Following a heart-pounding SmackDown, WWE came racing into Indianapolis, Indiana, the home of the Indianapolis 500, with its premium live event for October, Fastlane.
Did the sports entertainment giant claim the checkered flag with this reviewer, or did it crash and burn?
Read on to find out.
The Judgment Day (c) vs. Cody Rhodes & Jey Uso -Undisputed Tag Team Championship
Verdict: I liked it
Of all the matches happening at Fastlane, this was the one I was most excited about because of the stakes involved and how that made predicting a winner impossible for me. How would Rhea Ripley respond to her boys losing? What would a win by Rhodes and Uso mean for Rhodes’ relationship with former tag champs Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn?
The match was fire, and Indy was hot for Rhodes and Uso. The makeshift duo chipped away at Damian Priest’s leg, planting seeds for what was to come. Still, Priest was physically the difference-maker in the match. And what I liked most was how he and Finn Bálor cut the ring off to maintain control of the good guys. Very old school, very enjoyable.
The closing moments were a wild sprint that kept the outcome in doubt. The Judgment Day looked like they were about to retain after Ripley blasted Uso with the Money in the Bank briefcase, but it wasn’t enough to put him away. The MITB briefcase would factor into the finish when JD McDonagh accidentally hit Priest’s injured knee with it, leaving him vulnerable for a Cross Rhodes through the announcer’s table.
With Bálor left to fend for himself, he ate a 1D-Cody Cutter mash-up before Rhodes hit the Cross Rhodes for the win.
From start to finish, this was outstanding and easily the match of the night.
LWO & Mystery Partner vs. Bobby Lashley & The Street Profits
The focus was on who would be the third man for the LWO as they took on Bobby Lashley and the Street Profits. The mystery man turned out to be Carlito, who, like the nWo’s third man in 1996, didn’t make his presence felt until near the end of the match, which is when the drama began. But it was over soon after Carlito tagged in and hit a backstabber for the win.
Iyo Sky (c) vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka - Women’s Championship
Verdict: I didn’t like it
Full disclosure: I’m generally not a fan of triple-threat matches. It’s like watching two people dancing with a third party intermittently cutting in while producing a winner without a definitive victory. And this was no exception.
Charlotte got knocked out early after Asuka blew mist in her eyes, forcing Flair to the sidelines for medical aid. That allowed Sky and the Empress of Tomorrow to dance with each other before Flair returned. Once the Queen took over, she spent a good portion of the bout tossing her rivals around with ease, including a moment where she suplexed them simultaneously.
The finish came when Bayley, Sky’s Damage CTRL companion, arrived to assist Sky against her orders. As Bayley distracted the referee, Flair had Asuka tapping out in the figure-eight. That gave Sky an opportunity to hit Flair with a moonsault for the win.
The finish looks designed to keep Charlotte strong while giving her a valid gripe that she should be champion. Though I understand what WWE was going for, I’d rather have someone get beat straight in an outing like this, even if that person is Charlotte Flair.
John Cena & LA Knight vs. The Bloodline
At the post-show press conference, John Cena said that this latest run in WWE was about taking inventory of where he’s at as a wrestler. From my perspective, I thought his movements were good, and his selling was fine. But he was in the ring for an eternity as Jimmy Uso and Solo Sikoa took turns treating him like a piñata.
Speaking of Jim Uso, he has been one of the most obnoxious characters in WWE as of late, and I mean that in a good way for his role as a villain. Once Cena got the hot tag to Knight, I was expecting a big explosion that would’ve seen ol’ Jim get some comeuppance, but something felt flat.
By no means was this bad, and everyone worked well. But kicking Cena around for so long was a turnoff, and I’m not even a Cena guy. He did work in an AA and a five-knuckle-shuffle, but his other three moves of doom got the night off.
Seth Rollins (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura - Last Man Standing Match for the World Heavyweight Championship
Verdict: I liked it
I didn’t enjoy this confrontation as much as I liked their tilt at Payback. Truthfully, I hated most of this as it mirrored almost every modern gimmick match. For example, Rollins went under the ring early and began throwing chairs, kendo sticks, a trash can, and a table into the ring. I always find that tactic to be ridiculous because it wastes time, allows an opponent to recover, and really, how many weapons can one use at a time? In the interest of reality, it’s unnecessary to grab every prop imaginable. Get one item and start using it immediately.
Where Nakamura and Rollins won me back was when Nak blew mist into The Visionary’s eyes, causing him to fall off of a ladder and through the announcer’s table. Suddenly, I found myself emotionally interested as Nakamura’s ruthlessness became far more captivating than any spot they had run previously. And for a moment, I found myself believing that Rollins would lose after Nakamura put him through a table with a Kinshasa.
As the referee reached a count of nine, Rollins mustered enough strength to roll out of the ring and propped himself up on the ring apron to remain on his feet long enough to avoid getting counted out. I was a neutral observer coming into this, but as Nakamura moved in for the kill, I unexpectedly found myself rooting for him to win, so Rollins retaining took a lot of frosting off my cake. Still, the final moments were enough to turn my frown around.
Final Verdict: I didn’t like it
I came into Fastlane full of excitement but found myself checked out between the six-man tag and the Women’s Title match. Unless my Bose speakers deceived me, it sounded like the arena audience had lost its spunk around the same time. Though I heard a few short-lived chants of “This is awesome” as the night went on, I couldn’t tell if it was a genuine response or piped-in crowd noise by WWE’s production staff.
Ultimately, WWE did a good enough job to move storylines forward and create interest in what’s coming next. Did JD McDonagh finally sign his death warrant? How will Roman Reigns respond to the Bloodline’s latest collapse? And will Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn congratulate or challenge the new tag team champions?
Speaking of the new champions, if anyone who missed Fastlane wants a one-match recommendation, the tag title match is the one to go with. Great pace, solid work, and a happy ending for the good guys.
Now I turn it over to the jurors of Cageside. What’s your verdict on Fastlane?