You know those albums that feel a few songs too long? If this had been an hour and a half-show with four matches, it would have been great. Too bad it was a two and a half-hour show with seven matches. Dave Hillhouse is reviewing solo tonight, so make sure you keep chanting his name now and then to give him the energy he needs. WWE Fastlane comes to you from the ThunderDome in Tropicana Field, Florida.

Pre-show Match: Mustafa Ali VS. Riddle (C) for the United States Championship 

Last month at the Elimination Chamber, Ali was on the pre-show trying to get a shot at this title. Being on the pre-show with an actual shot at the title is at least a half-step better.

Riddle chases Ali around the ring right off the bat, catching him and driving knees into his back, followed by a gut-wrench suplex and a Bro-ton. I can’t keep the names of Retribution straight. One is Knuckles, and one is Tails, I think.

Ali stops another Bro-Ton cold by getting his knees up, then he drags Riddle to the corner and drives Riddle’s shoulder into the post. “That’ll win the championship” by Tom Phillips is a pretty big oversell.

Sometimes, Riddle just looks naked. Photo: WWE

Ali runs Riddle face-first into the turnbuckles and follows with a dropkick, sending the champ once more into the pads. Ali combos up a somersault into a Backstabber. After one more run into the corner by Ali, Riddle beautifully counters what looked to be a neckbreaker and gets Ali into a rear chokehold.

Ali turns that into a pin attempt, forcing Riddle to break. Soon after, Ali blocks yet anther aerial attack with his knees, this time the Floating Bro. Riddle finds himself in a lengthy Koji Clutch, eventually powering his way out. Ali is feeling confident, but an avalanche Bro Derek will tend to take the starch out of you, and it also finishes the match.

Winner via pinfall: Riddle

Match Rating: 3/5

Ali starts ripping on Mia (Reckoning) Yim for failing to pull her weight, and she has enough and walks out. Slapjack is next, leaving only Mace and T-Bar in the ring. Ali berates them next, but they give him a double-chokeslam and walk away, leaving Ali all alone. Alas, poor Retribution, we hardly knew ye.

Bianca Belair & Sasha Banks VS. Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax (C) (w/ Reginald) for the Women’s Tag Team Championships

Banks and Baszler begin the bout, but Banks beats Baszler back to her corner and brings in Belair. A bevy of pinning attempts by both combatants begets no victory. That would be Dr. Seuss’ style of wrestling reporting.

Jax is tagged in (really, it was more that Baszler wanted to tag out), and does her power moves on Banks for a few moments before both teams tag and Baszler lays a slew of nasty punches and forearms on Belair.

I don’t like how the challengers, who really aren’t a team at all, have more coordinated outfits than the tag champs.

Belair is the “EST” at falling dramatically. Photo: WWE

Baszler keeps Belair on the mat with an arm bar, before Jax comes in to give her a body slam followed by her own chokehold. The piped-in crowd chants “EST”, which is apparently enough to get Belair moving and tag in Banks.

A meteora in each corner by Banks leads to what looks like Banks trying to do a springboard DDT on Baszler — except Jax was leaning against the ropes where she was headed, so instead she sort of kicks Jax and then tumbles to the ground with Baszler. Graves does his best to “credit Sasha Banks for trying to innovate some offence”.

As Belair takes a tag and drops a 450 splash on Baszler, Reginald jumps on the apron and distracts the ref from making what would probably have been a winning pin. Another tag and Baszler is soon in the Bank Statement. Jax comes in to break up the pin, so Belair comes in to help.

Then, and you’re not going to believe this: Jax shoves Belair on top of Banks and Baszler, breaking up the submission hold. Banks believes that Belair did it on purpose. As Banks tells Belair to get out of the ring, Baszler rolls her up from behind for the win.

Winners via predictable pinfall: Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax

Match Rating: 1/5

Banks and Belair jaw at each other, as if there was any other point to this match. The longer it went on, the more this match annoyed me. There was so much talent watching this Elimination Chamber rematch from backstage that it was a waste of time. All for a chance for Banks to slap Belair, which they could have done on “Ding-Dong Hello!”.

