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Fastlane 2023 recap & reactions: Good Knight

Carlito returns, new tag team champions, and Seth Rollins barely survives at this year’s Fastlane.


A friend hit me the other day and asked about LA Knight. He doesn’t get the appeal and puts himself firmly in the camp that calls LA an Attitude Era clone with more flash than substance.

I don’t know if this tag match changes his mind or anyone else who feels that way, but the man has an “it” factor that so few have anymore. And this match put that all on display. LA stood shoulder-to-shoulder with one of the most popular wrestlers of all-time and everyone came to see him.

John worked most of the match and made the crowd wait for the man Michael Cole called the hottest superstar in WWE. Solo Siokoa & Jimmy Uso got more heat simply through stopping John from making a tag.

Look, you don’t need me to tell you this but I will anyway: LA Knight is insanely over. Every tag tease made the crowd erupt. And they erupted with deafening boos when those tag attempts failed. That’s something indescribable; I’m not even sure if what I said fully conveys the moment.

While I’m sure there’s criticism about his moveset, the other side of that is he’s already at a point where he gets the crowd on their feet with only a few moves. That’s rarefied air that only a few can say they sniffed.

I know this sounds like I’m gassing the man and maybe I am. But I think conveying the man’s soaring popularity is important. WWE really has something here and may have a big decision next year in Philly. If the plan was/is Cody Rhodes vs. Roman Reigns II, or even The Rock vs. Roman, I think they should seriously reconsider that. One of WWE’s worst tendencies over the past several years was Vince McMahon’s refusal to call audibles if it went against his desires. That’s why LA started on the main roster as a manager.

But those of us old enough saw this story before. A well-traveled wrestler comes to WWE saddled with a gimmick going nowhere. He breaks away from that gimmick and breaks out through slowly building momentum because he offered something different. Suddenly, the guy no one envisioned holding the title becomes wrestling’s biggest star and sets the entire world on fire. I’m not saying LA is the next Steve Austin by any means, but I am saying WWE paid attention . They noticed the fans responding In 1996 and ‘97, then strapped the biggest rocket in their arsenal to Stone Cold’s back. They took a gamble and it paid off handsomely for everyone involved.

Do that with LA. The company is too big to fail at this point and moments like this don’t come around often. Even John, who buried Vince’s latest chosen one, felt that. He sold those tag attempts like his life depended on it. He made LA look like the strongest competitor in the ring and showed even Super Cena needed the Megastar’s help. And in the end, LA got the pin. His music played throughout the arena, he got the rub from big Johnny, and Paul Heyman’s death stare.

Paul called LA “a problem.” Well, that’s a great problem for WWE if they play their cards right. Here’s hoping they do. Then maybe people like my friend will come around realize whose game it is.


Dead Wrong

Right out the gate, I want a mea culpa on my predictions. Especially since I came this close on picking the right answer. But I clearly didn’t see this coming: We have new tag team champions!

Cody Rhodes & Jey Uso defeated Judgment Day when the group’s old tricks backfired. And by that, I mean JD McDonagh finally found himself in the wrong place at the very wrong time. That briefcase, which so much Judgment Day drama centered around, landed in JD’s clutches. Poetically, he swung it and accidentally hit Damian Priest’s knee. The same knee that his opponents wrenched on the bottom rope a few minutes earlier.

Little details like that enhance everything for me. Besides paying off that seemingly harmless incident, it also (possibly) ignites this simmering beef between Damian and JD. Rhea Ripley, who recently sided with JD, finds herself in an awful predicament now too. She vouched for him and this happened. And what of Finn Balor? JD is his ride or die, but even he can’t dodge this one. Finn took the pin because his partner took a Cross Rhodes on top of the commentary table. And the only reason that happened is because JD did what he did. Judgment Day also talked Damain out of cashing in, which makes so much sense given his knee injury. But I wonder how he feels about that decision the next time Raw comes to us live?

Fantastic opening match that really picked up the minute Cody took the hot tag and the rest of Judgment Day hit the ring. But the stories coming out of it? Juicy and filled with drama. I’m normally not about drama but when it comes to wrestling, I want it all, like a reality tv host.

My Buddy

IYO SKY told Bayley not to come ringside. After Bayley accepted this triple threat match on IYO’s behalf, I don’t blame her. But IYO doesn’t win this match without Bayley’s help. And that’s the added wrinkle that made everything come together for me in the end.

Interesting, Charlotte Flair felt like non-issue throughout most of the match. Asuka sprayed her with mist when the bell rang, which put her out of commission for a while. Asuka and IYO wanted each other and used every chance they got to make it a one-on-one match. While neither woman has any love for Charlotte, but their beef between each other supersedes that.

But whether two women in the ring or all three, they showed how well they work together. And the drama—sticking with that theme—came from Bayley’s appearance. Besides the aforementioned warning from IYO, there’s also her issues with Charlotte. Bayley caught the ref’s attention when Charlotte put Asuka in the Figure 8. And guess who capitalized with an Over the Moonsault?

Like I said, IYO owes Bayley here. But now Charlotte has one more reason to dislike Bayley. A match between those two seems unavoidable.

Hell on Earth, Pt. 2

Well, if you wanted violence, Seth Rollins and Shinsuke Nakamura gave you all of that. And the story asked a simple question: How much punishment can Seth withstand? Shin drooped him flat on his back on concrete, put him through a table multiple times, and even drew blood. Michael Cole did great work here, begging anyone with sense to stop this match and save Seth’s career and life. But Seth kept coming, despite those pleas.

I liked the moment where Seth’s lower back pain afflicted him so much that setting up a table looked agonizing. And the longer the match went on, every move hurt. He didn’t change his offense at all and basically told his own body “nah.” The way he retained emphasized that as well. A Falcon Arrow onto a production table? Great for a win but terrible for the back.

They worked it perfectly too on that fall and other falls during the tail end. No pun intended. Seth and Shin both stumbled onto their feet. Every 10-count told a story and every time it stopped, a new one began. That Falcon Arrow ended it though as Seth just got to his feet while Shin almost got up but fell right back down.

Michael asked the right question while Seth celebrated: how long can he keep this up?

Rock the Bells

Seeing Carlito Even holding his appearance till the LWO got into real hot water made sense. But I disagree with the decision here. LWO doesn’t need this win, and I assume the loss means more drama between Bobby Lashley & the Street Profits. They just got together and it’s already drama? That’s uninteresting as a fall lands harder after getting some wind under the wings. It’s deflating when a new group gets no momentum and feels dead in the water.

I had fun with this show. It didn’t feel like a must-see event but I really appreciate the brevity. Give me more five match events and I’ll smile forever.

The six-man tag missed me, despite Carlito’s surprise. Overall, the show started hot, cooled in the middle, and then finished on a high note with LA’s coming out party and the championship match.

Grade: B+

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