Armchair booking, predicting and love is a perilous pastime. It clouds the mind. You start to confuse what you would like to see with what you think you will see. Then you start hypothesising what you would do differently and can easily become irritated by the fact your clearly wonderful ideas are not what is being transmitted through the screen. Whilst I don’t pretend to speak for every wrestling fan on this, I know I’m not entirely alone.
Yesterday, as I sat to type up predictions about what I thought would happen on Fastlane, I considered many things. Past booking patterns, how protected a wrestler had been, history of the feud, and the giant shadow of Wrestlemania. I tried to apply what I thought would be objective reasoning, what seemed to be the likeliest outcomes based on what Id seen leading up to the PPV. Why the fuck did I even bother? It seems flipping a coin would be a better way of handling such things.
I’ve always considered loving wrestling as something akin to finally landing the intelligent, girl next door beauty that your heart has desired since you knew what love was. Except every now and again, when you’re excited, and really looking forward to getting things going, she gives you a condescending pat on the head and says she’s too sore for anything beyond a lukewarm cuddle. Because she’s also a pornstar, who spent the day being torn in half by two gentlemen who are both younger and twice your size, in a house you could never afford. She will sit there snuggling into you watching TV, laughing at texts from her co-stars while you put a fake smile on your face, with blueballs, knowing full well she’s gonna ask you to watch the scene to see what you think. Yesterday, I was looking forward to Fastlane. WWE gave me the pat on the fucking head.
Let’s take the good stuff first, because no relationship is without its merits. Neville vs. Gallagher was a great surprise. Gallagher showed a toughness and scrappy side to his character that will serve him well going forward. The polite gentleman is a solid character but he has to be able to get down and dirty every now and again. And whilst not a fan of his ring attire (elbow pads would have prevented the scraped elbows, just saying) Jack showed a lot to push Neville to his best defence yet. Neville is great, a top tier in-ring performer on his day but he is left high and above the majority of the Cruiserweight division. Last night, he didn’t just show off his in ring ability but also told a story, cracking out the Red Arrow to put away the pesky would be usurper.
Samoa Joe vs. Sami Zayn was exactly what it needed to be. I’ve no doubt these two could headline any show on the planet and give us a classic with ease, but this match was all about Joe, establishing him as a ruthless badass. I’ve no idea what he and Zayn will be doing at Wrestlemania but this was a right step in Joe’s WWE on screen development.
My response to Fastlane can be summed up by my favourite moment occurring on the pre-show. Sheamus and Cesaro sat down to talk with Renee Young and Cesaro was fuming that he wasn’t on the show, earning a Cesaro chant that the lovely Miss Young couldn’t hear over. It’s something so small, but it’s a nice touch to believe that people are not happy being left off the show. The frustration on display carried more authenticity than most of the evening that followed.
The kick off tag match wasn’t bad either. Not too long but set the crowd up nicely, which is surely the job assigned to the match. Tozawa and Kendrick aren’t done, and Swann showcased some nice offense. Noam Dar pronounces Fox better than anyone. It was fine for what it was.
And then, the rest of the show.
The tag match was predictable and kind of just, existed. The finish was nice, making the Club look heelish and giving Enzo an out for being pinned. But Enzo and Big Cass matches are always the same. Enzo gets roughed up, Cass comes and clears house. The finish happens. Speaking of, the really rough, to close to the corner Rocket Launcher finisher? I was watching with a friend who is very big on Braun Strowman, and has a love for all big men to be honest. He bemoaned the lack of development of Big Cass by comparison. He makes a valid point, but Enzo and Cass spend every night having the same match. Cass has the offensive moves he uses down to a tee, and Enzo’s selling is coming along nicely. But these two will never be the compelling champions they wish to be unless they change the formula and add something new. Right now, you can set your watch by them, which is not a good trait.
Nia Jax then lost a match she really didn’t need to lose. What does Sasha gain from having won that match? Nia Jax bullied her like a rag doll and whilst raw around the edges (the camera is always on you) she was doing quite well. Then Sasha scored the win with a roll up. Had this been a No.1 contenders match (why wasn’t it to be fair?) then I could understand the joy at having scraped by the dominant monster with a fluke win. But it wasn’t. Now we all know Nia can be pinned at any time, that’s not too monstrous. I’d hoped for a one on one women’s match for the title at Mania but it looks likely to be a four way. The other three having to combine to get rid of Nia would have been good to watch and sold her as a badass, but since a roll up after receiving a beating is enough, that option doesn’t seem as compelling. I know she’s previously lost but she’s been on a roll and it just seemed like a waste for very little, almost no payoff.