We learn that Shane McMahon has suffered an injury, and therefore we need to wait to see how that will affect his match with Strowman tonight — even though the match was already wiped from the card. Elias begs McMahon for a chance to perform at WrestleMania, and a limping McMahon tells him he has an idea.

Apollo Crews VS. Big E Langston (C) for the Intercontinental Championship

A spear by Langston to Crews brings them both through the ropes to the floor seconds into the match. Langston yells at Crews that this is what he wanted as he stomps him and splashes him on the apron — and then splashes him again.

An overhead belly-to-belly in the ring has Langston in complete control. Another overhead belly-to-belly follows, and Langston won’t stop yabbering. Crews gets going with a low dropkick, and he follows with three German suplexes and the trash talk flows the other way. A spinebuster and then a big frog splash nets the challenger a two-count.

Langston’s face shows the awful acceptance of inevitability. Photo: WWE

The momentum shifts again as Langston blocks a standing moonsault with his knees, then a messy looking sequence with a roll-up going back and forth followed by some kind of bridge by Langston is enough for the ref to count to three.

Winner and STILL Intercontinental Champion: Big E Langston

Match Rating: 2/5

The bell rings but Crews doesn’t hesitate to keep fighting, adding to the strangeness of the end of the match. He slaps and slams Langston for a minute or two before finally leaving the ring.

Corey Graves says that Langston is the winner but that “Crews is the last man standing”. If that ends up being their match stipulation at WrestleMania, then consider that a spoiler.

Next up is a backstage Old Spice commercial of sorts, featuring someone named “Joseph Average” (it’s NXT’s Rik Bugez) handing out free samples. Drew Gulak takes one, but Tozawa shows up demanding to know where R-Truth is (ssshh: he’s hiding behind the old spice display). Tozawa pulls him out, sending Old Spice everywhere and knocking Truth out. As Average crawls around to clean up his display, he inadvertently pins R-Truth.

Winner and NEW 24/7 Champion: Joseph Average

R-Truth wakes up and pins Average.

Winner and NEW 24/7 Champion: R-Truth

We see video footage of McMahon hurting his knee in an afternoon training session. Don’t worry, medical expert Adam Pearce is there and calls for an ice bag.

Now back in the ring, Elias is ready to sing, with Jaxson Ryker and McMahon by his side. Shane says Elias should give people a taste of what’s to come at WrestleMania. Elias gets in a few strums before McMahon interrupts to tell him that he’s taking his place in his match tonight.

Tom Phillips delivers the wisdom of the old adage “Don’t stand on the train tracks when the locomotive is coming through.” Well, he calls it an old adage. I think it’s more along the lines of advice. Or just a brutally obvious thing you should know.

Elias VS. Braun Strowman

Elias, game as always, goes after Strowman right away. Predictably, Strowman muscles him around with a broad technique of throws, kicks, and punches. Elias is helped to the floor by Ryker, but when Strowman heads to follow with his devastating “I’m going to run into you” attack, Stryker ducks and lets Strowman run into Elias.

A few moments later, Elias gets some offence in with a nice-looking elbow off the top ropes, from which Strowman kicks out easily, but the troubadour is soon chokeslammed and powerslammed to end the match.

Winner via pinfall: Braun Strowman

Match Rating: 1/5

Riddle is backstage riding a scooter, pausing to talk to Nakamura. He talks non-stop about scooters and skateboarding, to the point that Nakamura hides to avoid the conversation. These two should be in a buddy-cop movie, no doubt.

Seth Rollins VS. Shinsuke Nakamura

Michael Cole segues so effortlessly from shilling for WrestleMania sponsor Snickers to how satisfied Nakamura would be with a win tonight. Poetry.

Rollins doesn’t like how things start: namely, a knee to his stomach and his face, so he ducks to the floor for a moment. When he returns, though, a dropkick to his face hardly improves things. Rollins rights his ship with an elbow to Nakamura’s face, throwing him to the floor and following with a leaping knee to the head.

Rollins brings the fight back into the ring and lands a gutbuster on Nakamura, only getting a count of one — which he simply can’t believe. He tries a backbreaker instead but now only gets a two-count.

