WWE's 'Fastlane' Sets the Table for 'WrestleMania 37'

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WWE delivered its final pay per view before WrestleMania, and while the show was not perfect, there were a number of highlights from Fastlane.

The Fiend returned, Drew McIntyre battled Sheamus all across the ThunderDome, and Edge has appeared to have turned heel for the first time in over a decade. Also, despite the maddening decision to again have them lose a match, Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair are now set to start a memorable build to WrestleMania. Overall, this show, which marked WWE’s debut on Peacock, did its job in raising interest for WrestleMania—and put the pieces in place to add Daniel Bryan to the Edge-Reigns main event next month.

Here are the results from the show:

— Matt Riddle defeated Mustafa Ali to retain the United States Championship on the pre-show

— Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax defeated Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair to retain the Women’s Tag Team Championship

— Intercontinental Champion Big E defeated Apollo Crews

— Braun Strowman defeated Elias

— Seth Rollins defeated Shinsuke Nakamura

— Drew McIntyre defeated Sheamus

— Alexa Bliss defeated Randy Orton

— Universal Champion Roman Reigns defeated Daniel Bryan

Here are my takeaways from the final pay per view before WrestleMania:

Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns battle at WWE's Fastlane

The main event was Roman Reigns against Daniel Bryan for the Universal Championship.

The early story saw Reigns’s power too much for Bryan’s grappling prowess. After a back-and-forth bout, with Bryan always finding a way to stay a step ahead, he finally locked in the Yes Lock, seeking to make Reigns tap, just as he promised to do. When it appeared as though Reigns was going to break the hold, Bryan applied the hold in the center of the ring, but Reigns eventually used his power to break the hold.

To the surprise of no one, the official was knocked out late in the match, accidentally taking the brunt of Bryan’s running knee. With the referee down, Reigns hit Bryan with a spear, and Edge—the match’s special enforcer—came in to count the pinfall, which was a two-count. Bryan continued to have an answer for everything Reigns did until Jey Uso came into the ring and superkicked Bryan and Edge.

Bryan eventually recovered, knocked Uso out with a steel chair, then went to hit Reigns with the chair. Reigns moved, causing Bryan to hit Edge instead. Bryan then locked in the Yes Lock again, made Reigns tap, but instead of winning the match, the hold was broken when Edge—in an apparent heel turn—hit Bryan and Reigns with a steel chair. Bryan ate the majority of the chair shots, and Reigns then rolled atop him for the win.

The finishing sequence was well executed. Bryan showed that he could force Reigns to tap, the tension between Edge and Bryan intensified, and the story was told well enough that there will be a way to include Bryan in the main event of WrestleMania.

****

Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair were unsuccessful in their bid to become Women’s Tag Champions against Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax. There was dissension after the match, with both Banks and Belair blaming the other for the loss.

With just under a month to go, there is incredible potential for Banks to defend the Raw Women’s Championship against Belair at WrestleMania 37. This story now needs to pivot away entirely from Reginald, Baszler, and Jax.

Banks is a bona fide star, and Belair is trending in that exact same direction. Vince McMahon needs to have faith in these two stars to carry the match with a legitimate story, which should be “Who is better?” among the two competitors. That is a fantastic narrative, especially for two of the best wrestlers in the industry.

Also, why isn’t this match headlining one of the two nights of WrestleMania? If the men’s Royal Rumble winner is ensured a chance to headline, then the same opportunity should be extended toward the winner of the women’s Rumble.

****

Drew McIntyre and Sheamus laid it on one another in their no-holds-barred match, which ended exactly as it should have—with McIntyre hitting a Claymore Kick for the win.

The pre-match video package helped detail the story of McIntyre and Sheamus, who have a history that dates back nearly two decades. To their credit, the match maintained a physical, high-intensity pace for over 19 minutes. And even more credit goes to Sheamus, who is racking up losses over these past three weeks yet has maintained his credibility through a ferocious display of work in the ring.

My only issue here was that the WrestleMania title shot against Bobby Lashley was not on the line. Especially with McIntyre winning, why not further add to the stakes? The match delivered, but that extra stipulation would have made it mean even more.

****

The Fiend returned at Fastlane, providing the highlight to the Alexa Bliss-Randy Orton encounter.

In a match that never could have happened in front of a live audience, Bliss won after a burnt Fiend hit Sister Abigail on Orton, and she covered him for the pin.

This program has had far too many shades of Papa Shango putting a curse on the Ultimate Warrior. Nevertheless, it is good to have The Fiend back on WWE programming and, at the very least, it will be appointment-viewing to hear his first promo after being off-camera for three months.

****

Big E rolled up Apollo Crews to retain the Intercontinental Championship. After the match, Crews laid down a beating on E, ensuring that the program will continue.

Crews and E work extremely well together. If this match is destined for a rematch, I hope there is considerable attention put into the build. They have already met four times over the past two months, and Crews has continued to come up short in his bid to win the title. Especially considering he is developing his new character, why not heat him up with a string of wins? Combined with tonight’s post-match beatdown, this would provide a strong reason for a rematch at WrestleMania.

****

The pre-show included a very entertaining match between Matt Riddle and Mustafa Ali. Riddle won the bout, retaining the United States Championship. The aftermath saw Ali’s Retribution disband, with Reckoning and Slapjack walking away from Ali, and Mace and T-Bar chokeslamming their former leader.

Retribution was never connected with the audience, though the talent involved deserves credit for keeping this alive since August. Why would you ever saddle such talented performers with goofy, cartoonish gimmicks?

Ali is one of WWE’s premier talents, and hopefully, there are significant plans for him moving forward.

****

Shane McMahon was “injured” and did not wrestle, instead replaced by Elias in a match against Braun Strowman. This accomplished two goals: showcase Strowman on Peacock, as he truly is a physical specimen, as well as save the McMahon-Strowman bout for WrestleMania.

****

Seth Rollins and Shinsuke Nakamura worked an excellent match, the type of bout that would have risen to an even higher level with a live crowd.

Rollins won the match, which makes sense. He should continue picking up wins, which will add even more meaning when Cesaro defeats him at WrestleMania. This would be a great use of Rollins, and it will be particularly interesting to see if the live crowd gets behind Cesaro and propels him to that elusive next level.

****

Fastlane by no means set a new standard of excellence in professional wrestling, but it served as a table-setter for WrestleMania 37.

Daniel Bryan now has a legitimate gripe as to why he is not in the WrestleMania main event. It looked as if Edge turned heel as he hit Bryan with a barrage of chairshots, and considering that his current return has not resonated with the audience in as massive a manner as expected, this could be a refreshing change of pace.

A critical piece moving forward will be in the storytelling. Will Banks and Belair get the chance to tell the story they want? Can The Fiend help make sense of his angle? There are so many variables heading into WrestleMania, including why Bayley does not yet have a singles program and whether Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn will receive the time needed to highlight their rich history. With a live crowd present for the two-night event, we will hear organic crowd reactions, ones that will provide a far better indicator than the manufactured ThunderDome as to which wrestlers are poised for stardom in WWE.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.