WWE went rolling right on through the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee, last night (Sun., Feb. 22, 2015) with Fastlane, the pay-per-view (PPV) bridging the gap between Royal Rumble and WrestleMania 31. That included crowning a top contender to Brock Lesnar and the WWE world heavyweight championship once and for all.
Let's not waste time with pleasantries and get right to reactions to the show (click here for the live blog with full match coverage).
Big guns (sticking to 'em)
I'm not sure Roman Reigns vs. Daniel Bryan could have been any better than it was, even if so many Bryan fans are disappointed in the end result.
They can't be that disappointed.
That was the point too. It was so obviously the point that WWE risked failing to make it due to that fact but how could anyone really argue against the decisions made now? They've worked this angle to the bone, taking real heat from fans over the Royal Rumble finish and using it to better present Reigns by having him beat Bryan clean in one of the better booked main event matches in recent WWE history.
The psychology here was textbook.
Bryan, the wrestling technican, used that technique to get the upper hand when he could early on. Reigns, with all his power and might, did the same. Before long, they got vicious. Then they had to dig deep. Then they were downright brutal.
It was beautiful.
Ultimately, it was Bryan's best against Reigns' best and Roman was better. That simple. The knee that beat John Cena could not beat Roman Reigns but the spear that beat everybody else also beat Daniel Bryan.
And now we wait to see if it can beat the seemingly unstoppable monster that is Brock Lesnar.
There's a part of me that loves that Vince McMahon decided to stick to his guns this time around. Daniel Bryan winning the title in the triple threat main event of WrestleMania 30 was a lot of fun, sure, but we've been there and done that.
How long have we complained that WWE never makes new stars? How long have we complained that they never give the top spots at the biggest shows to the guys who could become big stars to help carry the company to get us away from the "part time" era? They're literally in the middle of doing that now and we're going to complain that the guy who headlined last year isn't headlining again?
I shouldn't say "we" here. I should say "that vocal segment of the audience who decided what they decided for themselves". And they can keep complaining, really. It's time to make a new star, to pass the torch to a guy who may or may not be ready for it, but is sure as hell eager to try.
That guy just proved he can have a great match in a main event. Now he needs to prove he can do it again at a much higher level of difficulty (bigger stage, tougher opponent to have a great match with).
I'm looking forward to seeing if he can pull it off.
All the rest
Six man playa playa playa: There wasn't a lot to like about this match. The pace was too slow, the participants uninteresting, and the story hardly worthwhile. I respect what Big Show has done in his career but we're to the point that he's out there struggling to move so badly that he's taking Eva Marie bumps. No more, please. I also don't understand the idea behind the finish. Why give Kane and Show all that when you're headed into WrestleMania with Rollins still holding the briefcase?
Voices: Randy Orton finally found his way in front of a WWE camera for the first time in months and I never thought I would be so happy to see him. Orton vs. Rollins is going to be way too much fun.
Stardust vs. Goldust: Really enjoyed the character work and attempt at telling a story here but as my colleague Keith Harris pointed out, don't tease the violence if you aren't going to bring it. The finish felt like a botch, like the referee knew it wasn't supposed to be a three count but Cody didn't kick out fast enough so his training kicked in and they went with it as the finish on the fly. All of this became acceptable when Stardust went backstage and cut another amazing promo on his family. If we get more of that, I'm fully on board with continuing this feud.
The Usos vs. The Brass Ring Club: Jimmy and Jey continued their streak of failing to make me care about them in any meaningful way outside of the consistently entertaining matches they deliver in situations exactly like this. Still, it was time to get fresh at the top of an all but dead division and the prospect of The Brass Ring Club having great matches with literally whoever the hell WWE comes up with to match up with them is enough to carry it for now.
Sledgehammer vs. Baseball bat: By this point in the show, around the top of the second hour, it was clear the crowd wasn't going to pop big for damn near anything, or at least it wasn't going to sound that way here at home. That, admittedly, took something away from the rest of the show, which started here. Still, this segment fell a bit flat for reasons I'm not entirely sure of. I enjoyed the writing of it, and I can't say enough about Triple H's selling now that he's an only occasional wrestler. But something was missing. The heat just wasn't there. I'm a big enough Sting fan, however, that his mere presence in WWE continues to amaze me. Your mileage may vary.
Nikki Bella vs. Paige: The potential for something great is here but for whatever reason it never comes through. This could be another case of not getting enough time and the finish falling flat because it wasn't set up well.
Dean Ambrose vs. Bad News Barrett: This was a SmackDown match that had a SmackDown finish. Considering this featured two strong characters who have shown they can do so much more, this was the biggest disappointment of the night. The only thing that helped save it is the fact that Ambrose made off with the Intercontinental title. That could be fun.
He's here: I've heard/read that Bray Wyatt vs. Undertaker would be so much better if the streak was still intact. I couldn't disagree more. Actually, I feel the opposite. If "The Deadman" retired on that match with Lesnar last year, it would have been a horrible end to an otherwise illustrious (if overrated) career. Now, they can do it proper, and the fact that the streak was broken and Undertaker hasn't officially retired has given them a great story. "The Phenom" needs to be put out of his misery, and Wyatt is the grim reaper come to do it. The symbolism of this segment was perfect.
John Cena vs. Rusev: Nothing fancy here, folks, just a really good back-and-forth power match between two heavy hitters. In so many ways these two were born to wrestle matches exactly like this, WWE main event style matches trading finishes after working strong. Rusev's athleticism will make all his opponents look impressive and his size and strength will keep him over. They told a good story -- Cena never gives up, so Rusev and Lana cheated to wear him down until he simply no longer had a choice in the matter. A submission match at WrestleMania could be in order, and after this match I couldn't be any more in favor of it.
The undercard was mostly underwhelming, but the top two matches delivered in spades.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below with all your thoughts on last night's show. How did you like it, if you liked it at all?
All photos via WWE.com