By Matt Straub and Brad Carroll
The biggest thing in wrestling right now is the announcement that Brad and I are going to Money in the Bank live, gracing the WWE with our wisdom in person, but WrestleMania is a close second. Other than a few weeks of TV, which will mostly be people pointing at the sign, Fastlane is the last big chance for WrestleMania storylines to get advanced. Usually WWE misses this opportunity and Fastlane is a total filler show, but this Sunday’s event has a chance to actually be meaningful, and there could be a couple of good matches along the way.
There’s actually a lot to get to, so let’s break down a card which is incredibly top heavy, but might feature plenty of good stuff near the end. Fortunately for you, we’ll preview the important stuff first instead of making you wait like the show will.
Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch (If Becky wins, she gets added to Raw Women’s Title Match at WrestleMania)
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: I’ll give WWE credit here. They’ve given us plenty of intrigue heading into a match in which we all know the outcome. If you’re going to give us the most predictable match of the year, at least give us an interesting way to get there, which WWE has done with this. We’ve known for nearly a year that Charlotte and Ronda Rousey were going to main event WrestleMania. We’ve known for months the WWE Universe was going to force the company to put Becky Lynch into the match. Through all of it, however, we’ve been given several twists and turns on the road to MetLife Stadium, which has been a fun ride. This match, the final piece of the puzzle, is no exception. This is also where we run into our first real problem with the feud. If Becky is as hurt as she has been made out to be, she can’t really beat Charlotte and have it be believable. Not in a regular match, anyway. Becky popping into the Royal Rumble barely worked from a believability standpoint, and that was just a couple of minutes in the ring, with other people involved, and several injuries ago. If Becky is going to win this match, it’s going to have to be with a sudden arm bar or a fluke rollup. If she wins a long match on one leg against arguably the greatest women’s wrestler of this generation, it’s going to kill everything around the angle, including Becky’s underdog story, which is why she got here. It will also make everything Hulk Hogan did pale in comparison. The suspense now comes in how we get to Becky’s win. There has to be interference, which means Rousey. My pick is Rousey shows up and hits Becky, causing a DQ and giving Lynch the win. It keeps everyone strong and sets up the match the fans want, even if it’s only going to give them heartbreak next month. As always, Charlotte was used as one of the main faces of the company at WWE’s press event announcing Tampa as next year’s Mania host. As always, Charlotte was used for all the mainstream media appearances promoting Fastlane. This is going to infuriate many, but hey, that’s my specialty, and I care about our fans so I might as well help you prepare now: Becky has as much chance of leaving New Jersey with the belt as I do. Be prepared for a negative reaction from the hardcore wrestling fans which will rival anything Roman Reigns ever heard while that group of fans realizes it’s not only the minority, but not who the company caters to. For now, however, Becky gets her much-deserved spot. She’s been incredible over the last few months, even if they have stolen almost ever Stone Cold story, and she’s a huge Pearl Jam fan, so you have to love her.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: You know what? I’m actually proud of Matthew Straub. He’s finally found a new wrestling crush, and for once, it’s an actual woman! Now, I don’t want to come off sexist in any way, but it’s good to see Straub fawning over someone other than John Cena, Ryback and Roman Reigns. Of course, it still sickens me how much Straub will actually go in length to defend his crush of the moment, explaining to us humanoids why we’re wrong and he’s right and blah blah, meaningless detail (a press tour!) after meaningless detail (she’s Ric Flair’s daughter, so she’s mainstream!). As much as Straub and the WWE want to believe Charlotte is mainstream, she’s not. Never will be. Ronda Rousey is mainstream. John Cena is mainstream. The Bellas are more mainstream than Charlotte. But I digress. Straub is right and wrong about Becky Lynch copying the Stone Cold model. Yes, it’s sort of true, but in so many ways, it’s not. The WWE needed to go full Stone Cold with Becky, as I’ve mentioned before, and haven’t, which is a huge mistake. It hasn’t mattered much to the fans, because she’s far more interesting than anything else on the brand. But it’s one golden opportunity missed to seal her status as the ultimate badass even more. The other thing that has slowed the Stone Cold ascension is the injury angle, which I’m not even sure is real or not. If she’s injured, fine, I get it. But if she’s not, WWE again screwed up because Becky just can’t go full badass when she’s hobbling to the ring. Just imagine those run-ins if she was full speed, instead of the long, drawn out “surprise” appearances, which just ruin the momentum. Forget Stone Cold, just go on YouTube and search for Matt Hardy attacking Edge and Lita when he was “fired” … that’s the kind of stuff they could be doing with Becky. One final note, Straub, everyone steals everything in wrestling. If you ain't stealing you ain’t doing it right. (Too sweet, anyone?) Now, for the match, I actually will take Straub’s take and run with it, because he’s right about the injury. But I see it more of Ronda Rousey interferes, destroys Charlotte when the referee is knocked out or whatever, and Becky gets the pin after it. Ronda says to Becky no more excuses. Becky says you just made the biggest mistake of your life. All good. Makes sense. And we’re off to WrestleMania with the main event set. (Luckily, Straub talks more about Rousey later, so I’ll get to the most recent controversy surrounding her there).
