– If you missed the show, you can watch it here.
– In probably the biggest thank you we’ve ever thank you’d, thank you for helping With Spandex win the RSPW Award for Best Wrestling Media. When I was 15 on the Internet and scrolling through old awards results for fun, I never imagined I’d be one of them. That’s a legit dream come true in the weirdest, most niche way, and I continued to be honored and humbled that you guys dig what we do. So seriously, without any jokes, thank you.
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Click through for the Best and Worst of WWE Fastlane. VROOM VROOOOOOM.
Best: This Finish With Anybody Else In The Match
Sorry guys, Team Authority defeated Team Cena in the Survivor Series Best Of 7 series. Now EVERYONE loses their jobs!
Seriously though, the opening six-man tag wasn’t bad. There were some iffy parts — Erick Rowan getting a black hole of a reaction, for example, Ryback’s green singlet with red Under Armour shorts under it for another — but it got pretty fun as it went along and I enjoyed it. I think my only major complaint is Dolph Ziggler being the one to take the pinfall, and Kane being the one to give it.
Throughout this feud, Dolph Ziggler’s been the unsung hero. He’s the guy who stuck it out for Actual Team Cena at Actual Survivor Series, defeating three guys and doing the previously impossible by SUMMONING STING. Cena didn’t overcome the odds for Team Cena, Dolph did. Since Survivor Series he’s been mostly forgotten, but he shouldn’t be.
The finish of the match saw him reverse a bunch of stuff and end up on the second rope, 10-punching Kane. Big Show hustles over from God knows where and Superman Punches him, knocking him out. Kane sticks up an arm, chokeslams him out of the corner and pins him. That in itself is a pretty good and creative finish. I’ve gotta ask, though: why Ziggler? Couldn’t Ryback have taken that fall? Aren’t Kane and Ryback blood rivals dedicated to pay-per-view horribleness or whatever? Couldn’t Erick Rowan have taken it? Titus O’Neil could’ve wandered out and taken a dump at the top of the ramp and it would’ve gotten a better reaction than Erick Rowan.
So yeah, the end result on paper is, “the hero of Survivor Series curtain-jerked the show and lost to Kane.” Kane hasn’t won a pay-per-view match since 2012.
Best: The Return Of Randall By God Keith
If you want to know what a Superstar looks like, watch Randy Orton show up and dispatch dudes with RKOs in every direction.
The return wasn’t especially well done. He didn’t run out at the perfect time to save the Team Cena guys … they were already Curb Stomped and destroyed. It was almost like Orton was waiting for them to be out of the way so he could wreck The Authority himself. Maybe that’s what he was doing. Anyway, the actual circumstances of his return didn’t matter once he got in the ring, because the man looked like an avenging God. Just a crazy force of nature jumping and turning and cravating and dropping. It was so good. He even compelled those around him to stumble into stupid positions, as he does. Why else would Joey Mercury jump at him headfirst? The man’s like a siren.
Rollins running in terror of him was great, too. I really wanted them to follow him out into the parking lot and have him be all, “WHEW I’M SAFE” only for Orton to somehow have teleported into his trunk. It wouldn’t have made less sense than Orton chilling backstage in his gear to do a run-in and nobody seeing him.
Best, But Also Sadly Worst: A Good Match With A Great Story That The Audience Just Absolutely Does Not Want
If you watch Goldust vs. Stardust on silent, it’s fantastic. It’s the story of two brothers and tag team partners who know each other well, but have ended up (as they’ve always been destined to) on opposite ends of the spectrum. Stardust is a chaotic millennial. Goldust is a weary Gen-Xer. One’s from the Attitude Era, the other’s from the age of Ruthless Aggression. Young, old. Silver, gold. Goldust knows he has to fight Stardust and bring him to his senses, but he doesn’t want to. He goes after him with wrestling holds and is hesitant whenever he’s forced to throw a punch. Cody is wild, crazy, affected by the crowd and increasingly shirtless. His opera gloves haven’t gone away, but his shirt has. It’s weird.
The story is very good. The reaction to it from the crowd is … not. I’d just like to give a heaping, steaming Worst to Memphis for nuking this show with their reactions. It didn’t seem like they even wanted to be at the show. They wanted entrance themes and finishers. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not my job to tell a crowd what to like and how to like it. I get declarative in my sentences sometimes, but I’m not the Boss Of You. They just didn’t seem to like anything. I wanted to toss that loud-ass mark next to the camera yelling “BOOOORINGGG” into a f*cking wood-chipper.
