This past weekend’s WWE Fastlane pay-per-view was the last major event on the so-called “Road to WrestleMania.” All things considered, it was a mixed bag – with some excellent matches, but a few were lame and counter-productive.
The best match on the card by far – and a definite “match of the year” candidate was the Cruiserweight Title match between WWE Cruiserweight champ – Neville and fellow British challenger – Jack Gallagher. I commend them both for a command performance that was worth the price of admission in itself.
Early on in my career I wrestled extensively in the United Kingdom and the brand of wrestling back then was among the best I’ve ever seen and included some phenomenal wrestlers, or “grafters” (as they used to call them) including the likes of Georgie Kidd, Jimmy Breaks, Pete Roberts, Roy St. Clair, Pat Roach and Mark “Rollerball” Rocco – all of whom had an innate ability to compel and captivate the fans.
One of the things that impressed me most about the brand of wrestling in England was that – unlike the WWE, it wasn’t scripted or choreographed, but instead tended to be pretty much improvised on the fly – which enabled the audience to feel almost as if they had a pronounced influence on the outcome, which is really what it’s all about, or certainly should be.
Beyond that, there was far less punching and kicking, blatant rule-breaking and none of the flagrant heeling we see almost regularly in the WWE these days, including brawling on the floor, outside interference and bludgeoning each other with chairs, sticks and whatnot.
During my tenure in England, I became friends with a couple of promising young British prospects – Tommy Billington and David Smith, who were just teenagers then but seemed to “get it”, as they say and showed a lot of potential. After I returned to western Canada and became booker for my dad’s Stampede Wrestling promotion, I invited the two English kids over to work for us – under the names of the Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith and their explosive, albeit unorthodox style – which was very much like Neville and Gallagher’s (only more dynamic) quickly revolutionized the style in our promotion.
In time, Davey and Dynamite would come to have a profound effect on the style of many other young, up and coming wrestlers in our territory, including my brothers – Owen and Bret, Chris Benoit, Brian Pillman and Japanese rookies like Jushin Liger, Hiroshi Hase and Sartoru Sayama (Tiger Mask) – all of whom would go on to become cutting edge superstars and proponents of the hybrid style that the Bulldogs pioneered. Hopefully the success of guys like Neville, Gallagher and Finn Balor might have a similar positive influence on the style of wrestling in the WWE, although I can’t say I’m holding my breath in that regard.
As for other matches on the Fast Lane pay per view, I thought the women’s title match between Charlotte and Bayley was great – well paced, hard fought and compelling, with a minimum of the usual sterile, over rehearsed high spots we see in most women’s matches. Charlotte continues to raise the bar in women’s wrestling – just as her dad did when he was the NWA and WWE world champion and Bayley continues to improve by leaps and bounds, as well – props to both of them.
The other women’s match on the Fast Lane card between Nia Jax and Sasha Banks was also a terrific match – hard fought, well executed and highly entertaining. The finish, however – which had Sasha beat Nia right in the middle, didn’t make much sense, as it pretty much killed Nia’s mystique as an awe inspiring one woman wrecking crew – which was just starting to get over. Given that Sasha was coming back from an injury and is already established, a hot finish with her dropping a fallor perhaps Jax getting DQ’d wouldn’t have hurt her and could have easily set the stage for a return. Instead, Banks is really no farther ahead and Jax’s momentum has pretty much evaporated and she appears to be on the same path to oblivion as other potentially marketable women’s heel types who never materialized, including Awesome Kong and Tamina.
The same type of thing seems to have happened as well with Brawn Strowman – who appeared to be ascending the ladder to where he could have done some business with some of the WWE’s other top faces but was instead unceremoniously squashed by Roman Reigns – who didn’t really need to get his hand raised and probably could have benefited just as much from some kind of hot finish that garnered him sympathy or incurred controversy.
As for other matches on the card, it was already pretty much a foregone conclusion from the get go that Kevin Owens would be dropping his Universal strap to Goldberg and, as such, it was pretty anti-climactic when that transpired. The finish was decidedly lame, as, for no perceptible reason, Chris Jericho came out and distracted Owens – who was then speared and pinned by Goldberg – none of which really served to get Goldberg over, nor did it really whet anybody’s appetite, as far as I could discern, to see Jericho and Owens wrestle each other, either. As far as I’m concerned, it’s kind of a travesty to use Owens as a sacrificial offering for Goldberg and Lesnar, especially when neither Bill of Brock even works on a regular basis and only work on select pay-per-views.
As for the rest of the card, the tag match, which had tag champs, Gallows and Anderson defending their belts against Enzo and Cass was okay, but never really rose to the occasion. In the other match on the card, Big Show went over Rusev, in a sluggish slugfest that didn’t really serve to get Show over and probably signifies that Rusev is on his way down the ladder or, perhaps, out the door.
On that note, I’ll call this a wrap, but will look forward to catching up with you next time, for more news and views on the wrestling scene.
For more news, rumors, videos, podcasts and exclusive articles, follow us on Twitter @PWPNation.