WWE Fastlane 2017
March 5, 2017
Bradley Center
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Watch: WWE Network

Meet our previewers:

  • Barry Hess: Voices of Wrestling columnist; he’s officially run out of pithy bio material, it was bound to happen. Follow Barry on Twitter @BFHess171
  • Jeff Hawkins: Co-host of @ShakeThemRopes, Smackdown aftershow co-host @FightfulWrestle, Twitter drivel is @Crapgame13. Once got busy in a Burger King bathroom.
  • Alex Wendland: A semi-active writer and editor for Voices of Wrestling, Alex was the VOW NXT guru during 2015 and 2016. He’s on Twitter @AlexWendland. Isn’t quite a germaphobe, but wouldn’t get busy in a fast food restaurant restroom.

Sami Zayn vs. Samoa Joe

Barry Hess: Wasn’t it around this time last year that Sami Zayn and Samoa Joe were feuding over who would become the number one contender for the NXT title? It feels like a decade’s worth of creative separates these two characters just one year later. Zayn is now in the role of sacrificial lamb more so than an underdog. You can view him as an underdog if you please, but in a Barry Horowitz kind of way, not a Daniel Bryan kind of way. It’s difficult to argue against Zayn’s current booking; if he’s not going anywhere there’s no reason for him to be winning matches right now. Joe is a hired gun who refuses to accept he’s a hired gun; or maybe he’s hired gun with the exit strategy his predecessors failed to devise. Either way he’s significantly more interesting than Zayn right now. Prediction: Samoa Joe

Jeff Hawkins: I really loved Samoa Joe’s promo on the go home Monday Night Raw. It had everything you could want in a true professional wrestling promo: a character with intention, a character one could believe in, and oh yeah, he was talking to us, not to a point off in the distance. Back in my days of true fandom, in their promos, wrestlers said were in the business for one of three reasons: to prove they were the best, to make money, or there was that special few who really enjoyed hurting people. Joe is that last one. Sami Zayn is supposed to be a beloved scrappy fighting above his head underdog. The only problem is with that kind of character, their talent is supposed to win out. It’s not here nor with the former Braun Strowman story, so he looks like an idiot. Should be a fun match that’s probably shorter than we’d all like, but Samoa Joe wins. Prediction: Samoa Joe

Alex Wendland: This is Sami Zayn’s job now: he picks a valiant fight, throws a few great haymakers in the build and has a four-plus star match to blow it off. And loses, can’t forget the losing part. Zayn is WWE’s monster builder for the time being, and he’s going to be a big reason why Samoa Joe will be such a big deal. I expect an incredible match, but Joe is going to brutalize Zayn. Prediction: Samoa Joe

Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax

Barry Hess: Nia Jax needs to be on this card as she continues to ascend the ranks of the Women’s Division, but I wish her opponent was someone other than Sasha Banks. We’ve seen this story already; the only direction left to go is a Sasha victory, which is the wrong direction. This is a classic example of booking yourself into a corner. A Jax win shows her dominance, but also hurts Banks, who has already lost significant steam since last losing the Women’s title. A Banks win would go a long way in restoring The Boss’ standing within the division, but also brings Jax’s momentum to a screeching halt on the last major show before WrestleMania. God damn, pal we need to protect Jax, but make Banks look strong. Get creative! Prediction:No Contest

Jeff Hawkins: This all hinges on whether one thinks Nia Jax is involved in the WrestleMania match for the WWE RAW Women’s Championship or not. I tend to think they want her to, but I’m not certain that’s a done deal. Right now all four women in this angle have been trading visual pins and victories, and since Nia got the last win on Sasha, I think Sasha Banks somehow wins this, perhaps by countout. Prediction: Sasha Banks

Alex Wendland: I’m confounded by the Sasha Banks’ trajectory. She was ON FIRE 12 months ago, but an “inability” to end Charlotte’s PPV streak/series of nagging injuries (worked or otherwise) has cooled her down to the pre-BFF levels. A lot of this match will depend on WrestleMania plans, but I can’t figure out how many wrestlers are involved in the women’s title picture yet. When in doubt, pick the giant. Prediction: Nia Jax

