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The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: Fastlane 2016


Right after this year’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view, there was news coming from WWE that they intended to make this year’s Fastlane much more meaningful, especially because its matches and storylines would have huge WrestleMania implications. Then again, because WWE has given fans reasons to doubt them over and over through the years, it wouldn’t have been farfetched to expect Fastlane to be a dud. That wasn’t entirely the case because—save for most of the last hour—we actually got a very enjoyable show.

What are you waiting for? Get in and fasten your seatbelts, because we’re living life in the fast lane (pedal to the metal)!


Kickoff: Kalisto (c) defeated Alberto Del Rio in a Two out of Three Falls Match to retain the WWE United States Championship


This is a match that should have been on the main card.

I’m actually still confused as to why they booked it on the Kickoff given that (1) they had more than enough time on the main show to accommodate this match, (2) this is a storyline that has gone on for more than a month, and (3) there were other matches on the card that had a weaker story going in (looking at you, Wyatts).

Nonetheless, Kalisto and Del Rio had another great match, with El Patron pulling a Johnny Mundo by punting a fall so he could use gain an advantage in the long run. That was smart booking for Alberto because that made him look like a cold and calculated heel, especially when he made the most of the time between the first and second falls to whip Kalisto around and bludgeon him, before bringing him back into the ring so he could easily hit the Double Foot Stomp and get the second fall.



The last fall was also fun because Kalisto was able to get his bearings—after ADR tried to incapacitate him outside the ring and win via countout—and take us all on a ride, that crescendoed into that spot where we all thought Kalisto would be able to hit the SDS. But since he wasn’t able to, watching him just kick ADR onto the turnbuckle so he could eventually pin him was just as good because it showed the ingenuity borne out of the Diminutive Dynamo’s desperation.



See? Told you this was main card stuff.

More than anything, what I really enjoyed about this match was Mauro Ranallo calling it and just adding so much to the entire experience. It’s a shame they’d pull him out for Michael Cole on the main show.


Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch defeated Team B.A.D. (Naomi and Tamina)


Can’t argue with WWE putting this match on to start the main show because both Sasha and Becky have become such beloved characters that their entrances were enough to rile the Q up.

I enjoyed watching the tension between Sasha and Becky build up through the match. Meanwhile, Naomi’s in-ring work as a heel is one of the more underrated things in WWE today. She and Tamina are believable badass chicks you wouldn’t want to mess with.



While Becky took the heat from Naomi and Tamina, Sasha getting the hot tag was the right move because you could tell the city of Cleveland—and the rest of the WWE Universe—truly wanted Sasha. I thought it was a fun little comeback, but looking back, maybe she could have done a bit more, especially with Becky Lynch. I liked the finish, though, which saw Sasha submitting Tamina with the Bank Statement and Becky preventing Naomi from breaking it up by applying the Dis-Arm Her on the former Funkadactyl.



After the match, I wanted Sasha to attack Becky, just so we could keep the tension going since they both want to be at WrestleMania to challenge for the Divas Championship, but we could be getting that tomorrow, so it can wait. Overall, it was a fun match and I’m glad all four women got enough time to show what they could bring to the table.


Kevin Owens (c) defeated Dolph Ziggler to retain the WWE Intercontinental Championship


I was ready to give this one Match of the Night honors, but they were outdone by a rock star and some rookie, so KO and Ziggler will have to finish at a close second.



Let’s forget for a second that we’ve seen this match over and over again through the last month. What I love about these guys is that they both know how to sell moves very well, which allow them to tell such a believable and compelling story. I felt that there was no way Ziggler was going to win the IC title less than a week after Owens just won it. But I got sucked in anyway, and that’s part of the magic these two created.



The superkick exchanges were pretty fun, as well as Dolph’s comeback, considering the hell that Kevin Owens put him through during the match. Credit Owens for finally adding variety to his Pop-Up Powerbomb. It’s about damn time he hit it without bouncing his opponent off the ropes. I hate finishers that require a specific part of the ring for you to pull it off (like the 619) because that makes the user unable to do the move outside the ring—or the context of a traditional wrestling match, for that matter.

Now, can they please move on and face someone else, for fuck’s sake?!


Kane, the Big Show, and Ryback defeated Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, and Braun Strowman in a six-man tag team match


This match was more enjoyable than it should have been, which I realize sounds like a backhanded compliment to all the wrestlers involved. But really, it’s a critique on how much substance the story inherently lacked, and how it failed to elevate the Wyatt Family in the long run.

