By Mitchell Barnett
Project Shanks WWE Writer
With WWE’s Fastlane PPV in the books and Wrestlemania just weeks away, Project Shanks’s resident WWE writer, Mitchell Barnett takes a look at what was and in some cases what should have been.
Rich Swann & Akira Tozawa vs The Brian Kendrick & Noam Dar
To say the cruiserweight division has been lacking thus far would be an understatement. The division, despite generating interest and working to build new stars for months via the wildly popular Cruiserweight Classic last year, has really struggled to find its place on Raw. To help with this, WWE has gone as far as to give the cruiserweights their own show on the WWE Network following Smackdown every Tuesday night, 205 Live.
This particular matchup features two babyfaces, Rich Swann and Akira Tozawa, taking on heels The Brian Kendrick and Noam Dar. While each of these competitors is talented in their own right, the addition of Tozawa could potentially rejuvenate the division. As such, expect his momentum to continue.
Result: Rich Swann and Akira Tozaw win via pinfall
Sami Zayn vs Samoa Joe
Do I love Samoa Joe? Yes. Do I love Sami Zayn? You bet your ass I do. Did I love their match last night at Fastlane? OF COURSE! Joe came off looking like a monster all the while still making Sami look good and not like a jobber to monsters. These men obviously know each other from their time in NXT together and they have worked together spectacularly before, and last night was no different. They constructed a match that was full of great moments and full of intrigue, even though everyone already knew the outcome. Sami Zayn continues to build himself as one of, if not the best worker on Raw and even though I am unsure when and how the WWE can turn him from lovable underdog to top contender, due to his work ethic and fan following I am sure the WWE will figure out a way.I am excited to see where Joe goes from here. There aren’t a ton of options for him that make sense right now leading up to Mania but one thing is for sure, SAMOA JOE MUST BE ON THE MANIA CARD!
Result: Samoa Joe wins via submission
Raw Tag Team Championship
Champions Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs Enzo & Cass
This match surprised me… In a good way. Gallows & Anderson have seemed to have been the forgotten champs in the Raw Tag Division, and when you win said titles on the pre-show of the Rumble, it’s understandable why. But last night the two bald headed bad asses put everyone on notice that if they didn’t before, they better start remembering them. This looked more like the team we all expected to see when they were one of the hottest tag teams in NJPW and were signed to the WWE. Also Enzo & Cass were in a meaningful match and they didn’t make me want to shower myself with chloroform. To say I dislike Enzo Amore is an understatement. But last night (excluding his 9 hour long intro) he looked really solid. Cass isn’t the best “technical wrestler” but always seems to use his size in a convincing way and last night was no different. They played the perfect face tag team of little workhorse, big enforcer. The ending was great too because it was a heelish finish for Gallow & Anderson and lets Enzo & Cass have an argument on a rematch. A finish like this could actually be the beginning of a meaningful feud the Raw Tag Division desperately needs.
Result: The Club Retains via pinfall
Sasha Banks vs Nia Jax
Rewind about 2 months ago and what would you see? A really developed and deep Raw women’s division with a great championship feud and lots of interesting storylines. Fast forward back to present day and what do you see? A confusing mess of a division that is lacking direction and vision. Sasha v Nia is just an example of the WWE Raw writers having no clue what to do with a monster like Nia and a star who isn’t currently chasing the title like Sasha. This match should have been as easy to book as… Well honestly I can’t think of anything as easy to book as this match should have been. Make Nia look like the imposing monster she is. Make Sasha look like the never quit queen like she is. And in the end, have Nia snap at not being to pin Sasha and have her attack her with a chair, getting DQ’d and giving Sasha the W, and “badly injuring” Sasha. Then do a road to redemption storyline with Sasha rehabbing to get to Mania and have a Fatal 4-way for the belt. But no. We got Sasha winning clean, ending Nia’s streak*, and hurting the Women’s Division’s Braun Strowman. Such a shame. Such a waste.
