It’s WrestleMania season, but before the granddaddy of them all on April 7, there’s many storylines to address in the world of WWE.
Sunday night at Fastlane, the final PPV before WrestleMania, should answer some key questions. Six titles will be up for grabs, but perhaps the most notable showdown will pit Charlotte Flair against Becky Lynch, with massive stakes for the latter performer. If Lynch wins, she will be granted a spot in the WrestleMania Raw women’s championship against Flair and Ronda Rousey, making the likely main event that much more fascinating.
Daniel Bryan has a big obstacle against a returning Kevin Owens, while The Revival and The Usos hope to hang on to their respective tag-team belts.
How will it all play out? Tim Fiorvanti is live at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio and his coverage will be supplemented by Sean Coyle and Matt Wilansky throughout the night.
This story was updated in real time.
WWE championship: Daniel Bryan (c) def. Kevin Owens vs. Mustafa Ali
Recap to come.
Women’s tag team championship: Bayley and Sasha Banks (c) def. Nia Jax and Tamina
History was made last month at the Elimination Chamber when Sasha Banks and Bayley defeated five other teams to become the first-ever WWE women’s tag team champions. In their first title defense, they faced off with one of those five teams tonight in Nia Jax and Tamina.
The champs were aggressive as the match began with frequent tags, but the strength advantage of the challengers caught up to them. Jax and Tamina utilized their power early on, highlighted by a nicely executed power bomb by Jax onto Bayley.
Banks attempted to turn the tide when she tagged in, but was met with a poorly executed Samoan drop by Jax. The champs kept fighting back as Bayley assisted Banks with a cross body block to the outside of the ring onto both Jax and Tamina. The challengers caught Banks, so Bayley charged ahead with a suicide dive and knocked everyone down.
The finish saw Jax go to the well once too often when she attempted another power bomb onto Bayley. Bayley reversed the attempt into a hurricanrana for a three count and the win.
After the match, Jax and Tamina assaulted the champions and tossed Banks over the announcers table towards WWE Hall of Famer Beth Phoenix who was doing commentary for the match. Phoenix hit Tamina with a right hand, but Jax ran right over her. They tossed Phoenix into the ring and continued the beat down until Natalya stormed the ring to make the save. Natalya was treated to a Tamina super kick for her efforts.
While the match itself left a lot to be desired, the post match events were intriguing. It appears that we’re headed towards the reuniting of the Phoenix/Natalya tag team of year’s past as the women’s tag team championship picture heading into WrestleMania begins to unfold.
U.S. championship Fatal 4-way: Samoa Joe (c) def. Rey Mysterio vs. R-Truth vs. Andrade
When Samoa Joe won the United States championship Tuesday night on SmackDown, it just felt right. He emerged from a Fatal 4-Way match against R-Truth, Rey Mysterio and Andrade looking as strong as he has since his moment in the sun opposite Brock Lesnar, and after a number of short and/or ineffective reigns, Samoa Joe seemed ready to bring some shine back to the title.
A last-minute change to the Fastlane card plucked Mysterio and Andrade from the Kickoff Show and placed them into a four-way rematch for the title just five days later. A loss on Sunday night would’ve quickly rendered the United States championship unimportant, but that simply wasn’t to be.
All four men involved stepped up their efforts and delivered another spot-heavy, yet enjoyable match. From the moment Joe landed the first significant offense in the match through a clever counter into a Coquina Clutch and the submission victory, the story of the match was about Joe’s opponents and their inability to keep Joe down for long enough to make a difference.The ageless Mysterio nailed four jaw-dropping hurricanranas on the three other participants, each more impressive than the last. It started with a double effort on R-Truth and Andrade at the same time, built to an assisted version with Andrade on R-Truth’s shoulders and peaked when Mysterio set up a third such effort by jumping off the top rope and hitting Andrade on the outside.
There was no love lost between Andrade and Mysterio in this match, as Andrade continued to try to use Eddie Guerrero’s mannerisms to mock his veteran foe. Zelina Vega got involved by superkicking R-Truth, Carmella countered and the whole mess caused a massive distraction that nearly distracted all involved from a quick cover inside the ring.
R-Truth continued his Cena impersonation in defeat, dropping a five-knuckle shuffle in the match, and it’s easy to wonder whether that decision lends itself to some kind of subliminal messaging and a last-minute Cena appearance.
The match was fun, but the result was what it needed to be. After Mysterio scrambled out of nowhere and lined Joe up for a 619 — with everyone else out of commission — Joe slid out of the way and positioned himself perfectly to snatch Mysterio up and lock in the Coquina Clutch, which put Mysterio to sleep.
Raw tag team championships: The Revival (c) def. Bobby Roode & Chad Gable vs. Aleister Black & Ricochet
In a backstage video minutes before Fastlane began, Ricochet put his journey into perspective. “Our lives are defined by moments,” he said. “And tonight, I get to create a new moment in my first-ever WWE pay-per-view match.”
He was amped. His partner was equally intense.
“One of us will fly, one will strike and everyone else will fade to black,” Aleister Black said.
Whether true or not, the teaming of Ricochet and Black has been a thrilling ride since they made their Raw and SmackDown Live debuts just weeks ago. But Sunday would be a new level of competition, as the NXT stars had the daunting task of taking down the pairings of Bobby Roode and Chad Gable, and champions The Revival for the Raw tag-team championship.
