Monday, 23 February 2015

WWE Fast Lane 2015 review

Thanks to the booking of its titular match Royal Rumble was not a good pay-per-view. TLC before it was worse. Outside of its main event Survivor Series had nothing to offer. You have to go back to October's Hell in a Cell to find a WWE pay-per-view with more than one match to offer. You have go all the way back to SummerSlam to find a WWE main roster show that was definitely above average. Fast Lane was the company's latest opportunity to change that.

They didn't. With Fast Lane WWE constructed a particularly drab show. Outside of the top two matches and a confrontation between part-timers there was little on offer. Writing was rushed so that matches had an excuse to happen and popular performers were thrust into slots on the show just to have them there. Outside of those top three attractions very little thought was put into Fast Lane, and it showed.

A below average video package started the show. Shots of speedometers and cars going fast were interspersed with shots of John Cena, Rusev, Bryan, Reigns, Triple H and Sting as a woman gave dictionary definitions of various journey-related words. It felt like the graphics from an Over the Limit show had been recycled with some relevant match footage. It was unusual, considering WWE's record with this sort of thing.

Dolph Ziggler's music and entrance got a huge pop from the crowd. That made me think they'd be a rowdy bunch who'd get into the show. I would be proved wrong again and again and again throughout the night. It wasn't the lack of reaction for Erick Rowan that tipped me off though. That was to be expected. Ryback did slightly better but he's not as over as he once was. He did get a "Feed me more!" chant going in the ring though.

Ziggler and Seth Rollins started the match with a good sequence. Things got worse once Dolph tagged out to Rowan. They got worse still when Rollins tagged out to Kane. Rowan was isolated and the match chugged along until Ryback tagged in for the first time. He had a surprisingly popular exchange with Rollins which ended with Rollins taking a Shellshock only for 'The Big Guy' to be immediately splashed by Show, stopping him from going for a cover.

Ziggler tagged back in to loud cheers and was almost immediately made to look like a complete loser as he was outsmarted by the big lads. Kane held him for a Big Show KO punch. That was enough to put Ziggler down for three. The move itself isn't the problem: it's a move that's been built up nicely. But it was still depressing that it was Ziggler, rather than the disposable Rowan, who was booked to take the loss for his team. For that matter it was depressing that outside of their opening tussle Rollins and Ziggler didn't really interact. They could have saved this match and turned it into a hot opener had they been allowed.  

He hit RKOs... outta nowhere!
After the match the heels ganged up on the faces as the audience chanted for Randy Orton (which again made me think they'd be reliable for the entire show). They weren't disappointed. 'The Viper's' music hit the speakers and he ran (yes, Orton actually ran) to the ring. In his trunks, natch. J&J and Kane all took RKOs. Rollins tried to sneak into the ring and lamp Orton with his Money in the Bank briefcase but got caught with a kick. Orton signalled for the draping DDT but Show yanked Rollins to safety. 'The Future' then ran off through the crowd as Orty posed in the ring. 

After a video recapping the truncated breakdown of the Goldust and Stardust team Goldust was shown backstage with Dusty Rhodes. Goldy said he wasn't facing Cody, he was facing Stardust and that he needed to beat him so badly that the thought of putting on face paint and a costume again would sicken him. They did a good job making the match mean something but it was a little misleading.

The exchange made it seem that we'd be getting a wild fight between the brothers. They had a perfectly good match but it didn't really feel like the brawl the promo, or the nature of their feud, had told us it would be. It was more about counter wrestling than fighting. The crowd's lack of interest didn't help matters. Goldust won off a roll-up after reversing out of the Director's Cut. Goldy offered a handshake after the match. Stardust just walked off.

After a lengthy recap of the "feud" between Seth Rollins and Jon Stewart, which was designed to "prove" that WWE is relevant to mainstream personalities just as much as it was to play into anything that may happen between the two we were treated to a Rhodes family meeting backstage. Goldust apologised to Dusty, even though all he'd done was wrestle Stardust, before Stardust showed up to attack him. Then he shouted that about being the breakout star of the dynasty lumbered with an albatross of a brother and informed Dusty that he was responsible for the death of Cody. It could go somewhere really interesting but knowing WWE it probably won't.

The Usos versus the Brass Ring Club came next. They would provide the show with its second best match. Jimmy was worked over for the first third of the match with Cesaro and Kidd targeting his leg. This included an impressive one legged big swing from Cesaro. He would tag out after managing to send Kidd to the outside of the ring, kicking off a pacey sequence between all four.

The Brass Ring Club would perform a nice double team with Cesaro deadlifting Jey from the apron for a second rope suplex and Kidd following up with a springboard elbow. There was a frenetic exchange on the apron of the hard camera side of the ring which culminated with Jimmy blocking a Kidd kick and pulling him down, catching him on his shoulders and Samoan dropping him into the barricade.

"Hey, look how shiny my belt is, Tyson!"
Back in the ring Jimmy splashed Kidd but was immediately rolled up for a two count. He kicked out but found himself trapped in a Sharpshooter moments later. Jey broke that up and then got huled out of the ring by Cesaro. Jimmy super kicked 'The Swiss Superman' off the apron and then turned around into a fisherman's neck breaker from Kidd. That was enough to get the win and titles for the Brass Ring Club. The crowd were particularly annoying here. The four guys deserved a lot bbetter for the performance they put on.

