WWE Fastlane 2018
March 11, 2018
Watch: WWE Network
Meet our previewers:
- Lawson Leong: Stand up comedian, writer, podcaster and lariat enthusiast. Writes the “Match of the Month” column on this very site. Co-host of the “Talking Smark” podcast, and has a $1 comedy special available at lawsonleong.com/nice-to-meet-you-comedy-special. View Lawson’s archives at voicesofwrestling.com.
- Andrew Sinclair: VOW’s resident Impact aficionado, returning to his other regular gig of WWE previews after being waylaid by the Christian Right and Wilhelm II before Elimination Chamber. For lukewarm takes on wrestling, British sport and student journalism, follow along on Twitter at @AMSinclair97. View Andrew’s archives at voicesofwrestling.com.
- Jeff Martin: Cartoonist, occasionally of wrasslin’ comics. Speaking of which, until WrestleMania, you can grab some wrasslin’ comics (specifically Wrestlemon and Kayfabe 2) at 20% off! Hit up my store, no discount code needed. Also, @HEATcomic on Twitter, where I’m probably talking about 205 Live being really good now. View Jeff’s archives at voicesofwrestling.com.
Naomi & Becky Lynch vs Natalya & Carmella
Lawson Leong: What the hell, let’s have a match just for funsies! Even my undying love and support for Becky Lynch can’t get me into this. Because what happens afterwards? Nothing. No stakes, no consequence, no buys. Prediction: Becky & Naomi
Andrew Sinclair: They really don’t care about these cards anymore do they? That might sound unfair on the women, it’s not meant to, but this card is the laziest booked since the second brand split. There’s no real beef here, it’s just a case of them needing to fill out a show which was already limited. Anyway, given my thoughts for later on in the show, I suspect the faces win here, with Becky pinning Carmella. Prediction: Becky & Naomi
Jeff Martin: I mean, they needed to put SOMETHING on the undercard, right? Hot take, and something to think about for the remainder of this preview: is Road Dogg the worst show-runner/head writer ever? I haven’t watched every episode of TV WWE has produced, but I think there’s a pretty strong argument to be made that Road Dogg is the worst show-runner in WWE’s history. Since he took over, Smackdown drifts aimlessly with lazy retreads of RAW storylines and rushed, clunky garbage. Becky Lynch is one of the many naturally likeable babyfaces that’s just kinda there, and that makes me sad. Prediction: Becky & Naomi
Rusev vs Shinsuke Nakamura
Lawson Leong: This dynamic is terrible. Your Royal Rumble winning babyface that you’re trying to heat up for Wrestlemania is taking on the groundswell supported super entertaining midcard people’s chosen babyface. It’s like WWE books things to spite their fans. At least this match gave us Nakamura singing, “Nakamura Day” in what was undoubtedly the 2nd best thing he’s done since coming to the main roster. This match could be good but again, the dynamic makes no sense. Rusev better win the battle royal gimmick at Mania. Prediction: Nakamura Dayyyyyyy
Andrew Sinclair: More insipid booking! Ok, in fairness there’s a bit more build to this. Nakamura supposedly injured Aiden English (who’s been great since being paired up with Rusev) two weeks ago, so the pride of Bulgaria is trying to defend his mate’s honour. It’s simple, gives Nakamura something to do and gets Rusev on the show. It’s a shame though, because Rusev should be so much more on this show. He’s great in the ring, he’s so over with the fans and could work well with anyone. Why not put him in the match with Roode and have Nakamura face Orton instead? Anyway, this has the chance to be Nakamura’s best main roster match to date, even if the outcome isn’t in any doubt. Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura
Jeff Martin: I hope there’s an unannounced stipulation that if Nakamura loses, he has to sing Rusev’s introductions until Aiden English gets his voice back. What? There’s no chance Nakamura loses? Well, at least this should be an entertaining match. Even if Nak dogs it, Rusev is good enough and so over that there should be some fun to be had. Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura
WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship
Charlotte Flair © vs. Ruby Riott
Lawson Leong: The Riott squad has been ice cold and dead in the water for awhile now. Becky Lynch coming back and just unceremoniously beating Ruby hasn’t helped. It also hasn’t helped that they’re a copycat from a RAW angle from the same week. All that negativity aside, this could end up being the dark horse match of the night. Ruby’s really good and hasn’t gotten the chance to really show that on the main roster yet. Charlotte can be great with the right opponent, so let’s just hope these two have chemistry. The outcome is not at all in question, so if they can pop me with some good nearfalls it’ll be a job well done. I expect Asuka to come out afterwards. Prediction: Charlotte Flair
Andrew Sinclair: I’m not going to lie, Lawson’s mention of Asuka has completely thrown me off and now I can’t get that match out of my head. That said, I’ll chuck out my attempt to process Road Dogg’s logic for your reading pleasure.
