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KELLER’S WWE FASTLANE PPV REPORT
MARCH 21, 2021
TAMPA, FLA. AT THUNDERDOME
AIRED LIVE ON PEACOCK & WWE NETWORK
Announcers: Michael Cole, Corey Graves
-A video package previewed the event.
(1) NIA JAX & SHAYNA BASZLER vs. BIANCA BELAIR & SASHA BANKS – WWE Tag Team Title match
Graves saw Reginald accompanying Jax and Baszler and said he looked rejuvenated from his spa treatment. The announcers commented early about how Belair and Banks seemed to be getting along. After a mere successful tag without incident, Graves said maybe their dispute was a ruse all along. The heels controlled Belair for a while until Belair ducked a charging Banks. Banks got a hot tag and hit both Jax and Baszler with Meteoras in opposite corners. Banks knocked Jax out of the ring and then executed a strange looking DDT for a two count. Graves gave Sasha credit for “innovating offense in a precarious situation.”
Belair tagged in and landed a 450 splash. Reginald stood on the ring apron. The ref decided to yell at him rather than count the cover. Banks moved toward Reginald. Reginald leaped off the ring apron. Banks dove at him, but he avoided her. Belair then hit him. Baszler then put Belair in a Kirafuda Clutch. Belair tagged in Banks. Banks applied a Bank Statement on Baszler as Belair fended off Jax. Jax, though, shoved Belair onto Banks. (Those inadvertent incidents that get misunderstood only happen to tag team partners who have preexisting issues.) Banks yelled at Belair that she had it won and she was about to tap. She shoved Belair in the face and called Belair a rookie. Belair turned her back to diffuse the situation. Baszler rolled up Sasha for the three count.
WINNER: Jax & Baszler in 10:00. (*3/4)
-Banks and Belair argued. Sasha was the unlikable one here. She slapped Belair hard and yelled, “You’re the rookie!” Banks bailed out as Belair regrouped and looked up at the WrestleMania sign. She said it’s okay because she’ll see her there.
(Keller’s Analysis: The match wasn’t really designed for anything other than to fill some time with decent action, peak with a flurry of chaos after a hot-tag, and then inject Reginald into the mix to cause strife between Banks and Belair. Banks came across very unlikable here – except to some of her super-fans for whom she can do no wrong, of course.)
-The announcers commented on Shane suffering an apparent knee injury training. They cut backstage to Shane walking out of his locker room on a crutch with his knee wrapped in ice. Elias and Jaxson Ryker approached him. Elias said he’s been wanting to talk to him about his pitch for WrestleMania, the greatest musical performance of all time, something so epic that Bad Bunny will feel obligated to give him his Grammy out of respect. Shane said it’s not a good time. Elias pleaded with Shane. Shane said he has an idea.
(Keller’s Analysis: So Elias and/or Ryker are going to be surrogate opponents for Shane against Braun later?)
-A video package aired on the latest happenings with Big E and Apollo Crews.
(2) BIG E vs. APOLLO CREWS – Intercontinental Title match
Crews came out with his new entrance. Big E came out being serious and enthusiastic without being corny. He eyed Crews with a look that said he’s eager to tear him apart. Crews stared right back at him. They gave off the vibe of this being a big fight. The bell rang and they came out of the chutes aggressively. Big E speared Crews off the ring apron to the floor a few seconds into the match. Big E got down and yelled in Crews’s year, “This is what you wanted?! This is what you wanted!?” Big E threw Crews back into the ring, then shoved his boot into Crews’s throat. The yelling by Big E continued as he delivered more of a beating to Crews.
Crews kicked Big E’s knee as he charged at him, and he took over with sustained offense for several minutes. The ref admonished Crews for holding the ropes for leverage when shoving his boot into Big E’s throat. Graves asked if the new attitude could be the missing piece Crews needed. Crew landed a top rope splash for a two count. Crews went for a standing moonsault, but Big E lifted his knees. Big E then set up a Big Ending, but Crews ducked and small packaged Big E. Big E reversed the roll-up and bridged his shoulders up and scored a three count on Big E. The announcers seemed confused about whether Big E’s shoulders were down during that. The ref restarted her count, adding to the confusion as their shoulders shifted positions.
WINNER: Big E in 6:00 to retain the Intercontinental Title. (*3/4)
-After the match, Crews attacked Big E. He suplexed Big E, then slapped him a few times and yelled back at him. He pulled him up and slapped him again. He delivered another suplex and stood on his face as his music played.