WWE Raw Women’s Championship
Bayley © vs. Charlotte Flair

Barry Hess: The angle between Bayley and Charlotte is interconnected with that of Nia Jax and Sasha Banks, which means the outcome of the first match will likely carry over into this one. Does Sasha cost Bayley the title, either on purpose or by accident? Does Nia get involved at some point? Does Dana Brooke’s involvement backfire on Charlotte yet again? Yes. Does Charlotte ever lose on pay-per view? No. Prediction: Charlotte Flair

Jeff Hawkins: Charlotte Flair going into WrestleMania with her ppv victory streak intact is a given. Bayley losing the WWE RAW Women’s Championship is a given. Sasha Banks being the cause of the loss one way or another is a given. The only thing up in the air is if her causing Bayley to lose is accidental or on purpose. I think the Nia Jax/Sasha match bleeds into this one and it’s Nia who causes Sasha to ruin Bayley’s night, still giving some mystery to Sasha’s intentions. But the easiest money on betting sites should be Charlotte regaining the title. Prediction: Charlotte Flair

Alex Wendland: There’s no way WWE is burning the Charlotte PPV loss on Fastlane, less than a month before Wrestlemania. Not happening, no way, no how. There will be all kinds of funny business going on in this match, but all roads lead to the same outcome. Prediction: Charlotte Flair

WWE Raw Tag Team Championship
Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson © vs. Enzo Amore & Big Cass

Barry Hess: Is it just me or does it feel like Enzo and Cass are not long for this world as a tag team? It feels like Enzo is being positioned as the guy to turn heel, which doesn’t quite make sense from a storytelling perspective, but perhaps I’m simply reading into something that doesn’t exist. There isn’t much emotional investment baked into this match, but I feel like it will be satisfying by the time it’s over. I’ve long since jumped ship on Enzo and Cass, but I still feel as though there’s hope for Gallows and Anderson. Prediction: Gallows and Anderson

Jeff Hawkins: The irony that both these teams were guys that they should have put tag titles on before they wore out their welcome, albeit for Enzo and Cass that was in NXT when Enzo was still endearing. It’s really not his fault, but he was always best in small doses, and once someone gets popular, the WWE can’t help themselves. The Artists Formerly Known as the Club have apparently been a tag team in search of backstage vignettes or a catchphrase, if television is to be believed. Somehow I don’t think this leads to anything other than the two teams being involved at WrestleMania Prediction: Gallows/Anderson

Alex Wendland: Just as Jeff said, too little too late for Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. The tag team division was humming when the pair arrived from NJPW last year, but the tag division was the largest sacrifice of the brand split. It also doesn’t help that Gallows and Anderson were treated like jokes (and then afterthoughts) for most of 2016. Still, they’re looking good for now, and winning the titles isn’t really part of what Enzo and Big Cass are here to do in WWE. Prediction: Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson

WWE Cruiserweight Championship
Neville © vs. Jack Gallagher

Barry Hess: Jack Gallagher is toeing a very thin line between charismatic babyface and a pure comedy character. The use of umbrella-related antics sways him to the later; delivering fiery promos against Neville as he did two weeks ago on RAW sways him more to the former. This matters because the manner in which the character is perceived by the audience directly correlates to the emotional connection the audience is willing to invest. If the audience views him as pure comedy than Gallagher’s matches will carry little substantive value; they’ll like him, they’ll want him to win, but they won’t need him to win. Neville feels like the dangerous heel he’s currently portraying, but a loss, particularly to Gallagher, so soon after his reinvention could prove damaging to that effort. The balance of the Cruiserweight Division feels right with Neville as champion and that should continue. Prediction:Neville

Jeff Hawkins: The rising star versus a reborn star. I really have liked these past few weeks of Neville. Jack Gallagher on the other hand is venturing from entertaining cheeky professional wrestler to gimmicky sports entertainer with his umbrella William III being a constant companion. I think it’s too soon for Neville to lose the title, even if Galagher’s charisma can’t be denied. They might hot potato this title though, and that would not be such a horrible thing either. Prediction: Neville

Alex Wendland: Neville has been a revelation since turning heel, and he may be the saving grace for his entire division. With the exception of Noam Dar, guys are rising and falling in the cruiserweight division pretty much the way they should be. Gallagher has something special in the way he connects with the crowd, but he lost me with the umbrella nonsense. Neville has been too good as champion and too important to the division in this role to take the belt off of him now. Prediction: Neville

Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman

Barry Hess: Logic says the ultimate babyface, who has been decimated by the unstoppable heel for three straight weeks, will leave Fastlane victorious. But logic and Roman Reigns go together about as well as Jim Cornette and Lucha Underground. I keep waiting for the moment; you know, the moment Braun Strowman goes from an unstoppable force to just another guy alla Big Show, Mark Henry, Great Khali,Umaga, Ryback, etc. Maybe Fastlane is where it finally happens, or at least where that all too familiar road begins. Or maybe it’s not. I can’t believe I’m going here, but…double turn? Strowman feels like less of a heel every week and Reigns, well we know that story. Maybe Reigns, having finally met his match, stoops to devious tactics to defeat Strowman, or maybe something takes place after the match to set up the turns. I don’t know if the event right before WrestleMania is the best place to make such a drastic change, then again maybe it’s exactly the right time. Prediction: Braun Strowman

Jeff Hawkins: I don’t think they want either guy to lose, but if someone is losing it’s probably because they think they need to build up Roman Reigns for the Undertaker. It’s certainly an interesting match and has the potential to be very good. I could see Undertaker causing Roman to lose, but with at least two other interference/distraction finishes likely, it could really turn this crowd. This is just a guess. Prediction: Roman Reigns

Alex Wendland: How WWE would it be to spend all this time building Braun Strowman to lose to Roman Reigns leading into WrestleMania? I can totally see Reigns overcoming some #oddz and sending Strowman into the Andre battle royal at WrestleMania. The only way Reigns loses is with interference from The Undertaker, but that’s not exactly how a legend like Taker should pick a fight. If anything happens with Reigns/Taker, it’ll be after the bell. Prediction: Roman Reigns

WWE Universal Championship
Kevin Owens © vs. Goldberg

Barry Hess: When it was announced that Bill Goldberg would challenge for the Universal title I was not thrilled at all. Such a match prior to WrestleMania would not be booked unless Goldberg was winning the title, which I viewed as unnecessarily clouding the waters of his story with Brock Lesnar. Fast Forward a few weeks and I’m pumped for this match, mostly because of Kevin Owens’ brilliance as a performer, but Goldberg played a role as well. Part of me wishes that Owens finds a way to retain and carries that heat through March, but it’s sort of silly to think Fastlane will fade to black without Goldberg hoisting the Universal title over his head. Lesnar and Goldberg are headlining WrestleMania. Vince McMahon books title matches to headline his ultimate spectacle, airgo- one of the two needs to have a title. Though the finish isn’t in doubt, how they get from bell to bell is very intriguing. Does KO find a way to get 10 minutes out of Goldberg? Does Goldberg dispatch Owens in less than one minute, 26 seconds? Will Jericho play a role in the outcome? Prediction: Bill Goldberg

Jeff Hawkins: The rule generally is if a babyface makes a promise, he keeps it…unless he overpromises. That’s the question going into this match, as Goldberg has promised to win the WWE Universal Championship, perhaps a few too many times. I think you’re going to see Kevin Owens do his best Larry Zybysko impression of stalling and running to drag this out as strategy. But I think once the crowd starts getting sick of the routine, here comes Chris Jericho to throw Owens back in for a spear and jackhammer. The “Prize Fighter” goes for his former friend’s prize and yes, Brock and Goldberg is going to be for the big title, to only solidify its importance as a big deal. Prediction: Goldberg

Alex Wendland: I was really looking forward to Lesnar/Goldberg at WrestleMania, honestly, until the WWE Universal Championship was thrown into the mix. It’s an unnecessary addition to what started as a fight over pride from the disaster that was WrestleMania XX and turned into a blood feud over Lesnar’s embarrassment. Now, Goldberg isn’t going to lose to a full-time wrestler like Kevin Owens, we already know that–there’s no suspense. I could see Owens pulling a decent match out of Goldberg, but he won’t. This is going to be in a spectacle mold rather than that of a real match. It’ll set up Owens/Jericho and, somehow, make Lesnar/Goldberg less interesting. Prediction: Goldberg

Alex: Woah, woah, woah. Hold on a second, I’m not done here. What the fuck, Green Bay? I lived there for almost 20 years and the best wrestling we got was the Billy and Chuck wedding and an ECW reboot house show. You finally start getting a couple of RAWs when I leave and this is how you respond? Jesus Christ, guys, get your act together. I hope Wisconsin has gotten the CM Punk chants out of their system by Sunday, because that’s going to be a real bad look for Milwaukee if they haven’t.