By Matt Straub and Brad Carroll
The WWE’s February Pay-Per-View, currently called Fastlane, can go one of two ways. The show is always going to set up WrestleMania, but it can do so by either delivering an incredibly predictable show in years where the “Granddaddy of them all” has a card which seems preordained, or it can bring us some surprises which are welcome and create something fresh and exciting for the company’s biggest show of the year.
In years where it’s a placeholder, Fastlane can be a miserable show. You know who’s fighting at WrestleMania, making the card feel like the scenes in a movie you fast forward through in order to get to the good part. In years where the card seems wide open, it can be the surprising twist in the middle of the movie which sets up an end you didn’t see coming.
Unfortunately, this year’s show seems to fall in the first category. While some of the undercard for WrestleMania isn’t set yet, we know what the main event is going to be. Granted WWE doesn’t have a lot of options with all the injuries to the roster, but the decision to have Roman Reigns go over at WrestleMania seems to have been made long ago, and WWE wants him to beat a big star, which is why Triple H is currently the champion. The hope is Roman gets some respect for beating The Game in Dallas. The hope should be that the fans don’t burn down AT&T Stadium when he does.
Of course, there’s two months for WWE to change their minds, so nothing is set in stone. With that in mind, let’s see if there are any surprises waiting for us tonight.
United States Champion Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio
Matt’s Breakdown and Pick: Hey, let’s take the match which should get the most time and feature the best actual wrestling and put it on when no one is watching before the show even starts! I’m not big on Kalisto, but sticking this match here is a travesty, especially considering another match on the real card we’ll get to in a bit. Considering how little time this will get, it will be a quick fall each, then a dramatic finish. I’m taking Del Rio because I think it would be a shame to waste him. On a side note, remember when WWE seemed to be on to something with a heel group for the first time in a while with the League of Nations?
Brad's Breakdown and Pick: I'm surprised Matt is excited for this match, because it doesn't do anything for me. Two out of three falls? Why? Is it to end this "feud" in one big way in big big swoop? I'm guessing that's the case, and therefore, Del Rio wins and Kalisto goes back to being part of a tag team jobber group good for a couple of good spots in a match and not much else.
AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho
att’s Breakdown and Pick: This seems like a good opener to the show, a relatively meaningless match but one which might get the crowd going from the start. It was a bad idea to turn this into a series, however. Styles came in with some hype and had a chance to be built rather quickly. Instead, they mired him in a busy feud with a part-timer. Yes, Y2J was once great, but he’s not a credible opponent anymore, so having him beat Styles once already was silly. Having him win twice would be fatal to Styles’ push. They can’t do that. Styles wins and moves on to something better.
Brad's Breakdown and Pick: It's sad to see what has become of Chris Jericho, from one of the biggest stars on the WWE roster to the "soccer mom" look he has now. I think he spends more time sucking in his gut and puffing out his chest, to make him look in better shape than he is, than actual wrestling nowadays. AJ Styles has a great theme song and entrance, but he's been boring since the Royal Rumble. He should be the guy the WWE lets wrestle big matches and have him win over the crowd with his ability. He's not going to be the big talker guy, so have him impress in other ways. For this match, Jericho needs to stop wrestling and Styles needs to win, otherwise why have him in a WWE ring at all?
Ryback, Big Show & Kane
vs. The Wyatt Family
Matt’s Breakdown and Pick: This could be the opener as well if WWE wants people to come down from the IC title match before getting back up. Trying to guess where this goes on the card is the only interesting part of this match. I like big guys more than a lot of fans these days, but this match is just stupid. Kane and Big Show are two old hands who get some money, which is good. The Wyatt Family gets a match they’ll probably win for a change, which is also good. There are no other reasons to be happy about this. None. The Wyatts win a match we all hope is quick.
Brad's Breakdown and Pick: This is pointless. Wyatts win. Nobody cares.
The New Day to appear on 'The Cutting Edge Peep Show'
Matt’s Breakdown and Pick: I can only think of two reasons to put this on a PPV. It’s a vehicle to promote E and C’s new show on WWE network, or it’s a way to get the Dudleys and Usos in the ring to feud with the New Day. While I like the Dudleys in their new heel badass role, neither of those scenarios is terribly appealing. At least the first scenario would be funny, but all of this is just taking time away from actual wrestling. If it’s allowed to be a comedy bit, it could be good, if useless. If it starts a new feud while being funny, that won’t seem like as much of a waste.
Brad's Breakdown and Pick: There's only one reason this is taking place, and that's to hype Edge and Christain's new show. That's it. It's going to be stupid, maybe funny, but more stupid. The tag team division is pretty terrible right now, with New Day being great and everyone else played out and stale.
Becky Lynch & Sasha Banks vs. Naomi & Tamina
Matt’s Breakdown and Pick: It’s about to be Sasha’s time finally, but we have to get through two lousy matches first. This seems to be leading to a Becky vs. Sasha feud, which would be fine. The changing of the guard is happening on the women’s side, even if it took much longer than it seemed like it would when the “revolution” happened. The heels win when Becky and Sasha implode, setting up their match and giving the heels a win to build off.
Brad's Breakdown and Pick: This PPV doesn't have much chance of being good, and this match is another point to that. I actually believe Becky and Sasha are great in the ring, but again, we have a weird tag team match that makes no sense. I guess they are trying to hard the bad women's wrestlers, but (wo)man, just make it Becky vs Sasha. It's too bad, though, that one of the two, likely Becky, will lose and have zero momentum going forward.
