Rewind to late-January 2015. WWE were coming off a hugely unpopular Royal Rumble that saw Roman Reigns win the 30-man Battle Royal to claim the main event spot at WrestleMania 31 at Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara. Reigns’ win was extremely disliked due to the fact that fan favourite Daniel Bryan was eliminated early on. The frustration poured over from 2014’s event where Bryan didn’t even feature in the Rumble match. Even an appearance from The Rock, seemingly to win the fans over, was booed by the fans in attendance.
Fast forward to the night after Royal Rumble 2015 and WWE knew they had to find someway to appease the fans, who felt they’d been shortchanged with Roman’s win. They immediately set up a feud between Reigns & Bryan, and a match was announced for the February Pay-Per-View – the inaugural WWE Fastlane.
The stipulation for their match would be that the winner would go on to face the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, a certain Brock Lesnar, at Wrestlemania 31. This match would, obviously, headline the show.
The name of the PPV was meet with uncertainty from the WWE Universe as it just seemed like another generically named show. However, WWE did provide some explanation, stating that “The Road to WrestleMania heats up, at WWE Fastlane”. Promotional videos for the show included car speedometers, fast cards and drag racing.
The card for WWE Fastlane, on first viewing, wasn’t one that screamed quality – however, the results on the night were more than worth the £9.99 subscription cost for the WWE Network. The first match was a 6-man tag involving Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan & Ryback going up against Kane, Big Show & Seth Rollins (The Authority). Kane pinned Ziggler after hitting him with a choke slam, with Big Show hitting Ziggler with a KO Punch while Rollins distracted the referee. After the match, Rollins curb-stomped both Ziggler and Rowan. While lining up for a curb stomp on Ryback, Randy Orton returned and performed his RKO on various Authority members, while Rollins ran out of the arena.
The second match of the night was Goldust v Stardust. This was a match that had a lot of people excited, as it was a feud many had craved for a long time. However, the result was disappointing with the match not being given much time & Goldust winning by pinfall.
Next up, the Tag Titles were on the line. The champions, The Usos, defended against the extremely popular and impressive team of Cesaro & Tyson Kidd. Cesaro & Kidd won an entertaining match and were crowned the new champions. This was their first reign as Tag Team Champions.
After this match, there was a segment with Triple H cutting a promo on Sting. This lead to Sting appearing in the ring, and, after a brief physical altercation, a match between the two at WrestleMania was announced. Following this encounter was the Divas Title match between Nikki Bella (C) and the challenger Paige. Nikki won the match using a roll-up and grabbing Paige’s tights. Then followed an Intercontinental Title match where the challenger Dean Ambrose was disqualified due to his frustration with Bad News Barrett’s evasion tactics.
Next up on the card was the United States Championship match between Rusev (C) and John Cena. This was a very entertaining, back-and-forth match that culminated with Cena passing out while in Rusev’s submission manoeuvre – The Accolade. This was Cena’s first (technical) submission loss since the No Way Out PPV. In 2004.
Following that, it was finally time for the main event. Roman Reigns entered first to a chorus of boos from the fans in attendance while Bryan entered to a rapturous response – as is always the case. Reigns and Bryan each performed some of their signature moves, including Reigns’ apron dropkick and Bryan’s surfboard submission. Bryan applied the Yes Lock on Reigns, who was able to reach the ropes for a break. When Reigns subsequently rolled out of the ring, Bryan performed two suicide dives, but an attempt at a third dive resulted in Reigns catching Bryan for a suplex outside the ring. Both competitors barely beat the referee’s count of ten. Reigns performed the Superman Punch, but Bryan kicked out. After that, Bryan performed the Running Knee, with Reigns kicking out. (Before this match, no one had kicked out of Bryan’s Running Knee.) After a series of kicks, Bryan then attempted a second Running Knee, but Reigns countered with a spear, pinning Bryan. Visibly upset, Bryan shook Reigns’ hand but added that “you better kick his (Lesnar’s) ass” as the show ended with the two leaving the ring.
When you look at this year’s show, the card may be looked upon with disappointment. The pre-show will play host to Kalisto (C) v Alberto Del Rio for the United States Championship in a 2 out of 3 falls rematch from the Royal Rumble.
A match that is eagerly anticipated in most quarters will be the latest instalment of Chris Jericho vs AJ Styles – The Ayatollah of Rock n Rolla vs The Phenomenal One.
Recently crowned Intercontinental Champion Kevin Owens will defend his title against Dolph Ziggler. This will be the latest in a long line of matches between the two. Based on their previous encounters, we can expect an exciting & fast-paced match.
We also have the “Titans of WWE” – Ryback, Kane & Big Show – vs The Wyatt Family in a 6-man tag match. A match that I’m personally quite excited for is Becky Lynch & Sasha Banks vs Tamina & Naomi. This match is all based on the bad blood between the former Team BAD members, and Becky does almost seem to be there just to make up the numbers, however you have two very talented, technical wrestles in Becky & Sasha who will put on one hell of a show.
We can also expect an appearance from Edge & Christian, as the Cutting Edge Peep Show comes to Cleveland with their guests, The New Day. Expect a very entertaining segment, however the fact that the champions aren’t defending their titles is a travesty. The Diva’s Title will be on the line, as Charlotte defends against the challenger, Brie Bella. This storyline had been a bit disappointing, however it sparked into life on the go-home Raw this week with a very passionate and pulsating exchange between the women that, personally, got me excited for their match.
The main event for the evening is Brock Lesnar v Dean Ambrose v Roman Reigns with the winner going on to face WWE World Heavyweight Champion Triple H at WrestleMania 32 in Dallas. To provide context, Reigns is in this position as he lost his championship in the Royal Rumble match, making it to the final three before being dumped out by eventual winner Triple H. Reigns & Ambrose then won a tag match on Raw, the night after the Rumble, to be placed in this match with Brock at WWE Fastlane.
The jury is still out on whether this year’s event will be a success or not. However, one thing is for sure. The Road to WrestleMania is just beginning, and there are sure to be a few bumps in the road for Roman Reigns on his quest to claiming his championship back.