Monday, 22 February 2016

PPV Review: WWE Fastlane 2016 (Lesnar vs. Ambrose vs. Reigns *WWE WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP #1 CONTENDERS*)

On the 21st February 2016, WWE aired the 2nd edition of Fast Lane on PPV and the WWE Network from the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. The show featured Brock Lesnar, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns battling it out to become Number One Contender to Triple H's WWE World Heavyweight Championship, AJ Styles facing Chris Jericho and Dolph Ziggler challenging for Kevin Owens' WWE Intercontinental Championship...but was it any good? Let's find out!

match card

Match 1 - Tag Team - Sasha Banks & Becky Lynch vs. Team B.A.D.

Match 2 - WWE Intercontinental Championship - Kevin Owens (C) vs. Dolph Ziggler

Match 3 - Six Man Tag Team - The Wyatt Family w/Bray Wyatt vs. The Big Show, Kane & Ryback

Match 4 - WWE Diva's Championship - Brie Bella vs. Charlotte (C) w/Ric Flair

Match 5 - Singles - AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho

Match 6 - Singles - Curtis Axel w/The Social Outcasts vs. R-Truth

Match 7 - WWE World Heavyweight Championship #1 Contenders Triple Threat - Dean Ambrose vs. Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar w/Paul Heyman 

Commentary Team - John "Bradshaw" Layfield, Michael Cole and Byron Saxton

fast-forward...Obviously, the show began with the regular hype package of things to come, focusing pretty much on the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Number One Contenders Match between Dean Ambrose, Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns and being interspliced with footage of Eva Marie in a tight leather gimmick waving some flags around...

sasha banks and becky lynch defeat team b.a.d.

I genuinely can't remember a WWE PPV that kicked off with a Women's match, get in touch if you can for a prize! I thought this was a decent opening contest, that played to the strengths of those involved well. Becky Lynch worked well in the face in peril role, in my opinion the more sympathetic of the two babyfaces, whilst this also allowed the Cleveland crowd to get some "We Want Sasha" chants, even if there weren't quite as many of these as one would hope for. I was pleasantly surprised by Naomi and Tamina as a tandem, as they used a cool power and speed combination, with Naomi doing the majority of the early work and Tamina always there to provide the extra muscle when needed. At times it felt like the ladies suffered from a couple of timing issues, with Naomi's legitimately well-worked near fall off a Rear View receiving almost no reaction when Sasha was able to tap out. Whilst I enjoyed the booking of the finish that saw both Becky and Sasha getting their opponents to submit in their respective submission holds, it definitely wasn't executed quite as smoothly as it could have been. Overall, a sound piece of booking to keep Becky and Sasha away from the Diva's Championship for a while, whilst Naomi and Tamina also deserve credit for the roles they played as road blocks on the road to WrestleMania.

fast-forward...A recap of the Fatal Five-Way bout that saw Kevin Owens take Dean Ambrose's WWE Intercontinental Championship in a match that also included Dolph Ziggler, Tyler Breeze and Stardust from Monday Night RAW #1186 aired, with the commentary team discussing how this might effect Ambrose heading into tonight's main event...

kevin owens defeats dolph ziggler to retain the wwe intercontinental championship

This was a bit of a mixed bag for me, as I thought that the first two thirds of the bout were particularly strong and some of the best work of the pairs recent series of matches, whilst the last third did little for more and descended into a superkick fest. The earlier part of the match saw Owens control the majority of the action, as the two worked a scrappy technical style and the Champion spent plenty of time to bad mouth Ziggler with "Your hometown likes me more than you" being my particular favourite. The Prizefighter and The Show Off seemed to have some real contempt for each other, amongst their competitive rivalry, which drew me into Owens dominance, whilst Ziggler's handful of hope spots, like dodging a charging Owens and sending him into the ringpost, kept things interesting. The Cleveland native hitting his signature jumping DDT after a great series of action stands out as a particular highlight for me. 

