WWE Fastlane 2019
March 10, 2019
Quicken Loans Arena
Cleveland, Ohio

Watch: WWE Network

Meet our Previewer

Barry Hess: Voices of Wrestling contributor. Bautista definitely has his attention now. Follow him on Twitter @BFHess171

Pre-Show
Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade

It took me like two years to figure out how to say Andrade ‘Cein’ Almas without stuttering or getting confused, and just when I get there they change his name to simply, Andrade. Damnit. I feel like we don’t get nearly as many of these sort of isolated midcard feuds as we used to; everything has to have some sort of larger narrative associated with it anymore. These two guys simply don’t like each other so they have matches to settle their differences. Each match has been different from the last and all their encounters have been entertaining so I don’t see any reason why this one should be any different.

With that said, I’ve really had enough with these pre-show matches. I almost never watch the pre-show and when I do it’s usually within the last five minutes before the actual event begins. Any matches relegated to the pre-show automatically feel like glorified dark matches; if it’s not important enough to be included in a three, four or five-hourthenw than why in the world would I care? I’m just a fan so I could care less about who’s able to get a payday for being on the show. I can understand doing a pre-show for the big four events, it’s a nice touch to make those events standout. Just keep the wrestling on the main show. WWE has established that the pre-show has no consequences attached to it. I know this because I’m never punished for not watching; I never miss out on a big development or a game-changing match. So why bother? Although based on the TV the last few weeks, RAW specifically, I’m starting to believe the day will eventually come where we have to tune into the pre-show to find out the card for the actual event. Prediction: Andrade

WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The Usos © vs. The Miz & Shane McMahon

I’ve seen all I need to see from these four in terms of a wrestling match. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the previous match at Elimination Chamber, but this match is more of a story advancement device than anything else. I still think we’re getting a Miz vs. Shane McMahon match at WrestleMania 35 (despite Shane’s inability to not turn purple while sharing the load in a tag team match) and I think this match will finally make that clear. I’ve been imagining what Shane turning on Miz would look like since these two began teaming. In addition to being a nice little swerve, I’d be genuinely interested in seeing what an all-out babyface run for Miz would look like. Based on what I’ve seen on the Miz & Mrs. program, Miz is a really likable guy with a certain charm I think could translate into a compelling babyface character. As it stands, Miz is playing a heel character that’s trying really hard to be a babyface with mixed results. My desire for a hero-like Miz notwithstanding, the story has been building in a manner that will ultimately lead to Miz turning on Shane and reverting back to his heelish ways. Shane carried the match where they won the titles, Miz lost them and then couldn’t help but have a hissy fit afterward. I’ve really enjoyed this slow build of a story thus far. The character work has been great, the week to week segments have all hit the right notes, stayed in their lane and it hasn’t really negatively impacted the SmackDown Live Tag Team titles or overshadowed the tag team division as a whole. Solid storytelling all around and I hope it continues. Prediction: The Usos

WWE Raw Tag Team Championship
The Revival © vs. Aleister Black & Ricochet vs. Chad Gable & Bobby Roode

The most interesting aspect of this match for me will be how much time these teams get to work. The RAW tag team division is starting to feel a bit like the Cruiserweight Division from the old WCW Monday Nitro days; compact matches short on story and big on high spots. I guess that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world compared to what the RAW tag division has been the last few years, but it’s still uninspired storytelling in my view. If this match gets 7-10 minutes it will be fun, but meaningless. If this is allowed to go 15-20 minutes, something that more closely resembles a TakeOver match,  it may very well be a match of the night contender. Aleister Black and Ricochet are an odd pairing for me. Both are incredible performers capable of amazing feats of athleticism, but that alone doesn’t really make for compelling chemistry. Black is being portrayed as the brooding loner who is different because he’s covered in tattoos. Ricochet is the small town kid who wowed his way to the big time with his amazing aerial arsenal. Not exactly the type of creative symmetry I look for in a compelling tag team. Gable and Roode turned a corner for me in recent weeks. I wasn’t big on the pairing at all (mostly because WWE didn’t really give me much of a reason to be) but they’ve grown on me. We all know what The Revival is capable of doing and to date, they haven’t been allowed to show it. Putting the titles on them and hoping they shut up and fall in line isn’t really your strategy is it, Vince? Oh, it is? Ok then. Prediction: The Revival



WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship
Asuka © vs. Mandy Rose

This is the latest example of why the brand split concept is so misguided and detrimental to the promotion’s roster. Forget the fact that Mandy Rose is competing for the SmackDown Women’s Championship, it’s a meaningless aspect of the point I’m about to make. When there are two separate but equal championships one title will always outshine the other, whether by design or otherwise. Whoever holds the lesser of the titles becomes inconsequential by default. Sure, you get periods where both titles may have strong champions and compelling stories, but those periods are few and far between and all roads will always lead back to one outshining the other. If Asuka was wrestling Charlotte instead of Mandy she’d still be compared against Ronda Rousey or Becky Lynch. It’s inevitable and it doesn’t help anyone. I have never been an advocate for brand splits and I never will. Prediction: Asuka

WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship
The Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection vs. Nia Jax & Tamina

