Friday, November 11, 2016

Random Network Reviews: Fastlane 2015

Fastlane 2015
February 22nd, 2015 | FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee | Attendance: 13,416

Coming off of the heels of one of their most negatively received Pay-Per-Views in history, the WWE was looking to turn things around at this event. One month prior, their Royal Rumble ended with Roman Reigns winning and receiving an incredibly negative response from the live crowd. It ruined his moment and the fans basically hijacked the entire Rumble match. Here, we have the first ever Fastlane event, which replaced Elimination Chamber and would set the stage for WrestleMania. Unlike a lot of PPVs from the Network era, this one does not have a Kickoff match.

For being the WWE in 2015, this is a rather disappointing opening video package.

Big Show, Kane and Seth Rollins vs. Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan and Ryback
The face team here were all fired for their roles against the Authority at Survivor Series. This is a diet version of that match. The crowd is pretty hot for Dolph Ziggler and Ryback, and the Authority are the most hated heels, so this is a good choice to open things. Commentary tries to put Show over by saying nobody can go toe to toe with him. Lawler suggests Brock Lesnar and JBL claims he would love to see that. Dude, it just happened a year ago and Brock murdered him. Rowan plays the face in peril, which is a problem because he’s the one the fans care least about. That’s not a good way to build sympathy. Ryback is rightfully the guy to get the hot tag and does some of his impressive power offense. He eventually gets stalled by the Authority and Dolph enters. He gets close to a win but is knocked out by Big Show, allowing Kane to win it.

Winners: Big Show, Kane and Seth Rollins in 13:01
With Erick Rowan playing the face in peril, the mostly dead crowd was even quieter than really dead. The match itself was decent but the finish was atrocious. The man who came back from down 3 on 1 at Survivor Series gets pinned and it’s not even by the guy that was the next big star, it was by Kane of all people. **¼

The Authority beat up their opponents after the match until Randy Orton returns. Like a bad face, he’s late as hell in making the save. He comes back in his gear, which I’ve always hated. Why would he be in his ring attire? That doesn’t make any sense.

Goldust vs. Stardust
The late Dusty Rhodes has a heart to heart with Goldust before the match. If you’re looking for an amazing match, this wasn’t it but I think there was some good storytelling. It starts with them exchanging moves but when Goldust gets the upper hand, we start to see more of Stardust shine though. He goes deeper into character and his expressions do a good job of showing his frustrations. There’s a cool spot where they each drop to the mat for an uppercut like strike. Cody shouting “who’s your favorite?” as he beats up his brother was well done. Stardust goes for his finish, but Goldust counters into a crucifix. The referee only counts two but then calls for the bell.

Winner: Goldust in 8:56
While I thought they tried to tell a good story, the actual in ring action left something to be desired. The dead crowd didn’t help a match that was relatively dull and had a terrible finish. Cody Rhodes’ ability to completely lose himself in his gimmick is the highlight of this match. **¼

We get a recap of the homemade videos from Jon Stewart and Seth Rollins during their mini-feud.

Backstage, Stardust attacks Goldust in front of Dusty. When Dusty shouts “Cody”, Stardust goes nuts. He says that Cody, the breakout star of Legacy, the Intercontinental Champion, dashing, the Prince Cody…is dead and he blames Dusty for sticking him with him Goldust.

WWE Tag Team Championship
The Usos (c) w/ Naomi vs. Tyson Kidd and Cesaro w/ Natalya

The fact that Cesaro and Tyson Kidd were a thrown together team but managed to mesh incredibly well together, is a thing of beauty. The challengers, being fantastic wrestlers, pick a body part and work it. They choose Jimmy’s knee and do everything to it well. From a half crab to Cesaro doing a one legged swing. Jey gets the hot tag but ends up in trouble when Cesaro hits his dead life superplex right into Kidd nailing an elbow. Great tag team work here. Kidd tries the Sharpshooter but it is countered. WE GET US SOME FLYING USOS MAGGLE! A creative spot comes when an Uso pulls Kidd’s leg from the apron into a Samoan drop into the barricade. Inside, things break down with a Sharpshooter and superkick before Cesaro and Jimmy or Jey fall outside. Kidd uses a kick to Jimmy’s leg to set up his finisher and win the straps.

Winners and New WWE Tag Team Champions: Tyson Kidd and Cesaro in 9:34
Really good old fashioned tag team wrestling here. They went out and had a no nonsense match that was just straight up enjoyable. The leg work made sense and actually played into the finish, the outcome was kind of unexpected and it just worked. A few more minutes to build stuff and this could have been great. ***½

I’m not a fan of long promos on Pay-Per-Views but that’s what we get here. Triple H comes out, “meaning business” because he has a leather jacket on. He calls out Sting after running down WCW, even though their feud “wasn’t about WCW”. Sting comes out and Triple H wants to keep his legacy alive with merchandise sales, which is a dumb offer since WWE Shop was already selling a ton of Sting stuff. Thigs get physical, HHH goes for the sledgehammer but Sting has the bat. He points to the WrestleMania logo before planting HHH with a Scorpion Death Drop. That is how the WWE set up the TERRIBLE Sting/Triple H match at Mania.

WWE Divas Championship
Nikki Bella (c) w/ Brie Bella vs. Paige

Fun fact; I met Paige at Comic-Con the night before this show and she was one of the nicest and coolest wrestlers I’ve ever met. Surprisingly, this is the first PPV meeting between these two, despite the fact that they had a never-ending rivalry. Paige attacked quickly since the Bellas made her life hell in recent weeks. Nikki turned it around and threw her into the guardrail. Nikki is trying to bust out the big offense, showing off an Alabama Slam for two. They botch a rollup into the turnbuckle, which came off looking really bad. Nikki then hits a big powerbomb but that only gets two also. Paige comes back, looking for the PTO but Nikki reaches the ropes. She then retains after a rollup with a handful of tights.

