One stop left.

It’s the night before WWE Fastlane, the last pay-per-view on the wrestling calendar until we reach the Grandest Stage of Them All, WrestleMania. The Raw exclusive show marks the four week point until Vince McMahon’s yearly pat on the back, and things are starting to get interesting on Raw. While many of the feuds for this year’s Show of Shows have been rumoured for weeks (if not months), WWE Creative has found a way to make the road entertaining.

While this is a Raw event, the last post that this faithful blogger wrote on was Elimination Chamber just over two weeks ago. While an average event, especially for a show that has been far superior to Monday’s program, it again managed to push feuds forward in a meaningful way, and gave this faithful blogger a finish to remember to close out the event.

Let’s look at the results.

  • Mojo Rawley vs. Curt Hawkins (Prediction – Rawley)
    • After a match that no one would ever call good, Mojo Rawley picked up the win while I went upstairs to grab a beer. No regrets. (1-0)
  • Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James (Prediction – James)
    • The women opened the main card for E.C., and no one was disappointed. While it wasn’t a five-star classic, the women put on an entertaining match, and certainly earned their previously mentioned Spencer Love Quality Seal. However, the Mickster looked to have the match won with a Mick Kick, however Lynch kicked out and rolled James into a jackknife roll-up for the fluky win. A solid match that left both women looking better, but left this blogger with a .500 record. (1-1)
  • Dolph Ziggler vs. Apollo Crews and Kalisto (Prediction – Crews pinfall, Ziggler goes nuts with the chair)
    • While not much of a wrestling match, I was still entertained by the three of these men. Prior to the match, Ziggler laid out Kalisto with a brutal toss into the barricade at the top of the ramp, essentially evening the odds with Apollo Crews. As predicted, Crews picked up the pin on Ziggler, who then brutalized the good guy with a chair, and everyone was pleased. It’s a bit of an indictment on the development of Crews and Kalisto that the crowd chanted “Thank you, Ziggler!” to end the segment. It also speaks to how badly the Showstopper needed a change up. Either way – (2-1)
  • Tag Team Turmoil Match (Prediction – Usos)
    • I personally considered this match a bit of a catastrophe; not one team came out of this match looking good. With all the praise I’ve heaped on Smackdown Live, the tag division is horrendous; not one team here looked like even a remote threat to American Alpha, who won the match after entering at #4 and sustaining a beat down by the Usos. I can’t say I liked it. I predicted an Usos victory here, as I’ve always believed that faces are best used in pursuit mode, but Alpha will enter WrestleMania as champions. (2-2)
  • Nikki Bella vs Natalya (Prediction – Natalya)
    • To be blunt – I didn’t expect this match to be this good. In what was a well-built feud (despite Natalya’s lack of skill on the mic), the former friends beat the ever lovin’ hell out of each other in this Falls Count Anywhere match. Natalya has always been one of the most technically proficient females on the roster, and Bella has improved miles in the ring in a short time. Each woman bumped like mad to convince the fans of the brutality of the match. However, the finish was completely unsatisfying, ending in a double count out for both women. While later weeks of Smackdown revealed it all to be part of the build to Bella’s ‘Mania match, it was a disappointing finish to a stellar match. (2-3)
  • Randy Orton vs Luke Harper (Prediction – Orton)
    • I’ve mentioned many times how great I feel this feud was built, so I won’t go into too much detail here. (If you want to read about it, read my Elimination Chamber predictions here.) What I can say is that after a slow start, this match was terrific; both men can tell a story in the ring, and they delivered here. Regardless of this blogger’s correct prediction of an Orton victory, Harper came out of this match looking like a stud, and that’s all you can ask. (3-3)
  • Alexa Bliss vs Naomi (Prediction – Bliss)
    • I was incorrect in my prediction, and that’s all I’m going to say about this match. Seriously – Naomi? (3-4)
  • Elimination Chamber Match (Prediction – Bray Wyatt wins WWE Championship)
    • What a day. I’m a self-avowed Bray Wyatt mark and I don’t care who knows it. There’s little that can build a star like a pinfall victory over John Cena, other than a pinfall on John Cena and AJ Styles in the same night. That’s exactly what Bray Wyatt did at Elimination Chamber, pinning the last two WWE Champions in his successful bid to capture his first championship. Well done, sir. (4-4)

Myself and my best friend, Bray Wyatt

After two blogs of play, this blogger remains a .500 player, going 8-8 all time for Win Column Sports Dot Ca.

Now, let’s get to Fastlane.