To my mind there’s almost certainly no way both brands get a women’s singles match at Wrestlemania, and there’s no obvious opponent on Smackdown for Charlotte to face. I see Becky tapping Carmella out in the tag match, leaving The Princess of Staten Island supposedly injured. I then see Ruby sneaking a win over Charlotte, only for Carmella to then cash in on the newly crowned champion. That sets up a triple threat for Wrestlemania, and then they’ll parlay Becky’s consecutive wins over Carmella to make it a four-way. I’ll follow that logic through and pick Ruby, although the self-doubt is eating away at me. Prediction: Carmella, by way of Ruby Riot.
Jeff Martin: As mentioned above, if Charlotte and Ruby end up having good chemistry, this could be really good. This is the definition of a placeholder title defence, and while I’d love for something bonkers like Andrew outlined to happen to spice this up, I wouldn’t hold my breath. This match would have been helped a lot if the Riott Squad didn’t lose pretty much every confrontation they’ve been in since their initial debut. Preview Prediction: Charlotte Flair
WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The Usos © vs. The New Day
Lawson Leong: My new gimmick is over confidently saying The Usos are the greatest tag team in WWE history. I haven’t truly done the research to say for sure, but lately I haven’t felt wrong. Smackdown has been The Usos’ show as of late; they’re the only consistently great thing on it. Even having wacky graphics like prison bars during their promo segments can’t stop their momentum. The New Day may be their greatest opponents. I’m getting tired of this match but these teams are so good I am down for one more. And I’m more than ready for The Usos to finally get their Wrestlemania main card match. Even if it leads to them getting bludgeoned. Prediction: The greatest tag team in WWE history, The Usos
Andrew Sinclair: This match initially provoked the return of Grouchy Andrew. I love the chemistry that these two teams have, but pairing them off feels like a waste. I’ve said it before, but I’d love to see Big E go on a singles run and let New Day breathe a bit, but this should easily be match of the night. The Usos have been fantastic for over a year and as Lawson said, they deserve their big Wrestlemania match this year. The Bludgeon Brothers’ push in the background has really petered out recently, but I feel that’s the direction they need to take and that means the Usos knocking off their old rivals again here. Could the New Day be the ones to answer The Bar’s Open Challenge at Wrestlemania? Prediction: The Uso Penitentiary
Jeff Martin: Why are any of the matches on this card happening? Why are the New Day challenging for the tag titles for no reason? Where did the Bludgeon Brothers go? These are all questions that I ignore as soon as the Usos start cutting a promo, because they’re the most compelling act on Smackdown. This show is kinda hard to preview, because most of these matches will probably be pretty good, but the booking makes me wonder if ol’ Roadie knew there was a pay-per-view before last week. Preview Prediction: The Usos, sans sobriquet
WWE United States Championship
Bobby Roode © vs. Randy Orton
Lawson Leong: I am in disbelief they did not add Jinder Mahal to this match. Then I realized that I’m still not really excited about this anyway. Randy Orton has got to be the greatest boring wrestler of this era. This dude needs to evolve. Roode has been fine but not great since his debut, and the impetus for this whole story is one of the lamest new gimmicks WWE’s put out there: The top 10 list. Which so far, has only led to this one storyline and had nothing to do with “title opportunities”. In fact, the story was that Orton was 9th on the list, and yet he IS the one receiving a title match. Orton is a guy they should be using now to bolster midcard titles and “younger talent”, so of course he may just beat the new guy clean in the middle with his move. I actually don’t expect that, though. Prediction: DQ due to Mahal interference
