WWE’s Fastlane helped set the table for WrestleMania 35, which is only four weeks away.
Highlights included the WWE title match between Daniel Bryan, Kevin Owens and Mustafa Ali, as well as the main event with The Shield in a highly entertaining, crowd-pleasing match against Drew McIntyre, Bobby Lashley and Baron Corbin.
The show advanced stories without changing titles, and did so without matches featuring Braun Strowman, AJ Styles or Finn Balor. Yet the focus was on the build up to WrestleMania, and Fastlane accomplished its goal of creating interest in WWE’s signature pay per view.
Here are the results from the show:
The New Day’s Big E and Xavier Woods defeated Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura on the preshow
· The Usos successfully retained their SmackDown tag team titles against The Miz and Shane McMahon
· Asuka defeated Mandy Rose to retain the SmackDown women’s title
· Cesaro and Sheamus defeated Kofi Kingston in a handicap match
· SmackDown tag champions The Revival won a triple threat match against the teams of Bobby Roode/Chad Gable and Aleister Black/Ricochet
· United States champion Samoa Joe defeated Rey Mysterio, Andrade, and R-Truth in a four-way match
· Women’s tag champions Sasha Banks and Bayley defeated Nia Jax and Tamina
· WWE champion Daniel Bryan defeated Mustafa Ali and Kevin Owens in a triple threat match
· Becky Lynch defeated Charlotte Flair by disqualification
· The Shield defeated Drew McIntyre, Bobby Lashley and Baron Corbin
Here are my five takeaways from the pay per view:
1. Much to the pleasure of the live crowd in Cleveland, The Shield returned to play their old hits and defeat Drew McIntyre, Bobby Lashley and Baron Corbin.
This match marked Roman Reigns’ return to the ring after relinquishing the Universal title this past October when he announced he was battling leukemia. The goodwill between Reigns and the fan base was on full display, as the response from the crowd was genuinely upbeat and positive to see Reigns back in a WWE ring.
The old-school six-man tag main event hopefully provides closure on the issues between Reigns and Corbin. It also re-established Dean Ambrose as a babyface, ironically just as the WWE commentary team informed its audience that Ambrose is supposedly leaving the company shortly.
The match did not provide any direction for the WrestleMania plans of Reigns or Ambrose, but it did do a fantastic job of highlighting all three members of The Shield.
2. WWE has created a perfect booking situation for Kofi Kingston.
Kingston was again denied his shot at the WWE championship. Vince McMahon promised Kingston a spot in the WWE title match, but then put him in a two-on-one handicap match against Cesaro and Sheamus. The story told in the ring was that Kingston was too beaten to move forward. He was replaced in the title match by Mustafa Ali.
Extending a storyline in the modern-day era of pro wrestling is exceedingly difficult. The demands of weekly live television have forced WWE into delivering matches to their audience well before the storyline has developed. Yet, in this case, the creative team has told the perfect story for Kingston that is steeped in both realism and theatrics.
Kingston has legitimately been overlooked over the past decade in the main event. Despite his talent, he has never had a real chance of breaking through to the top of the card. WWE is doing a fantastic job of capturing that frustration and angst by having Vince McMahon continually remove Kingston from WWE title matches.
A WrestleMania 35 showdown between Bryan and Kingston is looming, and Kingston will finally receive his chance to make history.
3. Becky Lynch is back in the women’s title match at WrestleMania.
Lynch defeated Charlotte Flair by disqualification after Ronda Rousey interfered in the match. It was an odd moment, as the crowd was unsure whether to boo Rousey or cheer the fact that Lynch is now part of the Raw women’s title match at WrestleMania.
Lynch’s storyline injuries have played a significant role in the build to ‘Mania, but hopefully there is a renewed focus, starting tomorrow on Raw, about who is the best in WWE.
Rousey has not lost since her WWE debut, Flair is one of the best talents in the company and Lynch now has the chance to tell her story and create one of the most compelling moments at this year’s WrestleMania.
4. The Usos retained their SmackDown tag titles versus Shane McMahon and The Miz, setting up two WrestleMania matches in the process.
The Usos are destined for their most high-profile WrestleMania match ever, as the Hardys just reappeared in the SmackDown Live tag team division.
McMahon also turned on Miz in front of his hometown fans and his father. This sets up a Miz-McMahon match at WrestleMania with Miz as the babyface and McMahon returning to his “Attitude Era” roots as a heel.
The Miz headlined WrestleMania 28 against John Cena, and although he won the match, his role was mainly to play the opportunistic heel in the budding storyline between The Rock and Cena. A match against McMahon at WrestleMania, especially in the role as a babyface, would signify Miz’s greatest accomplishment in WWE.
5. With WrestleMania 35 only four weeks away, the top of the card is set.
The show will feature Seth Rollins-Brock Lesnar, Kofi Kingston-Daniel Bryan, Shane McMahon-The Miz, AJ Styles-Randy Orton, and Triple H-Batista, with the potential of The Usos vs. The Hardys.
There is such an excess of talent on the WWE roster that it is unfortunate that the company no longer holds its Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania, as that match became so popular that it turned into its own pay per view.
But which match will close the show?
All of the information I have received has the match of Rousey-Flair-Lynch closing the show on April 7, which will mark the first time a women’s match closed out WrestleMania.