Written by: Scrooge McSuck
– It’s the final stop on the ROAD TO WRESTLEMANIA with the Raw Exclusive Network Special/Pay-Per-View. Live from the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, WI, with Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton, and Austin Aries (for any Cruiserweight matches) calling the action throughout the night. I don’t recap Raw, but I have kept up with it better than usual, and this PPV isn’t looking too bad on paper.
Kickoff Match: Rich Swann & Akira Tozawa vs. Brian Kendrick & Noam Dar (w/ Alicia Fox):
Problem #1 with the Cruiserweight Division: A whole lot of worthless tag team matches. Kendrick has problems with Tozawa refusing to accept his mentorship, and Swann is just another former Champion. Kendrick immediately tags out to avoid Tozawa. Tozawa with a flurry of strikes. Kendrick with a blind tag and attacks from behind. Swann saves from a double suplex and hit dropkicks to clear the ring. They set up for dives, but Fox stands in the way. We return from break, with Kendrick in control of Tozawa. Snap suplex for two. Tozawa escapes a chin-lock, but runs into a boot. He surprises Kendrick with a hurricanrana and tags out to Swann. He takes care of both Kendrick and Dar. Jumping frog splash to Dar for two. Swann with a sunset flip for two. To the floor, Swann is sent to the post to get his turn as face-in-peril. Kendrick can’t apply the Captain’s Hook and settles for a suplex for a near fall. Dar with a double under-hook suplex for two. Swann with a roundhouse kick out of nowhere. Tozawa with a bicycle kick to Kendrick, followed by a senton for two. Dar saves Kendrick from the German Suplex. Dar and Kendrick get dumped and we finally get our high spot with a suicide dive from Tozawa and somersault plancha from Swann. Back inside, Tozawa with the Shining Wizard to Kendrick. Dar takes out Tozawa, and Swann KO’s Dar. Dar sits on a sunset flip for two. Tozawa with the Snap German to Kendrick, and Swann finishes with the Phoenix Splash at 9:25. Started slow and a commercial break early seemed oddly placed, but picked up late to be a decent match. **1/4
Sami Zayn vs. Samoa Joe:
I was expecting the Tag Titles to open the show. Zayn is basically an audible with the untimely injury to Seth Rollins during Joe’s Raw Debut. Cole brings up their outstanding 2 out of 3 Falls Match from NXT last Spring. Joe stands tall on a shoulder tackle and levels Zayn with a kick to the chest. He rolls Zayn into a leg-lock, but he ends up in the ropes. Zayn springs over Joe, but can’t take him over with a hip toss. Whip to the ropes, and a spinning head scissors has better success. To the corner, and Joe sucker punches Zayn with a jab. Joe with the charging elbow, followed by an enzuigiri. Joe with a takedown and bow-and-arrow. Zayn tries trading blows, but Joe duck and rolls to clip the legs. Zayn surprises Joe with a hard clothesline and hits the Blue Thunder Bomb for a two count. Zayn climbs the ropes, but Joe greets him with a forearm. Zayn fights Joe off the ropes, but gets nailed with an inverted atomic drop, boot to the face, and running senton for a near fall. Joe with a Snap Power-Slam for two. Joe with strikes and Zayn plays dead before cradling him for a two count. Zayn gets boots up un the corner and fights out of the Muscle Buster. Joe catches him again with the enzuigiri. Zayn blocks a Super-Plex, but gets caught with a uranage while going for the Helluva Kick. Joe with the Kokina Clutch, and Zayn is KO’ed at 9:45. Too short, but packed with action, and a mostly one-sided match to really put Joe over strong. Zayn fans will cry how bad he looked, and I won’t lie, he was given minimal offense. ***1/4
