WWE Fastlane
Quicken Loans Arena
Cleveland, Ohio
February 21, 2016
Watch: WWENetwork


  • Rich Kraetsch (@voiceswrestling): Voices of Wrestling’s jack-of-all-trades, founder of the website and the co-host of VOW Flagship podcast that doesn’t make you mad.
  • Garrett Kidney (@garrettkidney): There is nobody in the world that’s watched more TNA Wrestling than Garrett. Poor guy. Garrett currently reviews weekly episodes of Impact as well as TNA’s Asylum Years for Voices of Wrestling.
  • Alex Wendland (@AlexWendland): VOW’s resident cheese expert (he’s from Wisconsin!) and Green Bay Packers/UW-Milwaukee homer. Alex is also one of VOW’s primary editors and currently reviews NXT.

WWE Network Kick-Off Show
United States Championship – 2 Out of 3 Falls
Kalisto © def. Alberto Del Rio

Rich Kraetsch: As I predicted on the VOW flagship, just as I walked into the room dinner in hand, this match was in the process of finishing up. Sorry!

Garrett Kidney: The story of Del Rio giving up the first fall to damage Kalisto was a considerably better alternative to doing two quick pinfalls. This was about as much as you could ask from a preshow match. Del Rio was more aggressive and engaged than he’s been for much of his current run so far, Kalisto was a tremendous underdog whose high flying stuff landed and the right man won. Kalisto can now kick on with some momentum, hopefully he won’t walk into another 50/50 feud next. Aside from some gaps in logic (like Del Rio trying to win by countout and Kalisto having to hold himself in place for Del Rio’s admittedly vicious looking stomp off the barricade), this was a very good time. ***1/4

Alex Wendland: There’s good and bad here. First, the good. Mauro Ranallo is on commentary tonight. That’s fantastic. Second, we knew the first falls were going to come quickly, but they used a pretty inventive way to do it. Alberto del Rio essentially gave up the first fall with a chairshot, earning a disqualification, to get an easy second fall for himself after rolling Kalisto in the ring. The story of the final fall was Del Rio beating the life out of Kalisto the way he has since losing the United States Championship, the highlight of the beatdown was an absolutely brutal tree of woe stomp while Kalisto was hanging from the barricade. Kalisto recovered, however, and the third fall finally came when Kalisto snuck a roll-up on Del Rio for the victory. The right man won but, once again, Kalisto’s win was almost entirely negated by the luck of it. Not every undersized champion should be winning via fluke. **3/4

Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks def. Naomi and Tamina

Kraetsch: As good a main roster “Divas” tag match as I can ever remember. That doesn’t mean this was Match of the Year level but rather just how pathetic WWE Divas in-ring history is. Becky and Sasha are so glaringly good compared with their historic counterparts that it slaps you across the face within a few seconds.Becky did her best Ricky Morton impression in the first portion of the match playing a perfect babyface in peril role before giving Sasha a hot tag. From there, Sasha took control and never relented. Matches like this are what the #DivasResolution was supposed to be. ***3/4

Kidney: If you consider the preshow a sort of advertisement for the PPV, I’m going to report WWE for false advertising for having Mauro call the Kalisto/Del Rio match and only to be replaced by Cole for the main card. It’s matches like this that WWE should have presented on television for six months before ever claiming a “revolution”. That was an extremely well structured, proficiently wrestled match. While it’s not the kind of match that’ll set the world buzzing, it is the sort of match that, if presented week in week out, will condition mass audiences to accept good women’s matches as the norm. Becky and Sasha were very good here but credit must go to Naomi and Tamina as well for more than holding their own. ***

Wendland: Bad news: Ranallo was only on commentary for the preshow match. Good news: There are German commentators. Bad news: I don’t know how to turn their commentary on. Good news: This was a really fun match. Arguably the best of the main roster incarnation of the #DivasRevolution. We’re well aware of the skill Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch have, but even Naomi has a specific look now with her LA Lights shoes and gear made of a gigantic bandana. The match itself was well designed as it minimized Tamina, but Lynch was an incredible punching bag for five-sixths of the match. Banks was quickly quelled on the hot tag, but it allowed her to show resiliency and teamwork with Lynch. Banks and Lynch win with dueling submission finishers. ***3/4


