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The Smark Henry Pay-Per-Review: Fastlane 2018


We're at a very interesting point in WWE's history.

Imagine: thanks to a million open-minded free agent signings, the WWE roster is now pretty much at peak talent. Even though the company still wants to sign the world's best wrestlers, the stock they've already got is pretty top-notch. At the lowest tiers of any given card, you'll find some really good wrestling—it isn't like the previous decade, where Ohio Valley Wrestling/Deep South Wrestling/Florida Championship Wrestling alums take forever to get used to performing at the biggest stage and delivering. I never thought it was possible, but under Vince McMahon's watch, the wrestling finally became world-class.

Which is why I think now is a good time to remind the company to never slack on their storylines.

Fastlane wasn't egregious by any means, but it was still clearly a show that had to rely on the wrestling and star power to get across. You know you're winging it when you have to shoehorn John Cena into your main event to draw viewers, recycle a tag team championship match as a bait-and-switch to introduce a new storyline, and relegate your Royal Rumble winner Shinsuke Nakamura into a good-but-ultimately-filler match without much build. The true test of how good a pro wrestling card looks is whether a fan—in this case, me—can still fantasy book it any better; if there's still room for a Nakamura/Cena rematch for a WrestleMania spot, then you know what the answer is.

Sure, good wrestling forgives a multitude of sins, to paraphrase NBA color commentator Clark Kellogg. But a pro wrestling company can only get away with letting the wrestling speak for itself for so long.




The good thing is for the most part, the SmackDown team still understood the importance of the story. Even though almost all the matchups on the Fastlane card were heading in shaky, they still paid off when it comes to the respective aftermaths. The dream WrestleMania main event is still happening. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens' feud with Shane McMahon is reignited. John Cena's still looking for an opponent. Asuka has her opponent (and is now officially part of SmackDown). The stories that needed to be crystallized were.

The Road to WrestleMania, at least on the SmackDown lane, is clearer than ever. I understand that Fastlane was just the final stop before New Orleans, but with a roster as stacked as SmackDown's, I wish they were still able to make it more compelling. B+ for playing their hands well.

*****

Match of the Night



The main event deserved its main event status. All it did was be the match that most perfectly balanced the best action with the most storytelling—then again, it would have been highly disappointing if it didn't do that, considering it generally has the most airtime on SmackDown episodes over the past few weeks. True to its nature, the six-pack challenge never lets up, and helps to establish AJ's dominance as champ. That WWE title match at WrestleMania is looking really, really good right now.

Other observations

  • Rusev/Nakamura rightfully got the amount of time they deserved. I just wish something was at stake for Rusev, because between the Infinity Gauntlet on RAW last month and this, there's only so many times they can say a guy will look to gain some momentum by winning this match.
  • That said, I'd love to see Rusev challenge for the title once Nakamura wins it.
  • What's the point of having Randy Orton beat Bobby Roode clean and Jinder Mahal come down after the match if Roode is going to get his heat back right away? You don't need to be so antsy to give people their heat back!
  • Loved the story the Usos and New Day were trying to tell in the ring, resorting to stealing each other's double-team moves. But if they were going to have the Bludgeon Brothers interfere and insert themselves in the SmackDown Tag Team Championship picture, then the Bludgeon Brothers should've just been in this spot instead of the New Day to begin with.
  • Good go-ahead win for Natalya and Carmella, but at this point, when is Carmella going to cash in? That window's slowly closing as WrestleMania draws near.
  • Charlotte and Ruby had very little chemistry that night, and it's sad to watch. Both tried to make the most out of each other but it just wasn't gelling. Can't put the finger on who dragged it down.


Photo from WWE
*****

Romeo Moran (@roiswaris the Editor in Chief of Smark Henry and one of the three hosts of the Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast. He gets by in this hard knock life through working in publishing. Smark Henry was his and Stan Sy's original vision of a watering hole for local wrestling fans. He roots for the undersized guys who hit hard, but really hates Davey Richards with his entire soul. He likes taking your wrestling questions over on his CuriousCat account.

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