There are less than four weeks to go until WrestleMania and after Sunday night’s Fastlane event, we know at least two of the major championship matches that will take place.

AJ Styles retained the WWE Championship in an exciting Six-Pack Challenge match. The win by Styles means that he will carry the most coveted prize in WWE into WrestleMania and defend it against Royal Rumble winner Shinsuke Nakamura. There’s always a chance WWE can add more people to the match, but I seriously doubt that.

Charlotte Flair retained her Smackdown Women’s Championship by beating Ruby Riott. After the match, Royal Rumble winner Asuka (who had been on Raw since last summer) appeared to get in Charlotte’s face and point at the WrestleMania sign. That meant Asuka has chosen to face Charlotte at WrestleMania.

Here are 10 thoughts I had on the show that took place in front of a hot crowd at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

10. Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Rusev in a fun opening match

I enjoyed Nakamura vs. Rusev with Nakamura getting the win as expected. The good thing is that Rusev didn’t look bad in the match, which I was worried about. It would have been nice if they had a storyline instead of a simple backstage segment last week, but that’s WWE these days. They were given 14 minutes here and it was a competitive matchup.

It was a good choice for an opening match because the Columbus crowd was hot for them. They chanted “Nakamura” and “Rusev Day” at the same time during several points in the match. I really think Rusev should turn face in the next few weeks (maybe if he wins the Andre the Giant battle royal at WrestleMania) because it could help him get to the next level.

Nakamura won the match after a vicious knee to the back of the head followed by the running Kinshasa knee strike that he uses to finish off opponents. Nakamura needed the win to continue giving him momentum for his WWE Title match at WrestleMania.

9. Randy Orton’s US Title victory makes him a Grand Slam Champion in WWE

Randy Orton beat Bobby Roode for the US Title. It was the second-longest match on the show, lasting around 19 minutes. I thought that was too long because there were some slow parts which were a bit boring. But I can understand why WWE wanted to give them that much time to try to make it feel like an epic match. If they shaved off about five minutes, it may have been better.

I liked the finish of the match with Roode jumping off the middle ropes and Orton hitting a RKO out of nowhere for the win. The crowd reacted to it in a big way because it was a sweet-looking move.

This is the first time Orton won the US Title because he has not really targeted it in the past. The win means that Orton is a Grand Slam Champion in WWE, winning the WWE Championship (he has 13 World Titles in WWE), the Intercontinental Championship about 15 years ago, a Tag Team title and now the US Title. If you’re wondering, the Universal Title would be considered at the same level as a WWE Title.

Orton is the 18th Grand Slam Champion in WWE history. Others in the list include Chris Jericho, Daniel Bryan, Kurt Angle, Roman Reigns, Shawn Michaels and The Miz, among others. John Cena is not on the list because he’s never been Intercontinental Champion.

8. Bobby Roode needs to turn heel following his US Title loss

Randy Orton celebrated his US Title win over Bobby Roode, but was greeted by an angry Jinder Mahal after the match. Mahal wanted a shot at the US Title, so he went after Orton by attacking him in the ribs. Roode got back into the ring and hit Mahal with a Glorious DDT. Roode looked over a fallen Orton and hit a Glorious DDT on him as well.

I hope this leads to Roode turning heel. When he was in NXT, Roode was an egotistical heel that bragged about how much better he was than everybody else. When he was in TNA/Impact Wrestling, I always thought Roode was more natural as a heel. I know that WWE likes him as a face due to how popular the “Glorious” gimmick is, but that can only last so long.

It would make sense if Roode turned heel by ripping on Orton for taking away his title and doing a cheap attack on Orton. Smackdown does have a lot of heels right now, but I think Roode can perform better in that role. Perhaps the title loss is the story that will lead Roode to go back to being a bad guy.

7. Airing Ronda Rousey and Roman Reigns videos hurts Smackdown

One hour into this show, there was a video package about Ronda Rousey’s WrestleMania match. It was about five minutes long with highlights of Rousey’s appearance at Elimination Chamber and the last two weeks of Raw that set up her match with Kurt Angle against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon at WrestleMania. Remember Survivor Series, when WWE wanted us to think that Smackdown hated Raw?