Rollins shows his obsession with Cesaro, talking to him through the camera and yelling out “22 times” – referring to the number of swings he endured. He says that he’s strong too, and sets up to swing Nakamura, but Shinsuke has had enough time to recuperate and unleashes a series of kicks and knees on Rollins.

Nakamura climbs the ropes, but Rollins stops him before he can leap off and attack, sending him spinning to the floor. Rollins follows with a hard suicide drive, taking himself into the barricade. A sling blade is next, and an aggressive enziguri that almost connects with both feet.

Rollins is the picture of concentration. Photo: WWE

Moments later, Nakamura takes a very gentle-looking buckle bomb followed by a Falcon Arrow, but it’s not enough for the win. Rollins pulls out the big gun and tries for a stomp, but Nakamura catches him with a Landslide. The reversals start picking up pace, including Rollins missing a knee to the head of a kneeling Nakamura, but stopping with one foot still behind him, and delivering a reverse enziguri.

Unfortunately, a rather weak-looking Stomp is what brings this really good match to a close.

Winner via pinfall: Seth Rollins

Match Rating: 3.5/5

Drew McIntyre VS. Sheamus – No Holds Barred Match

Neither of these guys are dressed for a No Holds Barred Match. Come on, guys — jeans, at least. McIntyre has some Braveheart-style facepaint on. Firstly: it looks cool. Secondly, I’ve seen Braveheart, so just when you expect the Scots and Irish to fight each other, they’ll team up on the English. So, look out … William Regal?

McIntyre starts strong with overhead throws before clotheslining Sheamus to the floor. He clears the table and throws some kendo sticks into the ring, but Sheamus attacks from behind and grabs a kendo stick for himself. Sheamus swings and misses, allowing McIntyre to send him flying with another overhead throw.

McIntyre slides Sheamus into the stairs, and stomps on his hand before heading back in the ring. Sheamus lands a Brogue Kick for a two-count, then attacks with a kendo stick for a while. He ends up placing the stick in McIntyre’s mouth, pulling back from behind. McIntyre escapes with a couple of Glasgow Kisses, and is soon driving the end of the stick into Sheamus’ eye. Somewhere, Rey Mysterio winces.

McIntyre could have gone with this look as the Scottish Psychopath. Photo: WWE

Back out on the floor, McIntyre tries for yet another kendo attack, but Sheamus takes him into the steps with a drop toehold.  The fight goes on top of the announcer’s table before setting out into the area behind the barricade. Sheamus hoists McIntyre up and delivers a rolling senton in between ThunderDome screens.

McIntyre one-ups him by shoving him right through a bunch of the screens, setting off as many sparks as you’d see in an AEW deathmatch. McIntyre drags Sheamus back to the floor, plants him on a rolling cart, and superplexes him right off of it. As McIntyre tries to get him back to the ring, though, Sheamus gives him a Brogue Kick over the barricade.

Wait, there are ThunderDome screens that are below the barricade? I hope they’re deeply discounted.

Sheamus clambers on top of the barricade with McIntyre, then leaps off with White Noise onto the announcer’s table.  Sheamus drags a very limp McIntyre into the ring then ducks back outside again to grab a piece of the announcer’s table. A slugfest ensues, finishing with a Future Shock DDT that brings Sheamus onto the piece of table that Sheamus had brought in. A Claymore seals the deal.

Winner via pinfall: Drew McIntyre 

Match Rating: 4/5

Alexa Bliss VS. Randy Orton

Orton makes his entrance and gets up on the turnbuckle to pose, but he starts spitting out black goo. He towels off and starts clamouring for Bliss to get out to the ring. Bliss obliges, looking especially ghoulish tonight.

The bell rings and Orton advances, but is stopped by erupting fire in the ring. He tries again, but Bliss dives away and Orton runs into the ringpost. Things slow down as Orton stalks the slowly retreating Bliss, when a light grid falls between them. Orton is shaken.