Intercontinental Championship
Kevin Owens © def. Dolph Ziggler

Kraetsch: We’ve reached the where an intervention with Dolph and his hair may be necessary. Miserably awful hairstyles aside, this match had the feeling of a prolonged squash match. Sure, Dolph got a hope spot every so often but he was always working from underneath and always trying to grasp any slight amount of moment — it didn’t work. This was an Owens showcase and a good one at that. Find me someone on this roster more consistent, entertaining and perfect at harnessing their character than Owens. I’ll wait. ***1/4

Kidney: Even as an ardent longtime defender of Dolph Ziggler, I can’t for a moment defend what the hell was going on with his hair on this show. It’s like a bird had been nesting on his head. Owens’ early match headlock routine can grow tiresome as it nearly never seems like he’s actively trying to win the match. This was good but lacked any emotional hook to take it further. Ziggler is perennially treading water and Owens has cooled in the last few months so while the work was solid and there was some fun stuff down the stretch, this match hit a ceiling and they didn’t really do anything to break through it. Hopefully Owens has something good lined up for WrestleMania, either paying off the Styles or Zayn teases from the Royal Rumble would be ideal. ***1/4

Wendland: Garrett’s right, Dolph Ziggler’s cornrows are the absolute worst. This match, however, that wasn’t the worst. Now, understanding that this was two of the most consistently solid workers in the company, they did what was expected. At the same time, the over-exhaustion felt unearned for much of the match and you could clearly hear (and see) both guys chatting it up in throughout the match. Overall, the match felt like a good performance, but entirely sterile. The crowd didn’t even take the hometown hook with Ziggler getting a shot at the IC title. Owens has adapted to the main roster better than anyone since the Shield, but even he is beginning to feel same-y. There’s got to be some way to make the upper-midcard work in WWE, but the next match sure isn’t it… ***1/2


Kane, Big Show and Ryback def. Luke Harper, Erick Rowan & Braun Strowman

Kraetsch: Gorilla Monsoon telling us the ring was reinforced to handle the amount of brawn (and BRAUN!) would’ve push this match up a level but alas, he’s no longer with us. A point we addressed on this week’s flagship podcast was that despite these guys being big beefy gigantic men, the work was still relatively fast-paced and hard-hitting. Compare that to a match featuring men of similar stature in the mid-80s it would’ve consisted of mostly side headlocks, bearhugs and grunted. Lots and lots of grunting. Don’t worry, there was plenty of grunting in this one but the pace was quick throughout with Ryback legitimately moving around the ring like a man half his size. Kane..yes KANE of all people did a great job of taking punishment from Braun setting up a final sequence between Ryback and Luke Harper. This match was far better than it had any right to be. ***1/4

Kidney: Slow and clunky for the large portion, a strong closing stretch helped redeem this. The result was quite strange though considering rumours of Bray Wyatt getting a high profile WrestleMania match. I know it was only his cronies that lost but you’d think they’d want they would have wanted The Wyatts looking as threatening and dominating as possible. Harper is great, Ryback is pretty solid, Kane and Big Show are still capable of picking their spots in lower profile matches like this and they’ve still done a strong job preventing Strowman from being exposed. This could have been much worse. **1/2

Wendland: The live Stone Cold Podcast with Big Show from last week did a lot to humanize a guy we spend a lot of time ridiculing for his ridiculous character switches and ever-presentness. Combined with the talent of Luke Harper, Braun Strowman’s potential and Ryback’s sneaky athleticism made this a fully watchable match – something I certainly didn’t fully expect when the match was made public earlier this week. There were clubs, chokes, throws and Big Show tossing most of the Wyatts over the top rope, some via Gorilla press. Impressive stuff. The only real drawback, and it’s a pretty big drawback, is the winner. Assuming you think winning matters in pro wrestling. Why would you feed the Wyatts yet another loss? They’ve got to be the most incompetent group of scary guys since the fall of the Dungeon of Doom. ***1/4

