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

Watch: WWE Network

JR Goldberg: He writes all the long articles on VoW that people say are awesome but they’re about lucha so no one actually reads them. Also he reviews NXT Takeover sometimes. He is the co-host of the Super Apuestas Podcast with Steven Graham. He watches Raw every week and still couldn’t tell you one match on this card. He is on twitter @wrestlingbubble.

Kelly Harrass: As Kelly started writing this bio his cat shit on the floor. Odds are high that this moment acts as a metaphor for this show. Kelly reviews Tiger Mask W for the site and has a WWE PPV review streak as legendary as Undertaker’s WrestleMania win streak. Find Kelly on Twitter @comicgeekelly.

Rich Kraetsch: Rich is founder and managing editor of Voices of Wrestling. Co-host of the Voices of Wrestling flagship podcast. Send all complaints to Joe Lanza. Follow him on Twitter @VoicesWrestling

Samoa Joe def. Sami Zayn

JR Goldberg: This opening the show is actually a great spot for it, because they can work a mid 2000s ROH semi main style and it will get the crowd up rather than being the overkill it would inevitably be later in the evening. Joe’s offense is still so dynamic, and he has been working a really simple and elegant style since coming to WWE. The crowd is chanting “Ole” and I don’t know to whom they are referring, as that chant applies to both men in their previous lives. Halfway through this match, I thought about how the Helluva Kick would be a good set up for the STO in the corner that Joe always makes look like death, so I’m glad they recognized that and worked it into the finish. This was an extended squash and I’m sure some people will be annoyed at Zayn losing, but this was 100% the right finish and tactic. Joe is best when he looks like a force. Might as well keep him as hot as possible going into WrestleMania.

Kelly Harrass: Sami Zayn did what he does so well; Sami fought a monster that he had no hope of defeating. Sami put up a fight, but this was a dominant performance from Samoa Joe. While Zayn tried his best, Joe looked like an absolute killer here. As longtime fans of his will know, Samoa Joe is one of the very best in the world when he’s motivated. Right now we’re at the very beginning of what could be an all time great run for Joe in this company as long as they continue to book him like this. Joe is a monster, treat him like that and you have a license to print money. Zayn was the perfect opponent for this extended squash. ***

Rich Kraetsch: I fully expected this match to be a complete destruction of Zayn but was pleasantly surprised to see Sami hold his own for a portion of the match. This worked two-fold because Zayn didn’t look like a geek in defeat and Joe, when he turned it on, looked like a complete monster who stayed patient for the first portion of the match then went in for the kill. And what a kill. That Coquina Clutch is over like crazy right now and is unlike any other submission or finishing move in WWE so far. A+ booking of Samoa Joe so far on the main roster. ***

WWE Raw Tag Team Championships
Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson © def. Enzo Amore & Big Cass

JR Goldberg: Watching Enzo and Cass reminds me of watching the Cavs during LeBron’s first tenure, when he had to try and win titles with Delonte West as his best teammate. I am not a trained rassler, and subsequently I don’t know the ins and outs of performing and working a match, but Enzo is seemingly the only main roster superstar that others look visibly worried they might hurt if they do anything beyond even the most basic of spots upon. I will give him credit for his willingness to get kicked in the face though. He does that pretty well. Cass is a worthwhile hot tag, and the nearfall they get is a good one. Enzo again takes a kick to the face for the finish here, which is controversial enough that we will probably have to endure this again.

Kelly Harrass: I’m having a hard time collecting my thoughts on this match. It wasn’t really any good, was it? I wasn’t offended by it, but seconds after it ended, almost every second of the match had already erased itself from my mind. Do Enzo and Cass need to have the unclean finish here? They could have easily lost to the Club and it wouldn’t have affected them at all. The momentum of their team isn’t based on their booking strength, it’s all based on the catchphrases. The Club could use some definitive wins to give them legitimacy in the eyes of the WWE Universe (apologies for using that term). This match happened and it wasn’t offensive.