The Shield vs. Baron Corbin, Drew McIntyre & Bobby Lashley
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: I grew up on the Four Horsemen, the most elite fighting force in the history of wrestling. I was livid when Arn Anderson got fired from his backstage job recently, never mind the time Curt Hennig turned on Ric Flair at War Games. I know all about wrestling factions breaking up and reforming for no good reason. I’m also, as Brad will point out several times today, an unabashed Shield guy. If I could write this while wearing a black Kevlar vest, I would. So I’m being a hypocrite on a number of levels when I point out the idiocy behind this edition of the Shield. I get everyone wanting to give Roman whatever he wants. The guy did just beat leukemia after all. By the way, I’m so glad to see the fans cheering like crazy for Roman lately. Say what you want about his character, and Brad says a lot, but the guy is very well-liked backstage and we should be happy he can get back to doing what he loves. More than 20,000 people died in 2018 from the disease, and Roman missed about six months. He’s a lucky man, and WWE is right to work him back slowly, which is one of the reasons the Shield is back together. Roman doesn’t have to do much in a six-man tag, though you can bet your bottom dollar he’s going to hit a spear to win this match. With that said, back to my point: weren’t Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose trying to kill each other like six weeks ago? I get it, Ambrose is crazy and can turn on a dime, but Rollins is just OK with this? In fact, he went from OK to pleading with Dean to rejoin the team in the matter of three hours? And Roman, after I’m sure at least hearing about what Dean did to his “brother”, immediately tries to reunite everyone? He’s not mad about any of this? At least when Rollins turned, it took a year for him to want to get the band back together, and he had to beg for forgiveness. Dean gets begged to come back without even an apology. Back when we all thought he was leaving, I could see this as a one-off, but now that WWE seems to think he might stay, I have no idea where this is going. I can’t imagine Dean turns on them again this fast, so I’m taking the Shield winning and the story being about Roman’s comeback. He deserves the moment in the ring actually getting cheered. Let whatever happens next happen Monday night.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: First, Straub, stop telling people they are doing the right thing by cheering for Roman Reigns. They cheer because they are human. It doesn’t matter if the guy is liked backstage or not, the guy is battling and beating cancer and everyone can get behind that. Wrestling characters and real life are different and will be treated differently. So you can safely get off the soap box. If Dean Ambrose really is leaving, then this match makes perfect sense. Get the Shield one more moment on a WWE pay per view before the whole thing dies a very unceremonious death. If it’s all good and fun, the Shield win and everyone gets to cheer for the group a final time. If WWE is thinking bigger, the biggest heat Ambrose could ever get as a heel would be to turn on Roman, setting up what would be one of the featured bouts at WrestleMania. That gives Roman a big match and a big win to set himself up for another run toward the top, while Ambrose hits the road with AEW or ROH or New Japan or to his couch, wherever. It doesn’t matter anymore what Ambrose did or didn’t do to Rollins, if he’s still gone, he’s still gone and will be a footnote in history soon.