Ricochet did not disappoint, using his usual innovative tactics to slow down Gable. But as you’d imagine, there were a lot of momentum shifts in this one. Dawson slowed the pace, manhandling Ricochet, before his partner, Black, came in and put some energy into the air with a series of vicious kicks and a double-knee takedown on Roode from the top rope. This led to the first “wow” moment of the encounter, and then a second when Ricochet landed an incredible shooting star press on Wilder that nearly earned his team the titles.
He wasn’t finished. Moments later, Ricochet converted a hurricarana taking out everyone on the outside of the ring. But amid Ricochet’s theatrics on the floor, The Revival was busy taking care of business in the ring, as the champs caught Gable in a Shatter Machine to win and retain the titles.
Still, the newbies had the last laugh as Black beat down everyone in his way after the bell and Ricochet landed a 630 on Wilder. They stood in the ring, proud of their accomplishment, but ultimately without a belt — for now.
The Bar def. Kofi Kingston
The Quicken Loans Arena crowd was buzzing. After Big E, Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston barged into Vince McMahon’s office and demanded what they felt rightfully belonged to Kingston — a WWE championship match — McMahon informed the trio that the WWE title match would now be a triple threat, and told Kingston to go out to the ring.
In a measure seemingly intended to maintain fairness, Big E and Xavier Woods were banned from ringside. But after Kingston made it to the ring, McMahon pulled a bait-and-switch and made Kofi the fool once more. The WWE title match would happen later in the night, and Kingston would instead face The Bar in a handicap match — with both members of the team allowed in the ring at the same time.
Cesaro and Sheamus predictably took control quickly, but Kingston fought back valiantly with everything he could muster. That comeback ended in a hurry when Kingston flew directly into a giant European uppercut from Cesaro. A double-team clothesline-powerbomb combo left Kingston prone on the mat, and, as Cesaro held Kingston up, Sheamus nailed a Brogue Kick.
But that wasn’t enough. Cesaro picked Kingston up after a one-count. The rest of the New Day tried to intervene, but Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura returned to gain a measure of revenge on Woods and Big E from earlier in the night on the Kickoff show.
After a combination version of Sheamus’ White Noise suplex, Sheamus and Cesaro pinned Kingston with one foot apiece on his chest.
It’s easy to see what the goal of such an exercise — sympathy for Kingston — but with just a few weeks to go before WrestleMania, the window to turn this disadvantage around is shrinking by the week.
SmackDown Live women’s championship: Asuka (c) def. Mandy Rose
This wasn’t the match-up many anticipated, but here we are. I suppose we should be thankful that the SmackDown women’s championship is being featured on the show at all given its exclusion from WWE TV most weeks. Asuka is far too talented to be ignored, though, and perhaps she, along with the title, will be featured more prominently after tonight.
Her title defense against Mandy Rose began with the champ in control, but we were quickly reminded that Rose had an ace up her sleeve in her comrade Sonya Deville, who was at ringside. Deville distracted Asuka early and often, which allowed Rose to get back into the match.The two went back and forth a bit and angry Asuka was unleashed after some ill-timed taunting by Rose.
The finish saw Deville pull a kendo stick out from under the ring, but in doing so, she left a piece of the ring apron laying in the ring. As Rose bounced off the ropes, she slipped on the apron which allowed Asuka to connect with a spinning heel kick to the jaw for the win.
After the match an upset Rose refused the hand of Deville and a split was teased. The match was nothing to write home about, but now, perhaps, a legitimate WrestleMania rivalry for Asuka can begin.
SmackDown Live tag team championship: The Usos (c) def. The Miz and Shane McMahon
It was too good to be true. We all knew it, and it was just a matter of time.
From the outset, the union of “the worlds best,” The Miz and Shane McMahon, was destined to be short-lived, despite their brief run as SmackDown tag-team champions.
On Sunday at Fastlane, following a disappointing loss to The Usos when Miz was rolled up after a missed frog splash, the split became official.
As McMahon and Miz were embracing The Miz’s father, who was sitting ringside, following the match, the former SmackDown commissioner unleashed a memorable and sudden beatdown on his partner.
McMahon pummeled Miz into the barricade and went as far as grabbing Miz’s father in the face. McMahon ruined the friendship and a viable team, but in the end likely set up a WrestleMania showdown most of us saw coming.
While in the back of our minds that this swerve was always in the cards, Miz and McMahon had natural chemistry. It was a story of enemies turned partners, and partners turned champions. And then this.
So long to a joining of misfits that seemed to work so well with each other. And hello to what will no doubt be a bitter feud until a likely battle come April 7.
The New Day def. Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura
The lone match on tonight’s Fastlane kickoff show featured a tag match pitting Big E and Xavier Woods of the New day against the duo of Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura. The entertaining bout served its purpose of warming up the crowd as they came alive for the mid-match hot tag to Big E. After a number of false finishes, its conclusion saw the New Day execute their UpUpDownDown finisher on Rusev for the win.
Still to come:
Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair
The Shield vs. Baron Corbin, Drew McIntyre and Bobby Lashley