The WWE Fastlane pay-per-view takes place this Sunday night in Columbus. This is the last Smackdown-only PPV of this year because WWE announced that all PPVs starting with WrestleMania (April 8) will be Raw and Smackdown shows. While it’s not official yet, all PPVs after WrestleMania are also expected to be four hours long, so this would be the last three-hour PPV show as well.
The main event of the show is a Six-Pack Challenge, although that was not the original plan. It started out as a triple-threat between WWE Champion AJ Styles, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. On the Feb. 13 edition of Smackdown, Baron Corbin beat Kevin Owens and Dolph Ziggler beat Sami Zayn, which meant that Corbin and Ziggler were added to the WWE Championship to set up a Fatal 5-Way match. But wait, there’s more!
John Cena, who failed to win Raw’s Elimination Chamber match two weeks ago to earn a shot at the Universal Championship, showed up on Feb. 27’s Smackdown demanding to be a part of the WWE Championship match at Fastlane. Since Cena is a “free agent” in WWE storylines, he can go on any WWE show whenever he wants. It’s nice to be rich. Anyway, Cena beat Styles clean in a great non-title match that night to make the WWE Championship match a Six-Pack Challenge.
I don’t know why WWE is in love with multi-man matches so much, but they just did the original 5-Way on this week’s Smackdown with Zayn pinning Owens, which was a clever finish that shows Styles can lose the WWE Title at any moment.
Here’s the advertised lineup as of Friday morning.
** Six-Pack Challenge for the WWE Championship: AJ Styles (c) vs. John Cena vs. Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens vs. Baron Corbin vs. Dolph Ziggler
** Smackdown Tag Team Championships: The Usos vs. The New Day
** United States Championship: Bobby Roode vs. Randy Orton
** Smackdown Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair vs. Ruby Riott
** Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Rusev
** Natalya and Carmella vs. Naomi and Becky Lynch
There will probably be another match or two added, including matches for the Kickoff Show. It’s time for some predictions.
10. Naomi and Becky Lynch will win their tag match
There’s not much of a story to this tag team match featuring the women of Smackdown. Becky beat Carmella on last week’s show. After that match, Naomi and Natalya had a verbal exchange to set up a tag match.
I expect the crowd to be dead for some of the match. It’s not the fault of the ladies, though. Blame WWE’s creative for not putting in more of an effort. It’s as if WWE realized they needed to promote more matches for Fastlane on Smackdown before the show, so they threw together this quick match and segment.
9. Shinsuke Nakamura will defeat Rusev in a competitive match
I’m a huge fan of Nakamura and Rusev, but this match has even less of a story than the women’s tag match I mentioned above. In this case, Nakamura did a backstage promo last week, Rusev interrupted it, a challenge was issued and now they are wrestling at Fastlane. Why not build it up for a few weeks? This feels like it was randomly put together just for the sake of filling time on a three-hour show.
Nakamura won the Royal Rumble and is going to “main event” WrestleMania in a WWE Champion, even though it’s unlikely his match will go on last at WrestleMania. Anyway, you’d think WWE would make Nakamura priority after his Rumble win. Instead, he’s had nothing to do other than winning this match that has no storyline.
I expect them to get around 10-15 minutes with Rusev on offense for most of it and Nakamura gets the win with the Kinshasa.
8. Putting Nakamura against Rusev is a mistake due to how the crowd will react
One of the biggest problems with today’s WWE is they don’t listen to the fans enough. For the past four months or so, fans have been supporting Rusev and his buddy Aiden English with “Rusev Day” chants. That’s because Rusev and Aiden did silly promos about every day being “Rusev Day.” It’s stupid, but sometimes stupid gets over in wrestling as those “yes” and “what?” chants have proven.
The popularity of “Rusev Day” led to WWE releasing “Happy Rusev Day” merchandise, which apparently has done well. If WWE had listened to the audience, Rusev would have been booked to have a big babyface moment in the Royal Rumble and he would be in a position to be in a featured match at WrestleMania. Instead, Rusev has barely been on Smackdown in the last month, even when fans chant his name so often that they even do it on Raw. The worst part is that WWE still books Rusev like a heel. Why? Listen to the fans. They want to cheer the man!
I mentioned the crowd in my prediction because Nakamura is supposed to be one of the top faces on the Smackdown brand. People love the guy due to his sense of style, his charisma, his work in the ring and he’s eccentric. However, it’s very possible that the fans will rally behind Rusev with “Rusev Day” chants because the fans know he’s not planned for some big WrestleMania. That could hurt Nakamura to be in a match where the fans chant for the other guy, making him look like less of a star.
