Match to determine the #1 contender at WrestleMania 31
Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan
For the second year in a row, the Royal Rumble match was drowned out in a sea of boos thanks to WWE's poor handling of Daniel Bryan.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, #CancelWWENetwork.
The Road to Fastlane
After winning the Royal Rumble match, it was clear that Roman Reigns was getting the major push towards conquering Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 31. It was rumored that WWE Fastlane would feature Roman Reigns versus Big Show, while Daniel Bryan would lose to Bray Wyatt.
However, Roman Reigns was suddenly getting smothered with criticisms from all directions about how he wasn't ready to put on a great main event level match with Brock Lesnar. It's one thing when a fan makes that statement, but it carries much more weight when the legendary Stone Cold Steve Austin himself echoes that sentiment. On his podcast, Austin expressed concern that Roman's abilities in the ring were nowhere close to being ready to carry the company as the number one guy, regardless of whether Roman was a babyface or a heel. Jim Ross and Steve Austin agreed that Daniel Bryan was the best choice to headline WrestleMania 31 against Brock Lesnar.
Then this controversy turned into an interesting clash of Bryan fans versus Reigns fans. The Bryan supporters would largely say that it wasn't about hating on Roman Reigns; they just thought that if Lesnar only has one WWE match remaining then Daniel Bryan would make the ideal opponent. Supporters of Roman Reigns were generally skeptical of this view. They yawned at the endless "make Roman Reigns look really really strong" jokes while asserting that Reigns versus Lesnar was a HOSSamania dream match and that Reigns needed the rub of beating Brock way more than Bryan needed it.
So WWE responded to this vicious backlash surrounding the Royal Rumble and Roman Reigns by scrapping their original plans for Fastlane and instead going with an intriguing and fresh main event showdown between Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns.
The way they got there was confusing at times because WWE was essentially trying to hit the reset button on the Royal Rumble booking while awkwardly pitting kayfabe against reality. The "controversy" surrounding the Royal Rumble match was worked into the storyline as a direct result of Rock's interference in the match. Roman Reigns was then duped into voluntarily giving up his guaranteed championship match at WrestleMania 31 in a segment that failed to shake the WWE Universe to its core, while making all the top stars seem intellectually inferior to The Authority. Meanwhile, Bryan's claim to the match with Lesnar was tied to the fact that he never received a championship opportunity after being stripped of the title last summer.
On the surface, it would seem like WWE is setting up smarks to be greatly disappointed once again when Reigns is booked to look really really strong at Bryan's expense at WWE Fastlane. However, the rumor mill has spiced things up by suggesting that Vince McMahon may actually be leaning towards booking a triple threat match at WrestleMania 31 between Bryan, Reigns, and Lesnar.
So what does that mean for WWE Fastlane's main event? The obvious conclusion is that it could mean a smoz finish with no definitive winner. Would the vocal fans who trashed the Royal Rumble match be willing to accept that kind of finish if that's the best way for Bryan to once again compete in the main event of WrestleMania? This month's free WWE Network promotion means that more eyes will be watching this card than usual. With that in mind, is it really best for business to have a screwy finish that is too reminiscent of a typical episode of Monday Night Raw? That doesn't sound like a great way to keep people subscribed to the network for these discounted PPV events.
A smoz finish is the easy way out. Can WWE find a way to pick a definitive winner but keep fans of both Bryan and Reigns happy going forward with quality storytelling? Or do they just have to take the easy way out this time?
What's at Stake?
The main event of WrestleMania 31 hangs in the balance as Roman Reigns and Daniel Bryan will battle it out for the right to dethrone Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 31.
Will the power of the Yes Movement be able to keep Daniel Bryan away from that inevitable WrestleMania rematch with Sheamus for the second consecutive year?
Or is it time for Roman Reigns to prove that he is ready for a one-on-one main event match with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 31?
Tune in to WWE Fastlane tonight on the WWE Network and keep it here on Cageside Seats to see all the drama unfold!