Goin’ Down To New Orleans….by way of Ohio? – WWE Fastlane Recap and Reactions – 3/11/2018

Columbus, Ohio welcomes the Smackdown Superstars to the Nationwide Center as WWE Fastlane 2018 is our last PPV stop on the Road to Wrestlemania.  The smart money is on nothing major going down tonight, but let’s be cautiously optimistic as we jump into this one.  I’m live, at least until the Network freezes, so feel free to play along.

WWE Fastlane 2018 Kickoff Show

Breezango & Tye Dillinger team up against Mojo Rawley, Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin

We didn’t predict this one, because until about lunch time today nobody knew it was happening.  That being said, I don’t care who they’re wrestling I’m emotionally invested in all three of the guys on the left side of your screen.

The match got started and almost instantly went to commercial.  Why in the hell can’t the commercials on these kickoff shows be pre- or post-match?  Save the broadcast team some effort keeping conversation going (and Booker from saying something he can’t take back).  Anyway.

This team of Breezango and The Perfect 10 is yet another of those reasons I desperately want to see them bring in a 6-Man Tag Championship.  You don’t have to look much further than the number of teams utilizing the Freebird Rule anyway to see it as a good thing (New Day, Sanity, Undisputed Era, Lucha House Party, etc.) and you’ve seen how awesome the teams that wind up together can be (do I need to list anything beyond the Hung Bucks?).

The crowd in Ohio does not like Mojo Rawley.  The heels are on top for a lot of this one, but Tye Dillinger comes in on the hot tag, then gets back in control later landing the Tye Breaker to pick up the pinfall.  

Other Notes from the Kickoff Show:

  • Dolph Ziggler answered the social media questions tonight, and it was yet another in a really long run of great, great promo work.  By the time he was done, I legitimately wanted to see him walk out with the Championship tonight.  I mean, the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal is inevitably going to be for the WWE Championship at the rate they are adding people to matches, so maybe he’ll just get his Wrestlemania moment tossing Cena over the top rope.
  • SAM ROBERTS ON THE PANEL INSTEAD OF ROSENBERG.  In case I haven’t said it 1,000 times yet, I DO NOT LIKE PETER ROSENBERG.  He’s a tool.

WWE Fastlane 2018

Shinsuke Nakamura vs Rusev

Aiden English is feeling better, and he brings his melodious voice to the stage with something more like a freestyle rap than a typical opera performance, and several cheap heat shots at Columbus, Ohio, though that’s like literally being asked to shoot the broadside of a barn.  Those jokes write themselves.

I went in to the show incredibly amped for this one.  #BothTheseGuys

And it did not disappoint.  Both guys were given the opportunity to really display everything in the arsenal, and the crowd was definitely going to be ok with it no matter which of them picked up the win here.  A great back and forth affair, but in the end Shinsuke Nakamura picked up the pinfall after a pair of Kinshasas.  

…….It’s still Rusev Day.

 In case you’ve forgotten, Wrestlemania is in 28 Days.

Bobby Roode defends the United States Championship against Randy Orton

With a win here, Randy Orton would round out the Grand Slam of WWE Championships, although I don’t really know that that’s a thing anymore as often as they add and subtract championships.  Give me a minute, I’ll do some journalism work right quick……..He’s held: World Heavyweight Championship (4), World Tag Team Championship (1, with Edge), WWE Championship (9), WWE Intercontinental Championship (1), and the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championship (1, with Bray Wyatt/Luke Harper), in addition to winning Money in the Bank (1) and the Royal Rumble (2).  I’ll add here that he held the Hardcore Championship in OVW, so I’m going to count that too damn it, as WWE was retiring the Hardcore Championship about the time he got the call to the big show.

That’s one hell of a resume, but you don’t need me to tell you just how damn good a motivated Randy Orton is at every facet of sports entertainment/professional wrestling.

Ok, I got lost in Wikipedia hell there for a minute.  I’m back.

This was a very methodical match.  That’s not to read like a slow match, because it wasn’t necessarily a terribly slow paced match, but they did all the right things that you’re supposed to do to sell things throughout a match.  Roode worked a rib injury that Orton focused on throughout.  Orton came off a big clothesline clutching his shoulder, which Roode had been working for quite a while and continued to work.  These are the sort of things you notice when you watch seasoned veterans get a lengthy time slot to work with on the card.

It was consistently back and forth for the first quarter to first half of the match, but Randy Orton took over doing “vintage Randy Orton” things for quite a while in the second half of the match.  Roode appeared to be making his comeback with a monster spinebuster, but in the end Randy Orton would land the RKO Outta Nowhere and complete his grand slam.  Congrats Randy.

Jinder Mahal would make his way to the ring and attack the celebrating Randy Orton.  Roode made what appeared to be a save landing the Glorious DDT on the Modern Day Maharaja, but then turned and hit one on Orton as well.  Guess we’re getting a Triple Threat Match at Wrestlemania (maybe, it’ll probably be a half-case challenge elimination gauntlet lumberjack match so everyone without a match gets some screen time).

Becky Lynch & Naomi vs Natalya & Carmella

Ms. Money in the Bank kicks this one off against Becky Lynch in a flaming singlet (not really flaming, but the flame pattern like that bowling shirt you cringe every time your Dad decides to leave the house in).  Neither is long for this match, as Carmella scampers away from an early Dis-Arm-Her attempt to make a quick tag.