Result: Sasha Banks wins via roll-up pinfall
Cesaro vs. Jinder Mahal
I’m sorry, did I miss that I was watching a throw away episode of Raw and not a pay per view? Wwhy was this match on the main card of Fastlane? This wasn’t even good enough to be a pre-show match! It made zero sense! Jinder Mahal had an 8 minute long match in the middle of a pay per view in 2017… Kill me!
Ok… Whoa… Sorry… Got a little heated there. Let me start over. So hey, Jinder Mahal was involved in an 8 minute long match in the middle of a WWE Pay Per View in 2017… Kill me.
I get it, you had to fill time because (SPOILER) the main event was going to last 22 seconds (more on that later) but honestly, this was the best you could come up with? I guess the bright side is that Cesaro got a single’s win on PPV and Jinder showed he has the talent if they can ever figure out how to properly use/write him. But let’s be honest, this was a throw away match and it let everyone know what was going to happen in the main event. Kinda took all the air out of the balloon.
Result: Cesaro wins via pinfall
Big Show vs. Rusev
So this match pissed me off for a different reason than the previous match, although they were annoyingly similar. This one sucked because Rusev lost -clean no less- to the Big Show, in 2017. Rusev could be a Universal Champion, or at the least, a challenger for the belt but WWE refuse to utilize this man and his immense potential. I get the Big Show is on the last leg of his amazing career and the man should be treated with respect but since his Mania match with Shaq is reportedly off, why did he need to get over on Rusev? And the worst part of all this? We now get to look forward to a Rusev v Jinder Mahal Mania Pre Show match… Oh goody…
Result: Big Show wins via pinfall
Neville (c) vs Jack Gallagher
Match. Of. The. Night.
This was exactly what the Cruiserweight Division needed. Let’s start with the Gentleman Jack Gallagher. This wrestler and his style make me happy. The dude got an umbrella over. Let that sink in. This man has charisma, in ring talent, and a unique style that sells. His in ring work is both hilarious and incredible. But unfortunately for the Gentleman, he found himself opposite the King of the division, Neville. This man is the just amazing. His ability to look like a monster while still pulling off the best flippy-shit moves make him one of the best talents on the entire roster. This match was everything people had hoped the Cruiserweights would be. It got back to what made the Cruiserweight Classic so good and let the performers perform. Plus the flippy-shit was great! More of this and the Cruiserweight Division will start to pick up fans and get closer to what they want it to be, which is the Cruiserweight Division of WCW in the mid-to-late 90’s!
Result: Neville retains via pinfall
Roman Reigns vs Braun Strowman
Roman Reigns. UGH. Just when I thought WWE was starting to get it. Just when I began believing Vincent Kennedy McMahon would listen to the WWE Universe. Just when I honestly thought they were going to right the Reigns ship, they show me why I should never have faith in them when it comes to Roman Reigns.
You spend all this time and effort to build up this giant world beater in Braun Strowman and then you have him lose clean to Roman Reigns in a meaningless match on a meaningless PPV? What sense does that make?
The match itself was superb. The intensity and the non-stop action was fantastic. The match was everything you would have hoped and more.
The ending? Not so much. Why have Reigns go over Braun clean? Reigns isn’t fighting for the belt at Mania, so he didn’t necessarily need the W that badly. Strowman needed this win or at least he needed to not get pinned by Reigns.
Have the Undertaker interfere. Do something where the lights go out and the bells toll only to have the lights come back on, Reigns to look confused and then have Braun catch him from behind to take the win. You keep your pretty boy looking super strong and you also keep your monster invincible for the time.
This seriously was another forced feeding of McMahon’s love-boy and it made me want to puke.
Result: Roman Reigns wins via pinfall
Grade: The Match A / The Finish F
Raw Women’s Championship
Champion Bayley vs Charlotte
Remember what I said about “rewinding 2 months” when discussing the Nia Jaxx v Sasha Banks match? That applies here as well.
The greatest part about streaks is when they end. The worst part about streaks is when they end poorly and Charlotte’s PPV unbeaten streak ending at Fastlane was just about as poorly of an ending as you could have booked.
