WWE Fastlane took place on Sunday, March 5th at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. I attended the show live and mostly enjoyed it, but left scratching my head at some of the WWE’s creative decisions, as to be expected for a Raw show.
At the start of the year, WWE announced tour dates around the Midwest with stops in St. Paul, La Crosse and Milwaukee. It was difficult to pick between the three shows (St. Paul and La Crosse were both Smackdown branded shows), but eventually I settled on the pay-per-view option, mostly because of one performer:
As much as I wanted to see AJ Styles wrestle a match and Bray Wyatt as the champion, Goldberg sealed the deal. Smackdown will be back in the Midwest again, Goldberg won’t be if the rumors of him retiring after Wrestlemania are true.
Fastlane was the last Raw branded pay-per-view before Wrestlemania next month. As usual, Monday Night Raw hasn’t been great and the buildup to Fastlane was lackluster. The match card looked good on paper with all sorts of possibilities available to get WWE to where they’re going at Wrestlemania.
After destroying Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series and outsmarting him again in the Royal Rumble, Goldberg found his way into a Universal Championship match with Kevin Owens. One of my favorites as a kid going up against one of my favorites today.
I’m forgoing my match reviews for the show since being there live and watching the show at home can make the same match come off completely different.
I had never been the Bradley Center and was surprised how quickly I got through security and got to my seat, just in time for the pre-show.
Akira Tozawa & Rich Swann vs. Brian Kendrick & Noam Dar
Cruiserweight tag team action kicked off the show. They went back and forth for about 10 minutes and this was a good way to get the crowd fired up. The faces win after some high flying. I was excited to see Tozawa work in person and he has a energy. Give the cruiserweights more stuff like this and they’ll get over.
The rest of the crowd started to fill in the arena, mostly a mix of families, smart fans and casual fans there for the Goldberg nostalgia.
The main show started with all the pyrotechnics and commotion. Sami Zayn’s music hit first.
Sami Zayn vs. Samoa Joe
I was looking forward to this match a lot. I thought this would be the workhorse match to salvage the fact that the main event would be going short and expected something like their matches in NXT.
I’m not going to say I was let down but perhaps my expectations were too high. Joe just debuted on the main roster and this match served a purpose in getting Joe over as a monster. Zayn was a last-minute replacement for Seth Rollins, so they didn’t have much for a storyline going in to the match.
Zayn got in some hope spots and got to be a fiery babyface, but Joe ultimately overpowered and continued his dominance by making Zayn pass out in the coquina clutch. The crowd was well split between the two, even though Joe’s supposed to be a heel.
WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match
Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson (c) vs. Enzo & Cass
Holy hell are Enzo and Cass over. They got the biggest ovation of the night and 99% of the crowd sang along with their entrance shtick. Enzo cut a promo with some cheap pops about the Bucks and the Brewers. Enzo can talk like the best of them, but when it’s time to watch him wrestle my brain shuts down.
The Good Brothers came out to crickets and they proceeded to have a typical Monday Night Raw style tag match. They got the heat on Enzo for a very, very long time, you could feel the energy draining out of the room. Enzo finally connected the hot tag to Big Cass and the crowd perked up. Cass ran wild and the crowd were into the near-falls. Anderson gets the pin on Enzo, but Enzo had his foot on the ropes. Enzo and Cass almost had it in the bag and we were ready for them to win the gold, but WWE’s probably holding their moment out until Wrestlemania.
Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
Bathroom break. I think Nia Jax could have used another year in NXT to develop and the other women on Raw feel leagues ahead of her. Sasha shockingly wins with a surprise roll-up pin. Nia’s monster push is over before it ever even started, but if she won it would’ve been the third heel victory in a row. The first of several questionable decisions on the show.
A backstage segment was played on the Titantron about Rusev and Jinder Mahal being sent to the ring to face mystery opponents. Surprise, unannounced matches can be fun but this was obviously here to kill time and pad out the show.
Jinder and Rusev brawl for a minute before Jinder takes out Rusev (really??) and his opponent is…Cesaro! Cesaro and his tag partner Sheamus do their full entrance deal. The crowd pops and then they immediately suck the air out of the room.
Cesaro vs. Jinder Mahal
I can’t stress enough how much this sucked. Cesaro can get a good match out of almost anybody, but not tonight. There were long chin locks and rest holds, Cesaro didn’t get to show off any of his flashy offense and it looked like they were wrestling underwater. The crowd started getting hostile, chanting CM Punk and whatever else they could think of to try and entertain themselves. Rusev appeared from the crowd causing Jinder to be distracted and pinned. What a bust. They went one minute less than Joe and Zayn did.
Rusev went back in the ring, laying the boots into Jinder and we were thinking that this may be the beginning of a face turn for Rusev, until THE BIG SHOW’s music hit.