WWE Champion Daniel Bryan vs. Kevin Owens
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: At least when WWE had Becky reuse Stone Cold’s angles, they were years old. WWE is copying its own angle from a few weeks ago by having Owens steal Kofi Kingston’s spot. We’re all excited to have Owens back, but if you’re doing the sudden return and trying to build some controversy, make this angle lead to WrestleMania. It feels like a waste here. All I can figure is they’re building something big for Kofi, who will be featured in a title match at WrestleMania, with weeks of old footage and hype about him finally getting what he has deserved for a decade. I’m all for it, and I think that would be the best match of the entire eight-hour WrestleMania event (I think the WrestleMania kickoff show just started). Except, if that’s where they’re going, why derail the push Owens needs now? Bryan can’t lose the belt before he faces Kofi, and Owens can’t lose clean since he just came back. Someone is going to screw Owens, and that person will be his Mania opponent. By the way Brad, you know what Kofi and Becky have in common? They’re both going to get long-deserved title matches at WrestleMania and the fans are going to go crazy for them, and they’re both going to lose. Man, I love poking the bear sometimes. You all should watch in May by the way, because Brad is going to throw me off a ladder in Hartford.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: It’s easier to just hit you over the head with my chair, Straub, remember that. Now, talk about things not making any sense. The thought was Kofi Kingston would get this match against Daniel Bryan and lose, and then the returning Kevin Owens would be set up as the next challenger for Bryan at WrestleMania. But Kofi got over too much and the plan changed, so they took him out of this match, and will instead move his match with Bryan to WrestleMania, where he will go from a sure loss at Fastlane to a possible win at the biggest show of the year. Where it doesn’t make sense is Kevin Owens. Are they really going to blow his return like this? With little fanfare, little chance to get over, and little chance to win? And then what? Where is Owens going from here? People want to see Kofi get his moment, and that’s all well and good, but there’s no reason at all to throw Owens into the fire because of it. Oh well. Perhaps the New Day gets involved and forces a DQ finish. Maybe Owens is moved into a triple threat with Bryan and Kofi. Either way, it’s not a good situation for Owens, especially when he’s supposed to be a face now, and they brought him back in heel fashion.
SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos vs. The Miz & Shane McMahon
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: So WWE chose to completely ignore all the legal issues the Uso family had recently, which is their choice, but bizarre considering how they handle lesser transgressions sometimes. Meanwhile, this has to be where we start our path to Shane vs. The Miz at Mania, right? Otherwise, what has been the point of all this? I think this is the easiest pick on the board, with Miz turning on Shane for a loss here and the start of their feud. If not, then I have no earthly idea where any of this is going. Miz is losing at Mania, too, which is a shame because we here at Gameday is Here love the Miz.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: If the whole pairing was to set up a match between Miz and Shane at WrestleMania, then there had to be a better way to get there than this, no? And, really, does anyone want to see a WrestleMania payoff between these two? I don’t think so. Miz and Shane can be great on their own, but the team, the Mr. Miz storyline; just why in the world is this happening? Anyway, does Mr. Miz figure into the finish here, turning on Shane along with his son in his hometown? OK, works for me. Usos officially get the win, but the Miz and Mr. Miz will get the final spotlight.
WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions Sasha Banks & Bayley
vs. Nia Jax & Tamina
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: WWE posts previews of their PPV matches on its website, and each one starts with a sentence or two over a link asking you to read further. As I write this, the tease for this match is blank. There’s literally nothing there. I wonder if that’s not an accident. After all, there’s literally nothing interesting to say about this match. I want to start my gimmick of talking about the Yankees here, but there’s way too much more garbage to be previewed for me to blow my good material now. By the way, Sasha and Bayley were in Tampa for the WrestleMania announcement, but Becky wasn’t. Oh, they win.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Oh my God! Becky wasn’t at the Tampa announcement! See, Becky isn’t great, see, see, see. Oh Straub, crazy man. Anyway, Sasha and Bayley win to retain titles that really have no meaning at all.
