan’s retirement was pretty cold.
I say this match only exists because WWE wants to give Charlotte even more heat than she already has by having her crush the most over Diva other than Sasha Banks in embarrassing fashion. Maybe it won’t be a 10-second laugher or anything, but I think Charlotte will win convincingly. And if Brie does pull the upset, then Charlotte will win convincingly in the rematch at WrestleMania.
Will: There’s been an idea that has been floated around the internet that almost certainly will not happen, but it would be fun nonetheless. In short, the idea is that Brie wins the Divas title, then retires with that belt. The Divas title is then replaced with the long-dead Women’s Championship belt, which is not shaped like a pink butterfly. This is currently the highest honor a female wrestler can hold in WWE:
The old women’s title belt was an unspectacular gold number, but it would be loads better than a championship version of a tramp stamp. That sort of change won’t happen, however, as “Divas” has long been ingrained in WWE’s branding. Total Divas is a legitimately successful television show, and they can’t go changing the name to Total Women, now can they?
Anywho, Charlotte has turned into a wonderful heel. Hopefully Brie gets a nice ovation.
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Dolph Ziggler
Intercontinental Championship Match
Derek: Kevin Owens won the Intercontinental Championship from Dean Ambrose Monday night in a rarely-seen Fatal Five-Way match. Ziggler stepped up to challenge Owens shortly after, as Ambrose couldn’t get a rematch with his big main event match looming. Owens and Ziggler have been wrestling pretty much every week, so they might as well keep the streak going here.
On one hand, I’d say Owens is the clear choice to win. The company obviously has big future plans for him, and so many fans love him or love to hate him. Ziggler, though, can’t get any kind of consistent booking and is mostly being used as a mechanic or dull love interest. It’s almost silly to think Owens would lose.
On the other hand, Owens might be the best candidate to face the Undertaker at WrestleMania, and making that an Intercontinental Championship match would be weird. Taker is so big that there’s no reason for him to be in any sort of title match. Rumor has it Taker is wrestling someone else, so Owens will in all likelihood retain and take on the likes of AJ Styles or Sami Zayn.
Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns in a triple threat match to determine who will face Triple H for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania.
Derek: This is really Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns, because Brock is definitely getting taken out by the Wyatts at some point. The Wyatts have a long, storied history of interfering in otherwise entertaining main event matches and starting forgettable feuds, and they’ll do it again here.
Ambrose finally teased a heel turn by locking Roman into Dirty Deeds …
… but he couldn’t finish the job, and the two fist bumped it out. To me, the logical thing would be to turn Roman heel since he gets jeered fairly regularly and Ambrose is the best face in the company. I’m not sure why they would turn Ambrose and keep Roman in no man’s land, but it’s in play.
Most people are handing this to Roman, and understandably so. Though Ambrose abruptly dropping the IC belt on Raw works in his favor here. They wouldn’t waste the IC Champion by putting him in a world title match with absentee champion Triple H. Now Dean is free to return to chasing the big prize for what seems like the 20th time. A Reigns-HHH match has been teased for months, but I think more fans (including me) would rather see Trips face Ambrose.
Will: I’m not as sold on the Wyatts interfering, but I agree that there’s no way Brock gets pinned here. One way or another, this baby is coming down to Roman and Dean, two friends who make it all awkward by calling each other brothers. They have eased into a sort of friendly rivalry, and this match will be where it all comes to a head.
Reigns vs. Triple H at Mania seemed like a foregone conclusion from the moment Trips showed up at the Rumble, but I’ve become dangerously optimistic that that won’t be the case. While Roman gets cheers now and again, it’s clear that Ambrose is the more popular of the two. Like, way more popular. Dean is over with kids and smarks alike, while Roman gets a steady diet of boos in the smarkier locales. WWE has had Reigns earmarked for a John Cena role for ages, but he is infinitely better suited for a heel turn right now than Ambrose.
Ambrose is unfortunately saddled with a “Lunatic Fringe” nickname, but lately he has pivoted into more of a Rocky character — Balboa, not Maivia. He isn’t “crazy” so much as he “doesn’t give a shit if you hurt him.” It’s a classic, simple angle, and it works perfectly with him. He isn’t that big or that powerful, but that SOB ain’t gonna quit. It’s the same stuff Stone Cold or even Mankind tapped into for so many years. If the fans like you, they’ll eat it up.
But who knows? Maybe Brock will destroy both of them and win clean. Maybe the Wyatts will take Lesnar out. Maybe we’re in for a swerve, with Roman joining some third party’s side. Maybe Triple H will take matters into his own hands. There are a bunch of interesting possibilities, and most any of them would be satisfying — except for Roman going over clean.