So the final stop on the road to Wrestlemania begins with the only man currently guaranteed a spot at the show of shows; the Men’s Royal Rumble 2018 winner Shinsuke Nakamura. He’s followed out by Aiden English, who raps and sings his way on to introducing his ally Rusev. And with chants of “NA-KA-MU-RA” and “RUSEV DAY” ringing around the arena the match begins. The match is pretty even early on and throughout, Rusev showing off his tremendous power and athleticism (particularly considering his size) and Nakamura demonstrating his full arsenal of technical attacks and knee and leg strikes. Nakamura eventually trying to hit his Kinshasa knee strike to end it but the Bulgarian Brute was able to move out the way of the impending danger, and came back with a tremendous looking Matchka kick that Shinsuke flew into full on, it looked really good. Rusev was only able to get a 2 count much to his dismay. Spurred on by Aiden English at ringside Rusev then decided it was time to ‘CRUSH’ his opponent with is Accolade submission move, but the King of Strong Style was able to wriggle his way out of trouble. He followed up with a vicious knee to the back of Rusev’s neck, and then hit the Kinshasa for the victory. A very much expected result but it was a fun enough match without being spectacular. Decent outing for both participants.
Next match was Bobby Roode defending his United States Championship against Randy Orton. Will The Viper become a grand slam champion? Where will Jinder Mahal factor in? Both men attempt their finisher early on but both roll to the outside to escape. It was a very even match with the crowd not that lively either. Randy Orton was on the top rope with Roode, but it was the Glorious one who got the better with a powerbomb from the top for a nearfall. Roode was then on top again but was knocked down by Orton who followed up with a Superplex for a nearfall of his own. Orton would do his signature set up for his RKO finisher but the US Champion would counter with a beautiful Spinebuster that got a 2 count. Roode would then make his way to the top again and attempt a shoulder tackle but would only fly right into an RKO “OUTTA NOWHERE” and RANDY ORTON IS THE NEW UNITED STATES CHAMPION! He completes the grand slam! His celebrations are cut short by Jinder Mahal, he comes to the ring and attacks Orton but is pulled off by Bobby Roode who gives Mahal a Glorious DDT for his troubles and then gives the same move to Orton too. Roode ends ups standing tall. Surely a triple threat at Mania will follow.
Kevin Owens is in the locker room with Sami Zayn. Owens questions Zayn about his actions on Smackdown (when Zayn pinned Owens in the 5 way match), Sami responded by saying ‘forget last Tuesday, that was different, you can still count on me tonight… tonight I wont…’ and before he could finish Owens walked away. ‘…Let you down’ Zayn would finish saying with a smirk on his face to perhaps indicate he was possibly not being all sincere. I highly expect a turn between these 2 to take place during the match again tonight.
Next match was Naomi & Becky Lynch vs Natalya & Carmella. Not really too much to this one, very back and forth stuff, Carmella looked really up for this match though delivering some very aggressive strikes to Naomi amongst a series of tag ins and nearfalls that didn’t allow this one to get too much of a rhythm for me. The finish came when whilst the referees back was turned Carmella would ask her partner Natalya to hand over her Money in the Bank briefcase but before it could be used against her Becky Lynch knocked Natalya to the floor below. The Irish Lasskicker would then turn around right into a Superkick allowing Carmella to get the win for her team. Good to make Carmella strong if she is cashing in soon, and a pinfall victory on a ppv will certainly help with that.
The Usos as champion’s vs The New Day next for the Smackdown Tag Team gold. Again this is another contest where a 3rd party looms large over this match-up. Where The Bludgeon Brothers will factor in to this one remains to be seen. This was a really fun match, with Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods representing their team to ensure this match had a frenetic pace. The chemistry between the two teams was clear to see. The main theme of the match being that after facing off with one another so many times in the past both The Usos and The New Day utilised the signature moves of one another throughout the match. If you have seen any of their previous matches you won’t need me to tell you this one was a good watch, nearfalls and high spots aplenty. The finish of the match came when The New Day were on the outside of the ring AND THEN The Bludgeon Brothers made their way to ringside and proceeded to absolutely demolish all 5 men from both teams. Complete and utter devastation caused. Emergency personnel were on the scene once Harper and Rowan had taken mercy and stopped their attack. Commentary were really selling the chaos that had been caused, and again another 3 way at Wrestlemania seems to beckon. The attack was sold a lot and the participants were still being taken out some time afterwards, amides multiple replays. Make it a guarantee those tag titles are Bludgeon Brother bound.
