WWE – Fastlane 2019 (Cert 15)
2 discs DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 218 minutes approx.
The second last PPV stop on the Road to Wrestlemania for 2019 is the very definition of a throwaway PPV show with a bevy of matches-cum-angles that easily could have taken place on TV. For this reason, the “Card Subject to Change” disclaimer came in handy as the confused and over complicated build to the biggest show of the year continued in frustrating fashion.
Elsewhere, in lieu of Brock Lesnar taken a well-earned three month break after working a match at the Royal Rumble, the number 1 contender for the Universal Title Seth Rollins ended up taking a detour from his journey to the title as part of the once again resurrected Shield in their “final ride” (since proven untrue by the “final” live event special that just aired on the WWE Network) now that Roman Reigns was back having defeated cancer.
Held on March 10th 2019 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio before a crowd of reportedly below 10,000 fans, with commentary provided by Michael Cole and Renee Young for RAW, Tom Phillips and Byron Saxton for SD, Corey Graves working for both and Beth Phoenix for the Women’s Tag Title match.
Onto the matches and as always no results spoilers (I’ll leave that up to the back cover artwork of this release) but plenty of opinion.
SD Tag Title Match – The Usos (c) vs. The Miz & Shane McMahon
A rematch from Elimination Chamber in which The Usos toppled Team Bestie for the tag titles (see what getting arrested them threatening to leave the company gets you?), this match has “angle alert” all over it since it was held in Miz’s home town, and his charisma free father George (a man so dull he makes Baron Corbin look like Shinsuke Nakamura) is in the front row.
The match was standard fare with Shane (whose matching shirt had his own name on it whilst Miz’s shirt had both their names – spoiler?) gasping for air from walking to the ring, so having him work the whole match was a cruel choice. Credit where it is due, Shane did hit an impressive Coast to Coast to stop an Uso in mid air from hitting a splash. But the post match is where the big news is.
Elias pops up to sing a song that incites the crowd.
WWE SD Women’s Title Match – Asuka (c) vs. Mandy Rose
You’d be forgiven for forgetting SD had a women’s champion since Asuka disappeared from TV after making Becky Lynch tap at the Royal Rumble, only to resurface two weeks before this show to lose a non-title match to Mandy Rose to set up this title challenge.
This also illustrate how, aside from Becky and Charlotte, the SD women’s roster is a bit thin on top heels and top stars as Rose is still green as a singles wrestler and only passable in tag matches but she is blonde and we all know how Vince McRacist feels about blondes and Asian women. Match was there with a botched finish to boot.
2-on-1 Handicap Match – The Bar vs. Kofi Kingston
Following on from Kofi’s surprise resurgence as a singles wrestler and the sudden crowd support as a credible challenger for the WWE Title, Kofi has been put through the ringer Becky Lynch style to get his WWE title match. Having been replaced on SD by Vince for the title match on this show, Kofi was left off the card but a show long angle saw Vince offer Kofi a spot in the title match after all.
Kofi came to the ring for his title match until the ring announcer was told it had been changed to a handicap match. Enter The Bar and a one-sided beat down that turned into mass brawl featuring the New Day, Rusev and Nakamura. This would have been better served as a TV angle.
Elias is back to sing another song mocking the events of the previous match because reasons.
WWE RAW Tag Title Triple Threat Match – The Revival (c) vs. Bobby Roode & Chad Gable vs. Aleister Black & Ricochet
From out of nowhere Vince decided to bring up NXT’s top four guys to the main roster to freshen things up (having done nothing with the five other call ups in December) – Johnny Gargano, Tomasso Ciampa (who were feuding), Richochet and Aleister Black. Ciampa suffered a neck injury and was pulled from action, sending Gargano back to NXT, leaving Black and Ricochet to wow the fans on their won.
The Revival asked for their release as they were unhappy with how they and tag team wrestling were being treated, so they were given the RAW tag titles and more TV time. Just as well as fans were finally able to see what they were capable of after a year of doing nothing. This was a chaotic sprint that could have been excellent with more time afforded to it, but easily the best thing on the card to this point
WWE US Title Fatal Four Way Match – Samoa Joe (c) vs. R-Truth vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Andrade
I mentioned the “Card Subject to Change” caveat earlier and this is the first example of that. Originally a singles rematch between Joe and Truth (who won the US title on SD in the same four way match), it was made a four way rematch at the last minute, although Mysterio vs. Andrade was actually promoted as the Kick-Off match prior to the event.
A rare case of a late decision being the right one (unlike above with the Kofi debacle), this was another sprint of non-stop action and big moves, eschewing the usual “two men in, two men down” formula to give every a chance to shine and create some unique multi-man spots.
WWE Women’s Tag Title Match – Sasha Banks & Bayley (c) vs. Nia Jax & Tamina
Beth Phoenix on commentary has become a regular occurrence of late but since this isn’t a “special” match, then your “angle alert” alarm should be going off about now. Since winning the…ahem…”first ever” WWE women’s tag tiles, Sasha and Bayley vowed to defend them on RAW, SD, and NXT yet their first challengers are the RAW duo of Nia Jax and Tamina who weren’t even the last team eliminated in the Elimination Chamber match to crown the champs!