WWE Tag Team Championship Match:
Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows (c) vs. Enzo & Cass:
Enzo and Cass earned the title shot over Sheamus and Cesaro. With the New Day out of the picture, the Tag Titles stock has dropped a bit. If you think Smackdown’s Tag Division is in trouble, Raw’s isn’t far behind. Cass works over Anderson in the corner to start. Enzo tags in and gets flung into Anderson. Gallows tries to help, but gets sent to the floor, and Cass press slams Enzo onto the Champions. It doesn’t take long for Enzo to get caught in the wrong corner and laid out. Gallows with a slam for two. Anderson with a slam and knees across the chest for two. Enzo tries to roll through a chin-lock, but Anderson wrestles him back to the middle of the ring. Anderson drags Enzo to the floor, but gets laid out with an enzuigiri. Gallows meets the post, opening the door for Enzo to make the tag, but Anderson intercepts with a high knee to the side of the head. Gallows with a series of strikes for two. Enzo avoids a charge and an elbow drop from Gallows, and Anderson crotches himself in the corner. Cass finally gets the hot tag and runs over Anderson with shoulder tackles. Cass with a fall-away slam, avalanche, and another fall-away slam. Side Suplex and Empire Elbow connects. Boot to Gallows on the apron, and a big boot to Anderson. The Rocket Launcher connects, but Gallows pulls Enzo off. Cass gets thrown into the barricade, and Enzo comes off the apron with a dive. Anderson with a kick to the face, and Gallows makes sure the referee doesn’t see Enzo’s foot on the ropes as the Champions retain at 8:42. Typical tag formula with Enzo getting thrown around and Cass getting his big moves in before the loss. **
Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax:
These two have been fighting for several months, with their lone PPV match being a one-sided match on the Royal Rumble Kickoff Show. Banks quickly fights off Jax with elbows and forearms. Banks with low dropkicks, but is sent to the corner and laid out with a blow across the back. Nia with a power back breaker and holds Banks over the knee. Sasha with knees to escape, but a sunset flip is blocked. Whip to the ropes and Jax with a shoulder tackle for two. Jax with the modified surfboard. Sasha with kicks to the head to escape, but just as quickly gets thrown across the ring. At least she didn’t land on her head. Sasha fights to her feet, only to get slammed back down. Jax fights off another comeback and slaps on a Torture Rack. Sasha spins out of it and hooks a Guillotine Choke. Jax fights free, but Sasha hops on her back with a sleeper. Jax escapes with a snap mare, but meets an elbow and knee on a slow-motion charge. They botch a spot, so they turn it into a Tornado DDT from Sasha. Jax fights out of the Bank Statement and spikes Sasha with a standing spine-buster. Leg drop across the lower back. Sasha rolls out of a Samoan Drop and gets an O’Connor Roll for three at 8:21. Tim Horner would be proud. One sided match until the end, with a lot of resting and a few rough patches. *1/2
– Jinder Mahal and Rusev come out to stretch the card. This was set up on the Kickoff Show where both men complained that they wouldn’t be a team and wanted singles competition, so Mick Foley’s solution is to send them out here and decide who gets to go first. They trade blows until taking it to the floor. Mahal sends Rusev to the post and knocks him over the barricade with a running high knee. I guess this means Mahal goes first.
