Some shows can really bring out the venom in parts of the audience…..at the time it aired this was one of them. My general rule on the February show is to keep expectations low; the main point of them is to confirm what we already think is going to be title match at WrestleMania and maybe lay the groundwork for a few other matches. Looking back there aren’t that many February shows worth remembering; No Way Out from 2001 is the only one that comes to my mind relatively easy (there are some others, of course but I’d have to look them up to find them). Now that doesn’t excuse egregiously bad decisions or bad matches but come on people. In the Network Era this means we’re getting a some good matches to tide us over until THE big event a month later; they’re not asking you to fork over $50 for this thing.
This is an updated review. A few days I went back and rewatched a few old Fastlane shows (2015 and 2016) to see how they’ve aged and to get ready for Fastlane 2019. My opinion didn’t change much on 2015 (mostly bad show) but they did change enough on 2016 to make me want to rewrite this review. That’s a fancy way of saying I changed a bunch of stuff from 2016 so there may be a bunch of typos made in the transition, please forgive me.
Anyway, on to the show. What do I think now?
- U.S. Title Match: Kallisto vs Alberto Del Rio – Match was good, with an interesting twist of Del Rio bashing Kallisto with a chair to get DQ’ed in the first fall but making the second fall easy pickings. It didn’t work out for him, of course, as Kallisto won the final fall to keep the title. At the time it looked like they were going forward with Kallisto as a serious singles wrestler, and they did for a little while, but it never really took and now he’s on 205 Live and doing tags on RAW again.
- Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch vs Team BAD – This was the official show opener and I was a little surprised it went first. It was a standard tag team match but the ladies all did well and the match was a good one. This was five months after the Women’s Revolution had started so it was still a pleasant surprise to see the ladies get enough time to have a real match and not a five minute special. That match’s bigger purpose was to give Banks a clean break from her former teammates and move her (along with possibly Becky) towards a Diva’s title match with Charlotte at WrestleMania.
- Intercontinental Title Match: Kevin Owens (c) vs Dolph Ziggler – Good match here, but we all know Ziggler wasn’t winning this. At least they had a clean, straight up finish unlike the previous year’s Intercontinental Title DQ-finish fiasco. The match started a little slow but when it picked up it got really good. Dolph gets a bad rap but when he’s on he can put on some really good matches. Kevin Owens was on a pretty good roll since coming up from NXT the previous summer and had some good matches with several different people (Cena, Ambrose, and here with Ziggler), so it’s no shock that this turned out well.
- Big Show, Kane, and Ryback vs The Wyatt Family – This was the ‘what in the hell?’ result of the night. The Wyatt Family losing clean made zero sense at all, and we didn’t even get a Braun Strowman choke out of anyone like he’d been doing all this time up until now. If you’re going to have this is a space filler, you gotta have the right result here. Bad move all around.
- Diva’s Title Match: Charlotte (c) vs Brie Bella – This was the last Diva’s Title match, and a good send off for the title. Brie is underrated in the ring, not a world beater and a little sloppy in spots but nowhere near as terrible as she or her sister were before. Going in we knew who was winning here but the match was still a good one. As with the tag match it was good to see them get enough time to have a real match, complete with mocking each other’s taunts, trading submission holds, the whole shebang. This was a first for Charlotte in working a pay per view match with someone who was not a top level performer or whom she’d worked with a bunch before, and she did a good job here.
- AJ Styles vs Chris Jericho – This is the match everyone was looking forward to the most, and it delivered. As someone who was new to Styles work at the time, I saw why he’s been considered one of the better performers over the past decade. It did, however, look to me like he’s still feeling his way around a WWE ring. Jericho held up his end, and did what needed to be done to help get him established in the company. We knew who was going to win this one, but the execution was there to make that ok. This series was a good introduction for Styles to the WWE Universe, especially those of us who hadn’t seen him before, and in a two months AJ would be off to the races with Roman and then John Cena in one of the best first year WWE runs anyone ever had.
- R-Truth vs Curtis Axel – Axel was part of the Social Outcasts with Bo Dallas, Heath Slater, and Adam Rose. They were a comedy stable and this was in their early stages when they were getting a few wins to establish themselves. You can skip this one, I sure did when I rewatched the show.
And last but not least…
- Main Event: Roman Reigns vs Dean Ambrose vs Brock Lesnar – The first time I watched this I wasn’t that impressed, maybe because the anti-Reigns mood had just put a big a shadow over it. But after further review, this was a banger of a main event. Brock came to work, and when he was down Dean and Roman went to town on each other. For what was supposed to be a throwaway show and a foregone conclusion of a main event this was a great way to end the night, a stellar performance as a collective and great effort from each guy individually. When he wants to Brock can really show out in these big matches, and when he and Roman mix it up it always feels like a fight as much as it does a wrestling match. The crowd was behind Dean in this one; 2016 was his peak in terms of individual popularity and feasibility as a top guy. What we saw since has definitely made the decision to go with Roman look more and more like the right call – Dean is very good under the right circumstances but he’s not someone you put out there to the carry the load. So in hindsight Roman winning was the right call here.
I was not impressed much with this show when I watched it live three years ago. I hadn’t watched it since, but on a second watching this week I have a much higher opinion. Out of eight matches I have one pretty good (the pre-show match), four good ones (the three other title matches and the main show opener), and a great main event. That’s pretty damn good for what was mostly a bridge show to get us from the Royal Rumble to WrestleMania. What gets lost in the pay per view deluge of today and the constant negativity on social media is that most of these pay per views are good and often look a lot better in hindsight than when you’re being swamped with ‘this SUCKS!’ takes from clowns on Twitter and dirtsheets fishing for clicks. Some shows are only good for a live watch, some are only cherry pick worthy, but some like this one are a good rewatch from start to finish. Six rewatchable matches out of eight, including one great one, on a placeholder show is a pretty damn good batting average. Do check this one out if you’re interested.