By the end, I had quite enjoyed the show. There were enough good matches and enough solid bits of plot advancement to make it an easy thumbs up, not at all unlike WWE events that I'd loved in the past. Only two matches went past 15 minutes, and only one other match went past 11 minutes, a nice reminder that a show doesn't need seven or eight epic-length matches in order to be a crowd-pleasing one. Case in point, Charlotte vs. Becky wasn't the expected "15-20 minutes of heat, wrestling, and counters before a finish unique to this point in the angle" that you've come to expect out of most PPV bouts, and that was fine.
Fastlane 2019 was a "less is more" show that, even at three hours and 45 minutes, didn't quite wear out its welcome. If this is due to the creative overhaul that's happened in recent times, I say, "More like this, please."
And as always, another WWE pay-per-view proves to be an educational experience. Here's what I learned.
10. Kickoff Matches Can Be Ambitious
When it was announced that Rey Mysterio and Andrade would face off on the freebie hour, disgust gushed from the fanbase like water from a fire hydrant. That match would be upgraded in several ways, but we did get a kickoff bout: Big E and Xavier Woods vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (qho lookws like Bill Murray's Ernie McCracken character in Kingpin) and Rusev.
You kind of expected a basic 10-minute match that's a bit more ambitious than house show, but what we received was much more inspired. The last five-plus minutes saw all four men bringing the goods, with one memorable spot seeing Woods taking a harsh double powerbomb after his flip dive was caught. Granted, the 205 Live guys always go balls-out in Kickoff matches, but for some reason it's more pleasantly jarring when the main brand guys who are relegated to this spot go above what you might expect.
9. Emotion Skips A Generation
When you bring in non-wrestling personalities to populate the show, say a local athlete or the relative of a wrestler, you're assuming a certain of level of risk. Namely, you're hoping that said outsider's personality doesn't create a rough patch in the production, and that things run smoothly when they get involved with the action.
Unfortunately for George Mizanin, who in his defense seems like a good-natured, happy-to-be-here kind of guy, he wasn't quite able to mete out the proper amount of emotion when his son The Miz was being backjumped by an irate Shane McMahon. There stood Papa George in the front row, demonstrating the same level of concern one displays when they're unable to remember the name of their fourth grade gym teacher. Meanwhile, his kid is being pulverized by the bane of Ross Tweddell's existence.
8. Ring Skirts Are Worse Than Banana Peels
We hear ad nauseum about how the ring apron is the hardest part of the ring, that it's the death of many a man's life, that it'll f**k up your credit score, and so on, so forth. But what about the ring skirts? No one seemed to realize what a hidden danger these tissue-thin apron adornments were until Sonya DeVille unknowingly tempted fate on Sunday night.
By exposing the nether regions of the ring to fish out a kendo stick, Sonya put her good friend Mandy Rose in harm's way. Mandy ended up skidding on the up-turned skirting, and Asuka sealed her doom amid the confusion. Remember kids: ring skirts are not toys. If you're going to piledrive someone, it's actually safer to do it on the apron. Performing the move on an apron *with* the skirt draped over it? You're signing someone's death warrant there, bub.
7. WWE Can Make Its Fans Unhappy To See Cesaro
The phrase "Bizarro World" gets overused in professional wrestling to explain away any crowd that doesn't color within WWE's lines, but it almost feels like we now live in something akin to Bizarro Bizzaro World, where people you never thought would get booed are getting booed. Daniel Bryan has been a hated cretin for some time, and now it's Cesaro's turn.
Remember when The Bar came together as reluctant partners in 2016, with Sheamus getting booed lustily, and Cesaro earning the "push this guy as a singles babyface, dammit!" cheers? Grant you, it was only a one night deal, and Cesaro's entrance was part of the beloved Kofi Kingston was getting zonked by evil Mr. McMahon, but hey - at least Cesaro got treated like the heel he's been for more than two years. Can't wait until a heavily-pushed babyface who receives lukewarm reactions makes the save for Kofi - and frankly, neither can WWE.
6. Chad Gable Vs. Ricochet Is Something We Need
The pay-per-view really began finding its legs with the Raw Tag Team title match (though the SmackDown equivalent opener was solid formula stuff). The Revival, Roode of Green Gables, and It's 630 in The Netherlands crammed a ton of activity into a sub-11 minute match, and while you expected a Revival retention, you at least had high hopes for the action. And they delivered.
The highlight for me was seeing Chad Gable and Ricochet go head to head, and realizing just what an incredible one on one match those two could have. Ricochet's renowned as a freak of an athlete, and Gable's worthy of that same designation. He's basically a travel-size version of Kurt Angle - Gable/Ricochet could be the evolutionary Angle/Mysterio from SummerSlam 2002 if given a chance.