Jinder fucking Mahal. ‘Hardbody’. Or future Wellness Policy violator. Fair enough, I can’t prove he’s the pharmaceutical superman but is anyone else convinced? When your veins showcase anger better than you can, it’s time to lay off the ‘supplements’. Also, Hardbody would be a fine name most of the time if you were proud of your physique but this is WWE, not your local gym on the 1st January. It’s not like out of shape messes pollute the WWE locker room and you stand out as in shape. Try having a personality, instead of terrifying veins. I find myself pleasantly surprised given WWE’s traditional cultural sensitivity that they haven’t branded him the ‘Mumbai Masterpiece’.
Then Cesaro had to get a match out of him. That went long. Very, very long. What should have been a frustrated Cesaro annihilating the lower card act tuned into eight of the longest minutes of my life. Poor Cesaro.
The scrapping between Rusev and Mahal might have been fun if even just one person had cared, but alas, Handsome Rusev ended up in a match with Big Show. Gone was the effort shown in the Raw main event only two weeks ago. Show plodded along in the destruction of Rusev. Rusev once came out on a fucking tank to battle John Cena after an undefeated year. The Bulgarian Brute had a lot of upsides, this incarnation of Rusev does not. He needs a move to Smackdown ASAP. Trade for Miz? Either way, I zoned out of this match and found myself giggling on Twitter as people rained all over Sin Cara and he went on a blocking spree. Then a lot of people were accusing him of being the botchmania MPV incarnation of Sin Cara and found themselves blocked. It was entertaining, or at least better than the destruction of Handsome Rusev. Should have kept the hair long, my man. I think around the third chokeslam I found myself really wanting a ‘ShinTen’ t-shirt. I demand that’s what Dillinger and Shinsuke are referred to. Yes, Twitter was more entertaining.
Neville and Gallagher thankfully grabbed my attention away from the phone. Gallagher sat on the floor in despair after losing did more to elevate the belt than the three of the previous champions managed. It’s the little touches. Like Heyman demonstrated after describing the win-win situation his client was in. Mr Heyman could have saved us all. But no, he made way to give us the New Day.
I like the New Day but only as a competitive team. The ridiculous ice cream promoting would be fun if they were also planning on trying to win back their tag titles. Instead they seem content with being the hosts of Wrestlemania rather than, y’know, competing on the show. Although Big E definitely has an alternative career playing a creepy rapist if he wanted to head that way. I would not have been shocked had he actually fucked the damn freezer. I’m not sure what he was going for, but it freaked me out.
And after all the torture inflicted upon us, WWE gave s the big three matches back to back (to back). This seemed poorly placed and ill conceived. We really could have used them throughout the show to prevent the hatred that had built up. But after witnessing them, it made no difference.
I’m aware I’m being a bitch. I’m annoyed. But not at the lack of quality in the matches. Just the choices made for their conclusions. I don’t mind being wrong, it means I get surprised. But the decisions made in all three matches just seemed really wasteful.
Let’s start with Reigns vs. Strowman. Firstly, what the fuck was Roman thinking with his footwear? Bright white bottoms? Not the choice of a badass, but what do I know about stylish footwear? Maybe some people thought they were cool. They looked like he was about to do a lot of running and jumping so I was willing to ignore them but they crept sneaking into picture. Ridiculous choice. Then the match itself. It wasn’t a bad effort, mostly what had been expected. I’d predicted a beating for Roman but him pulling off the win. They roll-up victory that Sasha had escaped would have been better applied here. A fluke or anything that could have given Strowman an out. Instead he was pinned clean, in the centre of the ring. Off of a solitary spear. It did not make Reigns look badass. It just damaged Strowman, who took a major loss so early into his promising monster run. It will take him going on a massive tear to build that back up, whilst Reigns moves forward having gained nothing, despite beating the monster.
Reigns could have come out having survived a meeting with the Monster Amongst Men, and this could have been revisited in the summer or year end with Reigns’ inevitable title run in genuine trouble. Instead, he’s beaten the giant. Strowman must now recover from this bump and Roman has a date with Wrestlemania with no real momentum. Such a shame after all the good work leading to it. As I was watching, I couldn’t’ help but feel a draw/ no contest would have been better. Reigns spear causing them both to be counted out? Anything that prevented Strowman winning as he seeks competition, but without having him lose. It could have been done. But this was a tricky situation. I don’t agree with the way it went down but I can accept it was hard to do. What came next was just stupid.