Cesaro (w/ Sheamus) vs. Jinder Mahal:
Well, this is certainly a Pay-Per-View caliber match. It’s not even a cool-down match! That was Sasha vs. Nia Jax. Lockup and Mahal goes to work on the left arm. Cesaro counters with a snap mare, and Mahal hides in the corner. Mahal with a whip to the corner and forearms across the back. Cesaro comes back with a forearm and the jumping double stomp. Cesaro with the gut-wrench suplex for two. Cesaro counters a leap frog with a power back breaker for two. Cesaro keeps selling the back, failing to do his ring apron Super-Plex. Mahal crotches him on the middle rope and hits a running dropkick to the back. Mahal with elbows and a short-clothesline for two. Cesaro fights out of a chin-lock, but gets laid out with a running high knee. The crowd is so bored they can’t even get a cohesive chant going. Cesaro keeps going for a suplex and failing. Cesaro finally gets Mahal up with an almost-delayed suplex. Cesaro with uppercuts in the corner. Mahal reverses a whip, misses a charge, and gets dropped onto the middle rope for the slow-motion “Swiss-One-Nine.” Cesaro comes off the top with a flying body press for two. Mahal fights off a Sharpshooter attempt and drops Cesaro with a boot. Rusev FINALLY WOKE UP (10 minutes, selling a HIGH KNEE?!), distracting Mahal, and Cesaro finishes with the body press Uppercut at 8:13. Post-match, Rusev tosses Mahal to the post and lays into him with rights and strikes. The work was fine, but this was death for the live audience, even with Cesaro in the match. *3/4
The Big Show vs. Handsome Rusev (w/ Lana):
I knew it. I F*CKING KNEW IT. I’m almost shocked it wasn’t made a 2-on-1 Handicap Match with Mahal and Rusev jobbing to Show. Show nails Rusev at the bell with a big boot. The crowd wakes up to chant U-S-A, despite Show leaving his patriotic singlet at home. Show with the frying pan slap across the chest, sending Rusev to the floor. Show follows and shoves him into the barricade. Back inside, Show chokes Rusev across the bottom rope and hits a headbutt. Whip to the corner and Show charges in with an avalanche. Big Show, age 40-something and 350 pounds, did it faster than Nia Jax. Show with the Final Cut for a near fall. Rusev fights back with strikes to the midsection. Show shrugs off a pair of clotheslines and hits a pair of his own. Whip to the corner and Show with another avalanche. Rusev counters his bounce off the ropes by clipping the knee. Rusev works the leg to ensure the match goes another 5-minutes. Show comes back with the side slam for another near fall. Rusev hangs Show across the top rope and counters the Choke-Slam with a clip of the knee. Rusev with a trio of MACHKA kicks to the side of the head for two. Show slips out of the Accolade attempt and plans Rusev with a Choke-Slam. The straps are down, and Show adds two more Choke-Slams. He props Rusev in the corner and finishes with the KO Punch at 8:38. Who did Rusev piss off? We’re five matches deep, and none have eclipsed the 10-minute marker. Not that I’m asking this match to break that streak. *
WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match:
Neville (c) vs. “Gentleman” Jack Gallagher:
Before the match, we see a video package for Austin Aries. If that doesn’t put over the importance of this match, I don’t know what does. Gallagher won a Fatal-Five Way to earn this title opportunity. Who are the others of the five? Who knows, who cares. (Editor’s Note: TJ Perkins, Cedric Alexander, Mustafa Ali and Noam Dar. Oh…you were being rhetorical. D’oh…) Neville refuses a handshake and generally acts like a jerk. Gallagher counters a wrist-lock by crawling between and picking the legs. Whip to the corner and Gallagher hangs out upside down on the turnbuckle. He plants a pair of boots to the chest, but gets ran over on a shoulder tackle. Gallagher sends Neville to the floor with a dropkick. Gallagher follows and gets sent to the barricade. I hope that barricade is paid extra for PPV’s. Neville with a missile dropkick for two. Gallagher with uppercuts, but Neville remains in control with a knee lift and snap suplex. Corner forearm gets two. We slow things down more with a chin-lock. Gallagher with strikes and dropkicks. Neville rolls to the floor, so Gallagher follows with a twisting dive between the ropes. Back in, Gallagher straddles Neville across the top rope and takes him down with a Super Back Suplex for a near fall. Neville surprises Gallagher with a Hot Shot and slams him face-first. Gallagher blocks a suplex and rolls him up for two. Neville with a snap German Suplex, dropping Gallagher on his head. Middle rope Phoenix Splash gets a near fall. Neville continues being cocky, taking his time laying into Gallagher with kicks. Gallagher avoids a basement dropkick and connects with a pair of headbutts for a near fall. Gallagher misses a diving kick in the corner and gets knocked to the apron. Gallagher knocks Neville off the top rope and hits another vicious headbutt. Neville counters a Super-Plex and finishes with the Red Arrow at 12:05. There were some slow spots, but it worked into the story of Neville taking Gallagher for granted, only for Gallagher to push Neville to the limits. ***
– Paul Heyman shows up to cut a promo about the ramifications of tonight’s Universal Championship Match. If Goldberg wins, Brock gets a Universal Title Match at WrestleMania 33, and if Kevin Owens wins, that exposes a weakness in Goldberg for Brock to exploit, so either way you look at it, it’s a win-win situation. I can’t imagine how little faith there is on this show to need two filler matches back-to-back, as well as special appearances and interviews from people not scheduled to wrestle.