Not much of a match to be honest, with some awkward, mistimed moments and straight up botches but they at least told a decent story of the smaller underdog champs facing off against their larger opponents. Did something happen with Phoenix after the match? You’ll have to watch and see…
WWE Title Triple Threat Match – The New Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Kevin Owens vs. Mustafa Ali
Disc two opens with another match that was subject to a last minute change, designed to troll the fans again with regard to the ongoing saga involving Kofi Kingston that had been running all evening. But first, there is the return of Kevin Owens, brought back by Vince (despite the last time they were in the ring together Owens head butted him) to replace Kofi as Bryan’s challenger for reasons that are not very clear.
Yet Owens is supposed to be the babyface here as the more deserving challenger over the guy Vince made jump through hoops to earn his spot. Well, we already know Vince and logic aren’t frequent bedfellows. So, come this match and the triple threat stip remains intact with Mustafa Ali the third man instead of Kofi – guess how that went down with the crowd….
However, this worked out for the better as Ali was able to turn the crowd around and with Bryan’s new character effortlessly needling the fans this turned out to be the match of the night with everyone playing their roles to perfection and getting it done in the ring.
Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair
Becky and Charlotte have had some stonking matches and intense, show-stealing brawls – this one unfortunately isn’t one of them. The latest stage in the needlessly sinuous and involved build to the triple threat RAW Women’s title match at Wrestlemania 35 also with Ronda Rousey that should be a singles match but, you know, Vince…
Anyway, despite having earned her match against Rousey by winning the women’s Royal Rumble match, Becky is forced to qualify for it again by defeating Charlotte here. Simple enough except Becky has an “injured” knee which is the story of the match – 10 minutes of Charlotte working over the leg in more of an extended angle than a crucial bout in the this never-ending saga.
Apparently, we needed Elias out again to recap the events of the last match because it’s not like this show hasn’t already overrun through needless padding like this… And speaking of wasting time, Lacey Evans also does her “walk out then walk off” routine again but she isn’t the only uninvited guest in this segment (spoiled by the DVD back cover).
The Shield vs. Drew McIntyre, Bobby Lashley & Baron Corbin
Roman Reigns has beaten everyone in WWE so naturally he’d beat cancer too. Joking aside Roman made his triumphant comeback on RAW to announce he was in remission but not after Vince had used his illness via tasteless Baron Corbin promos and of course, during the ill-fated Dean Ambrose heel turn which was quickly rescinded since it bombed big time.
If you recall, the nefarious trio of Corbin, McIntyre, and Lashley interfered in a Corbin vs. Braun Strowman No DQ match at Elimination Chamber, putting Braun away using The Shield’s triple powerbomb. Therefore, joining the dots is easy and trading on the goodwill currently enjoyed by Reigns this (third) Shield reunion is the main event of a long and bloated card. However, it is slightly tainted in that Dean Ambrose already announced his departure from WWE making this last hurrah more bittersweet than it should be.
Depending how you want to look at it, this was a nice slice of nostalgia or it’s every big Shield trios match following the extended in ring action that breaks down into a wild arena wide brawl. Given which Shield member stands tall at the end, the latter, as cynical as it sounds, does serve to remind us that Vince still relies too much on the same pair of comfy slippers despite being well worn.
As I said at the start of this review, Fastlane is really a redundant show in that much of what it achieved (or hoped to) could have taken place on TV thus sparing us three hours plus of bait and switch, misdirection, and confusion, not to mention be seen by a much larger audience.
The work, as ever, by the wrestlers is not to be brought into question but what they are asked to do can be, a never-ending problem, not just in WWE but wrestling in general. It’s becoming a moot point to raise in the conclusion part of the review as Vince isn’t to change his ways regardless of how the audience feels, but if he is forced to capitulate, like with Becky Lynch and Kofi Kingston, then you know he’ll do it his way so whatever the result is, it will be his doing not the fans.
In this show in particular, the way to get Mustafa Ali back into the title mix after being injured and replaced by Kofi was convoluted at best, whether cogent or not. The way Kevin Owens was brought back was ham fisted and random, reportedly done earlier than expected to give Owens the Wrestlemania match against Bryan which fans want Kofi to have. But like I said, Vince has to feel he is in control otherwise he isn’t satisfied.
Perhaps in the long run it is best The Shield did get their last big moment in a “B” PPV rather than lost in the mix of Wrestlemania or Summerslam but it wasn’t helped by the last minute rush to facilitate it or the fact the group are going their separate ways so quickly in time for ‘Mania.
Ultimately, an angle heavy filler that is neither offensive enough or vital enough to make a significant lasting impression.
Best match – Daniel Bryan (c) vs. Kevin Owens vs. Mustafa Ali
N.B – This DVD release consists of two discs due to the near four-hour length of the main show, whilst the run time listed on the cover includes the bonus features run time too.
Fastlane Kick-Off Match – The New Day vs. Rusev & Shinsuke Nakamura
Smackdown Live – February 26th 2019 – Kofi’s Going To Fastlane… Or is he?
Monday Night RAW – March 4th 2019 – Ronda Rousey Hits Her Breaking Point
Rating – ** ½
Man In Black