Rich Kraetsch: Arguably the best Gallows & Anderson match in WWE this tag match was perfectly paced from beginning to end. Enzo gets a lot of shit for being awkward in the ring and while he undoubtably is, it works. His character is that of an out-of-his-league, big-mouthed twerp that needs his bigger friend to finish fights for him. Yeah, they are faces now but that basic character structure has remained. With that said, Enzo being Lance Storm-smooth in the ring would seem out of place. Back to the match, the finish was super hot with the always-molten Big Cass hot tag and in the end Gallows & Anderson used semi-nefarious means to keep their titles. I loved this. ***¼

Sasha Banks def. Nia Jax

JR Goldberg: In a weird way, this match could have the exact same narrative of the Joe/Zayn match from earlier and be successful. In fact, with a larger size disparity, maybe they can garner even more sympathy for the nominal babyface. While I don’t think Nia is great right now, it is clear that someone along the way told her to watch the Hall of Pain Mark Henry run and she has and it shows in how she tries to work. She is a loud and confident bully, and she has a pretty good understanding of how her physical vulnerability should also manifest emotionally (as her confidence is totally tied in to her physical dominance). Sasha’s time one offense in this match is really great, not because it was compelling necessarily, but because it reinforced the narrative of how much harder Sasha had to work. She has knowledge and skill and uses hold after hold but it doesn’t matter when your opponent is literally more than twice your size. When Nia took back over with the urinage, it seemed like the rest of the story was merely formality, which was why the finish of Sasha winning with a surprise roll up actually worked. Nia assumed it was over, just like the audience, and it cost her. A strongly worked story.

Kelly Harrass: A match like this does more to establish someone like Nia Jax as a threat more than any squash against a random jobber ever will. While she didn’t come out on top, she controlled the majority of the contest and looked like a major threat to the women’s division. The great thing here was that Nia’s inexperience cost her. She’s not an unstoppable monster, she’s a fallible monster. Nia has her size and strength, but Sasha has her wiles. This raises the question, can Nia up her game to match the wrestling ability of Sasha or will she continue to rely on her strength and stay at her current level? This was nothing special in terms of workrate, but the storytelling was great. ***

Rich Kraetsch: This was quite the surprise. While I had a feeling Sasha would win—setting up the inevitable four-way at WrestleMania—the manner in which she won took a lot of us by surprise. Nia dominated this match, absolutely decimating Sasha and at one point using her like a barbell and squatting with Banks on her shoulders. Then, Banks hit Jax with a roll-up out of nowhere for the pin. Some love that finish and match structure but I don’t. Yeah, Sasha won via banana peel slip but what good does that do for her? She just survived that match but doesn’t look particularly good. Jax looks like kind of a geek because she dominated the entire match but couldn’t get it done in the end and looked dumb in the process. Far too often heels are stupid and aloof in this company, Jax should be above that. And this finish and match structure is why the four-way at WrestleMania is so disappointing, how much better would it be if Jax just destroyed Banks and got her chance at either Charlotte or Bayley at Mania? **

Cesaro def. Jinder Mahal

JR Goldberg: We all know this is leading to Rusev joining 3MB, right? I love when an announcer talks about someone having a “newfound aggression” because it is always code for “this dude is still gonna lose a lot, but he will do a couple of back rakes or some other vaguely mean spirited maneuver while doing so”. I must confess that I don’t love Cesaro as much as I probably should. I can see the technical competence but he more often than not leaves me cold, as was the case here. Mahal is obviously limited but he tries hard and stays in his lane. I think if this was shorter and told the story of Mahal having an advantage but getting distracted rather than trying to tell some story of newfound ability due to an attitude change, it would have been pretty okay. As it was, it was a failure.

Kelly Harrass: Oh damn, Jinder ate all the steroids! I don’t watch Raw on a regular basis, so it has been a while since I’ve seen him. Is Jinder on some part timer status that protects him from the drug tests? While I’m asking questions, why am I watching this Superstars match? I feel bad that Cesaro had to be a part of this junk. *

Rich Kraetsch: Who in the world made the call for Jinder Mahal to have a match on WWE PPV that went over five minutes? Even Cesaro couldn’t overcome the black hole of talent that is Jinder Mahal and his vascularity. *

Big Show def. Rusev

JR Goldberg: I hope Rusev’s awesome new haircut and beard trim are foreshadowing that he is going to do a twin magic tag team gimmick with Cien Almas. Big Show is so athletic and has really found a formula that works for him in the hoss division. Rusev was awesome in this, showing a crazed desperation, working at breakneck speed to try and win, knowing he had to hit multiple moves in order to do so. Remember all those Sheamus matches? They ruled. This could have been in that category with more time, but it didn’t get it. Subsequently, this didn’t rule as much, but it was still fun to watch two guys who are good at their job do their job. Who made the decision that the Mahal match should last longer than this? That is indefensible.

