KELLER’S WWE FASTLANE REPORT
MARCH 5, 2017
AIRED LIVE ON WWE NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves, Byron Saxton
(A) AKIRA TOZAWA & RICH SWANN vs. BRIAN KENDRICK & NOAM DAR
WINNERS: Tozawa & Swann when Swann pinned Dar after a Phoenix splash.
(Keller’s Analysis: Good action, especially in the closing minutes. Served its purpose well.)
-A video package aired on Kevin Owens vs. Goldberg.
(1) SAMI ZAYN vs. SAMOA JOE
Cole said Joe trained in “Brazilian ju-zit-zu.” Back and forth action in the early minutes. Joe took Sami down with an enzuigiri in the corner. Cole said he’s so quick for a 280 pounder. Cole noted that Joe injured Seth Rollins, saying it’s “highly unlikely” Seth makes it to WrestleMania this year. Cole talked about how “chilling” it was to sit next to Joe for that interview segment last month. By 3:00 Joe went on sustained offense. At 5:00 Sami hit the Blue Thunder Bomb out of nowhere for a two count. Both were slow to get up.
The fans sang Sami’s “Olé” song as he climbed to the top rope. Joe met him up there. Sami shoved Joe down. Joe, though, gave Sami an inverted atomic drop, kick to the face, and a senton splash for a two count. At 9:00 Joe hit an enzuigiri while Sami was on the top rope, then set up a superplex. Sami pounded on Joe’s back to block it, then went for a sunset flip. Joe held on. Sami went for a Helluva Kick, but Joe caught him with a one-armed chokeslam and then the Coquina Clutch finisher for the win.
WINNER: Joe via KO with his sleeper in 9:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: That’s the match that made sense for this stage of Joe’s push. Sami is established at a certain level, and Joe beating him is necessary but also meaningful. The match itself was good, and what you’d expect from these two in terms of energy and intensity.)
-“A Woman WWE doesn’t Officially Identify but Wrestlers Refer to as Charley” interviewed Bayley backstage. She asked her about facing the “Queen of Pay-Per-View” tonight. Bayley said she has a ton of nerves. She said Charlotte has the advantage because of her PPV experience, plus she’ll bring Dana Brooke with her. She said she’s up for it. Bayley suggested Charlotte volunteer to leave Brooke in the locker room so they can find out who the better woman in. In walked Nia Jax. She said Bayley should know that she’s going to go out there and “rip your best friends to shreds.” She said she’ll then turn her focus to the Women’s Title.
(2) KARL ANDERSON & LUKE GALLOWS vs. ENZO & BIG CASS – WWE Raw Tag Team Championship match
Enzo said from behind Anderson & Gallows “look like two thumbs up.” He called them the Mr. Clean Dream Team. Enzo had a few other better-than-average one-liners for him lately before Cass did the SAWFT to close it out.
Cass threw Enzo onto Anderson at ringside a minute into the match. Back in the ring Anderson took over against Enzo. At 6:00 Cass got the hot tag. A 8:00 Cass launched Enzo onto Anderson and Cole hit a crescendo of excitement for a title change, but Gallows yanked Enzo out of the ring. After Enzo went after Gallows at ringside, when he returned to the ring, Anderson caught him with a running knee. Anderson covered Enzo, but Enzo put his leg on the bottom rope. Gallows shoved the leg off the rope as the ref counted. Cole said, “Now that was teamwork” with no sense that there should be any heat on them for cheating.
WINNERS: Anderson & Gallows to retain the WWE Raw Tag Team Titles in 8:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: A largely paint-by-numbers serviceable tag match.)
-Mick Foley talked to Stephanie McMahon on a speaker phone. She said the show is off to a good start, but she’s tired of watching on her phone while stuck on an airplane. She said she probably won’t make it, but she’s going to remain on the phone the entire show and make sure he runs it correctly. She said she wanted to talk about Samoa Joe and asked Foley if she is on speakerphone. Foley lifted the handset and said he knows that Owens wants to prove he can win on his own without Joe. The connection was lost, and Foley didn’t seem upset.
-Back to the announcers, Graves said he’s not sure he trusts Foley to run the show. They threw to a video package on Nia Jax and Sasha Banks.