So we’re actually going to get a tag team match in the women’s tag team division? Awesome. For the past few weeks, I felt like Dr. Ian Malcolm sarcastically knocking on the camera and asking if there are any actual dinosaurs on the dinosaur tours in Jurassic Park. I was of the mindset that Nia and Tamina should have won the Elimination Chamber match to become the champions and allow Sasha and Bayley to go on the chase that culminates at WrestleMania 35. In hindsight, this was the much better creative choice. The titles needed to feel like a really big deal and that was an aspect of the booking that I underestimated in my Elimination Chamber preview. Sasha and Bayley look like they have new life now that they are doing something they can actually sink their teeth into. Allowing the titles to cross over all brands was a nice touch; something that brings added cachet to the titles makes the title holders strong and gives me a reason to stay current on all brands (everything the brand split is not).

I suppose Nia and Tamina could win the titles here and you could still set up a story that has the bayfaces chasing going into WrestleMania 35, but it feels like something bigger may be in the cards. I hope so. From all accounts, Nia Jax is a lovely person and that’s great. Unfortunately, she’s a terrible performer who has displayed absolutely no ability to improve any aspect of her work. Her promos range between completely disingenuous and strikingly self-aware while her in ring prowess has been well documented at this point. And she’s the better of the two in her team. Prediction: The Boss n’ Hug Connection

WWE Championship
Daniel Bryan © vs. Kevin Owens

Well this was certainly an interesting turn of events. Kevin Owens has been my favorite performer across the entire pro wrestling universe for the last three or four years so I’m definitely happy to see him back. All things considered, I’m very excited to see these two work together; my expectations are high (higher than they should be for reasons I’ll discuss in a moment). Taking the story of how this match came to be into consideration I’m a bit less thrilled. If the idea is to repackage Owens as an everyman-type babyface you don’t do him any favors by giving him a fast track to a championship match, especially one that includes screwing over a fellow babyface. If the idea is to swerve the audience and have Owens join Bryan then this is even worse. There’s nothing more nonsensical than when babyface wrestles a full match against a heel only to turn at the last minute to form an alliance. Perhaps Sami Zayn returns and gets involved in this angle? Does Kofi get involved? There are a lot of open questions right now and I’m willing to let this play out a bit more until I render further judgment. With so much story to tell I think the odds of a work rate driven match decrease significantly.

One of the most consistent criticisms of the WWE product over the last decade or so has been the promotion’s stubborn refusal to listen to its audience. I’m certainly not here to argue against that very fair criticism, however, I’m starting to think this Kofi Kingston situation is an instance where the promotion has gone too far in the other direction. Selecting Kingston as Mustafa Ali’s replacement was a wise booking choice, it created exactly the kind of reaction you’d want and it added an extra layer into an otherwise routine story. But the story’s logical end should have come at Elimination Chamber. We’ve now reached that all too familiar point of the bell curve where the rule of diminishing returns goes into effect. Given the choice between a returning Kevin Owens or Kofi Kingston, there is no doubt in my mind that Owens is the more valuable commodity. Now we have a scenario where the audience is forced into a split loyalty situation that only diminishes both performers. Or worse yet, a looming heel turn that just convaludes the story altogether. Prediction: Daniel Bryan





The Shield vs. Baron Corbin, Drew McIntyre & Bobby Lashley

From strictly a creative point of view there is so much wrong with this match and the story that came before it. But I’ve decided that none of that really matters at this point. Pro wrestling has the unique ability to insert reality into a fictional story in a way that most other storytelling mediums simply cannot do in a way that is appealing to the audience. This is one of those unique situations (I hope). WWE has made several attempts at a Shield reunification angle but has been thwarted by unforeseen circumstances at every turn (remember Shield Kurt Angle?) Now we have a situation where Dean Ambrose is leaving and Roman Reigns, after a scary battle with leukemia, has made a triumphant return to the promotion. Everyone knows the score. This is it. The Shield is arguably the most successful WWE faction of the last 20 years, and just like a great band preparing to splinter into different directions, the audience wants that farewell concert. So let’s play all the hits, remember why it was we all loved The Shield in the first place and get that iconic shot of the three hounds of justice one last time. If that’s what this is then it should be a very fun and memorable match. No last minute swerves, no WrestleMania 35 angles, no silly booking that has the heels steal a cheap win that won’t mean anything before the event even goes off the air. Let us celebrate The Shield one last time and then we can all move on. Prediction: The Shield

Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair

Two months ago nobody wanted Charlotte inserted into the RAW Women’s Championship match at WrestleMania. Everyone wanted to see Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey one-on-one in the main event. Last week the audience was chanting ‘Triple Threat’ on RAW. In just a few short weeks WWE had done the impossible, they managed to manipulate the audience in such a way that made people want something they originally didn’t want. Absolutely brilliant, grade A manipulation. But then this week happened. Ugh. This story is becoming too convoluted for me, and if you didn’t know it already my threshold for convoluted storytelling is considerably higher than just about anyone else here at Voices of Wrestling. WrestleMania 35 needs to get here already before this gets completely out of control. Prediction: Becky Lynch