SmackDown Women’s Champion Asuka vs. Mandy Rose
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Hey, remember when Asuka beat Becky Lynch clean at the Rumble? Even when she gets pushed it goes nowhere. Speaking of going nowhere, if you’re going to use Mandy Rose and others like her as something for the women’s stars to beat on lesser shows, at least give the matches some build. They deserve better than throwaway matches like this. Asuka wins, and WWE has a month to try and build its actual SmackDown champion into someone to get excited about again. She should be losing to Becky next month, but that’s not going to happen. Since this match is useless, let’s use this space to discuss something interesting. Rousey is rightfully getting destroyed for her shoot interview on her website, where she announced wrestling is fake and she’d kill anyone on the roster. This led to Charlotte pointing out on Twitter, in a comment which would have made Becky Lynch proud, that Rousey’s last two real fights led to her being knocked out and left in tears. I’ve long thought this should be part of WWE’s commentary, by the way. Jim Ross would have been amazing here, pointing out that Rousey is unbeatable when she can get the match on the ground, but if you can box her, you can knock her out. All her opponents should work this way. Throw lots of punches and act as though you’re trying to stay on your feet at all costs. Of course it won’t happen because wrestlers don’t use psychology in matches anymore, which is the shame of this “look how many times I can flip in the air” generation. None of them know how to work the story of a match. Anyway, I watched the actual video to get context, and it appeared as though Rousey was doing a worked-shoot kind of thing about how the fans turned on her, but got herself so worked up that she went completely off script. The video is shot with her personal team (and shows them fawning over her at Raw, explaining why the WWE wrestlers hate Rousey), in her hotel after last week’s episode. As someone removes her makeup for her (no, seriously, one person is removing her makeup while another is braiding her hair), a third person is feeding her kayfabe wrestling questions. She starts by talking about how she loves the Shield and is glad they’re back together, for example. She mentions her own angle, then quickly becomes unhinged. She’s upset about Los Angeles sports fans of all people, calling them bandwagoners, and then goes off on her tangent in a “and another thing,” moment you’d expect from a 14-year old girl. In short, she hates WWE fans, too, because they turned on her even though she tried to entertain them, something she says she hates having to do. So, to review, Rousey hates having to entertain people and is upset the results of the matches are predetermined, because in real life she thinks she’d win all the time. For someone who says she grew up loving wrestling, Rousey doesn’t seem to understand how any of this works. In the same video, however, she implies she’s practicing being a bad guy, so I think that was her intention and she just went too far. It will certainly help fans hate her more, however.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Straub just won’t get off the “Becky shouldn’t be in the WrestleMania main event” corner, will he? Charlotte’s in, just be happy. Asuka beats Mandy, who hopefully doesn’t injure the champ again. For Rousey, I mean, holy hell. She’s a walking and talking disaster. She gets destroyed in the Twitterverse by Becky Lynch seemingly daily. She gets destroyed by Becky on the mic every single week. She’s getting booed, even by her hometown fans. Rousey, in turn, has fallen to depths I don’t think she can ever emerge from. She’s been humiliated so much, she’s blatantly calling out the scripted nature of wrestling, first saying she’s going to ignore said script and beat up Becky for real, to flat-out saying wrestling is fake, the fans suck, and she would kill everyone at a real fight. This is a total trainwreck. Now, I do find it interesting that all it took was one tweet about Rousey’s last two UFC fights from Charlotte to make Straub see Rousey isn’t the baddest woman on the planet, something I’ve been saying for a while now. But, of course, I’m not Charlotte. Rousey was a mess when she left UFC, getting destroyed twice (in real fights!). She’s not the baddest woman on the planet, but I think she believes it because of what WWE is telling her. And that’s not a bad thing for WWE, as they should market her that way. But it’s a lie, of course. Rousey can be beaten, and it could be said all it took was for legit female fighters to enter the fray to expose Ronnie for what she is. She’s a Hall of Famer, of course, but she’s not this unbeatable force Straub and WWE and Rousey want you to believe. She was way ahead of the curve when she started, but since, the mic work certainly hasn’t improved, and the ring work hasn’t really either. Worse, she’s proving when things aren’t handed to her on a silver platter she will whine about it, like a spoiled rich kid. Rousey doesn’t have heel heat as Straub and WWE believe. She has go-away heat. Hopefully Becky wins at WrestleMania, which will probably send Rousey out of WWE and Straub to AEW for good. Wow, that’s two more good things to come from Becky. Gotta love her.
