The last stop on the Road to WrestleMania is mercifully here.
Welcome to the last stop on the Road to WrestleMania, Fastlane! This PPV is usually pretty forgettable, and unfortunately, this year’s incarnation seems to be no different. To say SmackDown Live has been on autopilot lately is probably a little too generous. The only major draw here is a six pack challenge in which the odds are stacked against WWE Champion AJ Styles, in a way that always seems to see the hero prevail. Other matches are also taking place, none of them of any real consequence.
So…yeah! Who’s ready for some Fastlane!
Becky Lynch and Naomi vs. Natalya and Carmella
The members of the SmackDown Live women’s division who aren’t Charlotte Flair or members of the Riott Squad need something to do, too, and that’s why this tag match was proposed this week by Ms. Money in the Bank, Carmella.
Jason: Regardless of gender, whoever holds the Money in the Bank briefcase is cursed to lose all of their matches. With Asuka likely coming in to claim the SmackDown Women’s Championship at Mania, part of me feels like Carmella is going to be the first person to hold onto the case until it expires. Hopefully this win will mean something good for Becky, but unless there’s some kind of multi-women scrum planned for (probably) the pre-show, I don’t think she (or Naomi or Natty) will be on the WrestleMania card at all.
Winner: Becky and Naomi
Loser: The “prestige” of the first Miss Money in the Bank.
Nathaniel: Are they actually going to book someone to be so inept they never cash in their MITB briefcase? It’s the only thing they haven’t done yet so it kind of makes sense. Becky and Naomi win after Carmella gets pinned.
Winners: Becky and Naomi
Loser: The already stale Money in the Bank concept gets further devalued.
Patrick: I can’t think of a PPV matchup I have cared about less than this one in quite some time. All these girls are talented, but they are given absolutely nothing creatively and even this match was just thrown together at the last second. I’ll go with Becky and Naomi too, both because they are two of the more popular women on the roster and the aforementioned briefcase curse.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev
Royal Rumble winner Shinsuke Nakamura has been conspicuously quiet since securing his ticket to WrestleMania, but apparently WWE realized at the last minute that one of their most popular acts might help get people to watch this last stop on the road to WrestleMania. He goes up against Rusev, who has earned a cult-like following as of late. It’s too bad for Nakamura that this match takes place on Rusev Day.
Jason: It’s like the WWE doesn’t want us to like Shinsuke Nakamura. First he wins the Royal Rumble then he disappears from TV for the next few weeks. When he finally returns he mixes it up with the hottest act in the company, but it’s the wrong half of the team. Now he’s got a PPV match that he’s definitely going to win, but it’s going to be at the expense of the most beloved and underused guy on the roster, Rusev. Nak’s taking this, but I don’t know how many people he’ll win over by trouncing my man RuRu. On Rusev Day, too! Shameful.
Winner: Nanananananana – Nak man!
Loser: The proud people of Bulgaria.
Nathaniel: It seems the only way this match would have any intrigue was if a Rusev win meant he was added to the Mania title match. Which is a shame since Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev sounds so good on paper. It actually would not be surprising to see Rusev win here and then Nakamura get his win back on SmackDown. Plus, a Rusev win would set up a program for Nak if he does win the title. Still, I think people only get invested to ask, “Are they really going to beat the challenger for the World Title this close to WrestleMania?”
Winner: Swagsuke in a match that turns out to be more interesting than it looks
Loser: Nakamura fans. “Interesting” does not mean “good.” Nak still has not put on the top caliber match he is capable of in since being called up and this will be no different.
Patrick: No way Nakamura loses this one. The fans have latched onto Rusev hard, but WWE doesn’t seem convinced yet. They usually wait until the point of complete irrelevance to give a half-hearted attempt at pushing a guy who got himself over, and Rusev is still hot. And it just wouldn’t make any sense for the Rumble winner and #1 contender to lose to — sorry, Rusev fans — a mid-carder.
Bobby Roode (c) vs. Randy Orton for the WWE United States Championship
The United States Championship is the only title that has eluded Randy Orton throughout his legendary career, so he has set his sights on the Glorious One. Jinder Mahal is certainly not happy about this match, but I’m sure he’ll have the class to just sit back and let these two handle their business with no shenanigans…right?
Jason: SHENANIGANS! No way Jinder doesn’t get involved here. It’ll set up a triple threat for the US belt at Mania and SmackDown will continue to be little more than a “rinse and repeat” version of Raw. I’m going to assume Bob Roo holds on to the belt heading into Mania.
Winner: People with full bladders in need of a bathroom break.
Loser: Everyone else.
Nathaniel: I want to go on record as saying I hate when former World Champions win secondary titles. Especially umpteen time World Champions like Orton. I understand that the idea is to make the title more important but honestly, how often does that happen? Besides, Orton hasn’t elevated anything since he carried Mick Foley to awesome matches in his Legend Killer days. As for the match itself, Jinder will get involved setting up a three way at Mania since you can never have too many multi man title matches.
Winner: There are no winners when Jinder Mahal and an unmotivated Randy Orton are involved.
Loser: Randy Orton. If I wanted to be a professional wrestler I would want to look like Orton. He is a good worker, has a cool finisher, and is pretty over with crowd. But he is missing something that would make him an all time great and each year he becomes more ordinary.
