It’s that time of year again, when we fast forward one hour and hopefully, past Fastlane. What is this pay-per-view? The Smackdown exclusive show has such little bearing on WrestleMania or really any developments going forward, it’s almost not worth watching...but I will...for I am a sucker.
Nearly every match on this card seems like a space filler. As far as what Michael Cole would consider “WrestleMania implications” are concerned, there is next to nothing. The only match that could count for something it the main event six-pack challenge. However, my own personal six-pack challenge will be sitting at home and getting through a full six-pack during this match. While I don’t mean to discourage the athleticism and skill of the men involved, I simply don’t see the outcome of this match being any kind of surprise. A match involving Styles, Cena, Dolph Ziggler, Baron Corbin, Sami Zayn, and Kevin Owens should be an entertaining one regardless of the predictability of the results.
I don’t want to entertain the thought of a surprise, because this is one of those scenarios where a surprise victory by John Cena, or really anyone other than A.J. Styles, would be an unwelcome one. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Styles is indeed a dream match and a New Japan rematch that fans have been wanting to see since both of their debuts. To put the kibosh on that now would just be a giant letdown; but hey, it’s never beyond the realm of possibility in today’s WWE to deliberately book against the wants and needs of the fanbase.
Ideally, what we want to see is what already seems to be in the works: Styles vs. Nakamura for the WWE Heavyweight Championship, and Undertaker vs. Cena. The latter was teased by Cena a couple of weeks ago on Raw, if for no other reason than to force the thought into the minds of the audience. He then retracted this tempting challenge, alluding to the notion that The Undertaker won’t be wrestling again. But really, that’s the only logical outcome. So, with any luck, we will see Fastlane salvaged by an appearance by The Undertaker, as he accepts Cena’s challenge for a WrestleMania dream match.
Meanwhile, the rest of the card is a mess. Number one contender, Shinsuke Nakamura will be facing Rusev, basically just to give both of these talents a match. Considering “Rusev Day” is one of the most over gimmicks currently in WWE, this could be a nice little push for Rusev as a main event talent. The match itself should be pretty damn good, but once again, this was hastily thrown together and has zero impact on the story.
For the Women’s Championship, Ruby Riott has challenged Charlotte, and I think we all know how that will go down. Granted, it would be a shock to see Ruby Riott come out of nowhere and beat Charlotte for her championship; but it wouldn’t lead to a WrestleMania marquee matchup. In fact, there aren’t a lot of options for Charlotte at WrestleMania since Ronda Rousey’s dance card is full. Tonight’s tag match of Becky Lynch and Naomi vs. Natalya and Carmella might indicate some sort of number one contender, but the only ace in the hole in the Smackdown Women’s division is Carmella’s Money in the Bank contract. This could come into play tonight, seeing a Carmella cash-in victory and a Charlotte rematch at WrestleMania.
The remainder of the card shows Randy Orton challenging Bobby Roode for his United States Championship and yet another Tag Team Championship battle between The Usos and The New Day. Both of these matches will be fun to watch, but Usos and New Day never disappoint. I’m expecting this one to be the match of the night. Even though it seems they’ve battled countless times, these two teams have earned a smooth Flair/Steamboat dynamic. Knowing each other so well has its benefits. This tag match is the biggest selling point of Fastlane aside from the potential of simply seeing The Undertaker. All in all, Fastlane will be an annoying traffic jam on the road to WrestleMania, and at best, a decent episode of Smackdown.
Nathan Burke is a standup comedian based in Boston and can be found on Twitter @IamNathanBurke