Kelly Harrass: I suppose if the main event is going to last 90 seconds, you have to kill time in the middle of the show. Why is this happening? How has Rusev fallen so far? How long will Superstars the pay per view last? I ate too many Twizzlers and now I don’t feel well. The shitshow that has been these two matches makes me feel pretty pretty pretty good about my decision to not go to this show. Big Show wins and who gives a fuck. This show sucks. *1/4

Rich Kraetsch: If I told you Cesaro and Rusev would have back-to-back singles matches in the middle of the PPV and it would be arguably the worst part of the three-hour show would you believe me? Well… believe me. This was far better than the match that preceded it but failed to excite anyone in the crowd and bored me to tears. Even more inexplicable than how this match got put together (long story) was the finish. Big Show hit multiple chokeslams on Rusev, propped him up in the corner, hit the knockout punch and just…won. Alrighty, then. Vince McMahon was obviously not a fan of Rusev’s fresh new haircut.

WWE Cruiserweight Championship
Neville © def. Jack Gallagher

JR Goldberg: The person who decided the Mahal match should be a million years long is probably the same person who decided the opening for this should be worked at the pace of a Ronnie Garvin title defense. The problems with the cruiserweight division have been talked about at length, but why work against the strengths of these two so much? It is obvious this crowd wants to cheer Gallagher and be wowed by cool moves. The thing is, this match isn’t bad! It’s just tone deaf. That is, at least until Gallagher starts using headbutts and bumping for suplexes like a 90s All Japan worker. Once the pace picked up a bit, the crowd got behind it a little more. While I think the contrast made the end great, I still think it could have been worked a little more briskly from the start. This was the best match of the night thus far.

Kelly Harrass: Whoever mandated that all of the Cruiserweight title matches on PPV need to be overly long and unexciting should be dragged into the street and shot. Once this got past the boring first two thirds, it was pretty rad. The crowd woke up and Jack started taking wicked bumps. His lack of regard for his own body results in great excitement for the fans. Neville looked great here and continues his awesome heel champion run. Had this been shortened up, I would be giving it a much better rating. This felt like a GHC title match on a smaller scale. ***

Rich Kraetsch: This took a little to get going but once it did, wow, was this something else. Gallagher has been doing far less of his matwork offense and in its stead is Gallagher turning into peak-ROH/2002 Paul London, taking sickening bumps and eliciting “Please Don’t Die” chants. There were at least two or three points in this match I was convinced Gallagher had been legitimately knocked out… this, of course, was before he channelled his inner-Shibata and hit two standing headbutts. This match still did suffer from WWE’s necessity in having each cruiserweight match be overly long and feature boring, mundane rest hold portions but hey, that finish more than made up for any early match complaints. This ruled. ***½

Roman Reigns def. Bruan Strowman

JR Goldberg: Roman Reigns is like, Bo Dallas levels of wet at the start of this. Roman doesn’t always rassle in basketball shoes, does he? Have I just never noticed? I feel like I could have noticed. If he has, it’s a good reason why the drive by kick has never pinned anyone. It’s interesting how vulnerable Braun has looked facially in this match in comparison to many of his other fights. I have to think it’s a choice, and if it is, it is one designed to make Roman seem like a truly huge deal, a wrestler that worries Braun. This match has done something really interesting, which is Braun’s size is an active detriment in some way, because he is so big if he misses a move, he inevitably hits a ring post or something like that. That being said, it’s not interesting enough to justify Braun losing clean here, even if he was in some way hoisted by his own petard. I don’t see the value in it. The match itself was fine good even, but the finish marred it. Why not just do this at Wrestlemania if this is the eventual outcome?