I feel maybe I was a little too harsh on the later parts of the match, earlier on, but for me, as soon as the match moved into the "Let's hit Superkicks in different ways" section, it lost some of the animosity that had original drawn me into the action. I wanted to see Owens and Ziggler continue to scrap it out and build on what they had done on earlier and this felt like something a little it different. It wasn't bad at all, I thought both men looked nice doing what they were doing and we got a sweet looking Fameasser from Ziggler, it just wasn't the avenue that I wanted to see the clash go down. That being said, Owens attempting to Powerbomb Ziggler onto the apron was a welcome addition, calling back to his dominance in NXT, and The Show-Off's rana reversal into the steel steps was also done particular well. Owens winning the bout clean with a vicious Pop-Up Powerbomb signalled the end of the pairs feud and Owens seems to have ridden out his time in the void to seemingly be positioned for decent slot on the WrestleMania card in five weeks time.

fast-forward...Backstage, The Big Show, Ryback and Kane threatened to take the Wyatt Family back to hell...

the big show, kane and ryback defeat the wyatt family

The kind of match that was mildly enjoyable while it lasted, but in a few months time you'll struggle to place it when asked to name the bouts on the show. This is the Pointless answer, surely? Nothing particularly wrong with the action, but having both Ryback and Kane work face in peril roles seemed a bit of overkill. This lead to neither hot tag having a whole lot of impact, and a lot of repetition as The Wyatt's simply rinsed and repeated what they'd done with Ryback on Kane. Big Show trying to get the crowd to chant "Feed Me More" for Ryback was bloody weird as well. Fair play though Ryback going nuts on Luke Harper just before the match broke down was pretty impressive, as was Big Show's gorilla press on Harper to the outside onto Erick Rowan, Braun Strowman and Kane. A nice little false finish slotted in there as well with Harper almost getting the win off a roll-up, following some distraction from Bray Wyatt at ringside.

After The Wyatt's dominant performance at the Royal Rumble last month and that bout seemingly positioning Wyatt to face Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania I was left scratching my head when a sloppy looking Shellshocked from Ryback to Harper picked up the win. I'm not sure what Big Show and Kane have to gain from going over, and whilst a rejuvenated Ryback could hold promise if used properly, this didn't feel like the best way to showcase his talent. It was, at least, an unpredictable result, that leaves some questions open heading into Monday Night RAW #1187, but I'm still about as convinced by that this result was the best option as I am that Ryback is part of the "old guard" of monsters in WWE. 

fast-forward...Dean Ambrose interrupted Jo-Jo's interview with Roman Reigns, setting the stage nicely for the main event, showing glimpses of how their friendship might play out later on...

charlotte defeats brie bella to retain the wwe diva's championship

I knew from the hype package for this bout that it most likely wasn't going to be for me. The focus on Daniel Bryan's retirement told you all you needed to know about the direction that WWE had decided to take the match. Brie's character became so sugary, and the role just didn't suit her as a performer at all. The actual structure of the bout was laid out nicely and with a babyface that I could get behind then this would have been a damn good bout, as Charlotte played her bullying technician role well. It seemed to be the Diva's Champion that was the one keeping the crowd in the bout, as they remained fairly lively for the majority of the bout, although it has to be said that a decent proportion of the crowd were also joining in with Brie's "Yes" kicks.

For what it was, this match went on for, at least, five minutes too long. The match would actually have been improved by being given less time and remaining a lot more focused. You had Charlotte attacking Brie's neck after she pulled her head first onto the apron, which to me was the most interesting element, due to Brie's sister Nikki's recent neck injury (although the commentary team failed to mention that), before Brie was selling her stomach for a reason I couldn't work out and then things finished up with Brie's getting a leg injury off a Missile Dropkick. There was too much clutter and it made parts of the bout feel a little contrived. However, all in all, Charlotte looked like powerful champion and her feud with Brie has, at least, allowed her to develop her mean bitch of a heel character, separate from her Dad. Let's finally move into that three way programme with Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks for WrestleMania now pretty please.

aj styles defeats chris jericho

Once AJ Styles and Chris Jericho found their feet, the third match of their series was a enjoyable tangle. For me, the bout was made by the story that it told, which felt more like the style of Styles' old home promotion NJPW, than it did a WWE style contest. You had Y2J managing to one up Styles at every turn, whilst also denying the fans the chance to see some of The Phenomenal One's flashier offence, like when Jericho cut of a slingshot attempt to the outside with a well-timed dropkick. With plenty of exchanging holds and reversals as the commentary team reminded us of their previous two matches in close proximity, Jericho was positioned as the willy veteran, whilst Styles seemed to fall into a risk taking "rookie" role. It suited the two's positions with the WWE structure and allowed a crowd that was initially about 55-45 in favour of Styles at the start of the bout to gravitate much more towards the former 2 time IWGP Heavyweight Champion by the bouts conclusion.