Later in the show, a video package aired about Roman Reigns talking trash about Brock Lesnar to promote their match at WrestleMania.

I can understand why WWE did it to promote WrestleMania, but it’s not like a Smackdown video would appear on Raw. Fans will always view Smackdown to be inferior to Raw because that’s the story that WWE wants to tell us.

6. Carmella getting the win in women’s tag team match was the right decision

There was a women’s tag team match on the show with Carmella and Natalya teaming up to beat Naomi and Becky Lynch. It was another match without much of a story, so that meant the crowd was quiet for some of it. Natalya and Carmella are good heels, though, which helped some of the dead parts of the match.

The finish of the match saw all four women get involved, the ref pushed Naomi back into her corner, so Natalya went on the apron with the Money in the Bank briefcase, which distracted Lynch. When Lynch turned back around, Carmella decked Lynch with a superkick and pinned her to win the match.

Carmella winning was the right decision to me because she’s been carrying that Money in the Bank briefcase/contract for the past eight months and needs wins to build up her credibility. I’m not saying she’s going to successfully cash in the contract any time soon but when you put Carmella over like this, it makes her look like a legitimate threat to whoever the champion is.

5. Smackdown Tag Team Title Match was predictable with the Bludgeon Brothers interfering

It’s nice to get predictions right. Here’s what I wrote in my predictions article about Fastlane here on The Comeback:

“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.”

What happened at Fastlane? Exactly what I predicted. There were no winners in the tag team title match. The Bludgeon Brothers destroyed Jimmy and Jey Uso, as well as all three members of the New Day – Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston and Big E. It was a vicious attack that could set up a 3-Way match at WrestleMania or maybe a 4-Way if they add Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin to the mix. A Ladder Match is certainly possible.

Xavier Woods took the worst beating of all when Harper and Rowan hit a double-team Powerbomb on the steel steps.

WWE is claiming that Woods has a thoracic spine contusion (bruise) due to the move. It’s a storyline, but it should keep Woods out of action for a few weeks.

4. Two major championship matches from Smackdown may be the best matches at WrestleMania

I think AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the WWE Championship and Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka for the Smackdown Women’s Championship have a very good chance of being the best matches at WrestleMania this year. Yes, WWE seems to care more about Raw, but these four talents on Smackdown (assuming Asuka counts as Smackdown now) have the potential to put on some very memorable matches at WrestleMania.

A lot of it depends on the time of the matches as well as the structure. If Styles vs. Nakamura gets 20+ minutes, then I have no doubt it will be a classic WrestleMania match. They have wrestled many times in Japan on the big stage, so it won’t be new to them — although it is the first time ever in WWE for this match.

As for Charlotte and Asuka, they have never wrestled before, but I’m not worried about that. They will have a month to build up to it, as well as prepare for it. It would probably be better if Charlotte was a cocky heel champion against the undefeated challenger in Asuka. That’s not going to happen, though. It should still be an outstanding match.

I didn’t make a point to write about Charlotte vs. Ruby Riott, but the match was good. Riott got in a lot of offense and looked credible, which is what she needed to do. Charlotte winning was the easiest match to predict on the card.

3. Shane McMahon costing Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens the WWE Title should lead to a WrestleMania showdown

The WWE Championship match was the Six-Pack Challenge that also featured Commissioner Shane McMahon watching the match at ringside. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn had an exchange where Zayn laid down for Owens to let Owens pin him, but Owens didn’t believe him. That led to a fight between the “best friends” Sami and Kevin.

The fight between Owens and Zayn spilled out to the floor. Zayn got in McMahon’s face. Owens went for a superkick on Zayn, but Zayn moved and Owens nailed McMahon with the superkick. Owens went back in the ring and hit a Popup Powerbomb on Ziggler for a two-count because Shane pulled the ref out of the ring. There’s no disqualification in a multi-man match like this. Shortly after that, Zayn hit a Helluva Kick on Owens and Shane pulled Zayn out of the ring. That meant Shane cost Owens and Zayn the WWE Title.