I think the answer is that it’s just not the kind of match they wanted. That can be the worst feeling in the world, when you put something really great together and go perform it and it doesn’t get the reaction you want. It doesn’t help that the build to the match was so sudden after a year of nothing, or that it’s just a stop-gap between a Raw and WrestleMania. Still, though.
Worst: Dan Engler, Worst Referee Of All Time
Yo, f*ck Rudy Charles.
If you’re a longtime reader of the Best and Worst of NXT column, you know Dan Engler/Rudy Charles is the dirt worst. You may remember him from that time he ruined a #1 contender match by constantly checking under shoulders, or the very next week when he counted six on a flash pin. He’s awful and looks like the twin brother Mike Quackenbush killed in the womb, and I don’t know how he keeps getting hired and promoted.
Goldust counters the Cross Rhodes and rolls Stardust back with a crucifix pin. Rudy Charles counts one, two, then DOESN’T count three, I guess because he expects Stardust to kick out? Then he just calls for the bell, and the announcers have to cover for him saying that his hand WOULD’VE come down, it just didn’t, so he was correcting his mistake. What kind of bullshit is that? Can you just mentally assume pins now? If a ref’s knocked down and nobody’s there to count it, does the guy covering win because a referee’s hand hypothetically would’ve counted three?
The finish to the finish should’ve been Goldust and Stardust taking turns punching Rudy Charles in his stupid face.
Best: At Least We’re Getting A WrestleMania Match Out Of It
The feud continues backstage, with a rightfully pissed-off Stardust crashing a Goldust/Dusty Rhodes conversation and going HAM on his brother. That leads to another great, screamed Stardust promo where he tells Dusty Rhodes he’s living in Stardust’s shadow. The Stardust character goes back and forth so quickly between being a dorky loser undercard guy and the most interesting and compelling thing on the show I don’t even know what to say about him most times, but this was wonderful.
The one thing I’ve hoped for is that the Fastlane match wouldn’t be the end of the Dust Brothers beef, and I got that. I can’t complain. I hope they do a paint vs. career thing at Mania, with Stardust winning, retiring his brother and deciding to remove the paint on his own and regain his humanity. And the crowd can murmur through it.
New plan: let’s blow off the Goldust/Stardust story at the next NXT live special.
Tonight’s show felt really off for me. I’ve read a lot of people enjoying it, so maybe my brain just wasn’t in the right place for it. Remember in the Fastlane predictions when I said I couldn’t remember who the tag champs were and had to look it up? I had a similar moment here. By the end of the night I remembered Tyson Kidd and Cesaro winning the tag titles and the finish with the fisherman’s neckbreaker, but I couldn’t remember anything else about the match. I think my brain’s setting up a block for all Usos content.
But hey, K-Swiss are the tag team champions! That’s good. Jimmy Uso got to sit in the ring looking sad and doing that post-match John Cena disappointment sell, so that’s good too.
Best: The Sting Of Stings
Sting in WWE has been pretty great so far, but I have three concerns, all of which come up in the Fastlane FAST-TO-FAST LANEFRONTATION:
1. Sting’s motivations and appearances still don’t make any sense. He showed up at Survivor Series to help out Team Cena, but nobody ever really explained why. It’s not like he had a specific interest there, or like Triple H had never been in involved in any important career-ending stories. The guy had like two retirement matches against Brock Lesnar in a row. Sting never popped in to settle any old “who was the best company man” grudges then. He’s dressing up randos as Sting and sending them to shows and asking them to play Adobe After Effects videos on the TitanTron and that’s just it. I know random appearances are sorta Sting’s thing, but back when he was living in the WCW rafters he had an evil heel faction to deal with. There was an element of surprise. Every Sting WWE appearance has come prefaced with a fancy video and him slowly walking to the ring.
2. WCW’s still the bad guy. Triple H is still championing WWE and rewriting history to say he was the big stalwart star of the company during the attitude era, because I guess The Rock and The Undertaker and Mick Foley and Stone Cold Steve Austin aren’t available. The problem is still that WWE won, and all the people in the crowd for this show and any going forward are WWE fans. The guy backing WWE’s going to be the default good guy, even if he’s notoriously shifty.