Eight matches make up your card for the event, headlined by Universal Champion Kevin Owens taking on Goldberg in your main event, and punctuated by matches such as Bayley/Charlotte and BigAss McBenchPress/the 2017 Royal Rumble Runner-Up.

Rich Swann & Akira Tozawa vs. Brian Kendrick & Noam Dar

In the obligatory “throw a few cruiserweights together and give them a tag match” match, former champ Rich Swann and newcomer Akira Tozawa take on another former champion in Brian Kendrick and Noam Dar. The overlying story here is in the Kendrick/Tozawa combination, as Kendrick had advocated to “teach” Tozawa in what can only be described as a Jedi Master/Apprentice role. When Tozawa shut him down, Kendrick turned, attacking Akira and generally just not being a very nice person overall. Rich Swann is involved, as far as I can tell, because he likes to wrestle and is just generally a swell dude. Meanwhile, Noam Dar is stuck in a creepy storyline with Alicia Fox that you, dear reader, can find out about on your own.

I don’t have much invested in this, however simply because I want to see the Tozawa/Kendrick story continue, I feel as though the heels should go over.

Prediction: Kendrick and Dar win via pinfall.

Nia Jax vs. Sasha Banks

It’s another battle between the monster and the Boss, and I’m genuinely slightly more excited for this one than the last. While Smackdown does a better job with its entire cast of females, Raw has the stronger lead characters at this moment in Banks, Jax, Bayley and Charlotte.  It feels as though the Raw division is building towards a fatal 4-way at WrestleMania for the Women’s Championship between those women, and I’m genuinely excited at the prospect.

Jax has been an unstoppable force since being called up from NXT at last year’s WWE draft, and destroyed Sasha Banks as recently as the last PPV that involved Raw, the Royal Rumble. In the time since then, Sasha has assisted Bayley with winning the championship, and Jax has pinned the champion as recently as last week. Heading into the match, I think that Sasha needs the win more than Jax to keep her in title contention, so I’ll give the Boss the win here – although I may regret it.

Prediction: Sasha Banks wins via submission

Samoa Joe vs. Sami Zayn

As a wrestling fan, everyone has their dream matches. This is one of mine

I’m a Bray Wyatt mark, but I’ve got about even levels of love for Sami Zayn. Arguably my favourite wrestler on the Raw roster, the Underdog from the Underground is quite likely one of the best in-ring performers on the main roster. Regardless of the stop-and-start pushes he’s received, and my complaints about his booking, the truth remains that I’ll always be a fan of the former El Generico.

It’s almost enough to not watch what’s going to happen to him.

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A samosa, not to be confused with Samoa Joe. Only one will tear your MCL

Samoa Joe is an entirely different kind of monster. While not a giant like Braun Strowman, nor as revered as Big Show, Samoa Joe comes off as an assassin – cold, calculating, and badass. Already having come to the main roster and put Seth Rollins out of commission (at the orders of Triple HHH, nonetheless), Joe is ruthless. After already having attacked Zayn multiple times prior to matches, this match was made official by general manager Mick Foley at last week’s Raw.

This is easily one of the matches I’m most excited for of the night; both men are incredible in-ring technicians and promise to deliver. I’m going against my heart on this one, but with Joe working for Trips, I don’t see any chance of Sami making it out of this one with a victory.

Prediction: Samoa Joe wins via pinfall.

Braun Strowman vs. the 2017 Royal Rumble Runner Up, and former member of the Shield.

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It’s generally never a good sign if Braun Strowman is smiling.

I still refuse to say his name, even though I begrudgingly respect the guy.

Firstly – this match is going to be way more awesome than I even expected. Rumours have said that these two have been putting on entertaining matches on the house-show circuit, and that’s good enough for me to get a little excited.

To make a long story short, the man from the Rumble was denied a Universal Title opportunity due to interference from BigMan StrongTraps, and the two have been feuding since. I’m a Braun Strowman guy for sure, and the way this feud has been built is actually a testament to the writer’s room. If you had told me a year ago that I would be excited for a Strowman-Reigns match, you would firstly have gotten me excited about a possible tag team of the two giants, and secondly been hit when you told me it was a match between the two.

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This picture sums up pretty well everything I hate about the former world champion.

Will this be a great technical affair? I’m highly doubting it, but excited at the prospect. What am I thinking? Well, my usual prediction of #MakeReignsLookStrong doesn’t really apply here. After the Royal Rumble, and who the runner-up had the lack of courtesy to eliminate, I’m predicting that there’s no winner to the match – neither man can afford a loss. Besides, a WWE Legend needs his revenge.

Prediction: No Contest due to interference from Undertaker (cue chants) 

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WWE Cruserweight Championship Match – Neville © vs. Jack Gallagher

You can’t say that the cruiserweights aren’t trying.