— Duly Noted (@RusevBUL) March 7, 2018
What’s most intriguing isn’t the result because that’s likely going to be a Rusev win. What I care about more is how the crowd reacts to it. I hope they don’t turn on Nakamura, but they might because of how strongly they like “Rusev Day.”
7. Charlotte Flair beating Ruby Riott is the most obvious result at Fastlane
Charlotte Flair beating Ruby Riott to retain her title is the biggest lock on the show. The story going into the match is that Charlotte beat Ruby’s friends Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan, while Ruby beat Charlotte’s friends Becky Lynch and Naomi. At least it’s better than having Riott beat Charlotte non-title, since that’s usually the path WWE follows to set up these matches.
Charlotte winning this match is obvious because the expectation is that she will face Royal Rumble winner Asuka at WrestleMania. As the Royal Rumble winner, Asuka can choose to face either the Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss or Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair, and it appears we’ll get Asuka vs. Charlotte. The Raw side will likely be Alexa Bliss vs. Nia Jax, which was teased on Raw when Jax was cheered by the fans after a tough loss to Asuka and Bliss wasn’t so friendly in trying to cheer her friend up.
This match should be fine, but I don’t expect the fans to really buy into the idea of Riott winning. Charlotte is the bigger woman, the more credible performer and frankly, people know she’s better. It should be a submission win for Charlotte after about 12 minutes or so.
Charlotte vs. Asuka should be amazing, by the way. I’m looking forward to that.
6. Jinder Mahal may be added to the US Title match
The US Title match between Roode and Orton is interesting because it’s their first-ever singles match. What I think might happen is when Fastlane starts, Jinder Mahal will whine about how he’s not in the match even though he beat Orton on Smackdown last week. It wasn’t clean, but it was still a win. Mahal has been feuding with both guys over the last month, so I think this might become a triple-threat match. If I’ve learned anything from how WWE books Smackdown, it’s that they love to add people to matches that have already been set.
I think Roode can pin Mahal to retain the title, so Orton will complain about that and it may set up Roode vs. Orton for the US Title at WrestleMania. There’s a rumor that WWE may opt for the triple-threat at WrestleMania, but I doubt that because currently the Raw brand is doing that with the IC Title guys at the same event. Why repeat that? It seems unlikely. Of course, they could always add people to that IC Title match or make the US Title match with more than two people.
Call it a hunch on my part. I just think Mahal will get in the mix somehow and having Roode pin Mahal would allow WWE to build to Roode vs. Orton for WrestleMania.
5. The Bludgeon Brothers will attack The Usos and The New Day to set up WrestleMania
I don’t expect a winner in The Usos vs. The New Day match. The teams wrestled many times last year and had several great matches, the best one taking place at October’s Hell in a Cell event. If there is a winner, I’d go with The Usos but it may not happen that way.
Two weeks ago on Smackdown, the teams had a fantastic promo exchange talking about how they are the best WWE teams this decade (that is true), but they were interrupted by the Bludgeon Brothers duo of Harper and Rowan. The Bludgeon Brothers have been destroying everybody in their path for the last few months, although they haven’t faced tough competition. I think they are going to make their presence known in this match by attacking both teams, leaving us with no winner. I know people don’t like matches without a finish, but they are needed sometimes to further a storyline.
It seems like every year at WrestleMania, there’s some Ladder Match. I think the Smackdown Tag Team division is going to get the Ladder Match this year since Raw got it last year. The Smackdown teams that can be in the match include The Usos, The New Day, The Bludgeon Brothers, and Shelton Benjamin & Chad Gable, and it wouldn’t shock me if WWE included Breezango and The Ascension to make it six teams. I think four teams would be better, though.
4. The Undertaker won’t appear at Fastlane, but his presence will be felt on Raw
John Cena’s expected to face The Undertaker at WrestleMania, which is the rumor that’s been around for a few months. A few weeks ago on Raw, Cena said he was told he can’t have that match with The Undertaker. Do I believe that? Absolutely not. To me, it was WWE planting the idea in people’s minds to make fans want to see that match and get excited about it happening.
When I wrote predictions for the Royal Rumble, I thought that would be the time when WWE would set up The Undertaker targeting Cena. I thought we might see The Undertaker in the Rumble match or his music would play to distract Cena. That didn’t happen, so that led to people thinking maybe something would happen at Elimination Chamber. Nope. Nothing there either. What about Fastlane? I don’t expect it.
