By Christopher Withers
Desperation. This is the word that could best be used to describe the WWE following their Pay-Per-View event in January, the Royal Rumble. The audience to that event reacted in the complete opposite way that the WWE had expected, and hoped, that they would. Wrestling is scripted, it’s a story unfolding in real-time, and thusly it’s subject to the same problems that any story can have. One of these is bad writing, which describes the WWE in it’s current form to a tee. Fastlane had been sold to us as a new direction, one that could undo the horrible Royal Rumble. Paige, the former women’s champ, would get the chance to take back her belt; Dean Ambrose could win another title; and, most importantly to fans, the controversial end to the Royal Rumble match itself could be undone, with Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns fighting for the chance to face Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania for the World Title.
Six Man Tag Team Match
Dolph Ziggler/Erick Rowan/Ryback vs Seth Rollins/Big Show/Kane
I won’t go into to much detail about this match, since it has no real story significance. It was an all right match, Dolph and Seth are pretty good and did some good work these past few weeks on RAW and Smackdown. The problem is that I’m not a real fan of anyone involved on either side. Erick Rowan is a pretty good wrestler, but ever since leaving the Wyatt family he’s struggled without any real gimmick of his own, which ultimately led to where he is now, wrestling first matches on a PPV, mostly coasting of the audience’s love for the other guys on his team. Seth Rollins is a fantastic wrestler, on the other hand, but he’s been forced to be a coward and a cheat, which drastically undercuts how good he actually is. Ultimately Seth wins but his celebratory beatdown of his opponents is cut short by the returning Randy Orton, who RKO’s everyone on Seth’s team except Seth himself, who runs off into the parking lot like a pussy.
Stardust vs. Goldust
This… is kind of sad. It’s been highly implied, but unconfirmed, that this may be the end of Goldust. More than likely he will retire at Wrestlemania, which is unfortunate. Goldust was a key fixture of the Attitude Era, the 90’s era of the WWE, and is really good as a wrestler. While he failed to find much singles success he was, and still is, a major fixture of the Tag Team division, he has won 19 total championships over his career– six of which are Tag Titles. When he came back to the WWE he started tagging with his brother Cody Rhodes/Stardust, and captured the Tag Titles again. However he is getting on in years, he’s 45, and was a fixture of the WWE Hardcore division, many of whose other members already retired early due to the amount of injuries they received. The last nail in the coffin is when they started to imply difficulties between the Tag Team, which has now led to the two having a boring match at Fast Lane.
This match was dreadful, mostly because of how slow it is. Goldust doesn’t use any of his old signature moves anymore, which wouldn’t be so bad if this wasn’t so clearly just a story match. The crowd started pretty into it, chanting “Cody, Cody, Cody,” because Stardust doesn’t like being called by his name. But after about 10 minutes they had enough, and started chanting “boring, boring, boring,” until Goldust reversed a Snapmare into a roll-up and won. It was such a boring match that I was honestly surprised that was the finish. It felt like they accidentally finished the match early, which may have happened, and it’s just setting up another match at Wrestlemania. I will give them credit for making the post-match portion brutal, Goldust is speaking with his dad Dusty Rhodes before Stardust superkicks him into a wall, though unfortunately it really did look like it hurt him hard.
Tag Team Championships
The Brass Ring Club (Cesaro/Tyson Kidd) vs. The Usos
The problem with this match is simple, they still won’t call Cesaro/Kidd The Brass Ring Club. It’s a kick ass name, it rolls off the tongue, it fits both of them, and I hate Tag Teams without a Team Name. Dammit is it so much to ask that if a Tag Team is going to win the championships that they have a team name?
Anyway, the match was excellent. While many have become tired of The Usos, because of the dominant performance that they had throughout all of last year, but they still are very good. Combine that with the underappreciated technical expertise of Cesaro and Kidd and it turns into something of a miracle. The Usos play the speed game with Cesaro working as a bruiser alongside Kidd who works as a grappler so the match frequently changed pace and style, keeping it interesting. One particular moment of awesome being a second rope superplex by Cesaro followed up by a top rope elbow drop from Kidd. The Usos also got some great licks in, such a Samoa Drop onto the audience barricade. The Brass Ring Club ultimately wins with a swinging neckbreaker, great to see these guys win.
Triple H and Sting… stare at each other a whole bunch
The most boring part of the night. Twenty minutes, Twenty minutes. This was an atrocious promo, just a terrible, terrible, promo. Triple H, bless his heart, is not enough of a promo person to be able to carry a conversation with himself. There is no feud here, there is no point. It’s a final hurrah for an aging wrestler, giving him one last match before he retires, it’s completely boring, it doesn’t help to advance anyone, it does nothing. But it’s confirmed, Wrestlemania, the match that people will gush over for the next month and a half, and I just won’t care.
