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Fast Lane was supposed to be a transitory PPV. It was an event set at the midpoint between the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania. Unlike its predecessor, the Elimination Chamber, Fast Lane appeared to be designed to set up feuds for Wrestlemania rather than pay off feuds on its own.
Perhaps it is no surprise that the matches booked for Fast Lane all look like the first step in still-developing programs. If Fast Lane is meant to maximize the tension in each feud for Wrestlemania, then it stands to reason that we would see relatively few clean finishes at Fast Lane.
But even on an inessential PPV, there is a limit to how many unclean finishes most fans will tolerate. How far can WWE go with indecisive results at Fast Lane? As we run down the card, it quickly becomes obvious that the answer might push the bounds of reason and good taste.
Daniel Bryan vs. Roman Reigns for a Wrestlemania Title Shot
The stakes for Fast Lane’s main event are as high as they were for the Royal Rumble, albeit with 1/15th the number of participants. The two who matter most are involved, anyway, and they can go a long way toward the rehabilitation of Reigns’s reputation if they put on a show-stealing match.
The quirk is that Bryan and Reigns have been so good together as friends-turned-enemies in the last month that most of us want to see them continue to work against one another. It’s also probably fair to speculate that Brock Lesnar will appear on a minority of the shows between now and Wrestlemania, and that his physical contact will be limited. That means Reigns and Bryan need something to do in the ring in the meantime, and a few more matches where they have to test their ability to get along would work just fine for me.
The overwhelming likelihood is that Reigns remains in the Wrestlemania main event. It is still possible that an interloper (Seth Rollins? Dolph Ziggler? Randy Orton? Sheamus?) takes Bryan out of that scenario. If that is the case, the Wrestlemania main event will suffer. On the other hand, this match has to end in a controversial way if Bryan is to stay in the title picture. As we look at the rest of the card, it will quickly become apparent that many matches have the same gravitational pull toward the schmozz ending.
Rusev (c) vs. John Cena for the U.S. Title
If Cena has downshifted on the card to wrestle for this secondary title, it has not been by much. He and Rusev have occupied lots of TV time and it has been in prime parts of Raw. With that said, it makes little sense to jeopardize Rusev’s undefeated streak at a transitory PPV. It makes just about as much sense to have him go over Cena cleanly. The only way around another Dusty finish in this match is for Cena to lose, but to go after Rusev at some point after the event to reinsert him in the U.S. Title picture. Of course, that requires Cena to lose cleanly on a lesser PPV to an unproven opponent who ends matches by submission. Does that sound like a John Cena match?
Bad News Barrett (c) vs. Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Title
Andrew- The way Ambrose has locked in on the Intercontinental Title has helped him and the belt. It has given his wayward character a raison d’etre and made often-diminished title feel like a meaningful prize. While Barrett does not have the W-L record to support such a worthwhile trophy, this is yet another match that feels like it should be setting up to a bigger blow-off at Wrestlemania. If WWE notices this problem in advance and tries to work around, this match might be one with an accelerated timeline. Ambrose could win the match and take the belt to Wrestlemania for a rematch with Barrett, a feud with someone more interesting, or even a multi-opponent match in which he has to overcome great odds to keep his title.
Scott- I think Ambrose goes over clean here. I would honestly be kind of shocked if he doesn’t. It has become increasingly clear that WWE isn’t invested whatsoever in Barrett as champion. Since winning the IC belt, BNB has suffered clean televised pinfall losses to R-Truth, Sin Cara, Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler. In fact, the only opponents he has defeated in the nearly seven weeks he has held the title are Sin Cara and Damien Mizdow — and he required loads of help from The Miz to pull out that victory over Mizdow. Barrett may be holding a title belt, but he is a straight-up jobber right now, and jobbers don’t get Wrestlemania storylines. The Intercontinental Championship is as good as Ambrose’s, in my opinion. They’ll find something far more interesting for him to do at Wrestlemania than wrestle a glorified enhancement talent.
Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan and Ryback vs. Seth Rollins, Kane and Big Show
Perhaps more than any other, this six-man tag appears to exist solely to develop Wrestlemania feuds for this group. I don’t really have any specific predictions for this match (other than the fact that Kane almost certainly eats the pin), but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if WWE used this match to better flesh out the Ziggler/Rollins rivalry. The Show-Off and Mr. Money in the Bank have been breathing down each other’s necks for months now, and it wouldn’t take much to make their feud very personal. Furthermore, Rollins needs a top babyface for a match at Wrestlemania, and Ziggler seems like the best choice to make Rollins look like a million bucks. As for Ryback, Rowan, Kane and Big Show, it seems their most likely Wrestlemania plans will be extended runs in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal — assuming, of course, that the ATGMBR returns for a second year.
The Usos (c) vs. Tyson Kidd and Cesaro for the Tag Team Championship
The Usos had grown more stale than a loaf of decades-old bread, until Kidd and Cesaro entered the picture. The Brass Ring Club/Uppercats/Masters of the Universe have been a much-needed breath of fresh air in the tag division, and it is absolutely in WWE’s best interests to put the belts on them. After their extended run with the tag titles in 2014, this title reign for The Usos feels far more transitory, as a viable face team was needed to transfer the titles from Miz/Mizdow to Kidd/Cesaro, and The Usos are the only viable face tag team in WWE right now. No matter who wins this one, a multi-team match is likely for Wrestlemania — involving these two teams, and some assortment of The Ascension, Prime Time Players, Lucha Dragons, New Day or Los Matadores.
Nikki Bella (c) vs. Paige for the Divas Title
The Divas Title does not resonate in the same way that the previous titles do, so it probably does not help that this match seems like one that can have a clean finish. Whether WWE wants its women to take part in a 20 Diva beauty pageant or a serious wrestling match at Wrestlemania, it makes lots of sense for Paige to regain the title here. She is probably the best wrestler of any woman on the active roster, and with AJ close to a return from injury and Charlotte ready for a permanent main roster debut, a women’s renaissance could be upon us. On the other hand, if it is important for the Bellas to have a gimmick match at Wrestlemania to promote their outside ventures, that can be done without a title on the line.
Goldust vs. Stardust
This is another match that feels entirely transitory, setting up either Dustin vs. Stardust or Goldust vs. Cody Rhodes for Wrestlemania. If this has a clean finish, it would make sense to have Goldust go over, and for Stardust/Cody to get the win back next month. No matter how the finish plays out, this match is a serious sleeper on a surprisingly stacked card. For a transitory PPV, Goldust vs. Stardust on the undercard is about as good as it gets.