Renee Young interviewed WWE Champion AJ Styles next backstage. Renee asked AJ that with the odds against him tonight was he worried that his Wrestlemania match with Shinsuke Nakamura was in jeopardy? To which AJ replied saying he was sick of hearing about the odds and that he had overcome obstacles his entire life by making the impossible phenomenal. He was then interrupted by Shinsuke Nakamura himself who wished Styles luck in his match and hoped he win, so that he can… and before Nakamura could finish his sentence AJ snapped quickly back saying he will win and at Wrestlemania it’ll be you who gets beat (a few weeks back after the rumble Nakamura repeatedly told AJ he would beat him at Wrestlemania so nice to see AJ fight back…. Let’s pray this isn’t all one big tease and a swerve is ahead…. Not now… please…).
The next match was for the Smackdown Women’s Championship, the champion Charlotte Flair defending against Ruby Riott (interestingly NOT flanked by her Riott Squad allies Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan). It’s been a decent build to a match where we all know the likely outcome, it’ll be the aftermath that is most interesting with this one. Both women were close to hitting their finishing moves very early into the match, something which seems to be a theme this evening. Charlotte was attacking Riott on the outside, but upon placing Ruby back in the ring she would turn around to see Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan in her way. This distraction allowed Ruby to gain control of the match. Riott would quickly hit the Riott Kick but Charlotte kicked out at 2. Ruby would then trick the ref into thinking she had something in her eye, with his attention diverted Morgan & Logan would approach Charlotte but before a likely beatdown could happen both Naomi and Becky Lynch made their way out to the ringside area to ensure the match would remain even. Ruby would put Charlotte back in the ring and the match would continue. A stage dive Senton from Ruby would get a 2 count nearfall as her impressive challenge to the champion would continue. Riott would lock in a strong submission hold on Charlotte to exude more punishment, Charlotte’s back and arms being wrenched in many different ways as Ruby had the hold locked in various forms for some time. Riott would slam The Queen down for a 2 count before the beatdown carried on, Charlotte eventually getting a foothold back into it as a hard neckbreaker put Ruby in position for a Moonsault. Ruby then pushed Charlotte from the top rope to the outside, the champion really selling her efforts and beating in the match so far. A Suicide Dive from Ruby would only see her caught and then launched into the barricade by Charlotte, followed up with a Moonsault from the barricade which earned her a 2 count. Eventually back in the ring a top rope hurricanrana got Riott another near victory. A series of hard chops from both women ended with Riott taking the champion down. Then both Morgan and Logan at ringside teased entering the ring, this prompted both Becky Lynch and Naomi to go into the squared circle to stop any potential interference, however as they were in the ring the ref told Naomi and Becky they must retreat to the back and were no longer allowed at ringside. Smart heel tactics from Morgan and Logan, be interested to see how Charlotte escapes with her title now…
Logan and Morgan beat down on Charlotte with the ref’s attention elsewhere. But this was to no avail as the ref then sent them both to the back as well, much to their and Ruby Riott’s dismay. Charlotte would then hit a big boot and attempt to follow up with the Figure 8 but Riott countered into an inside cradle and almost got the win. Ruby would then be launched into the top turnbuckle and this would be followed up with a huge Spear from Charlotte and then the Figure 8 was locked in and Ruby tapped out. Charlotte retains as we all expected she would but this was a good match. Ruby certainly made an impression on her ppv debut.
THEN… ASUKA THE WOMEN’S ROYAL RUMBLE WINNER CAME OUT TO CONFRONT THE WOMEN’S CHAMPION OF SMACKDOWN AS THE CROWD WENT WILD!!! SHE ACKNOWLEDGED CHARLOTTE AND THE WRESTLEMANIA SIGN AND WITH THAT THE CHALLENGE WAS MADE!!!!!!!!!! I HAVE TEARS IN MY EYES AS I WRITE THIS BECAUSE MY TWO FAVOURITE WOMEN IN WRESTLING ARE GOING TO FACE ONE ANOTHER AT WRESTLEMANIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES!!!!!!!!
I need to lay down for bit.
There was then another recap of The Bludgeon Brothers destruction of the tag title match earlier on, the commentary team saying whilst Kofi Kingston and Big E were being treated backstage the situation was far worse for Xavier Woods. He according to them has a serious spine injury and has been taken to a local medical facility.
And then it was FINALLY time for the main event of the evening; a 6 pack challenge for the WWE Championship with the WWE Champion AJ Styles defending against John Cena, Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. With the victorious champion of course going on to Wrestlemania to defend their title against the Men’s Royal Rumble winner Shinsuke Nakamura. So many different stories and dynamics for all of the participants in this one, the ramifications of the result for all of them will be absolutely HUGE! Shane McMahon (Smackdown’s commissioner, GM Daniel Bryan is away at a “family function” apparently aka his cousin’s wedding if you check his social media) made his way out beforehand and will take in this match from ringside, there is certainly that ‘big fight feel’ around this one as the stakes really couldn’t be any higher!
