Written by: Scott Keith
The SmarK Rant for WWE Fastlane 2016 – 02.21.16
Live from Cleveland, OH
Your hosts are Michael Cole, Bryon Saxton & JBL
Sasha Banks & Becky Lynch v. Naomi & Tamina
The former Team BAD has a special interview that gets relegated “exclusively” to the WWE Facebook page, and then shown here anyway. I think they need to learn the definition of “exclusive”. Sasha and Becky are of course Wacky Tag Team Partners Who Hate Each Other, but at least share an interest in hair dye. Or maybe Sasha’s hair is natural, she’s pretty amazing. Naomi tries the Happy Feet kicks on Becky, but Becky puts her on the floor with the hideously named “Lass-Plex” and the faces follow with a dive. Becky gets necked in the heel corner and the crowd wants Sasha. She’s standing right there on the apron! At least give Becky a chance to prove herself, Cleveland. Becky plays lass-in-peril as Tamina gets a sloppy clothesline for two and Becky gets worked over in the corner. Naomi with the chinlock as JBL makes dated basketball references, although at least he’s into the 90s with them. Becky escapes Tamina, but Naomi cuts off the tag by taking out Sasha, always a classic. Another issue I have with the announcing is Byron talking about how Tamina has “a nasty personality and attitude”, which isn’t something they ever really bother to show. Finally Becky fights off both heels and it’s hot tag Boss, who puts Naomi down with double knees from a standing position. Ouch. Blind charge misses, but Becky reverses Naomi back into the corner, but chases Tamina and walks into She Calls It The Rear View for two. Tamina comes in with a superkick for two, but Sasha escapes a double suplex and Becky gets rid of Naomi. Sasha with the Bank Statement to finish Tamina at 9:50. They kept it simple and worked hard. *** I almost deduct a star for Bryon saying “Unity” and then Cole saying “Building momentum”, though.
Intercontinental title: Kevin Owens v. Dolph Ziggler
After a match with two women who have neon colored hair, Dolph somehow still manages to look the stupidest by putting his in cornrows like he’s 1992 British Bulldog. Owens attacks to start and yells “Your hometown likes me more than you!” before grabbing a headlock. That’s hurtful. True, but hurtful. Owens switches to a facelock while continuing the demoralizing trashtalk, but Dolph slugs away in the corner until Owens runs him into the other turnbuckle. That looked really not good on the replay. Bret needs to teach these guys how to take a turnbuckle without killing yourself. Owens with a senton for two and back to CHINLOCK CITY. Owens can do this all night long, in case we were confused about his longevity here. Finally Dolph escapes and sends Owens into the post, then makes the comeback. Four elbowdrops get two. Michael Cole clarifies what’s on the line at this point: The opportunity to defend the Intercontinental title at Wrestlemania. Never mind that the title has changed hands for the past couple of years at that show. And never mind actually trying to win the title here. Their verbiage is just so obnoxious. Owens puts him down again with the cannonball in the corner, but Dolph reverses the powerbomb into a DDT for two. They fight to the top and Owens brings him down with the fisherman’s suplex, and they head out for a brawl outside. Back in, Owens blocks the Zig Zag with a superkick, but Dolph pops up with his own superkick for two. JBL calls it a “superkick party” in what HAS to be another petty shot at the Young Bucks. Back to the floor, where Ziggler reverses another powerbomb into a rana, and both guys are out. Back in for the fameasser, which gets two. Owens ducks another superkick and goes low, and the pop up powerbomb finishes at 15:10. Another really good match between them, although Ziggler is just lacking whatever is needed to get to the next level with Owens. In particular his comeback didn’t seem to have enough momentum behind it and there wasn’t really any point where he seemed like he could win the title. ***1/2
The Wyatt Family v. Kane, Big Show & Ryback
I’m assuming this match exists merely so that we can establish that Bray Wyatt is in the building for the main event. Ryback’s got his jobbing face on tonight, but don’t worry, because JBL informs us that this match is going to be “fun to watch” and “monkey butt ugly”. Those sound like they contradict each other. Ryback slugs it out with Rowan and actually gets a missile dropkick on him, and Show throws his frying pan like shots in the corner. More ridiculous WWE announcer hyperbole, as JBL declares that the Wyatt Family is the most destructive force in the history of the WWE, and then also notes that the babyfaces are equally destructive. They both can’t be the most destructive! Ryback gets double-teamed in the corner as the crowd has no interest in giving this match a chance, and Brawny Strongman beats on Ryback. Kane comes in, however, and cleans house on the heels as Cole notes that at one point Kane was abducted by the Wyatts. And…? Whatever happened with that storyline? Why even bring it up? And then Kane gets beat up on the floor for a bit before getting trapped in the Wyatt corner. Michael Cole is VERY EXCITED to see Big Show against Brown Snowman. Broiled Stromboli pounds away in the corner as JBL calls him a “cross between Jeep Swenson and Bill Kazmaier”. I am 41 years old and I barely even got that reference. How are the Twitter-using teenagers supposed to know how those guys are? Hot tag Ryback and he tosses Harper around with slams for two and everyone brawls, leading to Show cleaning house. Ryback goes after Bray like an idiot and Harper superkicks him, but Ryback comes back to finish with the Shellshock at 10:44. Gotta keep Big Show and Kane strong! This pretty much killed the good match streak so far. *
Meanwhile, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose are both ready for the road to Wrestlemania. Dean already has a ticket booked, in fact, thanks to a great deal on Priceline.