(3) NIA JAX vs. SASHA BANKS
Cole said if Jax wins, she’ll be one of only three women to start their PPV careers with four wins along with Charlotte and Fabulous Moolah.
Sasha took it to Jax early with an aggressive flurry of offense. Jax managed to absorb it all and take Sasha down at 1:00 with power moves. She bent Sasha’s back over her knee. Sasha eventually made a comeback and applied a sleeper at 4:00. Jax powered out. When Jax began yanking Sasha around by her hair, Cole said, “It’s just a matter of time.” In WWE-speak, that is a dead giveaway Sasha would win. And seconds later, indeed, Sasha leverage pinned Jax with a bridge for the upset win. Graves said Sasha just did what he felt was impossible. The director bounced between shots of an upset with Jax in the ring and a celebrating Sasha on the stage.
WINNER: Sasha in 8:00. (*1/4)
(Keller’s Analysis: Again, an okay basic match that served its purpose well of showing Jax as a dominant powerful force against the smaller Banks, and Banks showing great spirit and resilience and ultimately being resourceful enough to score the leverage pin.)
-They went to a backstage segment in a Kickoff show segment where Jinder Mahal said he wanted to try singles competition. Rusev said he didn’t want to team with him anyway. Foley suggested they each wrestle singles matches to find out who is better.
-Jinder came out first, followed by Rusev with Lana. Cole noted that Rusev has a new haircut. Graves said, “If you didn’t think it was possible to get any more handsome, Rusev just proved you wrong.” Rusev told Jinder he wanted to wrestle first. Jinder shoved Rusev. They came to blows. Cole said they might end up facing each other. Rusev threw Jinder to the floor. Jinder threw Rusev into the ringpost at ringpost. Graves wondered how long this has been festering. Jinder nailed Rusev with a running knee. Cesaro then came out to face Jinder.
(4) JINDER MAHAL vs. CESARO
Mahal got in the majority of the offense. When Jinder looked at Rusev who had finally stood up from the pre-match beating, Cesaro surprised him with an uppercut for the win.
WINNER: Cesaro in 9:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: This felt like mid-card filler, which is an issue these brand-specific PPVs were fighting already. Having unannounced matches with wrestlers that fans aren’t invested in wrestling each other doesn’t help in the regard.)
-Rusev attacked Mahal afterward. Once he dropped Mahal with a big boot, Big Show’s music played.
(5) RUSEV vs. THE BIG SHOW
The crowd broke into a “USA” chant. A few minutes in, Show dropped his leg on Rusev’s face, with Cole nothing Rusev recent recovered from a broken nose. Show side slammed Rusev. Rusev rolled to the floor. Back in the ring when Show went for a chokeslam, Rusev slipped free and kicked Show’s leg. Then he kicked Show three times in the face with Show on his knees. Rusev scored a two count. Rusev stomped on Show’s back and set up an Acolade. Show escaped and came back with a quick chokeslam. Show played to the crowd and then hit a second choekslam. And then a third. Graves said, “This is called leaving no room for error.” Show then moved Rusev into the corner of the ring and gave him a KO Punch. Then he scored the clean pin.
WINNER: Show in 9:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Not sure what all of this was about. Show beating Rusev clean in an unannounced match just seems pointless at this moment. Maybe it’ll make sense once we see the follow-up.)
-The unnamed woman interviewed Kevin Owens who said he won’t let Goldberg take the title from him. He said he’ll outsmart and outwrestle him. He said he’ll beat him like he has defeated everyone they’ve put in front of him. He said whether it’s Sami Zayn or Brock Lesnar or The Rock, he will win because he is the best and not even the Mighty Goldberg can change that. He said this is the Kevin Owens Show tonight and tomorrow night and for as long as he wants it to be.
-They went to the announcers, including Austin Aries in Saxton’s place. He said people have been complimenting his beautiful package, so let’s go to it again. The Aries video package aired.
-A video highlight package aired on the Neville-Jack Gallagher build-up.
