Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Fastlane! The last street on the rather bumpy road to WrestleMania. Gone are the days of an elaborate and altogether dangerous cage match representing our final exit to the Showcase of the Immortals. Now we get a jumbo-sized Raw card with thrown together bouts on the fly and a bunch of top-level talent merely collecting a pay day. It’s like 1990 all over again. As we will see, their are some storyline driven feuds on display and the picture for Mania should come into focus by night’s end Sunday. How this special event executes those stories remains to be seen but there aren’t too many more shopping days until the biggest night of the year. For the company’s sake, I hope they deliver. So let’s get down to brass tacks shall we?
GOLDUST VS. STARDUST
And you thought your family was bad? At least there’s less face paint in your family right? Right?! The growing schism between The American Dream’s boys can really stem back to Mr. McMahon’s interview with Stone Cold when he talked about those silly Millennials. According to WWE.com, Stardust took offense to his brother’s assertion that people from this era of sports entertainment “do not work for anything on their own, instead preferring to “take” from those who precede them.” I honestly can’t remember when that was said but I do recall the following weeks when Stardust tagged himself in an inopportune times and taking losses against every team under the sun. Goldie even had the audacity to call his brother by his Christian name and it all came to a head when Stardust used his old finisher, appropriately named “Cross-Rhodes,” on Goldust following yet another match. Long story short, Cody, um I mean Stardust, has gone mental, severed ties with his older brother and told his father that he is dead to him. I think this would have been better suited for Mania and Dustin could use it as his farewell/swan song. Perhaps it does and this is just the mozzarella stick appetizer before a tremendous meal on March 29th. In the end, I see younger brother getting the better of older brother and maybe this is finally the relaunch of Cody Rhodes… er Stardust. MCGINN’S PICK: STARDUST
WWE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
The Usos (C) vs. Tyson Kidd & Cesaro
The tag straps will be up for grabs with the standard bearer of the tag division taking on a recently formed duo that is hotter than a firecracker. Cesaro and Kidd have undergone a tremendous character reformation and sparked chemistry seemingly overnight. Their “friendship” is infectious and so well done, that you almost forget that Natalya is in the same room with them most of the time. They are the macho guy equivalent to BFFs. That all aside, they are also fun to watch in the ring and complement each other’s styles extremely well. The internet community is begging for a title change here. That being said, The Usos are tried and true and can take a few TV losses to their opponents and still look like dominant champions. I see this upstart team as merely a stepping stone for Jimmy and Jey before they are fed to that talent deficient Ascension team down the road. Sadly, I see Kidd and Cesaro playing the Power & Glory role here by lose convincingly and being quickly forgotten. Such a shame for two guys who are seemingly doing everything they can to reach those imaginary brass rings. MCGINN’S PICK: THE USOS
INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
Bad News Barrett (C) vs. Dean Ambrose
Another thrown together bout with very little sizzle for our once second most prestigious belt in the company. What irritates me about these two is that at certain points in 2014, they looked to be ready to take that next step just based on how well they played to their characters’ strengths and also by the fan reactions. Now they are paired up here with that title on the line, and many of you are saying to yourselves, “Oh yeah, those two are fighting! Pass me the Cheetos.” Barrett is doing what all good IC champs do these days and lose every match they possibly can. Ambrose meanwhile hasn’t won a feud since the Shield days and is starting to be labeled as the plucky comic relief guy who never wins anything. The news parodies and Ambrose using the zip-ties to get Barrett to sign the contract, while creative, probably didn’t raise any interest all that much in this match. Optimistically, this match could be a show-stealer between two guys who have a ton to prove. Realistically, this is a Raw match on PPV. Maybe they will do the right thing and give us a title change and finally give Ambrose something after months of falling short. Of course, then he’ll likely play his new role of “being champ and losing on TV” guy. WINNER: DEAN AMBROSE
SIX-MAN TAG MATCH
Dolph Ziggler, Ryback & Erick Rowan vs. Seth Rollins, Big Show & Kane
The battle wages on from Survivor Series as the remains of Team Cena go 3-on-3 against Seth Rollins and The Authority cronies. I’m amazed this rivalry is still happening at this point in time but I suppose this was just a convenient way to get these guys on the card without subjecting us to more singles matches. I mean, by they time they put Ziggy and Rollins in a world title program, we will have already seen them wrestle about 300 times on television. This match bothers me on other levels too because you have three guys that need a win worse than New England needs a day over 14 degrees taking on two huge stiffs and the golden child. Even though one side clearly deserves a night to shine, the company will likely side with the two stiffs in order to preserve the “future” star of the company. Was there anyone hotter than Ziggler after Survivor Series? Was there anyone more popular than Rollins after Royal Rumble? So let’s throw them in a six-man where one of them has to look foolish in defeat surrounded by guys going nowhere. I like Ryback and Rowan, but they seem to be used as cannon fodder and not thought of as actual players. And don’t get me started on Show and Kane who are well past their usefulness in my eyes. If you need to pick, I say The Authority triumphs, Rowan takes the pin and we forget this match happened by next week. That all changes though if Randy Orton makes his oft-predicted comeback in this match to screw over Rollins. We shall see. MCGINN’S PICK: THE AUTHORITY