(Keller’s Analysis: The match was a letdown if only because it was so short. That said, it’s the start of the feud, and an ambiguous and fluke roll-up reversal is the – in retrospect, at least – obvious finish for this first match between these.)
Announcers: Tom Phillips, Samoa Joe, Byron Saxton
-Phillips threw to a clip of Shane McMahon working out with some knee strikes in the ring earlier in the day, but landing and tweaking his knee. Adam Pearce, for some reason, was ringside like a personal trainer.
-Elias and Ryker were in the ring. As Elias was about to play guitar, Shane entered the ring and informed him he’s taking his place against Strowman. Braun’s ring entrance began.
(Keller’s Analysis: This doesn’t seem like a really fair way to treat your wrestlers. Just sayin’. Shouldn’t Elias have a chance to train and prepare?)
(3) BRAUN STROWMAN vs. ELIAS
Braun beat up Elias for a minute. Elias bailed out to ringside. Braun beat him up at ringside. Ryker jumped onto the ring apron, so Braun turned his back to Elias to yell at Ryker. Elias attacked Braun from behind. (Shane was right.) Elias leaped off the rope with a flying elbowdrop for two count. Braun powered out with force. Braun won with a powerslam shortly thereafter.
WINNER: Strowman in 4:00. (1/2*)
-The announcers commented on a replay of break-up of Retribution on the Kickoff Show.
-Riddle was rolling around on his scooter. He proposed to Shinsuke Nakamura a business idea to trip out scooters. He went on and on about his cousin, and Nakamura left. Riddle noticed he was gone and rolled away. Nakamura came back from around a corner and continued his warm-up.
(Keller’s Analysis: Riddle’s Dignity Redemption Tour rolls on…)
(4) SETH ROLLINS vs. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA
Early in the match, Seth settled in methodical, sustained offense against Nakamura. Nakamura made a comeback and delivered a running knee to Seth’s face as he had him leaning over the ring apron, then a leaping knee to the back of his neck to send him flipping hard to the floor. Next he threw him back into the ring. He delivered a knee to Seth’s midsection after putting him over the top rope in the corner. When Nakamura climbed to the top rope, Seth shoved him down and then did his obligatory dive through the ropes to knock Nakamura hard into the ringside barricade. He leaped back into the ring with a knee to Nakamura’s head, then landed a slingblade for a two count.
Nakamura blocked a Falcon Arrow mid-ring. They exchanged strikes mid-ring. Seth took Nakamura down with an enzuigiri. He went for a bucklebomb, but Nakamura escaped and charged in the corner. He delivered a cool slide-under Seth to the floor while German suplexing Seth along the way. He signaled for the Kinshasa, but Seth blocked it and delivered a bucklebomb and falcon arrow. Seth set up a running stomp, but Nakamura avoided it and landed a landslide for a near fall. Nakamura gave Seth a reverse exploder and then kipped up. He set up a kinshasa, but Seth countered, escaped, and gave Nakamura a hard elbow to the back of his neck. Seth delivered a hook kick to the back of Nakamura’s head, with a twist to the delivery mid-move that the announcers marveled at. Seth delivered a Stomp and got the pin.
WINNER: Rollins in 13:00. (***1/4)
(Keller’s Analysis: I liked this quite a bit. Three-star matches have a bad reputation, but they fit a really good match into a 13 minute window. Seth is the priority right now, and so be it, but this met my expectations, especially for a mid-card match that wasn’t designed to steal the show. That’s where Nakamura has been a letdown.)
-More commercials aired.
-A vignette aired advertising the arrival of Rhea Ripley.
-A long video package aired on the Sheamus-Drew McIntyre feud.
(5) DREW MCINTYRE vs. SHEAMUS – No DQ match
Drew wore blue and white facepaint to battle. Joe said it represents the colors of his ancestors. They threw a barrage of strikes at each other in the opening seconds. Sheamus took over against Drew at ringside, but Drew came back with an overhead suplex. Drew took the lid off the announce desk and then threw some kendo sticks into the ring. Sheamus recovered during this time and threw Drew into the ringpost. He then grabbed a kendo stick. Drew ducked the swing and gave Sheamus another overhead suplex.