(6) NEVILLE vs. JACK GALLAGHER – Cruiserweight Title match
Aries said Neville better not underestimate Gallagher because of his personality. Gallagher smiled and got in Neville’s face as he outmaneuvered him in early exchanges. Neville did a head stand in the corner. When Neville was going to charge, Neville extended one boot to stop him. He did it a second time, and fans laughed. He went after Neville with two stiff uppercuts. Gallagher twisted out of a catapult attempt by Neville, then hit a dropkick. Neville bailed out to ringside.
Neville yanked Gallagher to ringside and whipped him into the ringside barrier. Back in the ring, Neville leaped off the top rope with a flying dropkick for a two count. He went on sustained offense. At 5:00 Gallagher did a dive through the ropes. Cole said that’s not typically part of Gallagher’s repertoire. Aries said they should call that “The Wounded Duck Plancha.” Cole said Neville didn’t expect this much fight from Gallagher, expecting a cake walk. Do people still know what cake walks are? Graves said he doesn’t think Neville took Gallagher that lightly. Gallagher scored a two count after a top rope belly-to-back suplex.
Neville lifted and dropped Gallagher over the top rope. Then he slammed his head into the canvas. Gallagher surprised Neville with a roll-up for a two count. Neville came back with a a nasty released German suplex and then hit the Phoenix Splash for a believable near fall at 8:00. Neville stood and gave Gallagher some karate kicks to the chest and face. “This has become a clinic,” said Cole. Gallagher sidestepped a slide kick by Neville, then head butted Neville twice to take him down. Gallagher also staggered, but fell backward onto Neville for a two count. The crowd owned and ached.
Neville avoided a flip by Gallagher into the corner, then sidekicked him. A “This is awesome!” chant rang out 11 minutes into the match, which Cole acknowledged. Graves said this absolutely is awesome. Gallagher lifted Neville onto the top rope and headbutted him. Cole sold it big, saying you could hear that headbutt echo throughout the Bradley Center. He set up a superplex, but Neville countered and then hit Red Arrow for the win. Cole said it’s been a long while since he used it, but he hasn’t needed it until tonight.
WINNER: Neville in 12:00 to retain the Cruiserweight Title (***)
(Keller’s Analysis: Easily the best match of the night so far. Gallagher worked a serious match, other than a few early head games that also seemed to serve a purpose in the course of trying to gain a mental advantage. Gallagher lost, but the style of match he worked solidified him as a credible serious act in the division.)
-Charly interviewed Paul Heyman, saying he was an unexpected guest. Heyman said they’ve never met and called her “lady.” He said his client has a right to be there, and it’s not anyone’s business whether his client is present or not. Heyman laid out the scenarios that benefit Lesnar – either Owens win and he has discovered a flaw in Goldberg his client can exploit, or Goldberg wins which gives Lesnar a title to take home with him after he beats him at WrestleMania.
-The New Day came out. Saxton said, “This night just keeps getting better and better.” They debuted their new ice cream cart featuring custom art showing off various ice cream sticks with cartoon heads of each New Day member. Saxton was excited and asked Graves if he could borrow a couple of dollars. New Day kissed the ice cream cart with a little more passion than felt appropriate. With some suggestive comments in the mix, they said they’d ride the ice cream cart long and hard to WrestleMania.
(Keller’s Analysis: As if this PPV wasn’t weak enough already, now it’s home to a self-indulgent cheesy New Day sketch that’s meant to market a new WWE branded product.)
-They went to the announcers on camera, who threw to a video package on Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman.
(7) ROMAN REIGNS vs. BRAUN STROWMAN
Saxton said when Reigns has told local media this week is that one advantage he has over Strowman is “big fight experience.” Mixed reaction, as usual, for Reigns, but mostly boos. In person reports from Twitter say the dead crowd all night woke up just to boo Reigns. When his music stopped, mostly boos. Then a “You suck!” filled the emptiness before Braun’s entrance began.
A battle chant began with “Let’s Go Roman! / Roman sucks!” The “Roman sucks!” segment was louder and deeper. Strowman blocked a suplex attempt and just powered Reigns to the mat and the floor. Cole said the crowd was raucous tonight. Reigns reentered the ring and took Strowman over the top rope with a running clothesline. Strowman yanked Reigns to the floor and threw him at the steps. Reigns flipped over them. Strowman charged at Reigns, but Reigns moved and Strowmam hit the ringside steps.