Andrew Sinclair: Chinlocks at the ready ladies and gentlemen! I sit here typing this with the nagging doubts in the back of my mind that Jinder Mahal gets added. No one wants to see it, but he is like the proverbial bad penny, he just won’t go away! As a singles contest this really does nothing for me, despite the fact Bobby holds a special place in my heart for his time in Impact. Randy seems even more unenthused than normal, and I dread to think what they’re planning for this belt at Wrestlemania. I have a feeling we might get a ladder match, involving any six of the following: Roode, Orton, Corbin, Rusev, Woods, Kingston, Big E, Mahal and Rawley. As such the winner here doesn’t matter too much but it makes no sense to take the belt off Roode just yet. I think. Prediction: Bobby Roode
Jeff Martin: This preview document is how I learned that Jinder Mahal isn’t in this match, which makes no sense at all. This match will likely be suuuuuper boring, so let’s talk about that top 10 list. They did the weekly list one time, and only three wrestlers have acknowledged it beyond that episode. Did Vince find out they were doing a ranking and scream until he peed a little? That must have been what happened. Preview Prediction: Jinder Mahal interferes and it’s the most excited anyone has been to see Jinder Mahal
AJ Styles © vs. John Cena vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler
Lawson Leong: The fact that this isn’t elimination style is ludicrously dumb. The idea that we’re deciding who is going into Wrestlemania as WWE champion, representing all of Smackdown, via a 6 person clusterfuck is absolutely nuts. This company does things like this so often that people just kind of accept it now. But it sucks. It’s no way to determine who the best wrestler is. If it was elimination, at the very least there’d be a story you can tell and some semblance of a food chain. I look at the talent in this match and I feel like it’s being wasted all shoved together like this. Can this even be good? How many pinfalls will be broken up? How soon will that get old? And the outcome is not even in any real doubt. Prediction: AJ Styles
Andrew Sinclair: And thus we come to the end of the split brand PPVs. It’s quite ironic really, as these multi-mans are a microcosm for where it’s gone wrong. The company’s constant drive for 50/50 booking means it’s very hard to establish a hierarchy and then you get big sloppy messes like this. There’s no sense of a champion defending his belt against a top contender, because everyone’s the top contender! Smackdown is the land of opportunity!
Baloney! Seriously though, this match frustrates me so much. The absence of eliminations means it’s going to last an age, be full of interrupted pinfalls and lack any flow. It also has the chance to devolve into little more than storytelling ahead of Wrestlemania. Corbin is the odd one out here and presumably drops back into the US Title scene, or enters the Battle Royal. Zayn and Owens look destined to turn on each other again and have another match in their great feud at Wrestlemania. Cena lacks a match and that worries me that he might win, but I also have enough blind faith to assume Styles/Nakamura is the ultimate direction. With that in mind, and Ziggler’s recently signing a new and improved contract, I suspect Cena/Ziggler square off in a defacto No #1 Contender’s match at WM, meaning that AJ wins by process of elimination, which is incredibly sad. Prediction: AJ Styles
Jeff Martin: I feel like the booking has been appropriately shamed by my cohorts, but let’s also note that part of the reason this match is a narrative garbage fire is that Smackdowns’ primary angle for the last several months has been tensions between Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon, who cannot wrestle each other. Nor can Shane take on Owens or Zayn and have it be interesting, because they did the blow-off match at Hell In A Cell, halfway through the feud. I wish I was friends with Triple H so I could be in charge of a TV show. Preview Prediction: AJ Styles