Raw Tag Team Champions The Revival vs. Aleister Black & Ricochet
vs. Chad Gable & Bobby Roode (Triple Threat Match)
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: Hey, you know what will help get the NXT guys over on the main roster? Let’s debut a bunch of them at once, so they all get lost in one big cluster which prevents any of them from feeling special. Then, instead of them fighting and beating decent to big names from the main show, let’s have them fight each other so the fans who don’t watch NXT, which is two-thirds of our audience, doesn’t have any reason to get impressed by them. We can also ruin all our NXT storylines on that show and confuse those fans by not even carrying them over to the big show! It’ll be fun! No wonder Triple H has been fighting Vince over this lately. WWE managed to ruin so many different things and characters at once it’s actually impressive. Hunter is reportedly livid they were not only randomly thrown to Raw, but given nothing to do once they got there, and I don’t blame him. The only good news is that the botched debuts led to big changes on the creative team. Bruce Prichard is incredibly smart and helped write much of WWE’s golden age (from Hogan all the way through Austin’s prime) and Jeff Jarrett should also breathe some new life into things. Put them with Hunter and things could get very good by summer, if Vince and his old guard haven’t permanently ruined all these guys already. I’m particularly interested to see what they do with Black, so I’ll give him the win here.
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Straub obviously has started listening to wrestling podcasts, with some love for Bruce Prichard that has suddenly emerged. But I hear Prichard doesn’t have anything to do with writing storylines in WWE, so Straub may be heartbroken to hear that. Straub is also heartbroken when anyone from NXT debuts, as he hates the brand and the wrestlers, even though almost all of the current roster spent time there, including the Big Dog. Aleister Black and Ricochet teaming up is weird, but at least we get to see them perform every week, which is a treat. Just look at EC3, or Sanity, or any number of NXT stars who were brought up and then left with nothing to do. It’s not their fault, it’s WWE’s fault for signing everyone under the sun just because they can. Take all the wrestlers who are currently sitting on the sideline in WWE and put them on a new branded show and it would be great. Seriously. But Black and Ricochet are being treated differently, luckily for us. It would be better if they were built up as singles stars, as Black especially is amazing, and it makes no sense to go after the tag team titles. But they both will do some fantastic things in this match. Straub will hate it, because he wants wrestling to be like it was in the 80s, with some punches and rest-hold headlocks. There’s only one other person on the planet who thinks that way. Yep, you guessed it, Vince McMahon, the old man with the old vision holding everyone back. For this match, the Revival find a way to win.
Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade (Kickoff Match)
Matt’s Breakdown and Prediction: If Andrade ends up marrying his reported girlfriend, Charlotte Flair, then he’ll be Ric Flair’s second-most famous son-in-law, behind Conrad Thompson, who does the biggest sports podcast right now with Prichard. So I guess he has that going for him. Considering how close Hunter, Vince and Ric Flair are, getting in the Flair family would almost make Andrade a McMahon by extension. You’re about to see him on TV a lot more, starting with a win here. That’s my point of telling you all this. I’m also going into it because there’s nothing interesting about this match itself. Uh oh, you can sense me hulking up to go into my gimmick! The fans are bracing for it. They know what’s coming! The Yankees are likely going to start the season without two of their rotation pieces, by the way. If the Sox start hot like last year, the Yankees could be thinking wild card by May 1. I’ll take the over on the Sox, and would have on the Yankees before they got the injury bug before even breaking camp. The Mets are going under their total, and will be one of the year’s bigger disappointments. The Jets are going to trade down, I could do a better job running the Giants, and the Knicks are going to sign Kevin Durant and Kemba Walker this summer, becoming a contender in the East. Did I miss anything, boss?
Brad’s Breakdown and Prediction: Bruce Prichard? Conrad Thompson? OK, Straub. If Andrade and Charlotte do get married, you can bet Straub is going to start burying him in every single one of these previews going forward. But Andrade is going to win this match, as he needs it more than Mysterio. And Straub apparently has a gimmick now, which means I have to pull out the low blow to stop him cold. My pleasure. Straub should worry more about his Red Sox pumping up on performance enhancing drugs than anything the Yankees or Mets are doing right now. Straub hates football more than he hates Becky Lynch and NXT, so no need to entertain his thoughts there. Straub just brought up Kemba Walker’s name cause he loves him. Did he miss anything? Yeah, stop hating on the Carolina Hurricanes for wearing Hartford Whalers jerseys. If Connecticut supported the Whalers, they never would have left. If as many people who walk around with Whalers jerseys and hats supported the team in reality instead of just wearing it to be cool, maybe the team would come back. But nobody cares. Nobody will ever care. So, hate on yourself and your state for the death of the Whalers and simply be happy you get to see the jersey on NHL ice again. Maybe I’ll make a sign explaining it to everyone in Hartford at Money in the Bank. I’ll make Straub hold it, though.