After the match was over, there was a scene where Shane walked past a fallen Owens and Zayn while the two best friends looked at Shane with an evil look in their eyes.

What this should lead to is some tag match at WrestleMania with Owens and Zayn teaming up against Shane and a partner. I don’t expect that partner to be Daniel Bryan since he is retired, even though he thinks he can wrestle with his concussion history. They should put Bryan as the referee in the match. I’m not sure who Shane’s partner would be, but that seems like the right way to go with this story.

2. It is still hard to feel sorry for John Cena

When I wrote about the Raw Elimination Chamber pay-per-view from two weeks ago, I said that it was hard to feel sorry for a despondent John Cena and not having a “clear path” to WrestleMania. We all know he’s going to be in a big match even though he failed at the Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber and Fastlane.

In my Fastlane predictions, I wrote that I didn’t expect The Undertaker at Fastlane. I got that right too. It just didn’t feel like the right time to have him show up. I think this week’s Raw is the perfect time, though.

While it’s not known as of this writing if the “free agent” Cena will be on Raw, I expect that to happen. I think Cena’s going to be in the ring talking about how he’s not sure what his role is in WWE anymore when suddenly The Undertaker’s music hits. The Undertaker can show up, go in the ring with Cena, stare at the WrestleMania sign and the match is all set.

Cena vs. The Undertaker has been the plan at WrestleMania for a few months. There’s no reason to believe that plan has changed. It’s just a matter of when they make the announcement. It could be this week or maybe next week.

1. AJ Styles leaving with the WWE Title was the obvious and correct decision

The Six-Pack Challenge was a great match that showcased the talents of AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, Dolph Ziggler, John Cena, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. A match with six men involved with one pinfall needed to win showed that anything could happen at any time.

There were a lot of memorable moments, like I mentioned earlier with Zayn and Owens getting screwed over by Shane McMahon and John Cena putting AJ Styles through the announce table with a massive Attitude Adjustment through the announce table.

What I really liked about the match is that all six guys got a chance to show what they do. There were several moments where guys hit finishing moves (Cena hit the Attitude Adjustment about eight times), looked like they were going to win and another guy was there to break it up. As the match kept going, they kept building up those moments. It made the nearly 25 minutes of action go by fast. It just didn’t feel that long because there was so much action the entire time. That’s the positive thing about a match like this. You can get a lot of time and make it fun due to the presence of six guys.

Styles was able to come back from the Attitude Adjustment through the table. He nailed Kevin Owens with a Phenomenal Forearm and pinned him to win the match. That came right after Cena hit the AA on Ziggler, Owens hit the Popup Powerbomb on Cena and Styles was in the perfect spot to finish off Owens.

The win by Styles is the right decision and also what most of us expected. Predictable isn’t a bad thing especially when the best wrestler in WWE — that’s AJ Styles — is the WWE Champion. He is right where he belongs going into the biggest show of the year. Kudos to WWE for getting it right.

Final Thoughts

Fastlane was a show that featured good matches all night long with an exciting main event match that had several cool moments. It was not a better show than the Royal Rumble, but I liked it more than Raw’s Elimination Chamber last month. Was it predictable? Yeah. The only thing I didn’t see coming was Randy Orton winning the US Title because I thought there might be more build to that. Predictable doesn’t mean bad, though. If it’s the right decision, then it’s easy to accept and you can still enjoy the show. If you only have time for one match, watch the main event. It’s 25 minutes of excitement and definitely one of the best WWE matches of the year.

This week’s Raw will feature Brock Lesnar returning for a confrontation with Roman Reigns and there may be an Undertaker sighting to set up his WrestleMania match with John Cena too.

About John Canton

John has been writing about WWE online since the late 1990s. He joined The Comeback/Awful Announcing team in 2015. Follow John Canton on Twitter @johnreport or email him at with any comments or questions. For more of his wrestling opinions, visit his website at Cheap pop!