The match itself was fine. Both women showed why they are so respected inside the squared circle. They both had their spots and they worked together beautifully to create a great match.
However like many matches at Fastlane, the ending made little sense. Sasha’s interference was ill timed and questionable. It would have made sense if this had been the end of the Bayley/Charlotte feud and could turn into Bayley v Sasha with Bayley mad that Sasha tainted her win over Charlotte and therefore start the turning of Sasha heel. But this had better not be the end of The Hugger and The Queen’s feud. We still have at least two more big matches out of these two women before we move on. And after the 9000 matches between Charlotte and Sasha, they should have no qualms with giving us more Bayley v Charlotte.
My booking would have seen the logical and honestly correct based on the match ending happening. Everything stays the same as it went down last night however the official who saw Sasha attack Charlotte would have called for the bell resulting in a DQ win for Charlotte and keeping the strap on Bayley. You build heat with Bayley and Sasha with Bayley calling Sasha out for costing her a chance to beat Charlotte clean. This also would set up the Fatal 4-Way at Mania up beautifully with no one having any alliances and all the women out for one another.
Result: Bayley wins via pinfall after Sasha Banks interference
WWE Universal Championship
Champion Kevin Owens vs Goldberg
GOLDBERG! Goldberg! Goldberg. Goldberg?
That’s right; your new Universal Champion is a 50 year old part timer who is set to face another part timer in the main event at WrestleMania. Cool.
I’ll get to the challenges this booking causes come WrestleMania and after later in this section but right now lets go ahead and dive into my issues with this booking for the immediate future. You have just put the belt on a guy who might appear two times in the month leading up to WrestleMania, because yeah, that’s real fun. Also Goldberg is a part timer who just laid waste to a great heel champ in 22 seconds. 22 seconds. You basically just told the world and the locker room, we value a big name who may show up occasionally over hard working talent who bust their ass night in and night out. But this is the WWE and that has been the case since the days of Hulkamania so it should not be a surprise. That doesn’t change the fact that it sucks and I hate it.
Kevin Owens deserved so much more than that. The man has held the belt since the night after SummerSlam and he gets squashed on Fastlane to lose it? Pitiful.
Lets not get into that Jericho v KO for the Universal and United States Championship is such a better storyline and pay off than Brock v Goldberg for just the Universal championship. Lets also not get into that your new champion has won 2 singles matches and has been in the ring for a combined 108 seconds not including his lackluster performance in the Royal Rumble. And lastly lets not get into that your new champion is 50 YEARS OLD AND ONLY HAS ONE MORE MATCH REMAINING ON HIS CONTRACT!
No, let’s look at this corner WWE has put themselves in with this booking and also how they should have booked this match.
First, Kevin Owens did a fantastic job of selling the match up before it started with his pacing the outside of the ring and looking terrified to get in there and lock up with Goldberg. But this was ruined with the match lasting 22 seconds. Look, we all know Goldberg is a beast and can destroy anyone, so why did you need to show that again and make Kevin Owens fall in 22 seconds?! I get that Goldberg is 50 and his in-ring talent has never been amazing but you could have at least given us a match. Goldberg could have still looked invincible with KO also looking great by trying to beat Goldberg and keep his belt. Then after 4 to 6 minutes of mostly Goldberg dominating but KO giving it his all and surviving, have Jericho interfere as KO tries to escape and get counted out. Jericho trying to get KO back to the ring hits him with a Codebreaker which results in Goldberg winning via DQ and then Jericho throws KO back into the ring where Goldberg spears him twice and jackhammers him before a shot of Brock standing a top the stage just looking at him with a look of desperation and fear.
This ending would set up Goldberg v Brock perfectly and doesn’t leave us with the realization that for the foreseeable future the Universal Championship will be on the waist of a part timer. Awesome.
Result: Goldberg wins in 22 seconds via pinfall after Chris Jericho distracts Kevin Owens
For more WWE coverage, check back with Projectshanks.com before every PPV for predictions, and then the following Monday for results and grades!