5. Forty Is The New Twenty-Five
Sunday the 17th of March will mark Samoa Joe's 40th birthday. That's hardly a surprise, given how long he's been the business (he won the ROH World title 16 years ago this month, after all), and yet he was the third-oldest wrestler in his fatal four way US title defense: Rey Mysterio's 44, and R-Truth is 47. Comparably, those three were competing to see who would be forced to help 29-year-old Andrade with his science project.
To this point, the four-way was the best match of the night, with all four men looking highly frenetic and agile. The older trio show almost no signs of age, each as athletic as you can remember them being in whatever you feel their prime was. If Mysterio were in TNA in 2005, he, Joe, and Ron Killings could've had a similar match then as they did Sunday night, and that's pretty amazing.
4. Corey Graves Has Strong Improv Skills
We rag on WWE announcers for having the apparent qualities of latently-sociable Speak 'n Spells, but really, we know it isn't their fault. Between the buzzphrases and branding terms they have to robotically spew in every sentence, and the rote, specific manners that they have to tell stories, we'd just as soon recite a spell to bring Monsoon and Heenan back from the beyond.
That's why when a commentator has a genuine human moment these days, it's actually treat. Mr. Graves demonstrated one in the Women's Tag Team title match, when Nia Jax and Tamina tried an alley-oop Samoan drop spot, and it didn't go well at all. Graves, without missing a beat, lauded Banks for having enough defensive skill to try and resist going up for the move, explaining it away without even a hint of hesitation or thought collection. It pays to be on the ball, and although we could all tell it was an unfortunate in-match error, Graves did well to try and explain it away.
3. Daniel Bryan, Kevin Owens, And Mustafa Ali Are Miracle Workers
As the years have ticked by, fans have become more and more stubborn to the things they don't want to see, especially if something's being presented in spite of their preferences or tastes. While it's a mortal lock that this "McMahon screws Kofi" angle is setting up WrestleMania, the genuine fan outrage seems to be unsure of that, and when Ali entered as Kofi's surrogate for the WWE title triple threat, there seemed to be no turning back for the fans. Once they enter hijack mode, they don't get talked down easily.
Bryan, Owens, and (especially) Ali went above and beyond to deliver a banger of a match, and eventually, the fans in Quicken Loans Arena were like, "Damn, we may as well try and enjoy this masterpiece we're being given." There was a point where WWE may as well have sounded the Royal Rumble buzzer and hit Mysterio's POD music, because I didn't think there was any turning back for the crowd. Those three men dragged the crowd back into positive terrain, and it was a sight to see.
2. Thank God Mike Rome Was There To Explain Things
Full disclosure: I'm no genius. Two weeks ago, I thought my PS4 of three years was irreparably defective because the game picture wasn't showing up, and I began checking prices for a new one...before it dawned on me that I had simply turned to the wrong source channel on my TV. Yeah, I'm a numpty, as Ross would say. But hey - I got to feel smart during the finish of the Becky Lynch/Charlotte Flair match, that's for damn sure.
Knowing that Lynch merely had to WIN to qualify for the WrestleMania match, I saw Ronda Rousey beelining toward the ring and knew exactly who she was going to attack. When she hit Becky, the crowd's boos intensified - partially because "Boo Ronda, she's not Becky, she called this fake", which I get, but you just *know* many of them figured Rousey had somehow cost Lynch her WrestleMania opportunity. It was only when ring announcer Mike Rome clarified how this all worked (which wasn't exactly Calculus equations written in Sanskrit) that people began to cheer. Thank you, Mike Rome, for getting the escalator working again. Otherwise, who knows how long we would've been standing there.
1. Predictable Has Its Place, And That's Cool
Let's face it - unless WWE really wanted to backhand us all with yet another moment of Dean Ambrose treachery, The Shield was going over strongly against three of Raw's top villains. It was Roman Reigns' comeback moment from a life-threatening illness, and with so many people rooting for him, a feelgood moment was more than welcome. And it was the only ending that would suffice.
When Adam and Ross released their predictions video late last week, they almost uniformly agreed on each pick, a sign that Fastlane was going to be a paint-by-numbers affair. And aside from the Rey/Andrade match that was changed, they nailed them all, so yeah, it was a predictable show as far as expected winners went. But predictable has its place, and Fastlane couldn't end without The Shield brotherhood standing tall, in light of recent positive news. Disney movies never end with doubt or tragedy, and hey, Disney's brought in a lot of money. Let's save those swerves for a day that needs them.