Kelly Harrass: I didn’t realize until just this moment that this show is full of matches that hinge on a wrestler overcoming a monster. Themes! That being said, I feel like I need to make the comparison that everyone is expecting; this was not as good as the match that Strowman had against Big Show on Raw a few weeks ago. This match wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very good either and I found myself falling asleep near the ending. They spent so much time building Braun as the unstoppable monster, but when he is finally stopped, it didn’t feel like a big moment. That is easily the biggest failing of this match. Who benefits from this victory? Roman certainly didn’t need this win at this very moment. You can’t put this moment back in the bottle. It happened and it’s gone. Sorry Braun, this could have been the first big moment you were a part of. Instead, it was just a match. **½

Rich Kraetsch: Agents play such a vital role in WWE. In the case of this match, they could have made it something unique and a big moment for both Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns. Don’t get me wrong, in a vacuum this was a great brawl with a ton of really cool, innovative spots. However on a show that featured two other “big men hitting each other with strong looking moves” matches. Yeah, this was the best of the three no doubt but it didn’t feel unique or fresh on this night and that’s a shame. In the end, Braun was built to put over Roman, clean as a whistle. We shouldn’t be surprised as this has been the WWE M.O. for years now. Reigns may not be the champion right now and he may not be the most pushed act at all times but make no question, he’s one of the most protected and he’s still a central focus for the creative team. As far as Braun, let’s hope they don’t lose focus as Braun can still be one of WWE’s pillars and these last few months were proof positive. **3/4

WWE Raw Women’s Championship
Bayley © def. Charlotte

JR Goldberg: In case you didn’t know I was a huge nerd before this, Charlotte’s robe makes her look like The Lady of Pain from the 1994 Dungeons and Dragons setting Planescape. Bayley is dressed like a the pro wrestler equivalent of someone who designed their own costume for a summer stock production of “Godspell”. While I think some of the work in this was fine, I’m not sure who the narrative is supposed to help. I don’t think the faces came across like heels or anything, but I’m just not sure who this helps. It’s kind of like the last match. The WWE invested so much time and energy in something that would make for a perfect Wrestlemania blow off, but they’ve decided that tonight was the better night to finish off something. It just seems bizarre.

Kelly Harrass: The story going into this match is very odd. Charlotte is justified in her anger at losing the title and Bayley comes off very badly for needing help to win the title. Then there’s Charlotte’s disdain for Bayley growing up as a fan of wrestling and still finding success while Charlotte was destined for the business and would have been looked down upon if she wasn’t a champion. That on its own is a very compelling story, but they felt the need to muddy it with the way that Bayley won the title. While they had the pieces they needed to put together a solid match, what we got was an idiotic mess when it comes to booking. Once again Bayley, the beloved babyface, was only able to win the match with the help of Sasha Banks. Not only did Bayley have to win with help, her victory broke the PPV victory streak of Charlotte. Like Strowman’s loss, this was another moment that was completely squandered. The booking was trash, plain and simple. I would like to say that the in-ring saved this, but it didn’t. At best this was fine. At worst, this was horrible storytelling. *

Rich Kraetsch: What the hell? Charlotte’s PPV streak ended and it ended because Bayley received help from an interfering Sasha Banks. If the goal was to turn Bayley and Sasha Banks heel and make Charlotte the sympathetic babyface, then mission accomplished. I know the goal is to build towards the four-way but this was all the way wrong. Charlotte got beat because Bayley had the help of Sasha Banks. That’s the wrong storytelling for any babyface but is particularly egregious when done with the Bayley character. The takeaway from this match if you didn’t know the history would be Bayley and Sasha as cheaters and Charlotte as a sympathetic underdog. That’s all kinds of wrong. The match was fine but the shitty finish and nonsensical booking made it impossible to enjoy it in full. **

WWE Universal Championship
Goldberg def. Kevin Owens ©

JR Goldberg: *******

Kelly Harrass: Goddammit. I would have been happier with Goldberg winning clean. Instead we got another match where the babyface won with the help of interference. Some superhero you are, Bill. Enjoy your kingdom of trash. DUD

Rich Kraetsch: Garbage. Absolute garbage. If you want Goldberg to win, have him win. This was meant to “protect” Owens but all it did was make him look like a clown. In turn, you made Goldberg’s big title win look pedestrian and cheap when it should have been a great moment. My wife turned to me after this match and said “You made me wait three hours for that?” Preaching to the choir, honey. DUD