3. Triple H is saying too much. He goes full Ozymandias here, revealing this grand plot to manipulate and destroy Sting’s legacy by not giving him new action figures or Best Of DVDs (even though they already released one) and a Hall of Fame spot for a company he’s never worked for. He’s just rambling and rambling and rambling to stretch out the segment and set up nothing that couldn’t have been accomplished by a tense staredown and Sting pointing the bat at the WrestleMania sign. Seriously, reimagine this as Triple H calling out Sting, then standing nose to nose for like 90 seconds to let the crowd eat it up, then signature weapons pointed at the sign. It works, right?
WWE hasn’t yet figured out the whole “fans like it when you don’t talk forever” thing. Remember the Shield/Wyatt Family feud? They didn’t say SHIT. They just stood in the ring looking at each other like bad-asses and had a good-ass match. People were chanting THIS IS AWESOME at nothing because nothing is refreshing. Just shut up and be cool already.
Okay, one more:
4. Sting’s hair. Put some water on that shit, brother, you look like Mozart.
Worst: We’ve Got Nannycams In The Turnbuckles Now?
Let’s talk about the finish to Nikki Bella vs. Paige.
At the end of the match, Nikki pulls Paige into the second turnbuckle, stunning her. She rolls Paige over in the shittiest schoolboy this side of Little Lord Fauntleroy and pins her. The rub is that she “held the tights,” but she didn’t. I don’t know if she was supposed to hold the tights and didn’t and this is a Starrcade ’97 situation or what, but your hand being where shorts are does not constitute cheating.
The weirdest part is that they cut to the replay from the SECOND TURNBUCKLE CAM, conveniently set up in the turnbuckle involved in the finish and never utilized at any other part of the show. What’s the purpose of a second turnbuckle cam, guys? You trying to get IMAX footage of assholes every time somebody gets whipped into the corner?
Worst: Watch The Other Matches FFS
One of the weirdest things about Fastlane is that if felt like nobody went to the pre-show meeting or watched the other matches, so they all ended up wrestling the same match. There were two specific moves on note on the night:
1. Powerbombs. EVERYBODY got powerbombed. People who never get or throw powerbombs got and threw them. John Cena jumped off the top rope into a powerbomb from Rusev. Roman Reigns gave Daniel Bryan a powerbomb off the ropes. Nikki Bella powerbombed Paige. Did Batista give a seminar or something?
2. Boring submission escapes. This is the big one. There were so many moments last night where guys escaped holds by remembering, “this is pro wrestling, it’s not real” and just reaching up to remove their opponents’ hands. It was weird. Cena had Rusev in a crossface, so Rusev simply grabbed Cena’s hands and slid them up over his head. Cena kept breaking out the Accolade by pulling Rusev’s hands down. Reigns broke most of Bryan’s attempts at submissions by just reaching up and breaking them. It can be a big moment of strength when a guy escapes a hold like that, but damn, you can’t do it all night long.
If everybody does the same stuff on a show, it hurts the show. The spice of pro wrestling is in the variety. Different characters do different moves and have different motivations. It’s why shows that are nothing but “pure wrestling” can be so boring, even if the wrestling’s good. Wrestling needs a little bit of everything. It needs good stuff and stupid stuff and stuff that makes you mad. If you’ve got something planned for a match and somebody in an earlier match does it first, do something else. Just because it works the first time doesn’t mean it’s going to work 10 minutes later in front of the same damn people.
Worst: A Quick Shout-At To The Announce Team
I know I complain about them a lot, but the announce team may have hit a new, official low last night. Here’s just a sampling of what they added to the show:
– a lengthy conversation about whether or not plagues exist
– yelling things at the one count to make sure you don’t buy any of the falsies. Seriously, watch Bryan/Reigns. Bryan hits the Knee Plus and Cole’s like BRYAN IS GOING TO WRESTLEMANIA at one. Nobody has ever made that call at one and it not led to a kick-out.
– constantly reminding us that Roman Reigns is brave for coming back from hernia surgery in a match against Daniel Bryan, who may or may not have had an injury of his own recently, who knows
– Similarly, JBL telegraphed the hell out of Bray Wyatt’s Undertaker entrance. When the druids come out they should’ve been silent and let the action unfold. Instead, JBL’s like, IT’S HIMMMM. He might as well have been saying, “this isn’t the Undertaker, so get ready for it.”
– Jerry Lawler saying Rusev “kicks like a girl,” which is absurd on like four levels
– Cole not only calling a crossface an STF, but insisting upon it. THE STF! THE STF! LOOK AT CENA, KING! HE’S EXPERTLY PERFORMING AN STF!
