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WWE Weekly: February 22-29, 2016

by Scrooge Mc Suck

WWE Fastlane

WWE FAST LANE RUNDOWN...

The 2nd Annual WWE Fast Lane (or FastLane, depending on how you prefer writing it) took place on February 21st, 2016, from the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH, the final PPV (but not the final Network Special) before WrestleMania 32. With a few minor exceptions, most of the outcomes were very predictable, which in most cases is usually a good thing. The work was above average, with everyone clearly putting on a strong effort, some more than others, and even the "bad" matches were up a bit in quality because of the effort involved. The only major complaint coming off the PPV, is the lack of direction towards WrestleMania, with most of the matches, with the exception of the Main Event, not giving us much of an indication of what to expect at the biggest show of the year (formerly known as the granddaddy of them all, but Vince thinks it makes WrestleMania sound old, that and not numbering it, anymore...).

A. Kalisto defeated Alberto Del Rio in a 2 out of 3 Falls Match to retain the WWE United States Championship, 2 falls to 1, at 15:12. The first fall came about 5-minutes in, with Kalisto in control on the floor, and Del Rio deliberately getting himself disqualified for the first fall. Del Rio spent the next few minutes beating on Kalisto on the floor. By the time the second fall officially began (both men, in the ring, on their feet under their own power), Del Rio quickly hit a modified version of his Double Stomp for the second fall. The third fall went back and forth, with near falls for both men. Kalisto kept fighting off the Double Stomp from the top rope, countered with a head scissors into the corner, and rolled up Del Rio for the third fall. Unlike their Rumble encounter, they seemed to be in good rhythm with each other, and put on a PPV caliber match. ***

1. Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks defeated the remains of Team B.A.D. (Tamina and Naomi) at 9:50 when we got a double-tap out, to the Bank Statement and the Disarm-Her. I was caught by surprise that this was the opening match, instead of the predictable choice in the IC Title Match. Nothing really exciting about this one, but the work was fine. Tamina does fine as the muscle who gets a few shots in, and Naomi has definitely improved over the last year. My only issue with her was a laughable spot sheís started to use, where she does this running in place "kick" that just looks bad. Becky took most of the heat, with Sasha spending very little time in the ring until the final moments, with explosive offense and a hot crowd leading to a solid finish. **1/2

2. Kevin Owens pinned Dolph Ziggler to retain the WWE Intercontinental Championship at 15:10 following the Pop-Up Powerbomb. I love Kevin Owens, but they need to move him away from Dolph Ziggler. I think Ziggler is a talented worker, but my goodness, how many times do you have to see the same match, over and over and over again? Throw in his poor selling (he takes a hard bump to the buckle, chest first, and sells it for a few minutes, then does all his diving, high impact offense, ignoring it completely). They traded Super Kicks late, enough that JBL cracked a joke about it, and Owens used the distraction of an out-of-place referee to surprise Ziggler and put him away to retain. ***

3. Ryback, Kane, and the Big Show defeated Luke Harper, Erick Rowan, and Braun Strowman at 10:37 when Ryback pinned Luke Harper. Iím going to admit... I didnít see the Wyatt Family losing this one (fear not, the 50/50 booking struck 24 hours later). I also didnít think it was a "good" match, but it wasnít the embarrassing trainwreck I was expecting, considering 2/3 of the Wyatt Family representatives are quite awful workers, and Big Show, Ryback, nor Kane are going to be able to carry any of them. They kept it simple, and nothing looked bad. Big Show hit Strauman with a pretty sweet looking Spear, as well as throwing Luke Harper over the top rope from the press slam position. Finish came when Harper became distracted by Kane taking a shot at Wyatt, allowing Ryback to hit the Shell-Shock. *1/2

4. Charlotte defeated Brie Bella to retain the WWE Divas Championship at 12:26 via submission with the Figure-Eight. Brie came out wearing the kick-pads Daniel Bryan wore at WrestleMania XXX, and is wearing the tank and booty shorts, probably in honor of Nikki. Remember what I said about the effort bringing the bad matches up a bit? Brie Bella. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, looked so awkward in this match, and itís hard to hate it completely because you can sense there was a lot of effort, just not good effort. Spots were blown, moving in slow-motion, and just came across as awkward. The crowd was hot for some of it, especially the last minute when Brie had the Yes-Lock and Single-Leg Crab applied, but she "hurt" her leg doing a missile dropkick earlier, so her knee gave out, allowing Charlotte to recover and finish her off. *1/2

