WWE FastLane 2021 (Cert 12)
1 Disc DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 160 minutes approx.
Coming to the end of the Road to Wrestlemania, there is just one more stop to make so we veer off into the FastLane! But do we really need to? Most people would argue we didn’t but WWE had a reason for running this show – they had just struck a deal in the US to move the WWE Network to NBC’s Peacock streaming service which meant their key event Wrestlemania would be on the new service, so this show was largely designed to test the waters ahead of that.
With Wrestlemania just a few weeks away, the main card still needed some finalising, as well as the top matches looking to be afforded a few last minute tweaks, going some way to justifying the existence of this show, otherwise they could have done a lot of this on TV.
Reportedly, many people in the US had issues with the Peacock stream, with a huge number being unable to watch the show at all, which may have had an impact on its numbers being lower than usual. Hopefully Peacock got their act together in time for Wrestlemania.
Held on March 21st 2021 at the WWE Thunderdome located inside the Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida in front of virtual crowd seen via a bank of video screens, with added piped in crowd noises to create the impression of a hot crowd. Commentary is provided by Michael Cole and Corey Graves for SD and Tom Phillips, Byron Saxton and Samoa Joe for RAW.
Onto the matches and as always no results spoilers since the DVD/Blu-ray back cover artwork has that bit covered but plenty of opinion.
WWE Women’s Tag Title Match – Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax (c) vs. (c) vs. Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair
A rematch from the Elimination Chamber show, the only reason for this happening was to cement the issues between Sasha and Bianca for their Wrestlemania match even though this wasn’t necessary, and fans would have got into it as two popular babyfaces fighting for superiority. Plus, since Carmella’s sommelier Reginald was fired and he latched onto Nia Jax, the tag champs have been having issues with Shayna accusing Nia of worrying more about Reginald than the matches. So we now have two teams who can’t get along. Oh joy.
The match itself wasn’t bad with Sasha and Bianca exhibiting some nice double team work but this was mostly a functional backdrop for the big angle at the end where Sasha finally revealed her true colours. Again, this could have been done on TV or not at all since Sasha only just turned face a few months ago.
WWE IC Title Match – Big E (c) vs. Apollo Crews
Since Big E started doing open challenges for the IC title on SD, Apollo was one of the first to step up…and lost. But he would come back for another chance except Big E pointed out Apollo had lost and someone else should have a go, leading to Apollo facing Shinsuke Nakamura. Apollo lost again and snapped, attacking Nakamura then Big E, putting in hospital for a few weeks
In the meantime, Apollo decided to embrace his Nigerian roots, started talking with an affected accent, and now carries a spear to the ring, claiming to be a Nigerian prince. Now we know who sent those emails! Needless to say, this overt lack of subtlety has raised a few eyebrows and not for the right reasons. The match wasn’t much, kept very short and made worse by an awkward ending that was badly botched, coming out of nowhere and leaving everyone confused if that was the real ending or not.
For some reason we get a silly comedy skit for the 24/7 title masquerading as an ad for Old Spice, which I didn’t realise still existed. I guess I do now.
Braun Strowman vs. Elias
This was meant to be Shane O’Sweat facing Braun but Shane hurt his knee breathing so he drafted Elias in as his replacement at the last minute after Elias asked to put on the show to play a song. The build up to the original Shane vs. Braun feud has been among the worst ever in WWE which is saying something, involving Shane calling Braun stupid for having a stutter then dumping green slime on the big guy. Mercifully kept short but still no need to happen here since the endgame is the Wrestlemania match for Shane that nobody asked for.
Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Having taken time out to welcome his daughter into the world, one would have hoped a repacking for Seth was inevitable given how badly his messiah persona bombed, but not, he returned at the Royal Rumble with the same character but his old Burn It Down music. The deal was nobody on SD would listen to Seth’s demagoguery, starting with Cesaro which spilled over the Shinsuke humiliating Seth.