For a while, I have to admit that the match did struggle to find a rhythm and truly bed in. Styles still looks to be getting used to WWE's ring set-up, looked a little awkward hitting the ropes and almost hesitant on his springboard moves. Getting into the little touches that the WWE requires as a television product looks to have been a bit more of a challenge for Styles than many would have imagined when he debut last month. His pure wrestling talent and being placed in the ring with a veteran like Jericho, who also spent time working styles that Gainseville, Georgia born star would be more familiar with, have been enough to pull him through so far. Hopefully he'll be bedded in just enough to blossom on the biggest stage of his career 

From the moment Jericho actually hit a Lionsault, I thought this contest hit it's stride. Both in terms of storytelling and wrestling, as Jericho upped his grizzled veteran act and began to lay in some serious slaps and even go as far as shouting in Styles' face telling him that he's stupid (which was reminiscent of Randy Orton's legit rant at Kofi Kingston back in the day). Styles reversing a Tiger Bomb attempt by Jericho, rolling through to hit a Styles Clash should have been the finish for me, as it was certainly the best sequence of action of the evening, even though it wasn't quite as smooth as it could have been if this was the Jericho of five or six years ago. I like that Styles has been given a couple of moves to finish matches with, and having Jericho tap out to the Calf Crusher was certainly a bigger statement than another pinfall victory, however, because of this I would have liked to have seen Styles working towards that hold during the match, with Jericho also famed for his leg-based submission hold it felt like a slight missed opportunity. 

fast-forward...The Kick-Off panel of Renee Young, former World Heavyweight Champion Booker T, former AWA World Heavyweight Champion Jerry "The King" Lawler and former NXT Tag Team Champion Corey Graves discussed AJ Styles beating Chris Jericho, Kevin Owens retaining the WWE Intercontinental Championship against Dolph Ziggler and the upcoming Triple Threat main event between Brock Lesnar, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns...A recap of The New Day dancing on Thursday Night Smackdown #861 aired, as a lead into the groups appearance on the Cutting Edge Peep Show...

the new day and league of nations on the cutting edge peep show

What on earth happened here? Everything up until Christian's bizarre impression of Rusev was entertaining and I definitely got a chuckle out of Edge and Christian ripping on the New Day and comparing the group to themselves. However, the whole time I was wondering exactly what the pay off would be. Both Edge and Christian are retired from the ring due to medical reasons, so bar a miraculous recovery or Bret Hart vs. Mr. McMahon style bout, we were never going to see them challenge the New Day for the title at WrestleMania, or even The New Day laying out the seven-time WWF World Tag Team Champions! Beyond a push for a show that would air directly after the PPV on a Network that most people would already have been paying for, I couldn't see the point. That is until we had the League of Nations turn up and despite the two groups working together on numerous occassions over the last three or four months, they suddenly hated each other, The New Day seemed to turn babyface and programme looked to be laid out for Mania. I guess WWE had booked themselves into a big of a corner by having the group take out pretty much every other tag team on the roster. Maybe this programme will bring out the best in Sheamus, Rusev, Alberto Del Rio (who couldn't be arsed selling his Two out of Three falls bout with Kalisto that took place on the pre-show) and the injured and apparently outward bound King Barrett...but I'm not holding out much hope.

fast-forward...One of the WWE Network trailers that crop up on every PPV now, a few more clips from Camp WWE, but no new show announcements...

curtis axel defeats r-truth

Curtis Axel's first singles PPV match since he failed to take the WWE Intercontinental Championship off Big E Langston at Survivor Series 2013 and R-Truth's first since he went over Brodus Clay on the very next PPV, TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs 2013. The match lasted minutes, but was full of absolute shenanigans, as The Social Outcasts did a victory lap around ringside mid-match and Goldust came out to help R-Truth, continuing their storyline of Goldust wanting to becoming Truth's tag partner. A little bit of fun before the main event, but I've no idea what WWE are doing with Truth and Goldust after the later accidentally cost the other the match by chucking Adam Rose into the ring and allowing Axel to nick his first televised win since August.