Back in the ring again, Bliss sends a fireball at Orton who, according to Phillips, blocks the fireball. Hold on. That’s incredible. Why is Orton wrestling when he should be protecting the planet?

Orton wonders if he should change his look as often as Bray Wyatt does. Photo: WWE

Orton is ready to attack again when a hand comes up through the mat, grabbing his ankle. Out comes The Fiend, looking slightly charred. As Orton looks worried, Bliss pushes him from behind into a Sister Abigail, and Bliss straddles Orton for the pin.

Winner via pinfall: Alexa Bliss

Match Rating: N/A

After such a long wait, the return of The Fiend was a little meh.

Daniel Bryan VS. Roman Reigns (C) for the Universal Championship

Out comes the Special Enforcer: Edge. Him being the enforcer instead of Jey Uso would mean something if there was any reason to assume that Uso won’t also be at ringside at some point.

After a very slow Reigns entrance, the bell rings and Bryan starts by taking shots at Reigns’ legs. Bryan grabs at the legs, too, causing Reigns to scamper, looking a little alarmed, towards the ropes both times.

Bryan, for some reason, gets into a test of strength with Reigns, losing easily. Ah, that’s why: he turns it into an armbar, forcing Reigns to the ropes again. Bryan utilizes some of the great cheap-shot taunting that he did against Lesnar in 2018 before Reigns drives Bryan hard to the mat with a side-headlock takedown. Bryan, though, slips out and applies an armlock of immense torque.

Great pace so far. Reigns starts breaking out more power moves with a spinning slam, then rubs Bryan’s face into the mat before taking a moment to speak his mind to Edge. Returning his attention to the task at hand, Reigns stomps Bryan into the mat, with Bryan rolling out to the floor moments later. Bryan tries running Reigns into the post but is sent into it himself.

Once more in the ring, Reigns is starting to look amused and very confident. Bryan gets another flourish, driving an attacking Reigns into the corner and up onto the ropes. He tries for a hurricanrana, but Reigns simply muscles him to the middle of the ring for a Boston Crab. Bryan wiggles out and delivers a running elbow. Bryan dodges an attack that sends Reigns to the floor — Bryan leaps after him and lands on Reigns awkwardly, but then hits a solid leaping knee off of the apron.

Reigns gets back in the ring and Bryan follows with another knee. Then a missile dropkick and Yes! kicks. Reigns slugs his way back into the fight, trying for a powerbomb which Bryan turns into a hurricanrana. Not long after, Reigns is trapped in the Yes! Lock, not far from the ropes.

Bryan transitions, rolls him right into the middle of the ring and applies the Yes! Lock again. Reigns pries Bryan’s fingers apart and pounds his face with forearms. A powerbomb nets Reigns a two-count and both combatants take a moment to catch their breath.

Edge anxiously awaits his WrestleMania destiny. Photo WWE

Reigns is thinking spear, which Bryan meets with a kick. Bryan backs up and charges with a running knee, which Reigns dodges and the ref takes. Reigns hits a spear, and Edge comes in to count the pinfall – which is only two. Reigns delivers more punches and forearms, but Bryan grabs an arm and locks in a triangle. Reigns stands up, so Bryan wiggles around and brings Reigns to the mat into the Yes! Lock once more.

Punches, then a fourth Yes! Lock. As Edge looks in for a possible tap from Reigns, Jey Uso arrives with a superkick for both Edge and Bryan. He grabs a chair and takes a swing at Bryan, who ducks and pays him back with a running knee. Bryan beats Uso out of the ring with the chair, then charges at Reigns to attack. Reigns ducks and Edge takes the chair shot. Bryan applies the Yes! Lock once more and Reigns taps, but Edge didn’t see it as he was too busy winding up to hit Bryan with the chair.

Edge storms off, leaving both Reigns and Bryan down in the ring. Finally, a new ref arrives as Reigns crawls over to Bryan and lays on him for the win.

Winner via and STILL Universal Champion: Roman Reigns

Match Rating: 3/5



WWE Fastlane 2021

It wasn’t quite the slow-lane. Definitely not the fast-lane. That makes it the passing lane, which is why it gets 2.5/5 stars.