Patrick: Bobby was a good heel in NXT and back in TNA, but he’s a shell of his former self on the main roster. Much like Nakamura, WWE is seemingly banking on a cool theme song alone to carry him to superstardom — and to be fair, it goes a surprisingly long way these days. Combine this boring incarnation of Roode with a guy I have never been able to get behind in Orton, and this one’s a bathroom break for sure. Especially since the ending is so telegraphed. Jinder interferes, Roode keeps the belt, and this becomes a three way at Mania.
Charlotte Flair (c) vs. Ruby Riott for the SmackDown Women’s Championship
The Riott Squad has been a thorn in the back of the Queen for several months now, and the upstart team’s leader gets a shot at Charlotte Flair and her title at Fastlane.
Jason: Riott has literally no chance in this thing. I would love to see her hold the gold because she was the jam as Heidi Lovelace, but as Ruby Riott she’s a dead-in-the-water palette swap of Page. Short of some kind of horrible accident, Charlotte is holding that belt at Mania, so now isn’t the time to get adventurous with the title. The Queen will still reign over the blue brand come monday.
Winner: Charlotte Forever (until Asuka shows up)
Loser: New talent
Nathaniel: On Raw, the women’s division gets Ronda Rousey, historic angles setting up first ever matches, and the chance to interact with Steph. On SmackDown, the women get to not cash in their MITB briefcase. Charlotte wins in a match where the only question is whether Asuka will make an appearance.
Winner: Charlotte Flair
Loser: I guess when Steph talks about the Women’s Evolution, it’s limited to Mondays and some Sundays. Even King Lear didn’t show this much favoritism.
Patrick: I actually don’t necessarily agree with Jason’s assessment of Riott — I think she’ll have a pretty good career in WWE. But for now, yeah, there ain’t no stopping the Queen, especially less than a month away from Mania.
The Usos (c) vs. The New Day for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships
Two of the best tag teams of this decade square off one more time in what is sure to be a show stealer. Every time The Usos and The New Day lock up, magic is made in that ring. Will the Power of Positivity be enough to net The New Day their fifth tag team championship reign, or will they be locked in the Uso Penitentiary?
Jason: I hate to say it, but I am not at all excited about this one. See, I know that The Usos Vs. The New Day will be good. It’s always good. It’s just that I’ve seen it like 40 times at this point, and while they do keep finding ways to reinvent the wheel, is the tag division so bereft of talent that they have to re-run this PPV match for like the sixth time in the last year? Invest in another team, Road Dogg. As for who wins, Jimmy Uso got destroyed by Braun Strowman on Tuesday’s Mixed Match Challenge, but whether or not that show is considered canon isn’t entirely clear. Still, the smart money is on The New Day to take this one. They’re the bigger name to have at WrestleMania, but I honestly hope the Usos take it. Put those damn Uso boys on WrestleMania, man. It’s been way too long.
Winner: The New Day
Loser: The Fatu family that will likely once again be watching WrestleMania from catering.
Nathaniel: Rock ‘n’ Rolls vs Midnights this isn’t. No more matches between these two teams, please. I believe The Usos are the longest continuous tag team in WWE since the 1970s. The Harts, Demolition, and Rockers are just a few of the teams they have teamed longer than. Too bad that is not enough to get them on the Mania card.
Winners: The New Day
Losers: Fans of tag team wrestling. Recycled matches no matter how good they are and thrown together tag teams are just dont cut it.
Patrick: The Usos’ promo about never being involved in a WrestleMania made me a believer — as well as left me in disbelief, because that’s insane. They have been the anchor of WWE’s tag division for nearly a decade, and haven’t had a proper tag team match at WrestleMania ever?! It’s time. They have been doing the best work of their careers in the past year. Usos for the win.
AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler for the WWE Championship (Six-Pack Challenge)
AJ Styles must retain his title to walk into WrestleMania as WWE Champion against a familiar foe in Shinsuke Nakamura. John Cena has no clear path to WrestleMania and sees this as his final opportunity. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn have been concocting plan after plan to take the WWE Championship from AJ Styles for months. And Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler are also there.
Jason: Styles needs to win this, for fuck’s sake. If WWE seriously drives us up to the fireworks factory and then deters to the Cenation I will stop watching SmackDown. That’s not too idle of a threat either. The show has been so bad for the past few months that it’s not really a big sacrifice as a fan. Anyway, none of these other shmoes deserves a match with Shinsuke at Mania – not even Cena. AJ pinning Zayn after he Helluva Kicks KO and turns into the Phenomenal Forearm is the only right call to end this thing.
Winner: It damn well needs to be AJ Styles
Loser: Everyone besides Styles and Cena, who will likely be shunted off into the Andre rather than have a real match at Mania.
Nathaniel: If they are serious about this stupid Cena angle, then it needs to come down to him and AJ. At least let there be some drama. Whoever it comes down to at the end, AJ should win, leaving Steenerico to do whatever the plan with Shane at Mania is, Baron and Dolph to the Geek Battle Royal, and Cena to face Undertaker in the match we all couldn’t wait to see a decade ago.
Winner: AJ Styles
Loser: Anyone with common sense. This “Cena may not be at Mania” story is insulting and no one buys it (including the WWE), but prepare to hear a lot about it on Sunday.
Patrick: God, is this a lazy main event. No one besides AJ winning this thing makes any sense whatsoever, besides Cena, which would just be a huge fuck you to the fans who have been salivating over the prospect of Nakamura vs. Styles since January. It seems like Cena vs. Undertaker is still the plan, as I don’t know why Cena would even bring that up if nothing was going to happen with it. So AJ wins and all is right with the world.