– The show MUST STRETCH OUT, so The New Day arrive, carting out an ice cream trolley attached to a bicycle. The New Day will be HOSTING WrestleMania, which means the most over team in recent memory doesn’t have a match at the biggest show of the year. First came Booty O’s, and it only started out as a t-shirt and dream, which turns into Big E spontaneously singing Randy Orton’s theme music. Xavier and Kofi keep getting on Big E’s case, and oh my God, are they teasing a Big E split from the New Day? They hype how much they pimped out the ice cream container, “skeeting” stickers on it… and that’s it. This show sucks. I honestly thought something interesting might’ve happened, but nope, it was a nothing segment designed to eat up another 5-minutes because only one of the three remaining matches could (and should) conceivably only go single-digits on the stop-watch.
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman:
This started at the Royal Rumble when Strowman cost Reigns his chance to become the Universal Champion, and since then, it’s been back-and-forth between the two. Strowman wanted competition, so Foley gave it to him. Lockup to the corner and Braun tosses Reigns across the ring. Strowman fights out of a waist-lock and throws Reigns to the floor. Reigns hangs Strowman across the top rope and unloads with rights. Strowman blocks a Samoan drop, but runs into a boot. Reigns with more uppercuts and a clothesline to send Strowman to the floor. Roman avoids being thrown into the steps and jumps off with a clothesline that barely phases him. Strowman charges and meets the steps. Roman with mounted punches, but Strowman counters with a spine-buster. Strowman with an avalanche and a throw across the ring. Things slow down with a nerve hold. Braun with a Samoan drop and splash for two. We slow it down even more with a lengthy chin-lock. Reigns fights free and comes off the ropes with clotheslines. Strowman with a face-plant choke-slam for two. To the floor, Strowman undresses a table with “evil intentions.” Reigns slips out of a Powerslam and shoves Strowman into the post. Strowman catches Reigns going for a Drive-By and returns the favor. Back inside, Braun meets the post on a charge. Reigns with his flurry of clotheslines and Samoan drop for two. Strowman counters the Superman Punch and hits a reverse Powerslam for two. Strowman misses a boot to the corner and falls to the floor. Roman with the Drive-By. Strowman interrupts a Spear attempt and Powerslams Reigns through the announcers table. Back inside, and Roman with a Spear out of nowhere for two. Strowman meets the post, again. Reigns with two Superman Punches, but the Spear is countered. Strowman misses a splash from the top rope and Reigns finishes with the Spear at 17:14, Braun’s 1st pinfall loss in WWE. Strowman isn’t an abomination in the ring, but his matches need to be short to be positively effective. This wasn’t “bad”, but you clearly have a still limited worker stretching things out to the point it makes him, at times, look it. This ranged from bad, boring, and pretty-good. **1/4
WWE Women’s Championship Match:
Bayley (c) vs. Charlotte:
Yeah, they wasted Bayley’s first Championship on a random episode of Raw, and we all know Charlotte is going to be a 16-time Champion by the end of 2017 at her current rate. Charlotte dismisses Dana Brooke during her entrance. I need to know how she did at the Arnold Classic, damn it! Lockup to the ropes and a clean break. Charlotte with a waist-lock takedown into a cover. Bayley with a drop toe hold into her first cover. Charlotte with a side headlock and a series of shoulder tackles. Bayley with a leg sweep and jackknife cover. La Magistral cradle for two. Charlotte flips to the apron, but gets knocked off with a clothesline. Bayley follows with a jumping hurricanrana from the apron. Back inside, Bayley with a flying body press for two. Charlotte hooks the ropes to avoid the Bayley-to-Belly and rolls to the floor for a breather. Bayley gives chase and gets laid out with a forearm smash. Back inside, Charlotte with a running boot to the chest. Bayley with an elbow in the corner, followed by a springboard arm drag. She gets hung up in the ropes and Charlotte uses the knee to drive her into the canvas.
