It’s time for the last stop before WrestleMania, the annual Elimi—wait, what? It’s not the Elimination Chamber? Well, okay then. We are on the Fastlane to ‘Mania! Much like the Chamber was in the past, this PPV is all about setting up the biggest event of the year. After a negative reaction to Royal Rumble, it will be very interesting to see how things play out here for the fans, but perhaps just as important, can any match live up to the triple threat match last month? With big things afoot, hit the jump to see my picks (and don't forget to follow me on Twitter as I live-tweet the show on Sunday)!
TEAM ZIGGLER vs TEAM ROLLINS
In an effort just to get some great wrestlers and some okay wrestlers on the card, we are get the team of Dolph Ziggler, Eric Rowan, and Ryback against the team of Seth Rollins, Kane, and Big Show. On one hand, we are getting Ziggler against Rolllins again, which is a win for everyone. Plus Rowan and Ryback are fun to watch when they step up their respective games. Kane will put in his very best effort. Big Show, unfortunately, will very slowly amble around the ring before delivering a weak looking “knockout” punch. The feud between Show/Kane will likely take up much of this match, which is going to kill the momentum that will be built by the hard work of their teammates. This match will have a lot of ups and downs—the highs will be great, but the lows will probably be the worst thing you’ll see on the card (and all of them will probably involve Big Show (Don’t get me wrong, for most of his career, I really liked the Big Show. His size is super impressive and he did things that guys his size could never do. The problem is that his in ring ability has slowed very quickly over the last year and, sadly, I think it might be time for him to hang up his boots.)). That being said, this match could really go to either team. Ziggler’s team could easily win it because of Kane and Big Show falling apart, but I think it is important to make Rollins look strong here. I’m going to say Ziggler wins, but only because I see the rest of this card skewing hard towards the heels.
Prediction: ZIGGLER, ROWAN, and RYBACK
MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE vs THE USOS ©
WWE Tag Team Championship
First of all, I think it is totally awesome that Cesaro and Tyson Kidd have been calling themselves the Masters of the Universe, even though that moniker hasn’t made it to television just yet. Cesaro and Kidd are two of the most poorly utilized talent on the entire roster, but despite being given so little to work with, continue to put on fantastic matches every time they are in the ring. I’m glad to see them finally embroiled in a feud, even though I’m not thrilled that so much of the feud is focused on Natalya and Naomi, as that seems to be more about Total Divas drama and not the in-ring abilities of all six individuals involved. The Usos have a bit more steam, but I think that the Masters of the Universe will pull out the shocker here to win the title. I dig the Usos and they’ve rode a huge wave of success over the last year, but Cesaro and Kidd really deserve something big and I think a run as tag champs is exactly what they need right now.
Prediction: CESARO and KIDD
STARDUST vs GOLDUST
This feud has been really interesting and I see it as the swan song for Dustin Rhodes, who after having a great career already, really reinvented himself over the last two years while returning to the Goldust character to team with his brother Cody (both as himself and as Stardust). The creative team has done a good job of building tension between the two, which boiled over this week with Stardust finally turning on both his brother and their legendary father. I’d like to see this match as step one in a two-step process. In this match, I’d have Stardust winning quickly and decisively, highlighting his dark side and making Goldust the underdog for their inevitable rematch at WrestleMania next month. For that match, I’d have Goldust pleading with his brother to drop the Stardust act, which has “tainted” the younger Rhodes. As Stardust gets darker and darker, I’d eventually have Goldust drop the gimmick and put in one last effort to “save” his Cody. At WrestleMania, we would see Dustin Rhodes vs Stardust in a “Career vs Gimmick” match; if Dustin wins, Cody returns to ‘normal,’ but if Cody wins, Dustin retires. Then you have Stardust win in a highly emotional match that reunites the brothers, turns Cody face, and sends Dustin off to retirement on a high note. It would be a beautiful and powerful end to a great career and would launch Cody into the next phase of his career as the true heir to the Rhodes name.
PAIGE vs NIKKI BELLA ©
WWE Divas Championship
This match doesn’t make a ton of sense to me. Well, let me rephrase that—Nikki Bella’s reign as Divas Champion does not make any sense to me. After spending much of 2014 feuding with her sister, Nikki has floundered through relatively meaningless feuds since being champion while the battle that was being built against Brie was dropped entirely. It seems that their match against Paige was just thrown together for the sake of having a match. Maybe it would make more sense if I watched Total Divas? Who knows. I’d love to see Paige win this match because I think she is considerably better in the ring, but the Bellas are the flagship Divas thanks to the reality show. Nikki will probably win here and then there will be a throwaway match at WrestleMania for the title—a match that could have and should have been Brie versus Nikki as a culmination of their feud, leading to Charlotte’s main roster debut the night after WrestleMania (something the Divas division needs desperately). Nikki has made strides in the ring, so hopefully this will be a decent match, but likely won’t amount to much storywise. On an unrelated note, if you didn’t watch NXT Takeover: Rival two weeks ago, you need to. Once again the women wrestlers pulled out all of the stops in a fatal four-way match between Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Bayley, and Sasha Banks. While it wasn’t match of the night, it was still proof that women’s wrestling shouldn’t be the “bathroom break” match when done properly.
