This week, Jordan Chaffiotte, Ben Guest, and Callum Wiggins give their opinions on WWE Fastlane 2017, all the biggest moments, all the best surprises, all the confusing story decisions. We'll take a look back at the topics we covered in our preview last week, and see how Fastlane fared. Spoiler alert, not great.
Question 1:It is 2017, and Goldberg is WWE's top champion. Does that make the title worth more or less, and what does it mean for the Raw main event scene moving into WrestleMania?
CHAFFIOTTE: Did I slip and fall into the year 2003? Personally, I have always and will always take issue with a part-timer holding a championship because it inherently makes it harder for other talent to chase it. The NXT Championship means so much because people are vying for it. But, I digress, because the issue here isn't Goldberg as Champ, it's how the match went down. It started so strong, with Kevin Owens having a solid, intelligent game plan that seemed to be working for him. By the time it was over, however, Owens looked like a chump, Triple H and his enforcer were nowhere to be found, and WrestleMania will be main evented by a match that quite simply didn't need a title.
There was no way Brock and Goldberg weren't main eventing, we all knew it, much as we've been pretending that Bray Wyatt might close the show. But that feud was doing fine on its own, it didn't need a belt. Meanwhile, KO and Jericho's story was so entwined with that Universal Championship that without it, it feels like it's taken a blow. Not to mention, suspicions of Triple H starting a new Evolution-like faction are more far fetched now. If that were the case, if Kevin betrayed Jericho to appease Hunter, then why didn't he send his attack dog out to help him out? It feels like they may just dismiss that as H giving him some sound advice to cut the dead weight, and it would be such a disappointing payoff. Basically, the main event scene is a jumbled mess and I don't think they can save it by Mania.
WIGGINS: Personally, I don't think Goldberg holding the Universal Championship makes it feel any more valuable - I think it does more to highlight the weaknesses of the main roster. They've brought in a legend who hit his peak in 1998 and handed him a world championship, and the fact that very few superstars carry the magnitude of Goldberg in the current crop of superstars is a damning indictment. Kevin Owens gets a memorable end to his unmemorable run as champion, but I can't say everyone's memory of this will be positive. It's just another sign of WWE's reliance on aging veteran stars that are still more over today than anyone actively wrestling on the roster right now.
Heading into WrestleMania, I think the Universal Championship will fade into the background for about half the shows - Goldberg and Brock Lesnar don't need to be on television every week when they make more money in one appearance than the rest of the roster make in a month. This will be replaced by video packages and a greater focus on the feuds featuring superstars that are actually going to be there the RAW after WrestleMania, such as Kevin Owens vs. Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker and Seth Rollins vs. Triple H. Oh right, three of these superstars will probably not be back for a long time too… man RAW really isn't working right now.
GUEST: I'm not hugely opposed to Brock Lesnar being the champ. As much as I agree that the belt should be on-screen every week, the best superstar should be at the top of the company and in kayfabe, Lesnar and Goldberg are the two top guys. I don't think Goldberg should have been given the belt, the better story would be to have Brock win the belt, then use that as a bargaining tool for a rematch with Goldberg.
As for the belt being part-time. I think it can work, Brock Lesnar, assuming he beats Goldberg, is a huge name and will be, in kayfabe and real life, the scariest guy on the roster and fighting him should be an achievement in itself. Let Owens bring the US title up to the prestige it deserves and have the Universal Championship as a genuine prize. I think this can work with there being two world titles. And at least Goldberg is only holding the title for 4 weeks, where he'll probably be on at least 2 Raw's and the belt wouldn't be defended anyway.
Question 2: For a night that could've been jam packed with them, there were really no surprises. Were you expecting to see Seth Rollins, The Undertaker or Finn Balor make an appearance, and how did you feel about the decision to keep them off TV?
CHAFFIOTTE: Every single time they had an opportunity to push a story or introduce an extra layer, they doubled down on the safe and the boring. For example, Roman and Taker have built absolutely nothing up to this point, and it's getting close. Instead of letting him come out after Roman's match with Strowman, it's silence. The only one they really get a pass on is Seth, who has been rehabbing on a very intense schedule to get back from Mania and probably couldn't afford the time away. Finn Balor, however, is fine. We've all seen the video, though if you haven't I won't spoil it, what's important is that he's very clearly in fighting shape. He claims he's not cleared, but the lie detector determined that was a lie. The more they delay his return, the more rushed a WrestleMania program will be. Plus, a return at Fastlane could've been excellent.
Imagine how fun and overbooked the match could've been. First, Jericho comes out to cause trouble. Then, Joe blindsides him so that Kevin can focus on the match. They brawl outside and Joe murders Jericho, you know, as he does, and either that allows Kevin's plan to work or Goldberg prevails on his own. As Joe's disappearing back up the ramp, having completed his job, the heartbeat of Finn's music begin. In the time that he's been on Raw, he's injured Finn's friend Seth Rollins, destroyed Finn's friend Sami Zayn, and helped Finn's rival Kevin Owens to cheat for the championship that Finn never lost. Of course he has a problem with Joe. That sets up them at Mania, Kevin in this faction with Triple H and Joe, and Kevin Owens vs Jericho in one go. But instead, they did...basically nothing?
