This is the first Weekly WWE Soapbox to be released after a PPV. As a reminder the “Weekly WWE Soapbox” works with a Monday through Sunday calendar. This week will be covering the dates above and include Monday Night Raw, Main Event, NXT, Smackdown, Superstars, and Fastlane — let’s step on the soapbox!

Fastlane Thoughts: WWE Fastlane was never meant to be a standalone PPV. The purpose of Fastlane was always to bridge the gap between Royal Rumble and WrestleMania and this PPV made that transition better than the Elimination Chamber PPV’s of year’s past. The Elimination Chamber always provided an awkward stop on the Road to WrestleMania with the WWE Champion defending their title in the Chamber match against five other superstars.

Overall, Fastlane served its purpose and began a clear path to WrestleMania. There are officially two matches set for WrestleMania (Sting vs. Triple H/Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns), there are other matches are yet to be set in stone, but appear to be happening (Randy Orton vs. Seth Rollins / Bray Wyatt vs. The Undertaker), and there is enough left up in the air to create some intrigue for the next 5 episodes of Monday Night Raw leading up to WrestleMania (Daniel Bryan’s WrestleMania opponent/Cena vs. Rusev rematch/Rhodes Family Feud/Mega Mizzes Explode).

Daniel Bryan and WrestleMania: Daniel Bryan was signed by the WWE in 2009. Here has been Daniel Bryan’s WrestleMania history:

  • 2010 – WrestleMania XXVI – Nothing. (Bryan was contestant on the weekly NXT TV Show)
  • 2011 – WrestleMania XXVII – Daniel Bryan was scheduled to defend his United States Championship against Sheamus on the PPV. The match was moved to the pre-show and turned into a Lumberjack Match ending with a schmoz, or a no contest finish.
  • 2012 – WrestleMania XXVII – Daniel Bryan defended the World Heavyweight Championship against Sheamus in the opening match of the PPV and lost in 18 seconds.
  • 2013 – WrestleMania XXIX- Daniel Bryan teamed with Kane as “Team Hell No” and they defended the WWE Tag Team Championships against Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston in a forgettable 6 minute match
  • 2014 – WrestleMania XXX- Daniel Bryan was schedule to wrestle Sheamus in their third WrestleMania match, but instead #YesMovement was in full force and gave Bryan his first memorable WrestleMania. Bryan defeated Triple H, Randy Orton, and Batista on his way to winning the WWE Championship for the third time.

This raises the question about 2015: What will Daniel Bryan be doing this year? Will he go back to a pointless and forgettable WrestleMania match? Or will he be able to ride the momentum from last year’s WrestleMania main event and continue being a top star in WWE? Well, unfortunately Daniel Bryan is already playing second fiddle to the WWE title match, Undertaker’s return match, Sting’s WWE debut, and even Orton vs. Rollins. Daniel Bryan vs Ziggler or Daniel Bryan vs Sheamus do not do anything for me. If either of those are the route the WWE takes then we need a clear storyline as to why they are wrestling. Bryan wrestling Ziggler to steal the show is not a story and is more of the weak, kayfabe-breaking nonsense that encompasses Ziggler’s character.

My predictions came true! Sort of…: To brag for a second, during the week I tweeted out (@MrTCMitchell) a bold prediction for Fastlane and I wrote about another in my Smackdown review.

  1. Both Rusev / Cena and Reigns / Bryan will end with clean finishes at Fastlane: With all of the speculation and predictions about one or both of these matches ending with screwy finishes to set up the WrestleMania card, I predicted they would end cleanly. I was kind of right. Rusev did sneak in a low blow to Cena, but what can you do?
  2. Daniel Bryan vs. Roman Reigns will be at minimum a *** ½ match: The guys who graded this match on the VOW Fastlane PPV review gave this match ***1/2, ****, and ****1/2 from each reviewer. I have this match at ****1/4. This was a solid, solid match.

Triple H vs. Sting: This feud started with Sting’s debut at Survivor Series. My interested level for this match at that time was 1/10. Now I would give it about a 5/10. Triple H and Sting have been doing a great job of building this as an attraction, even with Triple H trying to sell himself as the top star in the late 90’s. The Ric Flair/Triple H confrontation from last Monday’s Raw added a nice touch and was Flair best WWE appearance in years despite being visibly intoxicated again. The exchange between Triple H and Sting at Fastlane was interesting to. The dynamic of the baseball bat vs. sledgehammer was cool to see. This should still be Undertaker vs. Sting, but like I said, the buildup has improved my expectations. The only problem is will the match deliver? Doubtful.

Prime Time Players: It was great to see Titus O’Neil come to Darren Young’s aide on Monday’s Raw, and vice versa on Main Event. The Prime Time Players broke up last year with no direction for either superstar as a singles competitor. With two teams breaking up now within the tag team division (Mizzes and Dusts), it is a good thing to add another tag team.

Wrestler of the Week – Roman Reigns: No typo. Roman Reigns had the two best matches of his career this week (vs. Luke Harper on Smackdown and Daniel Bryan at Fastlane). Sure his opponents are two of the best workers in the WWE, but Reigns more than held his own in these matches and showed definitive improvements in his ring work. Reigns is clearly driven to prove himself after the criticisms following his Royal Rumble victory and he is delivering. Reigns has been added a variety of suplexes to his game as well as some better selling. Reigns really impressed me this week and has me feeling positive about his match vs. Brock Lesnar.

Tag Team of the Week – The Brass Ring Club: This was a week with very few tag team matches that included regular tag teams. The Brass Ring Club of Tyson Kidd and Cesaro win the TTotW this week due to their strong showing against the Uso’s at Fastlane in which they won the WWE Tag Team Championships.

Diva of the Week – Sasha Banks: Sasha Banks continues to outshine her peers at NXT and continues to outshine anything to do with the Divas division on the main roster. Banks has her character down pat and I love that she is continuing to show her passion for winning the NXT Women’s title while still holding on to her cockiness. Something the main roster needs is wrestlers that care about winning matches.

Match of the Week –Daniel Bryan vs. Roman Reigns: There was so much to like about this match. The story of Daniel Bryan being the better wrestlers, but Reigns being the stronger of the two was the build up to this match and it played out in this match. Daniel Bryan actually had the opportunity to play an edgier, almost heelish, wrestler in this match due to the WWE booking Reigns to be the underdog facing insurmountable odds in this match. Roman Reigns showed off some new moves in his arsenal such as the three successive Pump Handle Suplexes. Reigns won the match cleanly which is going to go a long way in building him up for his match against Brock Lesnar. With the clean finish it puts to rest the fact that Daniel Bryan never received his title shot after being stripped of the WWE Championship last June.

Quote of the Week: “This was ingenious!” – Michael Cole when narrating the clip of Dean Ambrose zip tying Bad News Barrett and forcing him to sign the contract for their Intercontinental Championship match. Apparently committing crimes makes you a genius.

Hidden Gem of the Week – Roman Reigns vs. Luke Harper: This was another excellent match from Roman Reigns that gives him his third award for the week. Harper showed that the WWE needs to value him a lot more. Harper can become the new “Kane” for WWE and he will do it better. To have a worker as good as Harper with his size is a rare commodity in pro wrestling. Reigns showed some more of his solid offense and selling in this match that we saw at Fastlane.