WWE Fastlane is upon us. Will it be a thrilling pit stop on the road to WrestleMania that ultimately strengthens “The Showcase of the Immortals”? Or will it be a bump in the path, an unwanted detour that takes attention away from the main attraction — WrestleMania 37, the show where fans will finally return?
By digging into the matches that are still being advertised for the show, it’s clear that Fastlane will be a worthwhile event, even if some of the matches seem predictable at best and questionable at worst. (Note: Shane McMahon vs. Braun Strowman is no longer officially listed on WWE’s official preview.)
Let’s start with one of the newest additions to the lineup. Seeing Seth Rollins vs. Shinsuke Nakamura on the card for Fastlane, it’s easy to react with excitement. These Superstars are two of the best wrestlers in WWE, and they have rarely clashed in the ring. Naturally, fans can expect this match on Sunday to potentially steal the show. Still, a general sense of missed opportunities surrounds this bout.
— Shinsuke Nakamura (@ShinsukeN) March 20, 2021
What should be a high-profile clash was thrown together in essentially two weeks, as it’s leaning on Rollins’ ongoing feud with Cesaro for added emphasis. In reality, Nakamura stared Rollins down last week and brawled with him on the go-home show. Heading into Sunday, this match isn’t hot; it’s lukewarm. Hopefully, the in-ring action will make up for this lack of hype. It just feels like WWE could have built this transitional rivalry up a bit more to make it a worthwhile addition to the card, at least from a storytelling perspective.
The weekend of the show, WWE also announced that Riddle will defend the United States Championship against Mustafa Ali at Fastlane. This program has “transitional feud” written all over it. That’s not a criticism of Ali; he’s been knocking it out of the park with stellar promos lately. Ironically, his character work is usually limited to RAW Talk and other minor channels. While these performances have been remarkable, Ali has been hamstrung by Retribution’s bad reputation. He’s been doing his best, but the stable has failed to escape the stench caused by the beginning of its run on the main roster.
riddle, i want a rematch at fastlane pic.twitter.com/uvOvh68mAf
— Mustafa Ali / Adeel Alam (@AliWWE) March 16, 2021
Meanwhile, Riddle’s time on RAW reached a new high when he won the WWE United States Championship last month. He’s riding a lot of momentum, and with a win over Ali in his back pocket, he should escape Fastlane with his title run intact. If Riddle’s title reign was slightly further along, you could see how WWE might give Ali the gold here in an effort to make Retribution seem more legitimate. Instead, Riddle’s status as a new champion should lead to yet another loss on an important stage for the floundering faction.
SmackDown’s Rivalries Have Reached A Boiling Point
WWE has certainly overcomplicated the build to the WrestleMania showdown between Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair. From the constant presence of Reginald to the prolonged inclusion of the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship, the SmackDown Women’s Championship has taken a backseat in this story. Even if Sunday is the final step in this transitional feud, this journey to this match has potentially done irrevocable damage to the hype surrounding The Boss vs. The EST.
In many ways, this match feels like a race to see which team will implode first. Both ill-fated alliances seem like they’re on their last legs. While it’s easy to see Banks and Belair winning and holding the titles for a week, it would make more sense for Jax and Baszler to hold onto the gold a little longer. WWE is running out of time to take Banks’ rivalry with Belair to the next level, and Fastlane could be the company’s last best chance to do so. As for Jax and Baszler, the champions could eventually lose the the titles and turn on each other at WrestleMania.
— WWE (@WWE) March 20, 2021
The storyline between Big E and Apollo Crews has worked wonders for the WWE Intercontinental Championship. This program has given both the champion and his challenger something important to fight over. While they’re battling for the titles, pride and survival in WWE’s crowded pool of gifted stars are also on the line. For the winner, they’ll likely advance to a multi-man title match at WrestleMania. For the loser, a meaningless spot in a battle royal could be on the other side of this match. If WWE opts to leave a battle royal off the WrestleMania card, the man who gets pinned at Fastlane could get left off the WrestleMania card entirely.
It may sound dramatic, but the future success of these promising Superstars could hinge on Sunday’s outcome in other ways, too. Crews needs the victory because his newfound heel persona should be established as a winner, plain and simple. But as someone who seems destined for the main event scene, it’s hard to see how Big E can take a loss here. If he leaves Fastlane without the title, he’ll seemingly enter WrestleMania without a dance partner. Neither man can truly afford to lose on Sunday, but this relative unpredictability makes the Intercontinental Championship match one of Fastlane’s most compelling contests.
Will Fastlane Let The Fiend In?
Yes, Randy Orton’s storyline with The Fiend and Alexa Bliss has been quite divisive. But if you’ve been enjoying this ride, this scheduled intergender match should be pretty dang intriguing! From black goo and fireballs to a demonic Alexa Bliss and a Randy Orton doppelganger, this feud has been interesting, to say the least. It’s noteworthy that Bliss has repeatedly confronted Orton in the ring, but “The Viper” finally accepted the challenge this time around.
Last week, Bliss dared Orton to “take her out,” and the former WWE Champion has vowed to kick Bliss out of his life. Most fans expect the contest to serve as the means for The Fiend’s return, and that will hopefully be the ultimate outcome on Sunday. But it’ll be exciting to see what else happens when Bliss and Orton share the ring in a sanctioned setting.
Next Page: A Mixed Bag of Main Events