No one was necessarily too revved up for Fastlane, so depending on your perspective, it either transcended or performed down to expectations. There were no huge surprises, no run-ins from new talent or shocking returns from injury and no titles changed hands. But at least we know the main event for WrestleMania, even if the rest of the April 3 card remains precariously TBD.
But FWIW, there were at least two intriguing character turns last night, as it appeared that New Day and Dean Ambrose took steps toward likeability and betrayal, respectively. So without shedding any further tears over Eva Marie's failure to make good on those teaser promos and leaving us all seeing red, here are the five key things (in addition to the usual accompaniment of Twitter-friendly sidebar fodder) I took away from the 2016 edition of Fastlane.
5. New Day…Rocks?
There's been a chorus of concern that New Day might be nudged toward babyface appeal before they've maximized their momentum as juvenile jerks. But between the Dudley Boyz' recent heel turn and League of Nations' failure to get over as major villains, there was little choice but to accelerate the tag champs' positioning as fan favorites. Or at least that's what was possibly put in motion by having them buddy up with Edge and Christian during last night's glorified WWE Network ad and antagonize Sheamus' stable. Not to mention, if Wade Barrett is indeed not long for the company, that presents the two factions' beef as a neat little six-man rivalry – with the big, bad Dudleys lurking in Kofi, Big E and Xavier's future.
4. Calf Crusher > Styles Clash
That seems to be the conclusion A.J. Styles' new handlers have arrived at, so all of us – myself included – who have waited and longed for A.J. to win via his signature pinning maneuver in an important spot may be holding out for some time. In a slightly stunning development, Chris Jericho kicked out of the Styles Clash, forcing Styles to lock in the submission move formerly known as the Calf Killer, now slightly amended as Calf Crusher (alliteration is all that matters). On the positive, Jericho sold the hell out of that moment, and put over the Calf Crusher as much as Styles himself. And for all we know, WWE may just be trying to phase out the Styles Clash before too many fans finally call B.S. on a certain former Diva's finisher.
3. Love That Ryback!
To continue a theme from last week's Raw recap, the Big Guy's taking small steps toward fully recuperating his character. Except that he's still called "The Big Guy." But let's be honest: Last night's otherwise inconsequential six-man pitting he, Kane and Big Show against the Wyatt Family (inconsequential assuming it doesn't lead to Bray finally casting out his followers for good) was a pretty good fight. Some credit's owed to the always-underappreciated work put in by Big Show, but Ryback ultimately carried that match. His climactic flurry of high running knees, clotheslines and a desperation Shell Shock was a demonstration of his newfound stamina and versatility. Or maybe I'm still just thankful he finally discarded that woeful street-art singlet.
2. Not Buying What Charlotte Sold
What Fastlane lacked in drama it possessed in solid ring work, including in Charlotte and Brie Bella's title match. There were even moments where, despite the inevitable outcome (i.e. the champ retaining and Brie beginning her farewell to make babies), a Bella upset felt more and more within reach, which means both women did their job to tell a great story between the bells. Until the final seconds, that is. Let's not even get into Ric Flair's ringside antics, which were more distracting for the viewer than instrumental in meddling with Brie. More to the point, what was up with Charlotte bouncing back from Brie's Boston Crab (and its preceding "Yes!" Lock) like she hadn't just had her leg contorted in an unnatural position for the better part of a minute, abruptly turning the tables with a pain-free Figure 8 for the win? Talk about puzzling and anticlimactic. No, seriously, talk about it, I'll wait. Meanwhile, let's consider the irony of Charlotte underselling in such a crucial spot, especially given this. And this. And this.
1. No More Lunatic Fringe
My point being, let's be sure Dean Ambrose is officially off the fence about it and is just plain nuts. Last night's main event may have headlined with, "Roman wins, gets the Game at WrestleMania…as everyone anticipated," but the fine print should read, "Finally, Ambrose snaps, punishes his Shield bro with steel chair and sets in a motion what could be an epic feud that goes for months and carries the company until Seth Rollins returns." OK, there's some room for refinement there. But WWE simply shouldn't pussyfoot around this and soften Ambrose on Raw tonight after his show of blunt force on Roman. No, "Hey man, it was for a title shot, and you had a rough week losing the IC belt, but don't you dare try that again, you crazy guy" consideration from Roman. No, "I'm sorry man, I snapped, but this is between me and Brock now, and I've got your back 100 percent heading into 'Mania, cause we're brothers, right?" from Dean. Time for Ambrose to tap into that simmering, inner Brian Pillman we've all been waiting to see surface and make Reigns' life a living hell. Unless you're that one weirdo hoping for a sequel to "Dean Ambrose: Hot Cop."
Below the Belt:
- Time to speculate on one last go-round for Lesnar and Undertaker at 'Mania? It'd be fine with me.
- I coulda done without the requisite Jericho-handshake overture.
- When will the Golden Truth finally shine?!?
- Dolph Ziggler started plateauing right around the time he began styling himself like Culture Club's burnout glam-metal manager. Food for thought.
- Would still love to see Styles let loose and work at a quicker pace.
- Ho-hum ending to the Divas tag match, huh?
- Who's next for Kevin Owens? Ambrose? Styles? Or maybe this guy?
- Time for Finn Bálor.
- Move of the Night: A few fine spots, but that Lesnar double German was sick.
- Sign of the Night: "#Titus Is A Good Man." I hear ya bro.
- Line of the Night: Oh, Jericho: "You are stupid. You're a stupid man."