I’m not the biggest fan of Natalya as a wrestler, in spite of her being the only female graduate of the Hart Dungeon, but her ring psychology and this heel character that screeches at the audience is fantastic.

This match was fine, nothing special.  Natalya distracted Becky Lynch with the MitB briefcase long enough for Carmella to set up and land a superkick.  Carmella gets the pinfall over Becky Lynch.  #WeWantBecky!

Commercial:  John Cena will against host the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards, Saturday, March 24th.  It was kind of awkward last time, so maybe he’s got his footing now and it’ll be a little less weird (or maybe I’m a 30-something and I shouldn’t be watching the Kids Choice Awards anyway).

The Usos defend the Smackdown Tag Team Championship against The New Day

Jimmy and Jey will take on the pairing of Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston.  Little shocked to not see Big E in this one after how much fire he had on that promo Tuesday night.

Going into this one I was pretty nervous that they were going back to the well far too soon.  New Day and The Usos set the bar for their own feud and tag team wrestling in general extremely high at Summerslam, and then they practically had to kill each other to one-up it at Hell in a Cell.

This match was entirely pointless.  To really sell the point that they know each other far too well, they kept missing moves and reversing one another because they always knew what was coming.  Then each team spent some time landing all the other team’s moves.  Eventually, The Usos did the tandem dive to the outside and while the entire set of five were laid out, The Bludgeon Brothers came down and laid waste to everybody in sight.  Nobody Wins, but damn Harper and Rowan look like monsters again.  Nice to see them beat on someone other than jobbers, or the poor Ascension.

(On a side note, Luke Harper must have gone to Donald Trump’s spray tan guy, because he looked like a Swamp Cheetoh).

Ruby Riott challenges Charlotte Flair for the Smackdown Women’s Championship

Tom Phillips said it best going into this match when he said Charlotte was the benchmark for the Women’s Division in WWE.  She absolutely is.  Every part of me wanted her not to be, as a stark opponent of nepotism, but you can’t argue with her place on the food chain.  She’s worked her ass off to get here.  If you look at the footage from Mania XXIV when she watched Flair lose to HBK, it’s not even the same person.  She’s a born athlete, and on top of being good in the ring, her promo work is consistent and she appears fearless when she’s put in positions where she has to do something intense (you know, like moonsault off the top rope to the outside, compete inside hell in a cell, etc.).

Ruby, however, put on a clinic.  She’s clearly good in the ring, but she’s been around since the final years of OVW so of course she is.  She’s got that same intense in ring psychology that Natalya got props for earlier in the evening, at one point holding her violently in a straight jacket hold and forcing her to look at Becky and Naomi at ringside as she cried in pain from the maneuver.

Speaking of Charlotte’s crazy streak, she landed a moonsault off the security railing this time, so no spring and limited time to rotate.  Still landed it, still looked pretty good.

After all four women are ejected from ringside, Charlotte is able to roll into the Figure 8 and retains the championship via submission.

Following the match, Asuka makes her way to the ring, much to my delight.  The two stare down before Asuka points at the Wrestlemania sign.

Charlotte vs Asuka is on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Asuka danced her way back up the ramp as Charlotte stood in the ring smiling.

Commercial:  The HBO Documentary about Andre the Giant will air April 10th.  (It should also be noted that 50% of the preview for it was Hulk Hogan).

Six Pack Challenge for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship – AJ Styles (C) vs John Cena vs Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn vs Baron Corbin vs Dolph Ziggler

This match opened with John Cena landing an AA on Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler, leaving just the champion in the ring with the 16-time champion.  They reversed each other a good bit, another show of how well they know each other in the ring, before the other four competitors got back in and set their sights on Cena.

I’m not even going to pretend I can keep up with all the stuff going on during this one.  The camera crew couldn’t even keep up with everything.

Notables: Dolph Ziggler reversed an AA attempt into a Famouser.  A beautiful Styles Clash on Cena.  Zayn laid down as he said he would, but Owens didn’t trust it and tried to pick him up for a beatdown, only to get rolled up for a two count, then they brawled for a while.  Owens accidentally super kicked Shane McMahon, who then pulled the referee when he attempted to count a pinfall on a pop-up powerbomb to Ziggler.  Cena with an AA to Corbin on the steel steps.

As everyone went into the finishing move carousel, Owens landed a pop-up powerbomb on Cena, turning around to get hit with a Phenomenal Forearm, and AJ Styles retains his WWE Championship and will face Shinsuke Nakamura at Wrestlemania.

Final Thoughts:

I’m surprised the United States Championship actually changed hands, and even more so that it now looks like they’re just going to stick with Jinder-Orton forever.  The matches were ok, I’d have much rather had a clean finish to the Usos-New Day match and then the beat down.  Please be ok, Xavier Woods.  Thoughts and prayers.

It was a decent show, and I wasn’t even all that excited so I’m glad it was a decent show.  No Zack Ryder so they lose points for that, but I did get a few minutes of Breezango and Dillinger in the kick-off show.  We are going to give it a B.  Completely reasonable.  The Asuka appearance upped my excitement going into the grading here too.