Women’s Championship Match
Paige vs. Nikki Bella
The match that was made to piss me off. Not because Paige lost, I understand the reason that she lost, to set up a bigger match at Wrestlemania. But the way she lost made me upset, because they were trying to set it up as a cheat victory by Nikki Bella, as she pulls the tights on Paige. The problem is that she doesn’t pull them hard enough to make you feel like it was a full on cheat, which makes it look like Paige is just complaining that she lost, which makes the whole thing feel cheap. Other than that there wasn’t anything to say about this match, it was serviceable but unexciting.
Dean Ambrose vs. Bad News Barret
Another BS match, which ends in a DQ, yes a disqualification finish on a pay-per-view. This is a nasty habit that the WWE seems to have adopted solely because of the switch to the Network Subscription model as opposed to the PPV model from before. Before this, when people were paying $50 a month for the PPV, you expected an actual conclusion, and if you didn’t get one… most of the time there would be refunds. It’s cynical, especially because this PPV was free, because of the free Network month. It can’t come across as anything other than them offering the month free in order to avoid criticism for the show just turning it’s wheels. I can’t even remember anything from the match because the finish upset me so much. But yeah it just ends with a DQ and Dean walking off with the championship to a chorus of boos.
United States Championship
John Cena vs. Rusev
Somehow this match managed to be a lot better than it looked like it’d be. People who are tired of John Cena should really watch this match, because it shows why he’s still popular, he still has a lot of gas in the tank. Now I am a huge fan of Rusev, despite his last few matches being boring, and this was probably his best match on WWE programming. Honestly while the general consensus is that John will win at Wrestlemania I want this feud to go into Extreme Rules, cause I was loving the match. Rusev works as a powerhouse who overpowers everyone he meets, as does John, who can work as a talented technical wrestler but also works on sheer strength.
The match was also clean until the finish, which actually worked in the favor of both men, as it really emphasized that Rusev really is a powerful man; my favorite moment being when he powered out of the STF by just shoving John off of him. But John did show some life, he hit a Five-Knuckle Shuffle, and while all of his attempts at AA’s were blocked he was never truly dominated. The ending is probably going to be considered controversial by some, but I thought it was okay. Rusev hits Cena with a hit to the junk, while the ref is concerned with Lana, and then throws him in The Accolade, Camel Clutch essentially, until John passes out, which for some reason they still declare a Submission.
For match at Wrestlemania
Daniel Bryan vs. Roman Reigns
We all knew this would happen. Maybe we denied it to ourselves, but we knew. Roman Reigns beat Daniel Bryan. Which, combined with everything else on the show, means two things. It isn’t going to be Shield vs. Brock, since Dean will probably have to win the IC title for realsies at Mania and Seth will more than likely be facing the returning Randy Orton. Also Daniel Bryan will either be in a match with Dolph Ziggler, which will probably be pretty good but won’t mean anything, or he’ll be facing the returning Sheamus, which will probably be pretty bad and won’t mean anything. And for those who say “but they’ll be having the best match on the card, doesn’t that mean anything?” No, not anymore, not to the WWE. Because the WWE, or I guess Vince McMahon, has an idea of who he wants as the main guy, and because of that even if a Dolph Ziggler, or a Daniel Bryan, or a CM Punk has matches that tear the house down won’t matter, because McMahon won’t give them the proper push. Now some may mention that Bryan was the exception last year, but let’s ask another question, if he hadn’t gotten injured, did it look like they were taking his story anywhere interesting? No he was feuding with Kane.
But regardless this match was okay. Great moments, Roman Reigns getting hit in the stomach and selling the crap out of it, hell even Bryan’s loss was done okay, the Howling Spear out of nowhere, but it doesn’t matter. Because Roman Reigns kicked out of the Running Knee, which they made sure to say that no one’s kicked out of. See? They are already reburying Bryan, all last year did was give him his one Mania moment, which if Vince has his way, will remain true for the rest of his career. Wrestlemania is shaping up to be incredibly depressing, partly because it’s assumed that Goldust will retire, The Undertaker will take a huge beating, Sting will exist, Roman Reigns will gain the WWE championship, which means we’ll be subjected to his overly scripted promos, and John Cena will take the U.S. Championship and defeat Rusev, rather than someone new that could use the push.