Before the Sting and Triple H face-to-face confrontation that followed Michael Cole said it had been the "fantasy" of every "sports entertainment fan" to see Sting in a WWE ring. This is not true. I know many people who agree with me that  'The Stinger' holds little to no appeal, especially fourteen years after WCW went out of business. In fairness they can't really acknowledge any disinterest even if they'd be willing to admit it's there. And there are people who, for some reason, do want to see Sting wrestle for WWE.

King of Kings hit and Triple H walked out. Because he was doing wrestler business, as opposed to Authority-running-the-show business, 'The Game' was dressed in jeans and a leather jacket. The only thing missing was his Attitude Era backwards leather paddy cap. After apologising for pushing down Ric Flair on RAW and referring to himself as 'The Heartbeat of WWE' (that'll be on a T-shirt soon) he called out Sting.

When he answered 'The Game's' call Sting got cheers but not as many as you'd expect. Yes, even the mighty Sting could not make the audience emote. Although one guy tried his hardest to get a(n awkward) "WCW!" chant going. Trips talked about how his legacy was ending Sting's legacy and suggested that Sting's motivation at Survivor Series had been to take the McMahons out of WWE because he knew that would put an end to the company. That second point was especially nice. It was true to the a Triple H character's ego but was also a plausible reason for 'The Vigilante's' actions.

Tripper tried to seduce Sting with action figures and DVDs and a Hall of Fame induction. When Sting didn't react Trips said they could fight and Sting would be erased from history. That should be a gimmick in WWE: someone who beats people so hard they are erased from history.

When it became clear Sting wasn't going to be bought off Triple H tried to cheap shot him. Sting fought him off until 'The Cerebral Assassin' smacked him with a microphone then lugged his sledgehammer from beneath the ring. When he returned to cave in Sting's head it was revealed Sting had brought his trusty baseball bat. He backed Trips into a corner, forced him to drop the hammer, and then pointed at the WrestleMania sign a few times. When he went to leave H3 tried to attack him again. He was hit with the bat and given a Scorpion Death Drop. As he left the commentary team marked out for Sting like it was 1997.

Obligatory Nikki Bella pic.
Following a recap of Heyman saying Lesnar would beat whoever's put against him at WrestleMania we got Paige challenging Nikki Bella for the Divas championship. By WWE Divas standards it was a very good effort. Nikki put on a crisp performance and Paige was as good as she usually is. Nikki would retain with a roll-up and a Handful of Tights™. The champ's facial expressions weren't all they could have been but they weren't awful. If WWE invested more time into other female characters Nikki could make a good lead heel for the division.

Then... breaking news! Triple H had accepted Sting's challenge for a match at WrestleMania! The commentary gang again marked out. Lawler went so far as to say he never thought he'd see the match happen. That conjured up a nice image of Lawler sitting at home pining for a Triple H and Sting match, shaking his head wistfully and telling himself it would never happen.

Dean Ambrose and Bad News Barrett's Intercontinental championship match was next. Despite the large number of signature moves between the two the crowd once again failed to get excited for the majority of the match. It was another case of Ambrose and Bad News deserving more. They put on a solid match although they were lumbered with a poor finish. Ambrose was disqualified as he  stomped Barrett in the corner. Then he gave him Dirty Deeds and left with the title belt. It was saddening that this was put out on pay-per-view. It was a TV ending, and a shoddy one at that.

The number of glances at the WrestleMania sign on this show was ridiculous.
The audience did show interest when a flock of druids walked out, accompanied by some blue lighting, a gong, and The Undertaker's music. When a casket was wheeled down to the ring it was obvious we were supposed to believe 'Taker would be inside. He was not. It was Bray Wyatt. He told us he'd once feared Undertaker but that he doesn't anymore because 'The Dead Man' has become mortal. Then he challenged him to a match at WrestleMania. It was an effective use of Wyatt and a nice bit of variety for the show. Seeing Wyatt steal more Undertaker tropes in the build towards WrestleMania would be great. It would be something different and allow WWE to make use of the character's twenty-five year history.

Rusev v Cena took the semi-main event spot. Rusev's entrance got a fair bit of heat. Cena brought the crowd to their feet with his, and even though he would be facing one of the most heelish characters in WWE (for daring to be from somewhere that isn't America) there were still audible cries of "John Cena sucks!" during his sprint to the ring and the usual duelling chants at the beginning of the match. From this point on the audience would be noticeably louder.

Cena smacked Rusev with a right hand seconds into the match and slapped on a headlock. 'The Bulgarian Brute' fought out of that quickly and controlled the pace for the next several minutes. Cena tried fighting back multiple times but was continually shut down. Eventually he managed to give Rusev a suplex and a clothesline. Rusev kicked out on two, slipped out of an AA attempt and DDTed Cena. Then he went back to wearing his foe down.