Winner and Still WWE Divas Champion: Nikki Bella in 5:35
Outside of the rollup botch, this was a well-executed match. Of all of the Divas on the main roster, Paige and Nikki probably have the best chemistry. My biggest issue with the match was that it was so short and they tried to cram a lot into it, as well as the cheap finish. **½

WWE Intercontinental Championship
Bad News Barrett (c) vs. Dean Ambrose

Between the Fall of 2014 and early 2015, Dean Ambrose’s booking was absolutely baffling. Here, we have a shining example. The guy is over like crazy and attacks Barrett early. In recent weeks, Barrett had been dodging him, so this made sense. Barrett knocks Dean off the top to take control, getting in some shots to Dean’s ribs. He’s in control until Dean does his variation of Nigel McGuinness’ rebound lariat, but on the outside. Dean comes close with a small package and looks to be on the verge of victory. Ambrose kicks out of Wasteland and dodges the Bull Hammer before coming back with a loud rebound lariat. Barrett escapes Dirty Deeds and tries to leave but eats a suicide dive. Here goes that baffling Ambrose booking as he attacks Barrett and the referee calls the match because he doesn’t stop at the five count.

Winner via disqualification: Bad News Barrett in 8:03
When I first saw this show, I gave this match a better score but I take that back now. They worked at a decent pace for the time but this felt like something that belonged on a Smackdown, rather than a PPV. The booking of Dean Ambrose was also dumb and this finish was not what the crowd wanted. 

We now get what we think is the Undertaker, but when the casket brought to ringside is opened, it is Bray Wyatt. He cuts a promo about resurrecting the “Deadman” and becoming the new “Face of Fear.” This was long and while Bray is interesting, this was just another promo to build towards a WrestleMania match. Not exactly what I want to see on my Pay-Per-Views.

WWE United States Championship
Rusev (c) w/ Lana vs. John Cena

Neither guy is really able to grab the upper hand through the early stages of his match. When Rusev finally does get in the driver’s seat, he picks Cena apart. I would like to commend Lana at ringside, as she is great at her facial expressions throughout this entire thing. Rusev begins to grow frustrated when he can’t put Cena away, making me question if he’s ever watched a Cena match before. HE FEARS NOTHING AND REGRETS LESS! He goes into the FIVE MOVES OF DOOM, telling Lana that she can’t see him. Rusev blocks the AA and hits some big offense for two, including a spinning slam and jumping kick. Cena hits the AA eventually but Rusev joins the now long list of people to kick out of it. Remember when doing so was a big deal? Rusev powerbombs Cena and puts on the Accolade. Cena, being Cena, powers out until Lana enters the ring. The referee pulls her out and helps her out of the ring. With him distracted, Rusev kicks Cena in the dick, then the face and then puts the Accolade back on. Cena is out like a light.

Winner and Still WWE United States Champion: Rusev in 18:42
This was one of those situations where these are two guys who just never really clicked in the ring. They would have three more singles matches on PPV and none would be better than this, which wasn’t great. Rusev did a fine job in his first big time PPV showing and it only got really good near the end. ***

Daniel Bryan vs. Roman Reigns
The winner of this match gets the “prize” of facing Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. Commentary hammers home the idea that while Bryan is the better wrester, Reigns is the better brawler. Funnily, JBL says that if add wrestling ability and brawling together, you get Brock. Makes sense. Bryan tries some of his submission holds but Reigns powers out, and Bryan’s reaction to this is great. Like, he realizes what happened but is also ready to adjust. They continue to trade blows and it’s power against technical skill still. Reigns even busts out some offense that I haven’t seen him use since and didn’t see before. Bryan avoids a Superman punch with a kick to the mid-section. This wisely brings in the hernia injury that took Reigns out of action for three months. Bryan attacks that injury and Reigns sells it very well. Bryan hits a suicide dive, but goes to the well too often as Reigns catches his next attempt with a belly to belly suplex. After Reigns misses and hits the steps, they tease a double countout. Bryan kicks out of a superman punch and then counters the Spear with a small package in a brilliant reverse. Reigns kicks out of the running knee, which Cole says is the first time it happened, but I’m pretty sure Randy Orton did it at Mania. Bryan goes into his kicks but Reigns catches one so he slaps him and goes to the Yes Lock. Reigns survives it and then powerbombs out of another submission. With both guys on the mat they go into a series of strikes that Bryan wins with kicks. He goes for another running knee, but is met with a Spear that ends this.

Winner: Roman Reigns in 20:10
This was the type of star making performance that Roman Reigns needed to have before winning the Royal Rumble to avoid that backlash. I loved this match. They played the power vs. technical stuff extremely well. It wasn’t like Reigns dominated and Bryan rallied either or vice versa. Neither guy gained a true upper hand and both had to go through a lot. The hernia injury coming into play was masterful and I like that they didn’t overdo the false finishes like a lot of big WWE matches. Bryan gave Reigns the rub that he needed and this did exactly what it needed to. ****¼

After the match, Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns shake hands.

Overall: 4.5/10; Below average. I wanted to like this show more. The main event is fantastic and the Tag Team Title match is worth checking out for sure. Rusev/Cena is their best outing, but still nothing you need to see. My biggest issues with this show were the fact that we had a lot of lame finishes (IC Title, Divas Title, US Title), disappointing matches (opener & Dust Brothers), too many promos and it just came off as a giant commercial for WrestleMania. This could have been an episode of Raw instead of a PPV. Up next, “Random Network Reviews” has me look at Superbrawl 2000!

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