Mark For War: Life in the Fast Lane
This past Sunday, we all watched — while going back and forth between the Oscars — Fastlane, the final PPV before Wrestlemania, which took place in front of one of the deadest wrestling crowds I’ve seen in awhile. The event was at the Memphis Fed Ex Forum, a place actually known for it’s rabid basketball fans.
I was very entertained by Fastlane. The PPV before Wrestlemania has always seemed to be a revolving door, and that needs to change. At one point it was the Elimation Chamber event. That was an event that, in my opinion, was WAY to overwhelming for fans to to digest during Wrestlemania season, between the companies two biggest PPVs. Fastlane, however, got it right. It was a nice, easy, digestible PPV that had big match implications, but no matches that were so big themselves as to overshadow anything on the Wrestlemania card.
My jury is still out on the return of Randy Orton, which happened early on in the show. I think Orton should have made a bigger impact upon his return. Frankly, I think he should have sat this ‘Mania out, or came back to interfere with a match at ‘Mania. Crowbarring him in to the card five weeks before ‘Mania is sort of unnecessary (see my thoughts on Daniel Bryan from a few weeks ago).
The Sting/HHH interaction was also good, but nothing I didn’t expect. I like the fact that Sting didn’t speak. I also like how Triple H has taken on the heart and soul of the WWE role, like that of Sting in WCW. It makes sense, given Triple H’s legacy as a singles competitor with DX, and now married to the boss’s daughter and running the company. Also, does anyone else see a connection between Sting and Triple H based on the evolution of their characters occuring at similar points in their careers? Sting started out as the wild and crazy 80s man in neon paint in WCW. Before we knew it, he was the crow wearing a trenchcoat and wielding a baseball bat. HHH started out as a blue blood that did kick a lot of ass, but lacked coolness. Then came DX, and The Game thereafter.
But when all was said and done, there were three things that really stuck out to me about the Fastlane show, and they are as follows:
Bray Wyatt officially calling out ‘Taker
I think a lot of people were stoked on this. I wasn’t. I would have been overly stoked if this closed the show. The number one contender’s match would had ended, the two competitors would have shaken hands, ‘Taker’s music would have hit, and Reigns would have cavalierly left THROUGH THE CROWD, like only Roman Reigns can do. The casket makes its way down and Bray pops out ending the show. There’s no way anyone thought that ‘Taker was going to be in that casket. The call out by Wyatt was cool, but it reminded me too much of when CM Punk called out the Undertaker a few years back during ‘Mania season. He came down with the druids and had Paul Heyman dress like Paul Bearer and shit. Why does everyone have to bait the Undertaker by mocking his gimmick?
By the way, an Undertaker vs. Wyatt match at ‘Mania is not the answer in this particular instance. The best booking would be to have Wyatt continually call out the Undertaker until Wrestlemania when he shows up at the eleventh Hour to confront Wyatt. What would be outstanding is if Wyatt were to not cower to him, but to stare him in the face and offer himself up as sacrifice. ‘Taker would strike down upon him. Wyatt would be Tombstoned with a big smile on his face because he has done his part to right cosmic evil in the world.
This then leads to a one year buildup to Wrestlemania 32 when a much more Evil Undertaker (Think 1998 Ministry of Darkness Undertaker, but still with a baby face) avenges his legacy against Brock Lesnar.
The key to the Taker vs Wyatt feud is the confrontation, NOT the match. The match could in fact hurt the feud and Taker’s legacy. Taker should come back for one reason and one reason only: revenge on Lesnar. He can have small brushes with others along the way, but Lesnar and Lesnar alone is why he should be there.
Cena vs Rusev
Awesome setting of the table for what I feel will be an “I QUIT” match at Wrestlemania 31.
This ‘Mania match is going to be brutal, and both superstars did their best to tease the crowd. Nothing too spectacular happened, but it was a very solid clash. Cena, who is all about doing what is “best for business,” lost sort-of cleanly to Rusev. A low blow is a low blow is a low blow. But a legal kick to the temple is what truly did Cena in. Once the Accolade was on, Cena was out! And yes, he never tapped (cliffhanger).
The benchmark for a ‘Mania”I QUIT” match was Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 13 (I was there, by the way). It wasn’t feasible for that match to exist however, because Austin had never beaten anyone via submission. Bret, on the other hand, had arguably one of the greatest submission moves of all time. The outcome was somewhat obvious.
Both Cena and Rusev make mofos tap like it’s their job, so this “I QUIT” match makes sense. Let’s get it on!
Bryan vs. Reigns
I was at a show this weekend, and my friend George said there’s “no way Bryan wins at Fastlane and gets the title shot. They did that last year and wouldn’t do it two years in a row.” He was exactly right, and I had a similar sentiment when I addressed this match a couple weeks back.
This match was great, by the way, and I LOVED the finish with Reigns countering the running knee from Bryan with a brutal spear.
First, lets talk about where this loss leaves Daniel Bryan. Frankly, nowhere as far as this year’s Mania is concerned. He’ll more than likely face Dolph Ziggler and put on a great ten minute match.
Now as for Roman Reigns…
Is Reigns over with the fans all of the sudden? The answer is, “sort of.” His fans are starting to rep more and more, and I noticed it during this match. His fans seem to be a weird group of people. They’re not as annoying as Daniel Bryan fans. They’re not as kiddy and girly as Cena fans. I also noticed Reigns seemingly has a lot of female fans (gauging by the feminine voices chanting for him in the crowd). It seems to be females active in counterculture (like female heavy metal fans, or the girls who read Twilight before it was a major motion picture). His guy fans seem to be the strong silent type, much like Reigns. He will gain a much needed main event identity through his fans, sooner than later.
A great PPV to gear us up for what is shaping up to be a great year end show!
Match of the Week: Bret Hart vs. Bob Backlund, “I QUIT” Match, Wrestlemania XI, April 2nd, 1995, Hartford, CN.
I will be doing Wrestlemania matches every week as my “Match of the Week” leading up to Mania 31, by the way.
I mentioned theBret vs. Austin “I QUIT” match at Mania 13 above. What a lot of people don’t realize is literally the exact same format was used two years earlier, at Wrestlemania XI. Bret Hart faced a newly heeled Bob Backlund in an”I QUIT” match in damn near the exact spot on the card where he’d later face Austin. Much like the Austin/Bret match utilizing Ken Shamrock, this match too had a guest enforcer in Roddy Piper. The only thing that differed between the two matches is that Backlund was rocking a SICK submission hold at the time known as the Crossfaced Chicken Wing. This made it feasible for Backlund to win. The swerve: Bret makes Backlund tap using, you guessed it, the Crossfaced Chicken Wing. An unsung Wrestlemania moment for fans of the”I QUIT” match.