It was great seeing Big Show and Kane working together again, and Show looked like he had an extra pep in his step. That spear to Braun Strowman looked vicious, and made for a nice little moment. All in all, that babyface comeback sequence had so much energy that I felt the Q come alive from my desk here in Manila!



Here are a few things that I have to point out after that match, though:

The Wyatt Family has got to be the most directionless group of characters right now because they can’t get the job done against anybody. It’s hard for me to take them seriously anymore after all the feuds they’ve started and subsequently lost. What's worse is it doesn't look like Bray Wyatt will be facing Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania Star anymore. Dave Meltzer reported today that Brock Lesnar will be taking on Dean Ambrose in Dallas, which explains why Wyatt was nowhere to be found during the main event. Welp.

On the plus side, it looks like Bray Wyatt had time to shop for a new floral top over the weekend.



In case any of you were wondering, yes, the theme music in the Wyatt’s hype package was AJ Styles’ heel theme in TNA, as pointed out by our resident #ThemeSongTuesday writer, Renzo Magnaye.

The more Ryback botches stuff, the more I start to believe CM Punk. Look at how awkwardly Luke Harper lands after this Shell Shocked.




Charlotte (c) defeated Brie Bella to retain the WWE Divas Championship


I didn’t have high expectations for this match because (1) we all knew Brie Bella was just a stopgap challenger for Charlotte and (2) Brie’s turned heel/face without explanations so much that she’s pretty much Big Show lite.

As easy as it was to insert Daniel Bryan’s real-life retirement and Nikki Bella’s legit injury and subsequent surgery into the story, Creative made the right call in doing so because it gave this story some much-needed gravitas. Brie Bella went from “random Diva with an annoying entrance theme” to a character who was defending her real-life family’s honor.

Brie paid tribute to both Bryan and Nikki by using both wrestlers’ signature moves, as well as wearing the kickpads Bryan wore when he won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XXX, which were great moves on her part. Charlotte and Ric Flair heeled it up oh so naturally and made me want to hate them all night.




I love how Brie and Charlotte milked the “YES!” kicks and the Yes Lock, because you could tell that the Q was just ready to go bananas with a Brie Bella win. 



Seeing Charlotte take advantage of Brie’s leg after the latter injured it by missing the missile dropkick was also a nice touch. That allowed Charlotte to lock in the Figure Eight and convincingly tap out her opponent because Brie’s leg was actually messed up during the match. That was one of the rare times Charlotte’s Figure Eight wasn’t just randomly strapped on to win the match, and that’s a great thing.

My only issue is that I wish Brie had held on to struggle through the Figure Eight a little longer. The fans would have screamed and yelled and chanted for her even more had she milked that, too. Seeing her tap out literally a second after Charlotte had applied her finisher made that ending sequence anticlimactic. Nonetheless, it was a great outing for both females and a reminder that we’ll be missing a solid talent in Brie Bella when she retires this year.


AJ Styles defeated Chris Jericho


Match. Of. The. Night.

The AJ-Y2J feud is proof that a simple story can be more than enough to hook everyone in. I initially thought that Jericho was the heel in this story when it all began because he was the guy who kept punking Styles out. But as this story went on, both of them did some heelish things on both RAW and SmackDown, so while AJ is the bigger babyface, Jericho is neither and just is Jericho.

Since it was the rubber match, both men already knew what the other had in store. Jericho countered AJ’s springboard forearm well by hitting his own springboard dropkick, for instance.



Hearing the Q’s dueling chants for both men also added to the experience because it showed just how over both guys were. 



And they rewarded us by going all out and countering each other’s moves until they both had to bring out the big guns.



The only issue I had with this match was seeing Jericho kick out of the Styles Clash. Prior to tonight, AJ had never hit Jericho with his patented finisher, and it was such an over move, dating back to Styles’ time in TNA. To see Jericho kick out weakened the move and did not do AJ any favors.

The finish, however, was pretty awesome, because Jericho held on for so long and milked the crowd until the exact moment when he tapped out to the Calf Crusher. I felt that that put both the move and AJ over big time because that sequence took the tension to its absolute peak.



Jericho teased a full heel turn after the match, but changed his tune and offered to shake AJ’s hand as a sign of respect, which was a nice way to end their story. Here’s to hoping both these guys—AJ, in particular—get a good storyline heading into ‘Mania.