Prediction: NIKKI BELLA
DEAN AMBROSE vs BAD NEWS BARRETT ©
This feud has my favorite premise of any feud so far this year. Dean Ambrose doesn’t hate Barrett—he just wants to win the Intercontinental Championship so he can have his picture on a wall at WWE Headquarters in Stamford. It is such a silly and bizarre setup that it is perfect for Ambrose’s character. The only downside to the feud is that it has been almost entirely focused on Ambrose, while Barrett has floundered his way through matches with Sin Cara for the last month. BNB’s reign as champ hasn’t been very eventful, so I’d really hate to see him lose the title so quickly, even though Ambrose deserves the strap. If Ambrose wins though, it will essentially bury Barrett (which I would hate to see as he is one of my favorites), plus I feel that would kill this feud really quickly. This is feud could easily carry on to WrestleMania and beyond, so I don’t see Ambrose winning the title here. I’ll give it to BNB with a dirty win that leads to a rematch next month, though we’ll also see enough bonkers antics from Ambrose to keep his fans happy.
Prediction: BAD NEWS BARRETT
JOHN CENA vs RUSEV ©
United States Championship
I’m writing this several weeks before Fast Lane (normally I write this during the week of the event), but I am so pissed after watching the January 29th Smackdown Live that I’m writing it now. On last night’s Smackdown, Cena pulled one of the most crass and, quite frankly, disgusting promos I’ve heard since the worst parts of the Attitude Era. After talking about Rusev’s “pubes” and Lana’s “boobs,” Cena went on to call Lana a “ho” multiple times in multiple variations. I’m not a prude. I’m totally cool with edgy content and I don’t mind when some characters get crass, but Cena is supposed to be the moral compass of the WWE. He is the hero to every single kid that watches the show. All of his shirts say “Hustle, Loyalty, Respect” but instead of getting that last key word, Cena makes misogynistic and sexually degrading comments towards Lana. For a company that does such amazing work with their anti-bullying Be-A-Star campaign, to have the one character that exemplifies the PG-era go so far, multiple times in one segment, is simply unacceptable. Oddly enough, when you compare this to the fact that Rusev isn’t really all that villainous, it makes Cena look even worse (Rusev never cheats, rarely attacks people outside of a match, shows great national pride, and stands up for his female manager (and reportedly real life girlfriend)). From a storytelling standpoint, I want Rusev to win because I think that when he finally loses it should be to put over another rising star and not to push Cena. On a personal standpoint, I don’t even want Cena to be in this match. To me, he is now a full on bad guy. As for the actual match, I really hope that Rusev’s first loss comes from Cena. That would really undercut everything they have done to build up the character. If he does lose, it will likely be a count out or disqualification so his streak can continue.
STING and TRIPLE H
This isn’t a match, so I cannot really pick a winner, but I can tell you that I am very excited to see this showdown. So far, they have done a great job of using Sting sparingly—with just a handful of appearances on WWE programming, they have made Sting matter and more importantly, making Sting matter personally to Triple H. One thing that has made it work so well is the fact that Sting has not said a word. We might see him finally talk during this showdown, but I’d much rather see him stay quiet and just let Triple H’s frustration build as he talks himself into a corner before challenging Sting to a match at WrestleMania—when Sting finally breaks his silence to accept the match in just a few words before the two brawl. That is how I would book it, but even if it doesn’t play out exactly that way, I’m beyond excited to see this feud continue building. Sting is one of the all-time greats and deserves this high profile moment to shine on the one stage he has yet to conquer before heading into his inevitable retirement.
Prediction: STING vs TRIPLE H at WRESTLEMANIA
DANIEL BRYAN vs ROMAN REIGNS ©
#1 Contender for WrestleMania 31
I have started writing this prediction multiple times, but every time I am certain of the winner, I change my mind and start over. This one is really hard to call and their awesome showdown at the end of this week’s Raw made it even harder to call. I get that the point of this match is to give the fans what they want (Daniel Bryan having a chance at WrestleMania) while also setting up the opportunity to have Roman Reigns gain some credibility (by beating who the fans see as the top guy). That really makes this match a double-edged sword and there are major pros and cons to each potential winner. Personally, I’d much rather see Daniel Bryan win because he is my favorite wrestler on the main roster, but at the same time, I feel like having Roman Reigns lose will completely kill any momentum that he has and it will be very hard to build him back up. For long term planning, it probably makes more sense to have Roman Reigns win the match because it is completely clear that he is set to be one of the main stars in the future. For now, because I’m forcing myself to choose, I am going to begrudgingly call Roman Reigns as the winner with hopes that Daniel Bryan will have a quality opponent at the biggest show of them all next month so that even if he doesn’t participate in the main event, he can still steal the show (Seth Rollins, perhaps?).
Prediction: ROMAN REIGNS
What are your thoughts? Share them here or tweet them to me at @RyanSchrodt!