Charlotte, the Queen of PPV, the first competitor to go 16-0 in their first PPV matches, lost. And for what? To surprise us? To catch us off guard? What was the fucking point of that? A streak of genuine worth was surrendered for zero gains. Bayley does not come off as the all-conquering hero for finally stopping Charlotte on PPV. It was just surrendered for shock value that did not work. A lot of this was down to the match itself. Bayley challenged heel Charlotte to leave her gimp backstage so they could really see who was better. Charlotte obliged. Then Sasha came out, without prompt. My friend and I spoke at great length yesterday about the issue of what causes a DQ. I’ve always thought, and maintained, that it must be an actual attack that causes the DQ. If, as was the case, Sasha came down and gets slapped around, then there’s no DQ. But oh what I’d give for that to have caused a DQ.
Bayley picked up the win, the 1 in 16-1. But it could have meant so much more. She could have lost by DQ, retained her title, Charlotte retained her record, and problems exist between Sasha and Bayley as they head to what seems like a four way at Wrestlemania. Instead, we got the sickly sweet friends sitting on the post show complimenting each other. I find myself really hoping for a return to Sasha’s heel character, which she plays so well, a setup from Sasha all along as she thinks she can beat Bayley. But none of that would excuse the absolute clusterfuck that has been the women’s title since the moment Bayley challenged for it. A lot of good work over the year has been thrown away and the story has come off the rails just as it heads to the biggest show of the year.
I wrote yesterday in my predictions that I was happy to see Bayley not return the title, as being a goody two shoes doesn’t mean you have to be a mug. But this was just shameless cheating. After watching Sasha and Bayley smile through post-match celebrations and post-show interview, I couldn’t help but feel the dreaded ‘mean girls’ tag team is having a new spin put on it. Which would be such a damn waste.
And finally, the money shot of my disappointment, the main event. I’ve never liked Goldberg. I expected him to win but I wasn’t happy about it. I don’t like the idea of someone’s entrance lasting longer than their matches. It’s fine now and again but as a standard part of the gimmick, no thanks. I was ranting at the TV like crazy after the match. My friend, occasionally a calmer head, pointed out that it didn’t matter if I like Goldberg, people do. He’s right, but as a counter, we are going to see a Raw house show in May. Goldberg is not going to be there. Pretty sure Kevin Owens will be. Why can WWE not put the time and effort into creating new superstars rather than rely on the ones of yesteryear? I didn’t enjoy Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg at Wrestlemania 20, I doubt I’ll enjoy it at Wrestlemania 33. Why is the top title on Raw going to be decided by two aging, in one case old, part-timers who are not going to be doing the leg work throughout the coming year and have not been doing it in the year gone?
And the match itself. Suspension of disbelief is a wrestling fans greatest weapon but am I supposed to believe that after all I’ve seen Kevin Owens go through in WWE alone, a spear and a Jackhammer was too much for him to overcome? It was fine for the Brock match, as being arrogant and caught by surprise was a legitimate out. But Kevin Owens has always been smarter than that. He would have known it was coming. Cena couldn’t put him away on his first night. Seth Rollins couldn’t take the title from him. Reigns at the Rumble couldn’t get it done. But a part timers spear, yeah, that’ll do it. I hate that fucking spear as well. Always been more of a football tackle which is understandable considering his background, but let’s be honest, it’s a shoulder block hitting at centre. The Jackhammer is a theatrical suplex. But just these two moves alone, they can unseat a champion. Good to know. Congratulations, you’ve just basically cuckolded the Raw locker room. Everyone, you’re just not as good as Superdad. Now watch him main event with the other occasional visitor whilst you get thrown out of the Andre Battle Royal. Must be a nice locker room to be in.
I was really looking forward to Fastlane last night. I may not have a pretty girl next door other half, but I definitely feel frustrated. Maybe they were just lowering our hopes to surprise us at Wrestlemania? Of course, I’m gonna give another chance, I love the exasperating, unsatisfying bitch. And with that, it’s cold shower time.
Venting is good for the soul. Care to agree, disagree, correct or rant, feel free to comment below or @HeneghanCiaran or [email protected]