SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Can we be honest for moment? I’m not sure WWE really believes they have a PPV event called Fastlane on Sunday. Between WrestleMania looming and the WWE Network transitioning to Peacock as part of a billion-dollar business transaction with NBCU, maybe this little engine that could filler PPV event just isn’t a priority for the content juggernaut that WWE now is.
Sense the sarcasm? I’m sure you do, but it’s all true. With all that WWE is juggling right now, Fastlane is low on the totem pole of importance and their booking of the event is an indication of that fact.
At the moment, there are three Raw matches booked for the show. Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus, which WWE has served up on a silver platter on two of the last three Monday nights, Ali vs. Riddle which we saw just last week, and Randy Orton vs. Alexa Bliss, which is certain to feature some sort of Fiend shenanigans. As for Smackdown, there are four announced matches on that side of the house. Really three, but one was added at the last second.
So, the entire event seems to exist simply to exist. Maybe as a test event for the new Peacock relationship? Maybe. Either way, the matches may be excellent, but the show simply doesn’t have the momentum or intrigue that typical WWE PPV events have.
Call this a preview, a calm look into the distant future, or a gaze into a wondrous crystal ball; just don’t hold me to anything, ok?
Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus
So, in a vacuum, this is going to end up being one heck of a match. McIntyre and Sheamus have chemistry and a lack of regard for their bodies when together, which will net a fun watch for fans. That said, the match lacks purpose within the WWE narrative. Drew McIntyre already has his championship match at WrestleMania and Sheamus winning won’t change that fact. The stakes are nowhere to be found. Given that reality, look for McIntyre to win clean to garner momentum ahead of facing Bobby Lashley in the main event of WrestleMania.
Riddle vs. Mustafa Ali – WWE United States Championship
Not surprised to see this was added to the show. If it’s me, I don’t do the match on Raw and give it one more week of hype. Strangely, both of these acts almost need each other at this point. They are floundering within their nonsensical gimmicks and a straight forward, hard-hitting match, is needed if they are to be reframed. Both guys can deliver in that department. WWE seems obsessed with Riddle’s “bro” nonsense and I’m sure they like the title on him as he’s featured. Look for him to retain here.
Big E vs. Apollo Crews – WWE Intercontinental Championship Match
Let’s have some more serious Big E, please. He pulls off that tone incredibly well and it’s within that tone that you can see a top tier main event act dying to come out. The new Crews attitude has shined and the result is a feud that feels fresh. The story needs Crews to get his hands on the belt and he’ll get it here. The championship win gives his new character credibility, but it also puts Big E on the chase that can end with a celebration with fans at WrestleMania.
Randy Orton vs. Alexa Bliss
I doubt we see a full-fledged match between these two, though I hope I’m wrong given that WWE is promoting the bout as just that. Regardless of which direction things go, the match is an intriguing storyline nuance on the road to The Fiend vs. Randy Orton at WrestleMania. This has a Fiend interruption written all over it, with Bliss getting the win.
Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
I’m not sure there is a colder main event level talent in the world right now than Seth Rollins. A returning Rollins should be a force on Smackdown and instead he’s faded into the background of the show. This match appears to be a means to a Rollins vs. Cesaro showdown at WrestleMania. That’s about it, folks. The fact that there isn’t more to analyze here is telling.
Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair vs. Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship
Well, I see this going the exact same way as last time. For some reason, a top star in Banks and a budding star in Belair colliding head on for a championship at the biggest show of the year just isn’t thrilling enough on its own? Enter this match. Prepare to see more dissension between Banks and Belair. The dissension leads to a loss and a damaged relationship to play off of on the way to WrestleMania.
Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan – WWE Universal Championship Match
This is my pick for match of the night and the only match with any real excitement behind it. Once again, Daniel Bryan has heated himself up ahead of WrestleMania and this match is the reason why. Bryan and Reigns have brought out the best of each other within this build. The story is logical and clearly defines each guy in his correct lane. Reigns will win this, but the question is how does Bryan look coming out of the loss. Though Reigns is booked to wrestle Edge at WrestleMania, Edge’s momentum has slowed since winning the Royal Rumble match. The lack of an audience hides that slowing momentum well, but it’s hard not to think about fans working to push Bryan into the title match at WrestleMania if they were in attendance week to week.
HONORABLE MENTION: Shane McMahon vs. Braun Strowman
This match was announced on Monday Night Raw this week, but all promotion and hype regarding it has been dropped from WWE.com. Maybe they’ve listened to the collective groans from around the globe each time these guys have graced our presence on television the last few weeks? This match is a stunt show. Use the boat at Raymond James Stadium and do the stunt show at WrestleMania.