The Big Show vs. Rusev
Big Show got a big ovation since he’s an Attitude Era guy people remember. The crowd was starting to get into Rusev when suddenly they remembered that he’s an evil foreigner once Big Show came out. USA chants started up and Rusev got squashed. Rusev took three chokeslams and a knockout punch while he was down, barely getting in any offense. Big Show looked dominant for his match with Shaquille O’Neal that may or may not be happening.
All of this was pointless. They could have given Zayn and Joe 10 more minutes, but oh well.
Cruiserweight Championship Match
Neville (c) vs. Jack Gallagher
Austin Aries got a huge reaction when he came out for commentary, being a Milwaukee guy. Gallagher came out and a group of fans held up umbrellas for him which was hilarious. Neville didn’t get booed.
They started out slow with some mat wrestling and technical back and forth. As the match went on they ramped up the physicality with some vicious looking headbutts from Gallagher and some high flying moves from Neville. The crowd started out sitting on their hands but woke up when the match got going.
More suplexes and big moves were traded back and forth until Neville had to bust out the red arrow for the win. They worked very hard to get their match over and I think they succeeded. After the last half hour of the show being a dud, this match helped get the show going again. Good stuff. I expected Austin Aries to confront Neville after the match in front of his hometown, but they held that off until the next night on Raw for whatever reason.
Paul Heyman appeared on the big screen and cut a promo about Brock Lesnar and Goldberg, teasing that Brock could show up tonight.
The New Day came out with an ice cream cart and reminded everyone they’re hosting Wrestlemania. New Day are directionless since they lost the tag titles but they’re still mega-over with the crowd. I was glad to see them on the show since they weren’t booked for a match.
Roman Reigns vs. Braun Strowman
I had high hopes for this too. Braun’s still green but they could smoke and mirrors this match enough to put on a good performance and it worked. Braun got some cheers which surprised me. Roman came out to 95% boos, he felt like the first character on the show the crowd actually didn’t like. Braun’s theme song rules so much.
They went 20 minutes. Braun looked indestructible, kicking out of the spear and surviving a spear through the barricade. Braun smashed Roman through the announce table with a running powerslam and even attempted a frog splash from the top rope. Roman picked up the win clean, the most disappointing result of the show.
Everyone in the crowd was expecting some form of the Undertaker appearing since that was set up in the Rumble. It made sense for Undertaker to cost Roman the match, instead we got the exact opposite. Braun had never been defeated in a singles match, and WWE had Roman slay the beast on the way to Wrestlemania clean in the middle. Months of pushing Braun ended for seemingly no reason.
Raw Women’s Championship Match
Bayley (c) vs. Charlotte
Bayley got a huge pop and it was cool to see her entrance. Charlotte came out with Dana Brooke and immediately told her to go to the back to keep this a fair fight.
Their match was solid but it was hard to top Reigns/Strowman and the Cruiserweight matches. Charlotte hit a beautiful moonsault, Bayley hit her finisher on the floor outside the ring. Sasha Banks ran in and her presence helped Bayley pick up the win, retaining her title.
WWE built up Charlotte as having an undefeated pay per view streak with 16 straight wins, only to end it tonight. Bayley won the title on Raw and ended her streak a few weeks later. Bayley winning the belt and ending the streak could’ve been a big moment at Wrestlemania, but they decided to pull the trigger early. Another questionable creative decision for the night, although I liked their match.
WWE Universal Championship Match
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Goldberg
Goldberg came out first with a big ovation and 9-year-old me was so stoked. Owens came out to another mix of cheers and jeers.
Owens had turned on his “best friend,” Chris Jericho several weeks ago. Everybody knew what was going to happen here. Jericho would cost Owens the belt as revenge, Goldberg would hit the spear and the jackhammer and win the belt in quick fashion. And well, that’s exactly what happened. From bell to bell was less than 30 seconds.
Goldberg won and the crowd was thrilled. Owens hobbled to the back looking like he got shot. They closed the show with Goldberg holding the belt high. No appearance from Lesnar but the crowd didn’t care.
The booking and creative decisions are more than questionable but I tried to not let that hinder my enjoyment. I don’t understand why WWE would build up Nia Jax, Braun Strowman and Charlotte’s streak just to end everything tonight, this close to Wrestlemania. I’m still going to watch Wrestlemania this year even though I don’t necessarily agree with the direction WWE is going. This is the least excited I’ve been for a Wrestlemania in years.
Live wrestling is still the best way to experience pro-wrestling. You get to see the context of how other fans watch the show. You can talk to other smart marks who don’t get the booking either, or you can talk to fans who are there to see Goldberg demolish some jabroni. Kids still show up in their John Cena gear, even though he’s on the other brand.
I enjoyed my experience being at the show live. Minus that dreadful half-hour in the middle there was some good wrestling. I was thoroughly sports entertained and got my money’s worth. I’m glad I got to see Goldberg’s farewell tour.
by Nate Dimit