Divas Championship
Charlotte © def. Brie Bella

Kraetsch: Welp, they can’t all be winners. This wasn’t THAT bad but it was certainly far worse than the Divas tag match earlier in the night. Charlotte excels when in the ring with a more experienced, solid worker… when she’s in there with someone the skill level of Brie, it shows. They had a ton of small-scale botches throughout and never seemed to find a rhythm until the closing stretch which was solid. The crowd legitimately bought in to Brie winning so that made the teases in the waning minutes look and feel more important. The actual finish was a little awkward as I think we were supposed to hear what Ric Flair was shouting at Brie. What we got was Brie looking like an idiot by getting out of a hold that seemingly had Charlotte done for — oh well. This had train wreck written all over it and was seemingly on the fast lane towards that for the first few minutes before getting on the right track. That’s a lot of train puns, you guys. **1/2

Kidney: I really liked that match. Yeah, the finish with Charlotte seemingly powering out of Brie’s submission and then Charlotte sloppily applying the Figure 8 wasn’t ideal but I thought most of what happened before that was extremely effective. Not to mention they totally engaged the crowd. Brie aping Nikki and Bryan’s moves could have been contrived but it felt fitting given the story. I was expecting the classic totally competent, entirely forgettable Bella’s match but I got something more out of this. ***

Wendland: Well, we went 4-for-5 to open the show. Not bad, not bad at all. Until Brie Bella’s dropkick sending Charlotte out of the ring, this match was a complete mess. The third act saved it a little, but not enough to redeem the whole thing. I’ve got to think Bella is sticking around for one final WrestleMania moment/payday before riding off to the Arizona sunset. **

AJ Styles def. Chris Jericho

Kraetsch: These two had been killing it on TV and having arguably just as good of matches with The Miz in-between. I don’t know what was wrong tonight but these two just did not click. Jericho in particular had trouble with timing and at one point nearly killed Styles by botching a top-rope reversal into a Walls of Jericho. The most maddening part of the match came in the closing stretch when Jericho kicked out of a Styles Clash. Mind you, the move generated shrieks in Japan and had people doing whatever they could to avoid it. Guys feared for their lives when Styles even hinted at putting them in the Styles Clash. The Styles Clash was instant death and became one of the best moves in the world of wrestling propelling Styles to the top of New Japan Pro Wrestling. A month in WWE and it was casually kicked out by Jericho. Sure, it was transitioned immediately into a Calf Cutter but anyone with a wrestling mind knows it should be the other way. The Calf Cutter is your everyday finisher and the Styles Clash is your instant death/Burning Hammer you only bust out when you absolutely need it. Let’s look on the bright side, Styles looked great once again and visually wrapped up his feud with Jericho. Could Kevin Owens and the IC Belt be next? ***

Kidney: It’s been clear from the moment they stepped in the ring together on the Raw after the Royal Rumble that Jericho and Styles don’t have much chemistry together but this was a whole other story. This had all the ingredients of a great match – a strong crowd and arguably the best wrestler in the world. However Jericho was a disaster, telegraphing everything he did in a way that was unbefitting of a 26 year veteran, not to mention he was flat out dangerous at times. Styles did his best but this did not click at all. And then to make matters even worse, Jericho kicked out of the Styles Clash. The move has only been done twice in WWE and it’s been kicked out of once. If they wanted another nearfall they could have leaned on the flying forearm smash, Spiral Tap, Springboard 450, or Bloody Sunday. It wasn’t a disaster because AJ Styles is too good to allow something like that to happen but this was the worst match on this show. **

Wendland: The floor on this match was higher than any match on the card and the ceiling just as high as anything else. Unfortunately, this was closer to the floor than the ceiling, but it was still the second best match on the card to this point from an execution perspective. Arguably, the largest offense this match had going against it was Chris Jericho kicking out of the Styles Clash. AJ Styles’ Styles Clash has been billed as one of the most devastating moves in all of wrestling for years now. To have someone, even Jericho, kick out of it the second time Styles executed it was wrong. Just wrong. On the bright side, Styles looks strong coming out of his first WWE feud against a legend and borderline 2016 main eventer. ***


Curtis Axel def. R-Truth

Kraetsch: The best way to transition out of a long, drawn out and unentertaining talking segment with Edge & Christian, The New Day and League of Nations? An utterly meaningless match that nobody could possibly care about! The buffer of the buffer segment. This was perplexing and awful. I honestly believe my WWE Network screwed up so badly it started playing an old episode of Superstars. *