5. A.J. Styles defeated Chris Jericho at 16:20 via submission to the Calf-Crusher. Billed as the "Rubber Match" in a series of pretty good matches, this one delivered to the expectations coming in. Iíve read a lot of complaints about how "slow" the match was, but honestly, if you couldnít tell they were working a more defensive style the first half of the match, then you have no business watching or criticizing a wrestling match. There were times they were a bit off, but it wasnít enough to effect the quality of the match, including two spots that needed perfect timing, a plancha countered with a dropkick from the floor, and Jericho doing a springboard dropkick to knock Styles off the top rope as he was springing off of it. Hot finish with near falls and teased submissions. Styles hit the Styles Clash, but Jericho kicked out at two. Styles immediately locked him into the Calf-Crusher, and after about 30-seconds of camera mugging (in a good way), Jericho succumbed to the agonizing pain. Post-match, they shook hands, having new-found respect for each other. ****

6. Since we need some time to kill, weíve got a "Cutting Edge Peep Show", to promote the new WWE Network Series, Edge and Christianís Show That Totally Reeks of Awesome-Ness. Or something like that. They called out the New Day and traded puns, and then the segment just died, bringing out the League of Nations, and suddenly Edge and Christian were friendly with the New Day? This went way too long for where it was going, but there was a handful of good jokes, like "Iíve never seen so much chocolate act so vanilla" in reference to the baby-face run of the New Day.

7. Curtis Axel pinned R-Truth at 2:23 when Goldust inadvertently threw Adam Rose into the ring, tripping Truth up, and allowing Axel to roll him up for the three count. Nothing match to kill the crowd some more. The highlight was Bo Dallas leading a Bo-Train with fellow Social Outcast members Heath Slater and Adam Rose. DUD

8. Roman Reigns defeated Dean Ambrose and Brock Lesnar in a Triple Threat Match to determine the challenger for Triple Hís Championship at WrestleMania 32 at 16:04 when Reigns pinned Ambrose following a Spear. Intense, hard hitting action that had the crowd pumped like nothing else on the card. Brock spent the first few minutes destroying both Ambrose and Reigns, which doesnít exactly make sense, but itís a spectacle that everyone enjoys watching. Ambrose particularly took a pretty nasty bump from a belly-to-belly suplex on the floor that couldíve gotten ugly. The former Shield members teamed up twice to put Lesnar through ringside tables and tried to fight it out between themselves, but both times, Lesnar came back to life like the monster that wonít die in a Horror movie. Reigns hit the Spear on Lesnar, but Lesnar recovered and hooked the Kimura. Before an escape or tap-out could happen, Ambrose returned with a chair, beating the tar out of Lesnar with it, then taking a few swipes at Reigns. Another shot sent Lesnar to the floor, and suddenly Reigns is up and hits the Spear for the winning pinfall. The finish coming out of nowhere is my only complaint. Immediately after the fall, Reigns celebrated to pyro, followed by Triple H coming to ringside for a show-closing stare-down. To answer the obvious queston, yes the fans booed Reigns more than anyone else in the match. ****1/4

LIGHTS, CAMERA, WWE ACTION...

Weíre officially on the Road to WrestleMania... and the biggest news coming out of Monday Night Raw is the return of Shane McMahon, his first appearance for the company since the Spring of 2009. The show opened with Vince McMahon presenting the Vincent J. McMahon Excellence and Legacy Award, or the Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence for short, and to no surprise, the recipient turned out to be Stephanie McMahon. Shortly into her acceptance speech, the familiar "Here Comes the Money" music played, and out jogged Shane McMahon, 46 years old and still acting like it was the Attitude Era. With the entrance out of the way, he cut a good promo about his position in line when it came to running WWE, and how Stephanie was just keeping his spot warm until he came back. Short and sweet, Shane wanted control of Monday Night Raw. Vince agreed, under one condition... he has to win one match, at a place and with an opponent of his choosing. That WWE Superstar? THE UNDERTAKER. Inside Hell in a Cell.

Okay, I wonít lie, it was cool to see Shane McMahon again because 1.) he was the more tolerable of the McMahons and 2.) he hasnít been on TV in nearly 7 years, so he was due for a return... but where is WWE going with this? How does this make sense? You are clearing setting up Shane as the face going against his evil father and sister, and the road-block is THE UNDERTAKER? For a company that puts emphasis on their story-telling abilities, I sure as hell donít understand where the heck things are going since they clearly donít know who to establish as the protagonist and the antagonist. This isnít just a complaint for this one match, but a complaint across the entire company. How can we get invested in anything when the WWEís own writers donít know how to write for a good guy and for a bad guy. You want another example? Youíll find one in the next two recaps that build matches for WrestleMania.