WWE DIVAS CHAMPIONSHIP
Nikki Bella (C) vs. Paige
Anytime spray tan is used to jumpstart a feud, you know this is personal. Paige might be as pale as winter’s snow, but she has melted the hearts of the male population in the WWE Universe. With AJ out of the picture, she’s in prime position to be the next Diva to carry the large pink butterfly for several months to come. I’ll keep this brief, there is no world in this galaxy where someone as awesome as Paige should ever lose to someone as awful as Nikki Bella. To see her look up at the lights on Sunday would be the biggest miscarriage of justice since Kevin Kelly decided not to mention my name on the Jim Ross podcast this past week! MCGINN’S PICK: PAIGE
UNITED STATES CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
Rusev (C) vs. John Cena
This match in this spot makes about as much sense as a screen door on a submarine. Wasn’t Rusev supposed to dominate for over a year only to have a showdown with Cena at Mania? Wasn’t then he would be exposed as a guy not ready from primetime and then just fall back to the pack by SummerSlam? I thought that was the plan! He murders the careers of the Big E’s and Xavier Wood’s of the world, makes us question our faith in America, and just when all our heroes are left for dead, in comes John Cena to save the day! And all that was supposed to happen on the biggest stage of them all right? That’s what I was told! So here we are in a match for the forgotten United States Championship between a guy who has never been pinned or forced to tap out against a challenger who hasn’t even thought of owning this belt in 10 years. Unless this is Cena’s slow drop down the card where he will now reside in midcard land for the duration of his career, him winning only hurts Rusev does it not? Jim Ross speculates that if Cena wins the belt, it could rejuvenate that title again and make it relevant while the World title is held by a part-timer. I say that if you need a main eventer and franchise of your company to legitimize your secondary title, it’s probably a belt that shouldn’t exist. Either that or guys like Rusev are doing a terrible job of holding those belts. So this is probably an easy call. Cena wins via DQ, it sets up a bigger showdown at Mania, and the big Russian lives to wave that huge flag another day. WINNER: JOHN CENA
ROMAN REIGNS VS. DANIEL BRYAN (WINNER FACES BROCK LESNAR AT WRESTLEMANIA)
The most anticipated match of the evening is between the guy the company, namely Vince, wants verses they guy the entire WWE Universe wants. Over the last few weeks, fans have had to choose what side of the fence they wish to have their picnic. While it seems like the Philly crowd at the Royal Rumble was somewhat of an aberration, there still seems to be a clear favorite in the hearts of the fans when choosing between these two. Bryan has turned up his heel persona over the last few weeks playing mind games with the 2014 Superstar of the Year. In particular, his comment about Reigns getting bothered by Yes chants on Raw and knowing that there will be even more of those at Fastlane. Also his smarmy comments when at the announce table bring me back to the days when he was the guy you just wanted to punch in the face every time he opened his mouth when feuding with CM Punk in 2012. The bottom line here is Reigns MUST have a career-making performance on Sunday. He has to prove that he is a legitimate player and someone the fans can get behind. He can’t be just a guy with a couple cool moves and some hand gestures. If the plan is for him to face Lesnar, this has to be the ultimate of tune-up matches and Bryan is just the kind of guy who can make him look like millions. As for the match, both men deserve to main event WrestleMania. Bryan deserves another chance to be the guy after coming back from injury and Reigns was will on his way to being that new stud babyface before the Yes Express pulled back into the station. In a perfect world, they both find their ways to San Fran with a chance to win the title but I doubt they will go to the well again with another Triple Threat main event. So if I’m wagering a guess, I say the company stays the course and rides the Reigns train all the way into Levi’s Stadium. Fans may cry, but that probably would happen anyway. The question though is whether Reigns will look as good in winning as Bryan will in losing. Then what do you do with DB at Mania? That’s for another preview! WINNER: ROMAN REIGNS
It’s worth nothing that Sting will appear to confront Triple H and maybe we’ll get to the bottom of why the vigilante keeps interfering in The Authority’s business. I must admit that I’ve been marking out to all the Sting stuff and I hope he has spent his off-time getting ready to put on one last classic at WrestleMania. All I think about though during this build up is why couldn’t we have had Sting in the company sooner than 2015? It’s one of those big “what ifs” in WWE history. Besides the main event, this could save the show from being just another PPV so fingers crossed that these two vets put on an outstanding performance.
Be sure to follow us at Place to Be Nation for the very best coverage of Fastlane and the Road to Wrestlmania. In addition to the PPV live blog Sunday night, stay tuned for the PTB Network Reaction Show along with plenty more articles to get you ready for WrestleMania! Enjoy the show, PTB Nation!