Kidney: I’m honestly badly reaching for anything to say about this match. I’m currently reviewing TNA’s Asylum years and it’s fun to see how Ron Killings has gone from NWA champion to…whatever he is now. I like some of the guys in the Social Outcasts (particularly Axel and Slater) but this act will do nothing for any of them. The match was a match. It was a thing that existed. I’m sure the viewing audience is on tenterhooks anticipating the next development in the R-Truth/Goldust will they, won’t they. *

Wendland: Wait, what? What an odd place for midcard development. This Goldust/R-Truth maybe tag team thing continues on, but I’m wondering why there wasn’t just a backstage segment earlier or do this whole thing tomorrow night. Did everything run short? Was this supposed to be some sort of special surprise? Did they just want to cool the crowd down from that scorching Edge and Christian 10 minute talk show? Whatever momentum they had going into the main event was killed in under 5 minutes. Well done. *

No. 1 Contender for the WWE Championship
Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns

Kraetsch: Roman Reigns is among the best heels in WWE history. Unfortunately, he’s supposedly being booked to be their babyface superstar. Yet another confounding ending (Reigns spearing and pinning Ambrose after effectively no-selling a series of chair shots) clouded what was to that point a fantastic main event. The story of the match, as predicted by many, focused on Reigns/Ambrose taking out Lesnar to effectively have a one-on-one battle. The only problem? Lesnar is an god damn mother fucking beast of a man. Two (TWO!) powerbombs through a table couldn’t stop him as he threw bomb after bomb. He’s just the best and it’s criminal he didn’t hold the title for the better part of the last two years. Yet in the end, Lesnar felt like a total afterthought due to the unnecessarily hurried finish. Though we all expect Wyatt Family interference, it never came. Could there be a different direction for Lesnar at ‘Mania? I think I could do Ambrose/Lesnar should they choose that route. Anyway, back to the match at hand. When the curtain finally fell on WWE Fastlane 2016, the man with the least amount of buzz coming into the main event and the man with the least amount of crowd connection throughout won and will move onto the main event of WrestleMania — if this story has a happy ending will be anyone’s guess. ****

Kidney: While I don’t usually like how easily Lesnar always throws his first suplex (if you were a wrestler scouting Lesnar the very first thing you do is avoid his suplexes to save your life) but in this case it at least played a role in the story. Lesnar’s total, utter domination of Ambrose and Reigns in the early stages necessitated their extensive teaming to take out Lesnar. This was neatly structured around some fun mini-Reigns/Ambrose matches as Lesnar continued to rise from the dead like Jason Vorhees and clobber everybody. It was a tremendously well executed story that was a tonne of fun to see play out, helped by a molten hot crowd (even if they didn’t respond to everything as WWE would have hoped). The only downside was what felt like a very abrupt finish. It still felt like these three had a hot finishing stretch left in them. Reigns bouncing up from multiple chair shots to hit a Spear just didn’t feel right. Just as I was thinking “This is getting really great” it ended. Of course another great match under Reigns’ belt won’t change anything for him anytime soon. All of the problems with him and his presentation still exist. The people have wholly rejected him and he’s going into the biggest show of the year with a crowd bordering on mutiny. Nonetheless that’s a problem for the next few weeks, this was a tremendous match. ****1/4

Wendland: Roman Reigns: The only heel who can win clean in WWE. Assuming you’re able to remove the absolutely nerfed face-heel dynamics from this match, which is a legitimate hurdle, it was really well put together. Part of the reason it was so well put together was that it basically told the same story as the WWE Championship triple threat from Royal Rumble 2015. Both Reigns and Dean Ambrose had to take out the clear favorite, Brock Lesnar, before one of them could win. Table spot and all. The match was entertaining as hell until the finish, though even the finish was entertaining for trainwreck reasons. Reigns can get all the mixed reactions in the world during TV tapings, but the bigger the show the louder the boos will be for the chosen one. The biggest surprise, for me, was the lack of interference setting up Lesnar for WrestleMania. Lesnar could still end up against Bray Wyatt at WrestleMaina, but it makes more sense to pit him against Ambrose for a money match that might actually draw a person or two into the show. I’m in the crowd who’s going to watch Wrestlemania no matter what, but Reigns’ inevitable coronation is must-see if only for the inevitable trainwreck it will be. ****1/4