Sheamus took over in the ring and shoved a kendo stick into the mouth of Drew. Drew came back with a headbutt and a big boot. Drew jabbed the end of the stick into Sheamus’s eye socket. Drew threw Sheamus to the floor. Drew wound up with a kendo stick, but Sheamus used a drop toe hold to send him into the ringpost. Sheamus then set up a White Noise on the table. Drew fought out of it and set up a Future Shock DDT. Sheamus fought free. Drew threw Sheamus into the barricade instead. He tore at Sheamus’s mouth.
They fought into the open floor area. They battled up amongst the ThunderDome monitors. Sheamus gave Drew a rolling senton. He set up a suplex, but Drew slipped out and he threw Sheamus into monitors. Sheamus broke through part of the wall of monitors and fell a level down. Sparks flew. Drew looked down on him. The camera avoided showing Sheamus, oddly (reminiscent of the lack of camera angle when Crews dropped the steps onto Big E). Drew waited a few seconds, then went after Sheamus on the next level down. Drew put a limp-bodied Sheamus onto a rolling crate and pushed him back to ringside. He suplexed him to the floor.
Drew carried Sheamus to the announce table, but Sheamus slipped free and delivered a sudden Brogue Kick. I was half expecting a Peacock commercial break here. Drew was out on the other side of the ringside barricade. Sheamus went after Drew. He yelled at him that he should be in the main event of WrestleMania. He then delivered a leaping White Noise through the announce table. Phillips said this was savage and brutal. They piped in a loud “This is awesome!” Drew eventually landed a Future Shock DDT and a Claymore to get a decisive three count.
WINNER: McIntyre in 20:00. (****)
(Keller’s Analysis: Really good, intense, hard-hitting match start-t0-finish with the intangibles of Drew and Sheamus making it feel like a believable personal grudge all-out-fight. Big spots and a good variety, but all in the context of trying to destroy their opponent en route to getting the win.)
-A video package aired on the Randy Orton-Fiend/Alexa Bliss saga
(6) RANDY ORTON vs. ALEXA BLISS
As Orton walked out, Phillips said this isn’t a conventional match and doesn’t make any sense to a conventional human being. He asked what Orton is supposed to do against Bliss tonight. Joe said he had no idea. As Orton stood on the turnbuckle during his entrance, he began coughing up black gunk. He asked for a towel and wiped the gunk off his face. Bliss then made her entrance to a spooky remix of the Firefly Funhouse theme. She entered the ring and waved at Randy, then giggled. The bell rang and Orton, without taking off his vest, moved in on Bliss. Fire blasted mid-ring, so Orton recoiled and jumped backward. He then dove at Bliss, but she moved and he went flying into the ringpost and to the floor. When Bliss walked near Orton at ringside, a lighting grid dropped in front of Orton. Back in the ring, Bliss threw a lighting bolt out of his wrist and dropped Orton. The announcers noted that Orton blocked it with his wrist.
An arm reached up through the canvas and grabbed Orton’s boot. Some fire blasted up and then The Fiend popped out. He was a charred mess. Orton looked terrified. Bliss shoved Orton into Fiend, then Bliss made the cover. The ref counted to three.
WINNER: Bliss in 7:00. (N/R)
(Keller’s Analysis: If WWE is going to do something this, uh, unconventional, you at least want them to go all in on it. They sure did that here, I think. The new-look Fiend is pretty frightening! I mean, there aren’t enough words to properly describe how stupid this is within the usual context of wrestling, but it’s where WWE has decided to go and at least they keep the Fiend stuff in a somewhat separate track from everything else.)
-Cole threw to a clip of Paul Heyman on Talking Smack about the main event. He predicted that Roman Reigns will drive away two challengers in one match.)
(7) ROMAN REIGNS (w/Paul Heyman) vs. DANIEL BRYAN – WWE Universal Title match
Edge came out first. Then Bryan. Then Roman with Heyman. The announcers talked a lot about Bryan’s vow to submit Reigns. Graves said Bryan has a lot of submission holds other than the Yes Lock. Cole said, “There’s a big fight feel here tonight.” Reigns pushed Bryan into the corner. He said, “Take your ass home now or I’m going to send you there!” Bryan went for a leg takedown. Reigns grabbed the rope. Graves said Reigns knows he doesn’t have room for error in this match-up. Reigns took Bryan down with a knuckle lock. Bryan countered with an armbar. Reigns rolled quickly to the bottom rope to force a break. Reigns powered Bryan down into a side headlock. Graves said Bryan incensed the champion. Bryan countered into nasty standing arm contortion. Reigns’s shoulders ended up down. He powered out and stomped on Bryan’s head.
