Tuesday, February 24, 2015

WWE Fastlane, A Disappointment

Sidebar: This was supposed to go up Monday before RAW, so read it with that in mind and do not incorporate Monday's storyline advances

WWE entered last night's Fastlane special event (formerly PPV) in uncharted waters. The only thing we knew for sure going into Wrestlemania 31 this year was that Brock Lesnar would be defending his title in the main event. There was a leak two weeks ago saying that Vince decided to change the Mania main-event to a triple threat match and adding Daniel Bryan, but the company decided against that, it appears.

The show opened with Dolph, Ryback, and Rowan facing off against Big Show, Kane, and Seth Rollins. The end of the match was every bit as the Royal Rumble. Kane and Show teamed up to knock Ziggler stupid and pin him in the middle of the ring... not even letting Seth finish the job. The Authority trio began decimating their opponents after the match and apparently referees cannot reverse their decisions when The Authority decides to do this. But waiting in the wings was Randy Orton, making his long-awaited return as he sprinted out to take out the Authority. Orton was clearly aiming to take out Rollins, who ran through the crowd and all the way out of the building to escape.

While I was ecstatic to see Orton return, I was disappointed that once again the WWE does a one-man run-in to decimate multiple people while superstars in the ring got destroyed almost the entire match and the whole post-match segment. Dolph, Ryback, and Rowan could not look formidable in the match, but Orton--with ease--dismantled the entire Authority + J&J Security to try and get his hands on the coward Rollins. Not exactly the best nod at the legitimacy of the three opponents.

Next up was Goldust vs. Stardust, and the two had a decent-at-best match. However, the finish was a major botch as Goldust got a roll-up pin on Stardust and the referee's hand never hit the mat for a third time, yet he jumped up and called for the bell to declare Goldust the winner.

Then we had The Usos defending against Tyson Kidd and Cesaro. The match was high-paced, very fluid, not a lot of wasted movement. While many fans (including myself) have grown a little tired of The Usos outright dominating the tag division, we were treated with yet another great match by the two with a few new spots added in. One of those spots was a brutal Samoan Drop to Kidd into the barricade. In the end, despite the referee being out of place, slow, and late (without distractions), Kidd and Cesaro picked up the pinfall win after a roller coaster of momentum swings to become the new tag team champions.

Then came the Sting and Triple H face-off. Triple H started talking about himself, then called out Sting. The crowd went nuts, as they have every time he showed up, and the two stood face-to-face in the middle of the ring. Sting didn't say a word. He barely changed his expression. I've begged on Twitter for a month now to not have WWE make Sting talk too early (would prefer he never actually speaks at all, to be honest), and WWE delivered. Sting did not accept Triple H's offer to keep his legacy alive in turn for walking away. Triple H's claims that this is all about removing Trips and the McMahon's from WWE to end the business come off as genuine belief from Trips, but not at all valuable to fans. I'm almost certain that in kayfabe, this feud for Sting is strictly about Trips not giving the young guys a chance... and while that contradicts Sting in much of his should-be-forgotten TNA run... that's the angle I hope it is for Sting if he ever does talk. Triple H went for a cheap-shot, got the upper hand, then grabbed his sledgehammer from under the ring. When he went to strike Sting, there was a bat to his throat and he was shoved to the corner, surrendering the hammer. Tensions flared a few times as Trips got bold, but Sting nudged the bat into his throat more and pointed at the WrestleMania sign. As he turned to leave, Trips tried to strike but sting countered with the bat to the gut. A few minutes later, it was officially revealed the two would face off at Wrestlemania 31.

Nikki vs. Paige... well... it was exactly what the WWE DIVAS division has been for years... a rushed match with no real build or potential to grow. While McMahon believes that his company is more than wrestling, it says something that a feud that brews on a "reality tv" show does not garner any interest in comparison to the WOMEN'S feuds on NXT which develop strictly in, around, and about the ring. People care about the wrestling, Vince, and since you'll never realize that, you will never fully capitalize on the tremendous product and talent you possess. The match was rushed for time that could have been taken from others, and the result was a bunch of botches which further exposed Nikki Bella as a horrible in-ring performer and made yet another legitimate WRESTLING WOMAN look like a steaming pile of shit.

We also got Ambrose and Barrett in one of the worst-booked finishes I have ever seen. Before the show, there was an interview with Ambrose talking about the title and its relevance and people who fail to make the most of the title, the opportunity, or themselves. WWE is clearly who he was talking about as they booked Ambrose to get disqualified for not listening to the referee (yes, one of the same idiots that botched the entire show up to this point anyways, not giving any of the superstars a 5-count in the corner), and then Ambrose walked away with the title anyways. Even with the idea that you can set up a rematch at Wrestlemania... it was still a shitty idea. While I'd love to see something like Dean vs. Wade in an IC ladder match at WM31... it's still not a good set up. Disqualify the heel so he doesn't lose his title while losing the match and making the crowd invest a little more... don't DQ the face and have him steal the title.

Rusev vs. Cena followed, and the match was OUTSTANDING. Cena got some good momentum, Rusev dominated plenty of the match. It felt even for a majority. Rusev would not break to Cena's finishers. Cena fought as hard as he could through Rusev's onslaught. In the end, Rusev used some cheap heel tactics to get the upper hand, and I'm all for it as it further establishes him the heel, but he also got the in-ring victory. A rematch is clearly in order for Wrestlemania, and hopefully WWE are intelligent enough to know that Cena does not gain much to beat Rusev, it does not truly legitimize the US Title if Cena wins it, and Rusev stands to gain the world if he does defeat Cena clean to retain. Hell, if you REALLY want to make Rusev a bona fide badass, you might even want to make Cena TAP.

Then comes the main event. All of my emotions aside about wanting the match we truly deserve (and I did blog that I was a fan of Reigns vs. Brock 1-on-1), this match was as good a match as I've seen in a while. There was brutal violence, stiff punches, forearms, elbows, knees, and kicks. Both men played up their recent injuries and attacked the other. Reigns fought through the adversity, as did Bryan. The two literally put everything they had into every strike, and you could see it. Bryan worked as good a match as a quick, smaller, more-experienced wrestler could work, and Reigns used more than just his size, power, and toughness to make the most of his opportunity in this match. While part of me feels Bryan showed more that he COULD indeed hang in a legitimate-looking contest with Brock than Reigns showed he could persevere... we did see Reigns fight Bryan in the way you would expect Brock to fight... more of an MMA-style approach with ground-and-pound. The only thing I disliked about the match is that it ended when and how it did. Reigns became the first man to kick out of Bryan's Knee Plus... something even Super-Cena was not booked to do. My problem isn't with the fact that Reigns kicked out... it's with the fact that Bryan was not booked to kick out of the Spear. It almost felt like the booking was to veto Bryan's toughness as much as it was to enforce Reigns'. Still, Reigns walked out of a hard-fought match looking strong. And while I will forever parallel this match in my head to CM Punk vs. Cena on RAW for Cena's opportunity to go face Rock, I stand by that it was a tremendous match and Reigns does deserve this opportunity and looks more and more ready for it every week. I was never a Reigns hater... I just wanted to see more out of him. Have we seen enough yet? I don't know... but he is showing more with every match and he looked forreal against Bryan.

Overall, the show was a major disappointment that could have done so much more. Once again, WWE delivers a HORRIBLE event immediately following an NXT Takeover. By that trend, it's a damn-good thing that WWE moved Takeover to the month before Mania and not the week of...

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