Divas title: Charlotte v. Brie Bella
I’m not really fond of Brie doing all of Bryan’s stuff already, like he’s dead or something. Especiallly since Brie wasn’t even a babyface and didn’t really do anything to earn that kind of goodwill from the fanbase. Charlotte controls with a headscissors on the mat while JBL yells at Saxton for the poor quality of his banter. That’s like the pot telling the kettle that his references are dated and nonsensical. Charlotte mocks the Yes thing, so Brie mocks the Flair strut and takes her down for two. Charlotte puts Brie on the floor with a headscissors and now JBL is talking about FARMER BURNS. Meanwhile Charlotte manages to get a cut on the nose and goes to the surfboard while the ref tries to figure out where the blood is coming from. That’s like a Lex Luger in Baltimore type of cut anyway. SEE JBL, I CAN MAKE OBSCURE REFERENCES, TOO! Brie does the world’s most awkward attempt at a Yeslock and then just gives up and does a crucifix pin instead for two, but Charlotte puts her down with a jawbreaker for two as this just completely falls apart. If only Brie had inherited Bryan’s workrate along with his mannerisms. Brie comes back with the running knee, which might have more effect if she didn’t stop to yell “Brie Mode!” first as if anyone cared. Charlotte fires back with chops, but Brie gets a sloppy cradle for two. Brie is just so far out of her league here, no matter which kickpads she’s wearing. Brie makes the comeback with a missile dropkick, but injures the knee. She still manages a carpet muncher for two, then remembers that her leg is hurt and goes back to selling it again. Charlotte tries the figure eight, but Brie reverses into the Yes-Lock and then the world’s worst half-crab. Like every time they do the straight on angle, you can see that she’s not even applying pressure to the knee! Charlotte thankfully finishes with the figure eight at 12:28. Brie tried, but this was way too long for her skillset and Charlotte was far above her class and couldn’t really carry her. *1/2
Chris Jericho v. AJ Styles
They should just team up as Y2AJ. They trade hammerlocks to start and AJ rolls him up for two, but Jericho gets his own rollup and AJ reverses to a Calf Killer before Jericho makes the ropes and bails. Also, the move is now The Calf Crusher because I guess killing isn’t PG. They should just do like on the Spider-Man animated series in the 90s and call it the Calf Destroyer. Crowd with the dueling chants as Jericho gets a missile dropkick, but a bodypress is blocked by AJ’s dropkick. Jericho with the sky high backdrop and he puts AJ on the floor off that and follows with the baseball slide. Back in, JBL is now referencing famous old All Japan names. Geez, at least compare AJ to New Japan stars. AJ dumps him and follows with a dive, but Jericho boots him on the way down and comes back in with a slingshot splash for two. Styles comes back with clothesline and a seated forearm, but can’t get the springboard DDT quite right. Man, it took him like 10 years to nail that one in TNA and now he’s back to square one again with the bigger ring. Jericho with an enzuigiri for two as they’re visibly struggling to get on the same page out there. AJ with the facebuster for two as the crowd is being very forgiving of this one. Jericho with the Lionsault for two and they head up, but Styles brings him down and goes for a springboard dropkick, which Jericho blocks with a dropkick of his own for two. They’re really really struggling for some reason. They fight for a suplex and head up, where Styles hits him with the Pele Kick. He tries a rana, but Jericho blocks him in ugly fashion and takes him down with the Walls of Jericho. That was almost really dangerous, as it looked like Jericho was losing Styles on the way down. AJ makes the ropes, so Jericho swings him into the railing and puts him in the Liontamer on the floor. Styles beats the count, but Jericho catches him with the Codebreaker on the way in and gets two. Jericho gets angry and calls him stupid for continuing, but he comes back with the Styles Clash for two. STUPID LIKE A FOX! Calf Crusher follows and Jericho taps at 16:25. Despite the struggles, this was tremendously built and by far the most heated thing on the show, especially Jericho’s mounting frustration and the buildup to Styles putting him away. ***1/2
Edge & Christian are out to interview the New Day, complete with Tony Chimel being let out of his cage to announce Edge. The New Day drops some hot freestyle raps and insults the League of Nations for some reason, which brings out everyone’s favorite international jobbers. So the New Day leaves because it’s the day of rest, and the heels yell at Edge & Christian instead, but of course nothing comes of it because E&C can’t do anything physical. This was an incredibly lame waste of time.