– Saying tonight was “Triple H’s chance to silence Sting.” A man famous for year-long silences who has not said one word on WWE television.
– Continuing to not know how Tolkien works by saying, “it’s like Gandalf chasing the hobbits away!”
– JBL making a reference to Michael and Fredo Corleone from The Godfather: Part II and Cole correcting him by saying it’s “Frodo,” not Fredo. What is the obsession with bad Lord of the Rings references? Are they doing it on purpose? YOU BROKE MY HEART MR. FRODO.
To state it frankly, it’s time to replace these guys. I’d suggest Rich Brennan and William Regal or Corey Graves, but at this point I’d be okay replacing them with a potted plant and a really loud space heater.
Worst: The We Don’t Have A Finish Finish
SPEAKING OF GARBAGE RUDY CHARLES, here’s him (kayfabe, this time) ruining another match.
Sometimes WWE books a match and can’t commit to one guy or the other, so they decide on the worst non-finish you can imagine. Dean Ambrose winning here is the easiest Intercontinental Championship layup in years. The guy desperately needs a win, he’s facing a guy who loses almost exclusively, his popularity could get people interested in the secondary title and we’re like a month from WrestleMania. Ambrose should’ve carnied his way into the match and destroyed Barrett, allowing him to go to WrestleMania and face somebody cool and freeing Barrett of that f*cking monkey paw with the white strap.
Instead, we’re suddenly too gun-shy to give Barrett a pinfall loss so they do the stupid “YOU’RE WRESTLING TOO HARD” disqualification. Ambrose starts stomping Barrett in the corner and the ref’s all HEY STOP IT, and when Ambrose doesn’t immediately the ref calls the match. It’s the WCW referee thing where they just want the match to end so they call it for anything. You’re basically saying Dean Ambrose lost because he was doing too well.
Ambrose taking the IC title with him when he left was fun and could set up something better for WrestleMania, but it feels terrible getting two hours into a pay-per-view and realizing it’s been written to sell a Raw. Fastlane’s just a more-interesting-than-usual episode of Smackdown.
Worst: Hey Look, It’s Bray Wyatt After The John Cena Feud
Sometimes you have to do the obvious thing to make a story work. Sometimes you’re so obvious that the impact of the thing you’re doing vanishes, and you’re left waiting two minutes for some druids to roll Bray Wyatt’s gaspy ass to the ring in a coffin and reveal him.
I’d type 10 dense paragraphs about how concerning the WrestleMania card is, but it’d do more harm than good. Think about it, though. You’ve got a WWE World Heavyweight Championship match between (for all intents and purposes) a part-timer and a guy who isn’t ready. Even if you like Roman, you know he’s not ready. He’s going to get gassed twenty seconds into a match with Brock Lesnar. You’ve got Triple H vs. Sting, with a total combined age of 100 years. If you’ve seen a Sting match since 2001, you know how this could go. I love Goldust, but if we do Goldust/Stardust that’s another match with a guy over 45. Now you’ve got Bray Wyatt calling out The Undertaker, a 49-year old who almost died trying to wrestle last year and has become the Internet’s go-to conversation about oldness.
I’m not asking for WrestleMania to be an NXT show — not seriously, anyway — but so far this is looking like an absolute trainwreck. If that’s enraging the “WAIT AND SEE WHERE IT GOES” sector of your brain, I’m sorry.
Best/Worst: My Emotions Are Right In The Damn Middle
The best description of John Cena I read last night is courtesy of my buddy Max Meehan, who said, “John Cena cannot be beat. He’s like Freddy Krueger, only he’s filled with the souls of Make-A-Wish kids.”
Most of Cena/Rusev was good. Cena’s body language has gotten so weird, though, and most of the time you can see him shuffling through move transitions to get in place with little baby steps and big jazz hands. Once you notice it, it’s all you see. Watch him reverse Rusev’s superkick into an AA. Rusev kicks and flails into position, and Cena has to run back into place with his arms out like the damn baby from ‘Dinosaurs’ to catch him. Even when he goes for a pin he sticks out his arms and opens his hands. As he gets older he gets less athletic, and he’s starting to look like a really long Ed Grimley bit.