I think what’s most likely to happen is Cena will be in the ring doing a promo on Monday’s Raw about how he failed to win at Fastlane, so he has “no clear path” (a phrase he’s said many times) to WrestleMania. It’s silly that WWE expects fans to feel sorry for Cena considering how much he’s accomplished in his career, but that’s what they are going for. Anyway, I think Cena’s going to be in the ring doing that promo, Undertaker’s music will hit, he’ll walk down to the ring, point to the WrestleMania sign and it’s on from there.
3. Dolph Ziggler will be pinned in the main event
— Dolph Ziggler (@HEELZiggler) March 8, 2018
The Six-Pack Challenge is a match where the first fall wins. The wrestler who is pinned is often times the lowest on the totem pole. In this match, that’s probably Dolph Ziggler — although it could be argued that it’s Sami Zayn too. Baron Corbin? Maybe, but I think WWE wants to keep him looking strong as a bigger guy.
Ziggler did a good job on Smackdown last week when he was in the ring with Styles saying he’s yet to have a singles match at WrestleMania, even though he’s been in WWE for 12 years. It felt like a real promo from a WWE veteran who was frustrated, but does that mean he’s going to get that singles match at WrestleMania? Sadly, I don’t think so.
There’s an outside chance that John Cena gets pinned if WWE wants to tell the story that he was in the match, but lost. However, I doubt WWE is going to want to book Cena that way since he’s likely wrestling The Undertaker in one of the biggest matches at WrestleMania in one month.
2. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens will work together, only to fall apart
The reason I liked the finish of last week’s Smackdown is because it showed the fans exactly how Styles could lose the WWE Title. It doesn’t mean he will, but from a storyline standpoint, it helps get the point across without having the announcers yell about it for three hours. They can show the replay from that show and tell the audience that’s exactly how it can happen.
The story was that Zayn and Owens cleared the ring together and when Zayn got a chance to hit the Helluva Kick on his “best friend,” that’s exactly what he did to win the match.
There will probably be some backstage segment with Zayn and Owens talking about what happened on Smackdown. Owens will be mad that Zayn turned on him, while Zayn will just admit that he had to prove he’s a main event player in WWE. It should lead to Zayn and Owens working together for a lot of this match. They can have some cool moments where Zayn goes to Helluva Kick Owens again, but Owens is ready for it and Owens can get a near-fall on Zayn.
I think the story of the match will be that Zayn and Owens were too selfish to work together. It can be about how being on the same page would have made one of them the WWE Champion. Instead, they will try to beat each other and it will cost them the match.
I hope Zayn and Owens don’t split up as a heel duo. They are great in their roles. It’s too soon to just end it. I’d rather see them working as a tag team at WrestleMania instead of as opponents. If they are only in the battle royal at WrestleMania, that would be awful.
1. AJ Styles will retain the WWE Championship
This seems like a sure thing to me. I truly believe that WWE is smart enough to know that AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura in a singles match for the WWE Championship is what most of their fans want. I may regret writing that sentence one day because in today’s WWE, where they love booking multi-person matches way too often, you just never really know what they might do from week to week.
If it was up to me, this would be an elimination match. I can understand why it’s not because we just saw the Elimination Chamber match from the Raw brand two weeks ago with seven of the top guys in one match. Doing two elimination matches in two weeks is repetitive.
However, I think it’s a better way to tell a story in a match instead of “first fall wins” because in this case, there will be so many near-falls that it will tire the crowd out. If you do too many, it can hurt the match rather than help it.
I expect the match to feature all six guys heavily in terms of moments where they look strong. In the end, though, Styles should emerge as the victor by pinning Ziggler after a Styles Clash or maybe a Phenomenal Forearm. I can see it happening after guys get put through tables or maybe start brawling into the crowd. I’m sure it will be planned out well.
I would be very surprised if Styles lost this match. I’m ready for Styles vs. Nakamura at WrestleMania.
The main event will be outstanding and The Usos vs. The New Day should be the best matches on the show. Other than that, I have low expectations for Fastlane. It’s only a six-match card as of this writing and only four of the matches have storylines which have lasted longer than one week. It certainly could have been promoted better. This doesn’t feel like a major show or something that I’d consider “must see” for the average WWE fan.
You can watch Fastlane on WWE Network this Sunday, March 11. It starts at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT with the Kickoff Show beginning at 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT. The expected run time for the main show is three hours, but it could go a bit longer than that. I’ll be back on Monday with a review of the show.