The final pay-per-view before WrestleMania 2021,, is in the books. As expected, Fastlane was a one-match show: Roman Reigns beat Daniel Bryan in a terrific main event. It was the best part of the show by a huge margin.
It saw Reigns defeat Bryan via pinfall, with the help of Edge. Edge was special enforcer and, once the referee was taken out, acted as stand-in referee. After Bryan accidentally hit Edge with a chair, Edge returned the favor by hitting Bryan twice -- just as Bryan was making Reigns tap.
The Seth Rollins versus Shinsuke Nakamura and Sheamus versus Drew McIntyre matches were also strong, but the main event was the only truly remarkable thing on the card. The Randy Orton/Alexa Bliss "match" led to The Fiend returning, as expected, and was truly terrible, as expected.
Roman Reigns retains his Universal Championship
An absolutely stellar match, even if the ended was less so. It started slow, with Bryan frustrating Reigns by outwrestling him. Reigns would muscle Bryan, Bryan would counter and slip out. It started an excellent dynamic for the match, and was the first bout of the event with proper ring psychology.
It was perfectly paced, starting out more methodical and working into action-packed back and forth. Eventually, Bryan went for his signature running knee but Reigns moved, resulting in Bryan clocking the referee. That led to Edge, who was special enforcer, coming in to act as referee. Reigns hit a spear for a two count.
Bryan had Reigns in the Yes Lock multiple times, with him promising on SmackDown to tap Reigns out. On one occassion, Jey Uso hit the ring and superkicked both Bryan and Edge. He then brought a chair into the mix, but was then taken out by Bryan. Bryan then tried to hit Reigns with the chair, but Reigns moved and Bryan accidentally hit Edge.
Reigns then went for a spear but Bryan countered it into a Yes Lock. After a dramatic few moments, Reigns tapped out. Reigns sold the submission perfectly, looking like he was about to pass out and tapping out in a feeble manner. But Edge broke the submission up with a chair shot. He then hit Reigns with a chair, and then hit Bryan once more. He yelled at both, then left the ring like a madman. Roman then pinned Bryan.
Rating: 4.5 stars. The match had some flaws, like how it overused the "Reigns moves and Edge/the ref is taken out" spot, and there was a little too much intereference. Plus, the ending will only make sense if it leads to a Triple Threat at WrestleMania -- which Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer reports is the case.
Edge acted like a heel, robbing the heroic Daniel Bryan of his hard-earned victory. It's crazy to me that WWE would make the returning Edge look so unlikeable, and it seems that it's now the babyface Bryan against the heel Edge and Reigns. With Edge looking so heelish, a one-on-one feud with Reigns no longer seems tenable.
With all of that said -- this match ruled.
Alexa Bliss pins Randy Orton
Alexa Bliss pinned Randy Orton after The Fiend climbed out from under the ring and hit Orton with a Sister Abigail. As expected, it was awful.
As Orton was doing his entrance, posing on the turnbuckle, Orton started coughing up blood. The announcers wondered aloud how this might affect his performance. Off to a bad start. Alexa Bliss makes her entrance, and the match begins by her summoning a wall of fire.
Orton then runs into the turnbuckle, like an idiot and unlike a 14-time world champion. Alexa then magically makes a set of lights drop right in front of Orton as he's stalking her. Back in the ring, there's more fire stuff. Then The Fiend's charred hand emerges from the ring, he climbs out, looking disgusting, and then hits Sister Abigail for the finish.
Drew McIntyre pins Sheamus
The match was exactly what you'd expect: McIntyre and Sheamus beat the hell out of each other, and then McIntyre won. How much you'd like it depends on how much you like physical brawling, since the match was mostly that.
McIntyre came out with Braveheart-style Scottish makeup. The first weapon introduced to this No Holds Barred match was the Kendo stick, which both men duly used to pound the crap out of each other. Sheamus also used it to choke McIntyre, then McIntyre used it to try and gouge out Sheamus' eye. Pretty gnarly.
They then fought to the outside, and battled in the ThunderDome area in between monitors. I personally zoned out here, since there's a lot of generic striking and throwing each other into things. There were some definite high spots though, like when McIntyre tossed Sheamus through some ThunderDome monitors, causing some pyro to go off. Later, Sheamus hit a White Noise through the announce table.
Sheamus then took a part of the annouce table into the ring to try and kill McIntyre with it, but he was countered and McIntyre got the Futureshock DDT, slamming Sheamus' head into the table part. Then it was Claymore Kick, 1-2-3.