WIGGINS: Out of those options, I was most expecting the Undertaker to show up to build on a feud with Roman Reigns. I'm kind of over the idea that Undertaker steps into the ring in the lead up to WrestleMania, someone comes out and stares him down and the match is made, as was the case on RAW. It would make more sense if Undertaker, angered by his elimination by Reigns at the Royal Rumble and The Big Dog's proclamation that this was his yard now, confronted Reigns at Fastlane, cost him the match against Braun Strowman to protect both guys and build a more heated rivalry for WrestleMania. In my mind, they could have done a lot more to start this, but it will be how this feud ends that is especially important to get right.
As for Seth Rollins and Finn Balor, their absences are more understandable. Like it or not, Rollins is still injured, and WWE would be foolish to risk jeopardizing his health further before WrestleMania. Triple H wasn't even there at Fastlane, so a Rollins appearance was unnecessary if he was just going to add to the ridiculous filler on the show. Similarly, for Balor, I think it's now too late to shoehorn him into WrestleMania unless they throw him into the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal (which he would have to then win). I'd hold him off for a big return the RAW after WrestleMania and build him back up from there, rather than desperately try to find a place for him on an already stacked show.
GUEST: Fastlane was the most boring pay-per-view since the brand split and a surprise appearance could easily have made it a bit more interesting. Let's go through them one by one. The Undertaker could easily have been slotted into the Roman Reigns vs Braun Strowman match, give Strowman the win and make Reigns continue to look strong because he got cheated out of the win.
Finn Balor could have interfered in the Samoa Joe vs Sami Zayn match either to give Zayn a win or to confront Joe after the match. I didn't expect to see Balor, but it wasn't a difficult appearance to book.
Seth Rollins and Triple H is the part that confuses me the most. What was the point of the Cesaro vs Jinder Mahal and Big Show vs Rusev matches? Just have a Rollins/Triple H segment and build an important feud. Absolutely ridiculous!
Question 2: There ain't no stopping us now we need Sasha's help to win- what on earth was THAT? What was your reaction to the very odd finish to the Women's Championship match and how can WWE play damage control?
CHAFFIOTTE: I was honestly hoping they'd expunge the win on Raw to give Charlotte the streak back and regain some sympathy for Bayley. Obviously, that didn't happen and it is mind-boggling to me that they would give it up on any stage other than WrestleMania. The fact that Sasha attacked Charlotte in full view of the ref says to me that she intended to get Bayley DQ'd. Why the ref didn't feel a need to throw the match out at that point is beyond me, but I will give it that there are some interesting character points here. If properly developed going into Mania, they could still be something despite all the weirdness.
Let's start with Sasha, whose role here is the clearest. Though she hasn't turned completely, they have been giving her a lot more of that cheat lie and steal angle recently. Many have speculated she was supposed to grab the rope in her match at Fastlane and simply missed, which would've created a more complete story. In their match on Monday, Sasha and Bayley were showing an interesting dynamic with Sasha essentially saying "this is my opportunity, let's go." Charlotte, for the first time in her main roster career, she's butting heads with someone who is willing to play as dirty as she is. Sasha was a full blown face for their entire feud, but now as a tweener, she challenges Charlotte in a way she is not prepared to be challenged. And Bayley, well she's just Bayley, and she is stuck in the middle of two underhanded and crafty competitors. What does it say about her if she's able to prevail even still?
WIGGINS: This finish was utterly baffling on all levels, and following the fallout from RAW I really don't understand the logic behind it. Honestly, and it pains me to say this, but I think WWE is using the RAW Women's Division as a tool to fuel the inevitable firing of Mick Foley by Stephanie McMahon. A DIVISION SHOULD NOT BE USED TO BENEFIT A FEUD BETWEEN TWO NON-WRESTLERS! Who did this finish benefit? It made Charlotte's PPV win streak an utterly pointless exercise as nobody gave a crap that she lost. It demolished Bayley's credibility both as a champion and a babyface by not only accepting the interference of Sasha Banks but celebrating afterwards. And it made both the referee and Mick Foley look like idiots for allowing this interference to stand without a disqualification or retrospective punishment.
I don't know if there is any logic going into the RAW Women's Division right now, at least compared to the consistently strong and thoughtful booking on SmackDown. If you had never watched WWE before this show (and if you're probably never coming back) you would be convinced Charlotte was the good guy, not the company's top female villain (not called Stephanie McMahon) and that Bayley was a conniving, two-faced heel and not the most beloved babyface WWE has seen in years. It was utterly dumbfounding, and although it is still salvageable at WrestleMania, this was a bad, unwanted twist on the road to it.
GUEST: In the Fastlane preview I said I had no idea what was going on with the Raw women's division. I think I now have even less of an idea. Apparently Sasha was supposed to grab the rope when she pinned Nia, which makes sense, but what happened in the title match? Why wasn't Bayley disqualified? What was that ending? The whole match was one big botch, as is the entire title picture right now. Just give Sasha the belt for a year until you work out a good storyline.
Those are our thoughts on the issue, but where do you stand?
Let us know your answers to these questions in the comments below!