Since the inception of the division, the roster has been critiqued for a lack of character building and rushed matches. However, the top of the card is finally starting to develop, and these are two of the best guys you could have there. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Neville has been a revelation since his heel turn on Rich Swann and taking the title from his old friend. While he’s been exciting, “Gentleman” Jack Gallagher has been one of the highlights of Monday night, with his quirky character work and outstanding technical ability.

I mean, seriously – the guy made a guy submit by tying him into a knot.

Either way, I don’t think it’s the time to take the title off Neville – for what he’s done for the division, he deserves to be the guy carrying the title into the biggest show of the year. Whether he defends the title in a ladder match, or against Austin Aries as rumoured, he will be defending the title. 

Prediction: Neville retains via pinfall. 

WWE Raw Tag Team Championship Match – The Club vs Enzo & Big Cass

For the first time since their introduction to the main roster, Enzo and Big Cass are getting their title shot. Far and away the most popular tag team on the roster, the Realest Guys in the Room earned their shot by defeating Cesaro and Sheamus in a number-one contenders match a few weeks back. It’s been a pretty cut-and-dry feud over the past few weeks, so I apologize dear readers, but there’s not much to this prediction. I don’t see it being the time to crown Enzo and Cass; both men are from Orlando, and I don’t even think WWE is blind enough to see that crowning the most popular tag team on the roster in their hometowns at Wrestlemania, is a guaranteed money maker.

Prediction: The Club retains via shenanigans.

WWE Raw Women’s Championship Match – Bayley © vs Charlotte Flair

It’s a shame, really, what they’ve done to this feud.

Bayley’s the most innocent character on the roster, and she won her first WWE championship through interference by Sasha Banks. While in retaliation for Dana Brooke’s own interference on Charlotte’s behalf, the honourable thing (and honestly, the best thing for her character) for Bayley to have done would have been to hand the title back, or better yet, have been stripped. While it sounds contradictory, it would have only increased the payoff for Bayley to beat Flair and end her PPV streak at Wrestlemania.

I say at Wrestlemania because let’s face it – there’s no way Charlotte Flair loses this match, is there?

Firstly, I can’t see Charlotte ending her PPV streak at a lower level pay-per-view event. It just doesn’t make sense from a historical standpoint to have it happen, and I refuse to believe that the WWE would blow it with Bayley’s character a second time in a row.

This should be a great match, with a terrible result. And that, dear readers, is just fine.

Prediction: Charlotte Flair wins the WWE Raw Women’s Championship

WWE Universal Championship Match – Kevin Owens © vs Goldberg

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I heard a rumour once that Bill Goldberg killed a brick

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel as though I’m in the vocal minority that’s somewhat excited about this match.

Yes, I understand the complaints.

Yes, I understand that WWE may pin the title on another part-time member of the roster

No, I don’t think it’s the right idea.

No, I don’t think WWE has booked themselves into as much of a hole as people say.

Let’s get it out of the way – Goldberg isn’t, and never has been, a great wrestler. What he is is a phenomenal character, with a great backstory. He’s also been expected to win this match since the second it was announced…but that was before Owens betrayed Jericho at the Festival of Friendship.

If you haven’t looked it up, do so now. I’m not going to waste any time explaining it here, but just know that you’re missing out on one of the finest segments WWE has produced in years. It simply couldn’t have been more effective in breaking up Jericho and Owens, and producing a tremendous amount of genuine heat on the champ – something I don’t think I’ve seen since his debut.

With the F.O.F happening, it opened up a lot of doors in this match. While many have expected a quick squash match of KO, a lot of those concerns have been addressed on WWE television. KO knows Goldberg’s reputation, and he’s going to play to it – the longer the match goes, the better chance Owens has of overcoming.

There’s a multitude of possibilities for this match; could Brock Lesnar interfere? I doubt it, as I don’t see why he’d want to blow his title opportunity at ‘Mania. Could Owens cheat to win? Definitely. He’s already proven to be a step ahead of most of his opponents – that’s why he’s still holding the strap. Well, that and his old friend Jericho – who hasn’t been seen since KO’s attack, and will certainly be looking for revenge…

Prediction: Goldberg wins the Universal Championship due to a Jericho distraction.

Thanks for reading, fans! Stay tuned, as I’ll have more excellent WWE content coming your way in the future!

Keep your stick on the ice and your shoulders off the mat!

Over the Top Rope – Fastlane Predictions
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Spencer Love

Once stood in front of Cedric Alexander in line at a hotel. Slightly big deal.

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