Rating: 3.5 stars. These two worked very hard, and smashed each other to bits. But some of the action was plodding, and the stifness was undermined by the fact that McIntyre's victory was never really in doubt.
Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
In by far the best match so far, Seth Rollins defeated Shinsuke Nakamura with a curb stomp. The result came as no shock, since Rollins is on course for a clash with Cesaro at WrestleMania, yet the two wrestled well enough to make the bout compelling regardless.
Rollins took much of the opening minutes, but the tide was turned when he tried to mock Cesaro by giving Nakamura a Giant Swing. Nakamura countered it into a Triangle Choke attempt, and then began fighting back. From there, it became a fun back-and-forth contest. Nakamura countered a buckle bomb into a Falcon Arrow, Rollins counted a Kinsasha into a buckle bomb.
Rating: 3.5 stars. The match would have benefited from an extra couple of minutes, as the pinfall came just as it was getting great.
Braun Strowman defeats Elias
Braun Strowman was scheduled to face Shane McMahon, but an alleged leg injury put McMahon on the shelf. Instead, McMahon tricked Elias into taking his place against the Monster Among Men.
Simple match. Elias got a DDT and an elbow drop on Strowman over the course of about five minutes, but other than that it was all Strowman. He dominated Elias, and also bulldozed Jason Ricker on the outside. He got the pin following a powerslam. I expected McMahon to ambush Strowman after the match, revealing his injury to be fake, but there was no such angle.
Rating: 1 star. More of a Raw segment than a pay-per-view match.
Big E retains Intercontinental Championship
Big E defeated Apollo Crows with a very awkward, possibly-botched rollup after a short but intense match. This feud is clearly headed to WrestleMania, as the short, indecisive contest was followed by Crews attacking, slapping and insulting Big E.
The match opened strong. The story leading into it had Big E apoplectic, threatening to destroy Crews and bulldoze his house. No chill from Big E going in, and E starting explosive by hitting his signature spear through the ropes. He then trash talked Crews as he beat him down on the apron. In essence, unlike too many performers, Big E was actually wrestling like he had a grudge. It was good stuff.
Crews then cut him off by attacking E's injured leg. But before the match could get into a third gear, it came to an end. Crews got a small package on Big E, but Big E reversed it to get the pin. It sounds much better on paper than in practice though, as the refereee started three counts for two pinfall attempts, and not even the announcers could explain what happened. They didn't even try, and no replay was shown.
Rating: 2 stars. Bad finish, but the fiery action is hopefully auspicious for a WrestleMania encounter.
Nia Jax and Shayna Baszer retain Women's Tag Titles
The Women's Tag Team Championship match between Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler on one side and Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks on the other opened the show. It was decent action, though not exceptional, but with booking that ultimately made the Banks versus Belair storyline less compelling.
The match had a basic structure: Plenty of action to begin with, long heat on Belair in the middle and a flurry towards the end. The finish itself was also formulaic WWE: Banks had Baszler in the Banks Statement, Jax pushed Belair onto Banks to breakup the hold, Banks got mad at Belair and, as the two squabbled, was rolled up for the pin by Baszler.
Again, there was good action here. Belair's wrestling with Baszler earlier in the match was great, ending with Baszler hitting a wicked knee to Belair's chin. Later, Sasha's hot tag was creative and fiery, a reminder how of fun she is to watch. And there was a nice false finish when Belair hit a 450 Splash only to have the pinfall broken up by Reginald, who's now in a love angle with Jax.
But ultimately, the storyline made Banks look silly, getting mad at Belair even though it was Nia Jax who pushed Belair onto Banks. It also made Banks look incompetent, when her distraction led to being pinned. And after the match the two had a showdown that ended with Banks calling Belair a rookie before slapping her. Belair took the slap and pointed to the WrestleMania sign.
Rating: 2.5 stars. The build to Banks versus Belair at WrestleMania has been weak so far. With the tag team red herring now climaxed, hopefully the creative picks up between now and WrestleMania.
Ridde pins Mustafa Ali
The kickoff show bout saw Riddle defend his US Championship against Mustafa Ali. It was a strong match, which will come as no surprise to anyone who saw the pair's previous bouts on Raw. In the end, Riddle pinned Ali with a BroDerick off the top rope. After the match, Retribution turned on Ali. Apparently tired with Ali's failure, Mace and T-Bar double chokeslammed the now former leader of the faction.
A solid match and a faction breakup angle. Good stuff -- but it says a lot about what WWE thinks of Riddle and Retribution that this was on the Kickoff Show.