SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
DISCLAIMER: Projections are based on what the columnist would do if he were booking this event, instead of Paul “NXT” Levesque, Runjin Singh, Ed Koskey, and WWE President “Cranky” Vincent Kennedy McMahon. Projections are not predictions, because this is the column where everything’s made up and the points don’t matter. This preview has been sealed in a mayonnaise jar on Funk & Wagnall’s porch since noon today. Some of our departing contestants will receive a supply of Schick Super II razor blades, the only twin blades with a Teflon coating, to get your face into Schick Shape. Pat McNeill’s wardrobe provided by Petrocelli. Remember, this is only an exhibition. This is not a competition. Please, please, no wagering. This lineup is based on the best available information as of this writing. These projections are based on what the columnist would do if he had creative control over WWE, unless it’s not funny enough.
This Sunday is the final big stop on the road to WrestleMania. As was the case last year, there won’t a WWE World Heavyweight Title match on this show, and a lot of fans are expecting a disappointing result. But WWE has an eye on the big picture. The buyrate for WrestleMania in six weeks is more important than bringing in new subscribers for Fastlane.
One of the big concerns going into WrestleMania is the lack of the roster depth. Four main eventers from last year are off WrestleMania 32 due to injuries. Daniel Bryan’s injuries were career ending. The question is, who will get to fill those spots when we hit AT&T Stadium. We’ll know some of the answers 72 hours from now.
Before we preview this weekend’s show, let’s get to this month’s edition of the Wrestling History Lesson, because that’s why many of you clicked here in the first place. Twenty years ago, on February 19, 1996, the World Wrestling Federation presented a live episode of “Monday Night Raw” from Cincinnati, Ohio. In the main event, we saw Native American Tatanka lock up with the phenom of the WWF, The Undertaker. Vince McMahon and Jerry “The King” Lawler had the call.
What was happening in World Wrestling Entertainment fifteen years ago? I’m glad you asked! On February 13th, 2001, the World Wrestling Federation taped the February 15th episode of Smackdown from Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, New York. The semi main event featured WWF Hardcore Champion Raven against the largest athlete in the promotion, The Big Show. Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler had the call.
Did you catch WWE Smackdown? Well, you can watch the opening match from this past Thursday night right now. It’s Dolph Ziggler & the Lucha Dragons against Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio & Rusev. Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler & Byron Saxton. Enjoy it now, because they’ll be taking it down in about twenty minutes.
Michael Cole, Byron Saxton, and John B. Layfield will be announcing the show. Renee Young, Booker T, and Jerry Lawler will be doing the pre-show while Tom Phillips will sit alone in the social media lounge. Mauro Ranallo will be at home, listening to smooth jazz on the stereo. On with the program!
Kalisto vs. Alberto Del Rio (WWE United States Title – 2/3 Falls): Yes, Virginia, there will be a Kickoff Show match. If Alberto Del Rio’s only accomplishment is to get Kalisto over as the second coming of Rey Mysterio, it still justifies the money WWE spent to bring back El Patron. Kalisto is over, and he’s a lot easier to deal with than, say, Mistico. Projection? Del Rio wins the first fall with a boot to the head. Kalisto wins the second fall with the Salida Del Sol, and the final fall with an old-fashioned West Coast Pop. Why anyone would want to take Kalisto out of the U.S. Title picture and put him back in tag matches on WWE Main Event is beyond me.
I expect WWE will also need a seventh match for the main pay-per-view. With that in mind, I project that The New Day interview with Edge & Christian turns into The New Day vs. Social Outcasts in a six-man tag. The champs get all their stuff and Big E pins Heath Slater after a Triple Booty Buster. No, I don’t know what a Triple Booty Buster looks like, but the Sherbet-Colored Triumvirate has all day to come up with something, and I trust their instincts.
Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler (WWE Intercontinental Title): Hey, WWE.com is providing the match order here. Don’t blame me. (Although, this is pretty much the definition of a strong opening match.) Projection? Okay, what classic heel move has Owens not used recently? Let’s have him take the padding off the turnbuckle, and shoot ZIggler into it face first. Owens then finishes over Dolph with the package power bomb. Solid.
Charlotte Flair (w/Slick Ric) vs. Brie Bella (WWE Divas Revolution Title): I guess we’re not going to have Daniel Bryan in his wife’s corner at Fastlane, since Bryan can’t bump. Nor will we see the intrepid Nikki Bella at ringside in her neck brace. Projection? Charlotte survives the Brie Mode dropkick, finishes the challenger off with the Figure-Eight. Bring on Sasha.
Becky Lynch & Sasha Banks vs. Naomi Fatu & Tamina Snuka: Speaking of Sasha, she has managed to turn babyface without actually becoming a babyface, as we saw on Monday when she came to the “rescue” of Sasha Banks. And it worked. Projection? Becky and Sasha get their revenge, locking in tandem finisher on their opponents. In the end, it’s Sasha making Naomi tap with the Bank Statement.
Big Show, Kane & Ryback vs. Luke Harper, Erick Rowan & Braun Strowman: I’ve enjoyed WWE trying to get the Wyatts over as the ultimate six-man and eight-man tag team. It sort of makes up for them losing the handicap match to the Brothers of Destruction a few months back. Projection? Bray interferes and hit Sister Agnes on Kane, then the referee sees Strowman choking out the Big Red Machine. The Wyatts win again, some more.
A.J. Styles vs. Chris Jericho: We’ve seen some good wrestling over the past few weeks between the Phenomenal One and Y2J. Jericho has been subtly heeling it up over the past month. WWE like A.J. Styles so much that they actually let him use the microphone this year, and Styles can cut a decent promo. Let’s hope they don’t decide to script A.J. like he’s Sgt. Gomer Pyle. Projection? A long match. Styles wins with the Styles Clash. Jericho refuses to shake hands after the bout. What a heel.
Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar (Triple Threat Match): You could make a case for any of these three participating in the main event of WrestleMania. But WWE still has twelve or so pay-per-view and Network specials. You don’t have to get every feud in now. Projection? The Wyatts show up again to attack Reigns. Lesnar takes exception and fights all four of them. Reigns spears Ambrose for the win.
Yes, I know. But if Brock wins, we’re seeing Brock vs. Hunter again at WrestleMania, and nobody wants to see that. Ambrose vs. Hunter would be fun, but Reigns vs. Hunter has been built up longer. Just let it happen.
Aftermath: WrestleMania 32. Let’s say it’s Triple H vs. Roman Reigns. Brock Lesnar battles Bray Wyatt, who will have a gaggle of Wyatts there with him. In my universe, Undertaker can fight Sheamus. If WWE is serious about bringing in a non-roster member to fight Undertaker, I think Kurt Angle would be the most interesting choice. Of course, Angle needs to pass a WWE physical first, and they’ll need to keep Angle locked away somewhere, so Kurt can’t tell everyone he’s wrestling Undertaker before WWE announces the match.
Let’s also stipulate to Dean Ambrose vs. Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens vs. A.J. Styles. No, it’s not the greatest WrestleMania ever, but it ain’t half bad.
Pat McNeill of Greenville, South Carolina has been a PWTorch Columnist since 2001. He’d take the Bulls over the Lakers in the Sunday night basketball matchup. You know, if gambling were legal.