But no, most of the match was good. The finish bothered me, though, because of course it did. Rusev’s got Cena in The Accolade, and Cena keeps trying to fight out of it. He stays in it FOREVER, but they do a lot of logical “guy trying to escape the camel clutch” stuff that works really well. Cena mean-mugging aside, him trying to get his hands off Rusev’s knees and Rusev repeatedly having to break the hold to reapply it was cool. It explained how he could last that long; he hadn’t been in the hold proper the entire time and was only taking big damage in small doses. If Cena’s gonna lose by passing out and not tapping out (because he Never Gives Up), they could’ve just done that and let Rusev — a guy who rarely has to cheat to win — get a strong victory.
Instead, they cop out. Lana gets in the ring for no reason, causing a distraction that allows Rusev to kick Cena so hard in the nuts he passes out. I mean, he kicks him in the head immediately after and THAT’S what makes Cena die, but the physics of a nutshot KO are much funnier. So after managerial interference and a low blow to end a match he was WINNING, Rusev THEN gets Cena to pass out and wins “by submission.” The announcers talk endlessly about how the record books will say it’s a win but it wasn’t really. Cena lingers in the ring afterwards to sell a concussion.
Here’s the thing: Cena’s getting his win back at WrestleMania. Tenfold. There is zero drama there. If you want to build a compelling storyline about Cena being overcome by this powerful new guy and you KNOW he’s winning in the end, what’s the damage in having Cena pass out in the Accolade without the interference and the low blow? Wouldn’t that create big time suspense at Mania when he gets put into it again? This is the problem everybody had with Cena/Wyatt. Cena won the matches people actually saw, and when it was time to lose, he only did it through bullshit. A ghost child, if you’ll recall. An extraneous low blow isn’t a child actor in a robe by any stretch, but it’s just so damn unnecessary.
Best: Obvious Match Is Obvious (But At Least It Was Good)
The best part of the night might’ve been Daniel Bryan suiting up in classic Bill Regal burgundy instead of WWE red and morphing into Ring Of Honor Bryan Danielson for his match against Roman Reigns. The only thing better might’ve been listening to Jerry Lawler see ROH Bryan Danielson for the first time.
We knew going into the match that Roman was going to win and “look really strong” and all the other jokes. Best case scenario, they’d do some kind of non-finish to get Bryan into a triple threat at Mania. So when Roman kicked out of the Knee Plus and broke the Yes Lock with his hands and speared Bryan and pinned him clean, it was an inevitability. That’s the call you have to make. You decided Roman Reigns should win the Royal Rumble, so there’s no reason to f*ck with it. Have him wrestle a good match with Bryan, go over strong and (hopefully) move on to wrestle Lesnar with a little more knowledge in the tank.
The good news is that the match was good. It was very good. Roman spent most of the match selling the liver, which was an odd choice, and kinda looking like he had to go number two but was stuck out in public. He was gassed as hell but he hung in there, and in our Bad Promo and Complaining Glee we forget that the guy has SOMETHING. We loved the hell out of him in The Shield. The trick to reclaiming that is to remember what made him so good, and those elements are all included here: silence, top level opponents and great matches.
As a fan, I of course wanted to see Bryan knee him to death and go on to face Lesnar 1-on-1 at Mania, but that’s not the story to tell right now. All I can hope is that Lesnar re-signs, and that Lesnar/Reigns is happening in March so we can get Lesnar/Orton and Lesnar/Bryan over the summer. Let Reigns feud with his babysitter Seth Rollins for awhile and get the championship away from Brock, who doesn’t need the belt to be a main-event attraction.
I’ll be honest, though. I bought that spear into the small package. My heart wanted it.
Best: Sign Of The Night
Best: Top 10 Comments Of The Night
Leaked theme song for this year’s Wrestlemania!!!
Looks like Miz hooked Triple H up with an audition for Wild Hogs 2.
Disco Stu Doesn’t Advertise
If Lex Luger was offering him this, he would accept it.
The Wee Turtles
This crowd is so quiet. It’s like they’ve already seen what happens in the main event.
Andy Kaufman was right about you idiots in Tennessee.
There’s gonna be so many rematches at WrestleMania, they’ll have to turn that play button in to a rewind.
Golden Girls Gone Wild
Cena won’t overcome these odds because he doesn’t know how to convert them from metric.
The Incredible Olk
Fun Fact: Legally, Rusev and Lesnar can never wrestle, because when Lesnar went for a German Suplex their tattoos would line up and open the Stargate.
Daniel: Roman, lets go out there and give it all we got and put on the best match of our careers.
Roman: Duck season!
That’s So Raylan
Do you guys think Seth Rollins is still running, or by this point is he…Walking in Memphis?
*points to the Best and Worst of WrestleMania sign*