Reigns controlled the action for a few minutes. They went to ringside where Bryan showed a little fight, but Reigns threw him into the ringpost and went back on the attack right away. Bryan avoided a charging Reigns a minute later and sent Reigns into the corner with a drop toe hold. Edge was a non-factor thus far as a regular referee was in the ring and Edge stood and watched at ringside. Bryan went for a top rope huracanrana, but Reigns dropped it and turned into a Boston crab mid-ring. Heyman grinned at ringside. Bryan countered into an inside cradle for a near fall. Bryan hit a flying forearm and both were down and slow to get up. Graves asked who wants the Universal Title more and who wants the WrestleMania main event worse.
When they stood, Bryan got in a few punches. When Reigns charged, Bryan ducked and Reigns landed on the floor. Bryan launched over the top rope. Reigns caught him, but it shifted into an accidental powerslam. Reigns picked up Bryan to send him into the ringpost, but Bryan slipped free and shoved Reigns into the ringpost. Bryan then leaped off the ring apron with a flying knee. He threw Reigns back into the ring, then leaped with a knee to the back of Reigns’s head. Bryan connected with a top rope missile dropkick. Bryan took a few seconds to crawl over onto Reigns for a near fall. Bryan threw some Yes Kicks. Reigns sold them great. After a big wind-up, Reigns finally grabbed one of Bryan’s leg and drove Bryan into the corner. Reigns threw a barrage of kneelifts to Bryan’s chest and face. Bryan countered seconds later with a head scissors and a running Yes Kick for a dramatic near fall. They cut to a relieved and worried Heyman at ringside.
Bryan stood and told Reigns he’s about to be broken. He grabbed Reigns’s arm and then stomped on his head. He then applied a Yes Lock. The announcers reacted dramatically. Reigns powered out and then shifted to punching away at Bryan’s head. Reigns paused to rub the numbness out of his left arm. He stack covered Bryan for a near fall. Both were down and slow to get up. Cole said it could come down to who wants it more. Bryan went for a running knee, but Reigns moved and the ref took the knee. Reigns then speared Bryan. The ref was down, so Edge entered the ring and counted to two. It wasn’t a suspiciously slow or fast count; maybe, if anything, slightly slow. Edge had a few words for Reigns. Reigns sat up and talked back at him. Reigns then mounted and pounced on Bryan. Bryan caught Reigns in a triangle submission. Reigns stood and powered Bryan up, but Bryan held on and shifted back into a Yes Lock. Bryan threw some forearms from behind, then reapplied the hold.
Jey Uso entered the ring and superkicked Edge and then superkicked Bryan. He then checked on Reigns, then left the ring. He grabbed a chair and brought it into the ring. He threw Edge into the ringpost shoulder-first. Then he swung at Bryan, but Bryan ducked and gave Jey a running knee. Jey went down. Bryan bashed him across his back four times. Jey rolled to the floor to safety. Bryan then swung the chair at Reigns, but Reigns ducked and the chair bashed Edge in his shoulder. Reigns then hit Bryan with a sudden Superman Punch. When he charged with a spear, Bryan took him down into another Yes Lock. No ref, not Edge. Reigns got wide-eyed and tried to break the grip, but couldn’t. Reigns looked near passing out. Bryan yelled, “Tap! You’re gong to break!” Reigns tapped. Edge then entered and bashed Bryan with the chair. Edge then bashed Reigns with the chair. He snarled and yelled, “Mine! Mine!” He then rolled out of the ring and slapped the mat and returned to the back, fuming and growling.
A new ref came to the ring. Reigns covered Bryan. The ref counted to three. Reigns was announced as having retained the Universal Title.
WINNER: Reigns in 30:00 (****1/4)
(Keller’s Analysis: Tremendous match. The finish worked in terms of forwarding the story, but this match with a clean finish would have been a level higher since it didn’t seem like anything was settled between them. Clearly Bryan is not done with the Universal Title picture, whether that means a rematch with Reigns before or after WrestleMania or being added to the WrestleMania match. It’s hard to imagine Edge as a heel against Reigns as a heel at WrestleMania at this point, and it sure seems Edge turned heel there.)