Divas Champion Charlotte vs. Brie Bella
Matt’s Breakdown and Pick: Which leads us to the important changing of the guard match. By all accounts Brie is leaving WWE at some point between now and the summer. It doesn’t make much sense then, especially with a bunch of new blood to push, to have Brie win here. The problem is, there are several nonsensical reasons for Brie to win. First, they want to build off Daniel Bryan’s retirement for as long as they can, and having Brie win as an underdog would harken back to her husband, allowing WWE to say his name as often as possible. It also gives them an excuse to have Bryan show up if they want (or if he wants). Finally, Total Divas is still a thing, and WWE often seems like the Divas division exists only to push the TV show. Still, Charlotte has a good angle going and has to win here. I think. I could see WWE screwing this up, however.
Brad's Breakdown and Pick: I was actually shocked when I saw Brie Bella was getting the title shot in this match. For all of the building the WWE is doing for the Divas division and Brie Bella gets the title shot? It's pretty comical. But I guess we can all cheer (ha) when Brie yells "Brie Mode" and does something stupid in the ring. I saw this on Twitter and it was great ... those that watch Total Divas know this, but for others, "Brie Mode" is the term for when the Bella twin gets extremely drunk and goes wild out on the town. That's a great thing to advertise on a shirt for all the wrestling fans out there, WWE. Charlotte wins.
Intercontinental Champion Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler
Matt’s Breakdown and Pick: Speaking of things WWE could screw up, how about Kevin Owens’ career? There’s nothing wrong with being the IC champ, and I like that Owens has something kind of important going evne though he’s not in the title picture. And this has been a really good feud with Ziggler recently. The two have the chance to have the best match on the main show. In fact, I’d be shocked if they didn’t. Owens, however, needs this win. He has places to go and things to do, while Ziggler is destined to be the “other guy” in most feuds. An Owens loss here is a big road block for his push. And it wouldn’t even be John Cena’s fault. WWE avoids a bad move, however, and Owens wins.
Brad's Breakdown and Pick: Hey, look, Dolph Ziggler is getting a title shot. Ziggler used to have some juice behind him, but now he's just old and nobody cares. It's so bad, he's making himself a character on the Total Divas show. Kevin Owens was so hot with the John Cena feud, the WWE could have done anything with his character and everyone would have bought it. Unfortunately, they chose to bury the character, which was the one thing they shouldn't have done. But this is why the WWE isn't a very good product anymore. They don't even know what they have in a talent. Owens wins, though, and he'll keep the secondary title for a while. Ziggler can go back to Total Divas.
Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar
(Triple Threat Match to determine Triple H's opponent at WrestleMania)
Matt’s Breakdown and Pick: Ok, the pick is easy. If they pull the plug on Reigns on a night where everyone expects him to win, he’s done as a main eventer. That likely won’t happen with Mania needing a marquee match without Cena or Seth Rollins, or even Randy Orton, to take the title from Triple H. So let’s figure out how this goes down. Here’s what we know: All the dirt sheets have Lesnar facing one of the Wyatts at Wrestlemania in Vince McMahon’s dream match. All signs point to Reigns winning. Ambrose will need something to do for Wrestlemania after this match, but it isn’t time to turn him on Roman yet if they aren’t going to fight at Mania. Lesnar needs to look strong, so I think he’ll have the match won before a Wyatt interferes to cost him the match. Reigns should then get a fluke win over Ambrose, giving cause for them to fight again on a future Raw (there is, after all, more than a month between now and Mania.) Lesnar will turn his focus on the Wyatts, but will also want another shot at the title, and could be involved in the typical “if Wrestler x loses tonight he’s no longer in the main event at Wrestlemania matches”. Reigns will probably be defending his spot in the big show for the next few weeks, but I can’t see him not getting it. This would be a fun time for a swerve, I just don’t see it coming. This year, the Fastlane seems like a straight trip to Texas.
Brad's Breakdown and Pick: The Straub idea of how to eliminate Brock Lesnar from the match makes complete sense and I wouldn't be surprised at all if that indeed does happen. In fact, it probably will, cause the WWE likes to insult everyone's intelligence. If that does happen, then yes, Roman Reigns wins and goes to WrestleMania and wins the world title. Which would make for two terrible endings to two straight PPV's, including the biggest one of the year. I don't get that at all, but we all know the fast track Reigns is on to rule the WWE. OK, you can stop snickering now, I know it's hilarious to think of Reigns in that way, but Vince McMahon believes it, and that's all that matters in this world. For Dean Ambrose, he has no shot, or shouldn't have a shot. I still don't get why the fans like him, he's boring and contrary to what everyone thinks, he doesn't even have a legit gimmick. He's crazy? Or on the fring of being crazy? You know what someone is when they are on the fring of being crazy or a lunatic? Not crazy and not a lunatic. And what makes him as such anyway? He's a secondary guy at best. It's not worth going into what Reigns is and isn't anymore, cause you can read all of our past columns, they don't change, because Reigns hasn't gotten better. The only thing I'll say is this ... if you're the WWE what do you want on the marquee for WrestleMania: Triple H vs. Roman Reigns ... or Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar. The latter it is, so Lesnar wins.