Curtis Axel v. R-Truth
Speaking of incredibly lame waste of time. Did they need to cut 10 minutes off the main event because of Roman’s cardio? There was a funny meme on Facebook recently where Truth accidentally shows up on TNA Impact because he forgot what company he worked for. Maybe he should look into that. Truth goes after the Social Jobbers and slugs away on Axel in the corner, but Axel takes over and the rest of the goofs do a victory lap. This brings out Goldust to trip up Axel and beat on the other loser heels, but Axel rolls up Truth for the pin at 2:10. Well that Golden Truth team is off to a rousing start. -*
Dean Ambrose v. Roman Reigns v. Brock Lesnar
The commentary has basically erased Roman’s two previous World titles in 2015 from existence, and now the story is that he got to Wrestlemania last year and had his one chance foiled by Seth Rollins, because it only matters if you win it there, apparently. Roman is of course booed out of the building on his quest to get to Wrestlemania as the conquering hero. Brock immediately beats on both guys in the corner and throws suplexes on Reigns, but Ambrose breaks it up with a dropkick. That seems unwise. And yeah, Brock suplexes him as well, stops to beat up Reigns on the floor, and then suplexes Ambrose on the floor as well. Back in, more suplexes for Roman and the F5 gets two. And again Ambrose pokes the bear by making the save, so Brock knees the shit out of him and ragdolls him with more suplexes. Even though Ambrose is supposed to be the fan favorite, the crowd just wants to watch Brock destroy everything. F5 for Ambrose, but Reigns breaks it up with the spear and gets two. Really, the match has been booked like a handicap match against Brock thus far, which is somehow supposed to get Reigns over as a babyface? Reigns gets the superman punch and Brock bails, so Reigns stupidly chases him out and lands on Brock’s back. Ambrose goes low on him to break it up and the Shield preps the table and powerbombs Brock through it to get rid of him for a while. So with Brock gone, the faces turn on each other and slug it out in the ring. Ambrose with the bulldog and he goes up with the flying elbow for two, but walks into Roman’s big boot before rebounding with the lariat. Thankfully they’ve dropped the “Wacky Line” name for that. How that even made it to TV I’ll never know. Well, I mean, I know, but you know what I mean. Brock wakes up from his slumber, so they prep another table and powerbomb him through table #2. So back in the ring, now it’s Roman’s turn to get his shit in, as he blocks a diving Ambrose with a superman punch, but misses the spear and hits the post. Dirty Deeds gets two off that. Ambrose gives us the first official POINT TO SIGN of the season and tries again, but BROCK IS ALIVE and suplexes both guys at the same time. Powerbombing him through two tables only served to make him angrier, like the Hulk. He counters the spear into the kimura, but Ambrose breaks it up with a chair and beats on both guys with it. Well that’s only fair. Reigns, however, spears him for the pin at 16:50 to give us the match that YOU’RE GOING TO FUCKING GET WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT. So stop e-mailing me about it already. Not that I’m bitter. Brock was awesome and Dean was great. Roman Reigns was also there. ***
I’m not feeling this one. There was some good matches, but nothing overwhelmingly great, and the shit with Edge & Christian and the Outcasts just killed the show for good. And they just are so stubbornly blind and deaf to the crowd shitting on Roman Reigns constantly and won’t take the hint, no matter how strongly they try to put him over and fail.
For me, it’s a thumbs in the middle leaning down, but by the “$9.99 for the Network” standard, it’s not a terrible show or anything. Just feels like they’re going in completely the wrong direction for Wrestlemania.