Charlotte with the pounding head scissors and tumbles around the ring, taking Bayley along for the ride. Charlotte with a knee across the back of the head for two. She unloads with chops while talking more trash. Bayley gets fired up, dishing out chops of her own, but Charlotte rebounds with a hangman’s neck breaker and boot to the face for two. Charlotte with a modified Dragon sleeper and a pair of back breakers. Leg across the midsection for another two count. Charlotte comes off the top with a moonsault and somersault senton for a near fall. Charlotte continues with the verbal abuse and drops Bayley with a big chop. Whip to the corner, and on the third try, Bayley counters with a clothesline. Bayley with knees to the midsection and more chops. She takes Charlotte down with a hooking clothesline and pounds away. Bayley hangs Charlotte across the middle rope and hits the diving elbow in the corner. Back suplex for a near fall.
Whip to the corner, Bayley catches Charlotte in the middle of the flip and hangs her in the tree of woe. Bayley puts the boots to her and complete whiffs on the springboard elbow. She drops a few elbows across the chest and scales the ropes. Charlotte retreats to the apron and rams Bayley into the turnbuckle. Bayley with a forearm to interrupt Charlotte’s climb, and connects with a Super-Hurricanrana. Bayley to the top with the Flying Elbow for a near fall. Charlotte with a big boot with Bayley on the apron. Back inside, Charlotte hits the Natural Selection for two. Bayley catches Charlotte off guard with a cradle for two. Charlotte picks the leg, but gets kicked through the ropes going for the Figure-Four. Bayley follows her out, only to get slammed from the apron, to the floor. Charlotte climbs the ropes again, and here’s Sasha Banks. Charlotte stops what she’s doing to intercept her, allowing Bayley time to recover and hit a Bayley-to-Belly on the floor. Back inside, Charlotte cradles Bayley, but Sasha snitches to the referee she had the tights. Bayley with another Bayley-to-Belly to retain at 16:51 and end Charlotte’s PPV winning streak. This had potential to be a show stealer, but an ugly botch earlier killed some momentum, and that finish completely killed the momentum the match had regained. It’s still a pretty-good match, but it fell below my expectations. ***1/2
WWE Universal Championship Match:
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Goldberg:
I can’t believe I’m typing that. There seriously can’t be that many people who think Goldberg, in 2017, should be in this position, especially with a match at WrestleMania that doesn’t need the title. Both men get mixed responses, to no surprise. Before the bell, Owens takes a powder to delay the inevitable. It’s 11 o’clock and this show isn’t over yet. Larry Zbyszko would be proud of these stall tactics. Even the crowd gives his effort to not start the match a (mostly) standing ovation. Owens screams for the bell to ring. Then Chris Jericho’s music plays. The bell rings during the distraction, Goldberg hits a Spear, and the Jackhammer finishes at 0:20, making Goldberg the 3rd-ever Universal Champion. **** for Kevin Owens’ stall tactics, N/R for the “match.”
Final Thoughts: The Road to WrestleMania usually means a lackluster effort, and this was no surprise. On paper, Fastlane had an uphill battle, and padding the show out with undercard garbage didn’t help matters. The best match on the show was robbed of potential with a weak finish, and the second best wasn’t even supposed to be on the card, and was more of a glorified squash than a competitive match. The Main Event was a 20-second distraction/squash. While Smackdown’s Elimination Chamber had an excellent Main Event and a so-so undercard, Fastlane had a few good under-card matches and nothing else. Weak show to get us off to a rocky start on the last push for WrestleMania Sun Burst.
31-year old currently living in Syracuse, New York. Longtime fan of the New York Mets, Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Vikings. Avid fan of professional wrestling and write reviews/articles on the product. Usually focusing on the old school wrestling.