roman reigns defeats dean ambrose and brock lesnar to become #1 contender to the wwe world heavyweight championship 

Who doesn't love Brock Lesnar chucking people about? It's been one of the highlights of any PPV that Lesnar has appeared on since his return in April 2012 and this match had plenty of it as Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns took turns to get thrown around by the Beast Incarnate. Seriously, the first five minutes or so of the bout was just Lesnar moving from one guy to the other and suplexing them. It was glorious. All joking aside, there was a cool layer of narrative here. That being that Reigns and Ambrose couldn't take down Lesnar on their own. Personally, I thought the point was hammered home just a little bit too much, as any man and his dog could have seen what was coming and the fact that it took Reigns and Ambrose so long to realise made them both look a bit simple. However, I suppose it could be written off as them stubbornly wanting to prove they didn't need each other, but without this being covered by the commentary team, I'll assume that wasn't the case.

After Reigns and Ambrose returned to their Shield days delivering a beat down to Lesnar and powerbombing him through the announce table, before battling it out amongst themselves. Whilst I enjoyed The Lunatic Fringe fighting valiantly alone against Lesnar, I thought that his work one on one with Reigns produced the best action of the contest. The two friends seemingly wanted to make up for their lacklustre WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at Survivor Series last year, as they went at it, putting on a physical sequence, including The Lunatic Fringe sending Reigns into the steps. The two stopping their fight after seeing Lesnar get back to his feet at ringside was another narrative touch which I got a kick out of. This section also saw the best near fall of the bout, after Reigns missed two spears and Ambrose rolled over to hit Dirty Deeds. The Cleveland crowd were quite happy to chant "This is Awesome" despite loudly booing Reigns for long portions of the bout.

Ah man, I was really getting into things when Dean Ambrose started to battered Lesnar and Reigns with a steel chair, it felt like the match was about to really kick things into the next gear. And then Reigns hit a Spear and pinned him. Now, I'd fully expected The Juggernaut to walk away as the Number One Contender, and whilst a match with Triple H doesn't particularly thrill me, I'm more than happy to see Reigns get his moment at WrestleMania. But this finish felt so flat. Reigns hitting the spear on Ambrose felt like a your big Samoan pal popping your balloon on your birthday, just as your favourite song hits and everyone's having a swell old time. Five more minutes of exploring Ambrose' frustration at not being able to put Lesnar or Reigns away and getting the steel chair involved in some serious spots, before Reigns gets the victory would have felt much more satisfying. But nah, we needed time for Triple H to come out and have a stare down.

atpw scale rating - 5.65/10

A step down in quality from last month's Royal Rumble PPV, but there was still plenty to like about February's Fastlane PPV. Obviously, if you're one of those that still has the dislike for Roman Reigns and knew he was going to win, but are disappointed that he won, because it was "too predictable", then you'll probably have hated (PS - If you predict you won't like the outcome of PPV, don't fucking watch it! You're a moron if you choose to watch something you think you'll probably end up not liking and then still complain about it) Whilst I did have problems with the main event and especially it's conclusion, I still feel it was a very good storytelling match between three premier talents. AJ Styles and Kevin Owens positioned themselves for a mouth-watering WWE Intercontinental Championship match at WrestleMania, with two belting efforts opposite Chris Jericho and Dolph Ziggler respectively. 

The show was let down by a little too much filler, with the Cutting Edge Peep Show with The New Day and The League of Nations having no real place on PPV, with same definitely being the case for Curtis Axel's victory over R-Truth. The two women's bout put Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks in better positions for a potential WrestleMania Triple Threat, but there's no covering up that neither of the contests were anything but ways of holding that match off for as long as possible (with the Diva's Championship match also being a cheap way of using Daniel Bryan's retirement).

Overall, this was kind of, yanno, alright. Not a classic, but I found it a pretty easy watch from start to finish. Hence the slightly above average rating.

Thanks for reading. xoxo

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