The first ever edition of WWE Fastlane took place tonight from the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee. Fastlane replaced Elimination Chamber as the traditional February PPV leading into WrestleMania. The show had added emphasis this year with it being offered during the WWE Network's free month of February promotion. WWE was hoping that several thousand people would tune into the show, be impressed with what they saw, and hopefully sign up for the month of March and April in order to watch WrestleMania 31 live on the WWE Network as paying customers. Did WWE succeed in their mission? Let's look at the show.
Two Good MatchesFastlane featured two above average matches, and they were the last two matches on the card. WWE put Rusev versus John Cena on second to last, while Daniel Bryan versus Roman Reigns main evented Fastlane.
John Cena and Rusev started off incredibly slow, but the two men ended up building towards a quality finish. Early on, as the men traded mostly punches with very little wrestling, the fans chanted "Jerry!" and "Lana!" to emphasis their boredom with the bout. As time went on, though, Cena and Rusev hooked the fans as they were completely engaged by the finish. The match ended exactly as it should have, with John Cena locked into Rusev's Accolade submission finisher. After Lana distracted the referee and Rusev low-blowed and kicked Cena in the head, Cena was knocked out cold. The WWE referee called for the bell as an unconscious Cena was synced into Rusev's finisher. Rusev came out looking strong, and still undefeated, while Cena looked like a guy who just couldn't defeat the Russian destroyer.Following up this match at Fastlane was Roman Reigns taking on Daniel Bryan for a chance to face Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 31. This was an excellent main event, with Reigns winning clean in the end. At the conclusion of a hard fought match that lasted just over 20 minutes, Bryan came in for his running knee, but Reigns countered with a spear to gain the pinfall. This was arguably the best match of Fastlane. After the match, an angry Bryan approached Reigns. WWE has been teasing a Bryan heel turn in recent weeks, but that wasn't the direction WWE chose to take tonight. Bryan told Reigns, "You better kick his a**," referring to Brock Lesnar.
A Great ConfrontationTriple H and Sting faced off in a great segment at Fastlane that resulted in the first confirmed match for WWE's WrestleMania 31.
Triple H did a nice job of portraying Sting as the face of WCW. It came across as the Attitude Era vs. WCW, as Triple H remarked that he was one of the guys that made the ship known as WCW go down, ending Sting's legacy in the process. Triple H gave Sting a choice. He said Sting could leave, ensuring his legacy would live on through the promise of merchandise releases, future DVD sets, and a potential WWE Hall of Fame induction, or he could stay and have the rest of his legacy beat out of him. What resulted was a brawl between the two men. After Triple H got the early upper-hand, Sting fought back. Triple H exited the ring and grabbed his sledge hammer, but Sting reacted by grabbing his baseball bat. Sting cornered Triple H with his bat and pointed up to the WrestleMania 31 sign. Triple H accepted the challenge, and Michael Cole confirmed the match later during the Fastlane broadcast.
A Whole Lot Of FillerThe rest of the Fastlane card consisted of average to below average contests. The best of the rest of the show was probably the WWE Tag Team Title bout pitting the Usos against Tyson Kidd and Cesaro. Kidd and Cesaro won the tag straps in a match that was frenetic, to say the least. Both teams must have felt they had several spots they needed to get in tonight, because it was non-stop for the 9:32 that the match lasted.
Speaking of match times, besides the co-main event matches, no other contest received more than 10 minutes outside of the opening six man tag involving the Authority taking on Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan, and Ryback. This lead to a WWE PPV show that felt rushed and not much different than your average Monday Night RAW.
Where Do We Go From Here?Tonight's Fastlane PPV proved to be mostly a stop-gap show before WWE's biggest show of the year, WrestleMania. For the most part, many of the big matches seemed to extend feuds that are already in place: Rusev/Cena, Goldust/Stardust, Ambrose/Barrett, Sting/Triple H, and Reigns/Lesnar, to be exact. As far as new WWE feuds, Seth Rollins seemed to begin a program with the returning Randy Orton.
The odd man out seems to be Daniel Bryan. Will the WWE proceed with somehow adding him to the Reigns versus Lesnar match, as was reported several weeks back? Or will he return to a previously mentioned possible match with Dolph Ziggler at WrestleMania? Bryan's road to WrestleMania should become more clear this week during WWE Monday Night RAW.
If the WWE's mission with this show was to convince viewers to keep the WWE Network, I'm not sure that they succeeded. It was a slightly above average show, and it would have been considered a dud before the last two matches on the card. However, the show did succeed in pushing the matches it needed to in building towards WrestleMania 31. Industry insiders understand that, but the question is did the WWE's prospective WWE Network subscribers buy into that enough to shell out $9.99 once their free trial ends in order to see the eventual pay-off at the biggest WWE show of the year?
[Photo via WWE.com]