The match then… I’ve been critical of some of the recent multi-man matches WWE have done, but this one was really really fun. From the very start of the match the chaos that would ensue was clear; Cena giving an Attitude Adjustment to Sami then Kevin then Corbin then Ziggler, leaving AJ and Cena to have a 1 v 1 exchange, ending when AJ and the other participants surrounded Cena, and then they all beat him down. All the participants had really fun and good looking battles between one another, all of it really well done and some good counter moves from all 6. It was great fun at a really fast pace, and the crowd was really into it as well. Other highlights including Corbin chasing Ziggler into the crowd and ramming him threw a Perspex glass barrier in the crowd area, Owens clearing an announce table only to be kicked by AJ, Styles sending Zayn over the barricade, Cena trying to AA Owens through the announce table but KO escaping only for Cena to catching an oncoming AJ styles and the WWE Champion is put through the announce table by Cena. The chaos had only just begun…
Zayn and Owens are in the ring, Sami tells him he’s “a man of my word” before then laying down for his ‘friend’ and Kevin Owens then hesitantly going to pin him before instead picking Zayn up, who then himself hit a small package as Zayn got a nearfall on Owens. Owens and Zayn then brawled which the crowd popped huge for. On the outside of the ring Zayn catches the eye of Shane McMahon at ringside, Zayn talks smack to him and then Owens attempts to superkick Zayn but Sami moves out the way and Owens instead hits Shane! Shortly after Zayn is back in the ring and tries a Helluva Kick on Owens but he runs into a superkick. Dolph Ziggler is back in the ring but fails to hit the ZigZag as Owens hits Dolph with a pop-up Powerbomb! The ref counts 1,2 but before the 3 Shane pulls the ref out of the ring!!!
Owens is obviously furious as Shane has seemingly cost him the title, Owens then runs into a Helluva kick from Sami. The ref counts 1,2 but before the 3 Shane breaks up this pin attempt as well! Zayn is shocked and furious with Shane, he then has to stop Ziggler pinning a prone Owens in the ring. Corbin then went on a tear with the steel steps, hitting Ziggler, Zayn and Owens before Cena got the steps from him. Cena hits Corbin with the steps 3 times and then hits the AA onto the steps, but Ziggler breaks the pin attempt. Cena missed a hit with the steps on Ziggler, allowing Dolph to hit Cena with a superkick but John’s momentum allows him to pick Ziggler up ready for an AA. Kevin Owens though drags Ziggler from Cena’s shoulders, throws Cena aside, then hits the pop-up Powerbomb. Then as Owens turns around, AJ Style comes flying through the air and hits Owens with the Phenomenal Forearm and AJ gets the 1,2,3. AJ STYLES WINS, AJ STYLES VS SHINSUKE NAKAMURA FOR THE WWE CHAMPIONSHIP AT WRESTLEMANIA IS CONFIRMED! HAPPY DAYS! The main focus other than AJ was on Cena who was slumped in the corner of the ring, as he pushed away a cameraman and he now seemingly has no road to Wrestlemania…… yeah right…… This match was certainly action packed and a real fun watch. Better than I expected anyway. And above all else we got the result we ALL wanted!
And that was Fastlane. A decent show, action packed and none of the matches were terrible. But some bits did feel like any other Smackdown show, saying that Riott vs Charlotte was good and the main event was spectacular. And obviously we got ASUKA!
Key Points to Take Home
. Nakamura vs AJ… 5 stars? …
. ASUKA VS CHARLOTTE! YES YES YES!
. Jinder is beating Randy at Mania… sigh…
. The Bludgeon Brothers have made the most of their gimmick and are now legit top contenders
. Will this Owens/Zayn/Shane storyline ever end?
It’s always tricky for pre Mania ppv events. We all know where most the stories are going so the results are pretty obvious, and all these were here so it was all down to the participants to get the crowd excited. On the whole I thought they all did a fair job, the main event was great and even though the result ended up being what was expected the way the match was paced made the result in doubt throughout. Fastlane was a good night for a few people in particular and even those who didn’t win their matches made a decent showing of themselves. And the main 2 things we all wanted we got; Styles vs Nakamura and Charlotte vs Asuka set for Wrestlemania. So can we moan too much? I think not. Fine work so far WWE, less than a month to go now so don’t screw this up!!!