Back in the ring Strowman came back and gave Reigns a spinebuster. He splashed Reigns in the corner, then beal threw him across the ring. He settled into a nerve hold. A lot of Twitter chatter during this match about Reigns wearing new foot gear, closer to tennis shoes than wrestling boots. The chinlock got very very loose and it made Reigns look ridiculous for “fighting out of it” when Strowman’s forearms were no longer in contact with any part of his head.
Strowman took it to ringside and began to removing monitors from the Spanish announce table. It took enough time that Reigns was able to recover. When he leaped at Strowman, though, Strowman caught him and threw him back-first into the ringpost. Back in the ring, Strowman charged. Reigns moved, so Strowman went shoulder-first into the ringpost. Reigns pounded away at Strowman’s back. They zoomed in on Reigns talking to himself to get himself psyched up. “Come on, man, let’s go!” He then went for a Superman Punch. Strowman avoided it and then forearmed Reigns in the chest. Strowman salto slammed Reigns for a two count.
Reigns avoided a charging Strowman big boot. Strowman tumbled over the top rope to the floor. Reigns landed a Drive By. A guy in a Red Sox jersey just pummeled him with jeers as he set up a spear. Strowman caught him and powerslammed him through the announce table. The crowd popped big. Back in the ring Reigns surprised Strowman with a spear leading to a believable near fall. Reigns looked shocked. Strowman dove at Reigns, but Reigns moved, so Strowman’s head hit the corner post. Reigns then hit a Superman Punch. Strowman stayed up. A second Superman Punch. Strowman tumbled into the second rope. Reigns then charged, but Strowman ducked and then shoulder-blocked Reigns to the mat. “Thank you, Strowman!” chanted the crowd.
Strowman climbed to the top rope. Cole yelled for him to get down from there and gasped that Reigns was in the middle of the ring. He leaped with a flying headbutt, but Reigns rolled out of his path. Reigns then speared Strowman for the three count. “You’ve got to believe in the Big Dog now,” said Cole. “How can you not? What an incredible performance by that man.”
WINNER: Reigns at 17:20. (***)
(Keller’s Analysis: Really good match. I get what they did at the end, wanting to tell the story that Strowman took a chance he probably shouldn’t have and that gave Reigns the edge he needed to actually hit his spear and score the pin. Strowman losing to Reigns humanizes him a bit, but given Reigns’s monster superman push, it’s not like anyone will ever think he lost to anything but a top top guy.)
-A plug aired for WWE Ridealong on WWE Network.
-A video package aired on Charlotte and Bayley.
(8) BAYLEY vs. CHARLOTTE
This match began 28 minutes into the third hour of the event. Graves said Charlotte is supremely confident because this match is on PPV. A “Let’s Go Bayley” chant rang out early. Bayley leaped off the ring apron and head scissored Charlotte at ringside at 2:00. Back in the ring, Bayley landed a crossbody into a two count. She went for an early Bayley-to-Belly, but Charlotte grabbed the ropes and retreated to ringside. Saxton said Charlotte expected Bayley to be more conservative. Bayley went after Charlotte at ringside, but Charlotte clotheslined her as she charged her. Back in the ring Charlotte mounted Bayley and pounded away at her.
Charlotte controlled the action for a few minutes and then teased a Flair strut, but then stopped quickly and went back to work on Bayley. At 8:00 Charlotte landed a moonsault and then a senton splash into a pin attempt, good for a two count. At 11:00 Bayley caught Charlotte with a clothesline as she charged at her. She rallied with some chops and then hit a sequence of moves leading to a back suplex and a two count at 12:00. Bayley hung Charlotte upside down in the corner, but didn’t seem to know what to do from there. After an awkward moment, Bayley knocked her to the mat and climbed to the top rope. Charlotte got up and they traded blows on the ring apron. Charlotte yanked Bayley into the turnbuckle and climbed to the top rope. She landed a huracanrana and a top rope flying elbow for a near fall at 14:00.
