Tom Jenner rocks!
Don’t let the apprehensive title fool you, folks. This is not going to be another “SmackDown sucks! Raw & NXT are so much better than Road Dogg’s show” column. Believe it or not, on paper, this looks like the most intriguing SmackDown exclusive-Pay-Per-View since 2016, at least in terms of match quality. With New Day vs. Usos, Roode vs. Orton, Rusev vs. Nakamura and Charlotte vs. Ruby all scheduled, I would be surprised if we don’t get at least one Match of the Year candidate on Sunday. Actually, what worries me is who WWE might book to – as LOP would put it – stand tall at the end of his or her match. Obviously, I’m worried about AJ Styles possibly losing his championship at Fast Lane, but I’m afraid there’s more. What do I mean? You’ll see as I break down the matches, one by one.
For starters, we have the epitome of a filler match in Natalya & Carmella taking on Becky Lynch & Naomi. Much like many of you reading this right now, I am sick to death of multi-woman matches. This is a tag team match that has as much importance as 2016’s Becky & Sasha vs. Naomi & Tamina match or last year’s cruiserweight tag team match featuring I don’t even remember who – none. I honestly think WWE has no clue what to do with Carmella and her Money in the Bank briefcase. They should have had her cash it in last summer to spare us from back-to-back Naomi & Nattie title reigns. Instead, we were forced to endure both of those while Carmella took a backseat first to them, then to Charlotte. It certainly seems like WWE missed the opportunity to strike while Carmella was red-hot (shocker). I don’t know when she’ll cash-in, but since she’s the current MitB holder, she is obligated to take the L on Sunday. Becky Lynch & Naomi win.
Now, here’s where things start to get a bit mucky. The consensus among people I follow on social media is that Charlotte will defeat Ruby Riott after a great match, only for Asuka to make a surprise appearance afterwards to officially challenge The Queen at WrestleMania. While I agree that Charlotte and Ruby will probably have an above-average match, I wouldn’t be surprised if the post-match shenanigans turn out much differently. Do you really think Ruby’s buddies – Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan – will just console their fallen leader after losing a title match? Nope. I expect a beatdown on Charlotte from the Riott Squad. With The Queen left laying in the ring, exhausted from a competitive match and still feeling the effects of the multi-woman beatdown, wouldn’t that give Carmella the perfect opportunity to cash-in her briefcase? Remember – WWE has had MitB holders compete earlier in the show and then cash in on the same night. I think that could very well happen on Sunday.
As much as I dig The Princess of Staten Island, I’m not going to try convincing you or me that Asuka vs. Carmella is a WrestleMania-worthy match (especially if Charlotte must work the pre-show as a result). That’s not going to happen. I’m 99% sure we’re getting Charlotte vs. Asuka at WM34, but I could see them adding Carmella to make it a triple-threat, to the disdain of many. I doubt it, though. I think it’s more likely that Charlotte invokes her rematch clause next week on SmackDown and regains her title – THEN Asuka shows up to challenge The Queen. After all, if you’re Asuka, why would you pass up a match with someone you’ve beaten before (Alexa Bliss) just to try and win the title in a triple threat? Is it messy booking? Absolutely, but so was the WWE Championship post-Elimination Chamber 2017 – remember that? I’m probably way off-track here, but fuck it, I’ve talked myself into it. Charlotte retains her title against Ruby Riott; Carmella then cashes-in and becomes the NEW SmackDown Women’s Champion.
What is there to say about another match between The New Day and The Usos? I agree that it’s way too soon to renew this rivalry. If anything, I would have saved this match for WrestleMania as it would have served as a sure-fire way for both teams to escape pre-show purgatory and make the main card. If New Day win on Sunday, we might get that at WM anyway, but with The Bludgeon Brothers added as well. If New Day lose, could we see something change for the trio? Either a heel turn or one of the three turn his back on the other two? You never know. This is guaranteed to be a great match, either way. It’s tough to call, but I suppose The Usos retain and hopefully make the WM card this year.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev is probably the match I’m most looking forward to seeing on Sunday. Nakamura has had some questionable Pay-Per-View matches since his main roster call-up, but in his defense, it was against guys the crowd weren’t into at the time (Ziggler, Mahal, Corbin). However, Rusev is arguably the most over person on SmackDown (Daniel Bryan-levels of overness). Although a match with Rusev won’t boost Nakamura’s popularity after Sunday (I’m predicting a 50/50 split, at best), it should be an entertaining match nonetheless. There’s no chance Rusev is winning, but as long as both guys add a three-four star match to the card, that’s what matters. Shinsuke Nakamura wins, but even Ray Charles could see that one coming a mile away.
Keep your eye on the ending of the United States Championship match. Not because of a possible Jinder Mahal run-in (fuck that guy, forever and always), but because I could see WWE putting the belt on Orton. They could go down that path for two reasons: 1. It easily sets up a rematch at WrestleMania and 2. It serves as a vehicle to turn Roode heel. I’m not expecting either guy to give it his all on Sunday since I think it’s almost a guarantee they’ll be wrestling again but on a much bigger stage, but that’s alright. It’s only Fast Lane, so who cares? As for Mahal, there’s no way a guy who was absent from Survivor Series and lasted less than five minutes in the Royal Rumble is going to be featured in a non-ladder midcard match at ‘Mania. The Mahal experiment is over, people. Randy Orton becomes the NEW United States Champion, with Bobby Roode turning heel prior to their rematch in New Orleans.
That leaves us with The Six-Pack Challenge. Personally, I wish they went with the rules of the inaugural Six-Pack Challenge many years ago, with eliminations instead of first-fall-to-a-finish. For one, it would help differentiate it from last Tuesday’s main-event which was basically the exact same match but without John Cena. An elimination format could leave us with some exciting final twos, such as Styles vs. Cena or Styles vs. Zayn. Instead, we get a tired format. Ugh.
Could you imagine if Cena actually wins on Sunday and his declaration of turning the WWE Championship at WrestleMania into a triple-threat actually comes to fruition? How hilariously sad would it be for WWE to add a third person to match everyone wants to see (Styles vs. Nakamura) but not to the one no one wants to see (Reigns vs. Lesnar)? That would be trolling at its finest, and since it’s WWE we’re talking about, it could very well happen. It could – but it won’t. There’s no way John Cena is winning his 17th world title at a Fast Lane Pay-Per-View, not gonna happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dolph Ziggler gets some very close near-falls himself but ultimately, AJ Styles retains the WWE Championship because any other outcome will hang a dark, heavy cloud over WrestleMania 34.
All that being said, I sincerely hope this PPV comes off better in both quality and outcomes than Elimination Chamber did. No Jinder Mahal will certainly help, but WWE can easily fuck up many superstars’ Road to WrestleMania with their questionable booking. Unlike with Reigns last month, the predictable winner (Styles) is the winner we want. I can see a lot of fans – myself included – being incredulous if they go with anyone else leaving Columbus as WWE Champion. I don’t see how they can sell a WM card to the die-hard fanbase that consists of Lesnar vs. Reigns but no Styles vs. Nakamura, no Braun, no Elias and no Rusev. That’s a show that is begging to be shat on.
Oh, and one last thing – can we make this the last Fast Lane ever? What a useless Pay-Per-View that stalls the Road to WrestleMania every damn year. Please get rid of it after 2018. Thank you in advance, WWE!
YOUR Two Centsss: What (if anything) are you looking forward to seeing at Fast Lane?
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