Smackdown Takes the Fastlane into Wrestlemania
Last night, WWE Smackdown presented Fastlane, it’s the final brand exclusive PPV for the foreseeable future. If Smackdown PPV’s had been this good since the brand split, then maybe that wouldn’t be coming to an end. On a night where Smackdown looked to etch their champions into stone heading into April, each match delivered in setting up a road to Mania. Let’s get into the matches.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev (w/ Aiden English)
Rusev Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! Starting the show off was Nakamura and Rusev, with the latter being arguably the most over person in the company at the moment. The match starts out a little slow but eventually picks up to a decent pace. Shinsuke was able to put away Rusev with two Kinshasha’s, one to the back of the head and another when he recovered. While Rusev took the loss, it did make him appear at least somewhat strong in the match. Shinsuke is the number one contender heading into Mania so putting him over was the obvious decision.
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
US Title Match: Bobby Roode (c) vs. Randy Orton
Heading into the match, there was a lot of talk about how the United States title was the last belt Orton needed to join the Grand Slam club. Also, word on the street is that post-Mania Orton will be cutting back on in-ring time. Putting the belt on him before that transition makes sense, as absent champions tend to hurt a belt.
The match was fine but had a very, very slow pace. At one point I think Orton and Rooder were making about two moves a minute. Roode spent a lot of time just taunting Randy, and the match never felt intense at any moment. Orton caught Roode coming off the top rope with a nicely done RKO for the 1-2-3. Congratulations to the 10th member of the modern Grand Slam club, Randy Orton. The Viper thoroughly deserves it.
Post-match we had Jinder Mahal run it, but Orton dispatched him. Roode then hit Orton with a Glorious DDT, possibly teasing a heel turn. Roode was always a better Heel in NXT so I’d welcome the character change.
Winner: Randy Orton (New United States Champion)
Natalya and Carmella vs. Naomi and Becky Lynch
Well, this match happened. A plug-in for the remaining veteran women on the roster, it was a serviceable match. Carmella is getting better with her in-ring performance, and this match felt like it was made to put her over a bit heading into Mania.
The end of the match saw Carmella ask Natalya to grab Frankie, her briefcase, but Becky stopped Natalya. However, when Becky turned around Carmella hit her with a pretty stiff looking superkick for the pinfall victory. This bout was a pretty standard match that felt more like something on Smackdown rather than a PPV match.
Winners: Carmella and Natalya
Smackdown Tag Team Title Match: The Usos vs. The New Day
The best feud of last year gets a quick callback for Fastlane. The promo package heading into this match was fantastic. The chemistry between these two teams is phenomenal, and their contrasting careers is something that needs to be explored more down the line. However now is not the time to go back to that well.
The match was great with each team taking the signatures moves of their opponents. When opponents have faced each other a lot, I enjoy those spots as it showcases their familiarity. If this match were going to be added to their classic highlight reel, we’d never know, as it was cut short by the Bludgeon Brothers. Luke and Erik came down to the ring as everyone was laid out on the outside, and decimated the top of the division. A vicious double-team powerbomb to Xavier Woods on a set of steel steps bookended the carnage. Are we looking at a triple threat match for Mania? I’m down for it.
Winner: N/A (The Fans though)
Smackdown Women’s Championship Match: Charlotte (c) vs. Ruby Riott
I am admittedly not a big fan of the Riott Squad. I think it’s sucked any individuality these women could have had coming into the main roster. Why would people team up for a solo title only one of them can have? 3-person factions are the WWE way though, so this is what we have.
Riott came to the ring alone, but after some ringside action, a camera cut revealed Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan had come out from the crowd to cut off Charlotte. To even the odds Naomi and Becky joined Charlotte at ringside. The match then continued at a pretty good pace. Charlotte’s in-ring ability and selling showed greatly in the match as she carried the primary load in the match. However, Ruby was no slouch either and did well in her debut title match. After both camps had their help dispatched to the locker room, Charlotte got Riott into the Figure-8 lock, and she immediately tapped. Pretty good match and I look forward to Riot’s future, especially once the Riott squad hopefully breaks up.
Post Match: ASUKAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!! Asuka vs. Charlotte at Mania, woo. Asuka crashed Charlotte’s victory moment by challenging The Queen at Wrestlemania 34. This match could give Shinsuke and AJ Styles a run for their money at Mania. I’m very much looking forward to this match.
Winner: Charlotte (c)
WWE Championship Sixpack Challenge: AJ Styles (c) vs. Kevin Owens vs. Sami Zayn vs. John Cena vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler
Side note: heading into this match, I think we can all agree that Cena’s current title grabbing storyline is pure basura. He’s John Cena, and he’s under contract, he’ll be at Wrestlemania in some capacity. Also, Shane McMahon walks down the ring before the match, so he HAS to be involved of course. Ugh. Onto the match.
Big Match John isn’t playing around at all as he AA’s everyone except AJ who was able to fake-out the 16 time Champion. AJ and John then trade a few moves, before the rest of the competitors spring back to life on the apron. Everyone then beats up John Cena for a while, and the proper rumble starts soon after. John Cena, KO, and AJ Styles end up brawling outside near the announce table, and the exchange ends with Cena slamming Styles through a table with an AA.
The superstars take turns having their momentum runs until it’s Sami and KO left in the ring. Sami then lays down for Owens who is hesitant, and for good reason as Sami attempts a small package as Owens goes for the easy win. An errant Superkick from Owens to Zayn outside the ring ends up in the face of Shane McMahon. Shane then goes on to rob both Sami and Owens of potential pinfall victories and the title.
The end of the match saw Corbin come into the ring with a set of steel steps to attempt to clean house, but is stopped by Cena. Cena then hits Ziggler with an AA, but before he could capitalize, Owens plants him with a pop-up powerbomb. However, this was not the end of the match, as KO turns around into a phenomenal forearm from AJ Styles for the 1-2-3. Oddly enough AJ didn’t do much in the match save from the beginning and end.
Winner: AJ Styles (c)
It’s actually happening.
Overall, I thought Fastlane was Smackdown’s most robust individual showing in quite some time. A couple of the matches even exceeded expectations. The blue brand has always been seen as the B-child, but maybe things will look up for them after Mania.
Match of the Night: WWE Championship Sixpack Challenge
Wrestler of the Night: Charlotte