Best match on the show thus far but with the bar being pretty low that is faint praise at best. Since Rollins vs. Cesaro at Wrestlemania is the destination, the outcome was never in dispute here, and Nakamura hasn’t mean anything on the main roster for the past few years, despite being IC champ last year.
No Holds Barred Match – Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus
You may have noticed this isn’t listed as a WWE Title defence. This is because Drew lost to the title to The Miz at the end of Elimination Chamber, after Bobby Lashley attacked Drew, setting him up for Miz to cash in his MITB contract. Then on RAW, Lashley said he did a deal with Miz for the first title defence which Miz reneged on until MVP forced Miz’s hand and Lashley is now WWE Champion.
Back to this match and Sheamus turning on Drew came out of nowhere just like their friendship did. I think Sheamus was a face for about three weeks in total. Anyway, this led to matches on RAW, including a No DQ match which ended by referee stoppage(!) so this is the climax of his mini-feud and to show Drew is serious, he has painted his face like Mel Gibson in Braveheart, I suppose indicating Drew is Australian or something. Rather brutal affair with both men taking some sick punishment via kendo sticks and bumps on hard surfaces and exploding stage sets. Ouch!
Alexa Bliss vs. Randy Orton
Intergender matches have largely been outlawed in WWE with the rare exception of Sasha vs. Reginald a few months back which involved the latter basically doing flips to avoid being hit and taking bumps when he was. Considering how dark this dumb feud has been, the idea Orton – who, lest we forget, set The Fiend on fire at TLC – of vowing to get rid of Alexa in a match didn’t leave room for much ambiguity.
Naturally, they had to go the bells and whistles route but in the worst way possible. For a start, it was never announced as a No DQ match so when Alexa started throwing fireballs at Orton or when a certain person interfered, Alexa should have been DQ’d. But she wasn’t. If you enjoy this utter deck then more power to you but is you are closer to the Jim Cornette way of thinking about such nonsense then you know where the skip button is, and save yourself some IQ points.
WWE Universal Title Match – Roman Reigns (c) vs. Daniel Bryan
Edge beat Jey Uso to be the special ringside enforcer for this match which tells you how the ending will play out. Not only that, but this storyline has echoes of Daniel Bryan’s journey to the main event of WM 30 which he was never meant to be a part of until the fans rejected the proposed Orton vs. Batista match. Bryan was unhappy that he lost the title match at Elimination Chamber and earned this rematch after a steel cage match victory also over Uso.
The story of this match was Bryan being smaller, faster, and using his technical holds against the bigger Reigns and his power moves. This meant a slower paced but back and forth bout but they were going 30 minutes so they had to pace themselves. Edge being out there of course meant some shenanigans and a few minutes from the end, that is what we got. Good match though, with Bryan being one of the better foils for Roman’s heel persona and slower style.
Depending on whether one was already a tad burned out after seeing Drew vs. Sheamus beating the hell out of each other on RAW, this was pretty much a one-match show which is never a good sign, no matter how tolerant you are. It also substantiates the sentiment that WWE runs too many shows between the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania, instead of letting the feuds develop so that the crescendo is at the biggest show of the year.
Consisting of matches and angles that easily could have taken place on TV and had the same impact, there is sadly not a lot to recommend here. Again, we can’t fault the talent as we are now getting the full, unadulterated Vince McMahon vision in the absence of live crowds rejecting his insane ideas. That said, some would have got a kick out of the faecal matter that was Bliss vs. Orton, whilst the apathy that would likely have greeted Crews vs. Big E would have been taken far more seriously and addressed.
None of this bodes well for Wrestlemania which is the biggest drawback of this show when the company is in dire need of a huge boost in public support, especially since they planned to have crowds back for the show. Otherwise this show really didn’t need to happen.
Best match – Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan
FastLane Kickoff Show Match – US Title Match – Matt Riddle (c) vs. Mustafa Ali
Rating – ** ½
Man In Black