Charlotte ended up hitting a big boot and then Natural Selection for a near fall. Charlotte looked dismayed and shocked. Bayley surprised her with a leverage pin attempt for a two count. Charlotte slammed Bayley off the ring apron onto the mat ringside. Charlotte then climbed to the top rope. Sasha ran out and caused Charlotte to stop and go after her. Sasha then fled. Bayley recovered and hit the Bayley-to-Belly at ringside. Saxton said Bayley had no idea what Sasha did.
Back in the ring, Charlotte surprised Bayley with a small package. Sasha pointed out the pull of the tights to the ref, so the ref stopped his count. As Charlotte turned to yell at Sasha, Bayley scooped her up from behind for the three count. Cole said that means Charlotte’s PPV victory streak is over. Sasha and Bayley celebrated in the ring as Charlotte cried on the floor at ringside.
WINNER: Bayley in 17:00 to retain the WWE Women’s Title match. (***1/4)
(Keller’s Analysis: Best match of the night. This sets up Bayley realizing Sasha doesn’t believe she can win. I wonder if Stephanie not being at the event, and warning Mick Foley to be sure nothing like this happened, means she’ll reverse the decision or declare it at least a no context to protect Charlotte’s PPV streak.)
-The announcers plugged Raw Talk on WWE Network after Fastlane with hosts Renee Young & Jerry Lawler.
-A video package aired on the Seth Rollins-Triple H segment on Raw two weeks ago. They plugged a feature on Seth’s grueling regimen will air on Raw tomorrow night showing what Seth is going through to try to be able to return in time for WrestleMania.
-A video package aired on Goldberg vs. Owens.
(9) KEVIN OWENS vs. GOLDBERG – WWE Universal Title match
As Goldberg came out first (as challengers always should!), Cole said he hasn’t lost a one-on-one match ever on PPV. He said this is his first title match since Armageddon in 2003. The fans chanted “Goldberg” to the beat of his entrance music. The electricity is still there, but at a clearly diminished level than at Survivor Series. Owens began his ring entrance 57 minutes into the third hour of the event. Cole said Owens has held the championship for 188 days. Cole said Owens was 14 when Goldberg won his first WCW Championship back in 1988.
Goldberg stretches his legs on the top rope and did some warm-up squats. He yelled, “Kiss that goodbye, boy!” The ref held up the red belt and then signaled for the bell. Owens bailed out to ringside as soon as the bell rang. He paced at ringside, then stared down Goldberg. Owens rolled in and then rolled out. He told the ref to ring the bell. Chris Jericho’s music played. Owens turned to look at the stage in shock. Out walked Jericho. Goldberg then speared Owens and gave him a Jackhammer for the win. Saxton said the scene is surreal. Jericho smiled and left. Cole said now Goldberg vs. Lesnar will be for the Universal Title at WrestleMania.
WINNER: Goldberg to capture the WWE Universal Title in under 1:00.
(Keller’s Analysis: Since Goldberg beat Brock Lesnar with the same moves, it’s hardly a burial for Owens. Considering he was also distracted by Chris Jericho, Owens will be just fine. Fact is, WWE has a lot to gain from Goldberg-Lesnar having the added stakes of the world title from Raw on the line and putting everything they can into that match. They also have a lot to lose if Goldberg is exposed by having a clunky or bad match or getting injured. He’s 50 years old and has shown glimpses of being prone to blowing up or messing up even in rudimentary situations. I totally understand why WWE did this. If there was a recent track record of Goldberg being capable of actually wrestling a more full fledged regular match, this might still have been the right finish – or at least defensible – but considering Goldberg’s risk of getting hurt or hurting others or just being exposed in a bad match, along with the upside of wondering what happens when he’s finally perhaps “tested” against Lesnar, this works. Owens is going to shift to a very personal grudge program with Jericho that will make this outcome less important than if he didn’t have something planned that will occupy him and being a highly anticipated match at WrestleMania.)
NOW CHECK OUT THE PWTORCH LIVECAST FASTLANE POST-SHOW: PWTorch Livecast PPV Post-Show (03-05-17): Pat McNeill & Greg Parks discuss WWE Fastlane with callers