The New Day appear on the Cutting Edge Peep Show


There was some talk online about this segment being used to bring up the Realest Guys in the Room (Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady) to the main roster. That plus the fact that the New Day have a bit of history with Edge & Christian made me really excited for this segment.



It started off well, but eventually fell flat when all we got were the League of Nations coming out to confront the New Day. We didn’t get a new challenger against the World Famous Two-Time Tag Team Champions, at least not outright. But this segment could very well have set in motion an eventual face turn for the New Day, which has been a long time coming.

My question is, couldn’t we at least have gotten a brawl out of this? I bet even E&C were disappointed with how this segment panned out.


Curtis Axel defeated R-Truth




Sure, we advanced the Goldust/R-Truth storyline, but couldn’t this have happened on RAW instead? Why couldn’t we book a match between the New Day and the League of Nations instead? Both teams were already out there, and apparently Triple H was in the building.


Roman Reigns defeated Dean Ambrose and Brock Lesnar in a Triple Threat Match to determine the new Number One Contender for Triple H’s WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania Star


“There is a perverse joy in watching Brock Lesnar perform in the ring.”

Michael Cole could not have said it any better. After all, for some reason, there’s just something truly magical about Brock Lesnar being in a Triple Threat match. Maybe it’s the volatility of having three participants, or the no-disqualification rules in play. But letting the Beast loose in such an environment is just a glorious car wreck waiting to happen.



Brock took Dean and Roman to Suplex City early on, but the brothers figured out that to take the Beast down, they had to work together. Sure enough, they hit Brock with the assisted powerbomb through the table, reminding everyone just how much we miss Seth Rollins the Shield.



It wasn’t long until Dean and Roman started beating each other up, much to my delight, mostly because Dean was laying the smack down on Roman Reigns. 



When Lesnar came back and hit a German Suplex on Roman while Dean was on his shoulders for a Samoan Drop, I felt my jaw drop because of the sheer strength and force that went into that spot.




Watching Dean and Roman gang up on Brock again, leading to a second powerbomb through an announce table, and then proceed to bury the Beast Incarnate underneath the wreckage was a great callback to how Rollins tried to get rid of Lesnar during the triple threat match at Royal Rumble 2015.



I thought it was a great idea to have Dean go bonkers with the steel chair because that really fit within his Lunatic Fringe persona. Hell, even the lowblow on Brock was alright because it came across as Ambrose going unhinged. Everything pretty much went well until we got to the finish, which saw… well… LOL Roman wins.



I really don’t understand how Vince McMahon can be so dense as to ignore the WWE Universe yet again and put Roman Reigns over when you have a star everyone can get behind—with a compelling WrestleMania arc to boot. Oh wait. This has been the case over the last two years. Three, if you count how WWE tried to hold Daniel Bryan down in 2014.

If this is the way that Vince McMahon wants to go, then fine. It’s his company, at the end of the day. But when the crowds in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn shit all over Roman Reigns, they aren’t doing it just to be smarks. They’re doing it on behalf of a pissed off WWE Universe who would have gone bananas over a Dean Ambrose win. We wouldn’t have required Triple H to put Deano over at ‘Mania, though that would have been icing on the cake.

We’re on the fast lane to WrestleMania, and Roman Reigns is headed for a main event match against Triple H over the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. The WWE Universe is not pleased about this, but Creative can still save this, if and only if they concede that Roman Reigns is not the John Cena they’ve been looking for. Nobody is.

Oh well. At least we have Dean Ambrose versus Brock Lesnar to look forward to.


*****

Fastlane was really enjoyable up until the Cutting Edge Peep Show, which is a shame because I actually thought they could follow through on an excellent show from top-to-bottom the way they booked the Royal Rumble PPV. Save for the main event, the right people won, but they could have arranged matches in a better way, particularly the United States Championship match, which should have been on the main card. I’m giving this show a B for its second half falling short of the bar that the first half set, and for the obtuse decision to go with Roman Reigns as the eventual winner of the main event.

What did you think about Fastlane? Which was your favorite match? And were you satisfied with the result of the main event? Leave a comment below!

Photos from WWE.


*****


Stan Sy (@_StanSyis the Editor at Large of Smark Henry, and is also a radio DJ, an events host, a freelance writer, and one of the hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He enjoys watching WWE, NXT, Lucha Underground, and the occasional New Japan match. Every now and then, he dresses up in fancy suits to book matches as PWR's longest-tenured General Manager to date.

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