Cena fired up again a minute or two later, cracking off some shoulder tackles and the Five Knuckle Shuffle. He tried the AAagain. Rusev escaped again. Seconds later he would escape the STF, only to be floored with a fallaway slam. Rusev attempted a standing sidewalk slam only to find it countered into a crossface (which Cole referred to as an STF). Rusev sold for a few moments before breaking the hold, leaping to his feet, and hitting Cena with an Alabama slam. If he could hit the move that well consistently it should become a regular part of his repertoire.

Cena would kick out but he was too worn down to return to his feet. 'The Super Athlete' dropped some elbows on Cena's back before going for the Accolade. Cena grabbed Rusev's foot and pulled him down to the mat and into the STF. Rusev would escape the hold, this time by grabbing the ropes as opposed to his Russian Power.

The rematch will be for Rusev's gold star.
Back on their feet Rusev escaped the AA for a third time and gave Cena a couple of kicks. Cena would finally grab him and connect with the AA seconds later, Rusev kicking out just after the two count. Cena decided his best course of action was to jump off the top rope. That was a mistake (obviously). Rusev caught him in a power bomb and trapped him in the Accolade. After two failed attempts at breaking the hold Cena muscled his way to his feet with Rusev on his back. Lana distracted the referee as Rusev gave Cena a low blow. Cena was kicked in the face and put in the Accolade as Lana left the ring. The match would be ruled in Rusev's favour due to Cena being unconscious. It was announced as a submission win for some reason.

It was a better match than I'd expected. It had a better ending too. Rusev's win could have been far more tainted. Most important was the result. Cena lost just as he needed to. He may win a rematch, but it will be easier to stomach with Rusev having gained the first victory.

That left only the number one contender match between Daniel Bryan and Royal Rumble winner Roman Reigns. The first half of the match was dedicated to the story of Reigns' strength against Bryan's speed, experience and strikes. There were several moments designed to make it clear that Reigns was keeping up with his more experienced foe though, most of them seeing him escape from submission holds and cutting off signature moves. They traded the advantage back and forth throughout the match, keeping viewers guessing as to the result by not having one man gain a clear advantage. It was a good call, and it ensured neither man looked weak too.

The final five minutes were where the bout really came together. Bryan turned a Reigns spear into small package. Reigns kicked out and got hit with Bryan's running knee, which he kicked out of. Michael Cole was incredibly quick to point out that Reigns was the first wrestler to ever kick out of that move.

Reigns is big on "shocked eyes" selling.
D-Bry leathered Reigns with kicks. Reigns grabbed hold of his leg and got to his feet. Bryan slapped him and then pulled him down to the mat in the Yes Lock. Reigns broke out of the hold and pummelled Bryan with big fists to the sound of boos. When he made the mistake of pausing Bryan slapped on the Gogoplata. Reigns broke that by lifting him up and power bombing him.

After a quick breather they both sat up and exchanged strikes on as they lay on the mat, Bryan kicking and Reigns punching. 'The People's Elixir' would get the better of that and smash a dazed Reigns with a roundhouse kick. He went for the running knee again but Reigns surprised him with a spear as he charged in. That proved to be enough to put D-Bry down for three. A Superman punch would have looked far more impressive but WWE seem intent on having the pear be Reigns' thing.

After the match Bryan told Reigns he'd better kick Lesnar's ass before offering a handshake. Reigns nodded and accepted the shake. The show went off the air with the commentary team talking up the confirmed WrestleMania main event of Roman Reigns versus Brock Lesnar, the Sting v Triple H match, and Bray Wyatt's challenge to The Undertaker.

While Fast Lane accomplished everything it set out to with its top two matches and the Sting-Trips segment it failed too often elsewhere. All the matches had stories going into them and reasons for happening but the only one that didn't feel rushed was the one for the tag title match. The Rhodes brothers had only separated six days before the show. The stories for the Divas and IC matches were both basic. For a show to be worthwhile it not only need to make its main attractions worthwhile, it needs to have a solid undercard that plays out logically and has a reason to exist. Fast Lane had the reason but it was missing the logic. Let's hope this happened because WWE were fixated on their bigger, more important annual show next month, and not because the writing has dipped even further in quality.


Results summary:
Seth Rollins, Big Show and Kane defeated Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan and Ryback
Goldust defeated Stardust
The Brass Ring Club defeated the Usos to win the tag team championship
Nikki Bella defeated Paige to retain the Divas championship
Bad News Barrett defeated Dean Ambrose via disqualification to retain the Intercontinental championship
Rusev defeated John Cena to retain the United States championship
Roman Reigns defeated Daniel Bryan to retain his WrestleMania title shot


  1. Nice article, I enjoyed Fast Lane a lot more than the Royal Rumble and Survivor Series but not quite as much as TLC. I think that it was the right thing to do to have Reigns def. Bryan and I think that Cesaro and Kidd will make excellent Tag Team Champions :)

    1. Overall I think the Reigns win was the right move. They need to establish some new stars. Reigns fits the bill there. He's got his weaknesses but there are worse options they could have one with.

      I agree Fast Lane was superior to the Rumble, but TLC? That show was about as rough as they come.