Before Monday Night Raw went on the air, footage was shot of Brock Lesnar ambushing Dean Ambrose in the parking lot and beating him up to the point he had to be stretchered away and taken to a Medical Center via Ambulance. Fear not, for those of us who have watched wrestling for longer than 4 hours know that we should expect Ambrose back before the end of the show, and sure enough, he came back, wearing a neck brace, and driving the Ambulance into the arena. He challenged Brock to a No Holds Barred Street Fight at WrestleMania 32 because Brock vs. Bray Wyatt wouldíve been hot garbage. Brock responded by giving him an F5 on the floor. Sympathetic babyface Dean is laid out, and the crowd is chanting "one more time" at Lesnar, acting as if Ambrose doesnít even matter anymore. Forget about the confusion of face and heel booking, when did someone forget doing face vs. face storylines is a bad idea because it splits the crowd and hurts people (Cough:Ambrose:Cough) more than it helps?

The other major angle shot from Monday Night Raw, the show closing "brawl" between Triple H and Roman Reigns. I use the term brawl loosely, as it consisted mostly of Reigns getting his ass kicked in a fair fight, Triple H mugging to the crowd for face pops, and overall a preview of how messed up the finish to WrestleMania will come across as if they continue going full-steam ahead with Reigns as the #1 babyface of the company. If the segment alone wasnít bone-headed enough, they decided Reigns needed color, but without blading, so Byron Saxton passes off a blood capsule to Reigns, and Reigns is suddenly selling a shattered nose. On the live feed it wasnít too obvious, but then footage surfaced online from a fan sitting directly behind Saxton and you can see the transfer taking place. Word going round is that Reigns had a pre-existing problem that needed attention, so this was done to take care of it.

It's becoming a bit of a trend for me to question the direction of the Tag Team Division, and once again, WWE does something completely stupid that doesnít help the situation. I donít know if this will happen, and hopefully it doesnít, with the New Day working as heels against the Lucha Dragons and Neville on Raw and against Y2AJ and Mark Henry on Smackdown, but that segment on Fast Lane might not have been a one-time thing with the League of Nations. Yes, the next feud over the Tag Team Titles might be between a face-turned New Day and one of the worst stables in recent memory. Seriously, Iíd rather see the Social Outcasts challenging for the Tag Titles. Meanwhile, the Dudleys and the Usos are still feuding over nothing. I guess we should be happy to see a feud between teams without titles involved, but thereís no hope in this feud getting over with the current state of the Usos' popularity.

Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch continue their Divas Championship chase, and will face each other in a #1 Contenderís Match next week... Ryback walked away from Big Show and Kane in a rematch against the Wyatt Family (with Wyatt working in place of Strowman), but didnít turn heel, just declaring heís going to shatter the glass ceiling and grab the brass ring. Nobody cares about Ryback... Goldust and R-Truth continue to do terrible segments together, because R-Truth still deserves to be on the main roster and Goldust, despite pushing 50, is still a great in-ring hand but is being wasted in this crap that is just a poor rehash of his angle with Booker T in 2002... the latest name added to the list of the Class of 2016 Hall of Fame... THE GODFATHER. I guess he joins the curtain jerking wing, along with the Bushwhackers and Koko B. Ware for some of the lamest inductees, but we wonít argue too much about it.

C-YOU LATER, HEATH SLATER...

As usual, thereís not much happening on Superstars or Main Event really worth going into detail about, so hereís what I do for my own personal amusement: we keep track of the results, including win-loss records, and basically keep tabs on how often certain people appear on these shows, who wins the most, and who, besides Heath Slater, loses the most. Itís one of those things Iíve done with the C-level shows as far back as Velocity and Sunday Night Heat.

From WWE Main Event, taped on February 23rd from Indianapolis, IN... Bo Dallas (4-6) pinned Darren Young (3-3) with a little help from the ropes. The nonsensical ramblings and shenanigans of the Social Outcasts is actually entertaining me. Have I gone sawft? ... Naomi (3-0) defeated Paige (1-2) by submission to her awkward Octopus Lock in a decent match that was given plenty of time... Ryback (4-0) squashed Tyler Breeze (3-6), but at least you can see Breezeís entrance on Main Event... Braun Strowman (1-0) made his singles debut on Main Event, squashing Fandango (2-9), the man he squashed in his singles debut on Smackdown (or Raw).

From WWE Superstars, taped on February 22nd from Detroit, MI, but technically broadcast at a later date than Main Event... Summer Rae (1-1) defeated Alicia Fox (2-4) in a match that Iím sure has happened and will happen a lot on this show... Stardust (4-9) defeated Zack Ryder (4-7) to help improve his terrible win-loss record, most of it at the hands of the still-suspended Titus OíNeil. Maybe next week Iíll finally have an official scoreboard for the records.

Final Thoughts: Fast Lane didnít promise much more than a few good matches, and all of them delivered, as well as some of the undercard being a bit better than expected. Monday Night Raw was still hard to get through, but at least we had a few good moments and angles to talk about. The creative direction is still a problem, especially when it comes to Roman Reigns and his chase for his (3rd) WWE World Heavyweight Championship. The WrestleMania Rundown debuts next week, so we can start mocking the card five weeks before the show takes place.

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